All eyes turned in surprise as Trastor Silverkin, exclaimed, 'Those zombies can imbibe of my ornate phallus'. While his over-the-top behavior usually commanded attention, Trastor had been quite quiet since the journey from the Green Dragon Inn. Having found his voice, Trastor returned to his usual zeal for gems, pillaging and reminding Aelef of their intimate relationship(s). “If those rats are collecting gems, then let’s move our sweet asses to the treasure”, he commanded.
The tiny footprints had grown faint as the ink had run dry, but the path did led to a poorly constructed door with enough room at the bottom for vermin to come and go. After finding no signs of traps or lock, a natural staircase adorned with flagstone was discovered. Kefrey approached the roughly built trapdoor at the top of the steps, but, unfortunately raised alarm; small rat eyes peered down at the party and scampered away. Seizing the day, Trastor burst through the trapdoor to find a dimly lit room full of rats, several of unusual size. In the corner sat a character of rags and gems, unmoving. Trastor’s ax felled a large rat, while a swarm covered Alina, but was unable to harm her. Shaking the swarm off, Alina sunk her spear into a large rat and then kicked it to death. Kefrey skewered the remaining ROUS as Einarr and Kree radiated the rat swarm. After a few more stabs, kicks and stomps, the rats dispersed leaving the riches behind.
A dead man sat in the corner of the room. It was clear that he had trained the rats to gather and rob this district of its shiny things, as the party found gems, coin, scrolls, jewelry and potions. Among the wealth was the necklace the Ambassador had charged the adventures with returning. Leaving the body behind, and gathering up the ROUS corpses, the group exited at ground level into a slum of an establishment, and quickly made their exit before drawing attention from the occupants. Stepping out into the bright light, everyone smelled of shit, blood and rodents. Thankfully, Aelef’s music was capable of ridding them of the filth they had accumulated on their journey into the sewers.
It was decided amongst the group (with the exception of Alina) that possession is eleven points in the law, and they say there are but twelve. After collecting bounty for the Rat corpses, Alina took the opportunity to confuse both the guards and her companions by giving a hefty gold donation to the law and order. As the party traveled North to the Ambassador’s, Alina, stopped at the Temple of Pelar to dispatch her remaining currency in a note to her monastery. Unburdened, she directed the party to the Ambassador’s mansion (embassy: still closed). The Ambassador was quite happy to see the necklace returned, but concerned about the report of zombies. He requested time to investigate and left the party with no better options than heading to the High Market to move some product.
Jewelry sales are a learning experience. Having no luck in the High market, the goods find purchase in the low market, while many of the gems find their way into Trastor’s braided body hair. For two days the party explores their interests and new found wealth. Einarr takes the opportunity to smith and teach, Kree visits the Grey College library to learn more of Celestian, and donate much of his riches in the pursuit of the Traveler. Trastor pursues knowledge at the whore house. Learning was had by all.
Aelef and Kefrey use the downtime to establish old connections and inquire after the Thieves Guild. However, they are accosted and held at knifepoint by unknown forces, “Don’t be spreading rumors of zombies in the sewers, or we take your lives.” The two walk away unharmed, but find no recourse with their attackers.
Having being summoned by the Ambassador, the party returns to the Mansion where they are drawn into a fine side-chamber and immediately scorned for not informing the Ambassador of the discovered loot. It would seem that much of the jewelry was traceable and the resale had drawn a lot of attention by the previous owners and potentially the law. However, it is being ‘handled’. It’s unclear what this means, but one thing is certain, the party must leave town. The Ambassador sits back and shares a tale:
Years ago, the village of Hommlet was a prosperous and happy village, as the reigning lord of the Viscounty taxed lightly. But eventually, evil came to the area. Some say it came west from Dyvers, others say it came from the forests bordering the Wild Coast, but either way, come it did. At first it was a few thieves or the odd group of bandits molesting the merchant caravans. Then it was small bands of humanoids—kobolds, goblins, that sort of thing—raiding flocks and herds. Local militia and foresters of the Waldgraf of Ostverk and Viscounty of Verbobonc checked, but did not stop, the spread of outlawry and evil.
A collection of hovels sprang up and their slovenly inhabitants formed the nucleus for the increasing troubles. A wicked cleric established a small chapel, but the folk of Hommlet tended to ignore this place, Nulb, even though it was but 6 miles distant. Its out-of-the-way position was
ideal for the fell purposes planned for this settlement, as was its position on a small river flowing into the Velverdyva. The thickets and marshes around Nulb became the lair and hiding place for bandits, brigands, and all sorts of evil men and monsters. The chapel grew into a stone temple as its faithful brought in their ill gotten tithes. Good folk were robbed, pillaged, enslaved, and worse.
In but three years, a grim and forbidding fortress surrounded the evil place, and swarms of creatures worshipped and worked their wickedness. The servants of the Temple of Elemental Evil oppressed Hommlet and the lands for leagues around. Commerce ceased, crops withered, and pestilence was abroad.
But the leaders of this cancer were full of hubris and, in their pride, sought to overthrow the good realms to the north, who were coming to the rescue of the land being crushed under the tyranny of the evil temple. Ten years ago, 569, a great battle was fought at Emridy Meadows. Human forces from Furyondy and Veluna came from the North, dwarves from the Lortmils and Gnomes from the Kron Hills came from the West, and Elves from Celene came from the south to join the exhausted warriors of Ostverk and Verbobonc. The battle pitched back and forth, but had turned decisively to the orcs, ogres, gnolls, and evil men of the Horde of Elemental Evil, when the elves of the Gnarley Forest suddenly arrived and poured volley after volley into the Horde's unprotected backline from the darkness of the forest. The forces of evil were routed and slaughtered. Unfortunately, Senten of Saint Cuthbert fell during the battle. He was the only member of the Greyhawk Citadel of Eight who came. When the Citadel was disbanded, those of us who lost loved ones in the battle felt little sorrow. We can only hope Mordenkainen's new Circle does better by us.
When the good people of Hommlet saw the ochre-robed men and humanoids fleeing south and west through their community, they rejoiced, for they knew the murderous oppressors had been defeated and driven from the field in panic. So great was the slaughter, so complete the victory of good, that the walled stronghold of the Temple of Elemental Evil fell within a fortnight, despite the aid of a terrible demon. The place was ruined and sealed against a further return of such abominations by powerful blessings and magic.
For four or five years, those looking for adventure, fame, and fortune traveled to Hommlet to clear the pitiful remnants of the Horde from the nearby forests and swamps. Some returned with great wealth, some with less, and some with nothing or not at all. But eventually it seemed that the purge was complete, and the steady stream of wealth that had flowed from the adventurers' pouches into the villagers' strongboxes dried up and life returned to normal.
But then, about a year ago, bandits began to ride the road again. The good folk of Hommlet sent word to the Viscount that the forces of evil might not have been entirely driven out.
“I need—Furyondy needs—to know what is happening there. We need to know what is happening there, and if we need to begin preparing to defend our southern border again. Of course, you will not be directly representing Furyondy, so it is probably best that you present yourselves as just an adventuring group, lest a misunderstanding ends in you being called spies… The village of Hommlet lies about 30 leagues (90 miles) travel south-southeast of Verbobonc, in the Viscounty of Verbobonc.
To get you to Hommlet, I have booked you passage on a ship which will travel up the Selentan to Nyr Dyv, and along the coast to Dyvers. After that you will need to find passage up the Velverdyva to Verbobonc. You leave tomorrow.”
The Ambassador hands a sealed letter and instructions to deliver the mail to Kendalk at the Fool and Mug tavern. There is promise of mounts, provisions, and shelter before beginning the journey to Hommlet. Kendalk can point the way through Etterboek and Cienega Valley for it is the most efficient, and possibly safest route to be traveled.
The party takes the evening to process their new mission, for this was the type of venture they had been in search of, but at what cost? Leaving Greyhawk under such conditions did not sit well with many in the party, but there was no choice in the matter. At the very least, the opportunity to serve Furydondy’s interests, and avoid backlash from Greyhawks’ circles was enticing enough to board the vessel to Dyvers.
5-6 days below the deck of a ship were spent as one might imagine, however, Aelef and others felt the need to know a bit more of the mission at hand, besides, Kree had already made a mess of their trip when trying to assist the crew. Using his dexterous hands, tools, and a bit of luck, Aelef opened the letter without breaking the wax seal. The letter read:
The bearers make common cause with us. Grant unto them such provisions and conveyances as are deemed necessary to the Village of H- to determine the possible involvement or lack of Our Enemy Z-. This company does not know the possible significance to ourselves, F-, and indeed all of Oerth, but I am confident in their abilities. If, as I expect, they are up to the task and return to you with information that Z- is again at large, take them into confidence as to your mission, but not as to mine nor my identity. They can be connected to us but tenuously, yet in our profession, any connection is a danger. Treat them with courtesy, but not too warmly, and do not be observed spending overmuch time with them.
Procure mounts, provisions, weapons, and such as you deem necessary and reasonable, from general funds, and submit accounting for your expenses to C- in my name.
I cannot stress to you enough how vital your mission and position have become. If you are detected, evil forces will strive to interfere with your actions, inhibit your plans, and even harm your person. At this point, if my fears prove true, you are the center of our hopes to stem a rising tide of evil and chaos. Act with care and discretion, and assist these, our agents, with all speed.
In service to that which we hold dear,
Upon arrival at Dyvers, Kreexote was able to secure additional passage to Verbobonc when he encountered a captain who had previously been a crewmate. Passage of this kind is not free, however, and the companions found themselves applying their talents to the aid of the ship and its crew. Kree helped navigate the shallow waters of the Velverdyva, Kefrey and Alina womanned the rigging, and Einarr repaired overworked hardware. While Aelef performed for all hands on deck, Trastor performed below.
On the 23rd, after 7 long days of low wind, up a river, the party stepped ashore at the Riverport of Verbobonc. The crew was kind enough to point the party in the direction of the Fool and Mug Tavern, and with Trastor blowing kisses, the party bid them fair winds. It was early afternoon when Helda, the cook for the Fool and Mug answered the door. Inside, the party encountered an eerie sight, a tavern with no staff or patrons. Helda informed the surprised party that Kendalk had been arrested as a spy and had been hauled away without information as to the charges, or how long he may be imprisoned. Helda suggested that if we seek shelter and provisions, it would be best to find another Inn.
Aelef, Trastor, Einarr, and Kefrey heed Helda’s advice and begin a search for new accommodations. However, Kree and Alina were not satisfied that the journey to Hommlet could be accomplished without the assistance of Kendalk. The two old friends inquire at the guard house, but discover that Kendalk hadn't been detained in the prison, instead he'd been held in a form of polite house arrest at the Magistrate’s house. A few knocks on the well kept Mansion door, and an older gentleman agreed to allow the two companions entry on account of Alina’s noble position within the Shieldlands. Inside they found Kendalk sitting quietly, reading a book. Hoping to speak with him unmolested, Kree whispered into his mind ‘Is it safe to speak openly’, ‘For now’ he replied out loud, after a shock at the intrusion. Unfortunately, the letter was in Aelef’s possession (for safe keeping), but Alina was able to convince Kendalk of the importance of the visit and of the parties needs. Kendalk offered very little, but told them to share a note with Helda, and she would see to their provisions. As the Magistrate descended the stairs, Alina slipped the note in her shirt and away from detection. With that the two bid the Magistrate and his guest goodnight, stepping back out into the cool air.