Some days you wake up and still don’t believe your fortune.
Until three weeks ago, you did not know what you would do now that the farmer you had worked for so many years had died. Here in the Grey Hills north of the Plains of Gilean and south of the Shirelands life is difficult, what with the hard earth and the ravenous wargs, though you knew that your skills as a trap maker and lock smith would still be valuable to someone. However, you weren’t expecting the two strangers who came knocking at your gate inquiring after your services.
Bryant is a surly ranger, a half-elf with a chip on his shoulder, long-nurtured against the father who had abandoned his mother and left him to grow up a bastard. Skilled with his long bow, and a dedicated hunter of orcs, Bryant longs for the day he might meet his half-elf father and put an arrow through his throat.
Eldoran is a dwarf, and comely for her race. Her clan traveled north from Karac-Zuloc in an attempt to establish a new foothold for dwarves in the southern foothills of the Cold Mountains. Two years ago, Eldoran fled in very un-dwarflike fashion from a loveless marriage arranged by her parents and the clan chief’s family. When she returned repentant several months later, she found the new colony had been destroyed by orcs.
The two were looking for a skilled professional with a lust for adventure to wander with them, and you all but jumped at the chance. Taking the few possessions you could easily carry (including the farmer’s old crossbow for warg-hunting), and selling the rest, the three of you started traveling west, discussing the possibility of making for the Imperial Capital of Gilea, as your party is was ill-equipped to venture into the Cold Mountains of the north.
However, your plans changed a week ago when you met two new strangers on the road. Kendra, a beautiful young woman, was caring for a wounded man in his twenties named Geffen. After discussion, you discovered that the woman was a Paladin, one of those people called by their purity and innocence to serve the cause of Good in the land. Though you had never seen one, you had heard legends of their power and righteousness. The wounded man was a druid who had been fleeing from goblin warg-riders; Kendra and helped him to hide and was nursing him back to health.
Over the next two days, Kendra heals Geffen back to full strength while your group of five turned to the southwest, following the Farvienne river. Tomorrow, your party will find itself in the Village of Hommlet!
Adventure in Hommlet
Wandering through the street, you five make an odd sight, but in the border towns of the Grey Hills, odd parties of adventurers are not uncommon! As the path slopes gently down into the village it comes to a fork a modest sized farmhouse. A cheerful goodwife comes out of the main building to greet you all while two young men (her sons perhaps?) eye you suspiciously and two large farm dogs bristle warily.
The goodwife directs you to take the right hand (western) fork into town. She tells you that you should be able to find lodging at the Inn of the Welcome Wench; the only rest place for travelers in town. In answer to your inquiries, you learn that there is no town lord as such to whom you must present yourself; the town is guided by a council of community leaders. However, the town owes nominal fealty to the Emperor of Gilea (to the south) and two of the council members are from Gilea…in fact they have been charged with building a defensive keep on the west edge of town, “to keep out unwanted types from those parts.” She does not elaborate on this.
You take the right-hand path which quickly turns to south and passes by two more farms before coming to a largish crossroads with a large, cheerful building which can only be the Inn of the Welcome Wench. Across the road there is a leatherworker’s shop where you may repair both shoes and saddles. From where you stand you can also make out a blacksmith’s and another nearby building that seems to be of newer construction. The road continues south and also west, with several street/paths leading off. Wiping the dust from your mouth, you approach the Inn. A young stable boy runs up to take your tired horses (Eldoran, Kendra, and Bryant each have one) to an adjoining building as you enter the three story structure.
Inside the Inn of the Welcome Wench
You enter the large common room where about a dozen people are taking supper (it is late afternoon and the sun is beginning to set). The five of you find an empty table and a pot boy arrives to ask you if you’ll be wanting anything to wet your throats.
A few moments later, a good-sized man with a jovial grin approaches the table and introduces himself as Ostler the Innkeeper. He seems in a good humor and welcomes you newcomers to Hommlet. Asking if you’ll be wanting “food, drink, rooms, or all of the above” he says the first round is on the house as a welcome to first-timers (Ostler remembers every traveler whose ever stayed at his Inn). He tells you that rooms in the Inn range from 1 to 5 gold coins per night and that includes the stabling of up to one horse per person. He quickly goes to fetch some food.
Geffen states he will pay for the meal as his thanks for helping him (see the introduction).
The Inn is getting busier by the minute as patrons continue to arrive the darker it gets outside. You see a rather large fighting man conferring with a smaller man dressed in monk robes in one corner. By the fire a young, robust lad is getting loud and drunk with a couple of dirty farmhands. And in one shadowy corner, you catch a lone man eyeing your party from under heavy lidded eyes.
Ostler arrives with your food and asks you about your rooming situation.
You and Eldoran head upstairs to the private room prepared for you by Ostler the Innkeeper, sometime later (you were preceded by Kendra who stated she had to pray and get a good night’s sleep). Bryant and Geffen stay behind to see what news they can pick up from other travelers in the common room; the druid seems to have picked out one of the stable hands for a particularly engrossing conversation. Shaking your mead-soaked head, you retire to sleep.
The next morning, you are awakened by the sunlight streaming through your window. You trot downstairs to find the others just finishing a hearty breakfast. Kendra offers you a piece of fruit while Bryant and Geffen share what they learned last night.
Geffen: “These are good people, mostly worshippers of the Old Faith (the druidic tradition, quite common in these parts), though recently a church to St. Cuthbert has been established. Both the leaders of these two faiths sit on the Town Council…one of Ostler’s stable boys is actually a druid in training, and says he can introduce us to the Head Druid if we like! I should probably present myself anyway, and share news from the east.”
Bryant: “There have been recent bandit raids on merchants and travelers. Rumor has it there may be someone or something up to no good at the Old Moathouse…a ruined keep on the banks of the river west of Hommlet. Back in the days when the Temple of Elemental Evil was operating (in the town of Nulb years ago) it was an outpost of the Temple. Though the Temple was razed and the Moathouse plundered, it might still be used as a bandit camp. There are several local adventurers staying at this inn who offered their services in exchange for a share of the treasure.”
Kendra asked around a bit for you (she was the first one up) and found out that “there isn’t a real marketplace in Hommlet. Ostler told me they have mostly shopkeepers: a trader, a weaver, a cabinet maker, etc. The farmers do organize a market during the main harvest season, to earn money with their surplus crops, but mostly each family is fairly subsistent (they grow their own food) and the shopkeepers exist off the people who pass through, like us.”
As You Are Leaving
You and Geffen wait outside the inn while Kendra and the others go with the stable boy to retrieve their horses. It is still early morning and your stomach is growling. The druid is giving you a concerned look when a young man dressed in grey robes approaches.
“Hello. My name is Spugnoir and I overheard your party saying that you were going in search of adventure! Perhaps I could be of some service…I am a wizard on leave from my master, the Sage of Yarg, and I have a week or so before I must return. I would be willing to assist your group with any magical needs you have, in exchange for any scrolls or magical writings you find while adventuring.”
Geffen looks askance at you as the others approach, horses in tow.
Outside the Old Moathouse
Your party “posses up” and starts off down the western road. You pass several other shops on the way out of the town (including the blacksmith and the wheel/wainwright). As you are just losing sight of the last house of Hommlet, the road passes by a great hill upon which stands a stout tower and an apparent construction project. Kendra points to where several dozen men are laboring and explains, “that must be where the representatives from Gilea are building their defensive keep…remember the goodwife telling us of their task?”
You journey for several hours at a slow pace, the horses being extra burdened by the weight of you and Geffen (the druid rides behind Kendra, while you share time with both Bryant and Eldoran). Spugnoir trails behind the party on his little pony, not saying much but watching the countryside intently.
The hills gradually give way to a mossy area, which turns to swamp as the path continues west and to the north; then, on your right you see the ruined moathouse many yards off the road. There is a branch of trail that leads out into the marshy scrub and towards the dilapidated building, and has your party turns your weary mounts off the main road, you can see that the place is a wreck. Though ominous arrow slits peek from stout walls, the drawbridge is down over the moat and your sharp eyes can see that the gate is barely hanging on its hinges. The southeast tower still appears to be firm and strong, but its battlements have fallen in disrepair.