Next Day (& the Next)
The following morning, the party sets off for Hommlet very early. You’ve got a lot of loot and extra company and it is fairly slow going. However, you manage to arrive by early afternoon, and you certainly cause a stir as you pony up to the Inn of the Welcome Wench! Ostler is there to take Horg and the others to rooms (on the house, of course!) and the patrons in the common room greet you with amazement and many questions. It appears they are more interested in getting news then giving any!
When they see the chest of treasure you’ve returned with, the buzz of excitement doubles! Along with all the silver you’ve brought (and the treasure you found before!) you’ve acquired quite a haul! There is a hush of woe when your party tells the tale of Spugnoir’s death, and a general clamor when you ask if any spell casters present are seeking fame and fortune!
There aren’t any spell users, but there appears to be plenty of others looking to strike it rich.
Kobort and Turuko are still staying at the inn and express their condolences for the loss of your friend; they also renew their offer to accompany your party. A swarthy looking man armed with a long sword introduces himself as Zert, and asks where and how your party found the brigands lair. His eyes widen at your tale. The village farmers are eager for your tales of daring, and they buy your party several rounds of Ostler’s potent drink as you spin your story.
About the same time you are finishing your third ale, the door to the inn bursts open and four well-clad and able-bodied men stride into the common room. A quiet falls over the crowd, for these are not common peasants. One is dressed in the robes of a cleric of St. Cuthbert, a second in the cowl of a druid. The third man wears the cloak and pointy hat of a courtly wizard and the tall man leading the way wears gleaming chain armor. It is this man who steps forward and addresses you:
“Greetings, friends of Hommlet! I am Rufus of Gilea, and this is my associate Burne,” he gestures to the wizardly man with the goatee. “We represent the interests of imperial Gilea here in Hommlet and have been commissioned to build an outpost here. We have heard word of your deeds, and your coming has been a great boon for this township!
“We understand that you have cleaned out a nest of brigands, and have rescued prisoners who may otherwise have perished! For this we are very grateful, and wish to extend our personal thanks as well as the hospitality of Hommlet.”
The cleric steps forward, “Well met friends! I am Terjon of the cudgel of St. Cuthbert. I am undercleric to the village curate (who is away at this time on important priestly business). I am here to see to the captives and provide what succor I can to them in their pain and misery.”
The druid introduces himself, “I am Jaroo Ashstaff, and I have already met with your companion Geffen. I have long served as a leader of the Old Faith for the people of Hommlet, and your help with the bandits around the area has been a boon to us all. If I can offer any of you healing, it would be my honor to do so!”
The captives are quickly brought forward and Jaroo and Terjon heal the entire group of pain and misery. After that Burne, Rufus, and the others listen to your tale. They are disturbed to learn that there is a new evil lurking in the ruins of the outpost, and they ask that your party stop by their keep on the way out of town, if you plan on making an additional expedition to the place!
Terjon, Jaroo, Rufus, and Burne all leave and eventually your party is too tired (or drunk!) to stay awake. Ostler shows you to your usual rooms, and you sack out for the night. Before you do, however, you carefully unfold the elven cloak and try it on. By some trick of its elvish design, it shimmers in the candlelight and almost seems to blend in with its surroundings…just what a young rogue needs to keep from being discovered! Smiling, you carefully store it in your backpack until the morning.
The next day, Horg and his fellow merchants are ready to leave, being well-rested, well-fed, fully healed, and equipped by the grace of Rufus and Burne. Horg promises you that he has not forgotten his words of reward, and will send it to you with the next caravan that passes through Hommlet from Gilea…probably in the next two to three weeks. He, Togo, and Iul (the other human merchant) all thank you one last time then set out on the southern road. They wave until they are out of sight.
Counting the Cash
Your party pools the wealth it has found, and you can easily see that this adventuring certainly pays off! The five of you have accumulated more wealth then you have ever seen in your life, enough to fill a small chest to a weight of well over sixty pounds, even taking out the worthless “shiny baubles” the ogre had accumulated. After careful counting, you inventory the total take at 899 copper pieces, 964 silver pieces, a whopping 1145 gold pieces, and 18 pieces of platinum. This is the amount remaining AFTER paying Ostler your enormous tavern bill!
In addition, you found three small zircon gemstones with Spugnoir. In speaking with Melubb the money changer he tells you he will give you 520 gold pieces for all four gems you carry (including the large peridot) and 32 gold coins for the golden ring you wear. Another eleven pounds of gold for a few small baubles seems well worth the trade to you! You tell Melubb that you’ll think it over.
You took the liberty of pocketing Spugnoir’s scroll of protection from undead, and have re-supplied your quiver with a full 30 crossbow bolts.
You think about buying an extra pony (or mule!) to carry your treasure, but for the time being, Ostler agrees to hide your chest temporarily. However, he does not want to be responsible for the party’s loot, especially knowing that there are bandits in the hills! Still, you are good customers and he’ll do this while you figure out a better location.
Thus being ready, you head down the Western Road, with intention to stop by the construction site of Rufus and Burne.
Rufus and Burne
Riding down the road, you see the construction site up ahead on your right. The main keep of the castle is not yet built, but the foundations are being set and already two towers, one small and one large have been finished. From what you’ve heard, Burne and Rufus are tough and cunning adventurers who earned favor in Gilea putting down a bandit hoarde, and earned a small fortune defeating a Green Dragon in the southern reaches of the Gray Hills. They are part of Hommlet’s Council of Elders and know all the important people of the village, but it is rumored they will lend aid to adventurers for the right price.
Riding up the hill and tethering your horses at the base of a long stair, you climb to the small two-story tower. It is pierced by arrow slits and two men-at-arms stand atop the battlements. The guard at the door leads you inside, obviously expecting you, and you find yourself in an audience chamber being announced for, “his most Worshipful Mage of Hommlet, Burne the Wizard.” Burne dismisses the guard with a wave as Rufus comes through the door.
“We have been granted leave to build a fortress here by the Emperor,” Rufus begins, “and while we are in debt to your efforts, we are worried about this outpost of villains being so close to Hommlet. We had thought that the old moat house was long abandoned, save by the occasional fell beast or giant spider, but the idea of armed and organized evil is extremely troubling.”
“Especially,” says Burne, “the fact that Horg states the blackguards used the symbol of the burning eye. The Golden Eye of Flame is a symbol of the old cult of Elemental Evil…the worship of the forces of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air that bring destruction and suffering to all peoples. Hurricanes, forest fires, tornados, and earthquakes all fall under the influence of that demonic cult! However, the cult was stamped out years ago, and its main temple…near Nulb…was sealed against any possibility of resurgence. If the cult was to rise again it would cause much harm to the inhabitants of this land, as it did before!”
Rufus says, “We need to know if this is the case. Bandits are one thing; evil cultists are entirely another! In years past, is took Hin Warriors from the Shirelands and Knights from Gilea to stop the evil, and relations between the two nations are not as good as they once were. If this is a revival of the cult of Elemental Evil, we need to present evidence as soon as possible so that resistance can be organized. We don’t want the cult, if revived, to get a toe-hold in the Gray Hills. Once firmly established, the cult will cost many lives and much suffering before it is rooted out. We ask, thus, that you bring us any evidence of the cult that you find.”
Burne adds, “You will of course be well rewarded for your efforts, and may even find a place of favor in our establishment, should the Emperor grant Hommlet the status of barony!”
Rufus says nothing at this but looks your party over grimly, as if estimating your worth in the venture. “Good luck to you,” he says finally, “Do not underestimate the abilities of the enemy. If it is an uprising of the cult, you will find them very strong foes. Seek aid where you will, and be careful!” Rufus turns and leaves the chamber.
Before dismissing you, Burne offers: “From the tales I’ve heard in town, I understand that your companion wizard was slain. It will be difficult to replace him since there are none of magical might in Hommlet save myself, and I am unfortunately not available for adventuring! There are too many things that draw my attention, and I am not truly free to leave them. However, I am not above providing aid to those in need. I could render service to your party in a magical capacity, but I would need to be heavily compensated for my time…perhaps one-third of any treasure that is taken from the moat house? It would go a long way to help in establishing suitable governance here in Hommlet.”
Onwards, Young Companions!
Smiling at your acceptance of his offer, Burne rises proudly from behind the table. “Well, I must tell Rufus that I will be away for at least a few days, then. I travel light, and it will not take long for me to make ready. You may await me below with your steeds.” He gestures to a guard and your party is dismissed.
Bryant and Eldoran are frankly aghast at your proposal to give away one-third of your treasure to the mage, but they have learned to trust your lead in these matters and will continue to do so. “He should certainly make things easier,” agrees Kendra. “Besides, if things get as rough as he and Rufus think, we’ll definitely have need of a good mage!” The five of you descend the chiseled stairs to where your horses wait.
It is less than thirty minutes when you hear a neighing from above, and you see Burne, robed in blue and riding upon a splendid white mare. He bears no wizard’s staff but he is hale and hearty and descends the hillock in a rush of hooves. Your party feels less than equal in his presence, yet you have confidence that the mage will not lead you astray. As he rides forward, you see that his horse is equipped with two bulging saddlebags, and he wears a dagger by his side in addition to several pouches and scroll cases. “Lead onwards, young companions! You know the path and I will follow for I know it not. The southlands and the Plains of Gilea were my home before I settled here in Hommlet, and I have never ventured far west.” Your company sets off.
While you ride, you ask Burne if he has a map of the moat house. He shakes his head, and says, “I did not even know there was anything to it but ruins. If we had known, Rufus and I would have pulled the place down ourselves before digging the foundations of the castle!”
You show him the mysterious potion, which he takes from your hand while barely slowing his mount. He uncaps the bottle and sniffs it. “Brr – smells of ghoul! I would imagine it to be a potion of undead control…or else the bile of a carrion eater! But you won’t know for sure unless you try it. It may come in handy since our group contains not one of holy power…the young paladin excepted, of course.”
It is only a few short hours, before your party arrives on the outskirts of the moat house, and Burne reins to a halt. “Now there is a good chance that any enemies of the Evil Eye have discovered your party’s handiwork and has fortified their defenses. What is our plan of attack then…by which I mean, how are we getting in, and what will be our strategy. Again, you know more about this moat house then myself; what do you expect to find?”