7th of Planting
The companions sat in The Packard’s Trough, a crowded corner tavern at the heart of Verbobonc’s market district. Other than a stipend in Rehgo’s pocket, the wage paid for his knightly service, the party was penniless and out of work.
It was Selinar, the elven wizard, that brought up rumors of disappearing dignitaries from Celene. A countess and her knight-protector had vanished on the road between Enstad and Verbobonc. Perhaps the embassy would pay the company to aid them in finding the missing nobles. A visit to Ambassador Lady Aure in the High Quarter confirmed that such an endeavor could prove very rewarding, as the kingdom of Celene and the missing nobles themselves would be quite grateful for the group’s service.
8th & 9th of Planting
The party set out at first light. Two days’ ride later, early on a summer morning, the five would-be heroes rode through the vast field of Emridy Meadows — known for the bloody battle ten years prior that took the name of the field as its own. A former soldier and combatant at Emridy Meadows, Flintok Thunderbrew kept his head down and was all but silent as the company rode through the field.
Stopping to study bizarre swaths of fungal growth in the sunny field, Selinar stumbled upon a strange glyph carved into a large rock. Determining that something was buried beneath, the group dug until they found an old skeleton and a metal box clutched to its chest. Bittersworth the halfling picked the dirt-plugged lock and opened it, causing a cold, supernatural breeze to sweep over him and chill him to the bone — a curse, perhaps? Inside the box were a potion of healing, a knife caked in dried blood, and a silver wedding band inscribed with the name “Anarhea Coulton” on its inside.
Hours beyond Emridy Meadows, as the sun began to set behind the distant Lortmil Mountains, the companions rode through lightly forested hills. From ahead, the tranquil sounds of nature were broken by the sounds of screams, steel upon steel, and panicked horses. The five adventurers kicked their horses into a run and hurried to investigate.
Three wagons were burning at the side of the road in a broad glade, their goods already half plundered. Seven travelers had been bound and lined up on their knees at the side of the road, though all but two lay in slowly spreading pools of their own blood. Half a dozen bandits with spears and clubs loomed over the remaining pair of captives menacingly, while two more brigands sat astride horses at the edge of the clearing overseeing the activity.
A short battle ensued, during which the two prisoners were rescued and both brigand sergeants were put to sleep. One traveler was a young woman, Maria, who had hired onto the caravan as a guard. The second traveler was an older man, a driver on one of the carts, who was to deliver a shipment of medical and repair supplies from the Silverhand Trading Post in Hommlet to the northern outposts on the borderlands of Furyondy.
Questioning the two brigand sergeants proved worthwhile, as they admitted the elevated banditry in recent months could be traced back to the village of Nulb, northeast of Hommlet. In the wretched hamlet of cutthroats and guttersnipes, a nasty brute of a half-orcish woman was recruiting unscrupulous soldiers to her cause.
Continuing on to the village of Hommlet, the party arrived just before sunset. In the fading pink-orange light the tiny town looked beautiful and idyllic, with sprawling farmlands all around and quaint cottages dotting the roadside. After a few hours of exploring and meeting with locals, the companions settled in at the Inn of the Welcome Wench.
During their first few hours at the inn, the adventurers met a number of possible allies: Ostler Gundigoot the innkeeper, a trio of elven rangers from Celene, and Braun Gray the village constable. They also noted strange behavior from one of the local brewmaster’s three apprentices and the inn’s oldest serving girl, however, both of whom had an exotic, eastern appearance atypical to the Hommlet locals. Keeping an eye on this pair as they whispered to each other and appraised the party paid off when the brewmaster’s apprentice was followed to the edge of town and confronted, the encounter ending in the dark young man’s death but producing a note:
Outsiders have arrived in Hommlet. They appear skilled beyond typical travelers and they are asking questions.
My brother will remain at the moathouse until you determine the best course of action to take.
We await your command.
10th of Planting, Full Moon (Luna)
Deciding to investigate the moathouse, the adventurers once again rose from their beds at dawn’s first light. The path to the moathouse veered from the eastern road and onto an out-of-use track through humid, reeking fens. After a brief encounter with several giant frogs that attempted to eat Bittersworth, the party arrived at the jagged, broken ruins of the old moathouse.
Crossing a waterlogged bridge of old planks and cautiously stepping into an unevenly-paved courtyard, the companions found themselves facing another group of bandits — though this time the brigands had a home advantage! They fired arrows from behind narrow windows and charged out from the cover of buildings to assault the poorly armored party members.
Bittersworth the halfling fell to bandit arrows, but was saved by Rehgo’s healing prayers before he bled to death. Selinar the wizard nearly met a grisly end at the bandits’ hands, too, but avoided just enough blades and arrows to stay on his feet until the battle ended.
With the moathouse’s guards dead, the heroes were able to recover their breath and look around. The upper level of the moathouse was collapsed and its many walls were broken and breached. One obvious path lay before the group: a steep, dark stairway that descended from the keep’s entry hall. From the dank, black pit below the companions caught the horrible scent of rot and decay.
Information gathered in Verbobonc and Hommlet:
- Countess Alcainiel and Sir Huorë, nobles from the elven kingdom of Celene, vanished on the road between Enstad and Verbobonc.
- Bandit activity in and around the Kron Hills has increased significantly in recent months; the bandits answer to a half-orc woman based in the village of Nulb.
- Father Tershon, Hommlet’s head priest of Saint Cuthbert, has taken ill and no cure seems to help.
- Supplies heading northward to Furyondy that cannot be stolen by brigands, are being destroyed.
- Demon worshipers lurk among the people of Hommlet; two such diabolists were exposed by the companions, a message they carried suggesting that a “Beautiful Master” within the moathouse east of Hommlet might have dark plans for the village.