The Journal of Rel Starshine
1st of Planting 579 CY
I have arrived in Verbobonc. I spoke to several town guard about where to go seeking employment with the paladins of Heironious. I find the Bridgewalk Tavern in the High Quarter of the city. The tavern sits alongside the Velvadyva River and some of the patrons occupy balconies that hang out over the river despite the chill still in the air. I observed a gathering of locals placing little paper ships on the water and watch them float down through the city waterway.
Inside the establishment, I shake off the cold and order a Furyond wine for a few coins. About an hour after my arrival, a young initiate of Heironious enters and speaks to the patrons offering work for those willing to carry steel and travel to the wilds South of Verbobonc. I watch and listen intently to this young paladin from the Highcastle Temple of Heironious and wait. He seeks out a male dwarf with long dark brown hair and a beard streaked with silver. The Paladin, Fennec, talks with the dwarf who gives his name as Dugal, son of Eadan. The Paladin shares that the hire is for a band to investigate troubles to theSouth which may be linked to bandits or monster raids.
The pious warrior seems anxious to gather a small contingent and he approaches two halflings seated near the fireplace. I can overhear him speaking with the one halfling who translates to the other that if they go, he will pay them. The pair promptly get up from their meal and leave. They return a minute later and demand payment from the startled youth. The paladin tries to explain to the pair that they must accompany him to the hills to the south and search out the evil that may be lurking. If successful, there will be even more gold for the two halflings, Pinkertin and Merric.
Fennec of Heironious finally approaches me. . He asks me if I have any skills and I share that I know how to use my bow and have been known to use magic on occasion. He asks if I am willing to follow him to a village to the South and I agree to. The paladin seems pleased with this news and offers to take the four of us to his Temple to sign us on for this mission against possible bandits. We leave with Fennec and travel the short distance to the temple. A short time later, we have signed the payroll and have been paid 30 pieces of gold and 3 weeks iron rations to go to a place called Hommlet. I learn that other initiates are also gathering mercenaries and we are some of the last to be signed up. The other groups have been assigned other locations in the Kron Hills, such as Ostverk and Penwick.
Fennec agrees to meet us in the morn after his morning prayers so that we may set out for our travels. My attempt to make myself available for hire has worked. Now I can pursue any leads on the bandits who killed my cousin while working for the Paladins of Heironious. The halflings say goodbye to the “Shiny Man” and his bodyguard the dwarf, and state they are going for a real meal at a place called Jillie’s Inn.
I spot the two halflings later in the evening in the taproom of the Bridgewalk Tavern. I notice them divvying up a handful of coins and giggling and whispering back in forth. After dinner, I retire to my room and say prayers to Corellon before drifting away for the night in my past memories.
2nd of Planting 579 CY
Fennec meets with Dugal, Pinkertin, Merric and myself in the morning and gives us full details of the mission. He states our mission is to travel a village in the Viscounty called Hommlet that lies about a week’s trek or more south. The youthful paladin informs us that we are to seek out any banditry or foul humanoids. He says we are to find those areas, report our findings and deal with the situation if possible.
The halflings are not pleased with a long march on the road. I propose that we seek mounts or transport to speed the journey and allow the short folk to keep up and not exhaust themselves since it appears they are not up to much beyond walking to the table when dinner is called. The paladin seems flummoxed with trying to come up with a way to get everyone to the village. I suggest a cart. The youth likes the idea and agrees to buy a cart and an ox. I agree to purchase another ox to help get us to the area where we are to search for evil bandits.
After our purchases, we load our gear into the cart and set out on our journey. Our small band travels the road before darkness begins to encroach. We stop in a flat area and make our camp. Fennec cares for the oxen while Pinkertin and Merric gather wood for the fire. Dugal starts a fire and offers up some rations for me to cook for the group. Fennec goes to the edge of camp and says some prayers to his god. After our meal we discuss setting a guard to watch over those sleeping. The paladin takes a watch alone, Pinkertin and Dugal take the next one, and little Merric and I watch over the camp until dawn.
3rd of Planting 579 CY
After a short meal, we break camp traveling in the cart. At times, I take to walking as I find it more fulfilling and less cramped than the oxcart. During the day we come to Etterboek. During the short stop here, I convince the group to offer up a silver coin each in exchange for some fresh food to cook for dinner after making camp. The two halflings, Merric and Pinkertin swiftly hand over their share. At the market in Etterboek, I buy some potatoes and fresh fish. We set back out again on the road and travel up to an hour before dark. Dugal helps Fennec choose a campsite. Once they select an area near a small copse of trees, I start to make dinner. My companions praise my cooking. The rest of the night is uneventful.
4th of Planting 579 CY
Several hours of travel leads into a vale where I could make out a small village on the road ahead. Fennec informs us that the village is Cienega Valley. We pass through the human village near midday. I see that the settlement is surrounded by vineyards on the slopes of the hills. Merric wants to stop and eats several meals but the Paladin states the group must push on towards Hommlet. We leave Cienega Valley behind and pass a small caravan in the afternoon. An hour later, as the oxcart rumbles through a gloomy section of road we hear noises and screechy shouts from both sides of the darkened woods. Short humanoid creatures armed with blades and spears rush out to attack us. I quickly summon a slumber magic and four of the furry lizard-like beasts fall to the ground. As Merric prepares a spell, Dugal jumps from the cart and catches his boot, causing him to fall to the ground in an awkward jumble of axes and armor. The foes attack Fennec with their short blades. Merric’s magic causes the plants to entangle and hold some of them in place. With blades we dispatch our foes without any serious injury. We loot the dead and make to move on a good distance from the battle before we make out camp for the night. In the evening we make camp near a tiny stream and eat iron rations for dinner. We stay vigilant watching for the kobold creatures or other beasts but the night is uneventful.
5th of Planting 579 CY
The highlight on the road is that we encounter a larger caravan traveling North to Verbobonc on the road. Fennec waves at and engages the 6 wagon caravan with 10 armed guards on horseback. He queries about news of Hommlet and is told there is no news and the road is good ahead. Fennec shares that the caravan should watch the forest a half day’s travel north. The holy warrior tells them that we were ambushed by kobolds but they attacked in a small enough force that the group was able to dispatch them all.
The caravan merchant is asked about his wares and he tells us that he sells rope and farm implements. Several of our party check out rope while I price and purchase a large amount of iron spikes, 90 to be exact. The caravan departs and we travel on until we reach Hommlet. The halflings seem pleased for soft beds, fresh food, and having a few ales. At dusk, we break free of forested lands and see the sign of civilized land. I see a village of farms straddling a crossroads with close hedgerows marking the division of the farmland lying in the shallow valley. We pass a stone-built church before finding ourselves at a ford that crosses a stream. The dwarf drove the oxcart across the shallows and we spot several shops; a blacksmith, a moneychanger’s office, and a sign for a trader. It is the wooden sign of a smiling woman holding a mug that we all head for. Speaking to the stableman, we leave our beasts in his care and head inside the village inn.
I follow the others into the taproom of the inn. The room is clean and warm and the humans inside look at us for a moment before quietly returning to their food and drink. Pinkertin is talking to Merric in his native tongue, most likely about ordering food. The large older human behind the bar comes out to greet us and welcome us to his inn. The jovial, balding man is Ostler Gundigoot and the place is called the Inn of the Welcome Wench.
The innkeeper escorts us to a table near the hearth. He surprises the two shortfellows by speaking their tongue when they start talking to one another about the menu. Pinkertin orders meals and drinks for the group from Ostler and he sends everything out with one of his servers. Fennec asks about rooming and the innkeeper shares that guests do receive simple meals with their stay for free or they can stay in the dormitory room and get plain breakfast. I give the man 2 gold coins for a room for the night. The halflings get a room while the dwarven warrior priest and Fennec decide on the dormitory for the night.
Dugal has an opportunity to speak to Goodwife Gundigoot later. He asks her about any rumors or stories of recent attacks on the roads surrounding the village. The goodwife tells the dwarf that there were some missing merchants to the roads north between Hommlet and Etterboek about a month ago. She knows little else and tells Dugal that if he needs more assistance that he should seek out the Druid tomorrow. After finishing a second glass of wine, I say goodnight to my merry companions and think about my purpose and hope that I will be able to succeed with my tasks. Everything has went well so far. I have joined up with one of the paladins and I should be able to learn more about banditry from the druid.
6th of Planting 579 CY
After breakfast cooked by the Goodwife Gundigoot and her two daughters, we set out for grove of the druid. Inside the little forest in the center of the village, we locate the dark bearded man who is one of the revered faiths in Hommlet. We introduce ourselves, I greet the druid and inform him I am Rel Starshine of Celene. The druid, is Jaroo Ashstaff of Elahonna. Fennec tells the druid that he is seeking information of any bandit activity or evil creatures that might be troubling the area. The priest of Elahonna says that he can help us if we are willing to make a donation to his deity. Everyone gives Jaroo some of their pay from Fennec. Pleased, Jaroo tells that all of us that we should investigate a location 10 miles from the village.
The druid tells that if we follow an old trail on the outskirts of the village it will lead us east to some ruins where six years past a band of traveling heroes put down a giant troll who had taken residence in the stone ruins. He says it is a moathouse that is surrounded by a wetlands and would be an ideal place for any foul beasts to use. I ask Jaroo who built the keep. He tells us that evil men built it and used it as an outpost before he came to Hommlet.
Fennec believes the party should investigate this ruined bastion of evil. Merrec asks Jaroo about the tower and the keep being built in the village. Jaroo is more forthcoming on this subject and informs us that the tower is the hold of Rufus and Burne. They came to Hommlet 3 years ago, after being granted permission by the Viscount of Verbobonc to build a stone keep on the southern borders of the Viscounty. Fennec asks what the two men did, and Jaroo says that the rumor is that they slew a green dragon in service of Verbobonc.
We agree to follow the paladin to the moathouse in order to earn our coins. I hope that we are on the right path. We follow the overgrown trail that leaves the village to the East. The way is slow and difficult due to the thorns, creepers, and tangled vines that have grown up along this track. We arrive at the ruins about an hour before dark. The land here is sunken and desolate. The pungent smell of wet earth and mold are prevalent here. As we approach the fallen fortress through the cattails and bog grass we can hear weird bird calls and the croaking of the swamp life. Suddenly the five of us are attacked by gigantic frogs that seem intent on having us for dinner. Merric and Dugal almost perish as the creatures wrap their sticky tongues around them and drag them toward their hungry mouths. I quickly cast my sleep spell on the frogs catching half of them and causing them to succumb to my magic. Freeing themselves from the frog tongues, we all attack the other frogs and slay them all. Dugal discusses eating these things, but no one else seems inclined and he ends up slitting them open and he finds a small gem for his trouble.
We cross over a decaying drawbridge into the courtyard of the keep. Much of the place was destroyed in a siege by the evidence still visible. Broken walls, a collapsed tower, and the skeletal remains of a second story all show the destruction brought down years ago onto this evil outpost. A nearby broken tower opens onto the courtyard. The others decide to poke around looking to see what they can find. Again we are ambushed! This time a giant spider drops down attacking Dugal and Pinkerton. I fire several arrows at the swollen black torso of the spider. Dugal and Fennec hack at the creature while the two halflings move away and toss missiles at it. After several hits the giant beast convulses and its long legs curl up under it as it dies. Dugal locates a small treasure box and he puts into his pack.
Since it is growing even darker with the setting sun, we seek out a place we might be safe to camp. We do not wish to enter the ruined proper or retreat to the swamp of frogs so I suggest we climb up to the stone wall and camp upon the battlement of the broken wall. Pinkertin the rogue climbs up and lowers a rope that he has secured to the stones above. We each climb up and help the next one up. We quietly put out our bedrolls and eat cold rations. In the moonlight, the paladin points out a worn trail that weaves across the courtyard from the drawbridge to the entrance of the keep. We man our watches, but we encounter nothing during the night.
7th of Planting 579 CY
After I take time to study my spellbook and the priests pray and a simple breakfast, we head up the low stairs into the ruined main keep. We see the debris of the former owners, mangy pelts and stuffed heads of a former trophy room lie scattered about one of the first chambers. We enter another full of broken furniture and manage to find a silver rod left behind. We hear a sound down a hall and investigate. Pinkertin clears the door and Fennec opens the portal to reveal a giant lizard! The creature rushes forward and tries to taste the dwarf. I fire arrows and Dugal hacks with his large axe. The paladin thrusts his sword at the giant reptile while praising Heironious. Pinkertin throws daggers into the monster while Merric tosses his darts.
The room is partially collapsed and Dugal spies a chest partially buried under the stone and timber rubble. He decides to wait and check the gullet of the lizard. His instincts pay off and the dwarf recovers a metal kite shield that had been swallowed by the giant lizard. Once he is done retrieving the shield, the dwarf decides to go after the chest. As he moves debris, the fallen stone shifts and the material collapses upon the dwarven warrior priest. Fennec works quickly to uncover him, while I try and brace the damaged wall with several timber posts. The young warrior frees the dwarf and Merric performs some healing upon Dugal. We decide to return to Hommlet so that everyone can rest up from their wounds from the lizard and the wall collapse.
Our progress was faster on our return to the farm village. Fennec has hacked away many of the thorns and thistles that impeded us on our original trek out. The human youth seems tireless. Once we reach the village we spend more time viewing the layout and examine the castleworks being constructed up close. A single tower is complete sitting upon a hillock. Human laborers are digging into the earth to create a foundation for the coming stone walls. A stonemason is supervising the installation of stone blocks for the outer wall. I spy a human in robes near the tower. I assume he is Burne the mage, master of the tower. He studies us from across the construction site. The others are unaware of Burne’s gaze as they watch the laborers lift a huge stone up with ropes and winches. Returning to the Inn of the Welcome Wench we pass several shops including a carpenter and a wheelwright’s shop.
We discuss concerns about a longer stay and decide to speak again to Jaroo. The druid suggests we speak to his friend Derval, a farmer who may allow us to pasture our oxen on his land. Fennec and I go to see him while the others return to the inn for a meal. We walk to the sheep farm and Fennec speaks to three kids who inform him that Derval is home. We speak to the farmer and he graciously agrees to allow us to store our cart and oxen at his farm. We thank Derval and join the others for a good meal at the inn.
After dinner has digested and we sit idly by the fire, Dugal decides to get up and speak to a big farm lad who is drinking ale at the bar talking with the innkeeper. Dugal speaks to Elmo who seems to enjoy his ales and has a reputation for out-drinking everyone who stops at the inn. The dwarf decides to challenge Elmo the village drinking champion to a drinking contest. Bets are placed by locals and the halflings get involved as coins are wagered. Ostler Gundigoot fills mugs of stout ale before both contestants. I stay back and monitor the crowd keeping a look out for any tell-tale signs of subterfuge in the inn. Elmo and Dugal slam ale after ale down. The farmers and tradesmen cheer on Elmo. After over a dozen mugs of ale, the dwarf teeters on his seat and collapses face down onto the table. The crowd yells and cheers for Elmo as he remains undefeated.
Pinkertin meets a human male in the common room after the crowd thins. The man speaks halfling and asks him if he would like to play some games of chance. Pinkertin agrees to a small game of dice. During the game the man asks Pinkertin about being Hommlet and the halfling shares that he had been hired to check out the area for monster trouble. Furnok the gambler informs Pinkertin that in addition to gaming, he is also a Treasure Finder and he offers up scroll of protection from magic to our expedition if we allow him to join us and give him a share of rewards and treasures. Pinkertin lets the rogue know that he will share this information with the others. Before retiring for the night the we pay the innkeeper for additional days at the inn and for meals and for drinks consumed during the evening.
8th of Planting 579 CY
Before breakfast, I study my spellbook and prepare for divination of magic on the few items we have recovered from the ruins. At breakfast, Dugal seems mostly recovered from his effort to beat Elmo at his greatest skill drinking lots of alcohol. We gather in my private room upstairs after the meal and I cast my magic over the items. The shield that was in the gullet of the giant lizard is enchanted. We easily decide to let Fennec Shinyman take it since only he and the dwarf can use it and Dugal likes carrying his two handed axe into battle.
We don our gear and set out from the village. We travel to the ruined moathouse and arrive shortly after mid-day. We search other areas of the keep that were not searched during our previous visit. As we search through a moldy kitchen and are checking out a wooden cask, a giant tick leaps out from the chimney and tries to feed on one of us. A couple of good hits and the thing is dead. We do locate stairs descending down into darkness, but we decide to explore the upper ruins before taking the stairs.
In the room that once was an audience chamber, another tick springs out and tries to drain Merric. This creature dies rather quickly. Another door opens to a bedchamber. Here Pinkertin discovers a scabbarded broadsword that we pick up. At the end of the hall is another door that the halflings examine and listen at the door. Fennec opens the door and we enter to find a giant snake. The swamp is disturbing as it seems to breed gigantic versions of reptiles, amphibians, and other creatures. We move in to battle the snake as it is aggressive and it seems to wish us as a meal. After a quick battle the five of us again are victorious. For our troubles Fennec recovers a jeweled dagger.
After looting the snake, we enter another chamber that results in us being swarmed by bats. Fennec leads us to a wooden door that cannot be opened. Dugal uses his axe to hack through the barrier. The dwarf chops his way through the door to discover that it is barred from the inside. Dugal uses his axe to take care of the bar as well. Opening the door the paladin leads the way into a fire blackened room that is also filled partially with rubble. From around a corner in the ruined room, armed men attack us from ambush. They throw javelins and attack with swords. Quickly, I cast a spell and 7 of the 9 bandits collapse into a slumber. The remaining brigands are now outnumbered and try to flee outside through a collapsed wall breach. Again, I cast a sleep spell and these men fall down as the magic takes effect.
My companions look at me and are in awe that I was able to effectively take out this group of brigands by myself. I am not sure that many of them have spent much time around any spellcasting wizards before. Dugal and Fennec quickly tie up our prisoners while the halflings and I strip them of weapons and any valuables. Searching the room further we uncover a buried chest hidden under loose stones of the wall breach. The waking bandits are surly and not very cooperative. I show them the bloody dress that she died in, but none of the men recognize it. It appears that this group may not be the bandits I am seeking. They refuse to answer our questions until I use my remaining spell and charm one of the human bandits.
The surly bandit’s mood changes and he gives his name as Taryn. He says the group’s leader is Zevil. The others glower and tell Taryn to shut up, but the charm magic makes him friendly and he spills his guts. He shares that they have been together for 6 months and serving the Master. When asked were the Master is, Taryn says he is down below the keep. He even shows us a hidden passage that says leads down to the man leading this bandit group. Perhaps he is the one responsible at Humming’s End. We make camp in the chamber, keeping a watch out large beasts and keep an eye on our bandit prisoners.
9th of Planting 579 CY
We gather up our prisoners and march them back to Hommlet. They reluctantly march because if they do not they are told that a sword is the alternative. The journey is uneventful and we reach the edge of the village.