ALERT: May contain spoilers for the adventure: “The Village of Homlette”
With a little more internal direction, we headed back to Homlette.
They’re building some kind of fort at the east end of town. The walls aren’t too imposing yet, and the gatehouse is barely started, but the tower in the center looks sturdy and well-made.
Elmo split off from us near the edge of town…off to do his own secret mission stuff, no doubt.
Ezekiel wouldn’t stop dancing down the road. I guess he likes having a definite direction to move in.
As we passed the house of the village elder, a warrior in blue armor led a horse out the gate, mounted, and rode off. The elder stuck his head out and waved to us as we passed. It’s nice to know now that he’s on our side…and that he hasn’t been murdered.
We got to the Welcome Wench about mid-afternoon, and ordered some dinners.
There were a couple fighters in the common room – one of them wearing the blue lacquered plate armor we’d noticed earlier. With her helmet off, her hair shone against the armor in a devastating way.
We had just gone upstairs to “freshen up” while dinner cooked, when Lydia appeared at the door of the bunk-room. She said there was a problem, so we went down the hall to the room we’d rented for the past two nights to store our trunk in.
She said she’d found the door unlocked, and the trunk inside was also unlocked.
Ezekiel examined it, and thought some of our electrum was missing (about five pounds). I guess you can’t count on anything.
Well, it’s not like we were suddenly broke. Many of us had been lugging around our share of the gold, so we were able to pay what we owed on the room, and pay for dinner. (And I’ve still got the “company stash” in the bag of holding: what we have left from selling the dwarf-sized magic chainmail.)
Ezekiel had asked the innkeeper, Osler Gundigoot, for time to answer questions, so Mr. Gundigoot talked with us while we ate.
He started by explaining that the one fighter was Rufus, who’s building the tower with Bern for the Plar of Veluna (they’re the two who killed a dragon).
The other fighter – in blue and silver – is a princess! from Celene…so that makes sense.
Anyway, Ezie asked about the “old troubles.” Apparently it started as just bandits…or, the villagers thought it was just bandits. They started human, but as the raids went on, more bugbears, hobgoblins, and other goblinoid vermin were added.
Sounds like it was pretty bad. The townspeople organized the militia and set up horn-signals to help warn each other, and some of them built hiding places in their cellars to protect their goods (and children).
In one raid, “Black J” the shepherd lost his wife and child. He was a mercenary back in those days, and wasn’t at home…and his family didn’t make it to the safety of the inn fast enough. That’s why Black J was so surly when Ezekiel and the others passed his house on the way to the chapel.
(The chapel of St. Cuthbert wasn’t built yet at that time.)
Mr. Gundergoot also mentioned – there’s a weaselly fellow hanging around the inn, calls himself Fernok of Ferd (Ezekiel said that’s a made-up name if ever he heard one). Apparently he’s and adventurer who never seems to go out adventuring, and he spends a lot of time playing cards with the other guests…and winning. Mr. Gundergoot says he can’t prove that he’s cheating, but he would be happy if Fernok played his games elsewhere.
Mr. Gundergoot also told us that the bandits used to use a moat-house as a band of operations. It’s to the north of the new fort they’re building (I saw the overgrown track as we were coming into town today).
We agreed that this hide-out would be a good place to investigate (although I ask myself, “Wouldn’t a new cult stay away from such an obvious place? Or wouldn’t the professionals have thought to investigate that already?”).
Ezekiel also wants to talk to the village elder and Black J – although Mikael seems dubious about getting Black J to actually communicate with us.
We were just finishing up our drinks (Raven praising the meal to high heaven) when a young man came up to our table and introduced himself as Fernok.
Well, sometimes things just drop in your lap.
He offered to buy us drinks, and Lydia asked for another glass of the rather pricy wine she had had…and her veil was over her face, so Fernok went for it and bought her one.
It was hilarious watching her play him. I wonder if she’s had practice.
Anyway, Ezie invited him to join us at the table, and Fernok began explaining this card game called “gin.”
My brothers never let me play with them because they were afraid I’d mess up the cards. (I think some of them never tumbled to the fact that I wasn’t five years old anymore.)
Well, Ezekiel muttered something to himself (sounded like, “I guess we’re doing this now”) and agreed to play a round.
Half-way through, Mikael pointed out that Fernok seemed to be dealing Ezekiel cards from the top, but himself he dealt cards from the “not top” sometimes.
Lydia apparently noticed, too, and asked if maybe Nori would notice even better (having eight eyes, you know).
Lydia asked Fernok how he knew which cards to pull. He didn’t seem to know what to say.
Ezekiel looked over one of his cards, and found a nick in the edge – which is surely bad, because my brothers were always anxious that I was going to nick the cards.
Lydia took the card to look at it, and set it on fire with her finger. It was a dramatic thing to do…but it’s also a pretty cool trick.
Ezekiel (in classic pompous style) told Fernok to play straight or play elsewhere. (Somewhere in here Lydia dropped her veil, and gave him the shock of his life. I could say something about female goblins here, but that wouldn’t be smart.)
Well, I don’t know if Fernok was convinced, but he was certainly rattled, so he took himself off toward his room – with his deck of cards.
About that time the princess got up to leave, and Ezekiel muttered something to himself again and met her as she approached the door.
He made a nice bow, and asked her, “pardon your highness,” could she tell him anything about the Battle of Emridy Meadows?
She said, no, she wasn’t there…and he apologized profusely for rudeness.
The princess laughed, and said, “That weaselly thief was rude; you’re merely amusing.”
And I guess to be “amusing” to an elf is about as ambitious as small fry like us could hope for.
They said some other pomp-y things to each other, and then she left. I stood as she passed and went out the door.
Ezekiel dropped into his chair, shaking his head. “Paladin of Hironius – because of course,” he muttered – looking like he’d been speaking to a ghost.
Lydia sighed. “She was so beautiful,” she said.
So I guess the lady affected us all in different ways.
We decided to give him a minute, then go talk to the village elder.
I asked if someone didn’t want to guard Lydia’s room while we’re gone…just in case Fernok is vindictive or something?
Well, the gang decided Nori could sit in the room and guard it, so Mikael took the key from Lydia and led Nori up there. (Do spiders need to be house-broken? Um…do spiders pee?)
The elder was as courteous and welcoming as ever, and told us about the history over fruit drinks.
After the Battle of Emridy Meadows, the forces of Good went to the Temple and stormed it. When that was accomplished, they mopped up at the moat-house.
Since then, it’s fallen into disrepair…although apparently adventurers still go there and bring back loot from time to time.
(That made me wonder…are they really “adventurers”? Might someone starting up a new cult want “relics” from the place of the old cult with which to do their Evil? To focus their actions, maybe? Speaking as someone who’s never started a cult, I don’t know.)
The elder talked a little bit about the bad times…how the villagers set up signal systems to warn each other of raids, and Osler at the Welcome Wench built a room in his basement to store weapons and to be a refuge in times of attack.
He confirmed what we’d heard about Black J, and said he was working for someone when the raid came through that killed his family.
Ezekiel also asked about the Paladin from Celene, and the elder told us that the Prince of Furiundi has disappeared! The Princess Paladin was carrying a message between the rulers in relation to that.
I guess bigger people have bigger issues to deal with. Apparently the prince was supposed to marry the daughter of the Plar of Veluna, so now both principalities are on edge, and it’s anyone’s guess what might happen.
All above our heads, I suppose, since we can’t even discover whether or not there’s an Evil Cult working around here.
But if the Temple is trying to restart itself…that’s trouble that nobody needs right now.
When we took our leave of the village elder, Ezekiel was all gung-ho for exploring the moat-house…but we pointed out that it was almost suppertime, and if it took three or more hours to get there (through the bog and overgrowth on the old road) we’d be in a bad spot. Much better to wait for morning.
So we returned to the inn – and no sooner had we gotten upstairs than Lydia gave a scream from her room.
We raced down the hall, and she said she’d found the door unlocked again –
And a man lying dead inside.
Ezekiel examined him. It was Turuko, the guy who’d tried to join our party when we first arrived, and had rubbed us the wrong way.
Raven talked to Nori (yeah, I forgot he can do that) and says he let himself in and started working on the chest, so she dropped on his back and bit him.
And that was that.
With a clanking and thumping, Kobort appeared in the doorway (the guy’s friend).
He half-drew his sword, but Ezekiel explained Turuko had entered our room without permission, and our spider did her job and took care of him.
It seems the most that Kobort was worried about was his money – since he says Turuko held the money for both of them – so Ezekiel said that after taking some electrum that he assumes is ours, we’d give the rest of the possessions to Kobort.
Ezekiel offered to buy Kobort a drink, and we all headed downstairs – locking the room, naturally.
Ezie chatted with him for a bit, finding out that he’s from the Wild Coast, and that he’d met Turuko while coming through Homlette, and T had suggested they join up to become “rich and famous”. T said they’d wait for adventurers to come back from the moat-house with treasure, and then rob them…but they hadn’t found any adventurers to rob yet.
Osler Gundergoot pulled Mikael aside to find out what happened (kicking myself that we didn’t tell him sooner) and then summoned the constable (Fred Renton).
(Elmo was in the common room drinking again, and waved “hi Dad!” when the constable came in.)
C. Renton went upstairs and examined the “crime scene.” (I’m gratified that Nori didn’t eat the body. That would have been disrespectful at best, awkward or criminal at worst.)
Well, the upshot is that we weren’t arrested, and the constable and Ezekiel looked over Turuko’s clothes to try to figure out what god he worshipped.
They decided he was probably a monk of Hextor (Ezekiel almost spit on the floor). Well, there aren’t any churches of Hextor around (thank goodness) so they sent for Brother Calmert at the chapel of St. Cuthbert to “deal with” the body.
At the constable’s suggestion, we moved Lydia into the room across the hall, then went downstairs for dinner.
I stood as Calmert and his men carried the body out…he was a human being, after all.
Mikael said he just cares that his spider did well. Must be his “Neutral” showing…
Oh, yes. Ezekiel invited Kobort to come with us tomorrow to the moat-house. After all, he doesn’t seem like an Evil guy, and it’ll give him a chance to make some money before he moves on. I can believe that it’s not his fault Turuko played him.
And if it’s just a day-trip, we don’t have to trust him to keep watch through the night.
Father always got pretty upset over the friends Bartholomew used to hang out with. I think he figured Bartholomew didn’t have enough character to be a positive influence and not get corrupted by others.
Maybe that’s why Bartholomew and I never really had fun together. He was…okay…there just wasn’t much there.
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