Common Year 579

19. Through the Welkwood
From 18 Flocktime to 1 Wealsun, 579 CY

The party introduced Hessa to life in Hommlet. She met the support staff at the Wretched Hen; Jaroo the druid; Gnomey the merchant; the newly installed Canon Calmert; the mayor; Elmo, Furnok, and Spugnoir at the moathouse; and the ever intractable Burne and Rufus. Devil Pancake had already given Burne his golem, and now he gave him his misbehaving staff of power, an act of generosity that Burne had not expected and did not know how to put down.

Then the party traveled to the Temple of Elemental Evil and discussed recent events with Otis, Y’Dey, and Murfles. Despite that the temple is asking repeatedly for the bearers of the weapons of Keraptis to enter, it was resolved for the party to go south instead, first to Countess Tillahi in Courwood, and from there to the secret lair of the Slave Lords on the outskirts of Highport in contested territory. The journey through Celene would be a delicate affair, even under the best of circumstances, given Queen Yolande’s decision to keep the borders closed while hordes of raiding humanoids amass in the Pomarj. But with Devil Pancake’s status as a wanted fugitive, the going would be fraught with peril. The party decided that Hessa would lead them along the edge of the Welkwood, far from the road through the capital city of Enstad, but that Zarra would do the talking, if necessary, to get them out of difficult situations. They took horses and a wagon and used the countess’s seal on their invitation to cross into the country of Celene, while Devil was hidden in somebody’s pocket after consuming a potion of shrinking.

Despite precautions, a company of hippogriff riders — grey-elven knights fiercely loyal to Yolande — overtook the party early into the journey and interrogated them as to their business in Celene. They discovered Devil Pancake, who finally learned the nature of the horrible crimes with which he was accused: the killing and eating of eighteen babies, for which he had earned the names “the Butcher of Babies,” “the Baby-Butcher,” and “the Baby-Muncher.” The encounter was about to break into violence, when a volley of glowing white arrows shot from the forest and put the entire company of hippogriff riders to sleep. A friendly-looking elf with a bow came forward and offered the party aid and sanctuary, which the party gratefully accepted.

The elf turned out to be the cousin of Yolande, a certain Prince Brightflame, who some call Peralay, but who most know best as the legendary hero Melf. Melf had been the captain of the Knights of Luna, but he had fallen out of favor with Yolande and some of his lieutenants for wanting to join the fight against the Temple of Elemental Evil, and he had been forced into hiding in the Welkwood as an outlaw. He freely opened his spellbook to Devil Pancake to give Devil a full complement of magic-user spells, and the party spent a quiet night in Melf’s interdimensional refuge.

The party exited the refuge to find themselves deep in the Welkwood, along the banks of the Jewel River, perhaps a three-day journey from where they had entered. They had been forced to leave their horses and wagon with the sleeping hippogriff riders, so Hessa decided to take the party downriver instead. She constructed a raft out of timber and charted a course to where the river forks, some three days south, not far from the bridge to Courwood.

The party did not encounter any hippogriff riders so deep in the forest, but they did fight a banshee along the way, and then, while leaving the Welkwood on foot, they met a raiding party of goblins from the Pomarj under the control of a night hag called Maggie. Hessa’s sword Blackrazor fed her the strength of the goblin souls that it had devoured, and Hessa began to take on the aspect of an angel of war to the astonishment of her friends.

Hippogriff riders held the bridge into Courwood, and they tried to detain the Baby-Muncher. Zarra, coming to Devil’s defense, commanded Lancet to touch Devil to prove that Devil was not evil, but the hippogriff riders were dazzled by her eloquence and thought that she was saying that the Baby-Muncher was Lancet’s prisoner. She quickly seized on their mistake and secured passage for the party across the bridge. Once in Courwood, the party asked for, and received, the countess’s sanctuary. The countess declared Devil Pancake innocent of the crime of baby-munching for as long as he remains under her protection.

The party now looks forward to a high feast in their honor.

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18. Lady of Frost
From 24 Planting to 18 Flocktime, 579 CY

The trail to the sword Blackrazor picked up behind an illusory zoo seemingly conjured by the ogre mage. There, three not-at-all illusory manticores guarded a lever that opened the apparently unopenable door at the bottom of a drained well.

The door provided access to a tunnel, which was patrolled by a pair of efreeti. Zarra pulled the sword Frost Brand and strode out of the shadows to face them, while the ranger Hessa, under enchantment from Devil Pancake, skittered up the walls like a spider and hewed at the efreeti from the ceiling. The efreeti could not withstand the attack, and they crumbled to ashes — no doubt with tales of the Lady of Frost to spread across the elemental planes.

The tunnel led into an underground cave that was littered with bones — bones that formed the body, such as it was, of the wizard Keraptis, who took the form of an undead dragon, or who, perhaps, had always been a dragon. Keraptis set upon the party mercilessly. Father Dominco withered under the dragon’s breath, and Lancet was nearly torn in half and lay bleeding out on the cavern floor, while Devil Pancake’s spells proved useless — at first. But then the party rallied and landed telling blows, and the tide of the battle suddenly turned. They emerged with scars but also with the victory — and also with the sword Blackrazor, which only Hessa had the physical strength to claim.

They also rescued the warlock Burne, who had been held captive by Keraptis these last weeks. Burne told them what he had learned before his captivity: that the Slave Lords are real, that they can defy death by some unknown means, and that they might have a secret lair under a desecrated temple on the outskirts of the city of Highport on the Wild Coast.

The long journey back to Hommlet passed uneventfully. But upon returning home, the party found two messages waiting for them. First, that the Temple of Elemental Evil was…asking for them again. Second, that Countess Tillahi, mother of Murfles, had requested their presence in the city of Courwood in Celene for an official audience.

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17. Wand of fireballs R.I.P.
From 23 to 24 Planting, 579 CY

The party took a meal of nutritious food courtesy of Zarra’s djinn and went to sleep on the floor of the dungeon. When they awoke, they found that Father Dominco and Lancet du Laird had somehow rejoined them at some point in the night, despite having been hundreds of miles away in Veluna. Perhaps the god Rao, sensing the party’s danger, had moved his disciples to where they needed to be.

Dom took possession of the hammer Whelm, and then the party turned their attention to the flooded rooms. They discovered a giant in charge of a pump and convinced him to lower the water, which enabled them to find a key to a huge locked door. Behind the door was a whale-sized crab, the guardian of the trident Wave. The party fought the crab to the death and took the trident, although the weapon would not bind itself to anyone who did not instantly convert to the worship of the sea-god. No one in the party was willing to do so, so the weapon remains unclaimed (but in the party’s keeping).

On the quest for the last legendary weapon, the sword Blackrazor, the party moved through a sequence of rooms of an increasingly surreal — and dangerous — character.

In one of these rooms, during combat, Devil Pancake exhausted his wand of fireballs, and he took a moment in the heat of the battle to say his goodbyes to his favored friend. He also possesses a wand of lightning, and he has recently acquired a wand of frost, but none of them say “Devil Pancake just owned you” quite like a wand of fireballs. Maybe another will turn up someday.

The quest for Blackrazor has seemingly ended in the lair of an ogre mage, but while the monster is dead, the sword is still nowhere to be seen.

Neither is Keraptis.

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16. Along came a ranger
From 21 to 23 Planting, 579 CY

After arriving in Ringland, the party sought lodging in the Inn of the Shriveled Mushroom. There they met the half-elf ranger Hessa, who was also traveling to White Plume Mountain for reasons that she did not reveal. She had been trying to recruit adventurers for the journey, but no one in Ringland was willing to go. Zarra and Hessa saw something formidable in each other, so, with Devil Pancake’s assent, the ranger became the newest member of the party.

Hessa’s wilderness skills proved invaluable in locating the entrance to Keraptis’ lair near the base of White Plume Mountain. Navigating the lair was another matter. It was stocked with not just creatures and traps but also puzzles and tests of intelligence and character. Devil Pancake acquitted himself admirably in solving these and, as a reward, gained the service of one of Keraptis’ flesh golems.

The party acquired the hammer Whelm after a very difficult battle with a vampire. A series of flooded chambers with kelpie guardians might seem to point the way to the trident Wave, but if there is a way to lower the water, it has not yet been found.

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15. Across the Nyr Dyv
From 3 to 21 Planting, 579 CY

The party learned that the evil forces at work in the temple might have located three legendary weapons — the sword Blackrazor, the warhammer Whelm, and the trident Wave — in White Plume Mountain, an active volcano in the northern reaches of the realm, long rumored to be the home of the ancient wizard Keraptis.

To prevent the temple from acquiring these weapons, Zarra, Devil Pancake, and Uvogin set out for White Plume Mountain, while Father Dominco and Lancet du Laird left for Veluna to bring Canon Terjon to justice.

The first leg of the journey took the party to the city of Dyvers on the coast of Nyr Dvy, a freshwater lake the size of a sea. There they met Quinn, the captain of a trading barge. Captain Quinn agreed to convey the party by water to a smuggler’s landing near Admundfort, which would put them within a three-day march of Ringland, the closest settlement to White Plume Mountain.

Along the way, the party repelled two giant squids and faced a nightmarish undead pirate crew. Devil Pancake used fireballs to destroy a dozen pirate skeletons before the crew had even boarded, which they proceeded to do after ramming the barge. As Devil and Quinn fought off the attackers, Zarra warped the wood of the ghost ship’s hull and, for good measure, set the deck on fire. The ship promptly sank to the bottom of the lake. Yet the party recovered the pirates’ treasure by diving for it with the Cloak of the Manta Ray.

During the last leg of the journey, from the smuggler’s port to Ringland, the party overtook and destroyed a delegation of giants from the Temple of Elemental Evil. The party did not learn whether the delegation was coming to negotiate for the weapons or to take them by force, but they did find what appeared to be a gift or a tribute: a Deck of Many Things.

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14. Good news and bad news
From 1 to 3 Planting, 579 CY

Good news: In response to Father Dominco’s request, the Church of Rao in Veluna sent a High Inquisitor to Hommlet to investigate Canon Terjon’s indiscretions. The High Inquisitor paid good coin to stay at the Wretched Hen.

Bad news: The High Inquisitor was murdered in the night.

Good news: The party returned to Hommlet and correctly deduced the identity of the killer. Sir Richarde, a knight from the city of Greyhawk, committed the deed under the control of a succubus. The party drove the succubus out of the knight.

Bad news: The succubus then possessed Canon Terjon.

Good news: The party destroyed the succubus without killing either Canon Terjon or Sir Richarde. Canon Terjon repented and agreed to submit to the judgement of Veluna, while Father Dominco installed Calmert as the new priest of the Church of St. Cuthbert.

Bad news: The lower level of the Temple of Elemental Evil invited the party to enter. The party nearly died at the hands of a lamia.

Good news: The party found and defeated a powerful assassin and wizard.

Bad news: The assassin and wizard were worshippers of the Demon Queen of Spiders.

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13. Loose ends and a drunken dwarf
From 6 to 7 Growfest, 579 CY

The party cleared out the rest of the Temple of Elemental Evil — or as much of it as they could access. According to a bugbear, the lower levels of the temple are closed unless by invitation, suggesting that perhaps the demon imprisoned in the temple is not as restricted in her actions as the viscount’s agents might want to think.

Otis seems to believe that the legendary Slave Lords are perhaps more than a legend, and that they might have something to do with the reactivation of the temple. He said that Burne had gone out seeking information about these slavers, but he did not know when — or if — the warlock would return.

While these events transpired, the party’s dwarf remained behind at camp in a drunken stupor with his new friend, the pirate Jack.

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12. The chattering skulls of Prefect Alrrem
5 Growfest, 579 CY

While the much-missed Zarra and her raven Void gained proficiency with the poisons that Murfles made, the rest of the party descended into the temple to seek out and destroy the final priest. This they did, after an encounter with werewolves, self-professed angelic beings, and six talkative skulls in the Temple of Fire.

The ceremonial robes of the fire-temple’s priest, whose name, the party learned, was Prefect Alrrem, enabled Father Dominco to converse with the skulls — and inadvertently summon the temple guardians after refusing to provide the required sacrifice. The subsequent fight with the guardian salamanders was not as difficult as prior encounters, perhaps because the Temple of Fire has been significantly weakened since the Battle of Emridy Meadows and the exile of Lareth the Beautiful.

Buried in the coals of the sacrifice pit was an intelligent magic sword. The sword tried to become the property of Uvogin, but the party wisely intervened, fearing that the sword would possess their companion.

While freeing prisoners, the party met Countess Tillahi of Celene and her military attache. They explained that they had been captured and sold to the temple as eventual human sacrifices by the slave lords of the Wild Coast, a whispered name of terror and half-believed rumors that bears further investigation.

The countess promised to reward the party handsomely for freeing her, and she also asked if they knew of the whereabouts of Murfles. Murfles is the countess’ youngest daughter, but she was imprisoned for habitual theft. Eventually she escaped, perhaps to join the circus, or perhaps to become an adventurer. Justice demands that she finish out her sentence, according to the laws of Celene.

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11. When the elephant in the room is a kraken
From 2 to 5 Growfest, 579 CY

Canon Belsoming, evil high priest of the Temple of Water, is dead. His under-priest is dead. His other under-priest is now Zarra’s puppet. The Temple of Elemental Evil is falling.

And yet… and yet…

The party faced several difficult battles against one horrible monster after another, including a juggernaut and some drelb guardians, not to mention a kraken, from which the party fled. But is the kraken plotting with cold intelligence for a second encounter with the monster slayers, from which there will be no escape? It seems to possess strange powers of mind and a body made entirely of water. The water-temple worshipped it as a god. How can weapons hope to prevail?

And the Temple of Fire has yet to be found…

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10. The old bugbear trick
From 28 Coldeven to 2 Growfest, 579

While searching for both the Temple of Water and the Temple of Fire, the party instead encountered the bugbear soldiers in the employ of the Temple of Air. Several skirmishes with these creatures led the party to Prefect Kelno, high priest of the Temple of Air. The party fought a desperate battle against him, which was ultimately successful.

The remnant of the air-temple’s bugbears fell prey to Father Dominco’s strategizing, while the increasingly effective teamwork of all the companions is enabling Zarra to strike with precision from the shadows.

The party returned to Hommlet to replenish supplies and learned that one of their new barmaids has been paying for Canon Terjon’s religious instruction with certain personal favors. Father Dominico called Terjon out and sent word to Velnua for an official investigation.

To help the villagers forget about the grisly murders that had occurred at the Wretched Hen, Zarra put on an exclusive performance, and Uvogin and Devil Pancake reenacted the party’s adventures.

Revitalized, the party set out once more for the Temple of Elemental Evil.

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