Standing in the warmth of the rising sun the companions are pleased to see the city of Tir Asleen spread out before them. Finally they have returned from the bowels of Stonetooth, wiser, richer, and in desperate need of bathing.
Passing through the large gates they decide to head straight to Monieus IV to turn in their “great” cache of Margan weapons and receive their payments. Reaching the Vine Street Counting House, they are quickly waved down the hallway to where Monieus’ cramped and small business room is. The small man immediately leaps to his feet, a smile on his face.
“You’ve returned! I didnt think you’d live. That is, uhh.. what I mean to say is, ah, I’m glad to see you. You found the great cache of Margan arms, I take it?”
The companions briefly cast sideways glances at one another before bringing out the mere two Margan items they had managed to find within Stonetooth. Monieus’ face loses its excitement as he lays eyes on the meager treasure.
“Oh. Oh dear.” He sits down hard in his chair. “Three will barely cover the cost of your fee. Let alone what I paid for that map to Stone Tooth. Oh dear.” He leans forward and rests his head in his hands. “The Monieus trading company will survive somehow. I wont let my great grandad down,”
Monieus reaches out and takes a piece of paper, dipping his pen somberly into an inkwell and then somberly scribbles something down. “Take this slip to the clerk at the front. He will get you your money from my account.”
Not knowing what else they could say to the disheartened man, if anything, the companions quietly take their promised payment and leave Monieus in peace.
Upon returning to the Four Goats Inn it is unanimously decided that a few days are needed in town to take care of some business. Quickly splitting up everyone leaves to deal with their own personal business.
Ornith, Tamull, and Lars all leave for the local taxidermy shop in order to get their dragon head, wings, and tail appropriately taken care while Ragnarok heads off in the opposite direction to find an armorsmith who may be able to craft a shield from the dragon hide he’d been carting around. Returning to the inn Ornith immediately begins to experiment with the mysterious bag containing a ball of seemly random animal fur. Reaching into the bag for the seemingly hundrendth time Ornith is surprised to find that the ball of fur is now that of a rat’s. Not knowing what else to do she decides to drop it on the ground, and almost like magic a rat forms from the once lifeless ball of fur!
It seems as though the bag will conjure certain animals who are able to perform certain tasks!
Meanwhile, next door, Lars has finally summoned up the courage to wear the mummified hand and chain in order to determine what exactly it does. The wizard decides to try the simple spell “Frost Ray” and see if there are any differences in the spell now that he wears the hand. The spell goes off, creating a terrible racket, but nothing different happens aside from a goblet crashing to the ground. Reaching out to pick the goblet up Lars is surprised to see the goblet float in the air in accordance with the movement of his hand! Testing out this new found ability on a few other random items in his room Lars is tickled pink to discover that the mummified hand works as kind of a permanent “Mage Hand” spell!
It is during this time that Tamull has decided to return to the paladin stronghold within the city to report on the evil that he and his companions had managed to clear from the ruins of Stonetooth. Entering the mainhall Tamull quickly makes his way to the now familiar door of High Defender Balthus’ chambers. High Defender Balthus is gruffly pleased to hear about the success the group managed and informs Tamull that while this may seem hasty, it has been decided that the young paladin is ready to proceed down one of the three branches of the Order. Both surprised and elated Tamull informs High Defender Balthus that it is his desire to proceed down the path of Ulsonur, if they will have him. High Defender Balthus tells Tamull that he will inform Lord Guardian Polt of his decision, the very same decision that the Lord Guardian made himself so many years ago.
Returning at dawn two days later, Tamull is both anxious and excited for the ceremony, something he feels he has been waiting his whole life to do. Entering the mainhall, Tamull is ushered down several corridors to a door that had once been forbidden to him. Opening the door he finds himself alone in the great chamber save for the large stone stand in the middle of the room. Shutting the door behind him a sudden stillness descends upon the young paladin, a stillness that quickly turns to a heaviness seeming to settle about his shoulders. Knowing that something is at work here, but not quite sure what, Tamull simply stands in silence, waiting. Long minutes pass by and eventually the door opens to admit several paladins, Lord Guardian Polt among them. Turning to face Tamull, Lord Guardian Polt begins the age old ceremony of raising a paladin up to serve one of the three branches of the Order.
“Paladin Tamull. I have been told that you have come before us today because you wish to join the Paladins of Ulsonur. Is this true?
Know you that though the Order of Three is divided, it is also whole and you must be true to all paladins, even those who serve another?
Will you protect the fortresses and cities of mankind against the forces of decay, despair, and destruction?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though you may face terrors beyond comprehension?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may starve and exhaust you?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may strip you of all you hold dear?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may cost your very life?”
With complete and utter devotion to his Order, Tamull somberly answers yes to all these questions, not only rising in the ranks of his fellows, but also taking on more responsibility for all he does and sets out to do.
“As a paladin of Ulsonur, you would join a long list of warriors, smiths, engineers, and architects, heroes all. From the legendary Ferrin Anvilheart, down through the generations, many great and noble deeds have been done by the Paladins of Ulsonur. Let us now hear the deeds of this young Paladin, so that we may judge his character.” continues Lord Guardian Polt as he then has another paladin present recite all the accomplishments that Tamull and his companions have thus far succeeded in. Each new item is met with the murmurs of approval from all those gathered.
“Having heard of these deeds, what say you, Paladins?”, Lord Guardian Polt calls out the question to those paladins present in the room and is answered with a chorus of approving voices. After a moment, Lord Guardian Polt raises his hand and silence fills the room.
“There is one required approval we have not yet heard.”
It is then that Lord Guardian Polt turns to the chest and lifts the lid, drawing out a large warhammer. He then turns and sets it on the floor resting on its head, with the handle sticking into the air. The room is very quiet. Tamull can feel the very stillness of the room pressing down upon him. Suddenly, the warhammer topples over with the handle facing Tamull, the weight upon his spirit vanishes and cheers erupt in the room. Lord Guardian Polt leans over to pick up the warhammer.
“Paladin Tamull, just as the Great Smith Ulsonur uses his hammer to create and destroy, so to will you use yours to build goodness and smite evil. Take this now and join our ranks.” He offers out the warhammer to Tamull.
During the few days of Tamull’s absence and everyone else’s seemingly research packed days Ragnarok was randomly approached during one of his outings in the streets of Tir Asleen.
“Culan’s balls, you’re huge! How much can you lift? Nevermind that. Listen, I know a guy who is looking for some as is handy with a chopper. If you’re interested in a fair bit of coin, go down to the Green Apple public room. Then go straight across the street. That’s where the guy is. See, we’re trying to put together a group of sorts. Us as get by on strength of arms need to stick together.” the fast talking man laughs at his own joke and then turns and walks away, leaving Ragnarok just a little bewildered as to what exactly had just taken place. Shaking his head Ragnarok returns to the Four Goats Inn where he is pleasantly surprised to see that Tamull has returned from the paladin ceremony and a celebration of sorts is underway. Being recognized as the heroes who saved Alderton the spirit of the group surges ever higher as they toast a drink to the patrons in the commonroom, drinking well into the night.
The next day Ragnarok informs everyone of what transpired in the street with the random stranger. Curious as to what exactly may be going on across from the Green Apple its decided that Ragnarok should go look into it with everyone else accompanying him just in case.
It seems as though the Green Apple Pub is in a poorer part of the city, and the building across from the pub shows but a single unmarked green door, with no one answering Ragnarok’s loud knock. Deciding to enter anyway Ragnarok proceeds down a rather dusty and cobwebby hall to a room where he sees two men wearing old battered armor and circling each other, dueling with dull swords. Another man stands nearby watching. Noticing Ragnarok he steps over and introduces himself as “Dolza.” The man immediately begins to present himself a bit more boastfully as he presents his fighter’s group to Ragnarok in hopes of gaining Ragnarok as a member. After pushing away a few suspicious feelings Ragnarok admits to his interest in the group and soon finds himself accepting a job to investigate and deal with some supposed “haunted house” in the nearby town of Saltmarsh. With the prospects of furthering the reputation of this so far unnamed fighter’s guild, Ragnarok sets off to inform his companions of their new adventure.
The group immediately gathers their needed belongings and set off on the dusty road once more. They aren’t more than a few minutes outside Tir Asleen however when a raucous clatter rises up behind up them. Turning they find themselves face to face with a rather run-down caravan being pulled by four sway-backed horses. The man holding onto the reins is none other than Monieus the IV!
“I’m pleased to have caught up to you! I’ve figured out a way to save my great granddad’s company! I sold of all my supply and bought this great wagon! You’re adventurers right? And adventurers find things they need to sell. Well, I know merchants all across the eight kingdoms. My great granddad was the ‘King of Traders.’ Its in my blood, after all! I can get you the best deals! You find it, I sell it, and we all get rich.” Monieus’ fast paced little speech has left the companions slightly stunned. Looking to one another and giving small shrugs Ornith turns to Monieus and informs him that they would gladly welcome him along, as long as he takes care of the horses and provides meals of course. With a slightly larger and louder companionship now they continue to the small town of Saltmarsh.
High on a hill looking down to the ocean the adventurers first lay eyes upon the small town of Saltmarsh. The town is nothing out of the ordinary really, the most notable thing being the amazing ocean landscape. Moving into the town proper the companions leave Monieus to his own dealings, entrusting him to care for their faithful horses as they move about town attempting to gather information. After several hours of this and only gaining scant information about a crazy hermit alchemist and listening to the town’s constable scoff at such notions as the house being haunted, they decide to head to the edge of town and the house.
Reaching the house it is clear that at one point both the land and the house may have been quite picturesque, but after years of neglect its no wonder there are rumors of it being possessed by evil spirits.
Making their way cautiously through the yard and closer to the house Sasha notices a small snake nestled in some of the stonework around a well. Being very interested in snakes the rogue immediately moves to touch the scaled beast before Ornith stays her hand insisting that she make sure the snake is of a friendly nature. Ornith identifies the snake as a Western Meadow Viper and urges caution as it is poisonous. Seeing the wisdom in this Sasha stands back as Ornith communicates with the snake, finding out that while the snake does not wish to be touched, or even really spoken to, it will not hinder them enter the house, just as long as they leave him alone. Disappointed some, Sasha forlornly looks back at the snake as they all turn to enter the house.
It is very clear that the house is in extreme disrepair, there is mildew and mold in almost every room and most clothing articles lie in tatters. The oddest thing however is that in almost every room there are piles of broken furniture and other household items, almost suggesting that either someone or something has ransacked the abandoned house, or some other darker force is afoot.
Meticulously searching each and every room on all floors, including the attic, the adventurers find little else aside from some fungus which Ornith insists on taking a sample of with her, a large piece of quartz found in a fireplace, a few somewhat moldy books on magic, some strange fear inducing illusion, and some large and disturbing centipedes and spiders (something that probably should have been killed instead of let free). Oh, and of course a stranger found bound, gagged, and clothed only in his undergarments.
Freeing the man they find out that his name is Ned, and after closely questioning him the companions decide he is of no harm to them at this point. Wanting to escort him quickly from the house and be done with him, they eventually cave to his insistence that he explore the house with them in search of his clothes and weapons. Now stuck with yet another odd character as a member of their party the adventurers gather their courage and strength as they make their way to the final unexplored portion of the house…the cellar!