Sheirtalar is a strange town, most likely from its patron god, Talos. That one is quite unpredictable and the buildings here reflect that nature: chaotic, with the sense of being thrown together, a hodge-podge of looks.
The people aren't much different. Far from the calm and patient Dalelanders, these folk are loud and boisterous, talking as much with their hands and with their yapping mouths. I did hear so much noise even in the biggest cities of our travels so far.
Scallon is not at ease here, his hand touches the Sign of Helm on his sword constantly. It is not a sense of evil but of disorder that disturbs him I think. Illian is still not himself. Since the death of his companions, the elf has spoken little and paid little attention to his surroundings, following us more out of habit than conviction. Perhaps his visit to the Elven home outside the city will give him peace.
Scallon finally found an inn that he can tolerate, a respectable establishment called the White Swan. We entered and I looked around while he set to making arrangements for our room.
I noticed a bit of a fracas outside the place and poked my head out to see it. A man in ostentatious robes appeared to be the center of attention of a group of ruffians in local dress. He fled into a haberdashery of all places and was followed by three of the ruffians.
A large fighter appeared from down the street and charged in after them. Figuring that the odds against this hapless magician were a bit too much, and senses the evil intent of some of the ruffians, I ran to summon Scallon.
By the time we reappeared there quite a fight occuring in the hat shop. I saw the flares of magical fire and the glint of steel swinging. Scallon and I ran to engage the loitering villains. I lay about with fervor, swinging my blessed mace and chanting Torm's prayer to victory. Inside, I saw the large fighter cutting down the evil ones with ease.
Apparently, the ruffians were unimpressed by the glory of Scallon as they cut him viciously and he fell. I knew he was still recovering from other wounds and would not be able to bounce back up. I moved to protect him while fighting the foul-doers.
A ball of fire flew from the hatshop and struck Scallon's foe and my mace put an end to his damn-ed life.
It was about this time that the gaudy-one and a hobbit girl appeared in the doorway of the haberdashery. They raised crossbows and shot me. Both of them! I was stunned! This is just not how we treat our rescuers in the Dalelands. These southern folk have some very rude ideas on manners.
I became distracted and took a moment to realize that our foes were either fallen or fled. I went to Scallon's side and held his wounds as Torm's grace flowed through me. Although I kept him from dying, he was gravely wounded and I knew he would not be travelling for awhile.
At that moment, Illian appeared and, taking the situation in quickly, offered to take Scallon to the temple before leaving for Fernley, the elven enclave. I thanked him and gave him a blessing before he trudged down the street with the paladin in his arms.
After profuse apologies by the magiker, apparently named Haverian, did I forgive his appalling accuracy with his crossbow and help him drag the fallen from the street.
While binding the one surviving ruffian, I learned that Haverian had been selling an amulet, it was stolen by one of the ruffians and he'd followed them to get it back. The amulet itself was from near the Evil Temple Scallon and I had been seeking! This pompous mage would be our ticket there!
Our prisoner told us what he knew. His boss was from the east (again that Temple!) and he'd paid local thugs to help him grab the amulet.
I made it clear that the prisoner should atone for his evil acts and do penance to regain the grace of Torm. In that way, I could release him. Haverian disagreed, and in a strange move, said the fellow could leave if he tried on the amulet. The poor man agreed and once it fell over his head, his face showed utter pleasure. Then the chain shrank until it killed him!
Such evil as that must be the work of Cyric or demons, I thought, as I gave all of the fallen a last blessing, in hopes of saving their souls from undeserved torments. During my incantations, I got the definite feeling that our dead prisoner, Anlaf, had died wrong. His spirit was no longer near his body.
Leaving the dead for the poor storekeep to deal with, we crossed the street and sat down to sup at the White Swan.
The fighter I'd seen earlier is named Guts and even Scallon does not match his martial prowess. If only we'd had his kind earlier in our journeys. Luckily, he was also convinced to stop for food in the Swan. The hobbit, apparently named Frazzle, I couldn't get rid of if I'd wanted to. Easily distracted and annoyingly curious, she latched on to Haverian and Guts like new toys.
We spoke of the village of Hommlet and the Temple of Evil found east of it. Haverian and I agreed that we should investigate this Temple and see why it was sending minions such as these all the way to Shiertalar.
With the loss of Scallon, I knew I needed protection. Guts was a mercenary and it was simple for me to hire his services for 20gp a month. I feel a little easier knowing that he is in my employ rather than the erratic Haverian. I might live through this yet.
Another issue came between Haverian and I. One of the ruffians bore an enchanted blade. Suspicious, I reached out to it to see its nature. As I'd suspected, the blade itself was evil.
Haverian was fully ready to use the cursed blade or sell it to some unsuspecting arms merchant, neither of which could I allow. I took it from him, saying "I fear you have little will to resist the temptations of evil, my brother. I will take away the temptation."
To forestall the ornate ormarian's protests, I assured him that I'd keep it with us. "We might need it to bluff our way into these lands of evil."
We gathered horses the next day and rode toward the village of Hommlet. The trip was uneventful although we passed bandits standing on a hill by the road perhaps an hour before reaching the fair village of Hommlet.
April 12th, 1359
It was apparent that Haverian was in his element, greeting people as we rode slowly into the little community and pointing out the few structures of note. To the east we could see the forgefires of the keep-under-construction of Burne and Rufus, local saviors.
Soon we arrived at the Welcome Wench, hub of the community and its only inn. We made arrangements to stay and had our horses tended to.
The inn, I soon discovered, was aptly named. A gorgeous woman appeared to serve us with the enchanting name of Cersei. I expressed my honest admiration for her grace and beauty and was rewarded with a smile and blush. I will have to find time to spend with her!
There was another group in the inn, adventurers much like ourselves. Soon we talked and they revealed that they were headed to Shiertalar and were worried about more bandit attacks. I had to decline their request for Guts' services, but Haverian made himself useful, offering to cast a spell on their pack animal to hide it from the bandits.
Lunch was excellent. The local wine was dry and the venison was succulent. Remarkable for such a small community, but I believe it has had great times in its past and perhaps its future.
After eating, we shared a quiet pipe of tabac and agreed to leave the following morning to visit the nearest relic of the Temple, the Moathouse.
Our peaceful puff was interrupted by a soldier of Helm, a man named Calmert. He extended an invitation to me to meet his superior, a man named Terjon. I was pleased to meet a brother in good, if not in faith. Helmets have their issues but they are good soldiers in the holy war.
My companions accompanied me to the remarkably-sized church of Helm. It appears to have been constructed at great expense to be easily defended without being a fortress. Far too big for the few people in the area, though.
We saw two soldiers of Helm guarding the great doors of the Church, and a couple others sparring in a partially open courtyard. Lots of empty space.
We are led to a waiting area and are joined after only a few moments by Canon Terjon. A young, confident man. Tall, with a swagger of arrogance that I'm sure he'll lose soon with the wisdom of age.
"Its these damned bandit gangs!" complained Terjon. "They are a menace to travellers and we are afraid for the locals as well. But I just don't have enough men here to take care of the problem. We were once a thriving Church but as things have become quiet, well.... we don't get the attention of our superiors anymore."
An examination of the amulet and the pommel of the sword revealed them both to be the symbol of the Elder Eye, symbol of the Evil Temple that we're seeking.
"It seems obvious to me that a great evil still sleeps in the east," I said. "I understand your limitations here. We'll do as much as we can. We are determined to explore the Moathouse tomorrow. We will tell you about anything we find."
Terjon agreed to keep the evil sword impounded at the Church and seek a way to remove the evil taint from it.
After our visit to the Church, we had time so Guts and I took a walk around the area to get our bearings. There is a small river that flows through the center of town. Only about a hundred and fifty souls, old and young, live here.
Burne and Rufus are constructing a keep outside of the hamlet. I stopped by to pay my respects and meet these famous heroes, but, alas, they were not at the site. I left them a message introducing ourselves and our intent to investigate the Moathouse.
Before returning to the Welcome Wench, we noticed a druid's grove a little way from the hamlet. I took note. Druids are not evil but they are deluded enough to not see the righteous truth.
Satisfied no bandits were planning on ambushing the village, we returned to the inn where I planned to spend a great deal of time talking to Cersei. We clerics aren't celibate you know!