Ill Winds Over Verbobonc
The Bandit Lords of the Gnarley and Welk Verge
The following tidbits of fact, rumour, and conjecture concerning the rising chieftains was discerned by the Company of the Silver Spear during their sojourn in the settlement of Hommlet. Sources included Lords Burne and Rufus of Doomwatch Keep, Captains Elmo and Hroth (ret’d) of the Hommlet Militia, and members of the senior militia leadership which includes Willem Smythe (blacksmith and chief assistant to Jaroo Ashstaff, Druid of Hommlet), Tarim (humble woodcutter yet father of the legendary ranger, Rendar Redaxe), Sef Fletner (master teamster), Gister Noshim (master stonemason), Valden Oyd (master cartwright), and Jasper Nevets (farmer and local gentleman). Further information was gleaned from the letters written to the late Vandros the Necromancer by the bandit lord Oswald Scarlord and the mysterious Kelek, and still more in discussion with Aristocles the Silent One, their occasional patron.
- Oswald the Scarlord, Bandit Lord of the Welkwood Bog; Probably the best source for information about Oswald and his company is none other than his younger brother, their companion Oscar. In addition to being a formidable fighter, Oswald is also a sorcerer of some power, perhaps battened on the awful, unholy pacts his late father made with demons and evil gods. The Scarlord has been a thorn in the side of the eastern viscounty in general and Hommlet, Sheernob, and Ostverk in particular over the years since the fall of the Second Temple. He operated from a handful of hideouts and redoubts ranging from the village of Nulb, a cave network in the hills north of Hommlet, an abandoned homestead east-north-east of Sheernob, and a rude fort in the Gnarley verge, but he was hounded from these strongholds owing to the tipoffs of Oscar, who chose his faith and the cause of weal over loyalty to his villainous brother. It is believed that the Scarlord fled to the depths of the Welk Bog, where he harries the Low Road forest trade route between Ostverk and Narwell. When Oscar rode with his brother, Oswald led around forty men with a like number of dependents (wives, consorts, children and the like). His strength now is unknown, and his depredations are a source of some anxiety to Lords Burne and Rufus, Baroness Kathryn, and Waldgraf Corbin.
Ash, Master of the “Hooded Vengeance.” His stronghold is believed to be within an abandoned monastery of Allitur (Oeridian god of ethics and morality) atop a hill, some sixty-five miles east-north-east of Hommlet, close by the High Road forest trade route. Tarim the Woodcutter says that according to the foresters that live deep in the woods, Ash and his bandits call themselves Hooded Vengeance, citing the interference of the Viscounty of Verbobonc on their freedoms. Naturally, they take care to wear hoods when they attack so that their identities are obscured. The men of Hommlet worry that Ash was once a servant of the Temple of Elemental Evil, as rumour has it he is a powerful spellcaster able to
summon elementals to lay waste to his enemies and call down pillars of fire from the sky. This is backed up by the letter written by Oswald Scarlord, which described Ash as having some sort of “unholy power.” Aside from second-hand accounts his true strength is unknown. The numbers of bandits under Ash’s control is unknown but thought to be sizeable.
- Artros Garretson, Chief of the Red Arrows; A middle-aged half-sylvan elf noted for having an undeniable charm but also a notoriously savage and unpredictable temper, Artros made his name and reputation as a mercenary and later a freesword captain in his youth. Indeed, he is something of a legend for his skill with the bow, his courage, and his flair for dramatics. At length, after fighting against the Orcish Empire of the Pomarj during the wars and taking many losses, he and the remnants of his company retired to Twilight Falls, close to where he grew up. They tried to settle down, but for a number of reasons it didn’t work out and he was forced to flee the town after a “disagreement” with a Mounted Borderer patrol. His people went with him, and are thought to still dwell somewhere close to Twilight Falls, where they too prey on the High Road. A little over thirty men remained of Garretson’s mercenary company when he settled, but the current strength of his band is unknown.
- “The Black Elf”; Little is known of this villain other than Aristocles’ belief that he is drow, one of the notorious, fell dark elves that make their home beneath the surface of the Oerth. Aristocles believes the Black Elf to be the chief threat facing the viscounty, and has charged the Band of the Silver Spear to get to the bottom of it. Oswald’s letter references the “dark arts” available to the Black Elf. Could this be necromancy? Shadow magic? Or some other awful magic known only to the drow? The strength of his supporters is unknown. Discussion of him yielded no further information from any quarter, as neither Lords Burne and Rufus nor the militia leadership had heard of him.
- The Fox; Almost nothing is known of this threat, other than what is contained in Oswald’s letter to Vandros the Necromancer. Apparently the chief asset of the mysterious Fox is the considerable number of spies under his purview. The strength of his supporters is unknown. Discussion of him yielded no further information from any quarter either.
- An unknown band; Little is known of this group of bandits other than the fact they use an old stone tower once favoured as the furthest south-eastern outpost of the Temple of Elemental Evil. They trouble the Low Road that heads east to Narwell and the Wild Coast, and seem unafraid of the Sylvan Elf tribes that make their home nearby.
- Seguryn, Captain of the Horned Reavers; According to Elmo, who occasionally scouts the Fens of Tor, Seguryn the Horned Reaver is a recent arrival on the scene of rising bandit lords on the Gnarley fringe. Tarim added that the woodsmen say he is a northerner, exiled from the bandit Kingdoms or the failed lands of the Horned Society. He has built a new buccaneer camp downriver of the ruins of Nulb, about a mile inside the northern reaches of the Fens of Tor. The hidden stockade is close to the village of Meldun, but on the opposite side of the waterway. Burne and Rufus said that rumour has it Seguryn is advised by a crone who is said to be a witch, and some of his other followers wear the rags of blue robes that were formerly associated with Temple of Elemental Evil Water. Of late, his three boats have been slipping past Taymouth to trouble the trade route of the Velverdyva. His men are known for wearing horned helmets.
“The Lord of the Goblins;” Again, Elmo and Tarim are the most knowledgeable here, with their contacts among the woodsmen. The goblinoid tribes of the Gnarley were among the strongest supporters of the Temple of Elemental Evil, taking silver and slaves in return for their support. The hobgoblins of the Yellow Skull tribe were the most stalwart adherents of the temple, but their rivals among the Bleeding Tongue worked for the fell priests as well. Likewise, the bugbears of the Green Eye and the goblins of the Black Wolf and Rotten Hand were also pressed into service. As such, they suffered the loss of many of their warriors as each iteration of the temple was destroyed. However, lately a warlord
has risen who has managed to weld hobgoblin, bugbear, and goblin into a viable force once more. This Lord of the Goblins, as Tarim calls him, has established a stronghold less than a score of miles from the ruins of the old Temple of Elemental Evil.
- The Howling Moon; These orcs are not native to the Gnarley Forest, but rather were transplanted from their home in the northern lands of Iuz in order to strengthen the First Temple in their struggles with Verbobonc. Diminished by their losses at Emridy Meadows, and almost destroyed by the fall of the Second Temple, they fled into the trackless muck of the Fens of Tor. They have since rebuilt their numbers by attacking and absorbing other orc tribes on the Gnarley fringe. The Howling Moon are a much more vicious breed than the local Gnarley orcs, cleaving to the worship of the Old One and the Powers of Elemental Evil in addition to the Orcish pantheon. Elmo worries at their swiftly growing numbers, which he puts at around 400 strong, but allows that nearly half their number are children or youths only just learning to fight. They are strongest in the southern reaches of the Fens of Tor, only about 8 miles north of the ruins of Nulb, and he thinks their lair is inside a deep and sodden cave complex within the swamp. He also added that they use poison on their weapons. The Howling Moon are currently locked in a war with the Storm-Eyes. Tarim says to avoid the orcs. Let them kill each other and save our blades for other threats.
The Storm-Eyes; Formerly a small tribe native to the area around the eastern Fens of Tor, the Storm-Eyes have arisen over the last dozen years by enacting a policy of non-involvement with strangers and by taking in refugees from their former rivals among the now-broken Green Axes, Burning Skulls, and Bloody Fangs, all of whom have been utterly vanquished by the Howling Moon, various adventuring and mercenary bands, and the viciously efficient culling campaigns of Rendar Redaxe and his rangers. In times past, the Storm-Eyes were firm adherents to the worship of Gruumsh alone, and they were decimated by the forces of the Temple of Elemental Evil for refusing to knuckle under. Some of them even fought for one of the adventuring bands that wore down the Second Temple, seeking vengeance for their winnowing. In recent years, they have grown less bloody, and while they still raid they prefer to fight other fighters rather than poor peasants and woodsmen. As such, they often attack the Howling Moon, the goblinoids, and other bandits, choosing instead to forage, hunt, fish, farm, and even trade, while extorting foresters close to them for food. They have learned to avoid the High Road due to the Mounted Borderers, but wise merchants leave tribute for them just in case they pluck up the courage to raid their caravans. According to Elmo their lair is inside the ruins of a Suel temple, in the mid-eastern
reaches of the Fens of Tor, about 15 miles east of Twilight Falls and only a couple miles off the High Road. Tarim maintains that the only good orc is a dead orc, but the rest of the militia leadership quietly think that if an orc tribe should emerge triumphant from the war with the Howling Moon, then they hope it is the Storm-Eyes. If the Company of the Silver Spear encounters orcs with blue eyes and lightning bolts painted on their shields and foreheads, it would be best to leave them alone.
Chausticlorinus, a Green Dragon; A cunning adult green who formerly laired in the Welkwood and bedevilled the Sylvan elves there, Chausticlorinus was nearly slain some thirty years ago. She vanished, only to reemerge a handful of years ago, claiming a territory east-north-east of the Fens of Tor that once known for a harbouring savage tribes of verbeeg and ogres before their diminution at the hands of Rendar Redaxe and his rangers. Tarim relates that some eight months ago his son visited and said that they were planning an attack on the dragon. The ranger vanished shortly thereafter, but the dragon has been seen in the months since. Obviously, the aging woodcutter is worried about his son. It is likely Chausticlorinus that attacked the Company of the Silver Spear in the Greenway Valley, only to be driven off
by a bronze dragon.
- Utreshimon, a Blue Dragon (vanquished): Once purely a rumour based on Elmo’s chats with shepherds and woodsmen on the Gnarley verge, The Captain had been of the opinion hat they must have seen Chausticlorinus and mistaken the green for a blue due to the extreme range. Lord Burne had sagely agreed with this assessment, as blue dragons are known to stick to deserts and other arid wastes for their lairs. What would a blue be doing so far from their habitat? Of course, the Company of the Silver Spear has since met, and slain, this dragon in the ruins of the Moathouse. Before hostilities had broken out, the blue had introduced himself as Utreshimon and demanded tribute from them. They never did discover why the young dragon had relocated to a swamp on the verge of a forest, but there was clear evidence of old scars on its hide that were most likely inflicted by another wyrm.
#1: A letter, written in a rougher and utilitarian scrawl, was found in a scroll case in the Crypt of Vurgo Solmenicus. The wax seal was broken, but it could be easily discerned that the device was that of a sword crossed with a lightning bolt.
I have received your envoy and witnessed first-hand a demonstration of the strength and speed of your undead creations. I admit that I am impressed. They would be an asset to my growing numbers. You are also correct that I lack the unholy power of Ash, the spies of the Fox, the numbers of Seguryn, or the dark arts of the Black Elf, but I am not without my resources. I know the forest and the bog. I know how the Second Temple organised its soldiers, I know where the Earth Temple hid its redoubts, and I have reliable people inside the walls of Verbobonc itself. I know that you have approached the other bandit lords, but to those arrogant and blind fools you will be but a lackey. Bring your secrets and your followers and join my camp. I promise you that the rewards will be great when we rise once more. And you will serve me as first among my lieutenants, both now and when I stand as commander of a reinvigorated Temple of Elemental Evil. The time is nigh. Join me, necromancer, and together we will see Verbobonc humbled at our feet.
-— The Scarlord.
#2: A letter written in a spidery hand, was also found in the same crypt. This one was in an ornately carved deklo box which also held a masterfully sculpted statuette.
It warmed my old heart this day when news reached me that you had finally broken with the Shriven Sickle. Mirrius and his cronies never appreciated your dedication and talent; they had you run errands like a lackey when you are destined to lead. I know what it means to be overlooked, and you have seen the power I now wield. You are meant for greater things in service to the Hierarchy, and it pleases me to continue to advise and invest in you. As we discussed when last I visited Clerkburg, my research has uncovered an ancient, lost outpost of the doomed city of Moil, and I believe the secrets that might be gleaned there will advance your ambitions immeasurably.
Go then, follow the one that carries this message to the forgotten outpost. Cadmus is a brilliant fool who cares only for knowledge; he does not suspect our true nature and you will have no trouble seducing him with the promise of power and the opportunity to decipher the secrets of Moil. Use him. Divine the secrets of Vurgo Solmenicus, grow strong, build your followers, and then make your way to my side.
Cadmus brings you a gift also. Enjoy the statue, my friend, and take it as a token of my respect and of the great wealth that you shall enjoy as my valued lieutenant. The statue is said to depict Nera, the Raven Queen. Legend from distant realms has it that when this sorceress died her guile and her beauty were so great as to melt even the heart of the
Death himself. Even powerless in her petitioner state, Nerull the Reaper saw her hidden quality and raised her up above all his other servants. Fascinating, no? I see your quality too, Vandros, and I would raise you up to rule at my right hand. Remember that, and think on what we might accomplish together.
-— Your friend, Kellek.