|Inn of the Welcome Wench|
While Sarril went to talk to Canon Terjon at the church, Athan and Pontus stayed behind to talk to the other guests at the Inn. They were able to gather that there was a moathouse a few miles outside of the village that used to be an outpost for the Temple of Elemental Evil before it was brought down after the Battle of Emridy Meadow. The villagers here razed the moathouse, but it appears some bandits have moved into it recently - likely having spread from the thieving slum that calls itself the Town of Nulb in the northeast. Some of the guests wanted to clear out the moathouse and be praised as heroes. Others saw opportunity to see what the bandits were up to, and possibly take part in it if it proved interesting enough. And yet others saw opportunity to kill bad guys and loot them. Athan and Pontus were not interested in joining forces with any of these other men, but Athan did manage to pick most of their pockets, before being caught by the fighter named Zert. Zert would surely have beaten Athan to a pulp, if not killed him outright, if it weren't for Pontus stepping in. The site of the huge barbarian was enough to calm Zert down and make him think twice about initiating any aggressive action.
When Sarril returned, the party decided to go to the trader's shop to buy equipment before going to see Jaroo. The spoke to Rannos Davl and were able to buy most of the basic armor, weapons and gear they might need. Outside of the shop, Athan was approached by Spugnoir, who expressed that he would like to join the party if they were going to check out the moathouse. Athan thanked him for his interest while picking his pocket and relieving him of his spellbook, but told him they were not interested. Spugnoir's travelling book was very light on useful spells, but it was better than the nothing they had before. The party then went back to the grove to see if Jaroo had returned.
They found him there, cleaning up the mess the group had made the previous day. Sarril took the lead in introducing themselves and apologizing on behalf of the party, hoping the recognition of Otto and Alyndra would earn them some credit. Pontus, who had caused the most damage, insisted he would repair the root cellar and make everything right again. Jaroo, being a very calm and even tempered man, simply told Pontus that it is not he who needs the apology, but his companion, Grendel. The large black bear came forward at Jaroo's request, growling at Pontus as he came closer. A nervous
Now that they were, somewhat, on good terms with Jaroo, they discussed the reason they came here. They told Jaroo about the black shards and the black curse it was spreading in the forests. Jaroo relayed that he heard a similar story from his circle in the Gnarley Forest, and while they did not know what was causing it, they were certain it was evil in nature and such evil was likely affiliated with the Temple of Elemental Evil. Jaroo explained that while everyone else thinks the temple is destroyed, it is actually still intact. The clerics and wizards who first dealt with it could not completely destroy it, so they sealed it up with powerful wards in the hopes of containing the evil. But evil cannot be contained for long, and the strange and wicked things that continue to plague the surrounding lands most certainly are still drawn to the place, even if they cannot enter it. Jaroo offered to help the party in their investigation if they would do something in return, which he would consider to be payment for the damage they caused. He asked them to clear out the bandits in the nearby moathouse, and determine if they were simply brigands sheltering in an abandoned building, or if they were up to something more sinister. To help them on their journey, he introduced them to his apprentice, Delvin, a young initiate in the Old Faith who would help them on their mission. Delvin knew the way to the moathouse and could safely lead them there.
And so, off they went. Athan, Sarril, Pontus and Delvin, party of four, on their first real adventure. All except Pontus rode on horseback. Pontus, who could run nearly as fast, did not understand why people would ride their food. As they approached the moathouse, three giant frogs leapt from moat and the swampy area around it. One of the horses was spooked and ran away. The heroes bravely fought the frogs, though Pontus decided the best way to accomplish that was from the inside of its belly. The barbarian ways are mysterious. After the frog encounter, the party approached the moathouse, where the remaining horse's leg punched through the rotten drawbridge, getting the horse stuck with a broken leg. Pontus declared the party can eat it for dinner. The party was able to enter the courtyard unmolested, but wound up fighting a giant spider inside a broken tower, which was a very close call for Athan. Making their way across the courtyard, they party entered the broken double doors into the ruins of the moathouse. The entire upper levels were collapsed, as were many of the rooms on the first level. Rubble was everywhere. While searching around, the party found one door that appeared to be barred from the inside, and surmised that the bandits might be held up in there. As they continued to snoop around, they encountered rats - 18 of them as best they could count. Once the first one was encountered, they just appeared to be coming out of all of the walls and every crack and crevice that could be found. Athan quickly succumbed to multiple bite wounds, and dropped to the floor, about to be consumed. Pontus immediately sheathed his sword, picked up the dying Athan, and he and Sarril and Delvin ran from the moathouse. Once outside, Pontus was able to apply first-aid while Sarril performed a heal. While Athan was conscious again, the party decided they needed to return to Hommlet to rest and heal before trying again - preferably with a better plan next time.