Following their defeat of Bronwynn, on the 4th day of Coldeven, 580 CY, the Righteous Vanguard discussed the matter and decided that, rather than move everything from Bronwynn’s tower to their underground stronghold, they would simply take over the tower as their own. And since Nero had the most interest in the things inside the tower, and because he had not taken a room at the house in the city where Kieranen was the most permanent resident, he would be the principal resident at the tower. It was also decided that only the stone golem would be relocated to the stronghold, while both of the force golems would remain as guardians of the tower. Once this matter was settled, the band had only to divide up the monetary treasure they had collected there at the tower, which came up to about a thousand gold pieces each. A week later, the city awarded them another thousand gold pieces each as a reward for defeating Bronwynn and recovering most of the stolen goods.
For the next month or so, the Righteous Vanguard did very little of any noteworthiness but attend to a few personal matters and continue about their usual routines. Nicholas returned to the Gnarley Forest for a time where he resumed his training with the rangers there, some of whom began to display a certain bias against Nicholas because he is a follower of Obad-Hai, while most of them are followers of Ehlona.
Nero returned to the Wizard’s Guild and did some more trading with the mages there. As he had done before, Nero loaned the spellbooks recovered from Bronwynn’s tower to Jawal Severnain, the librarian of the guild, who has become very grateful to Nero for his generosity and who Nero has noticed can sometimes be overheard apparently talking to himself in the library when no one else is around. While at the guild, Nero also met another mage and long-time resident of Greyhawk, Jallarzi Sallavarian, whom many readers will, no doubt, recall would eventually come into a great deal of fame herself. She lately had been seen around town with none other than, Kieren Jalucian, Master of the Guild of Wizardry, as the two of them had begun their well-noted romance. Nero’s interest in Jallarzi however was not so much her beauty or talents. After all, with his outstandingly good looks, charm and wit, Nero was often the focus of many a young lady’s wandering eye. But rather, his interest in Jallarzi was her pseudodragon familiar, Edwina, whom Nero took a certain fancy to and perhaps got him to begin pondering the idea of acquiring a pseudodragon familiar of his own. He asked Jallarzi where she found Edwina and she told him that others like Edwina could be found in the Dim Forest, north of the Grand Duchy of Geoff. Little did Nero know at the time that he and the Righteous Vanguard would soon have another, perhaps more important reason for venturing to that area.
Eventually the month of Coldeven came to an end and the following week was the holiday week of Growfest. Like many of the residents of Greyhawk, the Righteous Vanguard took part in the celebration of St. Cuthbert’s Day and, at the end of the week, watched a contest between illusionists at the Desportium of Magick, where a mock battle scene was played out at the Grand Citadel. Nero also impressed many of the town’s residents with an awesome display of his ability with magic missiles, in a challenge against other wizards at the Free City Arena where various other contests and events were being held that day.
A couple more weeks then passed uneventfully. But on Waterday, the 12th day of Planting, the Band was asked to assemble at, what was now being called Nero’s Tower. There they met with Tenser once again, who asked them to attend a meeting of the Circle of Eight at his castle. There they would finally be introduced to all the other members of the circle whom they had not yet met. But before doing so they were made to swear that they would not reveal the true identities of the Circle members, many of whom kept their membership a strict secret and often traveled in disguise and used various aliases. It is believed that this was one of the rare instances where Tenser did not feel compelled to cast a geas spell on the band as he was often known to do in similar circumstances.
Tenser then gave the okay for his trusted henchmen, Cymria of Celedon, to open a portal using their mirror of mental prowess, and a gate suddenly appeared before them. Stepping through the gate, Tenser and the band found themselves in a familiar looking house, where the band had been once before when they visited Tenser’s castle the first time. As before, they were introduced to Cymria, a tall, lean, wolfish-looking elf, whose duty it was to keep an eye on the village of Magepoint, where many of the followers of Tenser lived near his castle. A fighter-mage from the Celadon Forest in Nyrond, Cymria was not the most charming of elves to say the least, but rather a practical, hard-nosed, merciless adventurer who was known for solving problems efficiently.
Leaving the house behind, Tenser led the band to a barn, built into a hillside at the edge of the village, where, as before, they entered a 20 foot wide, 10 foot high arched stone tunnel that led a quarter of a mile out beneath the Nyr Dyv, and to the base of Tenser’s castle, which was otherwise only accessible via a very narrow promontory that spanned the supposed serpent-infested waters of the Nyr Dyv from the village of Magepoint. Tenser explained to the band that they could not simply travel directly to his castle because of the magical protections around the castle, which prevent any sort of extra-dimensional travel from working properly. He further explained that his castle, which was built many, many centuries before, had these magical protections and several more when he first ventured into the place and eventually made it his own. Over all these centuries, the castle was also known, at various times, as the Fortress of Unknown Depths and the Hidden Fortress and had many owners and many battles fought over its possession, many of which made interesting tales that Tenser sometimes related to his guests.
Once inside the castle, the band was asked to wait in a parlor of sorts, while the Circle of Eight was gathered and their meeting got under way. About an hour later, Tenser returned to the parlor and apologized for the delay, as he apparently had to convince other members of the Circle to allow the Righteous Vanguard to undertake a certain mission he had in mind for them. Tenser then led the band to the meeting room where he introduced each member of the Circle of Eight. The members of the band were then introduced to the Circle, which at that time was actually short one member, but included Mordenkainen, of course, Tenser, Bigby, Otto, Drawmij, Nystul, Rary, and their newest member, Otiluke of the Directing Oligarchy of Greyhawk. Some members of the Circle appeared to have very reserved attitudes towards the band as though they intended to judge for themselves just how capable they might be, rather than take Tenser’s word for it.
But Tenser, nevertheless, proceeded to inform the band why he had brought them to his castle and introduced them to the Circle. It was his idea, and the rest of the Circle appeared to support it for the time being, to send the band to the country of Bissel where Walgar, the Margrave of Bissel, was seeking a band of adventurers to perform for him a task, in which the Circle had their own particular interest. This task was to enter the forbidden Valley of the Mage and seek out a group of six supposed necromancers who had recently been the cause of serious trouble in Bissel and eventually forced out of the country. It was the concern of both the Margrave and the Circle that these necromancers would either convince the ruler of the Valley, a powerful and evil mage known as the Black One, to join forces with them, or that the necromancers might defeat the Black One and take his place. Either way, it could spell disaster for the neighboring countries of the Valley, which could be overrun by inhabitants of the Valley with their minds bent on conquest. The Circle wished to prevent this from happening but could not take a direct part in the affair. So it was their desire to send the Righteous Vanguard instead, making sure that the Circle would not appear to have any involvement in the matter, and pass along a more anonymous recommendation to the Margrave that he hire the band.
After some discussion about the mission in private, the band agreed to accept the job and more details were provided. However, they were advised that sources in Bissel could provide more detailed and possibly more accurate information than they could, but to be wary of false rumors and information as well. As part of the band’s reward in advance, the Circle gave to each member of the band a magic item created by them, which they hoped would prove useful in their task.
They were then given some time back in Greyhawk to set their affairs in order, in the expectation of being away for some time. They also bought a good supply of potions at the Wizard’s Guild and the Temple of St. Cuthbert.
On the following day, Earthday, the 13th day of Planting, Tenser opened a portal that led to the back streets of Thornward, the capital city of Bissel. The band then stepped through and began their mission by seeking out Walgar, the Margrave of Bissel.