On the morning of Godsday, the 25th day of Flocktime, in the Common Year of 580, the Righteous Vanguard awoke about half a day’s ride from White Plume Mountain, which lay, clearly visible, to the northwest of them. Also about half a day’s ride away was the village of Ringland, which lay more to the west. They had left the city of Balmund approximately a day and a half before and until the previous night, when they were attacked during the night by a band of ogres, their journey had been relatively uneventful. They were now in some of the roughest territory of the Bandit Kingdoms however, and it was a near certainty that from here on out danger could be lurking with every step they would take.
After gathering their things and preparing for the day, the band set out once again and headed to the west where they soon came upon a trail. Following this trail to the west they arrived in the late morning, at a crude wooden bridge that spanned what was known as the Yellow Flow River. Here the banks of the river were tainted yellow due to the high sulfur content of the water which originated from White Plume Mountain, while the surrounding plant life was sparse, pale and sickly in appearance.
After crossing the bridge, the trail led the band north to the village of Ringland. As they drew nearer to the village and the volcanic mountain beyond, they could see that if one looked long enough into the huge plume of steam that issued forth from the mountain, they would eventually begin to see a face or even multiple faces within the cloud. Some members of the band chose to avoid looking at the cloud for this very reason, as the face tended to give one a rather uneasy feeling.
By mid-afternoon, the band arrived at the fortified village of Ringland. Home mostly to hunters and trappers, though a few frontier farmers and merchants lived there as well, the village was surrounded by a 10-foot tall log palisade, outside of which sheep, goats and other livestock freely grazed. Inside the wall lay a dozen buildings typical of a frontier village, made mostly of wood and a few reinforced with stone, such as the two guard towers that looked over the village and the surrounding land.
Guards at the front gate of the village stopped the band as they approached, and questioned them about their purpose for coming to Ringland, then chuckled among themselves when the band mentioned White Plume Mountain as if there were some inside joke shared between them. In an apparent continuation of this joke, they suggested the village’s only inn, the Ringland Inn, where they could get a decent meal, implying that it would likely be their last. Upon entering the village, the band saw, in addition to the inn, a general store, the Hunter’s Guild and what appeared to be a crude sort of wizard’s tower. They headed for the inn first.
As they approached the inn, a stable boy stepped out to greet them and offered to take their horses. Those who had horses, dismounted, grabbed their gear from their horses and allowed the boy to take the horses into the stables. But the boy was clearly a bit fearful of Nicholas’s giant wolf, Whistler, and Sonda’s riding-boar and neither Nicholas or Sonda did anything to alleviate his fears, but rather instructed their mounts to take shelter in the stables and guard over the horses.
The band then entered the inn and spoke to the proprietor, Sebastian Fauke. They rented a few rooms, ordered some dinner and asked the innkeeper a few questions for which they paid coin. Sebastian told them some of the same rumors they had already heard about White Plume, but also mentioned there had been a young man at the inn, about a week before, who fit the description of Nicholas’ brother Echab. He also told them that this young man had spoken to a man by the name of Otus Hilltopper, who is the guild master of the Hunter’s Guild.
The band wished to speak with this guild master, so they walked across the street to the Hunter’s Guild and were fortunate to find him there. Otus Hilltopper confirmed that he had talked to someone fitting the description of Echab and said that he had asked about White Plume and about any gnomes he might have seen. Otus claimed he had not seen any gnomes as of late, but added that if the band intended to go to White Plume Mountain he would be willing to guide them there and watch over their mounts for a fee. The band debated on whether or not to take up Otus’ offer and eventually agreed to do so. The band also asked about the apparent wizard’s tower and Otus told them that the local hedge-wizard, Monaric, lived there. The band was curious, so they went to pay the wizard a visit.
Monaric turned out to be a short little, white-haired, bearded man who claimed to have all kinds of information about White Plume Mountain, but would only reveal it for a hefty price. While the band was not willing to pay what he asked for concerning most of his information, a lot of which, if not all of which, they probably already had, Kieranen did pay the wizard a 100gp gem for the name of the ancient druid who had originally inhabited the mountain and was later defeated by Keraptis. His name was Aegwareth and he had been the protector of the Druid’s Fane deep in the heart of the mountain for decades. Feeling certain this bit of information was not worth the price paid for it, the band then returned to the inn and called it a day.
Early the next morning, on Waterday the 26th day of Flocktime, the band met up with Otus as they had agreed upon, and set out for White Plume Mountain. A couple of hours later they came upon a supposedly deserted village by the name of Plague Fields, which had once been the nearest inhabited village to the volcanic mountain until it was abandoned some fifteen years before, due to the poisoned groundwater that slowly killed off the village’s livestock and crops. However, as the band approached the wooden palisade that still surrounded the village they were fired upon by unseen assailants using bows and arrows.
Suspecting their attackers to be a rogue band of gnolls, which were common in this area, Nero cast a black tentacles spell inside the palisade, feeling confident that this one spell would be more than sufficient to keep them occupied, while the rest of the band rode on past the village. Their suspicions appeared to be confirmed by the sounds of hyena-like yelps and shouts that issued from beyond the wooden wall. Otus, on his way past, could not resist the opportunity to kill one of the gnolls that he spotted with his magical bow called Akala, of which he was so very proud.
Just past the village of Plague Fields, the band came upon the Yellow Flow River again, where Otus directed them to a place where it could be easily forded. After crossing the river, they skirted along its northern and eastern edge where it butted up against the foothills at the base of the mountain. A few hours later they arrived at a place called Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket. Here lay a series of buttes, bare except for a pale green covering of grassy vegetation, which vaguely resembled the head and shoulders of a supine hyena. In this unique formation was a large cave that gave the area its unusual name. Otus and Nicholas scouted the cave out for any inhabitants, and finding none, waved the rest of the band and their mounts to join them inside.
While they found no creatures occupying the cave they did however find evidence of recent occupation, including the ashes from a fire and a saddle bag hidden under a rock. Upon examining the saddle bag, Nicholas found a journal with his brother’s initials on it. Though the saddle bag must have been acquired somewhere along the way, it appeared almost certain, from the contents of the journal, that it had belonged to Echab. The last entry was dated about a week before and stated that the writer was about to enter the mountain.
It was about 1 o’clock in the afternoon when the band set out on foot from Dead Gnoll’s Eye Socket, leaving behind their mounts with Sonda and Otus to watch over them. From there the band followed an obvious footpath that led north through a craggy ravine and up the southern side of the mountain. Halfway there they came upon four undead humanoids which appeared to be bog mummies. Nero slowed a couple of them down with another black tentacles spell while his companions did what they could to destroy them. Gildor managed to cause them damage by channeling positive energy through them, but they were fairly tough creatures and it took some effort to defeat them. During the battle, Dravos, who still had not yet fully recovered from his death a few days before, was struck by one of the bog mummies. Fortunately, the band had both a cure disease potion and a remove curse potion with which they were able to remove the mummy rot and continue on their way.
A short while later the band arrived at the cave mouth known as the Wizard’s Mouth, where a cloud of steam was emitted every thirty seconds, and took on the appearance of a traveler’s breath on a cold and crisp day. Here the band ducked under the steam and entered the cave mouth.
At the back of the cave they came to a hole that opened onto a 20’ square, vertical shaft that housed a spiral staircase made of rusted iron and chipped stone. Here the band descended some 100’ into the darkness below. At the base of the stairwell they came to a large chamber bearing signs of recent excavation. All along the southern wall were a series of murder holes. Dravos led the way and checked for traps as he did so. He found a trip wire at the very bottom and disabled it.
But as he stepped onto the floor of the chamber, a small voice called out from beyond the southern wall in the common tongue, “Stop where you are and give the password.” Dravos drank a potion with which he tried to read the thoughts of the speaker and got a confused jumble of half-sentences. But he was able to pick up something about working for ‘Spatterdock’. The voice called out to him again and asked, “Do you work for Spatterdock?” Hoping it might be of some help, Dravos answered the question with an affirmative, at which point, the voice shouted out, “Attack!”
Suddenly dozens of arrows began hurling out of the murder holes and the band was forced to react. Nicholas used his collar of shape-changing, took the form of an earth elemental, and moved into the narrow room beyond the southern wall, where he came face to face with 20 deranged gnomes. Ael summoned a swarm of insects and sent them through the murder holes, while Gildor lobbed a small fireball into the room from his necklace of fireballs. Nicholas, after being blasted by a magic missile spell, managed to take down the obvious leader of the 20 gnomes, and then convinced the others to surrender.
A sort of truce was called and Gildor channeled positive energy in the area, healing all of the gnomes and preventing any of them from dying. The band then gathered all of the gnomes in the chamber where they were at and the two groups began negotiating with each other. The leader of the gnomes, whose name was Kabyle, told the band that they were followers of the true Keraptis who had recently returned to White Plume Mountain in the form of a gnome, often referred to as Nightfear by his non-followers. He told the band that there were three others who also claimed to be Keraptis, but that they were false impersonators. Their names were Spatterdock, Killjoy and Mossmutter and he described as much as he knew about them. He also mentioned a fifth group of rebels who also opposed them.
After listening to Kabyle describe the current situation inside the mountain, the band discussed among themselves what they had learned and came to a few conclusions: 1) that it seemed apparent that all of these Kerapti were false impersonators, some of which were monsters that inhabited the mountain some 20 years before; 2) that Echab was being held prisoner by one of the other groups, most likely Spatterdock; and 3) that it would probably make things easier on them if they, for the time being, agreed to ally themselves with Nighfear’s group. So this they did. Kabyle then gave each member of the band an armband with their symbol on it, and gave the group the password for the day, and a scroll with a special magic missile spell on it. Then he told them where to report to their leader Nightfear.