Following the defeat of the evil halfling psionicist, Branko Gobbet, in the very early hours of Godsday, the 4th day of Harvester, in the Common Year of 579, the Righteous Vanguard put out the fire caused by Nero’s fireball spell and tended to their injuries. Once this was done the group split up, with Kieranen, Nicholas and Nero escorting the four surviving henchmen of Branko’s to the Citadel, while Gildor and Aejiri stayed behind to examine the upper portion of the hideout.
The three members of the band who were escorting the prisoners encountered a City Watch patrol soon after they entered the well-lit main streets of the city, and after explaining to them what had happened and showing them their written orders from Derider Fanshen, the city guards then took the lead in their escort and made sure they had no difficulties getting into the Citadel. There, the four prisoners were turned over to the City Watch and, in turn, marched off to the prison blockhouse, while a deputy constable was summoned to get a preliminary report from the three members of the band. Roughly a half hour later, Kieranen, Nicholas and Nero left the Citadel and made their way back to Branko’s hideout.
Meanwhile, back at the hideout, Gildor and Aejiri quickly went through the two story house that was situated above the underground meeting room and makeshift treasure room. The three bedroom house was spartanly furnished, and with the exception of Branko’s room, contained little more than a dozen or so cots, the meager personal effects of Branko’s henchmen, and a kitchen and pantry stocked with the bare minimum of food, beer and utensils needed to keep them well fed and content.
Branko’s room was the only one that had any real furnishings to speak of, though these were certainly not in the best of conditions and all of very questionable taste. True to Branko’s nature, the décor of his room was indicative of someone who thought himself sophisticated and refined, yet in reality was merely gaudy, vain and egotistical. Much of his room was littered with bits of parchment that lay spread about in odd places, showing that he was not a particularly tidy individual either.
Gildor took the time to study some of these parchments and found that they were scribbled with notes, written in Branko’s hard to read and seemingly frantic scrawl. Some of these notes were likely receipts and such while others appeared to be the half-completed thoughts of a raving lunatic bent on revenge and world domination. However, despite his twisted outlook on life and his humble upbringing, so far as we are aware, it was evident from these notes that Branko was also very intelligent, perhaps even brilliant. But then, it may have been the awesome powers of his mind that, in the end, made him corrupt.
Whatever the case, Gildor, after some time spent comparing these notes, was able to piece together a few answers to the many questions they had about Branko. And over the next few days, this information, coupled with that which would eventually be gathered from the four surviving henchmen following their interrogations, the band would be able to learn and surmise much about what had taken place concerning Branko since his arrest in Narwell.
It was obvious that Branko had escaped from the jail in Narwell using his powers of the mind to influence those who held him captive. But the Righteous Vanguard had their suspicions that there was more to it than that, believing that there may have been a certain amount of corruption in the governing body of Narwell itself. The sudden and inexplicable termination of employment of Leonidas, Kieranen and Sergeant Bilko certainly seemed to support this hypothesis. Unfortunately, the band had no hard evidence to back up this theory.
After fleeing Narwell, for regardless of any allies he may have had in the town, it was clear that Branko had worn out his welcome there, he gradually made his way north and to the east, eventually arriving in Greyhawk, not because he sought revenge on the Righteous Vanguard, but rather because the size and nature of the city appeared to be a good place for him to hide and make a new start. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that when Branko first heard about the band called the Righteous Vanguard who had saved the city from an evil cult of Iuz, he had no idea that they were the same group responsible for capturing him in Narwell, as the group did not have a name for themselves at that time. However, once the band had thwarted one of Branko’s henchmen’s burglary attempts, he, with little doubt, quickly realized who they were and how dangerous they could be to both him and his well-laid plans. So rather than diverting any of his henchmen from their current activities to focus on the Righteous Vanguard, a course of action that he felt would be wasteful, prove ultimately fruitless in the end, and likely put his whole operation in jeopardy, he chose instead to deal with the band himself. To this end, he used his masterful ability of disguise to pose as a child, and utilized a pair of trained pigeons carrying a psionically enhanced stone, to spy on the group and try to determine their plans and any weaknesses they may have had. At one point, he even used his superior stealth to approach each member of the group and attempt to secretly dominate them, the results of which were later realized by Kieranen and Aejiri during the group’s attack on his hideout. And finally, he set his psionically enhanced stone at the secret entrance to the hideout, to alert him when the band had arrived. All things considered, this brilliant little man very nearly succeeded where all other enemies of the Righteous Vanguard had failed thus far.
Once Kieranen, Nicholas and Nero had returned to Branko’s hideout later that night, the group went through the items taken from Branko and his henchmen, and made notes on them, as well as those items recovered from the make-shift treasure room which had survived the fire there. Sometime later they laid down to rest.
The following morning, they were awakened by a knock on the door. It was Derider Fanshen and several members of the City Watch. They spoke with her and told her everything that took place. She thanked them for their hard work and promised they would be rewarded. Unfortunately, in the meantime, she and the guards would have to confiscate everything collected by the band at the hideout, to see if anyone could claim the items as stolen property. But she assured them that anything not claimed within a week would be given back to the group. The group agreed to this with no argument and returned to Grey Manor to inform Sturtevant of the previous night’s events.
For the remainder of the day, each of the band members went about attending to various personal business or simply took the time to relax. Since the Cult of Iuz had been defeated and Branko was now dead, they no longer felt the need to stay together everywhere they went and believed it was now safe enough to assume normal routines as individuals, which was something they had not truly experienced since their arrival in Greyhawk a full two months before!
Shortly before noon, Aejiri made his way to the River Rat Inn in the River Quarter where he was scheduled to meet up with Serena again. She arrived at the inn a few minutes after Aejiri and promptly led him back out and down River Street to a hole in the wall tavern where its name, The Silver Dagger, was barely legible on the badly weathered sign out front. Inside the tavern, the only apparent customers were a group of five very rough looking thugs seated at a table. Serena led Aejiri straight to these men and introduced him. The obvious leader of the group, a bald, overweight man whose face was a mass of scars and whose manners were every bit as gruff and intimidating, questioned Aejiri with some skepticism, but eventually got around to introducing himself as Tomas Ratek, Master Thief in charge of the River Quarter. Having heard a few stories about Aejiri, Tomas was anxious to see if he was truly as capable of defending himself as he had heard. So he asked Aejiri to do a little sparing with one of his men. Aejiri agreed to do so and within no time, had the man pinned face down on the floor and held securely in an armlock. Sufficiently impressed with Aejiri’s skills in the martial arts, Tomas needed no further convincing in this regard.
However, Tomas did have his concerns about Aejiri’s connections to the Righteous Vanguard and Derider Fanshen, both of whom had demonstrated a great desire to bring down those who would work outside of the law. But, just as Serena had pointed out previously, Aejiri’s connections could likewise prove beneficial to the guild – so long as Aejiri kept his priorities in line. Tomas Ratek told him as much and offered to try him out on a probationary status, which meant limited access to the guild until Tomas felt that Aejiri had proven his worth to them. So with this in mind, Tomas gave Aejiri his first assignment to show his loyalty and usefulness to the guild, which was to bring him a copy of the latest guard roster for the River Quarter. This would be a simple enough task with only minor risks involved and yet something that could be very helpful to Tomas Ratek and his operations in the River Quarter.
Later that day, Aejiri accompanied Kieranen to the Citadel as he went to speak with Derider Fanshen about the interrogation of Branko’s henchmen. No doubt, Aejiri made an attempt to acquire the guard roster at that time, but apparently was not able to do so without raising too much suspicion. It was not until very late that night, when he then enlisted the aid of Nero to assist him in this matter by casting an invisibility spell on him and creating a minor diversion at the Citadel, sufficient enough to allow Aejiri to obtain a copy of the roster. Sometime the following day, Aejiri visited the Silver Dagger again and gave the roster to Ratek before receiving his next assignment.
In the meantime however, after a visit to the Mage’s Guild to acquire a previously paid-for scroll from Conrad, Nero was doing a bit of sneaking around of his own. Shortly before dusk on the same day that Aejiri had his scheduled meeting there, Nero likewise entered the River Rat, now with considerably more customers and proportionately more risk than before. Fortunately, his stay at the inn was very brief as he soon found the lone Rhenee he was looking for. And as previously arranged, this nameless individual led Nero from the inn and through an alleyway towards a collection of ramshackle buildings, where he had agreed to introduce Nero to someone that had connections to the Assassin’s Guild. The Rhenee then told Nero to wait in a dark shed behind one of the buildings, while he went inside. Nero was probably beginning to wonder if he had gotten himself into something he should not have at this point. But a short while later, a rather nervous and fidgety sort of man in laborer’s attire peeped into the shed and hastily stepped inside. He asked Nero a few questions and told him that he would have a member of the guild contact him at the Whistling Fish. Soon after, Nero was on his way back to Grey Manor with the discouraging but not unexpected realization that contacting the Assassin’s Guild would require a considerable amount of patience.
Over the next few days, the members of the Righteous Vanguard continued tending to various personal matters and gradually fell into a routine of life in the City of Greyhawk. But as the days slowly passed, each of them began thinking of personal goals that were more long term than their recent day-to-day living and constantly reacting to whatever got thrown in their laps. After a couple of days, they spoke with Derider Fanshen, who told them that the Directing Oligarchy had finally come to a decision about what to do with the cult’s old lair. As a reward for all their efforts in defending the city and its people, they agreed to allow the Righteous Vanguard the use of the extensive complex and the adjacent caverns and tunnels and decided to grant the area to them though it would still be owned by the city. This meant that the band could call the place their own and fortify it against intruders while not having to pay a price well beyond their means for such a vast space so near the city and within its jurisdiction. The only possible hindrances were that the city had the right to impose limits on how the complex was utilized, the city would be allowed to inspect the place as it saw fit, and if the city decided that the use of the land was not in the city’s best interests, it could reclaim the complex.
In addition to this, the city agreed to sell the house that was connected to the complex by a secret tunnel for 7000 gold pieces and allow the Righteous Vanguard the first opportunity of buying it. The band, of course, agreed to buy the house, putting up a down payment of the 4500 gold pieces they had acquired from selling the hook horror eggs. Once the deal was made, the band began making other plans and arrangements for the complex. Gildor, for example, visited the nearby gnome community of Grossettgrottell, taking Nicholas along with him, and spoke to the village elders there about hiring gnomish workers and craftsmen of various skills to come to the complex and begin making certain renovations and improvements. It was Gildor’s hope that by doing so, he could establish a permanent community of gnomes at the complex and attract more to come in the near future.
As all of this was going on, Aejiri continued to perform simple assignments for Tomas Ratek, most of which involved the gathering of information from various city agencies to aid the thieves of the River Quarter in their nefarious activities of smuggling, extortion and muggings. While Aejiri was never told to become directly involved in any of these crimes, he did provide intelligence to the guild which made these activities more effective and profitable. Thus he was able to earn a small measure of trust from Ratek, while avoiding anything too incriminating should he ever get caught.
Nero was finally able to speak with a member of the Assassin’s Guild as well. Having been given a message at the Whistling Fish, he was directed to the Wizard’s Hat Inn where he met a young aristocratic man of surprising taste, charm and etiquette who called himself Danzig. Nero spoke to him and told him that he had concerns about the Scarlet Brotherhood coming after him and why. Danzig told Nero that information about the secret plans of the Brotherhood would not be easy to obtain if at all possible and certainly well beyond Nero’s ability to pay. But eventually, Nero struck a deal with the man, paying Danzig 600 gold pieces in advance, to warn him of any rumors about the Brotherhood and any indication that they might try to assassinate him. With whatever peace of mind this might buy him and help to convince him that he was now a little safer in the City of Greyhawk, it would have to do.
A week after the demise of Branko and his henchmen, as Derider had promised, the band was given those items not identified as stolen property, which included all of the magic items taken from Branko and his men, as well as 1000 gold pieces worth of coins to be divided among the band. By this time, things had settled back down in Greyhawk and the city and its people were well on their way to resuming business as usual and gradually recovering from the turmoil caused by the Falcon and her Cult of Iuz. The Righteous Vanguard took advantage of the greatly diminished chaos within the city and focused their efforts on other more personal concerns. Time passed and days turned to weeks while weeks became months. A mild winter came and went, and before they knew it, six months had passed by before another truly noteworthy event had occurred.
During this six month period, the band spent some of the time making new friends, such as the mages Otto and Tenser of The Circle of Eight, who invited them to dinner at the Golden Phoenix one evening to thank them for coming to the aid of the city and for rescuing Aestrella Shanfarel, whom the mages knew only as the half-elven maiden and grand diva of the Royal Opera, and whom Otto had been infatuated with for quite sometime. It was obvious to the group that even these learned and respected mages were unaware that Aestrella was actually a Greyhawk dragon and the band kept their promise to Sturtevant and did not tell them. A few weeks later, Tenser, who enjoyed entertaining guests at his home, invited the band to his castle on the edge of the Nyr Dyv, and their friendship continued to flourish. The band meanwhile gradually began to learn all about the Circle of Eight and what its objectives were.
Also during this time, Nicholas decided he had had enough of city life for a while and told his new friends he wanted to get back to the wilderness if there was nothing urgent to keep him there. Telling the band that he would periodically check back with them from time to time, he then headed back into the hills from which he came. There, it was not long before he encountered a lone wolf of surprising intelligence and within a very short time, the two seemed to form a natural bond. From that day on, the wolf seemed to follow Nicholas wherever he went unless it was told otherwise. At first, Nicholas stuck to the Cairn Hills where he helped to establish a network of communication from the City of Greyhawk to the gnome community of Grossettgrottell, and on to the garrison of Stonefort far to the north. Later on however, during the winter months, Nicholas spent much of his time in the Gnarley Forest where he learned a great deal from the Rangers of the Forest and in particular, a veteran Ranger Knight known as Brandolin the Grey. It was at this time that Nicholas first became familiar with many of the established communities within the forest, which included those of humans, elves, gnomes, a number of faerie folk and even swanmays, to name just a few.
Kieranen likewise remained busy during this time by doing what he could to assist the City Watch in whatever they needed. He also took a suit of black dragon armor, acquired from one of Branko’s henchmen, and had it enchanted with the most powerful enhancements he could afford at the time.
By the end of the six month period, Aejiri had spent a great deal of time training with the Enclave of the Black Order and had managed to gain some trust from the Thieves’ Guild, but was still on a probationary status as he was not a true thief and did not steal or commit muggings like other members of the guild. This meant that he still had yet to convince Tomas Ratek of his loyalty.
Nero, on the other hand, spent much of his time experimenting with his spell casting powers and by the end of the six month period had developed some new and interesting effects involving “force magic”, which he took a great deal of interest in and became quite adept at.
And finally there was Gildor, who put most of his efforts into fixing up the group’s stronghold and spent a considerable sum in payment to his fellow gnomes for their services. Many of these gnomes decided to stay at the stronghold once the work was done, and in the future their presence so near the city would be of great help to those gnomes who occasionally had business within the city.
It was not until Moonday, the 3rd day of Coldeven in the Common Year of 580, six months following the downfall of Branko Gobbet, that the Righteous Vanguard first began to hear the rumors that would quickly lead them to the next event of any noteworthiness in their illustrious history. But like six months before, it was Derider Fanshen who called upon them and once again asked them for their assistance in solving a series of burglaries that had the City Watch mystified. After summoning the band to the Citadel, she spoke to them and told them what they knew about these burglaries, which was not much except that there was never any sign of forced entry, or any lock-picking, or any clues at all for that matter. However, as the band listened to the list of burglaries and the complete lack of evidence, all but Nicholas began to have the odd sense that they had heard this somewhere before.
With this thought in the backs of their minds, they got the address of the most recent victim and promptly headed in that direction. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was the home of one of the city’s wealthiest citizens, a lecherous old goat of a man by the name of Aaron Strachan, who lived in the High Quarter and who also happened to be the Ambassador of Furyondy. Shortly upon arriving at the rambling old mansion, the band spoke to Mr. Strachan and learned what they could from him. He was a great patron of the arts and known to be generous to the extreme. Many of the unique objects of art stolen from his home were worth a fortune, and despite the home being well-maintained with added security features that included windows enchanted with glassteel spells, there did not appear to be a clue to be found anywhere…that is unless one knew where to look.
Aejiri, going on a hunch, climbed to the roof of the house and examined the chimney area. There, as he had suspected, he found traces of soot that could only have gotten there from a creature small enough to climb into the chimney. To back this up, Nicholas took a close look at the fireplace below and found the faint impressions of tiny, ill-defined footprints…the kind one might expect to be made by a doll or a puppet. One reason why this may have been overlooked in the initial investigation was that some of the stolen objects were too large to fit up the chimney, which made the band suspect, that the burglars had an extra-dimensional space of some kind. Whatever the case, all the evidence seemed to point to an old acquaintance of theirs as the perpetrator – none other than the mage Bronwynn, who had fled from the city of Dyvers about 8 months before. This time the band hoped to have better success against her and her animated puppets and not let her get away.