After a harrowing and nearly catastrophic adventure at sea, the party that had set forth by merchant ship from the City of Greyhawk washes up onto the Pomarji Coast. There- Pele, Sancho, Adrionus (is that right, Murphy?), Ingbee and Pathfinder the Ranger- are dragged from the water (except the magician who levitated to shore) by three figures and provided with tough but hearty bread and fresh water. This new group of rescuers consists of a robed human with dark skin, a woman in armor, and a withered gnome who makes the gesture as a Friend of St. Cuthbert, and rather surprisingly he addresses each of the beleaguered party by name (and Pathfinder actually receives a warm hug from the gnome). Both humans are wearing tabards, black on grey, depicting seven keys issuing forth from a single circle.
After a short rest, the gnome, who introduces himself as Yado, explains to the party that news of the sunken merchant ship will travel quickly and that the coast is far from safe. Patrols from three-day distant Highport are afoot, the merfolk will soon arrive at the shores seeking to plunder drifted corpses and stragglers, and that even on the best of days, the old coast road is notorious for hidden eyes and ears. Urging caution, quiet and haste – the old gnome, with a surprising spring to his step, leads the party forth on an arcing four day journey traversing through forests and wooded hills. The journey is first to the north, and later south, but always heading west. Several times the group is tested by creatures of the woods, some more natural than others. Twice, night watches are disturbed by hungry wolves and Pathfinder reports numerous signs of a dire-bear tracking the party. All of these besiegements are brief, however, as the strength and spells of the full party dissuade any serious threats. Pathfinder, more out of pride than necessity, spends the last day’s march covering tracks, masking odors, and leaving false trails for the dire-bear. Rather disgustingly, he insists that the party “leave their leavings” in a single bag so as to not leave a trace of passage. Rather amusingly, Pathfinder is the only member of the group who carries the bag.
Over the four day journey, the situation at hand is explained to the four travelers from Greyhawk.
Overview: Highport is the most populous city in the so-called Orcish Empire of the Pomarj. A squalid, stinking port of some 15,000 souls, it is the gateway to the northern plains of the Pomarj and the fearsome Drachensgrab Hills. Highport has long been a haven for pirates, slavers and scum of all sorts. Cold-blooded mercenaries offer their sword arms to the highest bidder here, while privateer captains gamble away their ill-gotten gold, stained as it is with the blood of innocents. By day, unscrupulous traders throng its markets, trafficking in slaves and contraband. By night, orcs, goblinkin and some say even the ebon-skinned drow make the streets their own. Temples to fell gods such as Nerull, Incabulos, Gruumsh and the enigmatic Earth Dragon thrive here. Life in the City of Chains is often short, brutal and – above all – cheap.
History: Highport was founded in 305 CY when the Poor March (as the Pomarj was then known) was a possession of the Kingdom of Keoland. The sundry barons of the March were vassals of the Dwur Prince of Ulek. Distant from the affairs of the Court of the Lion Throne, the human nobility chafed under a dwarven liege lord. Thus, when Prince Corrond of Ulek broke with Keoland in 461 CY, the barons in turn declared themselves the Free Lords of the Poor March in 463 CY. Highport became capital of the loose confederation of petty fiefs. For half a century, it flourished under the rule of the House of Bilarro, its merchants growing fat on the trade that mineral wealth of the Drachensgrabs and the decadent tastes of the Marcher lords attracted.
In 513 CY, Highport’s good times came to an abrupt end. Hordes of orcs, goblins and giant kin, driven from the Lortmil Mountains in the wake of the Hateful Wars, descended on Highport. The city’s defenders fought valiantly – throwing back no less than five assaults before the sixth shattered the gates and carried the walls. The slaughter that followed came to be called the Night of Bloody Spears, after the victorious orcs decorated the walls with the impaled bodies of the defenders.
For 60 years, loose coalitions of orcs and humans ruled the city, re-establishing a semblance of order after the slaughter. In these years, Highport acquired a fell reputation. Where once merchantmen thronged its quays, pirate ships now jostle for berths.
Yado explains that the Order of St. Cuthbert is far from the only religious order affected by the slavers. Cities and towns from the Ulek States to Greyhawk have lost noble family members, brave soldiers and promising members of the faith to these uncouth slavers from Highport. A select council of higher-ups in a diverse coalition of faiths, calling themselves the Seven Servants, has covertly united under a single goal to harry, weaken and undo this unusually organized and efficient network of slavers. Initially, the orders of Ulaa and especially St. Cuthbert were adamant in organizing a large scale display of force against Highport, but cooler heads prevailed recommending small groups of infiltrators and saboteurs to gather information and to incur less chance of retaliation against captured loved ones and enslaved followers of the faiths.
The Seven Servants represent most of the major non-evil Flanaessian orders- and consists of faiths of the following deities:
- St.Cuthbert: (L.G. with L.N. tendencies) – God of Smiting Evil, Hammers, and Inquisitions ~ followers: (Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Lawful Neutral) usually Humans and Dwarves, Fanatics [is in antagonizing rivalry with Pholtus] – symbols: seven point celtic cross; hammers
- Ulaa: (L.G.) – Goddess of Mountains, Hills, Mining, Community and Napoleonic Complexes ~ followers: (any Good alignment, Lawful Neutral) mostly Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, Miners and Smiths – symbols: mountain with a ruby; mountains; rubies
- Pholtus: (L.G.) – God of Order, Inflexibility, The Sun and Moon, Zealous Sophists ~ followers deny existence of other Gods believing them to be merely aspects of Pholtus: (Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral) any race [is in antagonizing rivalry with St. Cuthbert] – symbol: a sun and moon
- Celestia(n): (N.G.) – God(dess) of Stars, Wanderers, Dreamers and the Transgendered ~ followers: (usually non lawful Good or Neutral) any race, astronomers, navigators, travelers, bisexuals, poets, and sailors – symbol: a dark sky or horizon with three stars at the North, East and West
- Ehlonna: (N.G. with T.N. tendencies) – Goddess of Forests, Fertility, and Fucking for Fun ~ followers: (Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral) elves, humans, druids, fornicators – symbols: a prancing unicorn; a sprouting acorn
- Istus: (T.N.) – The Colorless and All Colored, Goddess of Fate and Those Resigned to Their Fate ~ followers: (prefers Neutral, clerics are usually women) all races, followers usually slightly depressed and/or cynical – symbols: a golden spindle; two dice – one black with white pips, one white with black pips
- Baccob: (T.N.) – God of Magic, Augury and Know-It-Alls ~ followers: (any Neutral) all races, practitioners of magic and divination – symbols: an eye encased in a pentagon; four eyes in a square under a lightly inscribed fifth eye
The journey ends at the foot of a great mountain range. The forest juts up against a wall of cliffs extending for miles in each direction. With no warning nor discernible marking, Yado leads the party to a certain point along the cliff base and walks straight into the cliff wall and disappears from sight. This elicits smiles from both the female cleric and the monk, and raises a moment of confusion among the rest of the party. He re-emerges seconds later with half his body sticking out of the seemingly solid cliff-base, beckoning the group to follow.
The powerful illusion is masking a small entrance into a narrow tunnel which opens up into a sizable cave. Running water can be heard trickling somewhere in the back, as well as the bray of mules, and at a word from Yado, torches on two side walls shine forth, though no smoke seems to come from them. The cave promises rough but dry living quarters, and clearly this has been where the monk, priest and gnome have been basing their recent operations. There is a rough cooking area, “beds” of branches and grasses, and several chests. The floor is littered with donkey shit.
It is explained that this cave is the better part of two days journey from the northwest corner of Highport. The cleric, a priestess of Istus, the Pholtussian monk, and Yado, a servant of Baccob, were sent forth from the Ulek States to the west, as the two humans were posing as slavers, while Yado accompanied them in secret. The coalition of the Seven Servants sent them forth with caged rapists and murderers who would’ve been condemned to death, and instead sent them to be sold into slavery with their “slaver” captors. Calling themselves the Seven Key Ring, a low-level slaving company, the group has been staging intelligence gathering operations for the last several months.
After two nights at the hidden camp, Yado sends Pathfinder (who turns out to have been a Celestia(n)n agent under orders of the Seven Servants all along) off with eerily detailed instructions and a course to follow. He is to travel several days to the North and East in order to intercept the traveling caravan which has been moving south from the Greyhawk region. There, he will use birdcalls to attract the attention of the last two members of the party – the barbarian and St. Cuthbertian paladin who have been acting under orders as hired on extra muscle for a Highport bound caravan. The caravan is dismayed to find one evening that their hired help deserted them as the barbarian and heavily armored fellow seemed to just vanish and loudly clank off into the night forest, respectively.
Ten nights after departing, Pathfinder returns to unite the party in full. In this time, the remaining party members may have decided to undergo cursory information gathering missions on the edges of Highport. Only the cleric of Istus and the monk may enter the city, shy of an invisibility spell. They have already established themselves as slavers, and though Seven Key Ring tabards have been provided for all party members, the racial make up of Highport is not incredibly inviting to an elf, half-elf or halfling. Yado recommends against the St. Cuthertian cleric entering the city without need, as the numerous foul worshipers might easily detect a sworn cleric of a lawful good God. Particular attention is drawn to a run-down temple on the Northwest edge of town as it is suspected of being a player in the slave ring.
Once reunited, the situation is again explained to the party. As it turns out, the Paladin and Barbarian were sent south by Cuthbertian emissaries of the Seven Servants. Out of nowhere, Yado summons an impressive feast, complete with dark wine and honeyed roast boar (by this time the donkey shit has been cleared out and piled in a corner). After the feast and an evening of swapping tales amongst the reunited group, Yado solemnly commands the party’s attention. With great display, Yado mutters some incantations in a language only Ingbee can understand (though the magician suspects this to be a Gnomish dialect) two of the chests magically open and reveal carefully wrapped precious items.
“These boons are presented by the wishes of the Seven Servants, and in their name and names you all must swear these items to service,” Yado explains in a flourish. “These mighty gifts have been sent from all seven arms of the coalition, and given into service by the very families and parishes that have lost their sons, daughters, Brothers and Sisters to these slavers upon which we war.” As there are no chairs in the cave, Yado is able to look each member of the party directly in the eyes as he goes around the campfire in turn. “To don or use these items herein means to swear them in service against the slavers. May they be used in the name of freedom or justice, all must be employed in the struggle against draconian tyranny! With them, you will win forth or with glory, die in the attempt. Should you prove false, or your will weak, these must be returned the Servants of the Seven, or great calamity more perilous than death will befall you!”
At this point, Yado utters an entirely alien incantation and begins handing out the padded bundles, insisting on a solemn oath to employ these gifts in accordance with the will of the Seven Servants from each party member.
Any who so choose not to swear the oath do not receive the magic bundles, though may gear themselves with basic armor and weapons. Regardless of the oath, everyone gets a tabard with the symbol of the Seven Key Ring.
*- Bobby- Though the fanatics of your religion indeed argue against the existence of other Gods, they easily acknowledge the existence of other faiths (thus their involvement in the Seven Servants, albeit with an attitude of mockery, derision, mock derision, or derisive mockery.
**- Murphy- if you choose not to swear the oath, you still get the spells and components, but neither the spell-book nor wand (see Postscript post)