Random Encounters04/12/2004

The Hamlet of Relmouth

The First House on the Left

The squat, misshapen house that is the first on the left as you come into town is set a bit apart from the others near it. The hut is owned by Meril, a simple man with one preoccupation: torture. He particularly enjoys torturing people, but he often has to settle on animals from the nearby woods since few people visit Relmouth these days.

Meril thought he would live his life as a stoneworker. The cliffs near where Relmouth stands today were thought to be a wonderful source of marble, and so he came to town and envisioned a rich life of tearing marble out of the earth by day and mercilessly torturing people at night.

In fact, the first year of work was exactly as Meril had hoped for. People came to town, buildings started going up, and he had plenty of victims to choose from. He built himself a small house on the edge of town with the help of others, though it never looked like much. As for those who took part in his night-time hobby, he always took great care to pick out the ones whom other workers thought were a bit flaky. As Meril and his co-workers knew, people sometimes find that they're not cut out for quarry work. It takes both strength and endurance to claw and scratch at rock walls for days on end and few have that stamina. As a result the workers saw frequent walk-offs when the quarry was operating, so it's not surprising that people disappeared from Relmouth. As a result, both those working the quarry and those living in the hamlet came to expect a certain number of people to walk off the job in a given week. This suited Meril's needs perfectly.

Unfortunately for him, Meril's way of life changed about a year after the quarry first started. The workers uncovered something long forgotten and buried: the entrance to a tomb. Runes carved on the stone plug of the tomb were prominent but their meaning was unknown. Instead of finding the runes' meaning, the workers thought only of the riches that waited within. Using their stone-moving tools, they made short work of the plug and crowded into the passage beyond.

Meril had been late to that party. He had spent the day getting supplies for the quarry workers and was returning with the wagon when he saw the commotion around the tomb entrance. He arrived in time to hear shouts for rope and more tools. They had found something: a statue of a fierce, winged beast and in its clutches was a bright yellow gem as big as a baby's head. They figured it was worth 10,000 gold pieces if it was worth one, though none among them could say for sure what type of gemstone it was. It didn't matter -- they were all rich.

Meril took one look at the gem and rushed out of the tomb. He figured his fellow workers were certain to quarrel and soon kill each other over it -- he had seen it happen before. So Meril set to work on a plan to steal the gem and hide it in the woods. He left the chamber with a hasty excuse and fetched his tools. When he got the gem, he must have a place to keep it safe and, more importantly, hidden from everyone else.

The man was by no means an experienced wilderness hiker, but to Meril's credit, his mind focused exclusively on the task of preparing an area in the woods for the one object that he knew would change his life forever. Unusual insight led him to an ideal place to dig a pit between the quarry and the hamlet and make a rudimentary but effective trap over it. It would surely kill the first person who found it by accident and the trap itself would help hide the gem from view.

Spiked Pit Trap: CR 3; mechanical; location trigger; manual reset; Reflex save (DC 14) avoids; 10 ft. deep (1d6, fall); pit spikes (Atk +10 melee, 3d6 damage); Search (DC 15); Disable Device (DC 30). Market Price: 5,700 gp.

The plan for how to steal it was forming in his mind when he spread out the last handful of leaves and heard the first excited shouts from the quarry. Rushing to the scene, he found his companions had broken the hand clutching the gem from the rest of the statue. Meril figured that given the time that had passed, it must have been a particularly difficult task. He silently thanked his comrades for going to the trouble for him.

The setting sun cast a long shadow over the tomb's entrance so that the statue's hand slowly emerged from darkness into the rich red light of a dying day. "Lemur," so called because of the way he could practically cavort up and over obstacles like a monkey, was the one who had the honor to bring it out of the dark confines of the tomb. The gem captured the light and reflected it around the area, bathing the group in a radiant, sparkling red. It was a beautiful sight that gave everyone pause, even Meril, as he stopped just at the edge of the woods and stood staring at the incredible glow.

The sun striking the gem was the trigger the ancient, ignored, runes had warned of. Filled with natural sunlight, the magic that had created the gem was activated, releasing the spirit imprisoned within.

A blob of light poured from the gem and pooled on the ground. From this pool rose a fearsome creature. It stood as tall as a human male, had great wings, and had two horns proudly jutting from its forehead before they swept back.

Its eyes spoke its intention. They were scarlet and freakishly bloodshot from multiple hues of red converging. The creature laughed. The quarry workers could not respond, each one afraid of what could happen if the creature's mood shifted suddenly. They didn't have to wait. It set upon them with a fierceness that surprised even Meril. It killed two before everyone had a chance to scatter. It killed more (several gnomes and a halfling) by taking flight and swooping over them, carrying them into the air only to drop them to their screaming deaths.

Despite the carnage, Meril still focused on his prize. The gem had been discarded and lay in a pool of Lemur's blood. When the creature seemed distracted, he ran over and grabbed the gem, and then he ran to the woods as fast as he could. He didn't need to hide the gem any more -- anyone who cared was going to die before the sun set, he figured. Instead he made his way to the next nearest town.

Alas, no one has heard from him.

Since then, the quarry no longer produces marble and people have stopped coming to Relmouth. In fact, those who have stayed behind have not so much left but have started disappearing . . . and people hear odd things from Meril's home these days. Some say his spirit haunts the hut, but others believe that the one that killed the workers at the quarry has made this empty house its erstwhile home. (Most of those who number among the latter have packed up and left town already, though DMs can keep one person around to assist PCs in any investigation.)

Meril's Current Motives

Meril left the area that fateful day when the gargoyle was released, but he has since returned the richer after his sale of the gemstone he had taken. After the stone's magic was used, it became a prized golden sapphire, though of a size and quality that allowed Meril to gain enough money to live quite comfortably for years. His goals now are to find more treasure in the tomb and to perhaps spend a few more hours enjoying his hobby. He avoids the gargoyle at all costs, but he hasn't yet figured out that Nerilk is lurking up in the small attic of his own house.

Nerilk: Male gargoyle fighter 1/wizard 1; CR 6; Medium monstrous humanoid (earth); HD 4d8+7 plus 1d10+1 plus 1d4+1; hp 34; Init +3; Spd 40 ft., fly 60 ft. (average); AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 14; Base Atk +5; Grp +8; Atk +8 melee (1d4+3, 2 claws) and +6 melee (1d6+1, bite) and +6 melee (1d6+1, gore); Full Atk +8 melee (1d4+3, 2 claws) and +6 melee (1d6+1, bite) and +6 melee (1d6+1, gore); SQ damage reduction 10/magic, darkvision 60 ft., freeze, summon familiar; AL CE; SV Fort +4, Ref +7, Will +7; Str 16, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Concentration +2, Hide +12, Listen +11, Spellcraft +9, Spot +10; Hover, Improved Unarmed Strike, Multiattack, Scribe Scroll, Toughness.

Freeze (Ex): Nerilk can hold himself so still it appears to be a statue. An observer must succeed on a DC 20 Spot check to notice that he is really alive.

Summon Familiar: Nerilk can summon a familiar to his side but has elected not to, fearing for its safety considering the number of combats he participates in.

Wizard Spells Prepared (3/2; save DC 12 + spell level): 0 -- acid splash, arcane mark, read magic; 1st -- burning hands, magic missile.

Spellbook: 0 -- acid splash, arcane mark, dancing lights, daze, detect magic, detect poison, disrupt undead, flare, ghost sound, light, mage hand, mending, message, open/close, prestidigitation, ray of frost, read magic, resistance, touch of idiocy; 1st -- burning hands, disguise self, mage armor, magic missile, shield, shocking grasp, sleep.

Languages: Common, Auran, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Giant, Terran.

Possessions: Spellbook, scroll of magic missile, scroll of sending,wand of create water (30 charges), 5 pieces of jade (100 gp each), 1 deep blue spinel (500 gp), and 100 gp.

Bringing the Parts Together

Anyone visiting Relmouth can come across Nerilk after his first appearance. Nerilk has no intention of leaving Relmouth. The gargoyle believes that other chambers exist within the quarry and, perhaps, other gargoyles he knows. Perhaps if he waits patiently for the quarry to start back up, someone will uncover more chambers. All the gargoyle needs to do is sit quietly and wait patiently -- something gargoyles are particularly apt at.

Coming in Part 2 of the Hamlet of Relmouth

A visitor to Relmouth loved the place enough to stay. Of course, he didn't buy a house or plant a farm. Instead, he wants to harvest other visitors....

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