Gold Hill continues to attract new migrants, especially those of pioneering or adventuring spirit. Wolfgang encountered some of them in the tavern at the trading post. Sir Henry, a warrior, of possibly noble background and McDowell, of more obviously dubious extraction had just arrived from the Hommlet area. They introduced themselves to Wolfgang who found that they seemed trustworthy enough and began sharing information about his adventures, including his search for a relic hidden in Whitkey, and his map to a hidden tomb. Another traveler, a powerful-looking man in black, showed his own interest in the subject. After learning the man’s name (Lareth), Wolfgang let him have a look at his map.
Wolfgang, Sir Henry, and McDowell decided that they would search for the relic of Whitkey. Wolfgang purchased a cart and Sir Henry purchased a donkey. The trio of heroes set off for Whitkey in comfort and style. Along the way they were joined by Wolfie the Wolf and Bruno the Bear. To calm the bigoted donkey’s fears of being eaten, Wolfgang got out of the cart to walk ahead with his animal companions.
They drove the cart through town and found a place to hide it between an old barn, a shady maple tree, and a pile of refuse. Then they began to explore the village.
None of the ruined or dilapidated buildings looked likely to contain a powerful relic. While debating whether to explore one of them or walk through the village, the party was startled by their donkey running out of its hiding place, while shaking free of the cart, and being chased by two giant flies. The party killed one of the flies and drove off the other, but not before the donkey received mortal giant fly bites. The heroes mourned the fallen donkey. Wolfgang retrieved his magic glowing painting from the overturned cart and hid it in a tree.
After exploring several buildings and dealing with oversized spiders and centipedes, Wolfgang recalled an earlier adventure on the plateau overlooking the village. On top of that plateau, he told his companions, there were ruins of a tower. A strange undead creature had crawled out from a hole beneath the ruins and attacked them. They had been killed the creature, but had suffered grievous wounds from its terrible claws and fangs, that they had fled to the safety of Gold Hill village without further investigation.
Sir Henry and McDowell agreed that further investigation was warranted and the three of them climbed to the top of the plateau. They found the hole at the base of the tower. They lit a torch and tossed it inside. The light illuminated only excavated earth. The passage was so narrow that they could enter one at a time—and once they were inside it was difficult to mover around because of piles of coins! Most of the coins were silver, but in carrying them out, they happened upon an iron box containing loose gemstones and gold necklace.
But still no relic. From the top of the plateau, they could see the entire village and picked out buildings of interest, both on the other side of the mill pond. One was a more-or-less intact building. Smoke rose from its chimney and there was an animal tethered in the yard. Across the lane from this building was what looked like the ruins of a stone church with an oak tree growing out of a hole in the tiled roof.
The climbed down the plateau and crossed a bridge to the other side of the village. Hearing men singing inside the house with fire going, they knocked on the door. The men inside recognized Wolfgang (“the animal guy!”) and asked him to leave Wolfy and Bruno outside. “But come in and drink some beer with us!” Wolfy and Sir Henry declined the beer. McDowell accepted, and after a few sips, fell asleep on the table.
The men in the house explained that they were working hard to restore Whitkey to its former glory. If Wolfgang and Sir Henry had found their visit enjoyable and profitable (one of the men prodded Sir Henry’s backpack full of silver, then they would surely not mind paying the tax?
With a few words, Wolfgang and Sir Henry agreed that paying some silver would be the surest way of protecting their more valuable treasure. Together, the two poured hundreds of silver coins onto the table.
Their hosts complimented the adventures on their haul and encouraged them to return to Whitkey anytime. They shared some stories about the area, including stories about a White Queen or Silver Princess who had some connection to the church across the lane. They had not yet ventured inside it themselves, but reminded the adventurers to return and pay the tax should they discover any more lost treasure.
In time, McDowell awakened, and the three adventurers bid goodbye to their hosts. McDowell chastised his companions for paying extortion to the brigands and refused to pay “his share.” The party briefly discussed attacking the brigands/village council or stealing their mule, but at last decided that exploring the church was more important.
The church was small, but well-crafted. Though its windows had been smashed and the interior burned, it was structurally sound. Even the hole in the ceiling seemed to be a design feature. The ground beneath the hole was seemingly fertile. Besides the oak tree they had seen from the plateau, mulberry bushes and briars grew so thickly that one couldn’t see through the mass of vegetation from side to the other.
The party walked around the overgrown garden and approached it from three sides. In the center, obscured by vines and weeds, they found a sword embedded in a white stone. Sir Henry tried to draw it out, but could not. Wolfgang, half-translating the runes on the sword and on the stone as best he could, explained that the sword was both a gift and an obligation: whoever drew it from the stone could do so only by making a promise about the Queen. Sir Henry was unsure. According to the stories he had just heard, the most famous Queen in the area was long dead and had a mixed reputation. McDowell encouraged him to stop worrying and just make the promise. After some discussion with his companions, Sir Henry made a promise to protect the Queen’s people. And drew the sword from the stone. The sword glowed with a silvery-blue light and felt warm in his hand. Wolfbang wondered aloud why he had elected to become a druid.
The three adventurers avoided the taxmen on their way out of the village and back to the Gold Hill trading post.