The Elf Queen sends an earth elemental to Elanesse and Deleva with a message: a new imperial inquisitor is coming to Blackmarch. They are to travel to the town of Foothold and join his adventuring company as “free companions” for an undetermined time. This will give Elanesse a measure of official protection, because nobody wants to get on the inquisition’s wrong side. Strings have been pulled and favors called in to ensure that they are chosen.
The Elf Queen is of two minds about the inquisition: she finds it distasteful and wrong-headed, and despises their methods, but the Diabolist whom they oppose is a serious threat. The pair should always remember that they are not inquisitors themselves. They should do nothing that goes against their conscience, but are also not required to oppose the inquisition’s abuses.
Nureddin gets orders from his commanding officer that a new inquisitor is coming, and Nureddin’s been assigned to babysitting duties. Try and keep him from getting killed, okay?
Khash gets a message from his imperial handler that he will soon receive an invitation to join an adventuring band assembled in support of a new inquisitor in town. He is to accept this invitation, and take advantage of it to investigate reports of a formal alliance between the Diabolist and the Orc Lord. In addition, be alert to mentions of a “Brother James”.
Khash also gets a message from his orcish handler: the ranger Nureddin, a dedicated foe of the Orc Lord, is now attached to a new inquisitor in town. See if you can find out why. Is the inquisition’s scope being extended to include sympathizers of the Orc Lord?
Hochnor Half-Hand receives orders from the Imperial Inquisition to travel to Foothold in the Black March and report to Brother Lucas, the Senior Inquisitor of the provincial tribunal. He will fill Hochnor in on his duties. Hochnor is given a horse for the journey, a badge of office and just enough gold to get him there.
Hochnor travels to Blackmarch with a Chauceresque group of merchants, clerics, scholars, spooky rangers and swaggering paladins of the Crusader. From them, he picks up the following pieces of information:
- Despite its name, the Wretched Hovel is a good, comfortable inn that’s a favorite of adventurers. It’s run by a halfling named Molly. You have to check your weapons at the door.
- Count Henry has been in charge of Blackmarch for three and a half years. He made his name as a capable, brave, smart general during the Red Sorcerer’s Rebellion. The Crusader’s paladins like and respect him, but think he’s in over his head.
- If you’re ever seriously down on your luck, the Gods of Light Shelter in Low East Side offers a place to sleep and some bread and soup.
- Mining, lumber and banking are major industries in Foothold.
- Micah Strong, the current mayor of Foothold, also served with distinction in the Red Sorcerer’s Rebellion. He has a magic glove. Or maybe a magic hand? Anyway, they say it makes him strong enough to flatten an ogre with one punch. Or it shoots fireballs.
- Traveling medicine shows will carry magic potions and maybe oils. If you need runes as well, you’ll have to go to a wizard or sorcerer.
When Hochnor arrives in Foothold, he reports as instructed to Brother Lucas. Lucas reveals that Hochnor is to serve His Imperial Majesty as the tribunal’s sergeant, their agent in the field. He will investigate reports of diabolical activity, kick down any doors that need kicking down, kill any demons and cultists that need killing, apprehend suspected servants of the Diabolist and deliver them to the local law enforcement agents for confinement till their trials. Then he will be debriefed by Brother Valan and Brother Siegfried or their secretaries.
As sergeant, Hochnor will be supported in the field by a band of free companions. Brother Lucas has taken the liberty of approving them: Nureddin, a ranger; Elanesse, a sorcerer; Deleva, a wizard; and Khash, a cleric.
Because His Imperial Majesty has decreed in his wisdom that the Inquisition may no longer funds itself by seizing the property of traitors to the Empire, Hochnor’s pay will not be great. However, the Inquisition will provide the following:
- A modest four-bedroom house in the Low West Side, perviously occupied by his predecessor, Brother James
- A monthly stipend for the bare essentials of food and clothing
In addition, he and his free companions are permitted to engage in adventures not related to Inquisition business, so long as they do not conflict with Hochnor’s duties. He may keep the proceeds from those adventures, but His Imperial Majesty is not responsible for any debts or obligations that Hochnor or his companions incur.