- Brother Carell Gaunt (Cleric of the Lawbringer)
- Corbin (Halfling Rogue)
- Brother Edmund Caldworth (Cleric of the Lawbringer)
- Honourable Martiris of Drayke (Fighter) and his squire, Kevin
- Shiellapho the Magnificent (Elf Wizard)
- Tarryn (Monk)
- Tawnka (Dwarf Barbarian)
The small village of Hommel Lane was in trouble. In response to monstrous raiders, marauding bandits, and missing villagers, Canoness Yeeday, leader of the Temple of the Lawbringer, sent a request for help to the temple at Hochoch. She knew Hochoch was also a town on the borderlands and the people there would understand that a growing evil must be confronted quickly before it spreads.
Sir Hadarai Moonbrook, a Paladin of the Lawbringer in Hochoch, had no sooner been informed of Canoness Yeeday’s plea than he felt led to mount an expedition to aide her and Hommel Lane. When he announced his intentions to the church at large, two priests immediately volunteered their support: Brother Edmund Caldworth, a Healer in the Order of Life, and Brother Carell Gaunt, a Peace-Giver in the Order of the Wilted Rose. Additionally, upon hearing the potential for mayhem in the plight of Hommel Lane, the dwarven berserker and acquaintance of Brother Carell, Tawnka, joined the expedition. This small group, accompanied by Sir Moonbrook‘s three squires, would join the teamster who had brought Canoness Yeeday’s plea for aid, the halfling, Wyndell, on his return trip to Hommel Lane. Along the borderlands, there was always greater safety in number so Sir Moonbrook’s expedition soon garnered other travelling companions headed in the same direction: Honourable Martiris of Drayke, the son of a baron with knowledge of the blade, and his squire, Kevin; Corbin, a halfling cook who seemed to care more of his departure time from Hochoch than his destination; the elf wizard and prestidigitator for the masses, Shiellapho (an obvious stage name – Ed.) the Magnificent; Shiellapho’s guide and bodyguard, Tarryn; and a young half-elf, Carjo Merridie, who sought to visit his grandmother in Hommel Lane.
The two-week journey to Hommel Lane allowed everyone to learn about each other. Being of noble birth, both Sir Moonbrook and Honourable Martiris spent a great deal of time conversing and riding together at the front of the caravan. But this did not mean that others did not get a chance to speak with the paladin. In fact, he spent several days discussing training and rites of faith with Shiellapho after the wizard expressed an interest in his order. Additionally, Wyndell spent much of the day talking to anyone who would listen as he rode along in his wagon (about his wife, his six children, the other teamsters in his company, the weather, the quality of pipe tobacco now-a-days, etc.). His incessant chatter seemed to be his way of handling his nervousness over the journey. Apparently, several of the wagons in his trade company had lately been ambushed by bandits in the woods surrounding Hommel Lane. The chief source of amusement on the journey was the antics of young Carjo, who had developed a crush on Sir Moonbrook‘s female squire, Vivial. Although Vivial remained polite, Carjo’s feelings were obviously not returned and there was much hidden speculation each day as to whether Carjo would pick up on her subtle clues.
The group was only a few hours away from Hommel Lane when they decided to stop for a short break near a clear, shallow stream. As the others milled about, Sir Moonbrook walked into the shallows and bent down to refill his waterskin. At that moment, a dark vapor suddenly erupted from the water to envelope the paladin. It quickly dissipated, leaving the knight still crouched over the stream. In odd, jerky movements, the knight rose and swept his gaze over the others. They could feel a malevolent force pushing at their minds as a raspy voice issued from Sir Moonbrook, yet his lips did not move.
“You are too late,” the voice intoned. “This land and your lives belong to me now.”
Fighting off the intruding spirit with his faith, Brother Carell called upon his devotion to the Lawbringer to drive the spirit away from Sir Moonbrook (lance of faith cantrip). A beam of holy energy struck the knight, but did not stop him from drawing his great sword. In response, Martiris quickly drew his own sword and raced into the stream to challenge the possessed paladin. He struck the knight a mighty blow but Sir Moonbrook only stumbled slightly before trying to return the favor. Fortunately, although delivered with great power, Sir Moonbrook’s reposte was clumsy and Martiris easily dodged the attack.
It was then learned that Sir Moonbrook was not the only member of the band affected by the evil presence: his squires, along with Carjo, turned on the group. On the wagon, Vivial cut Brother Edmund a shallow wound across his shoulder with her spear while Carjo gave Tawnka a nasty wound to her leg. Another squire, Jhaak, charged poor Wyndell, stabbing him in his ample belly. The last squire, Robbek, tried to pin Corbin with his spear, but the agile halfling easily dodged the blow.
Preferring to avoid physical confrontation, Shiellapho hurried away from the various melees before sending a pale blue ray of frost toward Carjo. Unfortunately, his quick movements threw off his aim and his spell missed. But that did not stop Tarryn from engaging the young man with a flurry of blows. Although she was unable to deliver a solid strike to Carjo, she did distract him and allow Tawnka to catch her breath.
Weapons seemed to magically appear in Corbin’s hands as he drew them from hidden sheaths to attack Robbek. A quick distraction with his dagger allowed him to punch a solid strike with his short sword through Robbek’s light armor. The squire fell to the ground as the halfling began to work his way along the edges of the battle.
Although Tawnka tried to fuel a blow from her urgrosh with her anger, her pain proved to be too much of a distraction and she missed Carjo. Brother Edmund was not as wounded as the dwarf and managed a prayer to the Lawbringer for a lance of faith, which lashed out of his holy symbol to strike Vivial in the breast. Although momentarily stunned, she quickly resumed her attack.
Meanwhile, Wyndell managed to scramble away from Jhaak, who turned his attention on Tarryn. And Honourable Martiris’ squire, Kevin, after finding a relatively safe location behind a tree trunk, called various encouragements to his lord.
Brother Carell, seeking to help his brother in faith, called upon another lance of faith, this time targeting the possessed Vivial. His beam struck her but she showed no pain as she continued to threaten Brother Edmund.
Just as the evil spirit was proclaiming the characters weak in power and spirit, Martiris ended his battle with a blow that sent Sir Moonbrook falling back into the shallow stream. Martiris chuckled softly as his boot slowly pressed down upon the unconscious knight’s chest, submerging his head below the water. Martiris had never lost a battle and had never left an enemy capable of revenge.
Sir Moonbrook‘s defeat did not appear to have any effect on the other possessed. They continued to press the attack, succeeding in wounding both Brother Edmund and Tawnka further. A magical ray of frost from Shiellapho managed to rock Carjo back, setting him up for a punch from Tarryn that knocked him out cold. Unfortunately, it also left Tarryn’s side exposed to a thrust from Jhaak, but before the strike could be delivered, the point of Corbin’s short sword burst from his chest. The sneaky halfling had worked his way behind the squire without being noticed.
The last of the possessed, Vivial, was brought low by a powerful attack from Tawnka, who in spite of her pain, had leapt up onto the wagon for the final blow. Brother Edmund quickly began healing wounds as the party regrouped.
It was at this moment that Brother Edmund noticed Martiris standing on the submerged figure of Sir Moonbrook. Screaming for Martiris not to kill the knight, he quickly called upon the Lawbringer to save the downed elf. The Lawbringer heard his prayer (cure minor wounds cantrip) and Sir Moonbrook regained consciousness. He worked his way out from under Martiris boot and rose from the waters, telling Martiris, “You will all bow before me and do my bidding.”
Seeing that the paladin was still possessed, but not wishing to antagonize Brother Edmund (whose healing might be needed at a later time), Martiris delivered a quick thump with the flat of his blade that sent Sir Moonbrook reeling back into unconsciousness. He then dragged the elf to the shore.
The group stabilized the other unconscious possessed (except for Jhaak, who was beyond worldly healing). Worried that they still suffered from the evil influence, the party bound them with rope along with Sir Moonbrook. As others dealt with the living, Brother Carell began digging a grave for the deceased Jhaak, reciting the Litany of the Fallen Brother as he worked.
In an attempt to determine if something in the environment had provoked the spiritual attack, Shiellapho cast detect magic. The only magic he discerned was an aura surrounding Sir Moonbrook. Shiellapho detected both enchantment and necromancy in the powerful aura. The other possessed did not seem to have any magical auras.
After insuring the possessed were securely tied, Brother Edmund prayed for Vivial to be healed. When she regained consciousness, she seemed to have control of herself once more with only a vague memory of her actions. In response to Brother Edmund’s questions, she remembered hearing a dark voice whisper “Haffron.” Upon hearing the name, Brother Edmund remembered a bit of Hommel Lane history he had read in the temple before departing Hochoch. Haffron Hommel was the leader of the original settlers of Hommel Lane.
He mentioned this to the others as he untied Vivial. Shiellapho was able to add that Haffron had established the village over 200 years ago. He both led in the building of the town as well as a fortified keep for protection. He mysteriously disappeared a decade later.
The surviving squires asked the group to take Jhaak’s body with them to Hommel Lane so he could be buried on temple grounds. Although somewhat worried about potential reanimation by the evil spirit they had encountered, the group agreed and Brother Carell ceased his preparations.
The caravan continued their journey to Hommel Lane, reaching the town only a few hours later. Entering the village from the north, the first building other than a farm house that greeted them was the Temple of the Lawbringer. The temple’s doors stood open and welcome in the late afternoon sun. The party’s calls at the door soon brought out Sister Devi, a young female priest. She informed the group that Canoness Yeeday had left suddenly over a month ago and had not yet returned. Sister Devi had taken over her duties until the Canoness returned.
Sister Devi was shocked to hear the group’s story of the attack and became very worried upon examination of the unconscious Sir Moonbrook. She was not as skilled as Canoness Yeeday and could not drive out the spirit possessing the paladin. Sister Devi did offer to look after the knight and do what she could for him. He could remain in an upstairs chamber at the temple and the party could visit him whenever they wished. Everyone quickly agreed to this offer.
Additionally, Sir Moonbrook‘s remaining squires accepted the hospitality of the temple for the night. They planned to leave immediately the next day for Hochoch; Sir Moonbrook’s condition needed to be reported to their superiors.
Sister Devi summoned her acolytes, Sister Euphema, Brother Abramo, and Sister Philla, to assist in moving Sir Moonbrook to his room as well as preparing Jhaak for burial. Brother Carell, Brother Edmund, Robbek, and Vivial all attended and assisted in the burial service, leaving the rest of the group to explore Hommel Lane on their own. However, before saying their goodbyes, Brother Edmund did take a moment in an attempt to head off any more problems by informing Carjo that his interest in Vivial was not returned. Although disappointed, the young man took the news well and did not make a scene as he wished Vivial a swift journey on the morrow.
As the group left the temple, both Wyndell and Carjo offered the party a place to stay in gratitude for their help on the road. Wyndell had a large barn loft full of soft hay while Carjo was certain that his “gran-gran”, Vilma, would arrange something for the group at her cottage. The party politely turned the two down and instead headed for the Inn of the Winsome Wench, the largest inn in Hommel Lane according to Wyndell.
Before parting ways, Wyndell also mentioned that he was impressed with how the group handled themselves on the road. If they were willing to do something about the bandit problem in the area and return some of his inventory that they had stolen, he would be very grateful, both in spirit and monetarily. He even suspected he knew where the bandits had their hideout. The group told Wyndell that would consider the offer and get back to him. He wished them well and turned his wagon down the road to his home.
The party walked past the town trading post, pawnshop, and the Slumbering Serpent Tavern (with its colorful sign depicting a red dragon at rest) before reaching the large square in front of the Inn of the Winsome Wench. A huge twenty-foot-tall weathered statue dominated the square. It depicted a middle-aged human male wearing studded leather armor, holding a shield emblazoned with a flying griffon, and wielding a curved longsword. An inscription was carved into the statue’s pedestal which read:
Unfortunately, the inn was not as impressive as the statue. The doors and windows of the large building were boarded up, and several gaping holes marred the roof. The sign had fell face down in the weeds before the porch. It appeared to have been abandoned for several weeks at least. Carjo seemed shocked at its condition. It had been a vibrant, busy place when he had visited his gran-gran a year ago.