- Brother Carell Gaunt (Cleric of the Lawbringer)
- Chef (Halfling Rogue)
- Honourable Martiris of Drayke (Fighter) and his squire, Kevin
- Shiellapho the Magnificent (Elf Wizard)
- Tarryn (Monk)
- Tawnka (Dwarf Barbarian)
Since this game is part of D&D Encounters (simply running a bit long), players may come and go as they please. The player of Brother Edmund Caldworth was unable to attend this session. However, the player of Chef did make a reappearance after many weeks!
Additionally, thanks to the player's regular attendance, Tawnka reached third level!
After their escape from the lair of the naga, Brother Carell, Brother Edmund, Shiellapho, Tawnka, Chef, and Corbin found themselves surrounded by a dismal swamp. A rutted wagon trail led away on the soft ground through the trees. Canoness Yeeday could not be certain, but she believed the group might be in the Fathomless Fens, located roughly 15 miles to the east of Hommel Lane. After a quick prayer over the collapsed tunnel by the priests for the fallen prisoners and others given to the naga as food, the group of 13 set out on the wagon trail, hoping to eventually find their way back to the village.
Meanwhile, back at the Golden Grain Inn, Honourable Martiris had been handling quite the situation. After leaving the Temple of the Lawbringer, Martiris had found Constable Ruskal banging at the door to the inn and demanding whoever was in there to open up. He was surrounded by several townspeople whom Martiris recognized from the previous evening at the inn. Martiris quickly stepped forward and spoke with the constable. However, he was often interrupted by the others who suggested that he may have done "something" to Bertram and demanded Constable Ruskal arrest the nobleman. This rowdiness continued for roughly 20 minutes, with Constable Ruskal trying to investigate as well as keep things calm, when suddenly, the most vocal of the townsfolk became disoriented. Several even fell into a faint. (Unknown to anyone in town, this disorientation coincided with the death of the naga.)
Martiris ordered Kevin to unbar the inn door, and he and the constable assisted the disoriented townspeople inside. Once they had a seat and a drink, the poor people began to come around. They started speaking of barely remembered memories: a wet cave of darkness, a woman with serpentine eyes, others huddled in fear. As time wore on, the fog around their memories dispersed more. They began to confess to Constable Ruskal of horrible acts of betrayal and murder! They had been charmed by the naga in the swamp and forced to bring it more victims. Some had even lost family members to the vile creature! They were led in this work by Bertram and Sister Devi.
During these revelations, Honourable Martiris added his own, explaining to Constable Ruskal everything that had happened the night before and the morning. The constable sent for his deputies as well as Castellan Zaborr. They spent the next couple of hours trying to sort out the mess as even more previously charmed villagers came forward. During that time, Martiris sent Kevin to bring Tarryn and her prisoner, Sister Devi, to the inn as well as Sister Euphema. (The freed prisoners, Ranson and Scira Klought had returned to their family by this point.) Sister Devi still claimed that she had been possessed, but Castellan Zaborr did not seem inclined to believe her. The constable and his deputies were kept busy simply keeping the priestess from being assaulted by the various distressed villagers who blamed her and her "Reptile cult" for their actions.
When the other party members and the freed prisoners arrived in town after a three hour trek from the swamp, they were greeted with much celebration! Families and friends were reunited, which help to offset the sad news of the ones who did not make it back. Everyone was pleased to hear that the Reptile God would threaten Hommel Lane no longer. With so many people to discuss it, the puzzle of Bertram's ledger was resolved. The circled names indicated villagers who had been charmed, the crossed-out names were villagers and visitors to the inn who had been eaten by the naga, and the unmarked names were those who had been captured but had not yet suffered either fate.
As the afternoon wore on, Sister Devi was taken to a prison cell and Castellan Zaborr returned to the keep, promising that justice would be served. However, before the castellan left, he informed the party that they were welcome to stay at the Golden Grain Inn as custodians until relatives of Bertram Beswill could be found. Most villagers returned to their homes, but some were still so disoriented from the broken charm or ill from confinement that they sought help at the Temple of the Lawbringer or the sacred grove of the Old Faith (depending on their faith). All of the Lawbringer priests (Sister Euphema, Brother Edmund, and Brother Carell) left the inn with Canoness Yeeday to address the needs of the faithful.
During the evening, the party (minus the priests) was resting in the common room of the inn where there was a polite knock at the door. The visitor was a hulking young man, slow and halting of speech, who introduced himself as Elmo. He had heard of the group's exploits and hoped that they would be willing to investigate the disappearance of his brother, Otis. Two weeks ago, Otis had left Hommel Lane with a group to investigate rumors of unusual monster cooperation at the Caves of Chaos to the west. If the various tribes of monsters in the caves began working together instead of fighting with each other, Hommel Lane could be in great danger. None of the group had returned.
After a bit of discussion, the party decided to explore the Caves of Chaos the next day. They had not worked so hard to end the threat of bandits and cults just to have Hommel Lane fall to creatures of evil. They would determine what was occurring at the caves and try to learn of Otis' fate. Elmo agreed to act as a guide to the caves.
The next morning, Brother Carell, Chef, Honourable Martiris, Kevin, Shiellapho, Tarryn, Tawnka, and Elmo set out for the caves. Brother Edmund had spent a late night tending to Canoness Yeeday and other parishioners in need, so Brother Carell had let him continue to sleep this fine morning. Corbin told the others that he had his fill of adventures and would rather rest at the inn instead of exploring some old caves.
The party traveled for half a day before reaching the low hills that were home to the Caves of Chaos. Thick, twisted trees grew across the rough ground. Elmo stopped the party at the entrance to a ravine with walls towering a hundred feet high. He explained that he was not a warrior and would go no further. The caves could be found along the ravine walls and were said to be inhabited by evil creatures both numerous and varied. The group pressed on, leaving Elmo and Kevin to watch Honourable Martiris' horses.
As the party reached the edge of the twisted trees before the bare, bone-littered ground of the ravine, they worried what might see them enter from the surrounding caves. Shiellapho created several different minor illusions in the ravine to draw out any potential attackers. When none appeared, the group cautiously made their way into the ravine, staying near the right slope.
The party had not gone far when a ghostly specter of a man appeared at their rear. The phantom figure hefted a shield bearing the crest of a griffon in flight as he attacked Sheillapho with a curved longsword, screaming "Your tricks did not fool me! Die, servant of chaos! You shall not live to help your foul master this day!"
Fortunately for the mage, the ghost's attack missed. As the party prepared to engage the specter, the griffon crest on the shield sparked Brother Carell's memory. It was the same crest that could be seen on the shield of Haffron Hommel's statue in Hommel Lane! In fact, the specter resembled the statue in many ways. Knowing that Haffron Hommel was supposedly a good man in life, Brother Carell attempted to speak with the ghost, hoping to help the spirit find peace. He succeeded in convincing the spirit, who did claim to be the ghost of Haffron Hommel, that the party were champions of good, not chaos. The specter had recognized the Scroll of Final Words hanging from Shiellapho's belt and had assumed that the elf was an evil cultist.
The ghost explained that he had been trapped just outside the ravine since his death. He had sacrificed himself to stop the spread of a terrible power. Long ago, when still alive and patrolling this very area, he had spied hooded figures entering one of the caves at the back of the ravine. He had followed, discovering a foul temple dedicated to an evil demon-lord known as Miska the Wolf-Spider. Inside the temple, the cult had brought forth a Chaos Mote, a huge, cracked silver sphere which allowed the cultists to harness the raw power of chaos.
Haffron slew many of the evil priests, but saw that the Chaos Mote was growing. Haffron had battled evil for many years and knew what he must do to halt the growth of power; he threw himself into the orb. He saw a blinding flash before finding himself as a spirit outside the ravine. He could not enter very far into the ravine nor leave the area.
The ghost believed that his soul was trapped near the caves by three powerful artifacts; all tied to the evil essence that plagued the land, the demon-lord Miska. One such artifact was the scroll on Shiellapho's belt, which was taken, along with another evil item, a black circlet with green gems, from the caves by cultists. (When shown by Shiellapho, Haffron was quite pleased to learn that the group also had the Death Circlet.) The final artifact was the Chaos Blade. If it was removed from the area, Haffron could be free. He could feel in growing stronger with the passing of each day.
Weeks ago, the ghost encountered a group of adventurers led by a warrior from Hommel Lane named Otis. Haffron sent them to the cave where he felt the Chaos Blade. After they entered, bedlam broke out and savage humanoids attacked in droves. Haffron could only watch as wave upon wave of evil creatures rushed into the cave. None of the adventurers ever returned and the spirit felt the binding magic of the Chaos Blade strengthen soon after.
After hearing Haffron's tale, the party was even more determined to learn the final fate of Otis. They also dedicated themselves to finding the Chaos Blade and preventing it from being used for evil. With a few final farewells to the ghostly Haffron Hommel, the group set out for the cave indicated by the spirit.
As they approached the cave mouth, they were ambushed by a group of small reptilian humanoids which most of the party recognized from tales as kobolds. Although out-numbering the heroes two-to-one, the kobolds did not prove to be much of a threat and were quickly dispatched by the experienced team. The party began to enter the cave when they were halted by Chef. She had noticed a glint of metal in the dirt. Upon closer examination, she found that a fine mesh was buried under the passageway's dirt and dust. This mesh was connected to numerous bronze bells which would clatter if the mesh was disturbed, alerting anyone nearby to intruders. Chef carefully cut all the lines to the bells and disarmed the alarm without any harm.
The group continued into the cave, lighting a torch when the darkness proved to be too much for the humans. They quickly reached a fork and chose to follow the left-hand tunnel from which a faint red glow could be detected. The group was brought to a halt before entering a small natural chamber at the end of the tunnel. Martiris had noticed something odd about the ceiling, and when he examined it more closely, he determined that the tunnel ceiling was suspended by cables attached to tripwires. Chef's dexterous abilities were once again called upon and she skillfully disabled the tripwires (such talent for a simple cook! – Ed.).