A few hours outside Caedwyr Town the group stops for lunch along the side of the road. It is there, seated amongst wild flowers, that Alois tells them their true mission in Steepleton: To teach the citizens to defend themselves before attempting to deal with the bandits personally.
He tells them also that a high ranking member of the Order has gone missing in Steepleton and is presumed dead. His name is Zurach Demonsbane and he is one of the greatest heroes the Order of Illumination has ever known.
Sobered by the news but still determined to do their best the group continues on their way, camping outside Harborage and watching the distant Ceatharn Wood cautiously. By evening the next day the group reaches the outskirts of Steepleton.
Steepleton was a simple grouping of sod-roofed stone cottages flanking a beautiful white granite chapel and surrounded on all sides by verdant farmland and rolling hills. What the group finds when they crest the rise and look over Steepleton’s valley to find a village under siege. The farmlands were burned and scorched, a half-built wooden wall surrounded the northern and western sides of the village and groups of armed villagers stood watch.
Once the villagers found out the group had been sent by the Order of Illumination the people begged Alois to lead them in prayer and Nuras began investigating their combat readiness. Cherin, having been stung once before by the fear he instilled in the citizens of Harborage, stays on the sidelines.
Nuras finds 40 villagers willing to volunteer for training and out of those ten had been trained briefly by Templar Zurach. Despite this Nuras found their training incomplete and began working to continue their martial education.
After a prayer service in the chapel the group organized the night’s watch. They would each take several of the men and women trained by Zurach and patrol the makeshift palisade.
Shortly after night fall Nuras hears a large number of footsteps approaching the village from some distance away and lights a signal fire. The chapel bells begin ringing and wake the village’s meager defenders as more than a dozen armed bandits approach.
The fierce battle that followed left a dozen villagers dead, including 6 of the stronger combatants. But more than 20 bandits lay dead. In the battle Cherin noticed strange magical auras surrounding the bandits and he also noticed they all wore iron collars around their necks and their behavior seemed odd; their reaction to pain was muted and they showed no emotions.
After the battle Cherin took a moment from helping those injured to investigate the strange collars and found they were empowered by dominating enchantments. The ‘leader’ of the bandits also wore a stone which radiated divination magic which Cherin discovered to be a scrying sensor.
Wearily the village’s defenders buried the dead and nursed the survivors back to health. Two of the survivors of the battle, a man named Justar and a woman named Zara showed great promise and Nuras began training them in the Sublime Way.
Zara lost her husband in the battle and both Justar and Zara nearly followed him for their bravery.
More information learned from the villagers was that the town’s cleric of Pelor, Bernadette Hollingberry, and her family had been kidnapped the night after Templar Zurach disappeared, and that before Zurach’s disappearance he and Adair Hollingberry (The Sage of Steepleton) had a loud argument. After the argument Templar Zurach left the village wearing his armor and weaponry and headed towards the bandit-infested forest and hasn’t been seen since.
The group raided the town library and the Sage’s home and found numerous divine and arcane scrolls and several magical items: a cloak enchanted with protective magics, a magical short sword, and several vials of antitoxin. Unfortunately they found no clues as to his argument with Templar Zurach or what happened to him or his family.
Out of 40 initial members the volunteer militia has 28 remaining and only four with previous martial training. Nuras spent several days after the first night’s battle personally training Justar and Zara and continuing the militia’s drills.
Justar – 1 Commoner/1 Warrior/1 Swordsage
Zara – 1 Commoner/1 Warrior/1 Swordsage
Felshin Shrew and Lawrence Umbra – 1 Commoner/2 Warrior
24 Militia – 1 Commoner/1 Warrior