The PCs have been retained by the Council of Darokin to look into the disappearance of the Magistrate of Orlane. They are briefed by Councillor Marco, whose district is closest to the troubled dominion. Present are Brand, a half-elven druid and wilderness guide; Thomas Coleman, a former man-at-arms and now freelance mercenary; and Jax, a reformed thief who now works with law enforcement and Darokin government.
The party is told that there are rumors of disappearances and other strange happenings in the town. The Magistrate went to investigate two weeks ago but has not reported back. The party’s job is to go the village, determine what is happening, and deal with any potential threats. They will be paid 800 gp each. Marco fronts them each 100 gp for expenses. After purchasing horses and supplies, the party sets out on the road.
After two days of travel they arrive in the riverside village of Hendry. They get rooms at the local inn where Thomas buys drinks for the crowd and Jax tries to find more information on Orlane. He hears that several families have abandoned the town in the past few months, nearly all of them passing through Hendry. They say people have been taken from their homes at night, and others are acting strange and furtive. Some say they are working a secret mine in the mountains. Others blame a tainted water supply or a curse that causes madness. No one seems to have solid information, though.
The next day, as they travel upriver, the party encounters a group of bandits holding up a family driving a wagon. Jax and the rat each moved around the side of the road through the trees, while Thomas and Brand went up to confront the men. Thomas failed an attempt at Intimidate and a fight broke out. At the end of it the bandit leader and half-orc were both dead, another bandit surrendered, and the last fled through the woods.
The party learns that they have saved the Darrel family, who has just left Orlane. The family tells them that there is still no sign of the Magistrate and his men. They repeat the stories of strange happenings, and also mention that there are a number of strangers in town who seem untrustworthy. The party gives them the bandit leader’s chain shirt to help with expenses, and the family goes on their way. Thomas then intimidates the remaining bandit into telling them the location of their camp. They follow him there, with Jax scouting ahead to make sure the camp is clear. They find no more bandits, just a pair of horses and some leftover supplies, which the group takes with them.
After another day of travel, the party arrives in Orlane. The first thing they notice is the large stone temple on the hill at the other side of town. With the bandit in tow as a prisoner, they go to the sheriff’s office and meet Sheriff Gilbert. He thanks them for the prisoner and asks them about their business in town. After some small talk, and a warning not to cause trouble, he points them to the a stable for their horses and suggests the Golden Grain Inn for lodgings.
At the stable the party speaks with Killian Gade, who agrees to buy their spare horses. They also discuss the recent events in town. Although reluctant at first, he soon confirms the stories of disappearances and strange comings and goings. He says that some people simply leave in the night and don’t come back. Others, like the Hart family that runs the general store, left mysteriously and then came back after an absence of two or three weeks. Killian can’t give a reason for any of these things, though he does express suspicion of an elven hunter who has recently taken a cottage nearby.
At Killian’s suggestion, the party goes to the Slumbering Serpent Inn to get a room. They unpack their things and rest. From the room’s window, Jax notices the sycamore grove at the edge of town: the trees are very tall and thick, but there is a trail leading into the interior. The party goes to the common room for supper. Thomas spends another night buying drinks and listening to the local gossip.
Jax speaks with one of the locals, a carpenter named Loren. Loren has little to add to the rumors they’ve heard, but does confirm the stories about the elf and the Hart family. He seems reluctant to talk, and curious about Jax, but hesitant to ask questions. Eventually he gets up to leave, and Jax notices a dagger concealed inside his coat.
Jax leaves the inn shortly after Loren and notes the carpenter’s path across town. Jax then skirts along the pond bank and creeps up on the elf’s shack. He finds it deserted, so he unlatches the shutters and does a quick search, but finds nothing of interest. He then leaves the shack and creeps up on the mayor’s house, seeing him and his family at dinner. Their talk is of local gossip, mostly about the arrival of the PCs. The mayor seems glad to have them in town to help. Jax notices that the man has a slight foreign accent.
On his way back, Jax stops to observe the general store. It is closed for the night, but it looks like the family is still awake. He notes that the property seems somewhat neglected. Not wanting to be gone any longer, he makes his way back to the inn.