Martin the Leper, Vance the Crusader, and Galatea the Vestal were sent from the Church of the Lady in Trivium to assist a local baron with a troublesome settlement up in the mountains. Centuries ago, the noble responsible for the small town of Zellanta delved into the occult and accidentally opened a gate to the World Below just a crack.
The energy flowing from that crack, called the Encroachment, mutated everything it touched. It took a long time to spread, but it is now creating quite an unstable presence in the area. The baron (who is almost certainly a vampire) contacted the church to give them a chance to work out their evil-smashing zeal in an environment that doesn’t threaten those in power.
The crazy coach driver barreled along unsafe roads, heading towards the tiny settlement up in the mountains. Rounding a corner, they saw a fallen tree ambush, and the coach was wrecked. They climbed out, ready for trouble, and faced off with a pack of zealous bandits.
Vance took a blow to the head that knocked him senseless, and Martin leaped into the fray and was subdued by four-to-one odds. Galatea surrendered. They were all disarmed and dragged through the woods to meet with the leader.
The impossibly huge bandit with his knotted rope flail held court in a clearing, his throne fashioned from the cascading tap roots of a vast tree. He gloated that they would be killed if they wanted to continue, but the bandits would release them at the road if they would leave, never to return. The leper stung the bandit leader’s pride with a harsh speech, and the bandit agreed to single combat. They fought viciously, and the leper was knocked down, but Galatea managed a surreptitious healing and Martin got up, fighting on to win the battle.
The bandits had a morale failure, and fled. Galatea used crackling divine light to knock down the bandit with her mace, and Vance chanted prayers at the one carrying his sword, flaring holy energy through the Encroachment surrounding the unfortunate mutant, who collapsed. As they escaped, the invaders managed to grab a heavy sack of silver that belonged to the bandit leader. Then they escaped back to the road, cut some coach horses loose, and rode them into town.
They checked in with the coach driver, who somehow managed to get back to town before they did. They took in the sight of the pretty much ruined town, then checked in to the tavern. While drinking, they were visited by the eerie Caretaker, who told them there was a 10% tax on earned treasure.
After a good night’s sleep, they visited the church. Its presence repelled the Encroachment, so the town was relatively safe. They met the weedy, nervous abbot. They talked about the past. Apparently the baron sent a garrison of troops to the town, but their leaders fell to the Encroachment, and now they are bandits, cultists, and worse, mutated by the corrupting mists.
He told them the Encroachment tended to gravitate around a node, usually an altar or statue or something like that. Then it would swell, and send out feelers to the next node. Did they see anything like that? They figured something might have been behind the roots.
After a short worship to prepare body and soul, they ventured forth.
They headed back down the road. A contingent of bandits ambushed them, but they were ready this time, and they slashed through the bandits in short order. Vance took the blunderbuss that was fired at them, a weapon and a trophy.
Outpacing the incoming reinforcements, they got to the ambush site, and then into the forest, before the clotted weird wolves caught up to them. They slaughtered their way out of that predicament, and found themselves on the hill overlooking the box.
Below, exhausted bandits were cutting themselves and conducting a ritual, smearing their blood on an idol of a tentacle. A grim cult priest looked on. As the bandits saw the invaders, they rushed into battle, to be blown away by the blunderbuss; in their weakened state, it carved a swathe through them.
The cult leader assaulted them to be felled in one mighty blow. The invaders quickly went to the idol and smashed it, keeping a piece to show the abbot. Then they withdrew, slipping past the disoriented and dismayed bandits to reach town safely.
They were well paid for their work, and more tasks were sure to rise for them soon.