Session date: Monday, February 22, 2016
Game date: Thursday, October 17, 208
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 7607/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 9240/10000
Axel, Thief 3, hp 5, xp 3614/4800
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2233/4000
Brother Guntur Valto, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1252/1500
The Infestation Managers, as they still occasionally call themselves, spent a tense and guarded night in the guesthouse of the monastery. The monks had warned them that a terrible demonic beast prowls the courtyard at night, and that they themselves would sequester themselves in their temple at night to pray and conduct rituals and rites that would ward the beast off and keep it from entering the temple or guesthouse. "No matter what strange or frightening sounds you may hear, do not go outside," the monks had warned the adventurers. And indeed, that night they did hear strange chants, shrieks, and howls, and several times the upstairs watch could see a large shape barely visible in the dimly moonlit courtyard, while an bestial grunting reached their ears.
But the frightening noises subsided as morning approached, and the adventurers emerged, poorly rested but ready to further explore the monastery in pursuit of the holy lantern that was the object of their quest.
They spoke with a monk in the courtyard, asking to meet with the Abbot. The monk said he would find them when the Abbot was available to speak to them. Caryatid kept asking if she could go into the main temple, but the monk was firm that only those initiated into the cult of St. Rathmus could enter, and politely refused Caryatid's offer to join the cult. It was a long and involved process taking many months of study and devotion.
The group explored a few more of the "out-buildings" in the courtyard, including a large storage shed full of seemingly long disused tools and equipment. Everything was covered in dust and cobwebs. They explored a small house that seemed to have once been the residence of the abbots of this monastery but now appeared long abandoned. Then they explored the monastery's library, and spent several hours there looking through the books and scrolls that filled the shelves lining the walls, hoping to find any clues on the whereabouts of the holy lantern. Many of the books were written in an exotic foreign language that none of the party could read, but they discovered that some of the oldest books looked to be written in Ancient Idalian, and they were able to read this with the help of the magical spectacles they had found in the buried city. The old books told how the monastery was founded hundreds of years ago, before the fall of Ancient Idalium, when what would eventually become the Great Church was merely a small upstart fringe religion that existed at the edges of the establishment's pantheon of gods. These worshippers of the All-Pervading Light had established this remote monastery in the mountains where they could devote themselves to their worship and studies, recruiting new followers from the scattered villages nearby.
Later books recorded an increasing syncretism with other religious traditions from the lands to the east, and one got the impression that due to their isolation from the "mother church" in Idalium, their traditions mingled and drifted freely in a sort of divergent evolution. Even today in Idalium, the Great Church formed a wide umbrella, within which the numerous subdenominations and cults of saints freely developed their own eclectic rites and doctrines, and having been so isolated, this monastery's residents seem to have drifted into something barely recognizable as part of the Church.
In the last room of the library that they investigated, the adventurers stumbled upon some much newer looking scrolls that were written in the modern Idalian language. The ink looked relatively recent, and the writing was in a cramped, scritch-scratch sort of hand. In a journal entry dated about a year ago, they read something with alarmed them:
"This monastery will make a perfect place for the cult of St. Rathmus. The former occupants have been handled without difficulty, and it will be simple work to repurpose this temple for our own rituals. The nearby villages shall provide us sustenance and provisions, and we will grow in strength and numbers here."
And then on other scrolls that praised the mysterious St. Rathmus:
"St. Rathmus is great and powerful. St. Rathmus protects the downtrodden. St. Rathmus watches over and cares for those who skulk in the shadows and flee from the light of day. St. Rathmus shall bring righteous judgment down on the oppressors who deny his followers their proper due. All hail St. Rathmus!" And so on.
Unnerved, the adventurers left the library, only to run into the monk they had spoken with before, who was now accompanied by the Abbot, his face placid and kindly below his enormous hat.
"Ah, my friends," said the Abbot. "I trust you had an uneventful night? I hope you were not too alarmed by anything you might have heard. Every night we must struggle against the curse and ward ourselves against the beast that stalks these grounds."
Gulleck asked if they had any information on the holy lantern, and the Abbot shook his head sadly. "I regret that we were so busy last night that we have had little time to investigate this for you."
Gulleck hesitantly offered the party's help against the curse. If the beast was defeated, perhaps the monks would be more readily able to help them find the lantern?
"Oh yes, we would be most grateful for your help, and of course, if the lantern is here, you are welcome to it. But I must warn you, other travelers like yourselves have tried and failed. The monster is fearsome and powerful."
The group asked more questions about the curse, and learned that it seemed to be centered around a blacksmith's shed in the middle of the courtyard, which radiated a strange and unnatural cold all the time since the curse had begun. The beast had never been clearly seen (by anyone who lived to tell the tale, at least), but it was described to them as a giant reptile of some sort, about ten feet long and with six legs.
The adventurers bid the Abbot farewell and headed over to the blacksmith's shed. Indeed, as they approached it, they could feel an eerie chill permeating the area. The shed was a simple enclosure of three walls and a roof, open to the east. On the west wall, a large hearth lay long cold. Various blacksmith's tools were scattered about the shed, but all looked disused and some were rusting from exposure to the damp air.
Gulleck and Axel found a couple of shovels and began clearing the cold ashes out of the pit below the hearth, in search of the beast's nest. They worked for quite a long time, as the pit was surprisingly deep. Eventually, they did uncover the entrance to a large tunnel burrowed into the earth, but before that they found treasure! A skeletal hand clutched a finely made battleaxe, engraved with dwarven runes. Gulleck hefted it appraisingly and could feel power and urgency surging through his arm as he wielded it, even more so than that emanated by his current magical axe! The skeletal hand also worn a golden ring, engraved with what looked like elvish letters. Caryatid tried on the ring, and the others were startled to see her vanish from sight. When she removed the ring, she appeared again.
The group debated sending someone to crawl into the burrow, from which the cold seemed to radiate, but after some discussion it was thought that this would be a very awkward way to battle a dangerous monster. They agreed to wait for the beast to emerge at night, and ambush it then.
They had a few more hours before darkness would fall, so they explored another of the monastery's outbuildings. This one was a bathhouse, seemingly long disused. The pool was covered in a layer of dust and slime. They looked into a changing room off of the main room and saw that it was completely engulfed in bright yellow mildew, which coated the walls and floors, and partially covered a grinning skeleton holding a shiny steel sword. No one wanted to enter this moldy room, but the lure of potential treasure was strong. Axel tied a grappling hook to a long rope and pitched the hook towards the skeleton, attempting to snag the sword. The hook landed in the skeleton's rib cage, sending up a silent plume of yellow spores that clouded the air. Anxious, not to breathe any of the mold, Axel carefully begin to reel in the rope, dragging the skeleton and its sword across the floor and sending up an ever-growing cloud of yellow dust behind it.
Suddenly, Meat shouted out a warning, for as Axel was moving slowly backward from the door, Meat saw the surface of the pool begin to ripple and bubble, and there was something large under the slime on the top. It was shapeless and slimy, ochre in color, with a gelatinous sheen. It pulsed and rippled as it lunged forward towards Axel and the others.
The group quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Axel dropped the sword, and they all ran screaming out of the bathhouse. Fortunately, the ochre monstrosity did not pursue them out of the building.
The adventurers began to make preparations for their attack on the mysterious beast that haunted this monastery. Several of the monks stopped them as they passed by and thanked them for their courage and selflessness. "We will be praying for your success tonight."
As the sun set below the western wall of the monastery, the monks retreated into their temple and the Infestation Managers took up positions around the blacksmith's shed, awaiting the arrival of their foe.