There is the door at the south end, which you came in from the laboratory, and a narrow staircase going up at the north end.
Travis takes the dagger somewhat mistrustfully, rubbing at the blood stain on it. It doesn't come off easily. He puts it in his pack.
The three move the high priest's remains to one of the alcoves, and move for the children. Beneath them is a single adult skeleton, with tatters a priestly vestments, which holds a mace in its hand.
"I think that the head priest was protecting this one. Let's put this one in an alcove too, and then go check out the staircase over there."
Valik places the bones carefully in an alcove, but keeps the mace.
"Brother, I will carry your weapon in battle. I hope that I can set right whatever went wrong here so long ago.", he says to the skeleton.
"Alright, lets go up."
The narrow staircase leads up to a door. It is quite heavy, but the three men are able to push it aside without too much difficulty. As they go through, they find themselves in the ornately decorated shrine, having entered through a secret passage behind the statue of the sainted warrior, Vardishal.
Upon exiting the shrine to the covered walk, you are overcome by a strange urge to dig in the courtyard. You are fully in control of yourself, but you are certain that something important is buried there. You even know the exact spot you want to dig, although it is currently overgrown by tangled vegetation.
To confirm, you have now been into every room you have found in the monastery, and there are no more obvious threats.
Dross and Travis look at each other in confusion. "Uh... no? Do you need to dig a hole?" says Travis, a little mockingly.
Dross, a little more thoughtful says, "I'm sure I saw one back at the main camp, but... Are you sure you're feeling okay? We're done here, right? We can just go find Dashki and tell him to bring everyone else and we can get everyone moved in. Maybe you should lie down or something until they arrive."
"Sure. Let's get Dashki and see about getting everyone moved in. Plus we should go see how the fortification of the wall is going. I bet the guys would like our help by now."
Valik leads the mercs back to their little camp. As they wait for the folks from the main camp to arrive, they continue to rebuild walls where possible and work on camouflaging their presence.
"You know, we are going to need a place to keep the animals, other than inside the temple. Those courtyards could be perfect, if we hack down some of the plants. I am going to work on that for a bit."
So Valik is waiting for someone with a shovel to show up before he gets digging. He will start working on clearing that courtyard of brush, it might be a good place to pen the animals up.
Valik pulls out his handaxe and sets to work clearing the brush from the courtyard. The hot sun beats down on him from the cloudless sky, and his beard is soon dripping with sweat, but he does not slow. After about half an hour, he has cleared away much of one side, and finds that the central part of the courtyard, where the pugwampi had been hiding so effectively the day before, is made out of dead brush so tangled and dense it almost appears to have been woven together on purpose. As he peers over the top of the tangled mess, all becomes clear; in the center of the courtyard there is a wide depression in the matted brush, which contains three eggs, each the size of a watermelon, creamy white and speckled with red. Valik has no idea what manner of creature the eggs belong to, but he is certain that the spot he has an irrational desire to dig is directly below the middle of the nest.
Valik weaves a makeshift sunshade over the eggs then heads to find the mercenaries.
"I found some large eggs out in the courtyard. I don't know what they are, so please don't mess with them. They may be valuable, they may be innocent, or they may be pugwumpi. Who knows. Just tell everyone to steer clear until I can talk to the Father and Dashki about them."
Why would the eggs be right on the spot that I need to dig at?
We didn't play it out, but I assume you would have gone outside to get Dashki's attention and sent him back to bring the rest of the caravan. They will try to slip in shortly after dark, so the gnolls won't see them. That leaves you most of the day for Valik and the mercenaries to do whatever you want in the monastery. Here's a rundown of the rooms and their contents, so you don't have to read back:
- Nave: large, basically empty, collapsed roof, entry through two collapses in the wall. Currently being shored up by the other mercenaries.
- Transept alcoves: Each has a statue of Vardishal. The one on the east also has a pillar with an inscription about someone vanquishing a spirit. The one on the west has your makeshift barrier.
- Chapel: Stinky and messy, but with a sound roof and plenty of windows. There is a broken altar and pages of Sarenrae's holy book strewn all over. Ugly chandelier made of skulls hangs from the center. Also contains remains of the pugwampi nest, as well as the remains of the pugwampis themselves. There is an opening on the north balcony that gives a good view of Kelmarane, but there is no easy way up to that section of the balcony.
- Cloister walk: makes a square around the courtyard. Each wall has a big bas-relief sculpture of Vardishal, sometimes including his friends/enemies. Has a sound roof all the way around.
- Courtyard: Open to the sky. Currently overgrown with vegetation, and has a huge nest with eggs. You think something is buried there. There is one dead pugwampi here.
- Chapter house: Domed octagonal room. Contains what seems to be a midden/guano heap, which has been searched through for treasure, and three dead stirges. Has a sound roof and some windows for light.
- Shrine: Covered with pictures of Vardishal, some of which have gold which could be chipped out. Also contains a statue of him, which hides a secret passage down to the crypt.
- South hallway: Roof has holes, some windows on west wall. Contains weather-worn statue of Sarenrae.
- Library: Balcony has collapsed, books are in a heap on the floor. Good roof, no windows. Most of the books are too damaged to be read; you found one that's readable.
- Deanery: Contains a few beds, desks, and trunks, in various states of disrepair. Smells like baboons, and contains three baboon bodies. Good roof, no windows.
- Kitchen: full of broken crockery. Good roof, no windows.
- Mess hall: ceiling collapsed, has windows. Two long tables that haven't quite worn away.
- Dormitory: Ceiling has holes, but isn't quite gone. Has windows. Contains old broken bunks. Also has the remains of a broken tower, and the stairway down to the lab.
- Laboratory: full of mold, which doesn't seem to be of the moving type anymore. Two workbenches full of alchemical apparatus, two smaller tables with papers (which one of the mercenaries took), and a big basalt table in the middle.
- Crypt: full of skeletons, some of which are in the niches, some of which are lying all over the place. It has occurred to me that many of the townsfolk who participated in the battle were armed with farm implements, so you may be able to find something that is still usable to dig with down there.
Valik returns to the tomb and works on cleaning up the massacre site, seperating bodies, sorting bones, quietly praying for the dead.
There was a secret passage out of this tomb...so they weren't really trapped, were they? Were they defending something down here? He thinks as he works.
I would like Valik to take 20 on the perception check to look for secret passages/doors/compartments if possible, if not:
Perception 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 = 19
Perception 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 2 = 20
Perception 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 = 9
Perception 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (9) + 2 = 11
Call that an hour of work and poking around.
The crypt is pretty big; it contains a total of 240 5-ft squares, full of skeletons, the walls are niches full of skeletons. If it takes a minute to search each square, you're looking at 4 hours, without even taking 20. That's about as long as the sunrod will last. For now, I'll take your first roll for the first hour; if you want to keep at it longer, say the word.
After an hour of work, Valik has gotten most of the skeletons which appear to have belonged to members of the monastic community arranged respectfully in the niches. In the process, he has come across a skeleton wielding a garden spade. The head is a little loose on the handle, but it looks like it could still be used to dig a hole in the sandy earth of the courtyard.
Despite his best efforts, he finds no secret passages or other items of note in the crypt, but there are so many side-passages and shadows, he can't be absolutely certain that he hasn't missed anything.
Valik isn't searching, as much as working. So how about he just gets a general roll for the 4 hours of work he puts in cleaning to notice something as he works with the bones. He can do a better, more detailed search of the walls and crypt later, after he has taken care of the skeletons.
Perception. hey, I'm working here! 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 2 = 16
By the time Valik has finished putting the fallen monks to rest respectfully in the niches, it is past noon and his belly is rumbling. The exertion leaves him feeling a pleasant glow, despite the film of gritty sweat that covers him. Though the sunrod grows dim, the whole crypt seems somehow brighter, as though Sarenrae's light were somehow reaching it once more after decades of darkness.
If the crypt holds any further secrets, it does not give them up. Valik does notice that some of the other villagers seem to be wearing the cracked and crumbling remains of leather armor. The fact that the suit worn by the man he saw in his vision has not decayed may be a sign that it is more than simply well-made.
When he returns to the surface, he finds the four other mercenaries taking a break in the shade of the alcoves, eating their rations. The southern gap in the monastery wall has been shored up as well as can be expected without mortar, and they have built a low stone-and-wood fence to enclose the angle formed between the nave and the west part of the transept.
You have the rest of the afternoon, about 6 hours, to do whatever you want. If you have nothing in particular, we can just skip ahead.
After their morning of hard work, the mercenaries all enjoy an afternoon relaxing and dozing in the shade. About an hour after sunset, as twilight is deepening into night, Dashki leads the caravan down from the highlands to the monastery. The necessity of finishing the trek under cover of darkness, without lights, makes unpacking a difficult proposition, and Garavel and Almah order that only what is absolutely necessary be unpacked before morning. Thanks to the work of the mercenaries, there is a pen for the animals, and most of the party sleep in tents in the nave, where there is at least some moonlight to aid their efforts. Dinner is trail rations of dried meat and fruit. Most of the party retire early, but Valik and the other mercenaries, still fresh after their afternoon of rest, are ordered to keep a watch posted through the night.
You wake from this dream just as you did the night before...
The whole camp is awakened around midnight by the same eerie howl from the direction of Pale Mountain, and the answering call from Kelmarane.
In the morning, Almah and Garavel ask for a tour of the monastery, accompanied by Valik, Dashki, Father Zastoran, and a pair of the princess's guards. They do not seem entirely happy with its state, but wait until the tour is complete before they voice any opinions.
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
Garavel nods respectfully. "Indeed, Ameera, the fact that the structure is in such disrepair may work to our advantage. It makes it less likely that the local gnolls will visit, or that they would expect it to be used as a base of operations agaisnt them. Surprise is, after all, our only advantage."
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
Garavel nods obediently and gives a small, practiced bow, "Of course, Your Highness, it is as you say." Dashki rolls his eyes. "But though the gnolls are savages, they do have some organization, perhaps more than is usual for their kind, and their numbers are greater than ours. We cannot be too careful."
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
Almah sighs again and nods reluctantly. "Of course, of course, you are right as always, Garavel." She gives a wan smile, then stands up straighter. "Well, to business. The Pactmasters have given us our task, and by the grace of Abadar," she pauses, glancing at the worn statue of Sarenrae, and then at Valik before adding hastily, "And of Sarenrae, perhaps, we shall take that which is given us and succeed. At least it is more secure than the Sultan's Claw." She turns to Dashki. "Dashki, you know the highlands. What do you make of the eggs in the courtyard?"
Dashki smiles his crooked, sneering smile. "Nest like that, eggs that big, nothing it could be but a geier. A giant vulture, like, the size of a horse. I reckon the mama bird'll be back in the next few days. If the nest is disturbed, she'll be angry." He gives an awkward bow, whether in mockery or imitation of Garavel's is unclear.
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
Almah's face grows calculating. "Indeed... If they can be returned before hatching, or if the hatchlings could be kept alive through the journey. Yes, we should attempt to protect the eggs. Perhaps move them away from the nest, so they are not harmed in fighting the mother. See to it." She dusts off her desert robes and looks around the rooms of the hallway. "Now we must choose how to arrange ourselves. None of the rooms are truly in good condition, but I believe with some work they can be made livable. The library has a sound roof, and no windows to give away a light at night, so I will take it as my own quarters. Garavel will stay with me as always. We will have to clear out all the old books and scrub it thoroughly, of course. With a good carpet and some wall hangings..."
One of the guards gives a bow and breaks in, "If I may, Ameera, it is our duty to protect you. We shall sleep in this next room, the one with the dead monkeys." Dashki raises an eyebrow. The guard gives no sign of noticing, but after a moment says stoically, "We shall, of course, remove the monkeys, Your Highness," and gives another precise bow. Dashki snorts in barely contained mirth.
|ML: Father Zastoran|
Father Zastoran, silent until now, speaks, "If I may, Ameera, I would like to take charge of the laboratory downstairs. It seems really quite a fascinating facility, especially for a church of Sarenrae. One of the monks must have been quite a student of the alchemical arts. I'm sure I can clear away the mold with a good scrubbing and some chemicals I can whip up, and it would be a fine place for me to prepare my infusions and tend to those who are still wounded."
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
Almah waves her hand in a magnanimous yet dismissive gesture to both the guard and Father Zastoran. "Yes, yes, of course, that is all fine. Do as you will. But, we must not forget our true purpose, which is not to set up housekeeping in a ruin, but to secure Kelmarane from the gnolls. Dashki, have you learned anything from your observations?"
Dashki narrows his eyes at Garavel for a moment, then shrugs. "Fine, the battle market, whatever. They live there. Don't seem to send patrols outside the town much, but I did see patrols durin' the day. Four gnolls, makin' the rounds through the streets. Armed with swords and bows. One time I saw... somethin' else with 'em. Walked funny, carried some sort of big halberd or somethin'. Big guy, hairy. Couldn't really tell what it was from this far away. No real pattern to the patrols that I could see, but there was one every couple hours. Three times I saw six of 'em carryin' a bunch of meat down to a buildin' at the base of the road up the hill. They tossed the meat in and high-tailed it away. Something big and nasty in there, I bet. Hungry too, eats that much meat in a day. Around noon, four of 'em came down the hill with a goat, took it to a buildin' by the river. Old mill or somethin'. Came out without the goat. Reckon they're feedin' something in there, too."
Garavel strokes his neat beard thoughtfully. "Interesting news, indeed. It seems the gnolls keep mostly to the upper city, on the hill, and leave the lower town uninhabited, except perhaps for a few beasts. If I may make a humble suggestion, Ameera, it would be worth your while to send the mercenaries scouting in the lower town, to eliminate some of the gnolls by ambushing patrols. They may also be able to do away with the guard beasts, and find suitable locations from which to mount a forward offensive. In any case, it is of the utmost importance that they not be seen traveling to and from the monastery. We do not want to give away our position to the gnolls."
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
Valik stands quietly for a moment, thinking. He turns back to them. "I hate to say this, but my countrymen have the best response to a situation like this is probably to work like raiders. Strike fast and hard, cause as much confusion and destruction as possible, then get away. We have to have a decent fall-back other than the abbey to make it work though. Is there anything like that Dashki?"
Dashki scowls. "Yeah, yeah, it's still there. The gnolls think it's haunted too."
The others are beginning to look skeptical. Dashki notices, looking around nervously. "What? Gnolls are superstitious. They think this monastery is haunted too."
"Which of them do you think is the most defensible Dashki? Or which is the best one for us to use to sneak in and out of?"
Valik scratches at his beard.
"We might be using each of those. Start with the guard post. We hit the gnolls, then return there. The next time we come in from the waterfall. Then the last time we go in by the shrine."
Dashki scowls at Valik, his eyes hard. "I... no. I don't know." His eyes dart shiftily from Valik, To Garavel, to Zastoran, and back to Valik. "I don't know what you mean. It's abandoned, like everything else. I don't go there. I mean, I haven't been there. Or the shrine, or the waterfall."[b] He thinks for a moment, avoiding meeting anyone's eyes. [b]"To get to the guard post, you have to cross the pesh fields. It's wide open, and the moon is full. Too easy to be spotted from Kelmarane, even at night."
Garavel looks hard at Dashki, and pulls out his map. "That would be the most direct route, but it would also be possible to travel through the highlands to the west, would it not? I must admit, the guard post sounds more defensible than the shrine, and certainly more than the waterfall. It does also have the advantage of being on this side of the Pale River. There is a bridge at Kelmarane, I believe, and one further to the east, on the trade road. Crossing between would be... difficult, especially for an armed force."
Dashki nods reluctantly. "Nearest place to cross the river east of Kelmarane is Hook Ford. That's a full day's walk. Probably more with one of those jingly iron sweaters on." He gestures contemptuously at Valik's armored coat. "Travel through the mountains is dangerous, too." He shrugs. "Makes this seem like a pretty nice spot, don't it?"
|ML: Father Zastoran|
There is a moment of silence, then Father Zastoran speaks up hesitatingly. "Ameera, I am not a warrior, and I don't know about all this talk of tactics and battle. I do believe I have heard of this shrine, though. If I'm not mistaken, it is very old, much older than Kelmarane or this monastery, and dedicated to Nethys. I'm sure there's not much standing anymore, but I would be very interested to learn more about it."
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
Almah smiles at the old man. "I'm sure there will be time for that, Father... After we have defeated the gnolls and won Kelmarane. For now, we must remain focused on that goal. If the shrine can be of use to us as a shelter against our enemies, that is one thing, but we shouldn't get caught up with sightseeing."
"I am concerned about whether any of these other shelters are safe. The gnolls may be ignorant and superstitious, but this monastery, for one, truly was overrun, if not by ghosts, then by pugwampis at least. Perhaps there are dangerous inhabitants at the other locations as well. We have secured one safe shelter, and now I would rather concentrate our resources on Kelmarane." Her words are decisive, but her manner gives away the fact that she, like Zastoran, is no military strategist, and she knows it. She sighs.
"Valik, you did well leading the other mercenaries here at the monastery. I give you leave to proceed as you see fit against Kelmarane. You are in command of the other mercenaries. And take Dashki with you if you think he will be helpful."
"Thank you Ameera. I will do my best. Dashki's assistance would be welcome. He can be touchy, but the man knows his business like few others. I would be glad to have him." Valik claps Dashki on the back.
"What do you say Dashki, do you think that you can get us to the Guardpost in one piece? What kind of supplies do we need? Is there water at the post or along the route?"
Valik waits for Dashki's response, listening to his description.
"I think we should wait a bit before we leave though Ameera. I want to take care of those eggs, and the mother bird first, so we don't leave you with an unsolved problem ready to boil up." Valik turns to Father Zastoran.
"Father, do you have anything that would work to transport the eggs safely, like a crate we could line with hay or grass?
Dashki runs his fingers nervously through his greasy hair, glancing at the faces of his superiors. He licks his lips. "Yeah. Yeah, I can get you there. No water in the hills, but there is a well there. Uh, I think. Through the hills, it will take at least six hours. You'll want water skins, trail rations." He shrugs. "Weapons, I guess."
|ML: Father Zastoran|
Garavel shakes his head. "Hay is too bulky to transport over such distances. The drovers feed the livestock grain, along with what the beasts can forage from the local vegetation. You ought to be able to cut some padding from the brush in the courtyard."
"Regarding supplies, Valik, I do have stores of goods for use in establishing the town once we have driven out the gnolls. If there is anything you need, I am able to requisition it for you. However, as per your contract, you are responsible for your own supplies, and the Pactmasters require very thorough accounting. Therefore, I must charge fair market price for any supplies I provide you with. You understand, of course. Rations and water are excluded, of course, because they are explicitly provided for you in the contract."
Dashki's face brightens at the mention of resolving the geier situation before heading out to the guard post. "Mmm, that bird will be dangerous, alright. Probably want everyone around to help fight it off. Best wait here until then. Could be days before she comes back." He nods, looking somewhat relieved.
|ML: Almah Roveshki|
Almah looks askance at Dashki. "Very well." She clears her throat. "Valik, have your team prepare to leave to investigate the guard post, and then help clean up some rooms here. Keep your weapons near you, wherever you go. Utarchus, have the guards do the same. One mercenary or guard will watch Kelmarane from the balcony in the chapel, and two will remain posted in the courtyard at all times, to raise the alarm if and when this bird returns. As soon as the bird is dealt with, Dashki will lead Valik's team to the guard post. I don't want to waste more time than we have to." She looks around to see if there are any more comments.
When the Ameera is finished and moves off to direct the setup of the camp, Valik pulls Garavel aside.
"Three things: Can I borrow a shovel for an hour or so? And we discovered some significant loot, which I believe that the mercenaries and I would like to sell if you have the coin for it. Also, there are significant statues and religious works still unmarred on the walls. Can I ask you to ensure that they are not destroyed or damaged further while we stay here? I don't think that Sarenrae would be pleased if people start hacking off her arms."