“You now stand in the dimness of the convent’s large entry hall. It’s high, vaulted ceiling is supported by four cracked and splintered pillars and to either side the walls are hung with a multitude of large tapestries, faded and falling apart with age and exposure to the elements. It is obvious that, at one time, they would have been magnificent to behold. Also, between the tattered remnants of the tapestries, you see that there once stood statues. They now lie broken, their pieces scattered among the snow shrouded flagstones. At the far end, double doors, slightly ajar, lead further into the structure.”
The party investigates the room, searching for clues. The statues appear to have been deliberately smashed and defiled. Further examination reveals the first of many horrors to be found within the walls of the convent.
“Beneath the rubble and ice you see what seems to be the remnants of two skeletons. They are both covered in the tatters of ruined, though obviously fine, fabric. Around their necks are simple pendants in the shape of weaver’s spindles with three small threads hanging loose from the coil.”
The bones of the skeletons have nicked and gouged by what were certainly thin, razor sharp blades. Their pendants are most likely holy symbols of Istus and they are gingerly removed from the skeletons’ necks and placed into pouches. Approaching the doors at the far end of the hall proves ominous.
“A chill, even greater than the biting wind that howls through entrance, seems to fill the chamber as you notice low, echoing whispers from the halls beyond the doorway.”
Our heroes steel themselves and press on. They enter a dark, branching corridor and leads in multiple directions. The see no source of the whispering. They choose a direction and come upon a badly scorched door with iron banding warped by an intense heat. They smash through to the other side and find themselves in what appears to be a library.
“Though many decades have obviously passed since this room was consumed by fire, the stench of smoke still hangs heavy in the air. You see that nearly every inch of wall space is occupied by tall book shelves. Most of them have collapsed and nearly all of the books and scrolls here were reduced to ashes but there seem to be small areas, here and there, spared by the flames. In the center of the library is a long, heavy table, scorched and blackened though still standing.”
A search among the blackened parchment and ashes turns up a blackened, though intact, lock box. Morn makes quick work of the lock and pulls out sheaves of records and logs along with some goodies.
The party moves on, exiting through the opposite door and into a new hall way.
“A long corridor, steeped in darkness, stretches in either direction. You step into the hall and suddenly, from the gloom, materialize four ethereal apparitions. They seem to radiate an eerie greenish-blue ghost-light though it does not drive back the shadows of their surroundings. One of the phantoms is a young woman clad in the plain vestments of an acolyte. She leads the other three down the corridor. They seem to be travelers, two men and a woman. They are loaded down with packs and bedrolls.
‘The three of you must be exhausted from your trip up the mountain side,’ says the acolyte shyly. ‘I hope your quarters are sufficient, we seldom see visitors at the convent.’
’We’ve been on the road for weeks sister,’ assures the eldest of the travelers, a hansom, sharp featured man in his middle years. ‘At this point a simple roof would make us feel like royalty. This is more than we deserve.’
‘Then please, make yourselves comfortable and rest. Mother Euthalia will speak to you in the morning.’ The acolyte gestures to two open doors and turns to leave. After a moment, she hesitates and turns back with an awkward smile. ’I’m sure Mother Euthalia will be willing to help you and your people. I have this feeling- that Istus has woven this moment into the fabric.’
‘As do I sister,’ says the man, with a short laugh and disarming smile. ’We’ve been looking for a place just like this.’
After the acolyte has stepped out of the corridor the three travelers give each other knowing looks and all walk into the same room.”
The party decides that the wisest decision is to move in the opposite direction of the apparitions and decide to head through the door to the south.
“Beyond the threshold is a large, open courtyard swept with snow. And over the low, crumbling, crenelations to the south and east is a sheer drop of perhaps a thousand feet or more. The first aspect of the area you notice is a shrine of smashed statues surrounding a tall, blackened obelisk. Next, built into the western wall, are a number of tall stained-glass windows, mostly intact. And finally, are the trees and shrubs that rise from the small islands of frozen soil in the center of the courtyard, their skeletal limbs reaching and rattling in the swift mountain winds. And from those branches are suspended a pair of locked iron cages. At the bottom of each creaking prison is a figure, huddled and shivering.”
Our heroes approach cautiously and quickly realize these prisoners are John and Zarah, half frozen to death in the exposed courtyard.
“As you approach, the surrounding vegetation of the forgotten garden begins to writhe and awaken. What you once though were just harmless masses of branches, roots, vines and twigs begin to undulate and advance toward you in a vague mockery of humanoid form and locomotion.”
A needle blight and a multitude of twig blights jump into action, tearing themselves from their flowerbeds, and move to slay the new intruders. The battle is pitched and violent. The twig blights are cut down easily enough but the incessant hail of needles sprayed by the needle blight proves a significant threat. Soon enough the horrid creature is destroyed. But from the mass of vines, roots and branches that form its torso erupts a trio of woodland creatures. A squirrel, weasel and platypus move to avenge there recently destroyed home, but these are no ordinary creatures. Their skin is a putrid grey-green and their fur falls out in clumps. Exposed bone can be seen through the rotting flesh and their eyes are dead and lifeless. The undead creatures prove resilient to attacks that would fell their living counterparts but are eventually dispatched. With the monsters destroyed Morn makes quick work of the rusted and frozen locks holding John and Zarah prisoner. They are pulled from their cages and moved indoors. The party finds what seems to be one of the convent’s guest rooms and bundle the two trembling figures in any blankets or sheets that are handy. John gives his thanks, through chattering teeth, for the rescue but seems only concerned for his children back in Ebonton. Zarah, however, grabs the nearest of our heroes and speaks of visions and portents that have assailed her since entering the confines of the haunted convent.
“‘As I lay in that cage, feeling the life drain from my body, I dreamed a waking dream. I saw an old woman, long dead. She sits at her loom, working the fabric, knowing her death is near. She has been in her chamber for more days than she can remember; with no food, no water. They cannot breach the entrance, her goddess will not let them. She works the ancient and secret techniques into the intricate webbing of the loom, one shining strand at a time, crafting her last and greatest creation. But, alas her vision fades and the darkness takes her. Her work sits incomplete and her tormented soul howls in impotent rage at the injustice.
She waits still, her anger and hatred seething. For decade upon decade she is forced to see that luminescent thread sit taut and unmoving on its magical spindle and think of what might have been. Ever it is the thread that my vision comes back to. What it can create, what it can undo is boundless. You must recover the spindle and its thread. It is the only way to stop what is to come.’”
The party promises to investigate further and leaves Grun behind to defend and care for John and Zarah.
Our heroes continue exploring the convent and return to the first branching hallway. They take a different path.
This long chamber seems to have been a dining hall at one point. Long tables and benches fill the space and a massive hearth, almost big enough to walk into, is against one wall. Candelabras are spaced along the tables and the dust of time and solitude covers every surface. The thing that strikes you the most about this room is also the thing that fills you with the most horror. Three large chandeliers are suspended from the high ceiling and from those chandeliers hang the remains of five skeletons. The frayed rope of nooses are hung about their necks and the tatters of their robes hang from their bones like death shrouds.
Besides the skeletons hung from the chandeliers there are four skeletons in this room. All are priestesses and acolytes. Some seem to have been hacked apart. One skeleton is nothing but remnants in a pile of black ashes. The party searches the dining hall and its adjoining rooms. Balasar enters through a door to the north and finds himself in a privy. He can hear the sounds of a heated argument emanating from one of the privy shafts. Taelin enters a kitchen strewn with bones and ash. The others are searching the main hall when something unexpected happens.
“Without warning the ash-choked hearth and the wick of every candle upon the tables and chandeliers spark to life with a dim green-blue flame and an unsettling eldritch light fills the hall. And then the din of hushed conversation, the clink of silverware and the sound of footsteps begins to fill the air. Finally, the source of the sounds materialize from the shadows. Translucent apparitions now fill the hall, sitting at the tables and walking about. They are all women, mostly clad in the simple robes of acolytes, some in the vestments of full clerics. A few of the novices nearby converse over their meal and you catch a bit of it.
‘I was just in the garden earlier and I saw the camp fires in the valley,’ says one half-elf woman over her meal to the two others across the table. ‘Do you think they could be a band of Orcs or Bugbears?’
The youngest of the acolytes looks skeptical. ‘I don’t think so. There would be more of them wouldn’t there?’
The third pushes at the boiled vegetables on her plate with a fork, worry on her face. ‘What if it is Orcs or Bugbears or… something even worse and they attacked the convent? They’d kill us all.’
A sharp featured matron suddenly appears behind her, looming. ‘Your only worries should be your studies and your projects in the weavers’ cloister. There is no place in this convent for a neophyte who spreads worry and fear. Besides, I have personally been to old Umara’s observatory. We managed to convince the old curmudgeon to tear her far-glass away from the sky and point it towards the valley. They are people, just like you and me. They are not armed for war. They have no siege weapons and our walls and faith are strong. So stop worrying and spreading rumors. And finish your meals- I’ll be back to check.’
‘Of course priestess,’ say the novices in unison. They smirk at each other as the priestess walks away with her back turned. And then, an ominous low rumbling begins to shake the room. Clouds of dust begin to fill the air and an unearthly rasping moan rises until you can feel it in your chest and in your bones. The double-doors to the south suddenly fly open and the moan becomes a roar. The raging wind that pours from the portal brings an inky shadow that seems to crawl and flow up and over every surface. The apparitions blow away like mist before a hurricane and the ethereal flames are extinguished as the dark touches them. Then a decidedly feminine voice calls. ‘Be gone interlopers. The living have no place here. Go or join… our… ranks.’ And as soon as the screaming gale arrived, it subsides. The doors from which they issued fly shut with a resounding slam and silence hangs heavy in the air.”
Our heroes stare at the door in shock, pondering their next move.