While the others labored, it became known that Tamael possessed talent as a healer. The monks of the Sacred Stone were not interested in enhancing their endurance through healing. They were, however, greatly interested in recovering from their trials more quickly, and being able to push themselves – and their initiates – farther. Due to this, they excused the priest from the arduous trials awaiting his compatriots, making him instead, tend to the increasingly hideous wounds of the fanatical monks.
After days of separation, Tamael was finally given a few moments of peace. He chose to take this time to seek out his friends. He hadn’t seen them around the kitchens, and seeing how the monks enjoyed tormenting themselves, he decided to check the dojo, next. He was glad he did.
When Tamael opened the heavy door to the dojo, he was greeted with a gruesome scene. The twisted body of a monk lay face down in a pool of blood in the center of the straw mats. The bodies of four other Sacred Stone monks lay scattered around the room. Amongst (and in same cases, under) them were some of his friends – the very heroes he was supposed to protect!
Tamael went to work quickly, seeing first to those most wounded. As soon as they were able, before uttering another word, they took what they could, and snuck out the dojo’s other door. As luck would have it, this joined a hallway near a side entrance, and they snuck out into the open air.
Quaf quickly spotted an alcove behind an enormous, natural stone pillar. Sheltered behind this barrier, they rested briefly, recovering from the worst of their wounds while Quaf kept watch from above. They were now decidedly in enemy territory, and without their equipment. And they had yet to locate the captive slaves.
Exhausted and battered, but not beaten, the band of emerging heroes cautiously – yet bravely – reentered the monastery.
Searching for their equipment first, they poked their heads into a distillery, leaving before the monks working there could see them (but not before Quaf pilfered one of the bottles of brandy). Aside from a magically locked door that they could not open, there was only one other room, which formerly belonged to the late abbess. The room was bare, with the exception of a plain desk, simple table and chairs, a sleeping pallet, and a few macrame wall hangings. In a utilitarian chest, they found a few valuables (800sp, 12pp, 12 turquoise stones = 10gp each), and a key on a hook by the door. They added the key to the one they removed from around the abbess’ neck and pocketed the coin and gems.
Without returning to the more populated half of the monastery, their only choice was a set of stairs descending below. There was a door at the base of the stairs, behind which they could hear low, guttural voices. Peaking inside, they could see an ogre and three orogs, sitting around and conversing in their own language. The group burst through the doors, taking the creatures by surprise and quickly dropping the large, flabby ogre.
“Haha, Drool, you pussy!” one of the orogs shouted as the ogre fell, even as he lept to avenge the incompetent guard. The orogs put up a fight, but were ultimately defeated by the weary adventurers. It appeared one of guards had been secretly stashing valuables from their captives under a loose flagstone beneath his bedroll (90gp, 40ep). One of them also had a pair of keys.
Hunger gnawed at their bellies and exhaustion clouded their minds as they wandered the caverns and passageways, searching for signs of life. Just when they thought they were completely lost, the reentered the guard room from the other side – ending where they began. Exasperated, but oriented, they continued their methodical (and monotonous) search.
They soon found themselves in a barrel-vaulted chamber that was obviously a crypt, but it seemed as if it had not been used in centuries. Niches along the walls held dozens of old skeletons, some with scraps of burial cloth still clinging to their bones. At the east end of the crypt stood a magnificent stone sarcophagus. As they fanned out to search the room, bones stirred and bodies rose to defend their ancient resting place. The adventurers were set upon by no less than a half dozen rotting zombies. Already weary, their limits were tested as the bodies continued to rise, despite taking lethal amounts of damage. Eventually, they managed to destroy the animated corpses and continue their search of the room.
One of the skeletons wore two rings (silver w/ rubies = 600gp, ring of fire resistance), but otherwise, there was no treasure. The elaborate sarcophagus was empty, though inscribed with the text: “Here Lies Samular Caradoon. Defender of the North.” Adding to their frustration was another magically locked door that proved to be an impassable barrier.
After a bit, less directionally challenged exploration of what was clearly a mine of some sort (though what they were mining, it wasn’t clear), they came to three rooms that had been excavated from the rock and sealed with barred doors. Using the keys they had obtained earlier, the party released seventeen captives, and were promptly showered with heartfelt thanks, and stories of how hooded strangers had abducted them from town.
One of the captives, a dwarf with an academic air about him named Bruldenthar, mentioned that he had travelled with the Mirabar delegation. He confirmed that they were ambushed, and by earth cultists. The cultists used his books as payment to pirates who ferried the group across the Dessarin river. Along the way, they were attacked by bandits flying on giant vultures, who had captured the delegate Deseyna Norvael. He also told them that there was nothing valuable in the mine, and that some of his companions, Rhundorth and Teresiel, were taken below and had not returned.
As they set out to lead the slaves to safety, a group of duergar intercepted them. Gora charmed one, using him to dismiss the others and act as an escort through the monastery. Luckily, the rest of the way was clear, and they led the slaves out the side door they had used earlier, giving them directions and promising to catch up quickly.
Sneaking down the dormitory halls, they tried the door next to the one they had bunked in while enduring their hazing period. It was locked, and none of the keys opened it. Gora convinced the duergar to stand guard while they broke in. As quietly as they could, they broke the lock and filed into the room.
Quickly, they searched, and soon found their equipment – but time was running out. They could hear the monks gathering outside, and beginning to demand entry. Kicking open a locked chest, they found some more coin (120gp, 90ep), some fine, cloth-of-gold priestly vestments (40gp), 2 gold bracelets (30gp each), and three scrolls (earthbind, Maximilian’s earthen grasp, transmute rock).
There was a commotion outside, and they evaluated their options. Weary and wounded, they decided not to fight the at least dozen-or-so monks (and who knows what other creatures) on the other side of the door, and chose instead to squeeze through the narrow window. Tossing whatever they could as obstacles, they made their way one-by-one through the window, with Gurdis and Tamael needing some extra shoving to get through.
They tumbled onto the hard, dry earth and immediately began running (except for Quaf, who flew). The sounds of shouted orders drifted after them as they raced through the narrow ravine, trying to put as much distance between them and the monastery in as little time as possible, and rapidly catching up to the group of seventeen former-slaves, shambling their way to freedom.