Avanimorel's Temple Report
From DivNull RPG
On June 19, Chief of the Junre Temple in Garvin Rowtan informed me that Senior Scholar Evelyn of the Savant’s Hospital in Chendl uncovered a lost temple to Delleb near the town of Helvec. Having visited this location himself and finding it occupied by a hostile force, Scholar Rowtan directed me to clear out the temple and discover its condition.
What follows is an account of this assignment as well as thoughts and recommendation on the future disposition of the temple.
Realizing that defeating a well-armed group of hostiles single-handedly exceeded my abilities, I gathered a group with whom I have worked on such ventures before. Though I was unable to offer anything much in the way of payment, all of them readily volunteered.
A brief note on these individuals is in order, as without them success would not have been possible. In no particular order:
The human ranger Qaz, while quiet, always seems ready for action. He possesses a vaguely macabre (and somewhat violent) sense of humor that I find strangely endearing. Though he often curses his luck with it, his sword has saved my life on numerous occasions.
Kelevandros’ skill with the bow impresses me already and the elf shows every sign of getting even better. Even more quiet than Qaz, Kel tends to be more level headed and cautious, a trait that has proved a good balance to the rest of the group. Additionally, his eye misses very little.
Hugan Stoneblade, a dwarven warrior-priest presents an interesting contradiction, skilled in both violence and healing. His gruff exterior conceals someone more thoughtful than might be expected. He is also a wine lover, which I can’t help but admire.
The halfling Frith Hugglebottom is, quite simply, a thief. He is, however, an extremely well mannered thief, and seems more motivated by excitement than greed. He is also quite adept at throwing daggers, though a few have drifted slightly closer to my head than might have been, strictly speaking, necessary.
As a priest of Heironeous, the human Bryan Finora loves charging into battle even more than Qaz. Motivated entirely by the glory of battle, he provides a welcome vivaciousness to our group. I am quite glad he is on our side.
Together, we possess a good mix of skills and I am pleased they put their lives on the line for Delleb.
Knowing the hostiles in the temple had bows, crossing the stretch of open ground between the temple and the treeline quickly dominated our planning. After some reconnaissance, we settled upon a bidirectional attack, with most of the group sneaking to the cover of some bushes behind the temple under darkness of night. At first light, Hurgan began a slow approach from the side. Bryan, being the only one of us with a warhorse, loudly charged the front of the temple. The rest of us attacked the rear once Bryan was engaged.
The hostiles turned out to be a band of sixteen orcs, their leader, their guard dog and a witch doctor. Though the battle was hard, particularly on Bryan, we managed to dispatch them in fairly short order. We left one alive for questioning, but this proved fruitless as we frightened her and the magical means we employed to communicate frightened her even more. Ultimately, we disarmed her and let her go.
I wonder about the presence of orcs so close to Helvic. All of the orcs wore armor and carried weapons, even the women, so this was not a wandering tribe but a war party. I fear they may have been an advanced scouting party. On the other hand, they seemed to have made themselves at home in the temple, and I would think a scouting party would be more mobile.
In any case, after creating a pyre for the orcs, we explored the rest of the grounds of the temple. In addition to the main temple building, this included a detached hospital building, a barracks and stables. Some strange denizens, including a few species new to me, inhabited these places.
One of these was what appeared to be a gold coin. When approached, however, the coin would roll of its own will, grew fangs and became quite cross. Defeating this beast required more effort than one might think. Unfortunately, it was not left in a state suitable for preservation and study.
Another was a bird species that trailed webbing behind them as they flew. While not physically imposing, they could very easily entangle people. Those who were entangled were fed upon and had eggs lain inside their necks. As with most webbing, fire proved an effective weapon against the webs of these creatures, though they tried to move away from it when they could. As such, none of the dozen specimens remains for study.
Some species were familiar, however, including the flock of sixteen stirges. Each time one of these creatures stings me, I’ve been keeping the stinger. I’m amassing quite a collection. Also familiar was a wall covered with amber lotus flowers, though growing among them was a creature that appeared very much like a tree stump with long animated tentacles.
All of these creatures were dispatched.
Following a blocked off stairwell downwards uncovered catacombs beneath the temple similarly populated with wildlife. Much of this were giant variants of fairly common species, such as frogs (two), centipedes (sixteen), spiders (six) and a weasel, all of whom had taken up some portion of the catacombs as their lair. Slightly less common were four fire beetles, who also claimed a room of the catacombs as their own. None of these animals reacted kindly to our presence, nor us to theirs.
While the ground level of the temple attracted some unusual fauna, it was quite pedestrian compared to some of the entities encountered underground. The first of these were a pair malevolent spherical creatures, each with two tentacles tipped with poisonous stingers. The poison affected one of our member and either Qaz is quite hardy or the poison somewhat mild (or perhaps a bit of both), as Qaz managed to shake off its effects within a few hours. I managed to salvage one of the stingers, though a number of days passed before it could be properly preserved.
More exotic was a room full of living webbing, which seemed charged with lightning. The entire web moved as a single creature and could cast sparks at its prey (our party, in particular). When a large section was severed, it seemed to detonate with a kind of electrical death throw. Given enough damage, however, the life (if life it was) seemed to leave it, and I have some of it within a jar in my possession.
Another room housed some kind of force, with at least a rudimentary mind behind it, which must have gathered every scrap of leather from within the catacombs together into a loose form that it used as a body. Initially found at rest, it soon turned into a whorl of gloves, belts and leather scraps, intent on doing us harm. It did possess some solidity, as arrows and swords hurt it.
One of the more insidious beasts we encountered appears as nothing so much as a small patch of human skin. It floated down onto the back of Bryan’s neck, an action fortunately spotted by Frith. I managed to extract it before any ill befell Bryan, so its exact capabilities remain unknown. Naturally, I saved the specimen for further study.
Of all we encountered, what gave us the most trouble was no beast at all, but a magic spell that grew six tentacles from the walls of the chief surgeon’s quarters. While giving us a sound thrashing, these tentacles left the items in the room unharmed, indicating that this spell was most likely cast as a defense measure by the chief surgeon while he was alive. If this is the case, he must have been a fairly competent spell weaver.
Though many strange creatures thrived in the catacombs, none that I have detailed gave the impression of any real intelligence. We did meet one entity down there, however, that did.
While Tralisa’s beauty no doubt shined while she was alive and leading the guard of the temple, as a ghost she radiated a palpable aura of cold and dread. Gazing upon her was a fearful experience, one that I would not like to repeat. Ghosts, I’m led to understand, are extremely powerful creatures, so it is likely that Tralisa could have dispatched us all quite easily. Instead, she helped us.
Evidently a hired mercenary rather than a member of the church, Tralisa evidently took her contract to protect the temple extremely seriously, because she guarded the catacombs for over a hundred years after her death. All that time alone, however, weighed on her and she spoke to us of a willingness to move on. She requested that we find her earthly remains and give them a proper burial, so that she could move on in peace. In return, she offered us the key to a vault beneath the library and what it contained.
She also gave hints as to what happened to the temple originally. Evidently the entire temple was put to the sword by a surprise attack in the middle of night. Tralisa gave the impression that the attackers were bandits, and certainly stranger things have happened.
We discovered Tralisa’s bones scattered under the barracks building on the surface. I prefer not to think on how they got there. We dug a grave, and I arranged her skeleton as completely as possible within it. Performing the Service for the Dead, I also offered her thanks, in Delleb’s name, for her tireless service to the Scholar these long years. Her grave is now well marked.
On returning to the vault, we found Tralisa gone and the promised key waiting. Within the vault were a number of small gems, a few coins, several potions (diminution, extra-healing and 2 healing), a scroll (protecting against undead) and magical bracers. For the moment, I have appropriated the bracers. Following Tralisa’s suggestion, I made the judgment call to divide the rest up among the group I gathered to help me, as a reward for their death-defying efforts on Delleb’s behalf.
While the foundations are probably salvageable, the main structures of the surface buildings will mostly likely need to be ripped down and rebuilt. The structure of the catacombs seems quite sound, but the interior appointments are a total loss and will need replacing, including the library.
More importantly, only one consecrated space remains active, that of a small chapel underground. Interestingly, this space seems to have been enchanted to squelch all sounds made within it. The resulting effect is quite serene.
A more thorough search may uncover an occasional item of use in the rubble. The hospital, for example, had at least one glass fixture enchanted to glow continually. There may also be a few books in the library that escaped irreparable harm; I lacked the time to examine them all individually.
While the bodies of the orcs occupying the temple have been cremated, part of the clean up effort will involve removing the corpses of the creatures our scouting party dispatched.
Short Term Recommendations
First and foremost, the area on which the temple sits and the surrounding environs should be given the name “Tralisa’s Watch”, in honor of the non-clergy mercenary woman who gave not only her life to protect Delleb’s charges, but her afterlife as well. This would naturally make the temple’s proper name the Temple to Delleb at Tralisa’s Watch.
Second, the grave of Guard Captain Tralisa be used as the center point of a graveyard ancillary to the temple. Ideally, this area would be demarcated by a low stone wall.
Third, the marker upon Guard Captain Tralisa’s burial site be exchanged for a more permanent one, befitting her stature.
Fourth, news of this temple’s discovery be circulated as widely as possible, particularly in Helvic. Of critical importance here is telling Tralisa’s story. Many of the locals believed that the area of the temple was haunted, which, in fact, it was. It will be vital for the quick restoration of the temple that it be made clear the area is no longer so afflicted. Admitting that there was a ghost and explaining how she left should make the claim that the area is no longer haunted more believable.
It may also be possible to use the rumors of haunting to build awareness of the temple. After all, many find temples to be somewhat dry and stolid, but everyone loves a good ghost story.
Fifth, a call should go out in Helvic and elsewhere for donations of both money and labor for the restoration of the temple. Of the two, the latter will be more immediately useful, as quite a bit of muscle work will be needed just to clear out the existing rubble. Ideally, much of this labor will come from Helvic, as this would tend to build a link between the temple and the town as well as build a sense of community involving the temple with local people.
As far as monetary donations go, with limited staff in this area, it may be advisable to use local civilians as collection agents. I am aquatinted with a merchant in Helvic, for example, who might be convinced to act as a donation desk, in exchange for a small percentage. He strikes me as a man who could be trusted with such a task.
Sixth, the entire site needs to be cleaned up. This can be done by civilians for the most part, but a handful of junior librarians on temporary assignment here would be useful to scour the catacombs for anything useful, particularly the library. Thoughts of rebuilding the library must, unfortunately, wait until more pressing needs are attended.
There may be a few minor creatures left in the ruins. One group of giant rats in the stables, for example, seemed more interested in fleeing, but they may have returned since.
Any organic matter, such as the numerous corpses of the creatures we killed, should be removed, brought to the surface, searched and burned. This should be one of the first tasks completed. The crew who does this should be aware that they are handling the dead and take appropriate precautions against disease and so on.
As part of this cleanup, all refuse, bedding, supplies, etc.—everything inanimate and loose—should be brought to the surface and arranged outside. Part of this effort should be to look into the nooks and crannies of the site that our party did not have time to investigate. This would include draining pools, sifting through the collapsed ceiling of the hospital and so on. Once done, detect magic should be cast on the collection to make sure nothing was overlooked. Naturally, items should also be checked for salvageability, though these will be few and far between.
Seventh, buildings must be rebuilt. This should probably start with an eye toward getting the hospital operational first, for four reasons. The first is that having an active hospital nearby will be of the most immediate benefit to the widest range of people and will undoubtedly predispose citizens of Helvic towards the temple. The importance of goodwill of the local townspeople should not be underestimated in the rebuilding effort. Second, an active hospital implies an active staff with assignments unrelated to the rebuilding, making the location useful more quickly. Third, the dedication of the temple building should mark the end of the rebuilding effort, not the beginning. Lastly, once cleaned out, the catacombs will provide sheltered (though rough) living conditions for staff without need to build structures for them.
Long Term Recommendations
In many of the short term recommendations, a theme that will continue here may be evident: that of actively attracting attention to the temple. This is critical to the temple’s lasting survival due to its geography. Unlike most temples to Delleb, Tralisa’s Watch is not located in a city or town, but hours away from any real population center. As such, people will need a real reason to visit this temple, reasons that need to be invented and actively promoted by the temple’s clergy.
One way of doing this is to make the temple the world center for certain kinds of learning. While this temple will have a hospital, for example, there is only one Savant’s Hospital and this temple’s hospital will never be as grand. The temple could, however, be set up as the center for some other discipline. Some such ideas follow, in no particular order:
The temple has a stone room that has been converted into an excellent wine cellar. Knowing something about wine production myself, I’d like to make this wine cellar the most complete in the region as well as a center for the study of wine. I will write letters to local wine makers explaining this idea and asking for donations of a few bottles from each vintage. Any will be allowed to sample any wine, provided they donate one or more bottles of equivalent value. One of the main purposes of this will be to gain a certain amount of notoriety among the merchant class, such that they make a point to stop by the temple when passing through. As they are generally widely traveled, merchants are an excellent source of information. I can envision a time where a custom might develop of merchant’s donating a rare bottle of wine in exchange for a night’s stay at the temple.
Given the strange fauna inhabiting the catacombs, it would not be inappropriate to collect specimens of similar creatures, perhaps even creating a new building as a museum for them. This could make the temple central to other fields, such as taxidermy.
A schoolhouse should be setup, either as part of the temple or as an annex within Helvic. The principle goal of the schoolhouse should be to teach reading to anyone who wants to learn, as it is a skill in short supply in this region.
On the eve of one Freeday every few months, the temple grounds could act as a knowledge festival site of sorts, where people could set up demonstrations of various skills, such as blacksmithing, archery, thatching, cooking, dance, anything to show anyone who wanted to learn. There would, of course, be food, drink and conversation. Civilians would most likely treat this as a social outing, but a little learning snuck into a good day out never hurt anyone.
Each month, the best minds on a specific subject would be sent invitations to gather at the temple on a particular Godsday. After the Mass of Knowledge, in invitees would be free to discuss anything they liked with each other, with the only witnesses being themselves and two scribes to record all that is said (perhaps secretly, as people who know they are being recorded alter their behavior). Ideally, those invited would come from scattered origins, and would come for the chance of meeting (or, perhaps, arguing with) the other great minds of their field. The people invited need not be scholars. For example, perhaps one month the invitees are the most prominent ship captains. Another month might host musicians from around the land. Another might be the best woodsmen or sword smiths. Another might even host the most successful criminals. The field or social class would not matter. The point would be to get the best together and see what they do.
An entirely different tactic might be to use the temple’s remoteness as an advantage, setting it up as a research center well away from population centers. The temple would still be open to all, but a certain amount of security may be needed to make sure the research is unmolested. While this is tempting to contemplate, I believe this strategy would backfire. The people around here are a superstitious lot, and I expect grumbling would begin about secret goings on at the temple. Remember, most of them already think the site is haunted and any appearance of secrecy in the temple would fuel rumor-mongering.
Some minor events in Helvic suggest one additional intriguing possibility for the temple. Some of the merchants in the area suffer from a shortage of coinage. This is not to say they are lacking funds; they are as wealthy as ever. By “shortage of coinage” I mean simply that not enough physical coins are available to them to conduct large transactions. Some of this could be remedied if the temple were to also act as an impartial financial office, officiating deals, backing notes of credit, holding funds involved in a transaction until the buyer and the seller were satisfied, and so on. This would provide a valuable service to the merchants of the region, and its value as an information gathering tool for us cannot be underestimated. In time, it may be that such activity would attract financial scholars to the temple as well.
In any case, before any of this happens, a road to repair stretches ahead of us.