At last we had a session on January,24th.
Everything began with Connal and Ren, making their way back home. In Stepplefalls the met with Xandos and pay a visit to ogre. It turned out that it's quite able when it comes to mechanical devices: he repaired mill stones, patched roof and enforced first floor to support his weight. Despite an odd and unpleasant feeling in the air, or maybe due to this, Connal blessed whole structure and after a meal the set of to Appleshade.
By the way, near Hieronymus' Grove party met a speed courier but made no attempt to stop him. Returning home was pleasant. Everybody joked and laugh, but it was Xandos, who was extraordinary surprise. During his absence Czakri was asking about him. Chakri is one of most beautiful girls in the village. Her charm is enhanced by aura of mystery, as her family is surrounded with secrets. They rarely participate in Appleshade's affairs, mind their own business and generally keep to themselves. Chakri almost never showed interest in local boys, what made her dream of of almost every human male. Xandos decided to meet her at town's market next day. Flanked by Ren and Connal he confronted her an made an appointment for evening. To envy of all others he were given a kiss on cheek and left standing like statue.
This evening whole party sneaked to Chakri's parents mansion and waited in bushes for girl. She lead them to the attic, where, as it turned out, her grandfather lived. One of few Appleshade's traditions is to moved aged person to the attic, so family members can live normally and elder one is not abused or ashamed by it's condition. Charki's grandfather, and eldrly male named Kahn with thick mane of black and white hair and full beard, asked PC's for help. He said that in his time he was also adventurer but made few mistakes in life. Several years ago he fell victim of curse and now, standing upon death's threshold pleaded to save his soul. Curse became obvious when he showed his twisted hands. Although arms were normal, hands were twisted upside down, so palms are facing up. As Old Man from the Attic said: Priest were unable to help him, but he came up with an idea. Many years ago he took up an angel's feather and later offered it to Ilmater's Cloister of Healing Dove. With this holy item and sincere prayer, he could be healed. So he asked PC's to return relic.
Xandos, Ren and Connal were deeply moved by his story and agreed. Chakri hired them as a caravan's guards and even followed them to summer festival on market, dancing, laughing and drinking applejuice with heroes. Later she allowed Xandos to take her home.
Next day party set off with a caravan. Body guarding job turned out to be boring and uneventful, at least for the first day. On the second, during way upward hill's slope, one of wagon's wheel broke. With Connal's help it was mended back together and caravan moved along. During third day they met an unit of soldiers under banners of local prince, heading toward Appleshade. By the evening, party arrived at Torak, a sad, depressing place, full of crumbling buildings, apathetic people and lousy neighbourhoods.
After spending night in tavern, brave trio head out to Cloister and Lakhel, a small town below it. Journey was boring, uneventful, if not counting Xandos flu. After arriving at Lakhel, party acquired rooms at local inn. PC learned that Cloister was burned few years ago, after mysterious and infamous happenings. When last patrons departed, bartender approached them, revealing he is priest of Helm, charged with duty of guarding Cloister's ruins. He told them story of monastery downfall: few years ago a wizardress, Arian Clearwater, became pregnant and left her new born child to Ilmater's priest. She could not afford rising it and wanted clerics to take care of it. They sent child to an orphanage in Cloister of Healing Dove. Few years later Arian returned and asked to take her child back. She was sent to Cloister, where she learned, her baby is dead. Although saddened and in grief, she learned that contrary to information she previously acquired, there were no children in orphanage. Suspicious, she began investigating case and soon discovered, children were sacrificed to Loviatar, whose cult was growing inside Cloister. She informed high priests of Ilmater and Helm about it and soon an expedition force was sent to purge, purify and cleanse.
Heroes boldly stated, the want to go and investigate site, so bartender asked them, if they can bring back his inn sign, a metal crafted sign made of monastery's bell heart. Next day band set off and travelled through darkened and hostile wood. Morale was low and everybody was in bad mood. By the evening, heroes saw a fire on the top of high hill. The also got a glimpse of ruined building. After sneaking up, Connal and Ren saw a giant, sitting by the campfire, murmuring to himself and obviously hurt. Connal tried to talk to beast but giant got up on his feat and charged, swinging club. Fight was short and fortunately no blood was spilled. After a healing touch and a miracle on behalf of Moradin, giant fall asleep. Given healing herbs to drink, he slept all night peacefully. on the morning he wandered off, following sign, laid with stones by heroes.
With first rays of the sun, PC's moved to Cloister. There they found tracks and signs of one-sided, brutal fight. Obviously monastery inhabitants and guards were caught with surprise, butchered and slain. Only handful of them offered resistance, testimony of which was bell, thrown at attackers from the tower. Extensive search revealed hidden staircase under floor of room, that was defender's last stand. Descending into labyrinth, heroes found pile of rotten books, desks and other items, hastily thrown into the cellar.
It turned out, that cellar the found was an extensive work, an small dungeon of itself. After little wandering, fight with skeletal remains of guards and Xandos's falling into spiked pits trap, heroes got to illusion-hidden final chamber. There, the found arch-priestess (former mother superior) who was finishing dark arcane ritual. Above bed of torture, trapped in bulb of force was an elder man levitating. She proved to be no match for fighting strength and was defeated. With her dying scream also sphere exploded, shattering it's quicksilver-like ball on many pieces.