Macendamandel 22 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 2

The ratman (not a literal man-rat a guy who hunts rats) refused to have anything further to do with the convent, but since my new friend the priest of the travel-god has no idea how to travel anywhere  he agreed to at least show us the way to the place.  He kept up a steady stream of recriminations about the rat-catchers guild and their leadership interspersed with sleazy comments about Lashmi and me (mostly me) but as we got closer to a copse of trees he fell silent.  Why are there trees still here when all the other ones have been cut down?  Ambience probably – loggers are well known from their sense of dramatic tension. 

There was a heavy fog clinging to the trees (nature likes a dramatic spectacle too) which were splashed with orange and yellow leaves several months out of season.  We came up on what looked like a monolith from olden times – great grey walls that you might expect to see at a fortress not a religious institution.  Maybe it used to be a fortress back when there were Kostelos to fight and was converted to nunnerism once they were all dead or scared off. 

I gestured annoyedly “You see, this is what I’m talking about, how the Hells did this get built way out here away from everything?  Who drug all this tone all this way?  And why?”

Lashmi glanced up at the walls “Well there used to be people here, we passed many old abandoned villages.  And, the river is called the Pipestone because there’s available stone all over the place that’s easy to quarry right?”

“Oh . . . I knew that I guess.”

The ratman bid us farewell and scuttled off before I could ask him exactly what he had encountered here that spooked him, a professional rat killer, so seriously.  Some more details about what happened would have been nice.  Going around the walls we found a short stone bridge over a tributary (contributory?) of the Pipestone.  Across the bridge was a massive wooden door, more of a gate really, with one of those little slit-things with a sliding window.  I pounded on the immense wood for a while before the window sild open to reveal the beady eyes of an old nun.

“I’m sorry, we’re not taking on initiates at the moment.”

“What?  Oh, you mean . . . me?  A nun?”

A had a good long laugh at that, which the eyeballs clearly didn’t like.  Lashmi took over and said that we were there to help with the rat problem while I was still chortling over the idea of me in nun school.  The mighty gate swung open and I laughed some more at the idea of a bunch of grunting nuns straining to move that massive hunk of wood, but inside there was no one else.  I guess the door operates on faith alone.  The gatekeeper shuffled off without another word and there was no one else in sight.  Lashmi and I looked at each other and started to wander into the seemingly uninhabited complex when we were chased down by a slightly younger but much more spry priestess.  She grabbed me by the shoulder, slightly out of breath.

“Come, the infirmary is this way.”

I frowned “Why would we want to go to the infirmary?  Neither of us is infirm.” I looked over at Lashmi “Are we?”

She frowned back, confused “That’s where Sister Agata is.”

“Who’s Sister Agata?”

“I thought you were . . .” she suddenly seemed suspicious “Who are you?”

“We were just passing by and we ran into the rat-catcher guy that you guys hired.”

Lashmi piped up “Otis.”

“Yeah, that guy, oddball in a disgusting big rat-fur cloak.  He told us that he was running away like a cowardly failure so we thought we’d come take a look and see if we could help.  Lashmi here is priestess too so you should get algone well, although she worships Strider instead of . . .” I looked around “What God is this place dedicated to?  Doesn’t look like any temple I’ve ever been to, it looks like a prison.”

“This isn’t a temple, it’s a postulary.”

“What’s that?”

“A facility of a religious order dedicated to self-sufficiency and service to the community.”

“What community?  There’s no one else out here.”

“All communities, once their training is completed here our members go all across the kingdom to serve in churches, dormitories, libraries, balnearies, and hospitals.”

“And which God is this facility dedicated too again?”

“We are in the service of all the Gods of good.”

“Which ones are the good ones?” She looked at Lashmi who make an apologetic half-shrug “Maybe you should just tell us what’s going on, the rat-man didn’t have much to say other than that he failed horribly and was running away like a dirty craven coward.  Why would we want to see Sister Agata?”

She stared at me for a moment before speaking “Several weeks ago some sisters complained of hearing whispering in the night and being tormented by violent dreams in their sleep.”

“I can relate to that, I’ve had dream people attacking me for months.”

“At first I didn’t think much of it this, bad dreams and whispers are nothing to be concerned with – just an overactive imagination – but then Sister Agata fell ill, and soon afterwards the rats came.  Huge and vile rats that have driven us out of the abbey.”

“So there is an abbey, the rat-guy and I were debating that.”

“They act as if controlled by a single mind, I believe that Herla, called King Herla by the debased and the wicked, is here in spirit controlling these dire vermin to vex us.”

“Who’s that?  And what is he king of?”

Lashmi seemed concerned “Herla is the conqueror of the invincible city, the devil-price of Alphas, it is said that Herla is a master of disguise who seeks to trick his victims by using a dozen voices and a hundred different faces.”

“That doesn’t sound that impressive for a devil lord, as far as I know the number of voices and faces I can use has no limit.” I took on the form and mimicked the voice of the priestess superior “See?”

Lashmi elbowed me “Stop that, you’re going to get us burned at the stake!”

I returned to my normal form “I was just making a point.”

The old nun was revolted “Who are you?!”

I waved casually “Don’t worry about me, I’m here to help.  What makes you think this Herla person would care about one little abbey like this?  Seems like a demon lord would have better things to do than personally send rats to attack you guys.  And better minions than rats.”

Lashmi corrected me “Devil prince not demon lord.”

“What the fuck’s the difference?” The old priestess gasped “Good Gods woman, calm down, your people are being devoured by rats and you’re clutching you pearls over some profanity?  Priorities okay?”

Lashmi frowned “She’s not wearing pearls.”

“It’s an expression.”

The old priestess shook her head “No one has been eaten by the rats.”

I made an exasperated noise “I didn’t mean literally, I was just . . .” I took a breath to calm down “Look, we’re getting nowhere slowly, just tell me why you think this devil-guy is all up your ass.”

“Five thousand years ago Grotrad sought the help of an oracle of Bleftrianze and was given the thousand swords of the dust-lord Agramemnon. When Grotrad and his men arrived outside the city as instructed wielding the swords all the warriors the Agramemnon had turned into dust with his vile breath sprang up into battle as undead beings. For ninety years . . .”

“Fuck me, forget I asked, let’s just go this see sick nun.”

“But the Society of Mask and Cloak, of Blade and Boot, dedicated itself to the service of Herla with debauched rites and forbidden magic and . . .”

I sighed “Can we just go look at this broad?”

Scowling the priestess led us to a wide shallow room lined with beds. They were all empty save one, where a young woman lay, pale skinned and heavy with sweat despite the chill in the air.  Her chest was heaving like she was having a panic attack.  Possibly because her hands and feet were secured to the bedframe with knotted sheets.

The priestess touched her wet forehead tenderly “She wouldn’t stop failing, even when we called up our divine magic to calm her.  We had to restrain her to prevent her from hurting herself.”

“Well this is pretty messed up.  Clearly she’s possessed, what do you expect us to do?  You’re the ones who should be able to cast out demons right?”

Lashmi was kneeling by the side of the bed “Devils.”

“What’s the difference?!”

Lashmi gestured “Look at all these bites on her neck.  I don’t think these are rat bites, and even if they are why would they only bite her on the neck?”

The girl spoke, which for some reason startled the Hells out of me “I was sleeping and in my dreams I was being watched by horrible red eyes.  I was stripped naked before them and ran, but they were everywhere, I couldn’t get away.  When I woke up I was on the floor of the abbey and there was blood running from my neck.”

“Huh.  Isn’t controlling rats something vampires are supposed to be able to do?”

Lashmi look up at me “How would I know that?”

I looked over the priestess superior and she crossed her arms “There’s no such thing as vampires, that’s a heretical peasant superstition.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?  You think a devil price is after you but vampires are too incredible to believe in?”

Lashmi stood up “If there’s a vampire here shouldn’t we leave as soon as possible?”

“Don’t sweat it, I’ve killed several vampires, they’re push-overs really.  One of them we had to dig out of the grave out by the Scar.  There was this talisman of Korrok that . . .” They both gasped as the mention of the name “Oh by Gods don’t tell me you buy into that He Who Shall Not Be Named bullshit.”  They both started frantically making various religious signs to ward off evil “Yeah, vampires are superstition but you two are the very soul of modernity.”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 6922 gold

XP: 1,196,951

Inventory: Bag of Holding, +2 Distance Light Crossbow, traveling outfit, Ring of Invisibility, potion case, potions (Cure Light Wounds x3, Enlarge Person, Protection from Evil, Cure Moderate Wounds x2, Oil of Fire Trap, Rage)

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company, maker of the manacles, Calvados Eure, Law Offices of Lampblack and Brimstone, Peronell Missplitter, Nightmare Hag

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