On 13 November, we played our second session in the Deniza. At the end of our previous session, we left our heroes Erdan, Zikan, Cipran, and Razvan shipwrecked on the shores of one of the Dragon Islands. They had fought off a band of qarim slavers and lost their ship in the process...
Read the campaign log of session 1 here.
Unfortunately, our friend who plays Erdan was not present today. We solved this by having Erdan just tag along, but not actually do anything. There was no dog, either :(
With the burning wreck of the Golden Maiden sinking beneath the waves behind them, the players and the three surviving crew members (including the chatty captain Jannovic) pull their rowboat ashore on the largest of the Dragon Islands. They take inventory, note their lack of food, and decide to rest for the night. Since it is deep in the night and everyone is tired, they resolve to explore the island tomorrow.
Unbeknownst to the shipwrecked men, there is a monastery on the far side of the island. This monastery—the Monastery of the Hook—is home to hermit monks who belong to the Order of the Sepulcher, which is charged with guarding the grave of Damas, also known as the Undead God. I've copied in a simple map of the island below.
One of the monks is Bogdan, our new player character, who has spent the greater part of his life in this once great monastery, which of late has dwindled in size. He is trained in hand-to-hand combat and has some skill with medicine and Infusion magic as well. (Infusion is a school of magic that governs the restoration and destruction of physical energy.)
Bogdan spots the glaring fire of the Golden Maiden as she goes down. He also sees a single rowboat with survivors making for shore. He decides to go down to the beach to see if he can offer assistance. He enlists the aid of the giant Vaasu, the only coarnu in the monastery and one of the younger and more adventurous monks.
While wary at first, Razvan, Erdan, Cipran, Zikan, and the sailors of the Golden Maidenultimately welcome Bogdan's aid and accept his invitation to come up to the monastery with him where they'll find warm beds and food.
Bogdan and Vaasu lead the others over a narrow path that winds around the mountain, up to the Monastery of the Hook. In the meanwhile, they explain that the monastery has six monks, including Prior Serafim, and that they spend their days copying books and brewing the monastery's staple beverage, pear cider. They also tell their guests that the island used to house many more monks and pilgrims, but that their numbers have dwindled since the qarim slavers became active in the surrounding waters. Luckily, theslavers—while a menace to traders in these waters—leave the monks alone.
When the group arrives at the monastery, it becomes clear why the qarimslavers have not tried to storm it: it is a formidable complex, built against the mountain side, accessible only by a narrow, winding road, and enclosed by a strong wall. (For the location buffs among us: the Monastery of the Hook was partially inspired by Simonopetra Monastery of Mount Athos, Greece.)
They enter the monastery's courtyard, where only a few lanterns are lit. In the dark, the men of the Golden Maiden can only make out a few buildings, foremost among them a cloister and an adjoining two-storied and many-windowedbuilding of stone. Bogdan and Vaasu lead the others into this building and to a large, vaulted chamber that seems to be a recreationroom of sorts. Bogdan kindles a fire in the hearth, while Vaasu brings some food and a bottle of the monastery's signature pear cider.
As they eat, the men of the Golden Maiden tell of the slavers' attack and explain to the monks that they were bound for Zece-Biserici in the kingdom of Biser to the south. Although Bogdan is keen to find out more, he decides not to press on and instead shows his guests to their rooms. He asks them not to leave their quarters until he comes to retrieve them in the morning, after having spoken with the Prior's right hand, Brother Radovik,to introduce them. Everyone consents to their host's request. Erdan, Cipran, and Zikan ask to share a room, while Razvan takes a cell of his own.
Despite their ordeals, everyone has a good rest, finally safe in a place of faith that they can nearly all relate to.
Religion, religion, religion
For those interested (and because I love rambling about Verden), I'll give a short explanation of the church of the Dead/Undead God, which may help to understand some of the (player) characters in the Deniza and their motivations.
All player characters (except Zikan) are regelui or amurgi and, as most of their kind do, worship the Undead God, Damas (with varying conviction). The monks of the Monastery of the Hook belong to the Order of the Sepulcher, which worships the Undead God as well. They, too, are regelui and amurgi.
Worship of the Undead God is closely related to the worship of the Dead God by the oestefolk (check out this story for some flavor), who rule the greatest empire in Verden. The main difference between the two religions is that the oestefolk believe the Dead God is simply that: dead. Their worship focuses on mourning His passing, whereas the regelui and the amurgi believe Damas rose again after death to avenge Himself. As such, their version of Damas is active: he is still an entity with a will, more or less alive. This changes the dynamics of their worship. Additionally—as the Undead God is risen again as a revenant of vengeance—fear, justice, and war play a greater part in his rites.
Whatever their differences, both religions focus heavily on the divinity of the individual. They both preach that upon death, Damas became one with Miasma (a 'pool' of energy whence all living things come and whither all living things must return) and thus His divine energy mingled with the source of all life, planting part of that divinity (the 'Divine Seed') in all living things. Those who have the focus and discipline to do so, can tap into that energy and benefit from it.
Needless to say, a religion that preaches the divinity of each individual creature, rather than collective strength or subservience to a mystic power, does not take kindly to slavery, forced servitude, or other impairments of the divine individual, save perhaps where such impairments facilitate the formation of an organized state or the defense of the freedom of others.