Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Groaning Ruins

On the western bank of the River Ahkyl, some miles south of Blackpool, stands a rocky bluff overlooking the water. Atop this precipice is the crumbling ruin of a monastery. This hermitage dates back to the years when the Kinan-M’Nath was still Nan-Matal, the great empire which once covered the lands from the Ahkyl to the Shining Bay.

Centuries ago, this monastery was home to an order of monks dedicated to Amencia, the Lady of Healing. In the dark years during the decline of the Hastanes, the monastery was a stronghold of Law amongst the collapse of order. The monks provided care for the wounded and ill, and were not loathe to fight against the forces of evil which strove to tear the empire apart. For this reason, the monastery gained fame across the eastern marches. But this was not the sole source of the monastery’s renown, for within its hallowed halls lay a relic of unearthly provenance.

In the catacombs under the monastery, the monks cared for a single drop of Amencia’s blood. Said to have been given by the goddess to an exceptionally devout brother as reward for his untiring service, this droplet was rumored to possess the ability to cure any injury or illness, and it was even said to have the power to restore life to the dead. The monks kept the relic at the heart of an intricate labyrinth built to protect the blood from thieves and other evil men.

When Nan-Natal fell and the land returned to the wilderness, the monastery remained intact. For several years, the monks strove to care for the injured and ill and to push back the forces of Chaos. Then, without explanation, the monks were gone.

There is no record of them leaving their holy redoubt, no eyewitness reports of laden wagons departing the site. Visitors to the monastery found the upper levels empty, appearing as if the monks had simply stepped away for a moment. The only sign of activity was that the entrance to the catacombs was sealed. It was a mystery that was never solved. In time, the structure fell into ruin.

Over the years, adventurers and treasure-seekers have explored the site, even forcing their way into the catacombs. Despite these expeditions, however, no one has managed to reach the labyrinth that still supposedly holds that most precious blood. Adventurers exploring the ruins have reported an odd phenomenon, one that gives the place its name. At seemingly random intervals, a loud groaning is heard emanating from the ground beneath the former monastery. The cause of this unknown, but the most superstitious of adventurers claim it is the hungry souls of the vanished monks clamoring for blood of less divine origin—that of interlopers.

Delves into the catacombs have grown less common in recent decades, as most adventurers seeking to make a name for themselves or to pilfer easy treasure plumb the depths of nearby Stonehell. But, should one lucky band discover the entrance to the labyrinth and navigate its twisting halls, the benefits of owning the monastery’s lost relic would be incalculable.

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