When we arrived to the monastery it was quite silent. I was wondering perhaps if my misgivings were mistaken until Nikola also became concerned and rushed forward to investigate the matter. We found the knights of the monastery within performing some manner of training exercise or muster. This relief was a bit short-lived as our attentions were drawn to the massive oak tree in the center of the Monastery courtyard. It stands quite tall but is currently riddled with a blight of clearly profane or at least arcane origin.
Miss Crest stepped forward to examine the tree which brought her to the attention of the knight commander for this monastery. There was a bit of a rocky start as they proved a bit suspicious while we were stating our reasons and trying to introduce ourselves. I’m afraid that Panry and that tiefling didn’t quite make the best show of the group. I suspect that the knight’s accusation of rudeness was meant to include all of us, but a resisted the urge to argue the point as that would do nothing for the matter.
While we were talking the black malignancy of the tree pulsed and worked up the branches until one of the many green leaves was consumed to dust by the disease. The collected knights all breathed a sigh of relief which had us a bit confused. The lady made a reference to the fact that they were mostly relieved that it was not a silver leaf that was consumed this time. There was some comment made that it would result in the death of one of their number. I will discuss more of that later.
Regardless, among other things, we learned that we were not the first messenger to make it through to this point. One other messenger of the many that had been sent had contacted them already, though that messenger’s fate, as well as the fate of the other messengers, remained unknown. Still, despite acknowledging the direness of the situation, the Knights pointed out that they were clearly having their own problems. As our duty and reward is incumbent upon acquiring the aid of the knights, we have made the offer to help investigate this matter.
Taking us up on the matter, we were led to a small library where one of their eldest members had been studying the situation until the corruption of the tree destroyed one of the silver leaves and resulted in his death. The old sage’s notes were scattered about and it proved difficult for any of us to find something which might have any sort of lead. Eventually Miss Crest happened upon information suggesting that the old sage thought that the groundwater had been corrupted by something foul.
Miss Freehand later stumbled upon a book that gave a bit more of an image of the situation. Apparently, those who join the Order of the Silver Oak take upon themselves a ritual to bind themselves to the sacred oak tree we saw outside. This seems to have a way of sustaining their life. The young seeming Nikola had been a member for fifty years, and the reportedly human sage who had recently died was apparently over two thousand years old. This isn’t the first such ritual I have heard of, given my own interest in extending lifespans, but the vulnerabilities of such a method are clearly apparent with this most recent situation.
On a side note, the Silver Oak's library seems to have no particular rhyme or reason to it. It might be that they should look into employing a scribe or sage to organize things. At the very least, however, this spared them some of Panry and that tiefling's antics as the two were dismayed to find that they couldn't find a way to disorganize the area anymore than it already was.
When we brought our findings to the attention of the Knight Commander, she also revealed that there had once been a dwarven nation in the region but that they had stumbled upon something terrible which overwhelmed them and threatened to spill out onto the service. Rather than deal with the issue at the time, which sounds as though it may have been nearly impossible to do so, the surface nations and remnants of the dwarves sought to seal the old tunnels instead. Apparently, the old mountain-top monastery was one of the few remaining paths down into these ancient depths where I suspect we will find the source of this corruption.
We plan to set out and find this older monastery soon and the knights have seen fit to help equip us with magical gear. For my part I have acquired a pair of scrolls and a minor Bag of Holding. I had also found a dagger of venom which I brought to the attention of Miss Freehand, and a Philter of Love which has me a bit concerned over what the Knights needed with that. I put it back on the shelf clearly. My history with such mind-warping magics has me find them somewhat distasteful.
Our stalwart paladin, TJ, was equipped with a fresh set of armor and a magical shield herself. I thought for a moment that that tiefling had found a ring of some sort but I must have been mistaken for I saw no sign of it later.
Beyond these minor magics, however, the bard was presented with a quite wondrous find. A Doss Lute carrying many useful enchantments that can be activated with a simple song played by a bard of skill. I expect that the enchants of this item are going to be very useful in the coming days.