The Monastery of Saint Vardishal

An abandoned monastery located near Kelmarane that was once housed an order of monks dedicated to the sun goddess Sarenrae the Monastery of St. Vardishal is now a pale shadow of its former glory. The monastery was dedicated to a regional and quite obscure saint of Sarenrae named Saint Vardishal. As well as the order of monks the monastery also housed a large chapel for lay worshippers and an crypt for burials. As well as Vardishal the monastery was also dedicated to the Templars of the Five Winds who feature heavily in the temples iconography. Several murals in the monastery depict the Templars conflict with and victory over the fiendish efreet Jhavhul.

Artwork in the Monastery

Northern Ruined Nave chamber: This debris-laden chamber once held a shrine and wooden altar, but all of that was smashed decades ago by vandals. The ceiling here has remained intact over the years, helping to preserve a huge bas-relief statue of a muscular humanoid man with a pointy beard gesturing toward a huge mountain in the background, his face a picture of mortal concern. the mountain in the background is Pale Mountain, largest of the Brazen Peaks and the site of many fell legends. the bearded figure is depicted in a manner similar to the way in which the faith of Sarenrae depict their saints, but this is not one of the more frequently honored saints of that faith but is of a very obscure regional saint named Vardishal.

Southern Ruined Nave chamber: A similar statue adorns the southern wall of this chamber, in this case with the bearded figure appearing on a hilltop to a group of robed pilgrims. The being holds up his hands, palms out, in a sign of peace. Though many of the faces and limbs on the bas-relief have been worn down or cut away, the expressions of those range from beatific to horrified.

East Cloister: A sweeping bas-relief sculpture along the east wall depicts five bearded, larger-than- life humans riding the wind with triumph carved upon their faces. Though some of their arms and hands are missing, each is clearly meant to wield a distinctive weapon. One of the five warriors holds a large axe, while another holds a fragment of what must once have been a regal staff. In the distance, an ominous mountain looms over the quintet. The stone carving bears a name for each genie, engraved near their feet. They are, from left to right, Kardswann, Pazhvann, Vardishal, Zayifid, and Davashuum. The latter wields the broken staff, while Kardswann wields the strange axe. No other weapons can be seen on the other damaged statues. Vardishal is the same figure depicted in the two nave chambers.

South Cloister: The southern cloister walk abuts what must be the outer wall of the monastery itself. The lengthy wall bears a marred sculpture depicting the five figures from the north cloister mural in battle against numerous creatures of evil demeanor. Several of the creatures appear to be composed at least partly of fire, while others are much more difficult to define, being outright monsters of unknown origin or unusual warriors with weapons bonded into their flesh like organic tools. In the background Pale Mountain looms large, and over it two titanic figures lock in a deadly wrestler’s embrace. One has the demoniac visage of a noble efreeti, while the other is a gorgeous woman who could only be a djinni princess. This sculpture depicts the great wars of genie vs. genie that cast the Pale Mountain region into chaos hundreds of years ago.

West Cloister: The western wall bears a bas-relief sculpture in the form of a triptych. In the first scene, a heroic looking earded figure takes leave of four similarly attired companions, who rise off into the heavens, leaving him to stand vigil over the large mountain in the background. The next scene depicts the bearded figure in battle with a flaming half man, half snake creature wielding a spear. The fire spirit transfixes the bearded hero with the spear, seemingly striking a killing blow. In the final scene, the hero appears twice—once on the ground with a wound in his back and once standing over this form, looking down upon it sadly.

North Cloister: The outer wall of the north cloister passage bears a massive carving. The central figure—the heroic man with the pointed beard—preaches to a variety of human clerics from throughout the long history of the monastery. The first image depicts the figure manifesting in a spiritual manner to a small group of pilgrims of Sarenrae. Another shows the figure conversing with a man in religious finery while the monastery itself is being constructed in the background. Thereafter follows a procession of similar poses, each depicting a visit by the bearded man and the leader of each era of the temple. The depictions of these clerics often also bear an identifying inscription, complete with dates that span the last several hundred years. The most recent carving is from thirty years ago, and while ample room remains for additional carvings on the west wall, the last thirty feet or so are completely blank.

Shrine to Vardishal: The brightly painted walls of this small chapel, probably meant for personal prayer and reflection, stand out as unusually garish for the otherwise reserved architecture notable elsewhere in the monastery. On the walls, numerous rectangular wooden plates traced in gold filigree depict a strapping warrior battling creatures of fire, riding a chariot on the wind, and engaging in other acts of noble heroism. It is the same figure depicted elsewhere in the monastery, but the sheer number of images here suggest that this shrine was especially important to the clerics who honored him as a saint of Sarenrae. Perhaps a quarter of the gold plates have been pried away or hacked apart by long-absent vandals.Opposite the door, dominating a section of the north wall, stands a man-sized statue of the warrior, its face marred by what look like numerous blows from an axe. The statue holds both hands in front of him, bent at the elbow, palms up, as if expecting an offering. Several deep rents from similar axe blows make it clear that someone tried to hack the arms from the statue decades ago, but was unable to do so.

The Monastery of Saint Vardishal

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