So, next day, new session. Four players, one in common with yesterday's group. Bottle the rogue and his hireling Skrag, Zepheria and her loyal hireling Henry, Sol the cleric and cirrus his hireling, and Chalky the Bald and his veteran hireling Whistle.
No one died! This party followed almost exactly the same path as the other: talked to the blind hermit, took the long rope down to the Monastery of St. Eudo, and investigated its dark innards.
They found some grisly remains and took to cutting the humble monastic cell doors off their leather hinges, fearing closed doors behind them. They too found a secret passage way and declined searching its entirety out of fear.
They ended up in the kitchen which was bare and cleverly defeated a hungry pack of rats by setting oil on the ground (they heard the rats coming) and lighting it. They luckily dispatched a mangy wolf in a library finding a scroll and several tomes in the wreckage. And opening a storage room door revealed 4 little man-like figures brushing a pale, gaunt figure in honey. The figures threw their brushes blinding Chalky. Sol petitioned for aid and was able to hold three of the figures. The party was able to dispatch the creature with only one hireling worse for the wear. Whistle tasted some sap in a crock and thought he saw another little man warning of an earthquake.
Finally the group hurried to safety.
The party got lucky in a few of the battles, but did a few smart things too. First they didn't panic and just run or set them selves to fight when the pack of rats showed up, they laid an oil trap. Second, Sol was trying everything he could to use his clericly powers (other players have been reluctant to try much).
I have a house rule that clerics have a chance to cast spells above their level but at diminishing chances. I figured a way to do this with just 7 dominoes and it worked out surprisingly well.
The first time Sol called for aid, even with a 70% chance, it was not answered. The second time-- and a crucial one, he managed to pull the right domino (29%), and then a third miracle he asked for later went ungranted. So, not a bunch of free magic, but he was able to ask multiple times (which just seems more divine-power-like to me) and he had a cool mechanic that was a focus of attention.
I also had the players exploring Nidus a little more. Using this mechanic here. It seemed to work well, they found stuff they wanted but it cost a lot more than normal. They hired guides to aid in this and their wandering around the markets showed them many odd and rare sights. Sol saw a giraffe giving birth and cracked up. We had fun in general. It was an interesting experience as a DM to run similar parties through an almost identical location and see how the environment shaped their decision making. Anyone wanting to practice their dungeon design skills should probably try this (I know it's hard enough to get one party together).