Castle Whiterock—Chapter 12: Return to the Ruins
- Emmeline Forthwrought, eccentric human wizard, with Jonathan, cat familiar.
- Frevia Arden, self-sufficient human druid, with Roberta, snake animal companion.
- Imra Shadowmantle, disciplined elven rogue.
- Melanie Shadowmantle, aristocratic human fighter, with Angelina, recovered toad.
The party sets out for Castle Whiterock along with their previous hirelings, Lissa the halfling groom and Gryffidd the mercenary leader. When they arrive at the gatehouse, they find the heavy ironwood gates closed, when they remember leaving them open last they were here. Emmeline casts reduce person on Imra, and the elf sneaks inside.
Checking the stables, Imra finds signs that someone had searched the building. Further into the courtyard, she sees that the tents left behind by the vanquished slavers had been disturbed: two had been taken down purposefully, but two more had been knocked down violently. With the reduce spell nearly at an end, Imra returns to the group. The party retreats out of the ruins for the night and makes camp further up the caldera.
The next morning, the party enters the ruins. Lissa and Gryffidd take shelter in the stables, and the heroes proceed to the tents to investigate. In one of the ruined tents, they find the bodies of a half-orc man and a dwarf woman. Their wounds indicate they were killed fighting some kind of oversized arthropod. Emmeline finds a small leather spellbook written Dwarven in a pack.
Imra spots a trail of blood splatters leading into the ruined building near the tents. Sneaking over, she sees a body partially buried under rubble, softly moaning. Melanie and Frevia rush to help and discover a young human woman with metallic platinum hair, wearing half-plate with a fine shield and sword. Frevia revives her, and she says her name is Emony Steelbrow. Melanie finds something strange and surprising about her, but she can't quite place what.
The group helps her back to the camp, where she recognizes the bodies. She remembers monstrous crayfish emerging from the lake two nights ago. She thinks they dragged two more of her companions into the water, but she was thrown through the air and knocked out.
While Imra helps Emony bury her friends, Frevia decides to investigate the lake by wild shaping into a porpoise. She swims the perimeter of the lake and gets a rough idea of the layout of the flooded ruins below. When she descends, she finds a submerged graveyard littered with glints of metal. She pulls one such item up in her mouth, but figures emerge from the silt around her. One bites her and she is momentarily paralyzed. Two more tear at her throat, nearly killing her.
As control of her muscles returns, she is barely able to slip away from the attackers. She rockets back to shore, shapes back to her natural form, and uses healing magic to save herself. Frevia and Emmeline both identify the creatures as lacedons, an aquatic form of ghoul. The group decides to avoid the lake for now until they have the means to deal with both the undead and the watery depths.
Emony finishes the burial with a few prayers, revealing herself as a paladin of Justicia, goddess of justice and mercy. In thanks for saving her, she offers to accompany the party into the ruins if they need another sword-arm. The group agreed, and they all descend into Castle Whiterock.
They make their way to the third level, to the chamber guarded by zombie "statues." Previously, they had discovered a stairway concealed by a secret door. The stairs wind down into the earth, carved stone walls giving way to more natural rock. At the bottom, a chamber is lit by a series of piled rocks topped with glowing lichen. The group examines these rocks, and they are ambushed by a large number of fattened piercers hidden on the ceiling. With support from the others, Melanie easily dispatches the creatures.
Two tunnels lead out of this chamber, and Imra leads the group down the tunnel on their right. She spots a series of concealed pit traps, and Frevia uses stone shape to create a bridge over the pits. As the group reaches the end of the tunnel, they are attacked by three troglodytes. The stench overtakes several of the group, but the reptilian humanoids stand little chance against the party.
As they loot the guards, Imra spots a secret door. Opening it reveals another side tunnel...