Castle Whiterock—Chapter 13: Delving Too Greedily and Too Deep
- 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.
- Emony Steelbrow (NPC), paladin of Justicia.
As Melanie, Imra, and Emony work, Emmeline and Frevia keep watch. Frevia hears movement from the piercer chamber, and she readies a flaming sphere for any fast-moving object that appears. A pair of javelins fly out of the dark, but they bounce harmlessly off the armor of Emony and Melanie.
Melanie steps up near the flaming sphere and taunts the unseen attackers. Suddenly, she is enveloped in a sticky white net. Emory and Imra run up to try and help her out of it. Frevia sends the flaming sphere out into the piercer chamber. Emmeline casts a grease spell at the end of the tunnel just in time to catch two troglodytes who charge at Melanie. One trog falls on his face, but the other reaches the fighter and swings with his club. Then the door to the secret tunnel opens and two more troglodytes rush into the hall, all swinging on the entangled Melanie.
Despite the tight quarters, the party outmatches the troglodytes, and the tide quickly turns. The only casualty is Emony, who is knocked out with a nasty strike to her head. The trog that felled her turns to flee, chased by Imra and Frevia. But he's shouting for help in the troglodyte's language, and the group decides to let the rest flee.
Melanie revives Emony with a potion, and the entire group redoubles their efforts to clear the tunnel. They block the tunnel off behind them with the stones, burying the troglodytes they killed. Beyond the wall, they see a larger cave with a series of rock shelves across from a flowstone formation that has metal pipes and an ivory keyboard worked into it.
As they draw closer, a series of whistles and wind emanate from the organ. Frevia believes she recognizes it as Auran and casts comprehend languages. She hears a being calling for help from inside the organ, and apparently they can understand Common even if they only speak Auran. With Frevia translating, the group learns that the being is named Aeraelith. They were bound into the organ centuries ago and desperately wants out.
The party is happy to help, and Aeraelith tells them that they need three magic instruments - a flute, a harp, and a drum - and the magic notes hidden in the organ's stone bench. Imra and Emmeline, after great effort, figure out the puzzlebox mechanism of the bench and discover three 25-pound stone tablets with musical notes carved in them. They leave the tablets there and lock the bench back up, and vow to find the instruments and free Aeraelith.
While search the rest of the chamber, Imra discovers a portion of wall that is disguised with an illusion. On the other side is a brick tunnel barely five feet tall that ends in an iron door inscribed in an unknown language and marked with a symbol like a set of wheels or gears. The group enters, and Imra unlocks the door, revealing a similarly sized hallway going left and right.
To the left, they emerge onto a walkway above a larger chamber full of worktables, pushcarts full of materials, and an overhead beam with chains hanging from it. Imra goes down a set of stairs to investigate, but the party behind her makes noise. One of the pushcarts springs to life and barrels toward Imra, trying to slam her. She jumps out of the way and retreats up the stairs while Emony and Melanie take on the cart. Unfortunately, its thick iron construction means their heaviest blows barely dent it.
The party decides to retreat from the complex and head back to camp. However, before they can leave, a bizarre stoney creature emerges from the wall behind them and attacks Imra, biting and clawing her. Emmeline identifies this as a minor xorn. Its extremely tough hide and natural resilience means it is extremely hard to kill. Melanie and Emony hold it off while the others move back into the hall.
Emmeline remembers that xorns may be more vulnerable to blunt weapons, which none of the party have. Frevia, however, remembers the clubs wielded by the troglodytes, and she runs back through the organ chamber to fetch one. Meanwhile, Emmeline heads to the room on the other end of the hallway. She sees some broken furniture and rushes to grab a few pieces. From beneath a stairway on the other side of the room, a bizarre wheeled, metal gnome with a long lance rolls toward her and spear Emmeline twice before she can flee the room.
By the time the wizard and the druid return with alternate weapons, Melanie has dispatched the xorn through sheer grit. As the mechanical lancer trundles into the hallway, the exhausted party begins to dispare. Emony, hoping to defend her new allies to her last, charges the machine, which nearly impales her as she closes within its reach. She scores a telling blow, though, and Melanie is heartened enough to follow. A strike from Treeheart causes the lancer's head to nearly pop off, and the sounds of its internal mechanisms becomes chaotic. It seems to lose the ability to act for a moment, and Melanie strikes again, destroying it once and for all.
Imra grabs the lancer's head as proof of what they all assume to be the Clockwork Academy, and the party retreats from the dungeon for good this time. Everyone makes it back to the stables and camps, spending the entire next day recovering their health and magical resources. Frevia lays in a supply of goodberries and even makes friends with a few woodland creatures to serve as spies and informants.