Castle Whiterock—Chapter 14: (Near-)Death and Taxes

[Note: The holidays kept me from posting this update earlier. We're actually playing Chapter 15 today, 1/6.]

Characters


  • 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.

A Dark Omen

While on watch outside the stable, Melanie sees a figure approaching purposefully from the rear gatehouse. She steps inside to wake the others and sees that the building is empty. When she turns around in the doorway, the figure is right outside. She recognizes it as Sir Karill of Kitchmon, whom she had beheaded two months ago outside Far Cirque.

Sir Karill blames her for ruining him, stripping him of his duty to his lord, and dooming his people. Melanie responds that they didn't start the fight that ended in his death. The two fight, but Karill proves to be a formidable opponent. Eventually, Melanie throws Treeheart aside and tells him to kill her if that's what he wants. Instead, Sir Karill simply says, "We're coming." Melanie wakes up exhausted.

Rescue!

While Melanie tells Imra about her dream, they both hear screaming from outside the ruins. Imra sees a shape diving out of the sky. They gather Frevia and Emmeline, and the four run up the road. They see a dark, winged humanoid shape circling in the sky and arrive to see two gargoyles feasting on horses and riders on the road. A third horse is running off, while its rider pulls herself to her feet. This woman is well dressed with a rapier on her belt. One sleeve of her silk blouse is pinned up around her missing left arm.

Emmeline warns the rest that gargoyles' skin is tough enough to turn most non-magical blows and that they can fly much faster than the party can run. She also casts haste on the entire party. The circling gargoyle swoops down at the one-armed woman, who fruitlessly tries to defend herself with her sword. Emmeline casts bull's strength on Melanie as the other two gargoyles advance on the party. Melanie and Imra engage one of the creatures with their magic blades, and Frevia casts produce flame at it. 

One gargoyle closes with Emmeline, and the third turns away from the one-armed woman to join its companion. Flanking the wizard, the two tear into her fiercely. The one-armed woman rushes in to distract the gargoyle facing Melanie and Imra, and the two quickly dispatch it. The party deals further blows to the remaining two, forcing them to flee.

The woman introduces herself as Dameri Macleish, an agent of the Royal Treasury. She has been looking for the party for nearly two months to complete an initial audit for their tax records. The party helps her carry her guards back to the stable, and she sets down to begin her appraisal. Using an enchanted jeweler's loupe, she detects and identifies all of the party's magic items. She also takes an accounting of their gold, gems, and other cash. 

While Dameri works, Frevia goes into the woods to find herbs and other ingredients for a preparation to preserve the guards' bodies. The party offers to escort Dameri back to Cillamar when they've completed their current venture into the ruins in a day or two.

Back to School

Before they head back to civilization, the party decides to return to the Clockwork Academy to clear it out and recover as much evidence as they can for Angela Stein. They descend through the ruins' upper levels to the musical cavern and through the illusionary wall.

Following Dameri's audit, Imra remembers the rope of stone she's been carrying for months and decides to "lasso" the animated pushcart in the workroom. She sneaks up behind it and throws the rope around the cart, which struggles unsuccessfully to escape before she ties the rope off to the railing and turns it to stone.

The party explores the workroom and discovers a niche in the wall sealed with glass. It is labeled with Gnomish writing and contains a steel pin in the shape of a beetle. Frevia casts comprehend languages and sees that the label reads "In case of emergency." Imra breaks the glass and takes the pin.

Meanwhile, Emmeline casts detect magic to scan the pin and the rest of the room. Not only is the pin magical, she also spots an aura covering the top half of an entire wall of the room. With time and effort, the party discovers that the wall is illusory and are able to push through it. They find themselves on a stone balcony with three doors.

Opening the door on the left, they see an office that was probably quite nice once upon a time, but is now moldy and fallen down. Under the desk, the recover a lockbox containing many copper and a few gold coins, as well as an angry letter from the laundry staff to a Headmaster Silverheel. A door on the far side of the office opens into another hallway.

Continuing to the left, Imra opens the door at the end of the hallway to reveal a dome-shaped room that looks like it was once a faculty lounge. Searching, Emmeline finds a scroll of reduce person tucked into a half-rotted sofa.

Leading off of this hallway are four more dilapidated offices, none of which contain anything more interesting than a water dish labeled Rusty next to the skeleton of a badger. Finally, a larger chamber probably served as a conference room for the teachers, and it contains a large, intricately carved table that would be worth several thousand gold if it could be removed from the facility.

Imra examines the door at the far end of the hallway, which is locked. She slips her thieves' tools into the mechanism and begins to work, but a slip triggers a magical trap she hadn't noticed. The hallway fills with strange purple fire. Imra ducks out of the way, and the flames mildly scorch Frevia, who realizes they are mostly illusory. Unfortunately, Emmeline neither dodges nor overcomes the illusion, and the shadow evocation nearly kills her. Frevia activates her healing belt and revives the wizard before she dies of shock.

Angry at Emmeline's brush with death, Melanie tells the others to stand back. She then cleaves into the door with Treeheart, triggering the trap one more time as she knocks the door clean off its hinges. Between her quick reflexes and strong will, the fighter shrugs off most of the damage, and the party prepares to explore the rest of the Clockwork Academy.


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