I found the little man fondling my belongings covetously, and I took a stern step away from him. I asked where he would ordinarily deliver the … meal, such as it was, and he described the path we’d taken to arrive here in the kitchens. I tried not to think too hard about the earlier dinner. We excused ourselves, and Cyrus Belview enthusiastically said that he looked forward to picking over our corpses to claim our belongings. Creepy fellow.
And then we found his stash of trophies from past adventurers. Topscuttle insisted on searching for enchantments, and the rest of us picked through the lot for about ten minutes, but we found nothing of any particular interest. Then we proceeded to explore the rest of this level of the castle.
A door to the north held a shadowed room in which lurked a darkling creature that Relic identified as a shadow fiend. It ignored the gnome’s lightning bolt, but magic missiles worked well enough. We managed to evade its umbral grasp, and the creature’s body melted away into nothing upon death. Fascinating and macabre. A quick investigation revealed a secret door hidden in the western wall. We decided to descend the stair beyond.
A door at the bottom opened up into a chamber watched by stony gargoyles. A flaming brazier burned in the center of the room, casting angry shadows all around. It was flanked by a pair of four-armed iron statues, and above it floated an hourglass. Curiously, all of the sand remained suspended in the top half of the glass. Relic boldly entered the chamber, heading straight for the large chest resting on the far side of the brazier. Topscuttle’s warning cry came to late as the door we’d entered slammed shut, and the sand in the hourglass began to fall. Curiously, words appeared upon it as well, forming some manner of riddle:
Riddle goes here.
I looked at the nearer iron statue, which the gnome assured us was an iron golem – a construct that would surely kill us all even if the room had only contained one. The lower arms held sword and shield, but the upper arms were raised high, palms up. I climbed the statue and on each of the palms, I found a small gem – one red, one blue. I could see the other golem held gems as well, and called to Bex to retrieve them, though she was already moving that way.
Having retrieved the gems, we looked for some sign of where they might need to be placed. The chest looked ordinary, the golems and gargoyles lacked eye sockets, so all that was left was the brazier. I tossed the blue gem into the flames. The sands stopped flowing and the door from which we’d entered the room opened once more. I breathed a sigh of relief, but urged the others to haste as I knew not how much time I might have purchased us.
The changeling unlocked and opened the chest, but it appeared to be empty. Topscuttle moved to examine it, and noted the bottom was an illusion. She drew forth a scroll, two potions, and a small deck of cards. We pocketed these until such a time as we could more safely examine them. Using the other gems, we learned that the two other doors to the north from this chamber opened onto other stairs leading back up. The southern door opened to a lower chamber divided by a thick curtain.
I pushed it aside to reveal a pair of thrones on a balcony overlooking a flooded torture chamber. There appeared to be bodies still strapped into some of the more exotic devices. Sickening, really. I inspected the cushioned seats and discovered a heavy sack of platinum coins. I informed the others of my find and it brightened our moods, somewhat. A flooded passage led to the east from the torture chamber, and we decided to descend and explore it further.
No sooner had our feet hit the water than a dozen bodies tore free from their restraints and set upon us. I managed to destroy one of them before Relic climbed back to the balcony and instructed the rest of us to follow. Assuming he had a plan, I complied. I’d just mantled the railing of the balcony when the warforged sent a bead of fire streaking at the walking dead, destroying all but one. The last was brought low by a ray of fire sent from Topscuttle, who was perched on one of the rotting chandeliers above. The threat eliminated, we climbed back down and proceeded to the east.
Art heard a voice crying out from somewhere ahead and took the lead. He noted a pressure plate beneath the water in the hall, and Bex confirmed that there were several others. Relic, ever curious, asked what stepping on a pressure plate would cause. At her best guess, the rogue suggested that a pit trap might open beneath whomever triggered the trap.
We found a pair of doors flanking the hall and opened the southern one, from which the voice emanated. It led down a short flight of stairs, but brought the water level up from three feet to five, so it was very slow going. We entered what appeared to be a jail, the walls lined with several small, barred cells. The last on the left was occupied by a man.
He said his name was Emil, and he claimed to be a Barovian villager. Ireena frowned, saying she didn’t recognize the man, and then he admitted that he was from farther east. I asked Topscuttle to keep an eye on him, and we searched the rest of the jail, including the cells beyond the northern door. We found several more bags of coins, a mix of platinum and electrum. This is proving to be quite the lucrative endeavor. Assuming we survive.
The hall at the end of the jail hall held another winding stair upward. We ascended back to the ground floor, and took our rest in the dining hall. Then we decided to explore the rest of this level before venturing up or down any farther. We hadn’t gone more than a couple of rooms over before we encountered half-a-dozen gargoyles that turned to look in our direction as we entered…