—The party members emerged from the tunnel after nightfall, pondering how to proceed next. The information they had gathered from the dragon had been vague at best, but Foren offered a place to start – the Gremlins.
—Corta reminded them all that she had been named King of the Gremlins on their last encounter with the tiny Fey creatures.
—Though Cyrus seemed a little perplexed by this notion, the others decided that gathering information on where the Gremlins were located would be a good next step. Foren consulted his book of the Fey, and discovered that the area had been known to be inhabited by Gremlins in the past.
—Corta took out her crystal ball, and concentrated on Karvex, the former Gremlin King. Instantly, the clouds swirling within the orb cleared, and the party looked upon an image of a dense, dark forest.
—Standing in a clearing surrounded by large stones were a group of Gremlins, all chattering away in Sylvan. Atop a big, flat stone was a Gremlin just like all the others, though this one seemed to be giving orders. Corta deduced that this must be Karvex, who seemed intent on getting the others to build some sort of shelter from twigs.
—As the image faded, they all decided to take note of the elements they had just witnessed in the surroundings of the Gremlin’s clearing.
—Cyrus and Owtikk got to work assessing the natural landscape of the area, attempting to determine any clues that could tie their surroundings to the image they had just seen. They hoped that by looking at local fauna, they would be able to recognize that the clearing was fairly close by.
—Meanwhile, Lizer decided that it would be prudent to go and report their findings to Mayor Thistledown, and to warn the townsfolk of what could be in store for them should the party members fail in their quest.
—The others agreed that this idea was sound, and Lizer stalked off toward the town hall, the others wishing him luck.
—It took mere minutes for Lizer to reach the hall, and he was welcomed inside by the guards at once, who told him that a meeting was in progress.
—As he moved inside, Lizer found himself shrinking in size again, as he had done at Annora’s house previously. Lizer stepped toward the long table at the end of the hall, and saw Mayor Thistledown speaking with four elderly Halflings in different colored town clothing.
—As Lizer approached, Mayor Thistledown stood up, eagerly asking if Lizer and the others had discovered anything.
—Lizer nodded rather bleakly, and began explaining their encounter with the Xorn earlier that day. The elders listened as he described the creature, and how it had been stealing the unripe vegetables for its mistress.
—After some initial surprise, Mayor Thistledown smiled, and breathed a sigh of relief. She addressed the elders, and told them that each of their families had now been proven to be uninvolved in the disappearances of the vegetables, and that they could now focus on the real problem at hand.
—The family leaders seemed to grumble a grudging ascent to this comment, and they agreed to cease blaming one another for their problems.
—However, when Lizer got to the part of the story involving the dragon, the others were aghast. The gravity of the situation took some time to fully set in, as the elders from each family reacted to this troubling news.
—Mayor Thistledown looked stern as well. She thanked Lizer for bringing this to their attention, but told him how unprepared they were for such dire circumstances.
—Lizer told them that they should begin preparations to evacuate, for if the dragon’s demands could not be met within three days, then the village would fall under attack.
—This news did nothing to quell the fears of the elders and the mayor, and the elders began explaining that they were deeply rooted in their ancestral home. Evacuation would not be an option for the Halflings, for they would rather stand and fight a hopeless battle than to lay down before such a a violent aggressor.
—Though the elder Halflings were deeply shaken by Lizer’s news, Mayor Thistledown attempted to remain calm, asking Lizer precisely what the dragon demanded.
—Lizer explained that the dragon was missing a music box which had been stolen from her by Gremlins many years ago. He told them that was one of the reasons he had come to the town hall – to find some answers regarding the Gremlins that were rumored to reside in the area.
—Mayor Thistledown told Lizer that the Gremlins had not been seen within the boundaries of Tillgrove for some time. The Halflings had managed to protect their homes from these mysterious creatures using Gremlin Bells on the doors of their dwellings. These non-magical bells prevented the Gremlins from entering, and thus the Fey creatures had stopped coming to the village.
—When Lizer asked where these Gremlins had gone to, Mayor Thistledown told Lizer that the Gremlins were said to dwell within the nearby forest called Madman’s Hollow. However, she warned him that Madman’s Hollow was a place that no one dared tread for fear of going insane within its boundaries.
—Lizer seemed dubious about this, and asked the Halflings if they had any proof of this. Mayor Thistledown told him that Bantor Ferngnarl had disappeared for years into the forest, and had emerged a completely different man. She said that he had the most recent experience in the forest, and that though he was undoubtedly mad, Ferngnarl could likely be useful for information of some sort should Lizer wish to go to the forest himself.
—Lizer took note of this madman’s name, and thanked the council for meeting with him. Lizer assured the Halflings that he would do what he could to stop the dragon from attacking the village, but warned them that evacuation would be their only hope should the beast attack.
—Mayor Thistledown was resolute, and told Lizer that Halflings had been oppressed in the past, and would never give up their lands and homes without putting up a fight first.
—Lizer seemed to respect this stance, and bowed to the council before leaving the hall. As he left, he heard the elders making plans for protection should such a horrible event take place.
—Lizer returned to the small crop of trees on the border outside of Tillgrove just as the others sat down to a meal around a hearty fire they had built. Night had fallen in earnest, and the merry flame cast long shadows of the group as they sat on rocks and logs in the makeshift encampment.
—Cyrus had caught some rabbits, and was just ladling stew for the others (while Owtikk ate some stewed wild vegetables she had scrounged up) when Lizer arrived and presented his findings at the town hall.
—They seemed interested in this news about Madman’s Hollow, and thought that it would be a good idea to speak with this madman, though difficult a task it would be.
—Lizer, Cyrus and Owtikk did not want anything to do with a person that the Halflings would consider “mad”, and so Corta and Foren elected to go and question this Bantor Ferngnarl should he reveal anything to them that could be of use.
—Corta and Foren left the camp, and decided to go to the local tavern to find out just where this Bantor lived.
—They ventured inside of The Tiny Giant Inn and Tavern (reducing in size as they did so), and spoke with the barkeep amid the raucous company assembled there, drinking and singing and dancing, forgetting their troubles for another night.
—The barkeep was a friend of Corta’s, Kestro’s brother Quickjab. Quickjab was taller than Kestro – and really quite tall for a Halfling in general, and wore the same long cap as his brother.
—Quickjab was a merry sort of fellow, and was happy to see them both. When Corta asked where they could find Bantor Ferngnarl, Quickjab told them to go and see Coltan, for Bantor was his uncle and was now under his care.
—They thanked Quickjab, and left the tavern, striding down the dark path toward Coltan’s place once again.
—They explained to Coltan at the door why they had come, and Coltan’s surly face grew dark. He asked if they had come to laugh at his uncle, but the two of them assured him that they would do nothing of the sort.
—Once certain of their intentions, Coltan led them inside. They did NOT resize in Coltan’s modest dwelling, and were thus fairly stooped as they moved through his dusty halls down toward the bedroom where Bantor lived. The room was locked up tight, and Coltan explained that it was for Bantor’s own good, for the old man liked to escape and get into mischief.
—As Coltan opened the door, he told them to be careful, and not listen to a word that the old madman said. He showed them inside rather darkly, and closed the door, standing outside.
—The room was covered in charcoal etchings, from the walls to the floor to the ceiling. Incoherent scribbles were everywhere, saying nothing that made any sense at all. Bantor sat in the corner, drawing concentric circles in a rhythmic sort of way on a piece of parchment, his back turned to them.
—Bantor had wild hair and a long, unkempt beard, and both were scraggly and grey. His eyes were a sharp, stormy grey, and when Corta spoke to him, the man turned slowly to stare at her, unblinking in a terrifying sort of way.
—“…The sun meets the earth…Where the walls breathe…” Began Bantor, babbling under his breath. Foren was interested in what was written on the walls, and could make out some phrases, but nothing that seemed too coherent.
—”Sleeping…Where he sleeps…Walls that breathe… Eyes…Eyes of blue…Where the sun meets the earth…” Bantor continued babbling, and Foren decided to try and read his mind.
—Taking a slip of parchment from his pocket, Foren asked him what he knew of Madman’s Hollow. The parchment filled rapidly with overlapping phrases and sentences that could not be read quickly enough before the entire parchment was coated in ink.
—Foren shook the excess ink off of the paper, and put it resolutely back in his pocket. Corta asked Bantor if by ‘where the sun meets the earth’ meant at sunset. Bantor nodded slowly, and repeated “Eyes of blue…The eyes of blue, where the walls breathe…A crown of spikes…”
—Bantor repeated these phrases over and over, leaving Corta and Foren to puzzle over his words. Corta asked him where this was to happen, and Bantor held up the piece of parchment he had been drawing on.
—The paper showed overlapping circles densely close together. Bantor mumbled “The forest….In the forest where the sun meets the earth…” and pointed in the center of the mass of circles.
—Corta and Foren looked at each other as Bantor pressed the paper into their hands. “Time looks behind and watches it go…Walls that breathe…The eyes…”
—Bantor fell silent, and began scribbling on the papers around him once again.
—Foren and Corta took their queue, and left Bantor alone, heading back to the encampment.
—When they arrived, they shared what Bantor had told them. Lizer seemed to put very little stock into the ‘map’ that the madman had given them, and thought it would be more fruitful if they ventured into the forest and had Corta call her Gremlin followers to her.
—However, Foren and Corta thought that the madman had said some very interesting things, and Foren thought that his words should be heeded.
—In the end, the group decided to rest for the night, and to head for Madman’s Hollow in the morning, in attempts to find this clearing they had seen in the crystal ball. They hoped that Bantor’s words would make more sense come the morning.
—Foren summoned a secure shelter for them to rest in, and Cyrus, taking no chances, took the first watch, sitting atop the shelter, and keeping a wary eye open for anything unusual.
—As midnight rolled around, Cyrus noticed a scuffling down near the ground. The scuffling turned to a scratching sort of noise, and Cyrus looked over the edge of the roof to see a tiny insectoid creature attempting to open the door to the shelter.
—Immediately, Cyrus took aim, and dove off of the ceiling, tackling this small creature, and holding it fast within his grip.
—The creature was a Vexgit Gremlin, and struggled and yelled in his arms. Cyrus shouted to wake the others, and they stepped outside to see the thing trying to wriggle its escape.
—They identified the creature as a Gremlin, and Owtikk offered the use of her Iron Bands of Binding to better hold the little beast. Cyrus attempted to question the little beast, but it struggled and shouted and clacked its pincers, and wouldn’t answer to a word he said.
—However, Foren stepped forward, and managed to console the Gremlin, telling him that they were its friends. The Gremlin faltered, confused for a moment, and Foren went on to say that binding the Gremlin in this way was a friendly greeting where they came from.
—The Gremlin nodded its understanding, and stopped its squirming, now intent to listen to what they had to say. Foren presented Corta, and told him that she was the Gremlin King.
—The Gremlin nodded vigorously upon seeing the orb mounted upon her staff, and said “Ohh! Yes! Corta, the false king!”
—They all looked at each other, and Corta seemed slightly crestfallen. “You mean there is another king?” She asked him.
—The Gremlin nodded and told them that The Mad King Ragardrail, King of The Gremlins was the true king, now and forever.
—Cyrus stepped forward at this point, and spoke to the Gremlin. He told the creature that because they were friends, they would like to visit the Gremlin and this king for a meal. He asked kindly that the Gremlin lead them to where this king lived, stating that it is what any good host would do for his friends.
—The Gremlin agreed heartily, and told them that it would happily show them to Ragardrail’s castle, because they were such good friends and all.
—With the Gremlin’s directions, the party members set off into the pre-dawn darkness toward Madman’s Hollow.
—They entered the forest, which was very dense and dark. Gnarled roots grew everywhere, and the party would surely have gotten lost if they hadn’t had the little Gremlin to guide them along. All the while the creature attempted to assure that they would be having a grand meal once they got to the keep, to which Cyrus and the others told him “of course they would”.
—Eventually, they came upon a familiar-looking clearing of assembled stones and grass underfoot. They recognized the standing stones from the crystal ball, and all stood within the wide circle, as directed by the Gremlin.
—The Gremlin then said “Ahh. Now all we need to do is wait for the sun to meet the earth. And then it’s just a matter of getting past the guardians.”
—The party faltered, and chimed “…Guardians?”
—“Yes,” Explained the Gremlin patiently. “The Primal World of the Fey is protected by guardians – the Lurkers. No mortal has made it through without facing them.”
—Foren’s ears stiffened at the mention of The World of the Fey, and was about to say something when suddenly light crested over the horizon, visible through the trees, shining a pale golden light over everything.
—As they stood within the circle, they witnessed something mystical occurring. The colours around them shined more vibrant. The dawn stretched, but only served to light the trees with gold, and did nothing to lighten the dark sky above. They felt the air about them, and felt their emotions swell and pulse more brilliantly than the colours around them.
—They turned and looked toward a tall cliff face further into the forest, and saw there, lit by the gold from the sun a massive Keep made of marble towering over them. This Keep had certainly not been there before.
—Foren hastily took out his compass, and held it in front of him, facing this keep. The golden needle was pointed squarely at the cliff where the keep sat before them.
—As they stood within the circle, they noticed something else appearing. The Gremlin chattered a horrible laugh as creatures appeared around them, shining with light, glowing with a strange eminence. Five small humanoids which looked like emaciated Elven Children with glowing wings appeared out of the darkness, and hovered there between them and the keep.
—These appeared to be the guardians of which the Gremlin spoke.
—The guardians spoke, their light, airy, haunting voices ringing out in perfect unison throughout the clearing “We suffer no mortal to pass into our realm. State why you have come, that we may pass judgment upon you.”
—Foren strode forward to address these creatures. He told them that he was once a Faun, a member of the Fey race, and that he wished to return to such a state. He hoped to request this of the Gremlin King.
—The guardians continued. “We allow no mortals to tread within our borders for the safety and sanity of all. Though you once were a Faun, you are mortal now. We cannot allow you to pass.”
—As the conversation continued, Cyrus became very wary of these creatures, and decided to slink quietly to the edge of the circle, his weapons at the ready should they need to fight or flee. The others similarly stiffened themselves for a fight, prepared to do what they must should things turn ugly.
—Foren strengthened his resolve, and strode forward. “I do not wish to harm any of you, for you were once my kindred,” Foren said in a commanding tone. “However, I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
—With that, Foren put one of the creatures to sleep with lightning-fast reflexes. The other party members were better prepared for the battle than their opponents, on high alert due to Lizer’s natural strategist training.
—Corta wasted no time, unleashing a blast of Searing Light against the nearest Lurker, dealing considerable damage to the small defender of the realm beyond.
—Cyrus moved in and struck at one of the creatures with his spear, severely bloodying it.
—Owtikk ran forward, and thrust out her arm, holding the Rod of Wonder. Pointing it directly at one of the creatures, at first nothing happened. Then, quite suddenly, the grass around them began to grow. The entire clearing – and indeed much of the forest was covered by a blanket of short grass, which grew to ten times its normal size.
—Unhindered by this, Ghost sniffed out the location of the next creature, and dashed forward, striking hard into it with an incredible bite.
—Lizer got into position, and dashed forward in a charge, killing one of the Lurkers instantly, bursting it into motes of gilded light and dust.
—One of the remaining Lurkers lashed out at Cyrus, striking him, but Cyrus was able to easily stave off the effects of the poison hidden within the creature’s tiny blade.
—Corta smote one of these guardians with another flash of Searing Light, bursting it instantly into golden, shimmering dust with a shriek.
—Cyrus easily killed the one that had struck at him, crushing him with a strike from his spiked shield.
—Owtikk moved into position, and ordered Ghost to attack once again. Ghost tore the final Lurker to shreds, covering his muzzle in the gilded dust, sneezing as he did so.
—The group stood on the threshold of the World of the Fey, and the reality of what they had done sunk in. At first many of them were concerned that what they had done would hamper their efforts with the Gremlin King, but then they heard the captive Gremlin laughing behind them.
—The Gremlin congratulated them on a job well-done. A little perplexed, Foren asked if they should have done such a thing, and the Gremlin told them that they were guardians, and that they were there as a challenge. There would be many more challenges before them should they wish to see the King.
—Taking this as an ill omen, the group lashed up the final Lurker which was put to sleep, and carried it with them over the threshold and toward the Keep on the cliff before them.
—Cyrus briefly stayed back a moment, and told Korrice to return to the encampment with Scarto, sure that the Keep would be no place for a pony. Korrice obeyed, and left the clearing as Cyrus pressed forward with the others.
—It was not long before the party members came to the foot of the cliff where the Keep of the Gremlin King stood. Before them they saw a massive gap of earth before the Keep above, with many pillars of stone jutting from the gorge below. On each of these pillars of stone were sections of stairs, all facing different directions from one another.
—It seemed as though these stairs were once part of a grand marble stairwell which led to the balcony of the Keep – only now they had been twisted and broken.
—The Gremlin brightly told them that they must simply climb the Insanity Stairs to reach the doors to the keep.
—The party member exchanged glances. Cyrus waste little time, and began preparing climbing tools, rope and a grappling hook. Meanwhile, Foren teleported Cyrus and Erasme to the top, while Owtikk shifted to the form of a pterodactyl and flew. Corta had sprouted wings and grabbed hold of Cyrus, carrying him to the balcony as well.
—They all resumed their natural forms, and stood upon the marble balcony, beholding the keep in front of them. The place looked as though it were once beautiful and grand, but that some sort of madness had twisted the place beyond mortal comprehension. The balcony was warped and twisted, as were the walls of the keep itself, which seemed to move rhythmically, breathing in and out.
—The dark sky above gleamed with blackness, and on the balcony washed a golden light from the strange, distant-looking sun. The Keep stood within a maelstrom of clouds above, swirling into nothingness and back again.
—Before the party was a set of double doors made of iron, which were locked tight. On either side of the protruding keep were alcoves that ran along the sides of the exterior walls of the entrance.
—Cyrus and Owtikk explored each of these alcoves in turn while the others stood near the doors, taking in what they could.
—Cyrus, down the left alcove discovered a statue of a royal, elven-looking male with a sickening grin, and rolling eyes. In his right hand the statue held a human heart. His left hand sat clasped atop his head.
—Unsing his communicator, he told the others what he had found. As he did so, Owtikk explained the statue that she had found herself down the right alcove.
—The statue on the right depicted an identical male elf-like figure to the one on the left. However, this one’s face was contorted in fear, eyes bulging, mouth hanging agape. In the left hand, this statue held a human brain. This statue’s right hand clutched at its chest.
—Lizer pondered a moment, and suggested that the two of them switch the organs found at each statue. The two complied, Cyrus taking hold of the heart, and Owtikk taking hold of the brain. Immediatley upon removing them, these organs each transformed magically from marble to flesh and blood in their hands. Quickly, they rushed to the opposing statues, and placed the organs in the hands of the royal figures.
—A resounding click could be heard, and the doors to the Keep opened. The party members stepped cautiously inside, the doors clunking shut behind them.
—They moved into a small antechamber which connected to a grand hall beyond. On either side of them were small statues depicting the four varieties of Gremlin. Pointing each of them out, Lizer named them: Vexgit, Jinkin, Nuglub and Pugwampi.
—As they moved into the grand hall they took note of the high ceiling above, which was shadowy, and positively teeming with chattering, giggling, gnashing Gremlins of every sort.
—The ceilings were supported by six pillars below, each carved with a horrible, bestial, toothy visage, all identical, with bulging eyes, a crown of spines and a lolling, long tongue. At the far end of this hall was a set of stairs leading up to a landing above.
—As the party moved into the hall, the Gremlins created a din of excitement, all sniping away happily, echoing about the room.
—However, as figure draped in dark clothing emerged from a pair of doors atop the landing, and began striding down the steps toward the party members, the Gremlins all fell silent.
—Darkness and fear seemed to trail behind the lanky man as he walked in springy strides down the steps. Everything about this strange creature made him seem tall, from his jet-black tailcoat to his ebony-coloured stovepipe hat. The only feature of his face that was visible was his set of gleaming white pointed teeth, set in a perpetual, twisted grin.
—“My my it has been a long time since we have had any visitors…” The strange man began in a lazy, yet somehow commanding drawl. “My name is Shabboreth, and I am his majesty’s royal attendant. Now, may I inquire as to your reason for bein’ here?”
—As Shabboreth reached the bottom of the steps, a wave of fear passed over the party members. “Oh, now where are my manners?”Shabboreth said, scolding himself. Immediately after saying this, the sense of fear that washed over them subsided and ebbed away. “Us bogeymen have a poor habit of frightening the unprepared. You must forgive my rudeness.”
—Foren revealed that they had come to speak with the Gremlin king, and that they were seeking a music box. At this, the Gremlin horde chattered excitedly, laughing and clacking up above. One look from Shabboreth was enough to silence them again.
—“Well, I am afraid that my master is indisposed at the moment,” Shabboreth began, in a tone of mock disappointment. “And in any case, I doubt that my master would want to speak to the likes of you.”
—The man turned and began striding towards the steps once again. The party members protested, saying that they had come a long way already, and that they would prefer the king told them that himself.
—Shabboreth turned slowly, ponderous. “Well, I suppose there is one way that the master would see you…In fact, it is the only way anyone gets in to speak with him.”
—The party listened, eager to hear more. “This keep is just FILLED with wonderful trials and challenges to prove your solemn worth as mortals. If you survive the trials of this keep, and solve the riddle on the door to the Gremlin King’s chambers, then you will be free to enter and speak with him.”
—The party members looked at one another, and smiled. They were sure they were up to such challenges. However, seeing their smiles, Shabboreth spoke again.
—“However, I must let you know that no mortal has ever made it through with their sanity intact…In fact, it is most certain that many of you will die in the process.”
—Cyrus spoke at this moment “But…Couldn’t you simply let us through, and SAY that we had completed these trials?”
—Shabboreth laughed, baring his menacing teeth. “Oh my dear boy, but then, what FUN would THAT be?”
—With that, Shabboreth vanished in a wisp of shadow, and the Gremlins above chattered and cheered, and began to disperse, the show just about to begin. The party members began getting ready to inspect the room around them. As they each split off, Cyrus decided to stop one of the Gremlins, and ask some questions.
—A Jinkin sat, leering down at the party members with a toothy grin. The candelabras decorating the walls reflected an eerie light off of the Gremlin’s red scales and pointed ears. He sat on an outcropping of crown molding, swinging his feet idly.
—Cyrus approached the Gremlin, and asked if there was some way that the Gremlin could help them through the trials of the keep.
—However, the Jinkin only grinned, and told Cyrus that helping them would be cheating, and that Ragardrail cared very little for cheaters.
—Cyrus still pressed further, asking what the Gremlin wanted, hoping to bribe the creature into assisting them. However, the Gremlin merely leered stating that its only wish was to watch them suffer through insanity and pain.
—It then got to its feet, and crawled off with the others chuckling, leaving the hall.
—Crestfallen, Cyrus moved off to rejoin the others.
—Meanwhile, the rest of the party members began inspecting the hall. Lizer began by moving toward the double doors which presumably led to the Gremlin King’s throneroom. The tall iron doors bore an inscription, and were engraved with the image of a mighty elven-looking king and a humble, beautiful human woman. The two engraved figures stood with their backs turned to one another, facing opposite directions.
—The inscription on the doors read:
Stubbornly, they’ve turned apart,
Not facing what should be.
If only they could use their hearts,
Then eye to eye they’d see…
—Lizer puzzled over this, his brow furrowed.
—Meanwhile, Corta moved off back to the entranceway to look at the Gremlin statues. She uncovered no special significance about them, only that they signified the primary denizens of the Keep.
—Foren began looking at the six pillars supporting the hall. As he did so in great detail, he discovered that each of the strange faces that were carved into these pillars had a gaping open mouth full of teeth. If he wanted to, Foren surmised that he would likely be able to put a hand inside.
—Owtikk took flight as a pterodactyl once again, and circled the high ceiling. In doing so, she spotted an inscription on the floor which read:
So many secrets can we hold,
And trap them deep within our souls.
But loud and clear one of us shouts,
So reach in deep, and yank it out.
—Owtikk relayed this information to the others below, and took one final circle around the room before landing once again.
—Back up at the double doors, Lizer decided to move on as he pondered the riddle. He took note using his Elven senses of a secret door down the left side of the landing. If his senses hadn’t alerted him to this, he would surely have had trouble finding it otherwise. However, he was unable to open the door by any means he could think of.
—Back in the center of the hall, the others pondered the riddle Owtikk had read on the floor. As Foren continued to inspect the faces carved on the pillars, he took particular notice of the one on the far right corner of the hall.
—This pillar was mostly identical, except that one of its eyes were closed in a sort of wink. Foren mentioned this information to the others, and they pondered the words on the floor some more.
—Corta offered that he should try putting his hand inside, following the directions of the riddle.
—Foren was apprehensive, and decided to try shining light inside the mouth of the pillar first. In doing so, he spotted a pair of stone buttons deep inside of the pillar’s mouth – much deeper back than the physical space allowed.
—Afer much deliberation about which button to press, Foren decided to push the right button – the same side as the closed eye on the statue.
—However, Foren decided to use a Mage Hand spell instead of putting his own arm inside to do it.
—As soon as the button was pressed, a resounding click could be heard, and a secret door opened on the right hand wall.
—Owtikk and Corta decided they wanted to see what was through this door, and so ran into the next room together.
—Foren elected to stay behind to try and solve the mystery of the double doors, as Lizer continued inspecing the secret door next to it.
—Cyrus made his way up to the landing as well, and went down the right side. There was a door on this side of the landing, which seemed unlocked. He told the others that he was going inside, and ventured forward into another, smaller hallway.
—This hallway seemed to extend into a dark room down at the far end of the chamber. To Cyrus’s immediate right was a small alcove containing an altar.
—Upon the altar were two half-burned yellowish candles sitting on either side of an engraved ceramic urn. The urn bore the image of a large fly on each side, surrounded by smaller swarms of flies. Without touching the urn, Cyrus was able to read an inscription upon it:
A legion churns with hungry mouths,
Who crawl on bellies white.
A humming drone when fully grown,
This army takes a bite.
—Cyrus relayed this info to the others, and Lizer thought for a moment about whether or not he knew of any deities devoted to flies. He could not recall any at all, and surmised that the altar was probably for some other use than diefic worship.
—Cyrus decided to leave the altar alone, and moved to the other end of the hall, where it opened into the next room.
—Meanwhile, Lizer attempted to get Foren to use his magic to open the secret door. Unfortunately, it seemed that it would not open except under specific circumstances.
—Lizer took one final look at it while Foren began work on the double doors. Foren removed two patches from his Robe of Useful Items – two full-length mirrors. He placed the two facing the doors at an angle, hoping to reflect the images of each door upon each other in such a way that they would appear to be facing one another.
—Ingenious though this solution was, it appeared that this was not the answer to the riddle that the door posed. Foren let the two mirrors fall and break, and then joined Cyrus in the hallway.
—After a few more moments of inspecting the hidden door, Lizer did the same.
—Corta and Owtikk moved through the secret door into the room beyond. This room’s main feature was a fountain set into the left wall, bearing the same gruesome visage that was carved into the pillars. However, this face had a torrent of clear water pouring from its mouth.
—On the the far wall was a door, seemingly unlocked. On the wall to the right, directly across from the fountain was another door, though this one was most definitely locked tight.
—Corta and Owtikk approached the fountain closer, and as they did, the statue’s eyes began to glow a striking blue. When they got within five feet, the fountain spoke in a snarling voice:
A babbling brook of nonsense,
Contained within your mind.
To gain a fairer fortune,
Means leaving some behind.
—They told the others this fresh riddle over their communicators, and Cyrus told them to drop a coin into the fountain – leaving fortune behind.
—Owtikk took out a gold coin, and dropped it in. In an instant, the locked door opened, revealing a long chamber inside.
—Corta and Owtikk split up, Corta checking the open door at the end of the room, and Owtikk going into the newly opened chamber.
—Back in the hallway past the landing, Foren and Cyrus stood on the threshold of the next room, while Lizer came inside, and began inspecting the altar.
—Lizer definitely concluded that the altar was not to any deity he had ever heard of. However, he also noticed that the two candles were each made from human fat.
—Though this was disgusting, Lizer decided to see what would happen if he lit the candles. He did so, and a wave of brief euphoria passed over him after he did so. When they were lit, the urn seemed to sink slightly into the altar, Lizer noticing then that it had been propped up by a bit of stone beneath it.
—Lizer decided to extinguish the candles, and in doing so, the euphoria left him, but the urn raised up again on the mechanism.
—Lizer was curious about this indeed, but joined the others at the mouth of the next room.
—The room that the three of them looked upon was dominated by a large grandfather clock on the far end, with its hands pointed at roughly three o’clock.
—The room was lit with a blue light emanating from four braizers set below the walls on either side of the chamber. Above these braizers were four Gremlin statues, one for each burning flame, each holding an urn.
—In front of the grandfather clock was an open chest with a rod-like object inside. It was too far to make out from the door, so the party members stepped inside.
—At once, the Gremlin statues sprang to life, dumping their urns of water onto the blue fire braizers below. The fires were extinguished in a flash, and the chest closed and locked tight.
—The party members were aghast, and Foren tried to light one of the braizers. It lit, except with a normal orange flame. The chest remained motionless, still locked.
—Owtikk stepped into a room with eight pillars, each with a large bell set into it near the base. Atop each of these pillars were different carvings of the same royal Elven male. Each of these statues showed a different stage of this royal figure’s life, from birth all the way to death. The different stages were arranged in a nonlinear fashion.
—At the end of the chamber was a locked chest, with a small beam of light shining upon it from above.
—Corta’s door led her outside onto the balcony once again. The door seemed to open out onto a portion of the balcony that sat at a corner, with a pathway leading around to the front of the keep. In the middle of the balcony was a large marble statue of a beautiful human woman, carved as though deep in song. On the wall to the left was a closed and locked door.
—Corta approached this statue, and read an inscription at its base:
A silent song is sung,
But only for her ears.
To enter, play her music
She hasn’t heard in years.
—The party members all puzzled over the riddles and trials which stood before them. They had thus far seen no sign of the creeping madness that was said to lurk within the walls of the keep, but they knew that they still had far to go before reaching their quest’s end…
The Golden Cage
The Keep of the Gremlin King
—The party members emerged from the tunnel after nightfall, pondering how to proceed next. The information they had gathered from the dragon had been vague at best, but Foren offered a place to start – the Gremlins.