With the Reptile House explored (mostly) the party heads back to the Lever Room. "Go do your thing, I'll watch the Grate Room," says Raúguey. Locky trails along behind him, and takes position at the corner intersection, where he can watch all three major passages, E, SE, and S. Rawon heads for the far end of the EW passage outside the Lever Room, standing where he can keep an eye on the illusion-covered pit to the SE. Dagmarten and Tesso stay in the hall just outside the Lever Room, keeping an eye on Maro, Ohwatoo, Ingvild, Mordikarr, and Durego inside the room.
At Maro's request Ingvild [Locky doesn't do traps] checks everything for traps again, muttering about wasting time all the while. "Nothing, like last time." [Ohwatoo's detect magic ability requires natural firelight and half an hour. Unless you're spending an hour or so hauling firewood, it's not happening.]
"Let's get this over with," says Durego. Mordikarr offers an approving grunt.
Maro moves to the W lever. "Pulling!" he calls, warning those in the hall.
"Ready!" calls Locky.
Maro pulls the lever, slowly and steadily. "Not a lot of resistance. Smooth... Wait." He stops with the lever vertical. "A stop here," he says, as the two metal figures begin moving, unfolding, as if standing up. Their arms shift the rods and linkages connected to the gear and rod mechanism on the pillar, which emits a low hum. The component parts shift and twist and then float apart, creating a swarm of hovering pieces. Two wheel-like rings made of floating rods slowly turn, one clockwise, one counterclockwise.
"What the..." Ohwatoo stares at the floating parts, edging closer.
"The doors!" cries Ingvild. Eyes snap to the two stone doors, which are swinging shut, slowly and steadily.
"Help me!" calls Dagmarten, grabbing the nearest door. Tesso joins him and they attempt to hold the door. Mordikarr throws his shoulder against it from the inside.
No use. Mordikarr is pushed back as if he wasn't there. The pair outside snatch their fingers out of the gap as the panel snicks into the frame.
"Ingvild!" cries Dagmarten. He hammers on the door with a fist.
Inside the room sound from outside is muffled, Dagmarten's cry little more than a faint noise accompanied by dim pitter-patter sounds on the door.
Durego moves to the other door. "We're OK!" he calls in his loudest voice. He whacks the panel a couple times with his mace for emphasis.
"Push it back where it was," suggests Ohwatoo.
Maro nods, and the people inside step away from the doors. The elf moves the lever back to where it was. The floating bits of the mechanism return to their quiescent state, and almost immediately the W door is yanked open by Dagmarten and Tesso.
"Are you all right?" asks Dagmarten.
"Everyone is fine," answers Rawon.
"We couldn't really hear you out there. Did you hear us shout and bang?"
"It was faint. Let's try it again with the levers as they are." The group returns to position and closes the doors. Experimentation shows that whatever closed the doors also deadened sound and vibration.
Meanwhile, Raúguey has been working on the Grate Room. Using the crowbar he manages to pry one of the grates out of the floor with a loud CLANG. The space below is a narrow tube-like tunnel leading straight down for several feet, then splitting in several directions. It's too small for a human, Raúguey can reach an arm or leg in and that's about it. Even Locky would have a hard time getting into the confined space. Nevertheless the big guy lowers his lantern into the opening and then checks the other grate. "Cover your light Locky," he says. In the resulting darkness the pair can see faint light at the bottom of the second grate.
"So they connect up," says the halfling. "I wonder where the other passages go?"
Their discussion is interrupted by the warning from the hall and the subsequent noise. Once everyone is back together and the door testing is done, the group walks the area, Grate Room, West Hall, The Pit, Cross Hall, East Hall, Statue Room. Nothing seems to have changed.
In the Statue Room, Raúguey checks the held doors. Whatever spell sealed them before, it's power has dissipated. The door opens normally. The group carries out another examination of this chamber, but learns nothing new. The corpses are corpses, the statue a statue. The small offerings (?) scattered around its base are mostly bits of food, colorful stones, or similar unremarkable objects.
The group returns to the Grate Room. Since the others have not seen the Storage / Tree Rooms they check them out and poke around. Maro and Rawon think the altar might be dedicated to Tular Athar, a mythological figure in elven lore, and Rawon's sharp elven sight picks out a secret door in the E wall of the altar room.
"Well I'm still searching the fountain for coins," says Raúguey, as the others debate the best way to proceed with the levers. "Locky, keep an eye out, will you?"
The halfling nods then gives Mordikarr a curious look, "What are you doing with Suren?"
"Metal bars gone. Suren go peek in hole." Mordikarr holds one of his growl-squeak conversations with the fisher, then releases the creature, which walks to the open grate, sniffs it a few times, and then crawls into the opening.
"Do you think that's wise? What if there's something nasty down there?"
"Suren tough. And smart. I tell her run back here if something bad."
"I see. I wish I could talk to Jedit like you talk to Suren and Ava. I hope she's not causing too much havoc back at camp." The halfling keeps turning his head as he talks, watching the hall, the group discussing the levers nearby, Raúguey at the fountain, and Mordikarr pacing between the grates.
Meanwhile Raúguey has stirred up the water of the pool with his feeling around and probing of the depths. "A ha!" he cries, laying a handful of muck on the fountain's rim. Using a dagger he spreads out the goo, uncovering a few disk-shaped objects. "I knew there was money here!" he rinses off the coins and then gives them the once-over. Two are old copper pieces, more verdigris that metal remains. The last is actually a gold coin, struck with a stylized man's head on one side, and three peaks on the other.
Suren's squalling growl [OOC: http://youtu.be/n-GcSbwYRgw about 1:30 in.] interrupts further action. Mordikarr trots over to the still-sealed grate and squats beside it, listening. "Suren say it smell bad down there. Wet too." He growls something through the bars and the fisher snarls in reply, then vanishes, only to reappear a few moments later at the open grate. The beast scrambles out, trundles over to the fountain, and dives in, splashing Raúguey in the process. After thoroughly soaking herself, Suren climbs back out. Raúguey grabs the coin and backs away to avoid the follow-on shake that's sure to come.
"Ohwatoo, what do you make of this?" He hands the mage the coin.
The wizard wipes the last bits of goop off the golden disk and studies it in the light of his glowing stone. "I've never seen any coin like this before, the face in unfamiliar. Hang on, what's this? There's a little... a fox head maybe? Engraved below the portrait. Might indicate a year. But the year of the fox... that's not part of the normal Kingdoms cycle. Hasn't been used in over a century."
"Hembard's era?" asks Maro.
Ohwatoo shakes his head. "Even older. We're talking two or three hundred years ago." The mage looks around at the chambers and tunnels, "How old is this place?"
"Well why don't you get on with the lever pulling and find out?" says Raúguey. I'll watch from the hall.
"I still think we all should be inside," says Locky.
Durego, Ohwatoo, and Maro head back into the lever room, and Locky follows. Rawon shrugs and moves inside too. The brothers, Ingvild and Dagmarten exchange a few words, then Ingvild says, "Don't be stupid," grabs Dagmarten, and pulls him inside, leaving Raúguey, Tesso, and Mordikarr in the hall. The newcomer looks at who's left, then quickly ducks in the room, taking position near Maro.
"Guess it's just us Mordikarr. Keep an eye out." The beastmaster nods.
Inside the crowded room, Maro prepares to pull the levers. "West first, all the way this time," says Ohwatoo.
[Note I'll shorthand levers as N, V or S]
Maro nods and pulls, stopping at V. Once again the parts and pieces start moving and the doors close. "I see no mechanical parts here," says Ingvild, who's taken position by the W door. There's a sharp SNAP as the door swings closed. Ingvild stoops and picks up the stub end of a torch. "Whatever moves them is strong. Keep fingers inside the room at all times."
"Moving," calls Maro, pulling the W lever forward. In the mechanism, the central pillar begins to slowly turn amidst the various floating pieces that surround it.
Ingvild tries the door, then shakes his head. "Still sealed."
"Back it is then." Maro moves the W lever back through the progression, V, then N. The device goes still and when Ingvild tries the door it opens. He quickly fills in the pair in the hall then closes the door again.
"OK Maro, move over to the east lever and try that. Same thing, slow and steady." The mage seems confident in his plan, so the elf complies. Unfortunately the lever does not. "It feels stuck. Not moving at all." He pulls harder, then stops and shakes his head. "Nothing."
"Perhaps they're linked. Let's do this..." Ohwatoo grabs the W lever and pulls it to vertical, sealing the room. "Try it now." Maro pulls the lever. Nothing. Ohwatoo tugs the W lever to the S position. "And again." Maro pulls, the lever moves!
"Brilliant Ohwatoo!" Maro pulls the lever to V, where it seems to hit a stop. The figures change position again, shifting limbs in a manner that bronze and iron should not allow. More of the floating rods and bars begin to shift, creating a rippling line, each piece dropping into a hole in the turning pillar then rising again. A shudder, and then a rumbling groan fills the room.
"Look!" cries Rawon, pointing at the base of the pillar. The line of grime and dirt is moving, rising along the shaft.
"Uh oh," says Durego. "Try and move the lever back!" he cries.
The floor shakes like a dog with a bad flea infestation, knocking Ohwatoo and Dagmarten to the ground. Maro grabs the lever and shoves it N, or tries to. "Nothing doing! Hang on to something!"
A deafening, grinding noise fills the room, and the floor continues to shudder and shake. It's hard to say how long it goes on, you're too busy trying to keep your feet, but it's at least five minutes. Dust rises from the floor in clouds, causing eyes to tear up and breath to catch in throats. The stains on the pillar continue to move up the shaft, eventually reaching the top and disappearing. The newly exposed stone is dark and oily looking, the pattern of holes repeating itself over and over.
"I got a bad feeling about this!" cries Locky.
"Hey, that's my line!" coughs Durego. "Woah!" A particularly fierce shake knocks the cleric off his feet, and he barely keeps his lantern stable. Tesso falls too, leaving only the nimble elves and Locky on their feet.
The shaking gets worse, but the grinding, it seems to be fading. Finally, the shaking fades too. Dust fills the air, but Ohwatoo can see that the rippling rods and bars stop moving, leaving only the two gear-shaped disks turning on either side of the oily pillar. "Well, that was fun," he whispers.
After Ingvild reports, there is silence for a few moments, then the ground shakes beneath your feet. Suren growls softly, and scrambles up on Mordikarr's shoulder. A long, drawn-out grinding noise fills the hallway. "That doesn't sound good," says Raúguey, trying the nearest door.
Mordikarr stoops near the door, listening and then sniffing. "Sound like big rock move. Smell funny too, like fire water for light."
Raúguey sniffs too, "You have a better nose than me. I can't smell anything except my armor."
The grinding noise gradually fades, and the shuddering stops. Raúguey starts counting off seconds. Two minutes, five, seven. The grinding fades to nothing. Silence. Mordikarr tries the door again. It's sealed tight. "Maybe better if we go with others, eh?" he says, worried look on his face.
"I wasn't planning on drinking it. Let's see how deep it is, after we listen a while." The pair settles in at the top of the stairs, straining to hear the slightest sound, lantern covered. Minutes pass.
Finally Mordikarr says, "No noise. Go play in water. I watch."
Raúguey takes one of the poles the party cut to test for traps and probes the waters, working around the edges of the low brick wall that borders the pool, then going deeper. And deeper. Finally he pulls out the pole. "This isn't like the other, it's pretty darn deep, five feet or so. I didn't feel any openings or passages though."
Mordikarr, who moved over to the top of the stairs to listen, nods. "Still no noise. Maybe not where others go."
OOC: You spend five minutes listening, then a couple more checking the pool. After that you listen a few more minutes, then give up and return to the hall near the Lever Room via West Hall. It's very very quiet.
After regaining their feet and dusting themselves off, the party takes stock. No one is hurt, and an examination of the room shows no obvious damage or leakage. Ohwatoo checks out the pillar, where the two wheel-like constructs continue to turn. "I don't think this is water," he says, sniffing, then touching the pillars glistening surface. "It feels like oil or grease. Maybe it's supposed to be there."
"The doors are dry, and I don't hear anything outside," says Ingvild. "Of course they're thick iron, so they probably cover any noise. If we want to see what's out there, we'll have to open up."
"Let's do it," says Durego, taking position by the E door. It's clear there is no real room for missile weapons in the narrow room [it's only the size of two small bedrooms end to end], Rawon keeps his bow, but the rest prepare melee weapons. "Someone stay at the lever. If there's trouble, move it to the vertical, which will cause the doors to close. Just make sure everyone is inside first."
"I'll handle it," says Dagmarten.
"OK, unlock it, and let's go." The cleric moves the lever to the north position, and Ohwatoo watches as the strange statues and mechanical parts return to their original positions, still and silent. Ingvild holds up a hand, gesturing for silence, and presses an ear to the door. After a quiet minute he moves aside and shrugs. "Nothing."
Durego nods, checks his shield, reaches for the latch, lifts, shoves. The door swings open half-way, grating and grinding across the floor of the chamber beyond. Light spills out through the doorway, illuminating a larger space, "Looks like a fairly large room, I'm goi..."
That's as far as Durego gets before a bulky shape clatters out of the shadows, straight for the door! Durego can only register fur and forked horns before whatever it is crashes past the opening and slams into him, driving him back into the room and to the floor! [3 Damage].
"Close the door!" cries Ingvild, preparing to leap into the fray.
[Going to do one round of combat on the assumption that your plan gets you that far. Space is a serious issue in the room. Only two people will be able to engage the whatever-it-is unless you want to risk people crashing into levers or mechanisms. I'm using Scott's front to back order, except Tesso refused to be front rank (seriously, the dude is in rags with a rusty sword).]
[Round One - Foe initiative]
The creature emits a horrible bleating cry, stoops, and pummels Durego with knotted, horn-like fists. One skids off his shield, the other slams into his helm, rattling the clerics brain. [4 Damage]. There's more clattering noise in the room beyond the door, and if you could actually see past the fur-covered creature, you might notice another moving into the light.
"Closing!" Dagmarten yanks the lever to full S position, then prepares his quarterstaff, but there's no space. With Durego sprawled on the ground, only Ingvild is in position to strike. He tries a low stabbing thrust into the creature's guts but the blade skids off the creature's hide. Rawon sees an opening and fires, but can't connect. Durego, rattled by the sudden onslaught, kicks at the creature and tries to slide himself north, out from under the thing's hooves. His booted foot connects with the beast's knee and causes it to stagger a bit [2 Damage]. The cleric manages to rise to a low crouch, back to the E lever.
The door starts to swing closed, and as the opening narrows, there's a loud CRUNCH as something slams into it, then thick fingers curl around the edge...
OOC: The creature is about seven feet tall, humanoid in form. It has brownish fur, and an elongated goat-like head, with forked horns or antlers. It stands on hoofed feet and it has too few hard-knuckled fingers. There's clearly at least one more in the room.
[Round Two - Party Initiative]
Ohwatoo begins casting a spell! Initially intending to fire a magic missile at the creature trying to open the door, he quickly realizes he has no line of sight. "Better the target you know," he thinks as he releases a missile at the beast in front of Durego. [5 damage] Rawon follows the magical bolt with a mundane arrow, but the tight quarters prove challenging, it misses.
Durego struggles to regain his feet while the goat-beast tries to hammer him with his fists. He finally stands and finds himself half-pinned between the creature and the lever at his back. "Gaa you smell *terrible*!" he shouts, then takes a clumsy swing at the creature. Whiff.
Ingvild manages to connect with his short sword, stabbing the creature in the side. [5 damage] "Stop pushing!" he shouts at Maro who tries to crowd in from behind.
"I'm not pushing!" cries Locky, using his diminutive size to good advantage, he ducks past Maro and Ohwatoo, taking position in front of the machine / pillar, where he's just able to reach the enemy. "Gotcha!" he cries, stabbing at the creatures hairy calf. [4 damage]
There's a muted bellow of rage from the door as the iron panel swings shut, cutting off the second creature. The sound enrages the trapped foe, and it hammers on Durego with horns and fists driving the cleric back! [Hit with horns and one fist: 9 damage] "A little he... AHHH!" Durego stumbles into the lever, shoving it to the north position! The room begins to shudder and shake as floating rods and turning pillar do their thing. Horrible grinding noises fill the air and it's a struggle to stay on your feet, much less fight!
[Round Three - creature initiative]
Somehow the beast manages to stay upright. It turns and swats at Locky with one hand, then drives its horned head into Ingvild. Locky takes a backhanded fist to the skull [3 damage], Ingvild dodges aside [by falling flat on his butt]. Dust fills the air once again.
"I hope we're going the right direction!" cries Ohwatoo, ducking into the other door alcove to get out of Rawon's way and falling face-first to the floor. "Uff."
Rawon attempts to draw down on the creature, but the shaking is too much, a particularly violent tremor knocks him into the wall!
Durego scrambles away from the fight, trying to use the machine as cover, a tricky proposition with the various moving parts floating around. He manages to separate himself from the brawl, and his mace in the confusion! Ever nimble Locky dodges left and shouts at the beast trying to draw its attention (for some insane reason). He hacks at its legs once again, and hits! [3 damage].
Ingvild also manages to stay on his feet, and uses his short sword to good effect, stabbing the beast in the shoulder. [6 damage]. Maro manages to move in to Durego's position, taking a hasty swing with Elf Sword! [6 damage]. The now very bloody beast bellows with rage and pain, turning to face this new threat!
[Round Four - creature initiative]
The beast manages off-balance swings at Maro with fists before it's hooves slip from under it. [Miss]
Crisis or opportunity? Locky, Maro, and Ingvild decide to capitalize on the monster's condition, actions that send the halfling and thief reeling. Maro, however, manages to stay on his feet. He strikes true, driving the Elf Sword into the creature's throat! [8 damage].
At the same time the shaking stops, and Dagmarten, arms wrapped around the W lever, shoves it to the north, unlocking the doors. "Get Raúguey and Mordikarr," he coughs, struggling to get to his feet.
Everyone is surprised when both doors are yanked open. Raúguey peers in from the W while Mordikarr, startled by the still twitching beast corpse, gives a mighty yell and hacks the corpse with his heavy two-handed sword.
"It's OK Mordikarr," coughs Locky. "We killed it."
"Come on Mordikarr, let's go take a look at this tree altar again. There's gotta be something we've overlooked around here. I can't believe those trogs didn't have a treasure trove somewhere."
Mordikarr shrugs. "We go look. No like elf-tree magic though. Maybe call big light in sky like when you fight Gola-ka."
"We'll be careful." The pair heads W through the Grate Room, then south to the Tree Altar. You're almost there when the floor begins to shake. "Something's happening! Quick, back to the Lever Room!"
You race back the way you came, reaching the doors just as the grinding racket stops. Mordikarr points to the W door while moving past it to the E. He looks at Raúguey, nods, and together the pair yank open the doors!
A cloud of dusty air rolls out, causing both men to cough. Raúguey is surprised to see Ohwatoo, Rawon, and Dagmarten sprawled on the floor in front of him, but his reaction is nothing compared to Mordikarr's who leaps forward with a cry, bringing his heavy blade down on the bloody shoulders of a hairy horned creature twitching against the wall!
"It's OK Mordikarr," coughs Locky. "We killed it."
OOC: The creature is definitely dead. Wound status:
- Durego: 13 Damage
- Locky: 3 Damage
- Maro: 1 Damage (left from fighting the trogs).
Clerics have all their cure lights (which will change shortly I'm sure).
Ohwatoo has one MM left.
Maro has Hold Portal.
You have one use of the Dwarf Kettle left today Maro and Locky have both consumed it today however - greedy hobbit!