Feldenaith was gone. He left a note stuck to the wall with a dagger.
“Hello friends. It was lovely to meet you. The moving statues were a little disconcerting. The disappearing elves as well. MysElf I’m not sure. I wish you luck. I’m just a sailor on the Sea of Ruin. Give a shout at an appropriate tavern. You know, the ones that keep an EYE on you.”
And then there were three.
They turned to the closest door and continued to investigate. Tanuukkodol tried to read the Khuzdul script, but he failed, as did Athok and Throkkol. Fortunately, Grafarlig was able to discern its meaning and got the door open. Inside was an ancient armory, in which they found a pair of mithril greaves. Tanuukkodol claimed them. Bertram found a +15 Elvish longsword, of a type that was becoming familiar to the party. None of the party was very good with swords, so Bertram kept it until they could sell it.
There were also two chests, and an ancient book. The book was a Dwarven Book of the Dead, and listed thousands of Dwarvish names, some from the 2nd Age, some from the 3rd. The party no longer had a thief, so they could not open the chests. Bertram tried persuading the chests to open, but could not, although he did sense that a presence somewhere approved of his efforts, a… bashful presence?
The party then descended to next level, where they found a beautiful sparkling cavern with a lake in the middle with clear water. Beautiful mermaids swam back and forth in it. The room was about 20 m. across, and circular, with another door and stairs on the other side. Tanuukkodol stared in wonder, while Grafarlig remained cautious on the steps. Bertram convinced Throkkol that one of the mermaids had given him the eye, and the foolish dwarf stuck his head in the water to say hi. Luckily, Tanuukkodol grabbed hold of his belt and was able to pull him out when the lovely mermaid turned into a vicious hag with shark’s teeth and tried to bite his head off.
The party was a bit stunned by this, to say the least. Tanuukkodol bandages Throkkol’s forehead. Two of the hags pulled themselves from the pool and began dragging themselves towards the party, but Tanuukkodol pierced their arms with arrows and then applied the finishing shots.
It was in this room that Bertram began to display a strange new power. Books, goblets, and canes appeared from nowhere and were thrown at the mermaids. Bertram’s powers continued through the evening. They seem to manifest in connection with his fear or bravery. When he is brave, the objects are hurled at the party’s enemies. When he acts cowardly, they are hurled at him.
Upon the death of their sisters, the mermaids in the pool screamed hateful things, as if summoning something from the deep. The party decided to move on.
Descending the stairs again, they find the next room is filled with tomatoes. Using his Plant Lore, Tanuukkodol learns that some are magical tomatoes, and then talks to them with Plant Tongues. They turn out to be paranoid tomatoes with psychoanalytic powers, and they advise Bertram (in Westron) to find his inner strength and confront his fears. Then the party wades through the tomatoes, avoiding harming the magical ones, and harvesting many of the normal ones. They are tasty.
Descending again, they find a very small room with a study in the middle. The desk is covered in paper, piled incredibly high. From the desk they heard the sound of someone scribbling, but his identity was obscured by the papers. Tanuukkodol tries a variety of languages and find the creature responds to Khuzdul. Approaching, Grafarlig is able to get the exhausted ancient dwarf to stop his scribbling.
Grafarlig tells him that they are looking for ring of power wielded by Thaylor. He replies that, “Freedom is won by the blood of someone’s son.” The party still doesn’t know what that means. He then tells them that the ring is below and that they have to know what they’re looking for. The Runkisden is built on the Ways, where the elves go to hide their homes and things. There is whirling swirling magic here. Thaylor thought to tame the Ways, making them take people where they want by thinking of what you are looking for. He seems to have succeeded, at least partially. The dwarf, who has forgotten his own name, describes to them in Westron the next room that will take them closer to their goal.
The party gives the dwarf a tomato in thanks. Then, thinking of the presence he felt earlier, Bertram leads the party forward, down the next set of stairs. They find a room full of treasure chests, ten of them. Bertram investigates while the rest of the party stays outside. Bertram discovers that the chests are sentient, and talks to the first one, called Bashful. Bashful was the presence he had felt earlier. He gets Bashful to yield the key to the ebony chest on the preceding level, then talks to Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Doc, and Generous. Dopey, Farty, and Grumpy are asleep and not talking, and he has been warned not to disturb Hatred. Sneezy sneezes all over him. Doc gives him some good advice and identifies Hatred. Happy spits up a big ruby. Generous gives gifts to each of the party, based on their desires. Bertram asks for the location of the ring of power, and Generous explains in Westron so that all know how to get to the next level (below the various odd rooms on this level). Generous warns that some others have already made it down there, so the party should be careful. He describes one with a leather gorget whose neck bleeds. Tanuukkodol recognizes this as the Siren that Drogo described wounding in Lest. Grafarlig asks for whatever and gets 56 s. Throkkol asks for a sandwich. Attok asks for the respect of those he cares for. Tanuukkodol asks for a new spell list, and receives three single-use scrolls from the Concealment Mastery spell list. They give Generous and Bashful tomatoes, and descend to the next level.
There is some natural stone there, and some shaped. In the first room there is a silver and gold accent wall, with seven statues in front of it. They are:
- Family man, woman, child
- Child caught running happily
- Young adult staring upward, short beard
- Courtship and holding hands of another young dwarf
- Same young dwarf at the bed of a dying dwarf – freedom comes from the blood of someone’s son
- Exhausted dwarf, aged and holding a cane
- Empty dais (nothing there)
Each has an inscription that appears when blood is rubbed on it (Bertram’s idea). They make clear that the statues are a series showing the passage of life.
The party goes into the right tunnel and there is another inscription on the wall, “Avoid Kindness.” In the corner of the next room is a statue of a young male dwarf, crying. Bertram talks to it, disdainfully, and it begins to follow him.
A random group of goblins enters the room. The party sets up in its standard fighting formation, with the three dwarves in front, Tanuukkodol firing his bow over them, and Bertram hiding behind him. Tanuukodol kills the first goblin with three arrows to the torso in quick succession. Two goblins attack Grafarlig but miss. Grafarlig hits one in the torso. Tanuukodol kills that one with an arrow in the throat, and gives the other two arrows to the thigh. Grafarlig finishes that one, slicing him in half. Potted plants and things attack as well, thanks to Bertram’s new power.
The second wave of goblins miss Grafarlig but hit Throkkol. An elf in gray appears, teleporting to the rear of the party, going after Bertram. Bertram takes a deep hit to his shoulder from another one of those +15 Elven longswords, and is stunned for two rounds. Tanuukodol shoots two arrows at the elf, grazing his throat the first time, while the Siren dodges most of the damage. In doing so, the elf moves directly into the second shot, which passes through the neck and kills him instantly. Tanuukodol then turns and fires his final arrow at a goblin in front of Grafarlig, doing massive damage to him. Grafarlig then slices him in half, finishing the job.
Throkkol then gets hit, hard. He staggers back with half hit points. Tanuukodol shoots the last goblin in the head twice, stunning him for two rounds and again Grafarlig delivers the coup de grace, hitting him in the hip.
Tanuukodol again does first aid on Throkkol, healing him for 20 points using the carpet moss. Bertram heals himself, curing only five hit points even with the carpet moss. Grafarlig finds 2 s. and 50 p. Tanuukkodol takes the +15 Elven longsword.
The kid’s statue is still following Bertram but then Grafarlig is nice to it and it starts attacking and biting her. She tries to push it back to its pedestal. When she cuts it on the leg it backs away and goes back to the dais.
In the next room, they find 4 statues of dwarves in the corners. There is a bigger and more impressive dwarf statue in the center. He doesn’t move smoothly though. He is either doing the robot or has a low bit rate. The party isn’t sure which. Tanuukkodol says, “that’s a big dwarf.” Bertram asks, “Would a large dwarf be a Regular?” There are several exits on the right, and one on the left at the rear. They also hear a distance cadence, coming from deep underground. They try to guess the tune. “Where there’s a Whip?” “Down in the Dungeon?” “Big John?” They can’t, but they keep trying.
Grafarlig opens the right northern door, which opens into an ornate hallway that connects all three doors. They close the door and exit out the south and turn right. There’s lots of corridors going off. They find a room with very deep pits, with long dead dwarves posed (seated against the wall) watching the pits. The dwarves have rusted chain mail. The party moves on.
Three more elves in grey attack them, telporting into various locations in the party. Tanuukodol goes into overkill mode. He kills the one in front with three arrows, the last through his neck, leaving Grafarlig without a foe. She starts running down the looping corridor to attack the elf in the rear of the party.
Throkkol takes damage, as does Attok. Tanuukodol tells Bertram to duck and begins shooting the ones to the rear of the party. Tanuukodol kills the one next to Throkkol and then wounds the one behind Attok, stunning him for one round. Next round he stuns it brutally for two more rounds. Grafarlig finally makes it around the loop and flanks the last one, slicing off his arm.
Searching, they find 3 more +15 Elf swords. And there’s something new. Bertram recognizes one of the elves, whom he doesn’t name, but whom he says, “was a good guy.” The party stops to learn more. They now notice that the elves look “hollow,” either as if they were controlled or possessed. Tanuukkodol feels less pleased by his role today as the slaughter hobo, and the party resolves to try to capture one in the future and see if he can be cured. Bertram’s elf is from Mirkwood and Bertram gathers his effects to return them, along with an ear (Tanuukkodol’s suggestion. It seemed like a good idea at the time.). Tanuukodol questioned if the elves were from Torumen’s elven enclave. Most Wood Elves in the region are. Was the Gardener gardening them? And what did that mean?
The party finished out the level. The kid statue is still following them, and when they again enter the room of pits, they get tired of his presence. Grafarlig drops something down the pit, and Tanuukkodol angrily calls her “a fool of a Took.” The statue wants to hug Bertram, but Tanuukkodol tries to kick him into one of the deep pits. The statue avoids with a cunning backflip but fails to stick the landing. Grumpy, he sits down on the edge of the pit. Tanuukkodol goes around the pit and finishes the job. The party listens to the statue bouncing off various things as it falls. They then explored the hallway, which was covered with tapestries. There is water down at the end of the hallway, and more stairs. There is a cadence underneath everything, from the next level down. Grafarlig becomes worried about Sirens, and the party stuffs wool into their ears. And prepares to proceed down to the next level.