Chapter Eleven –"The Acid Fog on the Tyne is mine all mine."

We leave the town and head back to Castle White Rock, arriving a day or so later without any problems. Entering into the courtyard of the castle, we carefully move through the rest of the levels and soon arrive down at the water barricade, stopping at the bottom of the stairs before wading through the water. Just as we get to the edge of the hidden pit, some 20’ from the wall, a humanoid shape appears on top of the barricade.

The figure appears to be an Elf in full plate-mail armour wielding two rapiers with a long flowing cloak, which after a brief dramatic pause speaks in a muffled and metallic voice “My Master commands you to leave.” Without waiting for an answer, the Elf pivots on the spot and moves out of sight.

Regardless, Chunk moves out to cross the water and I shift for the first time into a Sahuagin to aid the others to cross this special area of water that causes us so much trouble. My skin undulates and darkens, my form sliming and muscles shifting from one place to another, with skin stretching and webbing appearing between my fingers and gills forming at my neck. It is then that the Druid Leader’s words come back to me as the water I stand in starts to cause me discomfort and annoyance.  I knew I should have paid more attention, as it seems that water is not just water and the lack of salt in this particular body of water is giving me a slight headache and an aggravating itchy feeling.

Thankfully I shake off these annoying odd feelings while cursing the fact that a Merman may have been a better choice after all.  Gritting my teeth, I help get Idjit and Stumpy across the gap and between us we all get over the barricade. We can see no sign of the strange armoured Elf, only the signs of battle that happened here between the Orcs and us previously, in the form of discarded broken weapons and copious amounts of dried blood.

McFlurry opens the door that leads us deeper into this level but standing 20 feet or so into the corridor is the armoured figure, it’s two Rapiers drawn and standing ready. McFlurry quickly closes the door while I shout encouraging words of warmongering, adding that I would love to help, only “…I am a fish, not a fighter.”

Before we can do anymore, the door opens and the metal warrior steps through, immediately buckling McFlurry’s swash with a rapier attack to his personals. Now that we are up close with the armoured figure we notice that there is something strange about it as the armour does not look quite right, unless the fittings have been made by some master craftsman as it gives the appearance of a metal skin rather than an normal armoured foe. When we begin to battle it, the creature reacts with swiftness as it hits the Monk very hard while itself being extremely agile as very few of the hits back against it appear to do much if any damage.

I call out “…flank it!” to help aid combat, and casting a spell at the same time as Trixie Magic Missiles it we see both our spells wink out, which is not the best of starts to any fight.

Chunk takes up a front position and starts to smash away at the metal warrior, shielded with spells as usual by Stumpy, while another spell from Trixie fails and so do some of McFlurry’s tripping tricks. The Sahuagin form has a naturally resilient skin and combined with the Woodling genotype, I am harder to hit than most, meaning I can try and help in this melee.  I can’t hit for toffee of course, but stand close and try to soak up some attacks anyway.

The battle is very drawn out as the metal creature simply hits each one of us in turn, with Chunk the only person able to hit it and do any real damage. This takes a toll on Stumpy as the metal beast is attacking him as well as the Half Orc, and so he has to step out to heal himself. Idjit thrashes away with his claws to little effect, but the amount of attacks he makes means he is having some effect, no matter how small. All of us are showing signs of fatigue as attack after attack fails and not one spell has had any effect on the creature so far.

McFlurry is the first to fall, as he tries again to trip the creature, which it appears not to like very much and so shifts round to hit the Monk repeatedly until he falls over. It then begins to target Chunk, and is getting through the Half-Orc’s defences time and time again. It is not helped by the fact that Chunk fails time and time again to hit it. I am helping with healing spells to try and keep people upright, but can’t reach Stumpy who is the next to stumble, falling out of combat. Thankfully he does not drop, and takes the opportunity to keep himself upright with a small healing spell, while the creature pauses its relentless attacks to cast a spell which we pretty much all recognize as Haste. Brilliant.

When Chunk misses again* even the metallic warrior looks at him strangely before smashing Trixie to the ground. It has now moved into a defensive stance making it nearly impossible for anyone other than the Barbarian to strike it, and seeing as how Chunk seems to have forgotten he has opposable thumbs, it looks like the creature has nothing to worry about.

Another hit is all she wrote for Stumpy who takes a very small knock and staggers back out of combat and slumps to the floor, but thankfully Trixie is on hand having just been revived herself to feed a potion to a grateful Stumpy. Chunk finally gets a few good hits in and so does Idjit, but this is where Chunk bows out as he is hit more than once and drops to the floor. Thankfully he is stabilized despite being unconscious by my regenerative healing spell as he was very close to death indeed.

It seems like we have all been whacking away for ages, with us all surrounding the creature while one or another member of the party does the monkey dance to help distract the being while someone else darts in to make their attack. People move in and out of combat to help those fallen, more potions are drunk, our fighters fall over and get back up again, and then suddenly, Idjit hits it one last time causing it to fall over.

Examining it closer now that it is not trying to stick a sharp weapon into anyone, it does in fact appear to be a highly detailed statue made of metal, a construct wielding two rapiers that are melded into its hands. Fearing reanimation of some kind, we drag the heavy metal warrior up over the barricade and drop it into the bottom of the 10’ water trench on the other side of the barricade.

Now thoroughly exhausted, with no spells left and very little health between us all, we decide it may be better for us to retreat to safety rather than run back to rooms full of dangerous beasts. So back to the surface we go, where we find a nice comfy hayloft in one of the animal sheds to sleep for the night.

Later that evening when Stumpy and McFlurry are on watch, they hear lots of movement in the surrounding area. Taking a peak outside, they can see nothing, but can hear the unmistakable chatter of Orcs and the pounding of creatures in armour passing a hundred yards or so away and heading towards the Castle.

The rest of the night passes without incident, and after waking and eating, we make our way back to the barricade. Moving on, we finally make our way back to the mines and begin to explore areas we have not previously been to. The eagle eyes of both myself and McFlurry spot a black puddle which appears to be inching its way along the ground in the darkness, and there is much commotion as we shout “..burn it, hammer it, magic missile it!” while screaming loudly and heading in the other direction.

Spells rain down on the puddle, burning flashes and effects that blaze and explode like a certain Gnome from Ak’Anon’s firework display and before long there is only a stain on the ground to mark its passage. We continue to explore for hours but find nothing but dead ends or seemingly endless corridors.

Soon something of interest is found in the form of a ledge which Idjit spots and we help him and Chunk up to climb and explore. It looks like it was quite well hidden, and used for exactly that reason as a small pouch is found. With this done we have now been round and explored everywhere we haven’t already visited and found nothing, so with a sigh, start again to explore places we have been before.

We have all heard the tales of dungeon Heroes finding secret passages in double quick time, but with our track record we have bumbled about for nearly a whole day and soon we are more exhausted thinking of places to look next than we were when we fought the statue creature earlier. Thankfully someone looks around the throne and finds a small button which causes a section of door to open in the wall behind us. Behind this door is a small open area containing a chest, as well as stairs leading downwards to places unknown - Huzzah!

The chest contains a few goodies to sell while some puerile members of the party begin groaning and calling out in spooky voices saying "....don’t steal my stuff and try and sell it in the market as you will be in dire peril or at the very least assaulted ……....woooooo!!!!!" Yes this was me and Trixie, although even I am not sure where Trixie got the sheet with the eyes cut out from.

We continue onwards rather than resting – we had pretty much done nothing at all for most of the day anyway, and soon find yet another blank wall at the end of the stairs. A quick search reveals a button, and pressing it causes the wall to open. Almost immediately after the door has swung open, a loud clattering noise is heard right in front of us as a large pile of rusty armour falls noisily to the floor.

Now that anyone in earshot has been suitably alerted, it seems that we will not be sneaking up on anyone and in my rare role as point I walk round the armour, checking to make sure no little naughty lads are hiding in it first. With no obvious way out of the room, I move a large tapestry hanging from the wall to one side to see a large hole, which is rapidly filled with a huge mace swinging towards my face.

Thankfully it misses, and pulling the tapestry aside more so that Chunk and Idjit can get through, creature begin to pile into the corridor and head towards us. The creatures are angry looking Bugbears and a quick melee ensues, as claws, axes and spells cut the furry beggars down. There is some noise up ahead which causes Chunk and McFlurry to run off into the darkness helpfully shouting out "..we're chasing someone...." which aids the party no end by having the two fighters run off on their own leaving the slow and blind all on their own. Calling out for them to return quickly, so that we can stick together is shouted loudly, probably alerting even more people to our whereabouts.

Altogether once more we start to methodically go through the rooms, finding the first few empty of creatures, with one being a storeroom and one an Alchemy lab of sorts. Going through paperwork and checking for anything we can find of use, we come across an invitation to the Clockwork Academy, which is decorated with images of metal creatures - one looking like an armoured Knight.

More paperwork found indicates that someone named Drugilla has a standing contract with a group of Bugbears and I hope this person is not too upset that we have been killing off their subordinates. Finding nothing more, we move through more rooms, again coming across no-one. We soon come across a door that has the word 'Danger!!!!' painted in Orcish on its door, and Stumpy points out that the worn grooves covering most of the doors surface are actually a very large image of the God Tyr. Ignoring the warning despite the many exclamation marks, we open the door wincing in trepidation, but nothing happens. 

The room looks to be a small church like area, with pews carved of rock all facing a large altar, and so we start looking around for clues and stuff. Idjit within minutes has found a switch, and when Stumpy presses it, a hidden shelf drops revealing a large Holy looking book. When the Dwarf goes to touch the book, a Wall of Force springs up around the altar while from the ceiling a burning acid fog descends to cover both Stumpy and Idjit who was unlucky enough to be standing nearby. 

They both start to look in a bad way quite quickly, and I shout out to Stumpy to cast a spell to protect them, which causes Stumpy to make a 'oh yeah' face and quickly cast a spell. A faint glow surrounds him and he stops deteriorating further, but Idjit still burns badly and with the words “..the needs of the one out way the needs of the many…” echoing in his ears, he soon slides down the Wall of Force. Stumpy gets a potion out of his bag and feeds it to the Human, and then the fog clears and the wall vanishes as quickly as it came, freeing the two trapped little mice. 

We move them out of the way and to the pews before tending to their wounds and making sure they are stabilized, then I go and have a look at the Altar but without touching the book. Seeing nothing that is obvious, I try and pick the book up differently to how Stumpy did – yes this does sound rather quite stupid as I write this later before going to bed - and this still (surprisingly!) sets off the trap. I am forearmed though and have a Protection spell ready to ward off the effects, and healing spells ready to sit out my temporary entrapment. I emerge looking slightly moist and fresh about the face but the book still rests on its podium, silent and serene as only a holy looking book can do. 

We leave the room, pressing the button to make the book disappear once more and move into the corridor where we more or less bump into a group of Orcs. These Orcs are blasted by a fast acting Trixie with a Fireball that leaves them burnt and dazed and before they can recover, they are cut down by a charging Chunk. 

We move on and come across a room which we manages to startle four Orcs playing cards. Chunk charges in and has the lamp thrown in his face before he smashes the lantern wielding Orc with his axe in return, and then Trixie makes all the Orcs fall asleep. I thought that my Summon spells maybe hampered in a localised way, and so with a new unexplored area I try attempt number seven to bring forth a Wolf, which of course fails. 

After the normal checking of pockets and looting of the room, we leave and move back into the corridor and on once more. Another door is booted open to reveal a huge room that contains at least twenty Orcs. A thunderstone is thrown in but seems to affect no-one, and we move in and join the fray, grouping together as much as possible to minimize attacks from behind or people getting ganged up on. Trixie manages to make six fall asleep as she moves into the room and the battle starts!

The melee** went very well, people dropping but being revived, near misses, and glorious attacks but thankfully there were no deaths, just lots of people very exhausted at the end of it all. 

* Chris asked Kon if he could have 4 rolls and pick the best one during one of his many missing spells.

** I had arranged to be picked up at a normal time and sadly missed the fight! Gutted.