In which we search through Celebrindor’s desert fortress at the Tears of Niennor, discovering numerous warrior automata which we vanquish but not without taking some nasty wounds.
Searching among the debris, I find a serviceable greave and swap it with Aerin for a left-hand vambrace. She has no use for armour and intends to trade in her find for a new dress while this gives me a matching pair.
Misternil sets off to look for other outside doors while we search for hidden doors within. I find one to the right of the great hall while Pimm and Brand find one to the left. Misternil reports back that there are four doors at the rear of the left wing that look they enter on to stables.
Since this leaves the right wing of the building with no other access, I decide we open the right door first. Misternil, no doubt mindful of the traps and automata we’ve already found, asks whether the door might be dangerous. In reply, Brand tells him all about how Celebrindor was a psychotic, dark-cult worshipping sorcerous engineer and that he built this edifice as some form of secret stronghold.
Brand lends me a crowbar but the door opens with ease at a push to reveal a large dining hall, which must fill most of the right wing of the building. In the middle of the left wall is a large hearth with large dining tables, large wooden chairs and chandeliers, but no cutlery.
There are doors in each corner to the left, which lead to a wide servant’s access way running the length of the dining room. There are tables to place food and drink before serving and two large cupboards each filled with full dinner services. Both have dual sets for the high and lower tables but one service is marked with the arms of Gondor and Umbar while the other bears the sign of what looks like an eye, somewhat stylised. Some of the others shudder, claiming the eye makes them feel uncomfortable.
On the other side of the access way are doors in to the kitchens. The pantry is largely empty but there are some stocks of salted meat, dried fruit and other long-lived foodstuffs. A good deal of this food is apparently already made up in to meals in wooden bowls which are stacked in a strange mechanism that appears to feed them on to a pulley driven by a clockwork mechanism. The pulley runs to the smaller of three trapdoors in the corner of the kitchen where evidently each bowl is sent somewhere under our feet.
Brand says the apparatus is semi-magical, like the automata, and is probably meant to feed prisoners held below. What is interesting is that Brand believes it is running and set to deliver daily, which implies there may be prisoners.
One of the larger trapdoors is evidently for drawing water from a well below, the other must be for raising dry foodstuffs from the storeroom. Brand calls but no one replies so Ilviren shins down a rope through this last trapdoor. She reports that it is a large storeroom full of grain and other dry foodstuffs.
Under the clockwork trapdoor she finds a leather sheet, a foot or so across but very long, wrapped over a drum and leading away in to the dark. Following it, she finds the storeroom is L-shaped. Round the corner is a door and a corridor leading to stairs going up in to what must be the opposite (left) wing of the house. There’s also a another trapdoor in the storeroom floor.
I join Ilviren to investigate further. The door in the corridor leads to a row of cells and it is now clear the leather belt indeed carries bowls in to each cell. A lone female cry in haradaic answers our calls and the crowbar makes short work of the door.
Within we find a lone woman. I leave Ilviren to tend her while I open the other cells but there are no more prisoners, dead or alive, the Valar be praised. It seems the woman is Miriman, headwoman of a local tribe (the very tribe Zimrakhil was concerned about), held hostage to ensure her tribe’s compliance.
Once Ilviren has seen Miriman up and out to Aerin’s care, she rejoins me to tackle the trapdoor. This is a perfectly straightforward door and opens to reveal what looks like a natural tunnel leading to the northeast.
Rejoining the others, I ask Misternil if he knows of any features to the northeast of the Tears of Niennor but he says it’s all just desert, though the rock upon which Celebrindor’s house is built does stretch off that way for another mile or so. Miriman chips in to comment that Celebrindor was really paranoid about anyone knowing about the tunnels. This looks like something to tackle later. Rest of the building first, leaving Aerin to care for Miriman, then back to the tunnels.
The left door off the great hall opens on to a corridor with one door half way along on the left and another to the right at the far end. Ilviren and I reckon the middle door is where the stair rises from the basement under the right wing so we go to the far door first, which Misternil thinks might lead to the stables but instead reveals a rather bland reception room with a low table and seats.
Somewhere behind the right hand wall must be the stables and Misternil revisits the stables to ensure there’s no inside access but with the attention Celebrindor paid to the security of his front door, I doubt he’d have left an easy way in round the back and Misternil confirms this, and that the stables are well-appointed but empty.
That just leaved the middle door which reveals two spiral stairs, one obviously from the basement, the other going to the upper floors. At last! I’d just about given up hope. I lead the way up, emerging on to a landing dominated by a huge six-armed automaton.
Instinctively I step away, shouldering my shield, and its head follows my movement. I yell a warning down the stairs as I throw a dagger wide but Misternil is already up with Ilviren close behind.
The three of us fight the thing for what seems an eternity, we all hit it many times and I take cuts to each arm before finally Ilviren strikes the telling blow.
Despite the air of desperation at the time, none of us are hurt badly and with Aerin’s ministrations I feel as good as new. While I’m being an impatient patient, the others are exploring. There’s a corridor running the length of the building. There’s a door in a near corner and another spiral stair going to another floor above. Pimm tries the door to find another storeroom with 3 more automata. He closes the door sharply and we stay tense for half a minute but it seems they remain inert.
Further down the corridor are two doors on the far side, one on the near and a window at the far end. The far side doors open to a mechanical workshop with a forge and bellows littered with clockwork mechanisms on benches, evidently works in progress, and the other on to another storeroom. Both storeroom and workshop contained 3 automata.
The near side door opens on a room filled with glass vessels and tubes. Like the others it is also guarded by 3 automata but this time, perhaps because we have rejoined him, Pimm deliberately provokes them with an arrow, leaps back and closes the door.
With swords drawn, we hear the thing move closer to the door and the crash of breaking glass (oh well, Celebrindor’s not around to mind). Suddenly a fist crashes through the door only to be hacked off by Misternil and I. Then another comes through and takes the door right off its hinges, catching poor Ilviren a nasty crack on the head.
Having nimbly avoided the door, Misternil and I turn on the already damaged automaton and quickly drop it. We are well placed and three of us can fight while only one machine can come through the door at a time. Pimm takes Ilviren’s place just as a second machine lumbers up, unluckily, the machine flails at us, Misternil and I duck in time but Pimm is caught a vicious hit on his helm and falls, covered in blood.
Misternil and I fight back and Ilviren recovers from her fall and we quickly avenge Pimm. The third automaton is felled easily with no further hurt to any of us.
I fear we have lost Pimm, the blow he took was savage, but Aerin wipes away the blood and reports that his wound is superficial and he is only concussed. Ilviren has also taken a nasty scalp wound but she too is quickly patched up.
So again I lead the way up the stairs to the next floor, this time with drawn swords, but no automata, just a corridor leading round the corner, doubtless to run the length of the house again.
Indeed, we find a corridor but ahead is a hideous statue with a wide grinning mouth. It doesn’t look as if it can move but while I take stock, it spits out 3 metal balls that land and start opening. Instinctively sensing that these are not healthy I hurl a dagger at a ball. It misses so I draw my sword as Ilviren and Misternil join me. We smash two balls but the third spits a volley of darts that thankfully rattle off our armour.
But then the statue spits another three balls. I break the nearest and then charge the statue as it is obviously going to shower us with the things. An arrow flies over my head but misses, unfortunately, and another three balls shoot past and another volley as I reach the machine.
It continues to spit balls as I hammer it repeatedly with my sword while the others frantically smash the balls before they can release their darts but at screams tell me that at least one ball hurts.
Then Ilviren joins me, blocking its mouth with her shield. One ball comes out past but two are deflected back within and we hear them break inside. Misternil joins us and with two of us hacking and Ilviren’s shield stopping the next three balls, we hear them break within and the statue just collapses.
Ilviren’s shield has a myriad darts imbedded in the pattern of a smile. Fearing poison, I examine them but they are mere metal.
Aerin tends to the wounded; she, Misternil and Ilviren all took darts but Aerin herself is wounded the worst, lacking armour.
Beyond the statue, behind various doors, are 5 luxurious state bedrooms and 4 smaller rooms, presumably for servants. Evidently one leading figure didn’t need a (living) valet.
Dusk is falling, we need to eat and sleep before disposing of the last three automata below. When we have completely searched the building, then we must examine the tunnels, but that is for tomorrow.
Meanwhile I am most concerned about Aerin. She selflessly tended to the others before binding her own wounds but she is the most seriously hurt of all.
To do list:
Continue searching Celebrindor’s house at the Tears of Niennor – destroy last 6 automata and investigate tunnels
Return Miriman to her tribe
Discuss with Neithan his intentions vis-ą-vis the ‘3rd Candidate’ and the Umbar portion of the Key of Fuinur’s Well
Advise Father that coins used to pay Khoradōr may have come from The Straight Man and that Neithan may be the ‘3rd Candidate’
Ask Granny Serni why she gave me the jewel?
Who was Tevildo from the Benish Armon tomb in the Ethir Anduin?
Inquire after Perhaladin – might be a cult for Ragnor