A few weeks after Phoebe’s death, Jaroo introduced Wolfgang to Danderion an elf, explaining that the two had something in common— a reason to oppose Burne’s recovery of the lost magic that was hidden under the Moat House.
Jaroo explained that at the last council meeting, Burne had announced that he was planning to send a group of guards to secure of the Moat House. He had been vague in his reasons, but everyone remembered his recent remarks about a re-opened portal or a long-lost source of magic. Jaroo said nothing. He was, as he explained “not surprised.” Now that the frogs had been re-located or exterminated, it was only a matter of time, Jaroo reasoned before, Burne began an earnest search for this magical secret.
Jaroo observed to Wolfgang that as druids, they should be wary of anything that might permit sudden changes to the natural world. And of Danderion, Jaroo asked whether it wasn’t true that elves considered most humans too immature to use magic responsibily? Didn’t Danderion agree that for the elves to continue to quietly maintain peace in Alyan, that humans should be prevented from increasing their ability to employ magic? Yes, he agreed.
Gerilynn joined the party for reasons of her own. Fernac smelled the promise of loot. Finally, Chickie, the fourth son of a poor farmer, convinced Wolfgang that he could be of assistance in this adventure.
The four adventurers, plus Wolfgang’s wolf (“Wolfie”) set out for the moathouse. They noticed immediate signs of improvement. The moat itself had large been cleared of debris, and its banks had been reinforced. A solid wooden bridge crossed the freely-flowing water. The courtyard had been cleared of weeds. As the party approached, they heard dogs barking. They entered the courtyard in time to see the last of the dogs entering the moat house.
Soon the party noticed arrows at the arrow slits. A voice commanded them to state their purpose. Danderion pointed his finger at one of the slits and in a tone both charming and weirdly commanding, invited the hidden man to come out.
There was some commotion inside the moat house, but soon the commanded man emerged, followed by two of his comrades and the dogs. The commanded man was friendly to Danderion, but still suspicious of the others. Their questions were pointed and the party’s answers were impudent. Wolfgang insulted Burne. Gerilynn chanted a prayer of transifxation—one of the men stood paralyzed in his spot. The commanded man realized that Danderion was not a friend and ran for the courthouse, the other un-transfixed man following him. Danderion and Wolfgang let them run to the steps and then loosed missiles against them—one was killed with an arrow, the other by a sling stone. Gerilynn killed the transfixed man and the dogs ran away.
After putting the dead men in the river, the party entered the moat house.
The group entered the moat house. They found sleeping pallets and the embers of a fire in the great hall. Counting the pallets, they reasoned that they’d already killed the sole occupants. They explored the corridors leading out of the hall. They found a hole in the floor. Sensing that the object of their quest lay beneath them, they secured a rope and lowered themselves down. Wolfie stayed on guard at the top. Chickie lit a torch.
In the lower levels of the moathouse they found rifled storerooms and one empty chamber after another.
Hearing in one direction a strange clanking, accompanied by several voices arguing in an unknown language—the party chose to try going the other way.
This proved fruitful. Gerrilynn remembered passing that way with Phoebe and Philch. She remembered the place where Philomena had found a secret door.
They descended by way of a long spiral staircase to the door they’d previously opened and without realizing it, released the magical atmosphere that had caught Burne’s attention in Hommelet. The door was still open and the party passed through it into a natural cavern, much larger than their torch light could show.
They followed a path through the stalgmites and into a narrow tunnel. The tunnel wound one way and another. Danderion mapped their progress. In one of the side caverns they explored, they were attacked by large spiders the size of cats. Danderion killed one with an arrow, and the others scurried into the recesses of the cave. Chickie lit another torch and another. In the enhanced light, they could see dozens of tiny, twitching, reflective eyes.
The party hastily passed through the chamber of spiders, and pressed deeper into the caverns. A side passage of worked stone captured their interest. After taking it appropriate precautions, they made their way down it and soon found themselves in an artfully carved room.
This room was most impressive in its proportions, having twelve sides of equal side, and also having a low, domed ceiling comprised of twelve trapezoidal parts that met to form a twelve-sided cap at the apex. In the middle of the room, there was a shallow, circular depression a few feet in diameter. The floor was smooth, and in the center, polished so that in shone in the torch light.
Especially unusual was the ceiling, or the trapezoidal panels that comprised it. Each was carved with writing. No one, at first, could read the writing, but all agreed it was gracefully-formed.
Looking more closely, Danderion recognized the writing. It was a form of elvish. More particularly, it was a form of elvish developed centuries ago in a largely abandoned effort to share with humans the secrets of elven magic. But there was something weird about the writing—it was backwards.
The party emptied their waterskins into the shallow depression on the floor. The newly formed pool of water reflected the words on the ceiling. By standing in one place or another, and with the assistance of a companion’s carefully positioned torch, one could read one or another of the panels, reflected in the water.
At least Danderion could read the panels. They included the fundamental spell by which the uninitiated might learn written-and-memorized magic. They included other basic spells he knew and some he didn't knew. Philomena, Wolfgang, and Chickie took turnings holding the torch (Fernac stood guard in the passageway) while Danderion inscribed the spells into his book. Or began to inscribe them-- as he finished copying the first, there was a small burst of flame, and the water in the pool evaporated.
The party agreed that they had learned enough. Wolfgang could make his report to Jaroo. Danderion could inscribe the other spells later.
They traced their way through the caverns and back up the staircase. Wolfgang met them gratefully as they emerged from the moathouse dungeons. They followed the path back to Hommelet, cautiously congratulating each other. It was later afternoon, the weather was fine, and they succeeded in learning what Burne seemed to be after, or at least a part of it. They were startled by the scream of a hawk that swooped down out of the trees and landed on Wolfgang's shoulder. It spread its wings and expanded in size, slipping from Wolfgang's shoulder to land on the ground as Jaroo, still hissing in Wolfgang's ear. "What have you done, what have you done!"
The dogs had returned to Hommelet. Their masters, Burne's guardsmen had been found dead in the river. Everyone guessed what had happened.
The party argued. Jaroo apologized that he had asked them to search the moathouse without having the foresight that they would be unable to accomplish this without the use of brute force. He was grateful for the information they shared. He gave them instructions for evading the avenging mob that would be looking for them and for seeking their fortunes elsewhere. There was a beekeeper near the village of Whitekey, nearly one hundred leagues away to the south, who could use Wolfgang's assistance. The others would likely be wise to accompany him. Jaroo would send word to the druids of the south country, who would provide discreet protection and guidance if they were able.