In the courtyard of the House Center, the group saw the fallen stables and decided to explore. They noticed that the collapsed structure seemed to be somewhat arranged and that there was a very slight mounding of dirt. They dug and soon found a makeshift cover, which they dug out and then opened, revealing a tunnel that angled to the side and was not a straight drop. Because it was small enough for one person at a time, Gravel went into the tunnel, tied to a rope that the others held in case he fell or tugged to be pulled up.
With light cast on the rope behind him, he could see in the tunnel, where he soon came to a second turn and a slight change in the tunnel. Instead worn and rough, the tunnel floor turned smooth and slopped acutely into a large, dark natural hole or cavern. As he backed up, he noticed another slightly hidden hole that he could crawl into. He soon came to a room, about 15′ × 25′ cave, where he could stand. He sees that gnomes or others have created alcoves, storage, and what seems a smallish, dark room in one corner. A stone table on which sits a glowing stone that provides all the light though it is yellowish and not bright. Tubers, mushrooms, and other plants and herbs hang from the ceiling. An old handaxe and shortsword are near the opening.
Two gnomes lie sleeping. Both are younger gnomes, though Gravel is not sure how old they are. He also sees that, though very dirty and worn, patched many times, their clothes are not common. They have color—red, blue, yellow. Gravel does not enter the room and leaves.
After reporting what he had seen, they decide to go back down and investigate. Sir Paul casts sleep on the sleeping gnomes. They then enter the room where they tie up and gag Sprocknik and then tie Sharabit Valorwocket‘s hands. Thorn puts his hand over Sharabit’s mouth. Sasha notices an emerald and a torn vellum page, as well as a flat, round stone on the floor in the corner.
Then, a voice calls from the darkened room, “Have you come to kill us? Are you orc or drow? Or some abomination?” They check the room and see an old gnome lying on a crude bed, her eyes cloudy and blind. She begs them to release the gnomes. Thorn uncovers Sharabit’s bit who spits on him and then talks in a different gnomish with the old woman. She seems to describe the adventurers.
They release the captured gnomes and talk with the crone, who says that she is Toripple Throttlespangle, a nanny for the king. She also says she is near death and describes how, during the invasion, she saved Sharabit Valorwocket, daughter of the king’s advisor Zedwright Valorwocket and his wife Kidget Valorwocket. She was not able to save the king’s daughter Jemmatink or her queen mother, whom she heard scream as the drow broke through the House Center’s defenses. She says that the boy Sprocknik is the king’s son.
The adventurers explain who they are and how they want to help, offering to take her and the others to Blingdenstone. Torriple seems convinced of their intentions but says that she will die there in their cave. Thorn says that he can carry her where the other gnomes might be able to save her. She rasps a reluctant acceptance. Sasha also asks about the emerald and the page. Toripple says that she took the emerald in case they escaped and needed something to bargain with. She also says that she found the journal page years after the invasion, during one of her few excursions above ground. Thorn asks if they can take the emerald, which he says can help the gnomes. She agrees.
The group climbs back out and makes their way back to the Speaking Stones. Other gnomes have seen them and followed, where they reach Pingtu and tell him and the others about Toripple, Sharabit, and Sprocknick. Pingtu and Henkala seem to confirm much of Toripple’s story. But Toripple lies silent, her breathing extremely shallow. Garmudden Stonesinger is with Sprocknik and Sharabit Valorwocket, talking to them in gnomish and seeming to comfort them. They try to question Sharabit, asking if Sprocknik is the king’s son and if she might be really be the king’s daughter, but get little new information although she seems to indicate that she has more to say.
They show the journal page to Pingtu, who sees that it’s some old Elven prophecy on one side and a reference to the speaking stones on the other. He remembers that when they returned to the Stones, they found Bendekik’s bones as well as the remains and weapons of 7 drow in this room. They buried his bones and the drow weapons beneath the Temple, along with a large sapphire.
There is little to do for Toripple, though Pingtu and Jalless do their best. They all sleep in the Speaking Stones.
In the early morning, they awake to find Toripple dead. They approach Sharabit and Sprocknik again. Sharabit says that they knew Toripple’s time was short and they had already grieved for her passing. Through Garmudden, she explains that Toripple saved 3 children—including Wizwitz, the king’s son who was wounded, became ill and died. They buried him. Toripple that the king’s son might help save them, if they were ever captured. She decided to pretend that Sprocknik was the king’s son instead of her own grandson, whom orcs or drow might kill otherwise.
Sharabit did not want the gnomes to think that his or her deception and wanted to tell the truth. She told how both the king’s children died, leaving no survivors.
The adventurers then asked if she knew about a dark iron key. They pulled out one of the keys that they had found, but she did not recognize it. However, Garmudden gasps. He recognizes the key as one identical to one that he wears. His mother gave it to him before she died, saying that it was a family heirloom and would bring him luck. They show the Dark Iron Coffer and the other two keys and ask if they can borrow his, which indeed looks like a duplicate of the other two. They insert all 3 keys at the same time, unlocking the coffer and not triggering any trap. In the box they find 8 polished turquoise gems (10 gp each) and a polished stone engraved with the word “Sunnis” (in gnomish) on a chain.
Pingtu explains that Sunnis is the Elemental Princess of Good Earth and the consort of Entemoch (the Calming Spirit), who is Ogrémoch’s twin brother. But Pingtu does not know why the King kept in the coffer or what its value might be. They discuss what to do with it and suggest that perhaps Garmudden can keep it hidden.
As with the key, he puts it on to hide beneath his clothes. However, the stone glows after he puts it on. Others try wearing it without the same effect. Between this and the key, the group suggests that Garmudden is one of the king’s illegitimate children. He admits that he does not know who his father was. They also see that he’s about the same age as Sprocknik and Sharabit, though he does not remember living in Blingdenstone, that his mother, Beribink Stonesinger, said she left the city before he was born. They ask if he’s willing to accept this and if he’s willing to be king. He says that he’s not sure and that he’s had no preparation for ruling.