Chapter #48

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*****
*  The 8 player characters contained in these writings are copyright
*  1992 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to persons or characters
*  either real or fictional is purely coincidental.  Copying and/or
*  distribution of these stories is permissible only under the one
*  condition that no part of them will be used or sold for profit.
*  In that case, I hope you enjoy them.
*****

--------------------------------------------------------------------
THE PARTY:

Alindyar, 8th level drow elf mage (N)
Belphanior, 6th/5rd/6th level high elf fighter/mage/thief (CN)
Ged, 6th/6th level grey elf priest/mage of Boccob (NG)
Halbarad, 7th level human ranger (NG)
Mongo Thunderhead, 7th level dwarf fighter (CG)
Peldor, 9th level human thief (N)
Peyote, 6th/7th level half-elf fighter/druid of Obad-Hai (N)
Rob, 8th level human priest of Trithereon (LG)
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Date:   8/28/570 C.Y. (Common Year)
Time:   about afternoon
Place:  A crypt in the Crystalmist Mountains near the Yeomanry



                  XLVIII.  The Trials of Aranor



  The party is in the middle of a four-way intersection facing to
the north, where something is glowing red...



                                  (red glow)

                                     |  |
                                 ____|  |____
                                 ____    ____
                          N          |  |
                         W+E         |  |  <----CURRENT LOCATION
                          S         (down)        OF PARTY...
                                       |
                                       v
                                  (staircase)



Mongo:  Let's see just what the hell is doing that!  (strides away
  to the north)
Halbarad:  Perhaps it is a dragon.
Ged:  Don't say that...(they all follow the dwarf cautiously)
Peyote:  Don't even think it.

  The glowing passage led forty feet into a small cavern.  The entire
area where they stood was a wide, arcing ledge which overlooked a
lake of lava far, far below.  There was no way to continue, as the
rest of this cavern was just empty air above the lake and the ledge
died out less than ten feet away in either direction.  The lava
below bubbled and burned.

Mongo:  Cripes!  I'll be damned if that's not a thousand-foot drop!
Ged:  Well, let's be extra careful not to fall.
Halbarad:  Agreed.  Is there anything of interest here?
Peldor:  Doesn't look like it.
Belphanior:  (peering over the edge)  What a beautiful sight.
Peyote:  This place is too hot for lil' old me...(steps back)
Rob:  Gee.  (looking over the edge)
Belphanior:  Thinking about jumping?
Rob:  Eh?  No!
Belphanior:  Oh.
Alindyar:  Well, this chamber certainly explains the glowing effect.
Mongo:  Let's get out of here.

  They headed back into the four-way, and took the eastern route
(marked with an "X" below)...

  

                               ......   <---LEDGE
                               \    /        (lava far below)
                                |  |
                                |  |
                                |  |
                            ____|  |_______
                            ____   X____   |
                     N          |  |    |  | <---TRAP
                    W+E         |  |    |^^|________  # =chasm
                     S          |  |    |_____####_@| @ =teleport
                                    <---Entrance to the level



Ged:  I sense a trap!
Mongo:  What's that ahead?
Alindyar:  A trap?
Halbarad:  It looks like a row of spikes imbedded in the floor,
  pointing upward.
Belphanior:  Watch the floor.  If this really is what it appears
  to be, I'd hate to have one of you step on it.
Peldor:  Almost as bad as the rake trick, where you step on the
  teeth and the rake handle flies up to hit you in the face...
Rob:  Hey!  That happened to me once!
Peyote:  I'm sure.
Ged:  Yep, that's the trap.  Dead ahead.
Peldor:  Okay, guys, stand back and I'll check it.  (he uses his
  ring to push on the floor in front of him, then a bit in front
  of that, and so on...)  Wha...?  (suddenly, a floor plate in
  front of the party pivots, on an axis about five feet on this
  side of the row of spikes, and the spikes slash the air rather
  harmlessly as the floor plate spins around and around slowly)
Alindyar:  Interesting ring.  Is it for sale?
Peldor:  No.
Mongo:  What a stupid trap!
Belphanior:  That would only catch a certain breed of dungeon
  explorer... (casts a sidelong glance at Rob)
Alindyar:  We should simply use the carpet and fly over this
  obstacle.
Peyote:  Sounds good to me, dude.  (they spend a few minutes
  doing this, until all are over the trap and have turned left
  around a corner)
Mongo:  (the first one over, he has been examining a chasm in
  the floor ahead)  Hey guys!  Look at this!

  The chasm was about as deep as the previously encountered
lava pit.  It was some twenty feet in breadth, and its walls
seemed fairly steep.  The chasm spanned the entire width of
the passage.

Alindyar:  A mage's work is never done...(he and Mongo get on
  the carpet as the drow ferries both of them across)  I
  shall be back presently to take the rest of you-  <blink>

Ged:  Holy Boccob!  What the hell happened?!?
Halbarad:  (hefts his axe)  They just...vanished!
Peyote:  Maybe it's an illusionary wall.
Rob:  We'd better hurry up and figure out a way across.  They
  may need our help!
Belphanior:  Someone get out the rope and spikes.
Peyote:  No can do, man.  Mongo always carries all that stuff.
Peldor:  I can try to move us across with my ring...
Belphanior:  I'll go!
Peldor:  Okay then.  Stand still there.  (concentrates)
Belphanior:  (lifted gently, he drifts over the lava pit and
  down onto the other side - and blinks out!)
Peldor:  Hm.
Peyote:  I sure hope you're not dumping us into some awful
  trap...
Halbarad:  I will go next.  We have no time to sit here and
  discuss this.  (he is lifted, and vanishes too)
Ged:  Me next.  (he is lifted, and carried to the end of the
  passage)  Hey!  I'm still here!
Peldor:  Wha...?
Ged:  <bump>  Ouch!  Watch it there!  You just rammed me into
  a wall!
Peldor:  (looking at him)  So there's no real passage after
  the chasm.
Ged:  (wobbling in the telekinetic grip)  HEY!  Concentrate
  there!  I'm about to fall!  Bring me back to solid ground!
Peldor:  Okay.  (does so)
Rob:  Let me try.  (he too is levitated, but fails to blink
  out at the end of the passage)  What in the world?
Ged:  Maybe there's only a four-person limit.

meanwhile...

Alindyar:  (he and Mongo are in a small room facing a wall as
  Belphanior and Halbarad arrive)
Belphanior:  What's going on here?
Mongo:  Look.

  There was a mouth of stone on the wall; as they watched, it
spoke again.

magic mouth:  I ASK AGAIN:  WHAT HAS A BED BUT NEVER SLEEPS,
  AND RUNS WITHOUT ANY LEGS?
Halbarad:  Hmm.
Mongo:  Beats me.  Is it a-
Belphanior:  (puts a hand over the dwarf's mouth)  Shh.
Alindyar:  (conferring with Belphanior)  Yes...I see.
Halbarad:  What's that?
Alindyar:  (addressing the mouth)  'Tis a river!
magic mouth:  YES!  (burps, sending an old wooden bowl with a
  parchment attached to the floor at the adventurers' feet)

  Suddenly, the four were teleported away, landing on their
bottoms right behind the four who stayed...

Ged:  (turns around)  What?!  It's you again!
Mongo:  Naturally.  Who else were you expecting?
Alindyar:  We answered a riddle, and were given this bowl -
  and this parchment.
Peldor:  Give the paper to Mongo.
Mongo:  (reading)  Dwarven again...it says, "Beware the
  circular room!"
Peyote:  Is anyone saving all these things?
Alindyar:  I am.  (tucks it away in a pouch, and puts the
  bowl in his bag)
Halbarad:  Well, I suppose that is all for this wing of the
  place.  Back to the main crossing?
Mongo:  Yeah.  (they go back there, again using the carpet
  to get across the spinning spike trap)
Ged:  So far we've gone straight, to the lava cliff, and
  right, to the chasm and teleporter.
Peyote:  Now we go left, right?
Rob:  Huh?
Halbarad:  That is correct.  (they do)


                 _______
                |       | <- STATUE ROOM
                |  *    |_____
           _____|      /      | <- EMPTY ROOM W/CURTAIN
          |  __/_____/        |
GIANT     | |       |__   ____|      |  |  <--- to Lava cliff
 FANGED   | |   door-> |.|     ______|  |____
  MOUTH--> ^           | |____|  ____    ____  <--- to Teleporter
                       |________|    |  |
                                     |  |  <--- entrance to level



Belphanior:  Another door.
Ged:  My spell detects no traps.
Peldor:  Is the door locked?
Mongo:  Nope.  I guess they're expecting us.
Peyote:  Was that a joke?
Mongo:  Who, me?  Nah.

  The party entered a rectangular room, or presumably it was of
that shape, since a heavy curtain blocked one corner from view,
cutting diagonally across the room.

Belphanior:  (listening at the curtain)  I hear nothing.
Mongo:  You mages, get a spell ready or something. (peeks around
  the curtain)
Peyote:  Well, man?
Mongo:  All clear.  There's a little statue there, but nothing
  moving.
Halbarad:  All right.  (he leads the group into another similar
  room, with _its_ corner cut off by the curtain; this new room
  had one exit)
Belphanior:  Nice statue.
Alindyar:  It appears to be a bird of some sort.
Ged:  What's this?  Engraved at the base-
Mongo:  And not in dwarven...
Ged:  -it says, "Don't touch me."
Rob:  Is it a trap?
Ged:  Don't you think I would have told you if my spell picked
  up any traps here?  Of course it's not a trap.  Then again,
  I wouldn't touch it, myself, either.
Peldor:  Look!  Its eyes are large rubies!
Belphanior:  Nice rubies too.
Peyote:  (to Rob)  A hundred gold says that he touches it.
Rob:  No way!  I know he'll touch it.
Peldor:  (to Belphanior)  They're all watching you.  Are you
  going to bother it, or not?
Belphanior:  Um...I think not.  The warning is clear here.
Halbarad:  So be it.  (they open the unlocked door and move into
  a short corridor, turning left)  Holy...
Mongo:  What the fuck...?

  Before the group, the passageway gradually turned into a mouth
full of two-inch long teeth.  Inside this "bite area" the passage
continued onward.  The mouth was unmoving and appeared to be of
stone construction.

Peyote:  Quick, someone cast a Stone to Flesh!  Hah, just kidding.
Ged:  Ha.
Mongo:  We'd better watch it with this one.  (cautiously nears
  the thing)
Halbarad:  I think it is made of stone and will not attack us.
Ged:  Second that.  It's not registering as a trap.
Mongo:  Are you sure?
Ged:  Oh come now!
Mongo:  (looks around at the teeth and jumps in)
Rob:  Well, he made it through okay.
Halbarad:  (moves through)  It seems harmless enough.
Ged:  Go on, Belphanior.  Maybe it'll bite _you_.
Belphanior:  Bah.  (strolls through, unharmed)
Peyote:  Okay, let's go.  (he leads the others through)
Mongo:  That was supposed to scare us, I guess.
Halbarad:  What is happening here?  The passage is growing!
Belphanior:  (looking back, at the teeth that now seem to be
  twice as big)  Hmm.  So it is.
Ged:  Either that, or WE'RE shrinking.
Peyote:  Far out!
Alindyar:  The passage ahead goes for hundreds of feet...
Mongo:  Shrinking, my ass!  A tiny Mongo is still a dangerous
  Mongo!  (charges onward)
Halbarad:  Does anyone want to turn back?
Peldor:  Not yet...

  They moved on, and suddenly were in a "normal" sized passage
again.  Alindyar and Ged suggested that the whole thing was no
more that an illusion designed to scare the foolish.  The
corridor they were now in turned right, then left twice...



                                      | |______
              <--Stairs down          |______  |
           |^| ____      ____    _______     | |
           | |/    \____/    \__|       |____| |
           |_$      ____      __\   *    ______|
              \____/    \____/  |__   __| <---STATUE ROOM
               CONE     SPHERE     | |
      _____________________________| |
     0_______________________________| <---NUGGET HALLWAY



Mongo:  Another freakin' statue!
Halbarad:  This one is of a robed mage.
Peyote:  He sorta looks like you, Alindyar.
Alindyar:  Hmm.  What good taste the sculptor had.
Ged:  (examining the statue)  What's this?  (picks up a scroll
  at the statue's feet)  Hmm.
Alindyar:  What is it?
Ged:  (casting Read Magic)  This is the spell for turning stone
  into flesh!  What a treat!
Rob:  I wonder what its purpose is?

  The party moved on to the south, entering a long corridor
which also rose, like a ramp.  It was about a hundred-fifty
feet in length, and rose perhaps fifty feet over this span,
by Mongo's estimation.  The entire ramp was curved on both
sides, like a pipe sliced lengthwise.

Mongo:  (climbing slowly)  What's that at the top?
Peldor:  A dull glittering...no.  It couldn't be...
Halbarad:  Say, is it just me, or is that a huge golden nugget
  at the top of this ramp?
Peyote:  It's not just you, dude.  That's a nugget, all right.
Belphanior:  Gold, too.
Mongo:  That fucking thing must be ten feet wide!  It's worth
  MILLIONS!!
Alindyar:  Hmm.
Ged:  I think of it as a sphere, not a nugget - and this is a
  trough, not a ramp.  Get my drift?
Belphanior:  I see.  "The gold cannot be taken."
Rob:  And, "Do not try to move that which cannot be moved."
Peldor:  Damn.  That thar nugget could set us all up for life,
  know what I mean??
Belphanior:  And if it falls, it will splatter us all for sure.
Peyote:  For sure.
Mongo:  Damned thing must weigh tons.
Halbarad:  I think we should find another place to explore.
Peldor:  Fine.  But I'll be thinking about how I, er, we, can
  get that thing down from there.
Ged:  Fine, waste what precious brainpower you have.

  They descended the ramp/trough, returned to the statue room,
and took the western door.  Mongo stepped in...

Mongo:  HEY!  (floating off into the center of the room, which
  is a perfect sphere of thirty-foot diameter)  I'm floating!
Halbarad:  (also stepped off)  So am I.
Peyote:  Free fall!  (leaps off into space)
Belphanior:  (floating toward the bottom of the room)  Neat.
Rob:  (floating out, he hits a wall)  Ow.
Alindyar:  (floats out, gets on his carpet, stabilizes)  Hm.
Peldor:  (tries to slide down the side, but ends up floating
  upside down)  Yikes.  Hey look, there's a doorway out.
Ged:  How interesting this room is.  I wonder if Boccob
  invented it.
Peldor:  (uses his ring to push off from the lower wall, and
  heads for the top)  What's this?
Mongo:  What did you find?
Peldor:  A...switch.
Ged:  Hey!  Don't touch that!
Peldor:  (just flipped the switch)  Whyyyyy....(they all fall
  sharply to the bottom, except Alindyar, and are bruised a bit)
Alindyar:  (on his carpet)  Fascinating.  A controlled effect
  of _reverse gravity_.
Peldor:  Whoops.
Ged:  You moron!  Don't touch anything else!  You may kill us
  next time!
Alindyar:  (sails up and flips the switch again, and everyone
  starts floating)  With a switch, no less.
Halbarad:  To the next room.  (they all manage to make their
  way into the exit corridor, where the gravity is normal)

  The next room was conical, pointing upward with a thirty-
foot diameter base/floor and a height of thirty feet also.
There was a carpet, upon which a table and four chairs were
resting.  On the table was a small box.

Ged:  No traps...oops, there goes my spell.  Too bad I didn't
  pray for a second one.
Belphanior:  (opens the box after discreetly checking it for
  traps)  Nothing in here but some crumbs.
Peldor:  Hey, let's look under the rug.
Mongo:  (moves the chairs and table with Halbarad's help)
Belphanior:  (pulls the carpet away)
Rob:  (watches)
Peyote:  Nothing.  Blank floor.
Alindyar:  Perhaps an illusion...
Peldor:  (taps on the floor, which vanishes in a two-foot
  square section, revealing a cavity beneath)  Yep.
Rob:  What are THOSE?  (pointing to some things in the hole
  that look like large, 6" wide biscuits)
Peyote:  Biscuits?
Mongo:  (sniffs one)  Hmm.  (takes a bite from one)  Not bad.
Ged:  They could be poisonous or something...
Mongo:  Just stale.
Peldor:  Give it to Mongo, he'll eat anything.
Belphanior:  (checking among the objects, finds nothing else
  in the cavity)  Let's go.
Rob:  But where?
Ged:  Search for secret doors...(several of them do, and Ged
  finds one in the western wall)  Hah.  Oh, look.  Stairs
  going down.
Halbarad:  Rob, your mace grows dim.  Why don't you use my
  lantern for a while?
Rob:  Okay.  (the ranger lights his powerful hooded lantern
  and gives it to him)  Wow!
Mongo:  (stuffing a few of the biscuit-things in his backpack)
  Let's go!  (tromps down the stairs)

  The stone steps wound down for a while, and emptied into an
enormous cavern, easily a thousand feet or more on any side.
A huge shaft led out the opposite side, where a pile of all
sorts of treasure was stacked haphazardly and a large door
was visible.
  Between the party and the pile of stuff were five gigantic
bronze dragons.  One of them stepped forth heavily, shaking
the floor of the cavern.

Belphanior:  oh shit.
Dragon:  (in Common)  GREETINGS, ADVENTURERS!
Mongo:  Ulp...Hi there!
Dragon:  ARE YOU ENJOYING ARANOR'S LITTLE MAZE SO FAR?
Halbarad:  Quite.
Peyote:  Umm, what are you guys doing here?
Dragon:  WHAT IDIOTIC QUESTIONS YOU TINY FOLK HAVE.  WE ARE
  HERE TO GUARD CERTAIN...THINGS.  HAVING HAD NO VISITORS
  IN AGES, WE WOULD BE HAPPY TO HAVE DINNER.  WITH YOU.
Rob:  Ulp.
Peyote:  (quietly)  I hope that was a joke.
Dragon:  I HEARD THAT...
Other Dragon:  (lumbers up)  COME HAVE A CHAT WITH US.
Ged:  (steps forth)  I am Ged, priest of the mighty Boccob.
Dragon:  (the first one who spoke)  YOU MAY SIMPLY CALL ME
  GARZITHRAXONITUS.
Alindyar:  Simply?
Ged:  Are we meant to go further, or leave here?  We have no
  wish to offend the great Aranor, after all...
GARZ... :  YOU MAY GO ON, VIA THOSE LARGE BLACK DOORS NEAR
  THAT PILE.  HOWEVER, WE HAVE AN ARRANGEMENT WHICH MIGHT
  INTEREST YOU.  WELL, ACTUALLY, YOU HAVE NO CHOICE SHOULD
  YOU WISH TO CONTINUE IN ARANOR'S MAZES.
Halbarad:  What might that be, O noble wyrms?
GARZ... :  AS WE ARE SOMEWHAT BORED OF WATCHING OVER THE SAME
  TREASURES FOR DECADES AT A TIME, WE REQUIRE ANY WHO WOULD
  GO ONWARD TO TRADE ONE OF THEIR MAGICAL ITEMS TO US, FOR
  ONE OF THOSE IN THAT PILE.
Peyote:  Come again?
GARZ... :  I THINK YOU HEARD ME, HALF-ELF.
Ged:  We would be...honored to participate in your game.
GARZ... :  OF COURSE.  IT KEEPS LIFE INTERESTING.  OH, BY THE
  WAY, WHO AMONG YOU IS CARRYING THE BISCUITS THAT I SMELL ?
Mongo:  Oh, me.  (quickly pulls out the three biscuits he
  took and walks toward the dragon)  Here, take them.
GARZ... :  (snatches them away)  YOU LIKE THEM, DO YOU NOT?
Mongo:  Well...err...yes, I thought them rather tasty.
GARZ... :  MORTAL, YOU MAY BE surpriseD AT THE EFFECTS OF OUR
  FOOD UPON YOU...BUT COME!  COME TO THE TREASURE PILE!

  The party meekly made its way to the huge pile, as the
other dragons batted their biscuits around before devouring
them hungrily.

GARZ... :  OH, INCIDENTALLY, WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO VETO
  THE ITEM YOU WISH TO TRADE.  THINK NOT TO PAWN YOUR PUNY
  POTIONS AND SUCH UPON US.
Ged:  Of course not.  None among us would be so base as to
  do _that_...
Other Dragon:  FORM A LINE, PLEASE.
GARZ... :  ONE AT A TIME, NOW.

Ged:  I'll go first, I guess.  (starts piling up pieces of
  his plate +4)  Is this enough?
GARZ... :  CERTAINLY.  PUT IT IN THE PILE AND CHOOSE AN
  ITEM.
Ged:  (does so, taking some elf-sized chain mail)
GARZ... :  GOOD CHOICE, PRIEST-MAGE OF BOCCOB.  NEXT?
Peldor:  Um...I have nothing I wish to trade.
GARZ... :  HAVE I NOT EXPLAINED THE RULES?  YOU MUST GIVE
  UP AN ITEM.
Peldor:  But-
GARZ... :  NO ARGUMENTS, THIEF.  WHAT SHALL IT BE?
Peldor:  Geez.  (fuming)  Okay, take this!  (presents the
  pouch he stole from the dead giant days ago)
GARZ... :  THAT WILL DO.
Peldor:  (eyeing some boots)
GARZ... :  I WOULDN'T.  THOSE WILL CAUSE YOU TO DANCE FOR
  HOURS...HMM.  I REALLY SHOULD NOT HAVE TOLD YOU THAT.
  LET ME SUGGEST THAT RING AT YOUR FEET INSTEAD.
Peldor:  (quite irritated, grabs the ring)
GARZ... :  THERE YOU GO.
Peldor:  But I was just _looking_ at it...
GARZ... :  IT IS YOURS.  NEXT!
Peldor:  (very angry now, but silent, slips off his ring of
  free action and tries on the new one)
Peyote:  (displays his helm of underwater action)
GARZ... :  YES.
Peyote:  (puts the helmet onto the pile and grabs an odd
  hat)  Okay, dude.
Mongo:  (gives up his ring +1, gets a jug)
Halbarad:  (gives up his spear +2; gets a stack of thirteen
  arrows)  Ah.
Belphanior:  (another who doesn't want to do this; gives up
  his dust of disappearance; gets a ring)
Alindyar:  (gives up his Quall's Token; gets a ring)
GARZ... :  A DROW?!
Alindyar:  I believe that you are sufficiently powerful to
  know that I am not evil...
GARZ... :  WELL SAID, ELF.
Rob:  (gives up his stone of dimunition; gets a cloak)

GARZITHRAXONITUS:  VERY GOOD.  YOU MAY USE THAT PORTAL,
  THERE, TO GO ON IF YOU WISH.
Ged:  We shall do that, most noble dragons.
ALL DRAGONS:  FAREWELL!
Peldor:  (refrains from comment)

  The party went through the large black doors and into an
intermediate hallway/chamber with several exits.

Mongo:  (closing the big doors)  Whew.
Peldor:  I'm going to get them for that.  Someday.
Ged:  Count your blessings.  At least you didn't get the
  dancing boots.
Peldor:  True...





next time:  Finale

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