Chapter #118

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                                +
                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +                   +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +
                                +



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1993 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                            tmiller@cimmeria.gatech.edu      +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Alindyar      13th level drow elf mage              (N)   +
+      Lyra       10th level female drow elf mage       (N)   +
+   Belphanior     9th/11th/11th level high elf w/m/t  (CN)   +
+   Ged           10th/12th level grey elf priest/mage (NG)   +
+      Arnold      9th level human warrior             (NG)   +
+   Mongo         12th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+      Flint       9th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+   Peldor        15th level human thief                (N)   +
+   Rillen        12th level human warrior              (N)   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    2/28/572 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    early morning                                    +
+   Place:   the Forgotten City, amid the Sea of Dust         +
+   Climate: hot outside, but fairly cool in the dungeons     +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "It's just a bottle, for crying out loud!  What could     +
+    _possibly_ be inside that we have to worry about?        +
+                              - anonymous party member       +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                  CXVIII.  Bad Company





  The adventurers have camped overnight, and are now well-
rested, ready for a new day of braving danger at every turn.

Peldor:  (yawning)  It's not just a job, it's an adventure.
Mongo:  No shit.  (he whips up some breakfast)
Arnold:  Why didn't anythink addack us durink the night?
Ged:  Who knows?  It probably had something to do with ol'
  Lightbringer here.  (pats the morningstar)
Lightbringer:  Stop that.  You look silly.
Ged:  (ignoring the weapon)  After all, we _did_ demolish
  every undead thing we found...
Flint:  Aye, that we did.
Peldor:  There were no monsters left, once the mighty
  Peldor and his almost-as-mighty troop of-
Ged:  Enough, fool.
Rillen:  (stretches)  If I recall that last chamber, we
  may have run out of doors to go through.
Mongo:  Nonsense!  There's _always_ a door to go through.
  Especially headfirst.
Belphanior:  (examining his scarred torso gingerly)  I'll
  make sure to avoid blade barriers from now on.
Alindyar:  (smells the food cooking)  mmmm...
Lyra:  (half-asleep, realizes that any nearby monsters are
  also likely to smell it)  Hmm.

  They ate, armored up, hefted their weapons, and, eager
for lost treasure and ever-greater challenges, descended
to the last room they had explored.


                       __
                    __|  |__
                 __|        |__
      __________|              |__
      __________                __|
                |__          __|
          N        |__    __|
         W+E          |  |
          S           |~~| <-- wall turned to mud by Ged
                      |__| <-- dead vampire's coffin room



Peldor:  (searching for secret doors or panels)
Belphanior:  (likewise)
Ged:  (likewise)
Peldor:  Hey!
Belphanior:  (to Ged)  Stay back.  This is _our_ job.
Ged:  I'm an elf, too.  I can search for such things.
Peldor:  (to Belphanior)  He can?

  Peldor found a sliding stone panel to the northeast,
and the group moved through it, into a dark corridor.

Arnold:  (lights a torch)

  The passage led to a maze-like series of passages.
Before too long, the adventurers found themselves inside
a cylindrical chamber, about thirty feet in diameter and
forty in height.  The floor was covered with a very thick
layer of dust.

Mongo:  (nosing around the center of the room, he begins
  scraping away dust with his boot, and finds a loose
  stone in the floor)  Hey, what's this?
Belphanior:  Whatcha got there?
Alindyar:  (notices a strange marking in the floor, and
  examines it, brushing away dust)  Hmm.  Take a look at
  this.
Rillen:  What is it?
Alindyar:  My guess would be a magical circle of some
  kind.
Lyra:  But what kind?
Alindyar:  Whatever it was, it has long since faded away.
Mongo:  (holds up something he found under the floor tile,
  a glass bottle)  Hey, everybody, look!  I got a potion!
Peldor:  (eyes the bottle)
Ged:  Let me have a look.  (he can't see through the
  opaque glass)  Hmm?  (notices an inscription on the
  container)  Hey, there's a message here, in ancient
  Sueloise.
Rillen:  What does it say?
Ged:  (concentrating, he mutters)  Good thing I brushed
  up on my ancient Sueloise before this trip...Ahem.
  'The secret of life'
Peldor:  Wow.  How utterly fascinating.
Mongo:  Life?  What the hell does that mean?

  The party debated for a short while, and then opened
the bottle.

Mongo:  (holds the bottle aloft as vapor spews out of it)
  Holy crap!
Alindyar:  (looks up)  These markings in the floor - they
  were circles of protection!  From demons and such!

  The ground trembled, the air smelled like brimstone,
and a loud crunching noise was heard.  The vapor formed
into a vaguely humanoid shape, but one that towered over
the party, at ten feet.  The thing was quite broad, and
had light greenish skin.  Its huge wings flapped, causing
a gust that whipped the adventurers' cloaks and hair.

thing:  AT LAST.  I AM FREE!
Mongo:  Uh-oh.  I think we fucked up, guys.
Ged:  (addresses the thing)  We seek no trouble.
thing:  THEN YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE COME HERE.  (vanishes)
Peldor:  Hey!
voice from nearby:  HAH HAH!  YOU CANNOT SEE ME, BUT I
  CAN VERY WELL SEE YOU!  (a 'whoosh' of air is heard
  and felt)
Mongo:  (suddenly knocked back)  Argh!  (he crashes into
  a wall)
thing:  (flickers into visibility)
Rillen:  (swatted by the foe a second later)
thing:  (goes invisible once more)
Ged:  Where the hell is it?
Mongo:  Over here...urgh.
Belphanior:  I don't see shit!
voice:  HAH HAH!
Ged:  (spellcasting now)
Alindyar:  The thing is invisible!
invisible thing:  HOW OBSERVANT.
Alindyar:  (begins spellcasting)
Lyra:  (follows suit)
Arnold:  (swings his sword at the invisible foe, but is
  utterly ineffective)  Aaa!  (he hits nothing)
Belphanior:  (slashing at the air where he thinks the
  thing is)  Whoaaaa...(twirls around as he misses)  By
  the gods, monster, show yourself!
invisible thing:  NEVER!
Flint:  (chops at the voice, but doesn't hit anything)
  Damn!
Belphanior:  (muttering)  When I slice you, bastard...
  _then_ we'll see your blood.
Peldor:  (invisible somewhere)
Alindyar:  (casts Detect Invisibility, and spots the
  thing near Belphanior, and also Peldor, near both of
  them)  Aha!  (to Mongo)  Psst!  Over here!
Mongo:  What?  Why?
Alindyar:  (whispering)  I can see the thing.  I can
  guide your hammer.
Mongo:  Oh...show me.
Ged:  (casts Protection From Evil, 10' Radius)  To me!
  I now have protection from the thing's evil!
Lyra:  (casts a Web above her head, which anchors itself
  to the round walls of the chamber at a height of about
  eight feet)
Ged:  What good will _that_ do?!?
thing:  (its head is, of course, caught in the web, and
  it rips the thing apart, covering itself with numerous
  strands of web fragment)
Lyra:  (gives Ged the evil eye)  _Now_ we can see it.
Mongo:  (to Alindyar)  Looks like your girlfriend wins
  the battle of wits this time.  (he hurls his hammer at
  the partially-webbed monster)
thing:  (hit in the chest, reels in pain)  AAAARGH!  NO
  ONE HAS DARED TO STRIKE ME FOR CENTURIES!
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  Well, _I_ dare!
Peldor:  (backstabs the thing, ripping its back open and
  spewing black blood everywhere)  Peldor dares too!
thing:  YARGH!  (shreds the rest of the web and whirls
  to face Peldor)  I SAW YOU ANYWAY, ROGUE.  YOUR POWERS
  OF INVISIBILITY CANNOT HIDE YOU.
Peldor:  (now visible)  They can't?
thing:  NO.  NOW PREPARE TO BE RIPPED TO SHREDS!
Peldor:  Eep.
Arnold:  (he, Flint, Rillen, and Belphanior are now all
  rushing toward the monster)  Hold the ford!  Ah-nold
  is comingk to save you!
Peldor:  (backing toward a wall, his longsword looking
  awfully puny at the moment)  I hope so, 'cause I've
  seen how that threat ends, and it isn't pretty...

thing:  (points at Peldor)  BEGONE!
Peldor:  (vanishes)
Mongo:  Holy shit!  He got rid of Peldor!
Rillen:  Not a bad thing, at times...and yet...(brings
  his staff smashing down onto the monster's head)
thing:  (spits out blood)  WHAT A CHALLENGE YOU MORTALS
  ARE PROVING TO BE.
Mongo:  Thanks for the compliment.  (hurls his hammer
  at the monster's chest)
thing:  ARGH!  (knocked back)
Mongo:  Chew on that!  (catches his hammer)
Belphanior:  (fumbling at his belt)
Flint:  (approaches the creature, axe raised)
Arnold:  (charges the thing, sword raised)
Flint:  Hey!  Wait up!  (also charges)
thing:  (hit by both warriors' weapons, yet rakes each
  foe with a huge claw)  ARGH!  ARGH!  AWAY, WORMS!
Arnold:  Aaa!
Flint:  Argh!
Ged:  (casts Evard's Black Tentacles upon the monster)
  Take that, by Boccob!  Let the wondrous tentacles of
  Boccob crush the life from you!
thing:  (of eleven tentacles that appear, only one fails
  to dissolve upon contacting its body)  SURELY YOU JEST.
Belphanior:  Well, _this_ is no jest.  (uses his wand of
  lightning to fire a forked bolt of electricity at the
  creature)  Fry!
thing:  (laughs as the magical bolt shatters into tiny
  arcs of energy at its feet)  HAH HAH!
Belphanior:  Shit.
Mongo:  (fires his hammer again, smashing the thing in
  the head)  I'll wipe that grin off its face!
thing:  ARGH!
Alindyar:  (casts a spell, but whatever it is, it has no
  effect on the opponent)  Damn.
Lyra:  (casts Light upon the monster's head, and somehow,
  the spell takes hold!)  Aha!
Alindyar:  Amazing.
thing:  WHAT FOOLISHNESS IS THIS?
Arnold:  Aaa!  (chops at the monster again, but misses)
thing:  AWAY, DOLT!
Flint:  (comes in from the side, and hacks at the thing,
  hitting it in the foot)  Let's see you walk away from
  this.
thing:  YEAAARGH!  (stumbles in great pain)  I SHALL
  ROAST YOUR INNARDS OVER AN OPEN FLAME FOR THAT!
Flint:  Come and get it, then!  (waves his gory axe in
  front of his face)
Rillen:  (swings at the monster, but misses)  Whoa.
thing:  WELL, THIS HAS CERTAINLY BEEN INTERESTING, BUT
  IT IS ABOUT TIME I WAS GOING.  (begins to wave its
  claws around in the air)
Belphanior:  (sprinting for the monster)  You're not
  getting away, otherworldly scum...

thing:  YOU HAVE NOT HEARD THE LAST OF ME, MORTALS...
  (its form begins to flicker)  YOU-
Belphanior:  (somersaults into the air, and brings his
  sword down into the top of the monster's head)  Yaa!
thing:  NOOOOOoooooooooo.....(blood spurts out of its
  mouth)  CURSE YOU, ELF.  CURSE YOuuuu....(it dances
  around, lashing out at adventurers and walls alike,
  but finally falls, dead)
Belphanior:  (absorbs the monster's considerable life
  energy)  Ahhh.
Mongo:  Nice stab, there.
Belphanior:  Yeah.  (breathing hard)  I knew I'd have
  to sprint to get there in time.  Whew!
Arnold:  (claps the elf on the back)  You sure god him
  good.
familair voice:  Hey!
Ged:  What's that?
voice:  Down here!
Mongo:  (looks down)  Hey!  (he reaches down to the
  floor and picks something up)
Flint:  Wow...

  The dwarf held, in the palm of his hand, the tiny
form of...Peldor!

Peldor:  The monster didn't kill me, it just shrunk me!
Ged:  Hmm.  How appropriate.  You have now reached a
  size proportionate with your usefulness.
Peldor:  Aw, you're just jealous.
Alindyar:  Fascinating.
Lyra:  I wish that I had the enlarge spell, but I don't
  seem to have learned that one.  (chuckles)
Ged:  Ah, the fool will be okay like that.  The spell
  will end...sometime.  (he thinks about trying Dispel
  Magic, but decides that the spell could be better
  used in case of serious trouble)
Rillen:  Err...some of us are injured here.
Ged:  Okay, okay.
Rillen:  Not, mind you, that I would come to rely on a
  priest for all healing all the time.
Ged:  Of course not.

  Healing and rest commenced, while Peldor pranced and
danced about in his miniature form, making the best of
his condition.  In the cavity in the floor, an invisible
key was found, seen only by Alindyar, whose spell to
detect invisibility was still in effect.  As soon as it
was picked up, the key became visible; it was made of a
substance resembling ivory.
  The adventurers searched the cylindrical room and the
maze-like area, and found a new passage in the latter.
They elected to move onward with Peldor in his reduced
state, rather than wait for the spell to expire.  The
corridor wound around, then dead-ended, but a fissure
in the passage's floor revealed another tunnel below.
An acrid, burning smell drifted up from the new level.

Belphanior:  Let's go for it!  (the party descends)

  They were able to lower themselves down without having
to use rope; Peldor rode down in Alindyar's belt pouch.

Alindyar:  Worry not, thief, for that is an empty pouch.
  I would not want to be responsible for you stealing
  any of my possessions.
Peldor:  Who, me?
Ged:  (still carrying on to Mongo)  There was no _way_
  I was going to let him ride in _my_ belt pouch.
Mongo:  Yeah, yeah.  He's a rat, all right.

  Shortly, they all stood in the chamber beneath the
fissure.  The room was small, compared to most of the
roomy chambers they had seen in this place.  Two exits
led away, in opposite directions.  The walls, ceiling,
and floor here were not made of bones, like the above
catacombs; rather, they were jet-black and covered in
soot.



        | |
      __| |__
     |      #|
     |__   __|
        | |
        | |



  In one corner, there rested an unusual box-like item,
made of metal but twisted and deformed as if by some
immense strength.  The thing was about seven feet high,
four feet wide, and two feet deep.  Its surface, though
odd, was unbroken, but for a single small opening, this
being a slot the size of a large coin.  In another time
and place, the big strange box might have resembled a
bizarre slot machine.

Mongo:  What the hell is this thing?
Ged:  (casts Detect Evil)  Whatever it might be, it's
  also evil.  In fact, this whole _place_ reeks of evil.
Arnold:  Reedks, it does.
Belphanior:  (struck by a sudden notion, he takes the
  strange coin he found far above and puts it in the
  small slot)

  Nothing happened.  The party could find no other use
for the weird box, and so they headed out the north
exit.  Unbeknownst to them, a small, wispy form emerged
from the box, and followed them...

  The north passage led to a small room, where a grossly
fat humanoid creature was standing next to a huge metal
pot.  The pot contained some kind of soup, and the thing
was stirring it with a large bone.  Tongues of flame
licked at the sides of the cauldron.  At second glance,
the obese creature looked like a large toad, with arms;
its reptilian head was crested by a row of spines that
extended down the length of its back.

thing:  (fishes a half-melted larva out of the slop with
  his ladle, grins a fanged grin, and offers the thing
  to the adventurers)
Ged:  (whose Detect Evil is still in effect)  Boccob!
  This thing is _evil_!
thing:  (shrugs, and pops the larva into its own mouth)
Alindyar:  How disgusting.
Lyra:  It rather resembles one of the minor demons.
Belphanior:  (wondering if he's ever slain a demon)
thing:  (it communicates using telepathy)  Minor?!?!?
  I'll flay you for that comment, wench!
Mongo:  Hey!  There's a voice in my head!
Rillen:  (looking around)
Alindyar:  'Tis telepathy.
Belphanior:  (charges the monster)  Stop stirring that
  slop and fight, demon!
thing:  (grins stupidly)
Belphanior:  (stopped in his tracks)  Ugh!  (gags and
  retches, then vomits)  The thing _stinks_!  (he now
  doubles over)  Urgh.
Rillen:  (notices the slime coating the monster's
  scaly hide, and readies his bow)  Mongo!  Attack it
  from afar!
Mongo:  Gotcha!  (raises his hammer, looking for a
  clear shot, which is difficult, since both Arnold
  and Flint are now charging the demon)
Flint:  (gags, but continues to stumble toward the foe)
Arnold:  Aaa.  (begins vomiting uncontrollably, and
  drops his sword)
Rillen:  (fires one/two arrows at the thing, and both
  hit)
thing:  (doesn't even seem to notice the arrows)
Alindyar:  Yonder demon is likely immune to any normal
  weapons.
Rillen:  I should have known.  (realizes that he has
  no enchanted arrows)
Mongo:  Well, my hammer is no normal weapon.  (hurls
  the hammer at the demon, scoring a direct hit that
  hurts the thing even through its thick hide)
demon:  (recoils as the weapon smashes into its body)
  Argh!
Mongo:  (hearing the cry of pain in his head)  Aie!
  This telepathy stuff is too weird.
Ged:  (casts Dispel Evil, and approaches the demon,
  trusting in his faith and power to keep him from
  succumbing to the stench)  Prepare yourself, foul
  one!  (raises his morningstar, so the demon won't
  suspect a spell)
Flint:  (chops at the demon, but his axe is deflected
  by its tough enchanted hide)  Damn!
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer again, but it bounces off
  of the demon's skin)
demon:  (speaking telepathically again)  You puny
  fools can't hurt me!
Peldor:  (throws a dagger at the demon)  Baloney.
demon:  (watches the dagger bounce from his skin)
  Bah.
Ged:  (risking all, he leaps forth and swings his
  bare hands at the demon's skin - and manages to get
  his attack in around its raised claw, making solid
  contact!)  BOCCOB!
demon:  Aaargh!  (it begins to writhe, then dances in
  pain)  Aaaaaie!  (with a huge cloud of red smoke,
  it vanishes)
Ged:  Ha!  Boccob's power is supreme!
Belphanior:  (vomits again)  Bleargh.

  The adventurers searched the room, a process which
didn't take long.  There were some shelves, stocked
with strange foodstuffs, some of them still squirming.
Various utensils and kitchen implements were scattered
about.  Beneath a loose stone, Peldor found a small
chest, made entirely of ivory.  Inspired by greatness,
the adventurers used the ivory key found earlier to
open the chest.  It contained five old tomes, so old
that they were literally crumbling.

Ged:  (throwing all caution to the wind, he greedily
  grabs for the books)  Let me see those!
Peldor:  (bored, he peeks out of the doorway through
  which they entered the room, and then busies himself
  searching for secret doors)
Rillen:  (stirs the soup with the demon's bone, but
  finds nothing of interest)  This slop smells.
Arnold:  Slodp.
Ged:  By Boccob!  This is exactly what I have sought
  for years!
Belphanior:  (pokes some tiny worm-thing with the tip
  of his sword)  What kind of books are they?
Ged:  (flipping through the tomes)  History.  Volumes
  on Sueloise history, customs, things like that.
Belphanior:  That's all?
Ged:  Yea.  Think about it - what we hold here in our
  hands represents thousands of years of ancient and
  forgotten knowledge.  It's quite a find, really.
Belphanior:  (wondering about the Book of Beasts, and
  whether it will ever be found)  Hmph.
wispy vapor-thing:  (hovers quietly above Belphanior's
  head, barely tangible and visible)

  The books were put in Mongo's portable hole, and the
adventurers moved on, for Peldor had found no secret
doorways.  Moving back through the entry room, they
headed south.  To their right was a caved-in section
of passage, but another way continued ahead, and they
followed it into a large chamber.  The wispy vaprous
thing followed them, but was so intangible that no one
noticed it.  Peldor actually caught a glimpse of some-
thing from the corner of his eye, but saw nothing when
he turned to look.


         _____
        |     | <-- cauldron room
        |  ___|
        | |
      __| |__
     |      #|  <-- entry room
     |__   __|
    % __| |     ____________
    %% __ |    |            |
     %%  \ \___|            |
          \____             |
               |____________|



  In this new room were three creatures straight out of
a nightmare.  These demons, as Alindyar, Lyra, and Ged
called them, had the lower bodies of huge snakes, their
long, scaly tails glistening in the torchlight.  The
things' upper bodies, however, were those of comely
wenches - with six arms.  Each arm held a different
deadly weapon.  The three demons were talking amongst
themselves, but they turned to greet the adventurers as
if they had anticipated their arrival.  The demons then
spoke to each other, and the party, using telepathy.

blond demon-woman:  These must be the mortal fools who
  slew Gleebus.
brunette demon-woman:  Gleebus was a fat shit anyway.
  All he ever did was cook up that slop and ogle us.  I
  say good riddance to him!
red-haired demon-woman:  Perhaps these mortals deserve
  a reward...
Peldor:  Yes!  A reward!  (steps right up)





next time :  the real finale (including a real shocker,
           for you Belphanior fans out there)

ftp site  :  ccosun.caltech.edu, in pub/adnd/fluff/adventurers

notes     :  The thing in the vial was a nycadaemon, or as
           TSR would now have us call it, a nycaloth.  In a
           similar vein, the lowest level's inhabitants are
           of course demons (now tanar'ri).
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




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