Chapter #231

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                                +
                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +
                                +

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells,    +
+  and other terms used in these stories are the property of  +
+  TSR, Inc.  However, this does not mean that TSR in any     +
+  way endorses or authorizes their use, and any such items   +
+  contained within these stories should not be considered    +
+  representative of TSR in any way, shape, or form.          +
+    Due to the nature of the Internet, these stories have    +
+  been widely available since 1991.  I have given them to    +
+  the world freely, and have never intended to market them   +
+  or in any way make money.  However, due to TSR, Inc.'s     +
+  copyright restrictions, old episodes of the Adventurers    +
+  are no longer being archived on any ftp site anywhere.     +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The player characters contained in these writings are    +
+  copyright 1995 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.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   THE PARTY (or more accurately, a fragment of it):         +
+                                                             +
+   Arnold       12th level human warrior                (NG) +
+   Ged          14th/14th level grey elf priest/mage    (NG) +
+      Nenya     8th/9th level female elven warrior/mage (NG) +
+   Mongo        17th level dwarven warrior              (CG) +
+      Gorin      8th level dwarven warrior              (CG) +
+   Bosco        10th level halfling thief               (CN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    7/18/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    morning                                          +
+   Place:   a dungeon beneath the floor of the Suss Forest   +
+   Climate: mild                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "Everyone here has become very rich...or else they        +
+    are dead."                                               +
+           - random townsperson in _For a Few Dollars More_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                CCXXXI.  New Explorations





  After some initial explorations, Ged and the others had
called it a day, emerging from the dungeon tired and mildly
wounded.  However, the night passed uneventfully, and now,
morning found the group rested and eager to explore further.

Ged:  (supervising the mining dwarves as they tunnel away)
  Hmm.  Why am I doing this?  Mongo's the real expert here.
Mongo:  (walks up)  Actually, these guys we hired are pros.
  They don't need me to tell them what to do, and how to do
  it.
Ged:  Good point.  Still...(he begins lecturing the miners
  on the importance of digging carefully, in case ancient
  objects of art, statues, and the like are present amidst
  the rubble)  This is also an archaeological expedition,
  you know.
Mongo:  A what?
Bosco:  (wandering around, yawning)  I'm ready.  Just let
  me know when you need someone to charge in and clear out
  all the monsters.
Mongo:  Hmph.
Ged:  (regards the halfling with a leery eye)  Perhaps you
  need a bout with the juggernaut.
Bosco:  I told ya, I'm ready!  (he prances about, then goes
  over to chat with a nearby camp guard)  Say, are you a
  gambling man, my friend?

  As discussed earlier, there were three primary (or
suspect, as Mongo put it) rubble-filled areas that the
adventurers wanted cleared away, in the hope that there
might be further tunnels and chambers beyond.  The first,
which the miners were working on even now, was on the
second level down.  The other two were on the third
level, beyond the umber hulk tunnels.

Mongo:  One at a time - that's the only way to do it.
Ged:  Yea...say, they should have this first one cleared
  within the hour.  (he wonders if he should just cast
  a Dig spell, then decides to study his spellbook for
  awhile, instead)  Hmm, good thing I had Nenya bring
  my other traveling spellbook from the castle.
Mongo:  (grumbling about how she should have brought
  some fresh ale while she was at it)
Arnold:  (putting on his plate mail, a slow process if
  there ever was one)  Aaa.
Bosco:  (munching on a carrot)  Hope there's something to
  see behind all that rubble.
Ged:  (wondering where the cursed halfling keeps popping
  up from)

  Meanwhile, Gorin, having had his life energy restored
earlier via Ged's magic, was chatting merrily with Nenya,
Ged's elven-maid apprentice who had teleported to the camp
last night.

Nenya:  Woodworking?  An interesting, and no doubt rewarding,
  hobby.  I prefer agriculture, though.
Gorin:  Hmm, maybe you should have been a druid.
Nenya:  Heavens, no!  I don't want to make a career of it.
  I just have a talent...you know, I designed Ged's entire
  second phase of farmland.  We've diverted streams from the
  river, for irrigation.  How ideal.
Gorin:  Hmm.  You must be very proud of your work.
Nenya:  Not me - pride leads to sloppiness.  Besides, some
  of my spellcraft deals with living, growing things.  It
  was a trivial matter to assist Ged with his farming needs.
Gorin:  Like I said, a druid...
Nenya:  Not a chance.  Anyhow, I owe most of my magical
  prowess to Ged's teachings.  His skill with magic is
  second to none, you know.
Gorin:  (thoughtfully)  Alindyar would beg to differ...
Nenya:  Who?
Gorin:  Nobody.  Anyway, I was about to say that you seem
  to be a very talented person.  Sorcery...agriculture...
Nenya:  (grasps her sword's handle)  Don't forget that I
  can fight, too.  Any foe who dares will learn this.
Gorin:  (looking toward the dungeon entrance)  Oh, this is
  going to be an experience.
Nenya:  Experience, yes.  That's why I'm here.  I've never
  seen an ancient city before.
Gorin:  I have...but never one this dangerous.
Nenya:  Risk is a necessary factor, when one seeks riches
  and lost artifacts.
Gorin:  Yep.

  About half an hour later, the miners made a breakthrough
(literally) - beyond the rubble in the first chamber, they
had uncovered a small closet-type area.  Probably set into
the chamber's rounded wall originally, the small area was
empty save for a large iron chest.

Ged:  Boccob!  Lost treasure, perhaps?
Mongo:  Only one way to find out...

  The adventurers entered the chamber, crowding in since
the area was small.  Torches, mounted on the outer room's
walls by the miners, illuminated the scene.

Nenya:  (crowds in behind Ged, who is behind Mongo, Gorin,
  and Bosco)  That's an awfully large chest...
Bosco:  Yeah!  (he examines the large, complicated-looking
  lock on the thing)  Hmm.  (tiny lockpicks appear in the
  halfling's hands, and he begins whistling)
Gorin:  (to Mongo)  Good thing we're short.  There's not
  much headroom in here.
Arnold:  (bumps his head on the ceiling)  Aaaow.
Ged:  What are you up to, Bosco?
Bosco:  Nothing.  (he opens the chest's lock)  Just an old
  lock...so, who's going to open this thing?
Gorin:  You're sure there aren't any traps?
Bosco:  (smugly)  Nosiree.
Gorin:  I'll do it, then.
Mongo:  (raises his hammer)  We'd better be prepared for
  anything...
various dwarven miners:  (back up a bit)

  Gorin lifted the chest's lid, revealing an almost-empty
container.  At the bottom of the chest rested a small, grey
metallic sphere, perhaps a foot in diameter.

Mongo:  Eh?  (he peers in)  What the hell is that?
Bosco:  Let's take it out of the chest.  (he looks around)
  Of course, _I_ can't do it, 'cause it's too heavy.
Mongo:  Bah.  (he puts his hammer away, reaches into the
  chest, and lifts the sphere-thing out)  Ugh...heavy.

  The warrior set the sphere down on the chamber's floor,
where everyone examined it.

Ged:  Hmm...what are these breaks in its surface?  Almost
  like...hatches?
Gorin:  Tiny hatches.
Nenya:  Maybe it's hollow.
Mongo:  Too heavy to be hollow, I think.
Lightbringer:  (pipes up)  Well, it's definitely not any
  form of undead.
Bosco:  (still thinking about hatches)  Maybe it's full of
  tiny people, just waiting to come out.
everyone else:  (regarding the halfling oddly)
Bosco:  What?

  Suddenly, the sphere moved!  A muffled "clang" came from
inside it...then another!  Slender ropes of metal began
snaking out of its surface; these were about six feet in
length, and tipped with small, gleaming blades.

Ged:  Boccob!  The thing lives!
dwarven miners:  (scatter)
Arnold:  (closest to the sphere, he raises his sword)  Ah-
  nold!
sphere:  (now possessing about a dozen "arms", it uses two
  of them to grab the warrior, knocking his sword from his
  hand in a flash)
Arnold:  Aaa.  (he struggles against the snakelike metal
  ropes)  It's got me.
Ged:  (spellcasting)
Nenya:  (likewise)
Bosco:  Guess it's not full of little people after all.
  (he heads over to the empty chest and peeks in)
sphere:  (flails at Gorin with some other arms)
Gorin:  (chops at the members, but his axe gets snared, and
  then yanked from his grasp)  Hey!
Mongo:  Yah!  (he hurls his hammer, bashing the sphere)

  The thing was knocked back a few feet, taking Gorin's
axe, and Arnold, with it.  Those nearby imagined that they
could see a small dent in its shell.

Gorin:  Did you hurt it?
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  Yeah!
Gorin:  (produces his magical dagger)  I'll stab the damned
  thing...
Arnold:  (holding the end of an arm in each hand, he keeps
  the knife-ends mere inches from his helmet's eye-holes)
  Aaa!  Somebody hurry!
sphere:  (devotes a couple of other arms to Arnold, stabbing
  at various parts of his plate mail, as if searching for a
  weak point)
Ged:  (casts a Web upon the sphere)  That ought to stop it.
Nenya:  I would hope so.
Mongo:  Look!

  As they watched, the sphere's blade-tipped arms began
slicing and sawing at the sticky strands, and the web was
quickly shredded in numerous places.  The sphere-arms then
tore it to bits; all of this happened in the space of ten
seconds.

Arnold:  Shidt.
Mongo:  (smashes an attacking arm with his hammer, crushing
  it somewhat)  Yeah!  I heard it crunch!  (he looks around
  wildly)  If we can smash it, we can kill it!
Nenya:  I have...other ways.  (she casts a Dispel Magic upon
  the sphere, and it immediately collapses, all of its arms
  dropping limply to the stone floor)
Arnold:  (leaps free, recovers his and Gorin's weapons, and
  rejoins the party)  Thandks, Nebyah.
Nenya:  Err...you're welcome.
Ged:  By Boccob, you did it!
Nenya:  (beaming)  Yes.  I simply thought of it as an item,
  rather than a creature.  But remember, dispellations of
  this sort are only temporary...
Ged:  Oh.  Of course.  (he looks to Mongo)
Mongo:  You mean that thing's gonna be okay soon?
Nenya:  Very soon...minutes, at best.
Mongo:  It won't happen.  (he strides forth, and begins
  pummeling the inert sphere with all his giant-strength
  might)
Gorin:  (claps Nenya on the back)  Well-done.
Nenya:  Oh, really.
Gorin:  No, really.
Nenya:  (slightly confused)
Mongo:  (smashes the sphere a third, then a fourth time, and
  its outer shell cracks)  Hah!  (he bashes the thing several
  more times, sending chips of metal, arms, pieces of arms,
  springs, gears, and the like in all directions)  Die, die,
  die!
Nenya:  (to Gorin)  He's fairly strong.
Gorin:  Yup.

  Finally, the dwarf ceased his assault, for the sphere was
smashed into worthless scrap.

Bosco:  (strolls up and leaps onto the dead sphere, stabbing
  with his shortsword and prying it open, spilling yet more
  innards onto the floor)  Hah!  Slain by Bosco!  (he picks
  up a spring)  Whoa.
Mongo:  Bah.
Ged:  (examining the sphere's fragments)  An interesting
  device, this.
Nenya:  Very.  I wonder how one goes about creating such a
  thing.
Bosco:  Me, too.
Arnold:  Whad about the chedst it came from?
Bosco:  (casually)  Empty.
Mongo:  Now, or originally?
Bosco:  Oh, come now.  Empty is empty.
Ged:  (looks into the chest, as if Bosco could be lying)
  Hmm, you're right.
Gorin:  (looking around)  Could that be it for this "new"
  room?

  Indeed, it could.  Though the miners searched for almost
an hour, there were no more doors, no fake walls, no secret
panels.

Ged:  Okay, guys.  That means we move to the second of the
  caved-in areas.
Mongo:  The cave-in inside the room reached by the umber
  hulk tunnels, you mean?
Ged:  Exactly.

  They headed downward, toward the area mentioned.  As
the miners' torches grew distant, some of them began
lighting more, to "keep the excavation site lit up",
in the words of one of the dwarves.

Nenya:  (stops the dwarf)  No, I say.  Allow me.  (she
  opens a pouch, and from it produces a small ball of
  clay)
Mongo:  What the heck's that?
Ged:  (curiosity piqued)  Indeed, what?
Nenya:  Portable bright light.  (she tosses the thing to
  the floor, and it suddenly flashes brightly, lighting
  a large area of dungeon)
Ged:  Boccob!  Continual light!
Nenya:  Exactly.  See, the clay covers a pebble, upon which
  I previously cast the spell of light.  When one tosses it
  down, the clay shatters, and...instant light!
Mongo:  Wow.
Nenya:  Just a little something I've been working on in my
  spare time.
Ged:  Spare time?  I gave you spare time?  (beaming with
  pride)  And to think, I didn't even teach you that spell!
  I stand impressed.
Gorin:  Me too.
Bosco:  Me three.  Say, can you spare some of those things?
  They sure would come in handy...

  They made their way down to the rubble-strewn room within
minutes, and the miners went to work on the northern wall.



                     _______&.__________
                     \      ~%       #  |          N
                     |__________________|         W+E
                                                   S



  Since the others didn't have much to do while the rubble
was cleared, they began fortifying the level against any
nasty surprises that might arise.  While Bosco wedged open
all doors, Mongo and Gorin placed some of Nenya's light-
rocks in strategic areas of the dungeon, ensuring a very
well-lit environment.  Ged and Arnold gave Nenya a brief
tour of the level, pointing out the sites of their old
(and recent) battles and trials here.  Nenya absorbed
everything that they told her, and even made some useful
suggestions.

Nenya:  What about digging through the floor of what used
  to be the "rune room", to try and reach the juggernaut
  level?  It can't be more than thirty feet, from what
  you've told me, and obviously whatever magic used to
  be here to open the way down is long-expired.  Physical
  means may be necessary.
Arnold:  (looks at Ged, wide-eyed)
Ged:  (looks at Arnold, grinning)
Nenya:  What?
Ged:  A fabulous idea!  We'll get to work on it as soon as
  possible!
Arnold:  Aaa.

  This time, it didn't take the miners long at all, for in
less than an hour, they had moved the bulk of the rubble
aside, revealing a huge, gaping chamber beyond.

head miner:  We didn't want to go any further without your
  say-so.
Ged:  You did the right thing.  We'll take it from here...

  The large area exposed by the miners was relatively
empty; it had a twenty-foot ceiling and dry, musty air.
However, several passages at its far end promised more
excitement...


                  ___              ___
                 |   \____    ____/   |
                 |__      \__/      __|
                   _|              |_
                __|                  |__
                __                    __
                  |                  |
                  |                  |
                  |                  |
                  |_                _|
                    |_            _|
                  ____|____  ____|_______           N
                  \                   #  |         W+E
                  |______________________|          S



Mongo:  Left...or right?
Gorin:  Where's Bosco?  We should let him decide.
Ged:  We _should_ let him scout ahead.
Bosco:  (makes his way to the forefront of the party)
  Here I am!  (he looks around)  Left, definitely.
Nenya:  Hmm.
Ged:  Well...
Mongo:  (shrugs)
Bosco:  (dashes toward the western passage)
Mongo:  Hey, you have to wait for us!  (everyone rushes
  after the thief)
Ged:  (looks at Gorin accusingly)  Let Bosco decide, eh?
Gorin:  Hey, how was I to know that he'd acquire sudden
  bravery?
Ged:  Sudden foolhardiness is more like it.

  The halfling vanished into the passage...for about four
seconds.  Then he came charging out, toward his approaching
companions.

Bosco:  Yaaieee!  Giants!
Mongo:  Really?  (he hefts his hammer)  Where?
Bosco:  Don't worry, they're coming!
Ged:  By Boccob!  (he begins spellcasting)
Arnold:  Aaa.
Gorin:  (readies his axe)  Hmm.

  As they watched expectantly, the magi readying spells,
the warriors moving to protect them, a band of four large,
lumbering forms emerged from the passage.

Gorin:  Trolls!

  Towering well over nine feet in height, the trolls had
grayish-red skin, with hair to match.  Their toothy maws
gaped and gnashed as they spotted the adventurers.

Mongo:  Time to let 'em have it!  (he raises Stormcrest)
Ged:  Don't bother - I shall roast them from afar.  (he
  finishes his spellcasting)
Nenya:  Ah...a fireball.

  The spell exploded amidst the trolls, spraying the walls
with flames.  The ensuing heatwave was immense, forcing the
adventurers to cover their faces.

Nenya:  Whew.
Ged:  Hah!  That got them!
Bosco:  (regarding the blazing flames ahead)  Gee, I sure
  hope so.

  Suddenly, four huge figures emerged from the flames, their
red skins still glowing and dripping tongues of fire.  Not
only were the trolls unhurt by the fireball, but they had
_grown_, for they were now at least fifteen feet in height!
The monstrous trolls now lumbered toward the party, shaking
the floor with every step.

Bosco:  Hey, I was kidding!  Honest!





next time :  more weird chambers, foes, and items

notes     :  Credit for the fire-trolls goes to various
  recent posters to rec.games.frp.dnd, most notably Jason
  Kuznicki, whose post on the topic was the first of
  several that I saw.
    Thanks also to Jens-Arthur Leirbakk, who reminded me
  that adventurers of the party's caliber wouldn't use
  torches if they could help it.  And I'd be unfair if I
  didn't thank the dozen or so readers who reminded me to
  show more of Nenya and what she can do...
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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