Chapter #257

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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.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 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                    +
+                          +
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Mongo        17th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+     Gorin      8th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+  Bosco        10th level halfling thief                      (N)  +
+  Date:        2/8/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        evening                                             +
+  Place:       Thunderdelve Mountain, in the northern Lortmils     +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "This place has _everything_."                                   +
+                                            - The Blues Brothers   +

                     CCLVII.  Thunderdelve

  After a long journey to the north and west, Mongo and company
have finally arrived at the mighty Thunderdelve Mountain...

Bosco:  Wow...
dwarven soldier:  Come on, let's get you inside.  (he leads the
  trio down the trail, toward the stone road leading up to the
  mountain's gates)

  As they approached the massive gates and got a closer look at
Thunderdelve, they realized that the fortress was all but
impregnable.  No windows were set lower than twenty feet above
the ground; all were barred with sturdy steel grilles, and all
were manned by crossbow-wielding dwarves.  The section of the
mountain from which the fortress had been cut was a straight
vertical slope, making wall-climbing a near-impossibility for any
attackers.  As the huge gates opened, Mongo and crew saw that
the doors were more than a foot thick; furthermore, on the inside
were a series of bars and bolts, some fitting into channels cut
into the rocky ground.

Mongo:  It would take an army of giants to break into this place.
dwarven soldier:  Nah, that's been tried before.

  On the inside, the fortress was like another world.  The huge
chamber on this side of the walls was about thirty feet high.
Ladders and ropes led to and from ledges, cut into the mountain
itself, and crawlways led up to other, unseen ledges and rooms
above.  Armed dwarves were in abundance here; it seemed that Yod
favored heavy security around the clock.

dwarven soldier:  (seeing the visitors' faces)  Yep, Yod doesn't
  want any risk of invasion, not since the dragon was killed many
  years ago.  He swore that Thunderdelve would never fall again,
  and it won't.  (puffs his chest out proudly)
Bosco:  (looking around, awestruck)

  Right inside the gates, to one side, were a number of catapults,
ballistas, scorpions, and other siege engines.  Plentiful stacks
of ammunition rested next to the war machines.  To another side
were racks and racks of axes, spears, crossbows, and shields,
easily accessible should the need arise.

Gorin:  It almost seems that you're constantly at war here.
dwarven soldier:  Yep, well, basically we are.  You can never
  kill enough goblins.
Mongo:  You got that right.

  The soldier (and his fellows, who were following behind) led
the trio of adventurers further into the mountain fortress.  It
quickly became apparent that the place was of typical dwarven
construction - orderly levels, arranged horizontally, with many
stairways leading up and down to the next levels.  Many sections
of the place appeared to have been rebuilt recently, judging from
the mixture of new and old stonework.

Mongo:  Had some renovations lately, eh?
dwarven soldier:  Oh, well, between the dragon and the goblins,
  a great many battles have happened here.  Repairs are frequent;
  Thunderdelve is a work constantly in progress.
Gorin:  No kidding...

  The pattern of the fortress' construction seemed to be several
large, main tunnels or caverns, with myriad smaller, connecting
side passages.  Even Mongo and Gorin, who had been in dwarven
cities before, found it impressive in both sheer size as well as
complexity.  Indeed, they saw that Thunderdelve was a lot bigger
than they could have imagined.

Mongo:  Just how deep into the heart of the mountain have you
dwarven soldier:  All the way.
Gorin:  (looks shocked)
dwarven soldier:  ...if you believe the legends, that is.  See,
  the dwarves who were here before the dragon did most of the
  work, centuries ago.  Nowadays, we just clean out the rubble
  from the old tunnels, mostly.  We do add new tunnels, when
Bosco:  So the old tunnels go down...all the way down?
Mongo:  Down to where?
dwarven soldier:  Hey, we're still cleaning those out.  The first
  ones, those uppermost levels, were the first ones we hit after
  the dragon was slain.  They were filled with goblins.
Bosco:  Aie.  Goblins!
Gorin:  Don't be such a wuss, Bosco.
Bosco:  Huh?  Not me!
Mongo:  I take it you don't have goblin trouble anymore?
soldier:  Funny you should ask that...

  Just then, they were met by a pair of halflings.  Nay, not just
a pair, but twins!  The two halflings were virtually identical,
both garbed in chain mail and bearing bucklers.  One had a short
sword strapped to his belt, while the other had a hand axe at his
side.  Both demihumans looked tough and sturdy, like seasoned
warriors; a guess might have placed their age at forty or so.

Bosco:  Hey!  what are halflings doing in a dwarven city?
halfling#1:  Who are these people?
dwarven soldier:  Visitors, from afar.  They bear gifts for
  Ironbeard.  (to Mongo)  Maybe you'd better show them.
Bosco:  Yeah, yeah!  Show 'em!

  Mongo displayed the large diamond for all to see, and verily,
even the halfling warriors' eyes were alight with wonder.

halfling#2:  And this is just one of many gifts you have brought?
Mongo:  Yeah.  I seek the help of Yod Ironbeard for a great and
  mighty quest.
halfling#1:  Hmm.  (he seems to make a decision)  Very well, then,
  you shall have it!
halfling#2:  Aye.
Bosco:  Hey, who _are_ you guys anyway?
halfling#1:  I am Spikey.
halfling#2:  And I am Sparkey.
Spikey:  We are the loyal servants of Yod Ironbeard.
Sparkey:  We handle the more mundane affairs of state.
Spikey:  Yep, like greeting powerful or noteworthy visitors.
Sparkey:  And making sure they don't mean trouble for anyone.
Mongo:  No trouble here.  I just need to talk with Yod.
Spikey:  Well, we'll take you to him.
Sparkey:  Shortly.  You'll need quarters for the night?
Mongo:  Yeah, that'd be great.
Spikey:  Follow us.
Sparkey:  (to the dwarven soldier)  We'll take over now.
dwarven soldier:  Gotcha.  (his patrol over, he heads off to his
Gorin:  (already confused as to which halfling is Spikey and which
  is Sparkey)  Hmph.
Bosco:  (to Spikey - or is it Sparkey?)  Hey, are you guys actually
Spikey:  Of course.
Sparkey:  What wagon did you fall off of?
Bosco:  Wagon?  What wagon?

  The twin halflings led them through some more areas of the city.
They saw barracks, mess halls, armories, forges, storage rooms, and
even an underground spring.

Spikey:  That's for water.
Sparkey:  We drink what we need, and bottle the rest.
Spikey:  In case of a prolonged siege.
Sparkey:  Yup.
Mongo:  (nodding in approval)  Hmm.
Bosco:  Say, do you really think you'll ever use all those weapons
  back in that armory?
Spikey: Hopefully not.
Sparkey:  But you never know.
Bosco:  How long have you guys been warriors?
Spikey:  A long time.
Sparkey:  ...oh, maybe twenty years now.  How about you?
Spikey:  (looking Bosco up and down)  Say, you don't look like a
Sparkey:  Come to think of it, he sure doesn't.
Bosco:  I'm the juggernaut warrior!
Spikey:  (to Sparkey)  What's a juggernaut?
Sparkey:  No idea.  (to Bosco)  Look, kid.  I'll teach you how to
  use that sword later if you want.
Spikey:  Yeah, take my advice.  Stick with the dwarf and when you
  grow up, you can be a great warrior too.
Sparkey:  Worked for us.
Bosco:  (dwarfed by the halflings)  What do you mean "when"?
Mongo:  <sigh>

  The adventurers were led to their guest quarters, which were in
truth nothing more than small rooms.

Mongo:  Good thing we didn't bring Rillen, or Arnold.
Gorin:  They'd never fit in here.
Bosco:  (notices that there are torches in the walls, both in the
  hallways and rooms)  Looks like Yod gets fairly frequent non-
  dwarf company, though.
Spikey:  Yup.  He knows lots of people.
Sparkey:  The giant did pose a special problem, though.
Mongo:  Giant?  What giant?
Bosco:  A giant?  (trying to remember the last giant he heroically

  Had any humans been with the group, they might have wondered why
torchlight was in evidence, since both dwarves and halflings had
that useful ability known as infravision.  The answer was obvious,
of course, for even the dwarves do not prefer to live in utter
  Once the trio was situated, Spikey informed them that someone
would come to get them in an hour or so.

Spikey:  ...for dinner.
Sparkey:  Mmm...dinner.
Bosco:  (rubbing his belly)  I'm hungry now!
Mongo:  Yeah, me too.  Just hold your horses, Bosco.

  The twin halflings then took their leave of the adventurers.

Gorin:  Well.
Mongo:  They seemed like good enough guys.  For halflings.
Bosco:  Hey!

  Being fairly exhausted, Mongo decided to take a short nap, and
was quickly snoring loudly.  Gorin resolved not to let the same
thing happen to him, but as soon as he leaned his head back, he
was out as well.

Bosco:  Hmm.  Well, _you_ guys are no fun.  (whistling, he strolls
  around, checking out the guest rooms)

  About an hour later, the dwarves were awakened by Spikey and

Mongo:  Zzz-  huh?!?  Oh, must've fallen asleep.
Spikey:  Don't worry, it happens.
Sparkey:  Perfectly understandable.
Gorin:  Wow.  I must have been tired!
Mongo:  (spreading his hands apologetically)  Long day's ride, and
  all that.
voice:  Not to worry, lad.  Even the mightiest dwarf has to rest

  The voice belonged to a powerful-looking dwarf who was standing
behind Spikey and Sparkey.  Several inches taller than Mongo and
just as muscular, the newcomer presented quite a majestic figure.
Was it the long, steel-grey beard and bushy grey eyebrows?  Or
perhaps the piercing gaze of those eyes, which bespoke intelligence
as well as many years of experience.  It was hard to tell, but one
thing was for sure:  this dwarf was not someone to be taken lightly.

Spikey:  Well, you wanted to talk to him.
Sparkey:  So here he is.
Mongo:  (somewhat in awe)  Yod Ironbeard?
Gorin:  (bows on one knee)
Yod:  Oh, cut that out!  You're making me feel old!
Spikey:  That one is Mongo, milord.
Sparkey:  The other is Gorin.
Yod:  (clasping their hands in turn)  My pleasure.
Mongo:  We've come a long way to see you.
Yod:  So I've heard.
Gorin:  You have?
Yod:  (points a thumb at Spikey)  He told me.
Gorin:  Oh.  Of course.
Mongo:  I know this sounds crazy, what with us not ever having met
  you and all...
Yod:  Actually, I've heard of you.
Mongo:  You have?
Yod:  Yep.  That business you pulled off in the Flinty Hills - now
  that was a great victory!
Mongo:  Oh, yeah.  Well, I was on a tear at that time.
Yod:  Somebody's ass had to get kicked, eh?  (he gives a knowing
  smile)  I've been there too, my friend.  And as for not having
  met me, well, you have now.
Gorin:  And a great honor it is!
Yod:  Bah.  I'm just a normal dwarf, doing normal dwarf things.
Gorin:  The slaying of Feuerhauch was no normal dwarf thing.
Yod:  Well, maybe not.  But I had help.
Mongo:  How'd you find out about the Flinty Hills campaign?
Yod:  In the matters of the dwarves, I find out everything.  Also,
  an old friend of mine lives there, and recounted the matter to
Gorin:  (wondering who that could be)
Yod:  I bet you're wondering who that could be.
Gorin:  Err...
Mongo:  The thought did cross my mind.
Yod:  A halfling...a wanderer, now settled.  Kup Swiftfoot.
Mongo:  That guy?!?  That little shrimp?
Yod:  Yup.  A good friend, and a damn fine thief.  Even if he is
  a halfling.  Speaking of which, where's that halfling you came
  here with?
Gorin:  Well, actually, he came here with us.
Mongo:  That would be Bosco.  (he looks around)  It seems that he's
  wandered off.
Yod:  Heh.  They will do that.
Spikey:  Not always.
Sparkey:  And not all of them.
Mongo:  Well, Bosco's kinda his own man.  Err, halfling.
Gorin:  I hope he doesn't get lost.
Mongo:  Or get into trouble...
Yod:  Relax, there's nowhere here that he can cause too much harm.
Mongo:  (exchanges glances with Gorin)  You don't know Bosco like
  we do.
Yod:  Well, we'll find him eventually.
Gorin:  Yeah, he has to eat.
Mongo:  (feels his stomach rumbling)
Yod:  Come, let me complete your tour before dinnertime.

  The dwarven king led them through some more of the fortress' many
halls and chambers.  He showed them the once and future greatness
of the dwarven city, including some things that they hadn't seen
already.  The place had temples dedicted to all the dwarven gods,
and these were every bit as majestic as the temples of the surface

Yod:  See, long, long ago this was a city.  I've sort of made it
  into a half-fortress.
Mongo:  Looks like a full fortress to me.
Gorin:  Really.  How many troops are quartered here, anyway?
Yod:  (grinning)  Lots.  Enough.  Who can give an accurate answer,
Spikey:  Well, actually, at last count-
Yod:  Don't worry about it.  (he turns, and opens a rather large
  door with a rather large key)

  Behind this portal was a short, narrow passage, which ended in
another door.  A portcullis of thick steel guarded this door, and
Yod had to use two keys before the way was clear.  A large, semi-
circular corridor was revealed; its walls shone with a gleam that
could be only one thing.

Gorin:  Gold-plated walls!
Yod:  Truly an engineering marvel.  We had to use screws, drilled
  directly into the rock, and then mount the plates of gold.
Gorin:  Hmm.
Spikey:  Isn't it fabulous?
Sparkey:  A hall worthy of kings...
Mongo:  (to Yod)  What's at the other end of this hall anyway?
Yod:  Wouldn't you like to know?  Well, let's go and see!  (he leads
  the others down the corridor)

  At the end of the great hallway was a massive set of double doors,
into which several large locks were built.  Yod used various keys
and combinations to bypass these - a process which took several
minutes - before grabbing the handles and swinging the massive doors
wide open.

Yod:  (gesturing into the gigantic cavern ahead)  And this was Feuer-
  hauch's deathbed!

  Even though they had seen or heard of many great dragons' lairs,
both Mongo and Gorin were greatly awed by the chamber before them.
At least two hundred feet in width, and probably more, its ceiling
was equally spacious.  Despite the lack of a dragon, this cavern was
still impressive, for it was filled by a titanic mound of coins, bars
of metal, gems, jewelry, works of art, vases, statues, and who knew
what else!

Mongo and Gorin:  (staring in amazement at the dragon's hoard, now
  Thunderdelve's riches)
Yod:  What's that noise?
Mongo:  Eh?
Gorin:  I hear it too.  Sounds like coins falling.

  They walked round the huge pile of coins until they found a small
form twitching in fitful dreams amidst the sea of gold and silver.

Mongo:  (gritting his teeth)  BOSCO!
Bosco:  (bolts upright, sending coins skittering everywhere)  Whoa!
Yod:  (looking back at the great vault door and the keys on his
  belt)  Hmm.
Gorin:  (covering his eyes in horror)

  Shortly, at the great feasting hall of the dwarves, the three
adventurers, as well as Yod, Spikey, and Sparkey, were gathered at
the head table.  Scores of other dwarves filled the other tables,
laughing, eating, drinking, and generally making merry.  Each of
the tables had its own conversation going...

Bosco:  Look, the place was unlocked.  How was I to know?  Coulda
  been the kitchen.
Gorin:  What do you mean?  We went through three doubly locked
  doors on our way in.
Bosco:  Hmm, well...(cooly chewing on a hunk of bread)  Locked?
  Relatively speaking.  I mean, six locks for an entire hoard?
  What kind of security is _that_, I ask you?
Yod:  Not enough, apparently.
Bosco:  Surely you've heard of accidental turns, and being lost?
Yod:  I've heard it all.
Mongo:  (spreading his hands)  Bosco's wanderlust is legendary.
Bosco:  I still can't believe you made me give up all my money!
Yod:  Was it all your money?
Bosco:  Of course!  Hmph.  What kind of questions are those, anyway?
  You'd think I was some kind of thief!
Gorin:  Count yourself lucky there weren't any magic items stored
  in that vault or you'd have lost more than money.
Mongo:  (shaking a turkey leg)  Count yourself lucky that I didn't
  turn you upside down, and shake the money out of you!
Bosco:  What money?
Yod:  (to Spikey & Sparkey)  Does he remind you of anybody, lads?
Spikey:  Yep.
Sparkey:  You could say that.
Yod:  Not to worry, though.  I've put an armed guard in front of
  the treasure room.
Bosco:  -innocent, I tell you!  What kind of fool would even dream
  of stealing from a dwarf's treasure hoard?
Mongo:  (stares at Bosco)
Bosco:  Drat!  (already thinking of new schemes to fill his pockets
  with illicit gold, he chows down on a buttered roll)
Mongo:  Sorry about this.
Yod:  No problem.  We're sure he didn't take anything, and besides,
  what can you expect from a halfling?
Mongo:  Good advice.  I think I'll keep an eye open around the
  little guy from now on.
Spikey:  Better keep both eyes open.
Sparkey:  Really.
Bosco:  (tosses a date into the air, then catches it in his mouth)
  Hmph.  I'd expect higher praise, given my great exploits and
Yod:  Really?  Well, pray tell, enlighten us, O great halfling!
Bosco:  (grins)  All righty, then!
Mongo:  Oh, no.
Bosco:  Oh, yes!  See, there was this juggernaut-

  As they feasted on great haunches of lamb and poultry, hot loaves
of bread, and other succulent foodstuffs - not to mention all sorts
of fine ales and beers - Bosco wove his version of the great battle.

Bosco:  -so then I fly up on top and stab it through this broken
  hole in its armor.  POW!  The whole thing falls apart!
Yod:  (looking serious)  And that wheel you wear came out of the
Bosco:  (beaming)  You bet!
Yod:  (bursts out laughing, beating the table with his fist)  Now I
  see why you put up with the little one, Mongo of the Thunderheads!
  He's the best jester we've had in years!
Bosco:  (standing on his chair, waving a tiny chicken leg in the air
  over his head)  It's the truth I tell you!  I _am_ Bosco the
  Juggernaut Slayer!  (he raises the chicken leg in triumph)
Spikey:  (sloshing ale all over himself)  Next he'll say he was
  responsible for saving Greyhawk!
Sparkey:  (falling over backwards in his chair laughing)  Hahahaha-
Bosco:  (frustrated)  I did that too!  Mongo!  Tell 'em!
Mongo:  (trying not to laugh)  Well...he didn't get in the way.
  That counts for a lot when it comes to Bosco.
dwarves:  (cacophony engulfs the room)
Bosco:  (gaping in disbelief, he slumps in his chair)  Next time,
  you can just pick up your own arm!
Yod:  Eh?  What's this about an arm?
Mongo:  Oh, my arm got bitten off recently, by a big monster.  Come
  to think of it, that's kind of why I'm here.
Yod:  Oh?  You want us to build you a steel arm?  We have the finest
  forges in the world, you know.
Mongo:  (wondering how a man could have a steel arm)  Err, the arm's
  okay, now.  It's the armor that it - and me - was in at the time.
Yod:  So I heard.  Tell me, what've you got in mind?
Mongo:  Well, it's like this.  I recently talked with the wisest,
  most learned sages in the city of Greyhawk.  I was asking them
  what the strongest, most powerful armor in the world was.
Yod:  Really?  Why?
Mongo:  I've decided that I have to wear the best armor in the world,
  no matter what it is.
Yod:  Hmm.
Mongo:  And, the sages told me that the mightiest armor in the world
  was right here, in Thunderdelve.
Yod:  They said that, did they?
Mongo:  Yes.  And they told me its name, too:  the Invulnerable Coat
  of Arnd!
Yod:  Ah.  Legendary armor, that.
Mongo:  ...and they said Feuerhauch gained it when he conquered
Yod:  Smart sages.
Mongo:  So you _do_ have it?
Yod:  Not for sure.
Bosco:  It wasn't in the big pile-
Mongo:  (claps Bosco on the back)  Ahem.  You already told us that
  you didn't keep any magic items in the vault.
Yod:  Nope.  The Coat of Arnd must be in one of the damn lizard's
  deeper chambers that we haven't been to.
Bosco:  Whaddya mean, haven't been to?
Yod:  Thunderdelve is a big place, maybe a dozen levels beneath the
  ones we've secured.  Before the dwarves, there were all kinds of
  other things already living within the mountain.  After the wyrm
  came, all kinds of scum showed up.  Scum and worse.
Gorin:  So it could be down there?
Yod:  If the sages say so, it's probably true.  I _have_ heard of
  this armor, and I've also heard that it's down there, somewhere.
  I've often thought about going to look for it.
Mongo:  Well, let's go get it!
Yod:  Can't.
Mongo:  Why not?
Yod:  Orcs.
Mongo:  No damn orc is gonna stand between me and that armor!
Yod:  This isn't an orc.  This is an army.  We're outnumbered two,
  maybe three to one.  And all these orcs - they're just on the
  first level we'd have to fight through.
Mongo:  Crap!
Yod:  You're tellin' me.  We just learned of these orcs about a-
Bosco:  I can do it!  They'll never see me!
Spikey:  Never!
Sparkey:  Grimthard'd have you for lunch!
Mongo:  Who's Grimthard?
Yod:  The King of Thunderdelve if you're an orc.
Bosco:  And you say he'd have me over for lunch?
everyone:  Uuuhhhhh.
Yod:  Of course, if I _did_ have this armor, I'd be wearing it
  myself, now wouldn't I?
Mongo:  Hmm, didn't think of that.
Spikey:  (trying to break the tension)  Err, what does this great,
  legendary armor look like?
Sparkey:  Yeah, is it plate mail, or chain, or what?
Gorin:  Surely not leather.
Bosco:  Plate mail?  Who'd wanna wear plate mail?
Yod:  All true warriors wear plate mail.
Mongo:  Supposedly, it's a shirt of polished chain mail links, that
  weighs hardly anything - but can't be pierced or cut by any force
  on this world.
Yod:  (nodding)  That's what I've heard, too.
Bosco:  Hmm...
Mongo:  The sages seemed to think it had other powers and properties
  too...mostly protective effects, but also some bad ones.
Yod:  That may be, but I don't think we'll have a chance to find out.
Mongo:  Why not?!?  Let's go down there and attack those orcs!  I'll
  help you!
Yod:  One more warrior - or even three, if your friends go - won't
  be enough.
Mongo:  Then bring reinforcements, from your own ranks!  Surely a
  force of several thousand dwarves can best some orcish rabble!
Yod:  Think about what you're asking me to do:  use my own troops to
  back your personal quest.  And for a relic that may not even be
  there for the taking!
Mongo:  (considers this)
Yod:  Doesn't make sense, does it?
Mongo:  I guess not.
Yod:  You must understand the risk you're asking me to take.
  Thunderdelve has grown tremendously in the past few decades, but
  we're not goblins.  Our numbers grow slowly.  If we fail, Thunder-
  delve is weakened.  Perhaps fatally.
Mongo:  I'd be willing to go down into the dungeons all by myself,
  if necessary.
Gorin:  I'd stand with you!
Bosco:  Aye, and Bosco too!  (he thinks about the thousands of orcs
  that lurk below)  Well...
Yod:  So now it's a hunting license in my dungeons that you seek, eh?
Mongo:  Remember, they're not your dungeons until the orcs are dead.
Yod:  Hmm.  I cannot think through all the angles over the space of
  a single dinner.  Any decisions I make - including whether you'll
  be allowed to go into the dungeons - will have to wait until the
Mongo:  (somewhat disheartened)
Yod:  In the meantime, I suggest that you enjoy the feast, and the
  guest quarters allotted to you.  (to Bosco)  And try not to wander
  too far.
Bosco:  (looking around)  Who, me?  You can't mean me...
Yod:  I mean _especially_ you.  (he leaves the dining hall)
Gorin:  (watching Spikey and Sparkey)
Spikey:  We've been assigned to escort you around the fortress.
Sparkey:  To make sure you don't get into trouble.
Mongo:  (glares at Bosco)
Bosco:  (quite oblivious, he eats a strawberry and contemplates the
  layout of Thunderdelve)

  Later, Mongo sat alone in the feasting hall, drinking ale and
grumbling to himself.  All the other dwarves had long since left;
Spikey and Sparkey had followed Bosco as he departed.  Gorin had
left Mongo alone, at his liege's request.  Cursing, Mongo slammed
the metal mug onto the tabletop.

Mongo:  (talking to himself in dwarven)  Just a hundred good dwarves.
  That's all I'd need!
Yod:  (steps through the shadows surrounding the doorway)  You think
  that'll be enough?
Mongo:  (looks up)  Huh?
Yod:  A hundred dwarves?  Against thousands of orcs?
Mongo:  Don't rule out my power...and yours.
Yod:  Two great leaders, then, added to the hundred dwarves?
Mongo:  Two like us can do much.
Yod:  I'll grant you that.
Mongo:  (sensing, perhaps, a chance to sway a decision here)  Think
  of it, man!  The orcs have to be dealt with sometime - why not now?
  With a hand-picked force, and a little strategy...battle could be
  joined!  Treasure liberated!  Orcs slain!  Thunderdelve cleansed
  of this vile orcish infestation!
Yod:  You have grand dreams...but yet, I find myself sharing them,
  from time to time.
Mongo:  Look here.  (he gets his portable hole out, and opens it)
Yod:  Ah.  Now _those_ can come in handy.
Mongo:  Yeah.  We can empty it here, and use it to stash all the
  lost treasures we'll find!
Yod:  You'd leave it here?
Mongo:  It'd be perfectly safe in the vault.
Yod:  You're not worried about thieves?
Mongo:  Bosco will be with us.  Think - with the hole, we wouldn't
  need any porters.  We could even carry extra food and drink, in
  case we need it.
Yod:  True.
Mongo:  And I have money to donate...lots of it.  I brought a small
  fortune in gold.  I'd be willing to pay all the soldiers who went
  along.  (surveying the vast treasure in the portable hole)  So
  what's a fair price for this kind of arrangement?
Yod:  (looks offended)  You think my troops require a _bribe_ to go
  on this mission?!?
Mongo:  No, no, no!  Sorry, didn't mean to imply that at all.  I'm
  just saying that I can donate money to cover any costs that may
  arise, including bonuses to those who volunteer to help.  Didn't
  mean any offense.
Yod:  (grumbling slightly)  Okay then...but I'll be the one who
  decides the amount of the bonuses.
Mongo:  (nodding)  As is your right.
Yod:  (knitting his thick brow in thought)  Well, it's going to be
  real touchy.  Easy to get surrounded down there since they know
  the tunnels and we don't.  Maybe two hundred gold per warrior.
Bosco:  (suddenly standing between the two dwarves)  Two hundred!
  Now who's the thief?  Fifty and not a copper more!
Yod:  Bosco!  Where'd you come from?
Mongo:  (rolling his eyes, he grabs Bosco and flings him into the
  air over his shoulder)  Two hundred it shall be.
Bosco:  (safely bobbing thirty feet in the air thanks to his boots)
  Oh, you'll see!  When you're a pauper, don't come looking to me
  for a handout!  I coulda saved you ten thousand gold!  You'll rue
  the day you didn't let Bosco do the bartering!
Spikey:  (trotting into the hall)  Sorry, sirs.  I only took my eyes
  off him for a second and he was gone.
Sparkey:  (addressing the floating Bosco)  Get down here, you.

  In no time at all, the group was gathered around a table, making
plans for the expedition.  Yod had a keg of rare ale brought in, and
another dwarf delivered a heap of scrolls and papers to the room.

Bosco:  (hovering above the table)  What are these, maps?
Yod:  Maps indeed, Bosco!  Maps of all the levels we've cleared, and
  perhaps some we haven't.  With these, we may have some idea of what
  we're getting into.
Mongo:  Keep in mind that the orcs may have built new tunnels and
Gorin:  Or collapsed existing ones.  You know how orcs are.
Yod:  The orcs?  Hell, I'd be surprised if other, more powerful
  forces hadn't made changes know, they say that demons
  walked the dungeons while Feuerhauch was in power.
Bosco:  Then we'll add "demon-slayer" to the exploits of Bosco!
Mongo:  (ignoring the halfling, much like everyone else)  Okay, so
  the deal is, I donate money for all bonuses, equipment costs, and
  such.  And we use my portable hole to store everything.
Yod:  And in return, you get the armor of Arnd.  _If_ we find it.
Mongo:  And as Lord of Thunderdelve, anything else is of course
  yours to keep.
Yod:  Of course.
Spikey:  It couldn't be any other way.
Sparkey:  Nope.
Yod:  Though I'd probably split some of the spoils with my warriors.
Gorin:  A hundred warriors, right?
Yod:  Right.  I'll call for volunteers first thing in the morning.
  As long as they know what could be in store for them - though I
  expect we'll see more than enough good dwarves volunteer.
Mongo:  We'll have to plan carefully...too many ways to get into
  trouble down there.
Yod:  Aye.  Battling in confined spaces can be tough, though any
  dwarf worth his stones is used to it.  We also have to watch out
  for traps, deadfalls, cave-ins...hell, we're going to need some
  top-notch scouts.
Bosco:  (casually floats by, upside-down)  I bet.
Mongo:  (to Yod)  I think we've got a top-notch scout.
Yod:  So I've heard.
Bosco:  (unseen by all, he smiles to himself)
Gorin:  (scanning the maps)  We'll also have to beware of ambushes,
  considering all the side tunnels that seem to be typical of
Yod:  And sounds carry well through tunnels.  Battle will draw the
  attention of anyone or anything nearby.
Mongo:  At least everyone will have infravision.  No torches...
Gorin:  That'll be something new.  (to Spikey)  We're used to
  adventuring with humans, see.
Spikey:  That're blind as bats, in the darkness.
Sparkey:  Worse, maybe.
Yod:  We won't be ready to leave for a couple of days.  I want to
  make sure all the troops are ready, willing, and able.  Also we
  need to get you and Bosco some new armor.
Mongo:  Yeah.
Bosco:  Armor?  For me?  Why?  This leather's a little tight, but
  it gives that sleek, ready-for-action look, ya know?  (striking
  a dashing pose)
Yod: Real armor, Bosco.  Plate mail.
Bosco:  (protesting)  But good scouts don't-
Yod:  No ifs, ands, or buts.  You can visit the armorer tomorrow.
Mongo:  What about clerics?
Yod:  Aye, we'll need some of them too.  I think we can gather a
  good half-dozen.
Bosco:  I take it you don't have any wizards here?
Yod:  No.  Sometimes, one or another of my old friends comes to pay
  me a visit...but not now.
Mongo:  Well, then.  That's everything?
Yod:  That's enough for tonight.  Tomorrow we will cover more of
  the finer points.  For now, we had all best retire - tomorrow's
  sure to be a busy day.

  The group headed for their various bedchambers in considerably
good spirits, for a mighty quest was soon to commence, a quest that
would take them into the depths of one of the oldest, most glorious
dwarven strongholds ever built!

Bosco:  Good night, Mongo!
Mongo:  Good night, Bosco.
Bosco:  Good night, Gorin!
Gorin:  Night, Bosco.
Bosco:  Good night, Spikey and Sparkey!
Spikey:  Good night, Bosco.
Sparkey:  Bosco......go to sleep.

next:   preparation for the mission
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  I saw not one, but two of the summer's hot movies this
  weekend:  _Judge Dredd_ and _Apollo 13_.  Both were really good
  films, but in different ways.

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