Chapter #262

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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Mongo        17th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+     Gorin     8th level dwarven warrior                     (CG)  +
+  Bosco        10th level halfling thief                      (N)  +
+                                                                   +
+  special guest stars:                                             +
+                                                                   +
+  Yod Ironbeard, dwarven hero and king                             +
+     Spikey, halfling warrior                                      +
+     Sparkey, halfling warrior (twin brother of Spikey)            +
+     32 of the finest dwarven warriors of Thunderdelve             +
+     four dwarven priests of Moradin, Clangeddin, et al            +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        2/10/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        afternoon                                           +
+  Place:       Thunderdelve Mountain, in the northern Lortmils     +
+  Climate:     temperate, within the mountain                      +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I disapprove of his very existence.  I considered ending it     +
+   myself on several occasions.  But...self-control got the        +
+   better of me."                                                  +
+                                - Doc Holliday, from _Wyatt Earp_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                 CCLXII.  Pursuit Into the Deeps





  After routing the larger orcish force, Yod, Mongo, and the rest
are binding wounds and evaluating their situation.  Obviously,
they intend to chase Grimthaard, the orcish king, into the depths
of the mines, but they must also deal with the wounded, and the
matter of holding the areas they've conquered thus far.

Yod:  (surveying his nearly-decimated forces)  Crap.  A finer and
  better-fought battle we'll never see, but we have a great number
  of casualties.
Mongo:  (thinking that not all dwarves have the advantages he does)
  Damn, was it worth it?
Yod:  A third of my soldiers slain...another third too injured to
  move onward...hmm.  (to a nearby soldier)  Groin, son of Thoin
  and fleetest-footed of my scouts!  I have a mission for you.
Groin:  (stands at attention)  My lord?
Yod:  I want to to go back to the entry shaft, and tell them to send
  down another hundred dwarves, pronto.
Groin:  Aye, it shall be done.  (he dashes off)
Yod:  And bring more priests, with healing salves and tonics.  We've
  got dying dwarves down here!
Groin:  Aye!  (he vanishes up the cavern's stone ramp)

  Meanwhile, the priests were hard at work helping the wounded and
dying.  Though their spells weren't nearly plentiful enough, they
also had some of the tonics and salves that Yod had mentioned, and
they were able to save many lives that would have otherwise been
lost to the gods under the mountain.

Mongo:  (to Yod)  What's your plan, anyway?  Do we really need a
  hundred more soldiers to chase down Grimthaard?
Gorin:  Yeah.  Wasn't that his main force that we just trounced?
Yod:  Yes.  But there are some side passages behind us that we
  hadn't the time to check.  We need troops back here, to hold and
  defend what we've already conquered.
Mongo:  (nodding)
Yod:  Those of the first hundred who can still fight will accompany
  us into the deeps.  The rest - the wounded and the new arrivals -
  will stay here, just in case.  (he surveys the scattered wounded
  again)  Anyway, with reinforcements stationed here, the injured
  dwarves can be ferried upward faster.
Gorin:  Ah.
Mongo:  What about the earth elemental?
Yod:  Ah, yes.  (to the huge creature)  Are you still with us?
earth elemental king:  AYE.  I YET STAND WITH YOU, FOR A SHORT TIME
  MORE.
Yod:  (holding his axe, which is glowing softly)  Very well.  I need
  you to go in the direction that the orc-king went.  (he points to
  the dark passage)  I need to know how far he's gotten, and how
  many still rally behind him.  We will be on his trail shortly, so
  meet us therein.
earth elemental king:  CONSIDER THE DEED DONE.  (it sinks into the
  ground)
Mongo:  Why not just have the thing smash Grimthaard to bits?  That
  would save us some trouble...
Yod:  Because, if the elemental can beat him, so can we.  And I want
  to take back the lower deeps myself, not with an elemental lord.
Gorin:  Hey, careful.  He could hear you.
Yod:  Nonsense.

  The ground trembled slightly just then, only for a moment.

Yod:  Uh...
Mongo:  No matter.  One way or another, Grimthaard won't get away.

  Meanwhile, Bosco, Spikey, and Sparkey were supervising the cleanup
of orcish carcasses.

Spikey:  Why the hell did we volunteer for this job?
Sparkey:  Really.  This is some disgusting stuff.
Bosco:  (cheerfully looting the bodies of any loot they may possess)
  Hey, I volunteered all of us for this!  Someone's got to pile up
  all these bodies.
Spikey:  Yeah.
Sparkey:  Someone besides us.  (he tosses away a severed orcish head
  in disgust)  In fact, why am _I_ the one on carcass detail?!?  (to
  Bosco)  You, quit pilfering coppers and break a sweat, like us!
Bosco:  (after checking an orc's pockets, he hurls the corpse away,
  into a pile)  Ah, giant strength!  I sure w-  err, it would sure
  be neat to have this all the time.
Spikey:  Won't last forever.
Sparkey:  Then this job won't be much fun for you at all.
Bosco:  Nah, never.  (he picks up a body)  This-  (his potion-given
  strength expires, and the body falls atop him)  Oof!
Spikey:  Ha, hah!
Sparkey:  You were saying?
Bosco:  (freshly spattered with blood)  Ptui!  this sucks!
dwarven priest:  (approaches)  My sons, you must leave here, and
  climb up onto that ramp.
Spikey:  Why?
Sparkey:  We're having so much fun here, can't you tell?  (he helps
  Bosco get out from beneath the orc's body)
dwarven priest:  We're going to use magic to clean away all these
  carcasses.
Bosco:  Oh, well why didn't you say so?  (he and the twin halflings
  head toward the ramp, where everyone else, including the wounded,
  has moved)

  Working in conjunction, several of the priests summoned powerful
magic.  The water of the underground river bubbled and churned - and
then rose!  Quickly overflowing the riverbed, the cold water spilled
onto the cavern floor.  As the priests continued to chant, the dark
water washed across the rocky floor, taking the orcish bodies with
it.

Bosco:  Great, now they can rot even faster.
Gorin:  I doubt it.  Looks to me like the river's washing them away.
Bosco:  Hey, you're right!

  Indeed, the powerful currents were sweeping the carcasses back
into the river with them; from there, they were washed away, down
the dark hole that the river flowed into.

Yod:  Check your weapons and armor, laddies.  In a few minutes,
  we're going after Grimthaard.
Bosco:  Yeah!  (he frowns)  Speaking of armor, it's high time I got
  rid of mine.
Mongo:  Why?
Bosco:  'Cause without giant strength, it's too heavy, and I can't
  move about like I want.  Besides, with that army beaten, there's
  no need for armor.
Yod:  Whatever you want.
Bosco:  (shedding the armor)  Someone help me with these straps.
Gorin:  (does so)  You'd better hope you don't run into another
  fireball.
Bosco:  No way.  The same thing could never happen to the same guy
  twice in one day.  (he hands the armor to Mongo)
Mongo:  (with a "why me?" look, he stashes the armor in his portable
  hole)  Hmph.
Bosco:  Ah, my body can breathe again!  (he flies into the air)

  Before long, the river's waters receded to their normal levels,
and only glistening rock and occasional puddles of water told of
the recent flood.

Yod:  Well, it's time.
Bosco:  (having already landed on the cavern floor, in front of
  Grimthaard's escape passage)  So.  (he turns, yelling back at the
  others)  Hey, come on!  What're you hanging around back there for?
Mongo:  <sigh>

  Yod, Mongo, Gorin, Spikey, and Sparkey headed for the passage,
followed by the thirty-two dwarves who were still around.  Four of
the priests accompanied the group; the other two, as well as those
who had come down with the dwarven reinforcements in the last few
minutes, were staying here to help tend to the wounded soldiers.

  Bosco led the way once again, though the need for silence wasn't
as pressing this time around.  Of course, that didn't stop the tiny
halfling from padding along soundlessly anyway.

Bosco:  (using a stick of chalk to periodically mark his passage,
  just in case)

  Yod had been somewhat worried about tracking Grimthaard and his
minions, but as it turned out, there was no problem.  The passage
down which he had fled, and they now followed, had apparently been
unused for quite some time; a thick layer of dust had accumulated,
except of course in the areas where hasty, desperate footfalls had
stirred it up.  Bosco had no trouble at all following in the orc-
king's stead.
  A short time later, the halfling came to a great arched stairway,
fashioned by dwarven hands.  The tracks led down the majestic steps;
it seemed that Grimthaard had fled down to the eighth deep.  Drawing
a noiseless breath, Bosco began to descend the stairs...and recoiled
in surprise as a crossbow bolt whizzed by his head!

Bosco:  Eep!  (he ducks behind a stone railing as a second missile
  smashes into the wall above him)  Ambush...(hoisting his jeweled
  telescope from his pack, he scans the stairway's bottom, searching
  for the attackers)
Spikey:  (shows up)  What's going on?!?
Sparkey:  (right behind his brother)  We heard the sounds of battle.
Bosco:  No battle here...only some crossbow-wielding orcs, no doubt
  left behind by that Grimthaard fellow.
Spikey:  Hmm.
Sparkey:  We need to get down there and flush them out.
Bosco:  You're right.  (he sips a potion)  I think I know where they
  are, too.  (he slowly fades from sight)  And I'm gonna find out.
Spikey:  Aie!
Sparkey:  Invisible, are you?
Bosco:  (from somewhere nearby)  Yep.  Now you guys stay here and
  draw their fire while I go down there.
Spikey:  Err...right.
Sparkey:  (holds his shield up above his head)

  The raised shield was met by a crossbow bolt, which imbedded itself
in the hide-covered metal.

Spikey:  Yow!  Whoever's down there means business!
Sparkey:  Let's hope Bosco can do it.

  As the halflings stayed under cover, occasionally waving a weapon
or shield to keep the crossbows' wielders occupied, invisible Bosco
made his way down the stairs.  Once near the bottom, he quickly saw
the ambushers - two orcs, with crossbows and a pile of sharp bolts
lying on the stone floor.

orc#1:  Heh.  They's afraid to come down here.
orc#2:  Good.  We keep them up there then...
orc#1:  ...while da king makes his getaway.
orc#2:  (realization dawns)  Hey!

  Suddenly, a different kind of realization dawned, as Bosco's sharp
shortsword took the life of the first orc.

Bosco:  (becomes visible)  Hah!
orc#2:  (his crossbow half-strung, he decides that he doesn't have
  time to re-load)  I get you!  (drawing a sword, he leaps forth and
  hacks at Bosco)
Bosco:  Aaa!  (barely parrying the foe's attacks, he is driven back)
orc#2:  Me is gonna cut you to pieces, peck!
Spikey:  (charging into action, he collides with the orc, knocking
  it to the floor)  Die, scum!  (he runs his sword through the orc's
  heart)
orc#2:  (dies)
Bosco:  Whew!  (stands up, helped by Sparkey)
Sparkey:  You okay?
Bosco:  Yeah.
Spikey:  (wiping his blade on the orc's tunic)  How's life without
  giant strength?
Sparkey:  Must be tough, eh?
Bosco:  Hogwash!  I was just about to unleash a flurry of swordly
  wizardry upon that orc, when you guys showed up.
Spikey:  (rolls his eyes)
Sparkey:  Whatever you say, Bosco.
Yod:  (having arrived at the top of the stairway)  Everything okay?
Spikey:  Yeah, boss.
Sparkey:  Stairway secured.
Yod:  Good.  (he and Mongo, followed by the thirty-odd dwarves, come
  down the stairs)
Mongo:  Eighth deep?
Yod:  Yep.  Grimthaard must have very few orcs left, if he ran
  this far.
Mongo:  Well, let's find him and make sure he has _no_ orcs left.
Yod:  That's the plan.  (wondering where the elemental is)
Bosco:  (examining the floor of the chamber they now stand in)  Uh,
  there's a lot of footprints here.  (he follows some dust-tracks
  into one of four exit passages)  Hmm.
Yod:  What?
Bosco:  This is fishy.  The tracks go this way, but something's not
  right.  (he follows the footprints to a wall)  Hmm.  (doubling
  back, careful not to tread upon the orcs' tracks, he examines
  another set of footprints)
Mongo:  What the hell's gotten into you?
Bosco:  Not me.  Them.  They split.  Some people went this way.
  (points to the first tracks he pursued)  They wanted us to know
  it, too.  But...(pointing at a nearby wall)...those tracks end
  there.  Must be a secret door, right?
Yod:  Perhaps.
Bosco:  I think that's what they wanted us to think.  Look here.
  (he shows them some other tracks, that don't really seem to go
  anywhere)  These look like nothing...but if you remember that orcs
  stand six feet tall, and have wider strides...they could have made
  it...here!  (he slaps a different section of wall)  Five gets me
  ten there's a secret door here too.  (he begins touching the wall
  at various heights)  Hmm...maybe...aha!  (a panel of stony wall
  pivots on a central axis)
Yod:  Moradin's bones!  That door's not on my maps!
Bosco:  Now you know why.
Mongo:  But then...what's behind the other wall-panel?
Bosco:  A decoy passage, maybe?  (he trots over to inspect the first
  area of wall)
Spikey:  Grimthaard could have gone either way.
Sparkey:  How does he think?  That's the question.
Yod:  He thinks like the worm he is.
Bosco:  (finds a catch)  Ah.  Now to...hey!  (he ducks)

  The wall swiveled open, releasing a cluster of firing darts, which
all whistled over Bosco's head, imbedding themselves in the wall
behind him.

dwarf#28:  Yie!  (touching his helmet, which the darts missed by mere
  inches)
Yod:  A general suggestion, lads:  don't stand behind Bosco anymore.
dwarf#28:  No kidding!
Bosco:  (laying flat on the ground, he peers into the revealed alcove)
  Holy crap!
Mongo:  What _else_ have you found?
Bosco:  Look!

  The niche, barely big enough to hold a single dwarf, contained the
bloody and crumpled body of an orc.

Yod:  Clever Grimthaard.  He actually killed one of his own soldiers
  after leading him to this door.
Spikey:  Must've armed the trap then, too.
Sparkey:  But he forgot that dwarven traps are set to kill taller
  folks...like orcs.
dwarf#28:  Lucky for me.
Mongo:  Dwarven trap?  If that's it, then how come it's not on the
  map?
Yod:  The map is old, and may not be what we like to call a "master
  copy"...
Bosco:  Heck, you guys need to keep better track of your dungeons.
  (he strolls to the other passage, and enters)  Let's get going.
Yod:  (glaring after the halfing, muttering)
Mongo:  (quietly)  Don't worry, he may shoot off his mouth, but he's
  a top-notch scout.  As I think he's proven already.
Yod:  (grudgingly)  Aye.

  Led by Bosco, they descended into the eighth deep.  There were
even more veins of ore here than above.

Mongo:  (obviously impressed)
Yod:  The deeper one goes into Thunderdelve, the more treasures one
  finds.
Bosco:  Speaking of treasure, shouldn't the orcs have _something_
  of value?  I mean, we haven't seen anything yet.
Spikey:  Huh?
Sparkey:  What about the loot you took from the bodies above?
Bosco:  Pocket change.  I want the real stuff.  Gold, gems, magic.
  You know, the real stuff.
Yod:  I'd guess Grimthaard has some treasure above, that we'll find
  in time.  But his real hoard will be down here somewhere, where he
  thinks it's safest.
Mongo:  Hah.

  They continued onward, venturing through several rocky, unmined
areas connected by carven passages.  Occasional side passages led
to rooms or to other passages.  Yod's map still seemed accurate,
and from time to time they consulted it before following the tracks
of Grimthaard and crew.  After about an hour, the earth elemental
made an appearance, rising from the stony floor like some giant
specter.

earth elemental king:  (suddenly standing right in front of Bosco)
  GREETINGS.
Bosco:  Aie!  (he folds his arms)  I wish you'd quit doing that!
earth elemental king:  BAH.
Yod:  Shh, you'll alert the orcs!
earth elemental king:  NOT LIKELY.  THEY ARE SOME DISTANCE FROM HERE
  AT THE MOMENT.
Mongo:  How far?
earth elemental king:  (to Yod)  PERHAPS A FEW MINUTES' MARCH.
Bosco:  That's not far at all!  They could hear us from there...
earth elemental king:  FIVE MINUTES' MARCH AT MY PACE, NOT YOUR
  PUNY STRIDE.
Bosco:  (sticks his tongue out at the big creature after it turns
  its back)
Yod:  What are the orcs up to?
earth elemental king:  THEY HAVE FORTIFIED THEIR POSITION BEHIND
  SOME STONE DOORS.  SEVERAL TRAPS DIDST AWAIT YOU.
Gorin:  Didst await?
earth elemental king:  I SAW FIT TO DESTROY THEM.
Bosco:  Hey, that's my-
Spikey:  (clamps his hand over the thief's mouth)
Sparkey:  Shh.
Yod:  Can we break through the doors?
earth elemental king:  POSSIBLY.  WITH YOUR STRENGTH...POSSIBLY.
Yod:  Will you help us break through them?
earth elemental king:  MY TIME HERE IS ALMOST DONE...
Yod:  Just a few more minutes.  We need your abilities.
earth elemental king:  VERY WELL.  ONE FINAL TASK, THEN.
Yod:  Let's get going, then.  (he follows the earth elemental as it
  begins to lumber down the passage)

  Shortly, the passage narrowed, and its ceiling dropped to a mere
six feet.  The elemental sunk into the passage's stone floor, until
only its head remained, flowing through the stone as if it were but
water.  Bosco entertained thoughts of leaping upon the elemental's
head as it moved, but fortunately Spikey was there to restrain him.
  Ten or fifteen minutes later, they approached a huge pair of stone
doors...well, at least as huge as six-foot doors can be.  Yod walked
up to the portals, feeling the stone and scowling.

Yod:  These are a foot thick, you know.  Just as I suspected.
Mongo:  Eh?
Yod:  This is one of several such doors in the Deeps.  They were
  designed to repels enemy forces...from either direction.  (he
  indicates some iron rings in the doors, and then at a thick bar
  on the passage floor nearby)
Mongo:  Either direction...
Bosco:  (looking for some way to get through the door, he sees
  none)  Hmph.
Yod:  (to the earth elemental)  We really are going to need your
  help.
earth elemental king:  AYE, MY LAST TASK.  ART THOU PREPARED?
Mongo:  I am.
Yod:  (to the dwarves)  Ready for Grimthaard's last stand, boys?
dwarves:  (nodding enthusiastically as they raise axes and shields,
  not cheering since they could be heard)
Gorin:  (to Bosco)  Your armor's gone.  You'd better stay at the
  back of the pack, Bosco.
Bosco:  Not a chance.

  Yod nodded, and the gigantic earth elemental king moved to the
thick stone doors...





next:   Grimthaard at last!
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  I've seen almost every major movie that's come out so far
  this summer:  Die Hard 3, Braveheart, Batman Forever, Judge Dredd,
  Apollo 13, even Species.  However, the one I saw Friday night is
  by far the most action-packed; it exceeded any expectations I had
  and is now my favorite movie of the summer.  I speak, of course,
  of the mighty _Under Siege 2_.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




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