Chapter #370

previous chapter (#369)                                                                  next chapter (#371)

                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      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 1991-6 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 (or a fraction of it, anyway):                         +
+                                                                   +
+  Arnold         12th level human barbarian                   (NG) +
+  Ged            14th/14th level grey elven priest/wizard     (NG) +
+  Mongo          17th level dwarven fighter                   (CG) +
+    Gorin         9th level dwarven fighter                   (NG) +
+                                                                   +
+                                                                   +
+  SPECIAL GUEST STARS:                                             +
+                                                                   +
+  Drexel         human paladin                                (LG) +
+  Eyer           wood elven fighter/acrobat                   (NG) +
+    Baltek       high elven archer                            (NG) +
+  Date:        2/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       the dungeons beneath Maure Castle                   +
+  Climate:     dry and musty                                       +
+  "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.   +
+   Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."  +
+                                                     - Marie Curie +

                 CCCLXX.  Second-Level Sightings

  After a full day of exploring and fighting, the party has cleared
the upper level of the Maure Castle dungeons.  Now, after a good
night's sleep behind them, the adventurers stand ready to descend to
the second level.

Mongo:  That sleep was great!  I feel totally refreshed and ready
  for anything!
Drexel:  I can go one better:  I feel refleshed as well!
Ged:  (groans)
Eyer:  It was fortunate that no monsters or guardians came calling
  last night.
Drexel:  It was fortunate that Ged here was able to return me to
  my normal flesh-and-blood form.  (to Ged)  You have my thanks.
  I shall not forget this.
Ged:  (shrugs)  I did what had to be done.
Drexel:  (to Eyer)  In all my travels, trials, and tribulations, I
  had never been turned to stone before.
Eyer:  Just be happy you lived through it.  Most people don't.
Drexel:  (nods thoughtfully)  Heironeous favors me.
Ged:  No, Boccob favors you.
Drexel:  Perhaps he owed Heironeous a favor, then.
Mongo:  (to the groggy Gorin)  Wake up.
Gorin:  (sits up, his skin still somewhat blistered from the fiery
  breath of the golem)  Ungh.
Arnold:  (stands, buckling on his armor)  Ah-nold is ready to fight
  more foes.
Mongo:  Golems?
Arnold:  Maybe not those.
Baltek:  (yawns)  I needed that night's rest.
Eyer:  You're not the only one.
Gorin:  (to Drexel)  Got that armor on, eh?
Drexel:  (nods)  We're still in a battle situation.
Gorin:  You sleep in it, then?
Drexel:  Yes.
Gorin: Oh.  I'd noticed that while we were in the swamps, on the
  way to this dungeon, when the trolls attacked.  (he looks around)
  How can you sleep in full plate mail?
Drexel:  Holy discipline.
Gorin:  Hmm.
Mongo:  Must be rough.  How do you get on your feet in the morning?
Eyer:  (grins)  Drexel's just having a little fun at your expense.
  The truth is, his armor's specially enchanted to be comfortable
  at all times - even if he's sleeping in it.
Gorin:  Oh.
Drexel:  And it weighs no more than an outfit of thick clothes, so
  getting to my feet is no problem.
Mongo:  Ah!  I'd _thought_ you moved awfully fast for someone in
  full plate.
Drexel:  The suit was a gift from the great temple of Heironeous.
Arnold:  A good gift.
Eyer:  From what I heard, you earned it.  Defeating that army of-
Drexel:  (impatiently)  'Twas nothing.  Now, let us get on with
  our own quest.
Ged:  A capital idea.

  They descended the staircase they had discovered the day before,
entering an oddly-shaped room.  An open area sprawled to the east,
while a small cave-like opening was visible to the south.

Eyer:  (heads for the cave-like opening)  That's definitely out
  of place here.
Mongo:  (dashes just to keep up with the nimble elf)  Hold up,

  As Eyer approached the cave mouth, a howling wolf-like thing
leaped out and attacked.  Its keening was quite disturbing, and
made it difficult to concentrate.

wolf-thing:  Wooooo!  (it claws and bites at Eyer with dripping
  fangs)  Graarl!
Eyer:  Away, damn you!  (slashing with his sword, he keeps the
  creature at bay)
wolf-thing:  Woooo-
Mongo:  (nails the beast with his hammer)
wolf-thing:  Yelp!  (knocked back into a wall, it staggers, dazed,
  one shoulder smashed and bleeding)
Gorin:  (moves in to attack the thing)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)
Drexel:  (points his sword at an open space to the northeast)
  Beware!  More foes!

  The paladin's warning was of immense help, for when the eight
armored guards came running around that corner, Arnold and Mongo
had joined Drexel, weapons ready.

guards:  (halt in their tracks as they see that the adventurers
  are battle-ready)
Drexel:  You men!  Surrender now or face the wrath of-
guards:  (as one, they fire crossbows at the party)
Drexel:  (ignores two bolts that bounce off of his armor)
Mongo:  (likewise)
Arnold:  (likewise)
guards:  (unhappily surprised)
Ged:  (casts a spell)  Sleep, by Boccob!
guards:  (only two fall asleep)
Eyer:  (to Ged)  What gives?
Ged:  Hmm, these guards are stronger of will than I thought.

  With various roars, yells, and cries, battle was joined!  To
one side, Gorin hacked at the howling wolf-thing, fighting to
dispatch it as its slavering fangs snapped at him.  Eyer, seeing
that the dwarf had things well in hand, rushed to help the other
warriors.  Baltek stayed back, his bow doing its deadly work
with great accuracy.

Baltek:  (fires an arrow)
guard:  Argh!  (hit in the leg, he stumbles)
Mongo:  (smashes another guard with a single blow)  Fools!
Drexel:  (exchanging blows with a third guard)  We gave them
  the chance to surrender - why didn't they accept?
Arnold:  Because they're bad guys.  (he hacks a fourth foe's
  arm off)  Ah-nold!
Mongo:  (to Drexel)  You'd better get with it and start killing
  these idiots, paladin!
Drexel:  (cleaves a foe's head from his shoulders)  Aye.
Mongo:  _Much_ better.
Ged:  (fires a volley of magical missiles at various foes)

  The guards fought valiantly, but they were simply outmatched
and overpowered.  Shortly, six of the men, as well as the wolf-
thing, lay dead; the two guards who had been put to sleep were
still asleep.  These were tied securely and stashed in the
guardroom from whence they came.

Mongo:  We should question them, find out what's going on here.
Eyer:  What if they don't talk?
Mongo:  Good point.
Ged:  (thinking of Belphanior)  And I have no spell to pry
  information from them.
Gorin:  Why not leave 'em here, and check back later if we need
Drexel:  A worthy idea.

  The seven adventurers explored some nearby rooms, finding
nothing of real interest save for one tapestry.  This thick,
well-made thing hung on a nearby hallway wall, and measured
thirty feet by ten feet.  It depicted some great, walled city
whose gates were flanked by a pair of huge, bronze elephants.

Arnold:  What?  Elephands?
Ged:  A large mammal, often found in warmer southern climes.
Gorin:  Looks like an ideal beast of war.
Eyer:  You should see them when they have tusks.

  Above the city were woven streaks of lightning, among which
were two gigantic heads:  a wolf's and a smiling man's.  Both
looked sinister.

Mongo:  What's this all about?
Ged:  I can't be sure, but the place looks evil.
Drexel:  But the tapestry itself isn't evil.
Ged:  Hmm.
Eyer:  It _is_ valuable, I'd wager.  Perhaps it should be
  taken, and put in the portable hole?
Mongo:  Fine by me.
Drexel:  (frowns)  Theft, of a sort.
Mongo:  Look, pal, life isn't free.  Besides, if there's some
  great evil down here, and we kill it, then its treasures are
  rightfully ours.
Eyer:  (to Drexel)  He's right.  Besides, we're not here to
  help you and Ged for free, you know.
Drexel:  (grumbling)  Very well.

  After the heavy, bulky tapestry was taken down, rolled up,
and stashed in Mongo's portable hole, the party continued its
explorations.  Ahead, a section of twenty-foot wide hallway
was filled in its center by a puddle.  The water appeared
shallow, but that wasn't certain without further examination.

Eyer:  That's why I'm here.  (he moves closer, sword at the

  As the elf neared the puddle, a ghostly vision danced into
being, atop the water.  It appeared to be a large, purplish
object, perhaps a large stone, and was egg-shaped.

Ged:  (rubs his temples)  I feel...something.
Mongo:  (looking around)  Me too.  Maybe a voice...?
Eyer:  No...(he stares at the image, concentrating)
Drexel:  Sinister...(he breaks off his own gaze, and keeps an
  eye on his companions, lest one of them do something strange)
Arnold:  (ignores the weird vision, watching the other nearby
  passages for any sneaky foes who might be approaching)
Ged:  (finally)  I...can't make anything of it.
Eyer:  (regarding the puddle, and the image above it)  Odd.
  Maybe we'll learn what this is about, later.
Mongo:  Or maybe we'll have to fight it.  (to Ged)  Remember
  that gigantic jellybean, in that Underdark dungeon?
Ged:  Yea.
Eyer:  Underdark?

  They continued onward, exploring a maze-like area.  A long,
winding passage led to a small room, which was filled with
shelves of robes.

Baltek:  One thing's for sure.
Gorin:  What's that?
Baltek:  There are more robes here than anyone could ever need.
Ged:  (looks alarmed)  What...?
Lightbringer:  (shrieking)  Undead!  (it glows brightly, and
  leads Ged toward one corner)
Drexel:  (holds up his sword)  Where?!?
Chaosbane:  Take me to the foul ones!

  As Ged's morningstar lit the room of robes, a vague form
flitted out from its cover.  A translucent spectre, it saw
the odds arrayed against it, and attempted to flee.  Ged and
his weapon were having none of it, though, and the elf ran
the undead being down, morningstar swinging.

spectre:  (hit, it dissolves into fragmented wisps of pale
  nothingness)  Aaaa...
Ged:  (to Lightbringer)  Another job well done.
Lightbringer:  Yes.  At last, that tormented soul has found
  eternal peace.
Gorin:  Waxing philosophical today, are we?
Lightbringer:  (calmly)  Some among the undead are not mindless
  scum, but rather restless spirits who simply need to be put
  to rest.
Gorin:  Oh.  I didn't know that.
Drexel:  (still staring at Ged, Lightbringer, and the space
  that was just occupied by the spectre)  Heironeous...
Mongo:  Nice weapon he has there, isn't it?

  The robes were searched, to no avail; none were magical, or
even valuable.  Moving on, the adventurers soon found themselves
facing a dead end, a hundred feet or so away.  Marching onward
with the intention of checking the passage's end, they suddenly
found themselves facing a wall!

Ged:  Boccob!  (he whirls around)
Eyer:  What the hell...?

  Behind them, perhaps a hundred feet distant, they saw what
looked like the main passage they had just been in.

Mongo:  What the hell?
Eyer:  (scanning the dead-end)  No doors here.  Let's go back.
Ged:  (moving back to the main passage with the rest of the
  party)  This place is somewhat magical...a low-level aura,
Drexel:  Perhaps a malfunctioning spell of-

  As they neared the main passage, they blinked to find them-
selves back at the dead-end, facing the main passage but a good
hundred feet away!

Ged:  What in Boccob's name is amiss here?!?
Eyer:  Hmm.  Someone should go toward the main passage, while
  the other wait here.
Mongo:  I'm the one.  (he charges back toward the main hallway)

  As before, right before hitting the main passage to the north,
he was suddenly moved back to the dead-end, where the others

Ged:  Odd.
Arnold:  Aaa.  Ah-nold doesn't want to be trapped here like a
  rat in a cage.
Eyer:  (to Mongo)  How about trying to throw your hammer from
  here into the main passage?
Mongo:  (somewhat reluctantly)  ...okay.  (he hurls the weapon

  The hammer sailed...and vanished...and re-appeared a moment
later, in front of Mongo and flying away!

Mongo:  Shit!

  The hammer stopped after about thirty feet, and returned to
its master's hand.  But the problem remained.

Ged:  So each time someone or something comes to the junction of
  this passage and the main one, it is teleported back here.
Baltek:  There has to be some way out of this.
Ged:  A teleport would do it, theoretically.  I'd rather save that
  for a last resort, though.
Gorin:  Yeah.  It's not like a wall's closing in on us or anything.
Arnold:  (looks at the walls uneasily)
Eyer:  (looks around, thinking, his brow furrowed)  Hmm.
Drexel:  I still sense no evil.  This is a most strange trap.
Ged:  Let's put our heads together.  I'm sure we'll figure something

  They tried a few more things, without success.  While Ged pondered
spells that might get them out of the magical dead-end, and most
of the others cursed and paced in futility, the problem was solved.
It was Eyer who proposed walking backward _into_ the cul-de-sac's
end, and when he did so, he appeared in the "safe" part of the main
passageway.  A wave showed the others that he was free, and they all
followed his lead.  Soon...

Eyer:  (leading the group into a parallel corridor)
Mongo:  Clever move back there.
Gorin:  Yeah, you really saved our butts.
Eyer:  I've had a lot of experience with unusual tricks and traps.
Ged:  Bah.  I would have figured it out in time, or used a spell to
  get us away from there.
Eyer:  (to Ged)  Fear not, I have no doubt that you would have.
Drexel:  (to Baltek)  Are you mapping this?
Baltek:  When I feel like it.  You're not lost, are you?


entry         N
stairs      W + E
  |           S
  V      __________________________________________________
 _______|   ]  .____   ___   ______  ________________   _  |
||||  |     | |   ].| |.].] ]_]_]_] |     |   |      | | | |
|     |_____| |___|_| |_|_| ]_|_|_] |.____]___|      | | | |
|                     ______________|          \____ | | | |
|____ ___     ______   ___   _________.   ._______  \| |
    cave |   |      | |   | |          | |        |    |
 ________|   |______| |___| ]__________| |_______.|    |
|  ______     _______.____   __________   ____   _     |
| |  __  |###|     .] |   | |          | |    | | |    |
| | |  | | ##|    | | |   | |          | |    | | |    |_
| | |__|_]## |___ | | |   | |          | |    | | |     _|
| |  ____     __  ]_| |   | |_         | |    | | |    |
| | |    |   |  | | | |   |___
| | |____|   |__| |
| |  ____     __  |
| | |    |   |  | |
| | |____|   |__| |             ||||      stairs up
| |  ____     __  |             ]  .      door
| |_]    |   |  | ]             ###       puddle
| |_|____|   |__| |              X        party's current location
|________  X  __  |
         |   | <-- teleporter
         |   |
         |   |
         |   |
         |   |
         |   |
         |   |
         |___| <-- teleport destination point

Baltek:  (to Drexel)  As you can see, mapping this place is no cup
  of tea.
Drexel:  Aye.  I wonder if it's even worth trying.
Eyer:  I, too, have my doubts about that.
Baltek:  Look at the bright side:  if we find a lot of monsters,
  we won't have _time_ to map!
Drexel:  (nodding)  Granted.
Mongo:  (gestures at a nearby doorway)  Shh.

  Over the next hour, the party explored quite a bit.  While many
rooms were empty, and corridors unpatrolled, sometimes foes - or
traps - were found.  In one chamber they fought a pair of fanatical,
drooling guards.  In another, a deadly fire-pit trap awaited.  If not
for the caution of Eyer, and the magic of his blade, several of the
adventurers might have been incinerated.  Another unusual section
of dungeon stunk, and its floor was marred by pits.  Directly to the
north of this area was a pit of acid.  Besides being highly caustic,
the foul stuff tended to explode every once in a while, as Mongo and
Drexel learned the hard way...

Drexel:  (his armor scarred in a few places, his flesh burning in
  others)  Argh!  (using his innate holy powers, he heals himself
  and begins grumbling)  My armor!  Now it shall require repair by
  the finest smiths in Furyondy...
Mongo:  (grins as he examines his own armor, which is invulnerable)
Gorin:  (to Mongo)  You're hit...acid stains.
Mongo:  Bah.  They itch a bit, but they'll heal up soon enough.
Eyer:  (looks on, impressed by the dwarf's toughness)

  They also found several secret doors, though these led nowhere
but to small, empty rooms.  Finally, a somewhat challenging foe
was found:  behind a door waited a mage in dark robes.  He wasn't
at all surprised by the party, and his first spell froze Arnold,
Gorin, and Baltek in place.  However, Mongo's first hammer-blow
froze the wizard in a more permanent way, breaking his neck as
it hit him in the face.

Eyer:  Well, so much for questioning _him_...
Mongo:  (rather meekly)  Sorry about that.
Drexel:  Hopefully no innocents reside here.  They are apt to die
  if their ill fortune leads them to us.
Ged:  No need for sarcasm.  We'll sort out any prisoners of the evil
  ones, don't you worry.
Gorin:  (to Drexel)  Mongo once let himself be captured, rather than
  risk harming an innocent caught in the battle.
Drexel:  (muttering)  He would do well if he would just have patience
  here, rather than toss that hammer at anything that moves.
Gorin:  (defending his liege)  Hey, Mongo always helps innocents when
  he can.  He's helped free slaves, he's even helped save entire towns
  from members of his own party, at great risk to himself!
Ged:  (also coming to Mongo's defense)  Besides, he's one of our first
  lines of defense in battle.
Drexel:  (thinking)  He freed slaves?
Gorin:  Yeah.  _Lots_ of them.
Drexel:  A noble deed, that.  Noble indeed.  (he raises his sword in
Mongo:  (not really paying attention to the conversation)  Huh?
Arnold:  (to Ged)  Why not bring this dead guy back to life, and
  question him for a while?
Ged:  Hmm.  I don't have that spell...
Baltek:  Wouldn't that make him undead?  Technically, I mean?  What
  would your morningstar say?
Ged:  Where do you think of these questions, anyway?  The very-
Lightbringer:  (firmly)  The dead are dead, and should remain that
  way.  The living were not meant to talk with the dead.
Ged:  You don't say.
Mongo:  (bites his tongue to keep from laughing out loud)

  The slain magic-user had a scroll, a bit of magical dust, and an
enchanted dagger on his person.  His room held a few coins and small
gems, but nothing of true worth.  Eyer found a secret door, which
led to a rough-hwen storeroom.  Crates of foodstuffs and casks of
wine and ale were stashed here.

Mongo:  (loads the stuff into the portable hole)
Drexel:  Hungry?
Mongo:  You never know...
Drexel:  (examines one pried-open box)  This is mulse.
Gorin:  (within the portable hole, he takes the crates from Mongo)
  What's that?
Drexel:  Mulse is a wine-and-honey mix, favored by nobles in some
  nearby lands.
Gorin:  Oh.
Arnold:  Muldse.
Drexel:  (spreads his hands)  I, personally, don't favor its taste,
  but others might.
Mongo:  Well, we'll take it.  (he lowers the box to Gorin)

  A further passage - a natural tunnel of uncut stone - led into
a small cavern whose top narrowed and rose out of sight.  Within
this chimney were two chests; Eyer found and disarmed a trip-wire
that would have launched multiple volleys of arrows.  One chest
was empty, while the other held a small fortune in coinage, as well
as a map.

Eyer:  (grabs the map, scanning it)  Baltek, your mapping woes are
Baltek:  (takes the thing, and looks at it)  I'll say.
Ged:  Looks like we've cleared about half of this level.
Drexel:  (traces pathways on the map, with his finger)  It also
  seems that all passages nearby us lead to the same place.
Mongo:  A large, round room.  All right, then - let's get there
  and see what it holds!

next:      the rest of the second level
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:   (preferred)
notes:     Thanks to Jim Sidaris for pointing out the problems
  associated with someone sleeping in full plate mail.  Drexel's
  solution, however corny it may be, is of my own devising.
    Though Baltek and the others now know what this dungeon level
  looks like, you won't.  I tried putting the map in ASCII format
  and got some of it done - but it took an hour.  I'd rather work
  on text than maps.  So, use your imagination.   :)
    This is the first story to be written on my brand-new Pentium
  PC which I bought in early May 1996.  I finally broke down and
  did it, and of course, I splurged.  This will also solve the
  problem of writing and posting stories during the Olympics, when
  campus access will be limited and inefficient.  I do have full
  access (including event venues) but our work schedules will be
  impacted in an as yet unknown way, so why take chances?

previous chapter (#369)                                                                  next chapter (#371)