Chapter #382

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

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+    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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Belphanior    (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief     (CN) +
+    Otto          8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief         (CN) +
+  Mongo          18th level dwarven fighter                   (CG) +
+  Peldor         20th level human thief                        (N) +
+    Bosco        11th level halfling thief                    (CN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       the sewers beneath the Free City of Greyhawk        +
+  Climate:     warm, damp, and smelly                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "What is that noise?"                                            +
+  "My dear, I hope we never have to find out."                     +
+                                         - from _The Langoliers_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CCCLXXXII.  Sewer Trek





  Charged with an important mission by the rulers of Greyhawk, Peldor
has gathered a select group of volunteers and journeyed into the
city's vast and complex sewer system...

Belphanior:  (looks around)  I'd forgotten how nasty this place was.
Peldor:  No kidding.
Bosco:  (covers his nose)  Phew-whee!
Otto:  You can almost smell the monsters.
Mongo:  (frowns)  You can sure smell the other stuff.

  The five companions stood within a 20' wide pipe, though they didn't
know it until Belphanior used a spell to illuminate the area.  Casting
it on a ten-foot pole that he produced from a bottomless sack, the elf
held the light-staff high, showing the adventurers details of their
surroundings.  They stood in a few inches of water and sewage, which
trickled along the pipe's bottom.  The sides and top of the tunnel
were coated in slime, a sickening greenish-brown sludge whose very
presence made them wonder how often the pipe filled - and what they
would do if that happened.
  The air was thick, humid, and fetid, and also somewhat warm.  The
smell, while strong and rancid, wasn't any worse than anything any of
them had encountered before.  The pipe extended to either side, and
Belphanior looked slightly confused.

Belphanior:  What the fuck...?
Peldor:  This doesn't look familiar.  You said you'd teleported here
  before?
Belphanior:  I had...I thought I had.  Huh.
Bosco:  Sheesh, we're lucky we're not imbedded in solid rock.
Belphanior:  (glares at the halfling)  That can be arranged, if
  you'd like.
Bosco:  Eep.
Mongo:  So are we lost or what?
Otto:  It's all relative.
Peldor:  (checking the maps and conferring with Belphanior and Otto)
  Relative to what, though?
Belphanior:  (draws his sword and heads to the right)  This way.

  Led by the elf, they began to explore the dark passages.  As
they went, they reviewed everything they knew about the strange
shapeshifters...

Belphanior:  Their early form is a big, man-sized cocoon-like
  mass.  If I recall correctly, it was fibrous...like a plant.
Peldor:  You recall correctly.
Bosco:  A dead plant.
Belphanior:  Right.
Bosco:  A dead plant covered with hairy webs.
Belphanior:  Err...right.
Peldor:  Let's not forget the part about how they pop open when
  disturbed...
Mongo:  (exchanges glances with Otto)
Bosco:  Yeah!  They popped open and those plant-people jumped out!
Belphanior:  They were hardly gazelles, Bosco...but yes, they did
  attack.
Peldor:  They were downright homicidal.  Little fang-filled mouths
  and big eyes...solid, shiny, one-piece black eyes.
Belphanior:  And they didn't talk...just made this rustling noise
  as they moved.
Bosco:  And when we stabbed 'em, this stuff spewed from the wounds!
  (matter-of-factly)  It looked like dried grass.
Otto:  Then it probably burned like dried grass as well...?
Belphanior:  Boy, did it ever.  Fire - _that_ was how we beat the
  things last time.
Otto:  Excellent.
Peldor:  Keep in mind that they kept coming, even while aflame.
  Rather hard to kill.
Belphanior:  But they did die.
Mongo:  Good.  We'll see how they die when I pulverize 'em with
  Stormcrest!  (he hefts the big hammer menacingly)
Peldor:  You know, they kind of reminded me of those other weird
  plant-like things we found that time, in the Underdark.
Otto:  (looks surprised)  The Underdark?
Belphanior:  Yup.
Peldor:  (remembering)  The fungus that walked like a man...(he
  shivers despite himself)
Belphanior:  (rubs his chin)  Wonder if there's any connection?
Bosco:  The Underdark?  I don't remember that!  Where was I?
Peldor:  In a convent.
Bosco:  Oh.  Oh, yeah.
Otto:  A convent?  You?
Bosco:  It's a long story.

  They stopped for a moment, as Belphanior spotted a large, dark
mass, afloat in the muck.  However, it turned out to be a false
alarm, as the thing was merely the rotting carcass of some large
animal.

Bosco:  Phew, that's rank!
Peldor:  Maybe a sheep...or a cow?
Otto:  Hard to tell..(he crouches next to the mass, eyeing it as
  if it might burst open to reveal millions of maggots...actually
  a realistic guess)  Hell, I wouldn't touch this thing with a
  ten-foot pole.
Bosco:  (to Belphanior)  How about you?
Belphanior:  (ignores Bosco)
Mongo:  I wonder what killed it?
Belphanior:  I wonder what it was doing down here?

  Bypassing the foul corpse, they continued on their way, trying
to use Org's maps to get their bearings.  The conversation resumed
as well, right where it had left off...

Belphanior:  Let's not forget the "advanced" shapeshifter form.
Peldor:  Who could forget that monstrosity?
Mongo:  What?  Was it bigger, or did it have four arms, or did it
  shoot fire-beams from its eyes?  What?
Bosco:  (nodding, remembering that encounter)  Bigger.  Definitely
  bigger.
Belphanior:  About Rillen's size...maybe even stockier.  It had
  the same skin, body, or whatever as the others, but its eyes
  were grey and multifaceted.
Peldor:  Like an insect's.  It also had a nose, unlike the other
  creatures.
Bosco:  And bigger fangs!  (he grips his sword tightly)
Otto:  Did it die like the other ones?
Belphanior:  Yes, but it wasn't easy.  The thing's body was like
  hard wood - in fact, my sword got stuck in the fucker!
Peldor:  (raises a finger)  And my dagger.
Mongo:  Well, that sure won't happen with my hammer...
Otto:  The bigger one must've been a mutated version, or maybe
  a guard for the "babies."
Bosco:  Babies?  Those were awful big babies!
Belphanior:  And once they hatched - fully developed, I guess -
  they looked like whoever they had imitated and killed.
Otto:  Yeah, let's talk about that part.  Did the cocoon-things
  feed on the people whose forms they assumed?
Peldor:  (shrugs)  We never did know for sure.
Belphanior:  We found some shriveled-up bodies...no more than
  husks, really.  If a fully-grown shapeshifter was slain, the
  husk of its victim then crumbled into dust.  At least, that is,
  based on the ones we fought in that last room, and those husks.
Bosco:  Or maybe it was just time for the husks to fall apart
  anyway.
Otto:  Hmm.
Peldor:  No telling what the link is.  But if we do find any of the
  "final" monsters, remember that they're not human anymore.
Bosco:  (wondering how they'd know)
Belphanior:  They were strong - a lot stronger than normal people.
  And they could do the strangest things.
Bosco:  Yeah!  That one made its head turn all the way around!
Otto:  Sounds like it was possessed...
Mongo:  (pats his hammer)  Hey, Stormcrest smashes possessed and
  unpossessed just the same.  Equal rights for all foes...
Peldor:  (frowning)  I think we'll be needing your hammer before
  long.
Otto:  It's sounding that way.  Hell, we should have brought a
  platoon for a deal like this.
Bosco:  Yeah, and I sure wouldn't mind having Ged and his fire-
  wand along too.
Peldor:  We'll just have to make do.
Belphanior:  (nods)  You know, we're sure to learn more about these
  things while we're down here.  Maybe we'll get some answers, or
  even a live specimen.
Otto:  (considers all the things he's just heard)  Fat chance.

  For some time, they had moved along the dark, dank passageways
without finding anything of interest - just slime-coated pipes,
dripping water, clogged drains, and rusty ladders.  Not long after
their arrival, Belphanior and Peldor figured out exactly where
they were in relation to the map.  From there, it was a simple
matter to head toward the areas where various sewer-workers had
disappeared.  Before long, they arrived at a muck-covered metal
hatch in the center of a five-pipe junction.

Belphanior:  Down there...
Bosco:  Down there?
Belphanior:  Down there.
Peldor:  That leads to the lower sewers, doesn't it?
Belphanior:  Yep.  Those are the old sewers...the ones that predate
  modern times.
Mongo:  Isn't that where you found all the really nasty stuff, last
  time?
Peldor:  Yep.  Well, not this exact same hatch, but yeah...
Otto:  Those silly sewer-workers.  If they went down _there_, they
  probably deserved to disappear.
Belphanior:  That may be, but we've got to go down there too...can
  you make out any traps?
Otto:  Not as far as I can tell.
Peldor:  Nobody puts traps on sewer hatchways.
Bosco:  Nobody but us.
Mongo:  (regards Bosco)
Bosco:  Okay, maybe on the way out.

  They opened the portal, and were greeted by a noxious odor, even
stronger than what they'd had to deal with thus far.

Mongo:  Ungh!  (he sets the heavy lid down next to the opening)
  Fuck, what a stench!
Peldor:  (thinking quickly, he wraps a length of perfumed cloth
  around his head, covering his nose and mouth)
Bosco:  Hey!  No fair-
Peldor:  (produces four more such pieces of cloth)
Otto:  (nods gratefully)

  They descended the rusty iron ladder, Belphanior in the lead with
his light-staff held beneath him.  The passage was roughly square-
cut, and coated with more slime than the "clean" upper sewers.  The
walls, floor, and ceiling were dilapidated and crumbling from untold
decades of pressure and humidity.  Though it made no sense, the
adventurers got the impression that it was somehow darker down here
than on the level above.

Bosco:  (looks around, frowning)  I do _not_ like this place.
Mongo:  Neither do I, kid.  Neither do I.
Otto:  (sheathes his sword, switching to his crossbow)  Good place
  for an ambush...
Mongo:  Do plant-monsters set up ambushes?
Bosco:  Beats me.
Otto:  Let's hope not.
Belphanior:  (flips to another map)  Aha!  We're right here.  (he
  stabs the paper with a finger)
Peldor:  Then we need to go..this way...to...here.
Belphanior:  Exactly.

  They ventured forth, following the passage as it progressed.  The
ancient walls and ceiling reflected the magical light, as did the
murky pools of crud that were scattered along the pipe's beaten,
pitted floor.  The passages here were arrayed at right angles; that
was how they connected as well as how they changed direction.  About
five minutes (and two intersections) after descending to this level,
the companions heard a noise from the way they'd come...

Belphanior:  Shh!
Otto:  (listening intently)
Bosco:  (uses thieves' cant to say "What's that?")
Peldor:  (also listening, one ear cocked)  Hmm.
Mongo:  I don't hear anything.
Belphanior:  That's because it stopped.
Peldor:  It sounded like...like...well, to be honest, like metal
  scraping on stone.
Otto:  (nods)  Kinda like the way a metal hatch would sound, as it
  was slid back into place...
Peldor:  My thoughts exactly.  (he frowns)
Bosco:  (looks around nervously)
Belphanior:  (casting a spell)
Mongo:  What's up?
Belphanior:  My stoneskins...(as he works his enchantment, the others
  study the map)
Peldor:  I wonder if we should go back and see about that hatch?
Otto:  Why bother?  If someone did close it, we'll never catch
  them, and besides, Mongo can lift the thing back off.  (he
  turns to Mongo)  You can lift it, can't you?
Mongo:  Sure, no problem.
Belphanior:  (his spell completed, he turns back to the passage
  ahead)  Okay, let's go for it.

  They resumed their trek, but only scant moments passed before
they heard more noises.  Different noises.

Peldor:  (listening to a squishy sound)  Something's coming...
Otto:  (facing the passage's other direction)  This way too!
Belphanior:  (waves the light-staff to either side, but nothing
  is revealed)  Hell...(he mutters a command word, and jabs the
  light-staff into the ceiling, where it sticks)  I think I'll
  want both my hands free...
Mongo:  (hefts his hammer, ready to throw)  Whatever's coming,
  it's coming pretty damn fast!
Bosco:  (flattens himself against the wall of the pipe, looking
  intently toward the darkness)  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.





next:      horrific foes and terrifying finds
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:       http://www.access.digex.net/~dpm
           http://www3.hmc.edu/~kshobaki/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     You can find the original sewer adventure in episodes
  #246-8.
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