Chapter #387

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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 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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Otto            8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief         (CN) +
+  Peldor         20th level human thief                        (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        early evening                                       +
+  Place:       the sewers beneath the Free City of Greyhawk        +
+  Climate:     warm, damp, and smelly                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I didn't think it would end like this."                         +
+  "We're not dead yet."                                            +
+                                     - from _For Your Eyes Only_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                  CCCLXXXVII.  Narrow Margins





  After some unfortunate adventures amid the sewers, the remnants
of the party successfully destroyed a shapeshifter nest.  This was
a highly satisfying endeavor, and though it didn't make up for the
losses they had suffered, it did help.

Otto:  I wonder if that was the main nest.
Peldor:  I'm not sure, but there were more of the things in that
  room than anywhere else I've yet seen.
Otto:  Hopefully that was their main lair...and there aren't any
  more.  At least not in large bands, anyway.
Peldor:  Even if it was their main lair, we know there are more
  already in Greyhawk.  Masquerading as humans.
Otto:  (frowns)  I'm sure we'd be surprised to know the truth.

  They were moving through a small, slime-coated pipe.  Rillen or
Arnold would have had to stoop to walk through it, but Peldor and
Otto did fine.  They had neither maps nor landmarks to guide them
now, merely intuition and common sense.  Fortunately, they possessed
both in ample quantities.

Otto:  (examines the stonework at a joint between pipes)  Old, but
  not as old as some of what we've found.  I believe we're going
  upward.
Peldor:  (notes some droppings on the sludge-coated floor)  We're
  not the only ones...
Otto:  Hmm.

  They continued, and presently their pipe opened into a larger
one, perhaps thirty feet in diameter.  A trickle of filthy water
ran past their feet, draining into the new tunnel.  Their pipe fed
the larger one at a right angle, and from a height of about twenty
feet, well above the larger pipe's floor level.  This was a good
thing, for as they peered into the pipe below, they realized that
sludge covered the first five feet or so.  Not only would walking
around down there be a chore, but any manner of unseen monsters
might lurk in the morass that covered the bottom of the pipe...

Peldor:  That sludge looks nasty - we'll need to get over it.
Otto:  (points across the way)  Looks like there's another small
  pipe feeding this one...see there, across from us?
Peldor:  (nods)  I see it.
Otto:  We'll need a grappling hook...some rope...(he begins working
  the problem in his mind)
Peldor:  No, I'll handle it.
Otto:  Oh?  You can fly?
Peldor:  Not me.  Ready to be telekinetically moved?
Otto:  Uh...sure.  (he eyes the sludge in the pipe below)  Just be
  careful, okay?
Peldor:  Don't worry.  (he uses his ring to lift the dwarf off the
  floor and out into the larger pipe)  I'm a pro.

  The operation went flawlessly, as Otto moved through the air
without incident.  Once across, he pounded an iron spike firmly
into the wall, even as Peldor did the same in the first pipe.
Next, Otto uncoiled the rope Peldor had given him, tying one end
to his spike.  Peldor used his ring to bring the loose end back,
then commanded his rope of climbing to tie itself to the spike on
his end.  After all of this was done, the thief crossed the big
pipe in mere moments, scooting across like a monkey.
  Once he had joined Otto, Peldor again used his ring, this time
to bring the rope back to him.

Otto:  Why didn't you just use the ring to move _yourself_ across
  too?  Just curious...
Peldor:  Can't do it.  I've gotten pretty good with the ring, but
  I can't move _myself_ through the air.  (he frowns)  I tried once,
  but kept falling to the ground.
Otto:  Oh.  (he ponders)  Still, that's a damn useful ring.  Care
  to sell it?
Peldor:  Not a chance.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't
  appreciate the thing.
Otto:  I'd pay you well...ten thousand gold pieces?
Peldor:  Sorry, don't need the money.  Besides, the ring's not for
  sale.
Otto:  Very well.  (he turns to the pipe that now lies ahead of
  them)

  This tunnel was identical to the other one that they'd used to
get to the larger pipe.  Brandishing his sword in one hand and a
fresh torch in the other, Peldor led the way.  Otto stayed back,
both to guard the rear and to examine the pipe's walls for signs
of ascending slope.  The last thing either of them wanted was to
inadvertently head downward again.
  After a short march, they reached a four-way intersection of
their pipe and another.  Something strange awaited them, though:
two of the four branches here were filled with the segmented
body of some long, worm-like insect!


             |  |
         ____|  |____                      &  Peldor and Otto
          &    ******                  *****  worm segments
         ____ *  ____
             |* |
             |* |



Peldor:  Uh-oh.
Otto:  (points at the thing, which is slowly snaking down the
  right-hand passage)  It's going that way...so its tail must
  be at this end, ahead of us...
Peldor:  Unless it's a two-headed monster of some sort.
Otto:  Get real.
Peldor:  Hey, I am.  We fought one once, long ago.
Otto:  I didn't know that.

  Rather than wait around, or attack the creature's body, they
opted to move on, taking the left-hand passage.  Their strategy
was to avoid any monsters, whenever possible, in order to get
back to Greyhawk as quickly as possible.

Otto:  Chances are, the passage the worm came from contains more
  of the things.
Peldor:  (nods)  We need to get back to the surface as quickly as
  we can.  I want to get some help and find our companions' bodies.
Otto:  Right on.
Peldor:  We'll get them healed and alive again.  I don't care what
  it costs.
Otto:  (frowns)  You don't think they're dead, do you?
Peldor:  Funny you should ask that...but no, somehow I get the
  feeling that at least some of them survived.  Mongo's pretty damn
  hard to kill.  And Belphanior's been dead before, and it hasn't
  stopped him.  And Bosco...Bosco's just so damned lucky most of the
  time.
Otto:  Then why didn't you insist that we stay, and try to dig them
  out?
Peldor:  You saw that pile of rock - there's no way we could have
  dug through all that!  It would have taken days, and we don't
  have the energy, or the supplies.
Otto:  It was a rhetorical question.  I just wanted to make sure
  you had your head together.
Peldor:  Oh.
Otto:  (shrugs)  We've got to survive, and get out of here.

  Just then, Peldor heard a noise, from somewhere behind the pair.

Peldor:  What was that?
Otto:  (cocking an ear)  I don't hear anything.
Peldor:  Well, I did.  (he eyes the dark, wet passage behind them)
Otto:  (loads his crossbow, aiming it in that direction)  Fuck.
Peldor:  (points to the passage in front of them)  I think we'd
  better get a move on.
Otto:  Agreed.

  Hastening their pace, the two adventurers resumed their trek
through the narrow pipe.  Otto brought up the rear, keeping his
crossbow trained on the darkness behind them.  They didn't hear
any further noises, but the pipe seemed tighter, more confining,
and a good deal spookier now.  They inadvertently smeared sludge
on themselves, every time one of them ran against the walls.  An
occasional cobweb, coated with condensation or slime, hit their
faces as they walked.  The musty, dank atmosphere filled their
lungs and made them cough; it was not unknown for people to catch
diseases in conditions like these.
  A short time later, their passage opened into a cistern; this
larger area was only marginally full of water, the upper areas
of its walls dry and flaking.  There was a single exit from the
cylindrical tank, a very narrow pipe that angled upward from the
wall across the way.

Peldor:  The pipes feeding this cistern must've gotten clogged
  at some point.  It's dry as a bone in here.
Otto:  (points to the layer of muck covering the tank's floor)
  Not completely dry.  (he looks around)  I don't see any other
  pipes draining into here.  It's probably just disconnected
  from the rest of the sewer system.
Peldor:  Disconnected?  What do you mean by that?
Otto:  Unused...above the altitude of the other pipes...or maybe
  the sewage has found other routes to take.  Hell, I don't know.
  Your guess is as good as mine.

  They moved around the cistern's narrow ledge, examining the
single exit that led out of the chamber.

Otto:  Damn, but that's a narrow pipe.
Peldor:  You're telling me?  I'm the one with the wider shoulders!
Otto:  (sarcastically)  It's you I was worried about.  I can get
  through that, no problem, but you'll find it a tight squeeze.
Peldor:  True.

  Unfortunately, there were no other exits, and to continue onward
(and upward, apparently) they had to use this pipe.  The thing was
narrow indeed, not even three feet in diameter, and Peldor found
that he could barely fit.

Otto:  Want me to go first?
Peldor:  No, I'll manage.  (he squeezes into the pipe)  Unf!
Otto:  (pushes his feet)  In you go.  (climbing up, he follows the
  other thief)

  If conditions had been bad before, they were terrible now.  The
pipe was confining, incredibly cramped, and filthy.  They had to
move by slithering along like snakes, pushing themselves forward
inch by laborious inch.  Every movement covered them with yet more
sewer-slime, and the light from Peldor's torch only illuminated a
few feet ahead.
  They hadn't wanted to use the torch, as it consumed precious air
and might ignite any gas pockets they ran into.  However, Peldor's
lantern was ruined, shattered in the earlier cave-in, and the two
adventurers had no sources of magical light.  Otto could have gone
first, using his infravision in the darkness, but many things down
here (walls and slime-creatures especially) gave off no heat, and
might as well have been invisible to the dwarf.  Besides, the light
of the torch was rather comforting, and neither of them wanted to
be without it at the moment.
  As they moved along, they began to hear noises again - or were
they merely echoes, resounding in the narrow pipe?

Peldor:  Hard to say.
Otto:  I hear them too...shh, let's be quiet, and wait, and listen.

  They did, and learned to their dismay that what they were hearing
wasn't their own echoes.  A slithering sound was coming from the
pipe behind them!

Otto:  (unable to turn his head to see behind himself)  Fuck!  I'm
  completely defenseless here!
Peldor:  Well, it's not like you could've moved through this pipe
  backwards.
Otto:  Let's get the fuck out of here.
Peldor:  (he begins crawling again)
Otto:  (pushes Peldor's feet, urgently)  Hurry up!  Move faster!





next:      what's stalking them?
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:     Claustrophobia is one of those things that you never
  think about until it happens to you.  Put yourself in their
  shoes, crawling through a dark pipe that's only as wide as your
  shoulders...
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