Chapter #392

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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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Bosco          11th level halfling thief                    (CN) +
+  Mongo          18th level dwarven fighter                   (CG) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       some dungeon complex far below the surface world    +
+  Climate:     cool and dry                                        +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Everything they want from here on out, they're going to         +
+   have to take."                                                  +
+                                                  - _Billy Jack_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CCCXCII.  Deep Denizens





  After surviving an underground explosion and a cave-in, Mongo and
Bosco have escaped into a new dungeon...

Mongo:  (eyeing the rough-hewn walls as he leads the way)  Most
  definitely not a sewer...
Bosco:  Eh?
Mongo:  Nothing, just rambling.

  After a goodly walk, perhaps ten minutes, they found that the rough
passageway intersected several others.  In fact, the series of tunnels
quickly became a maze of epic proportions.  None of the passages angled
upward, though, and one way seemed as good as any other.
  Just then, while trying to choose a path, the two adventurers heard
the unmistakable sound of battle from somewhere ahead!

Bosco:  (cocking an ear, for his is the superior hearing here)  Whoa.
Mongo:  Bosco, can you find me that fight?
Bosco:  (eyeing the passages, he listens again)  No problem.  C'mon.

  The halfling had been moody and quiet lately, but once he was given
something to accomplish, he was the best there was at what he did.
Dashing down a passageway, sword unsheathed, he reminded Mongo of the
Bosco he was used to.

Mongo:  Sheesh.  (he watches Bosco's light go out, as the latter puts
  his light-pebble in a pocket)  Hey!  (lumbering after the halfling,
  he allows his vision to slip back into the infrared)

  The companions ran through the darkness, and soon came upon the
scene of battle.  The tunnel opened into a larger cavern, its roof
at least thirty feet high.  Within this roomy area, a group of short,
wiry, dark-skinned demi-humans was fighting a monstrous, many-headed
foe that resembled a dragon.  Each of the thing's eight heads was
fully the width and breadth of a large shield, and each head's mouth
held many terrible, gnashing fangs.  These fearsome teeth had taken
their toll, for several corpses already littered the cavern floor;
about a dozen still fought on.
  They used picks and darts in battle, the latter weapons releasing
small puffs of dark gas when they hit the hydra.  Whatever this gas
was, though, it didn't appear to affect the beast; the picks, though
they appeared sharp, weren't overly practical against the mammoth
opponent.

Bosco:  Gnomes!
Mongo:  Svirfneblin...
Bosco:  Huh?

  As they watched from their distant and slightly elevated vantage
point, the hydra snapped up a gnome with one of its heads, crushing
and stabbing the unfortunate victim to death simultaneously.

hydra:  (shakes the body violently, and messily)  RRRRAAARGH!

  Suddenly, there was a tremendous sound, the sort made when a heavy
object collides with soft flesh.  The hydra paused in its activities,
the tattered corpse dangling from one of its heads' jaws.  A moment
later, blood began to drip from one of the monster's mouths.  The
sound of something whistling through the air could be heard by all.

svirfneblin:  (looking on in confusion)
hydra:  RRRGH?  (it turns, ponderously)

  This time, it was one of the leading heads that took the hit.  A
heavy, glowing warhammer struck the head squarely, snapping it with
a loud crack of bone.  Roaring, the gnomes forgotten, the many-
headed lizard stomped toward this new foe:  a battered, armored
dwarf who stood fifty feet away.  Even as the beast charged toward
the lone dwarf, he caught the hammer as it returned to his mailed
hand.

Mongo:  Come get some.
hydra:  (obliges, lumbering forward with earth-shaking strides)
  RAARRRRGH!

  The beast charged madly, but hadn't come very far when a tiny,
invisible form appeared upon its back.  Bosco sunk his sword to the
hilt in the base of the hydra's neck, a mighty blow that caused the
great monster to stop suddenly.

Bosco:  Whoaaaaaa-  (unprepared for this, he flies forward, off the
  hydra's back, and lands roughly on the stony floor of the cavern,
  newly visible)
hydra:  (all of its heads look forward)  RAAARGH!  (it charges once
  more, threatening to trample both the errant halfling and the dwarf
  behind him)
Bosco:  (getting to his feet)  Uh-oh...
Mongo:  Don't move!  (he raises his hammer)

  Mongo switched tactics, hurling his hammer at the ground before
the rushing foe.  Rock exploded into fragments, blinding the hydra
and pelting it with sharp, painful shards.  Furthermore, the monster
was large and ponderous, and as a result, it tripped on the new hole
in the cavern floor.  The rocky ground shook with the impact; Mongo
shook his hammer with battle-lust; the hydra shook with rage; Bosco
shook with relief.

Mongo:  Whole lotta shaking going on...

  The gnomes had not been idle, either.  Recognizing a godsend when
they saw it, the small folk were busy chanting together.  Even as
Mongo wondered what the hell they were carrying on about, the huge
hydra regained its footing and lumbered toward him, murder on its
mind...
  ...and just as quickly, the reptile stopped.  Or more correctly,
it was stopped.  Two wide, ovoid forms rose up from the very rock
itself, each enveloping one of the hydra's legs in the huge maw atop
its body.  The new arrivals looked like stone eggs with three arms
and three legs, and large mouths atop their bodies.  Mongo and Bosco
had seen these before, however, and knew what they were:  xorn, a
strange but relatively peaceful species of earth-creature.  The two
adventurers had encountered some xorn while exploring the deeps of
Thunderdelve Mountain, some years ago.
  These xorn, however, didn't seem very peaceful; each held one of
the hydra's legs in its mouth, and the rippling stone of the xorn's
bodies betrayed the fact that some chewing was going on.  As Mongo
glanced at the chanting gnomes, he made the connection:  the little
folk, being deep gnomes, had called upon their mystical relation to
the very earth itself.  Dwarven legends held that the svirfneblin
could summon allies from the rock and stone.  Mongo, being fairly
well-traveled, had actually put some stock in such myths.  Now, he
was certain of their authenticity.
  The hydra flailed about, screaming in pain, but it was held fast.
It was unable to bring its two remaining legs to bear, in any way.
One head snapped at the stony form which kept a leg imprisoned, but
the fangs shattered against the exceptionally hard rock that was the
xorn's body.  Now, the gnomes circled the trapped foe, taking swings
and hurling darts at their leisure.  Judging by the skill and fury
of the gnomes' attacks, Mongo got the distinct impression that the
hydra must have somehow surprised them.  There was no chance of the
monster beating these hardy demi-humans if they were prepared.  As
the hydra roared and snapped, only half of its heads still alive,
the gnomes inflicted more wounds with their sharp little weapons.
They were wearing the foe down, slowly but surely.
  Some people - most people - would have merely looked on.  Bosco
and Mongo weren't like most people, though.  The halfling whipped
out a throwing dagger, took careful aim, and buried the needle-like
blade in one of the flailing heads' eyes.  That head immediately went
limp, slain by the bullseye throw.  Even as Bosco readied a second
dagger, Mongo rushed in, hurling his hammer from a much shorter
distance.  Another head was pulverized, and even the xorn took note
of this impact.
  The hydra roared, but now it was more a roar of pain than of
wrath.  As the gnomes continued their attacks, the xorn contributed
further, pummeling the reptile with their multiple arms.  Within a
short time, the battle was over; the hydra twitched, spat blood, and
breathed its last.  The gnomes cheered in some odd language that
neither of the two adventurers knew.

Bosco:  Whew.  (giving the gnomes a weary grin, he heads over to the
  hydra's gory body, to collect his weapons)
Mongo:  (puts his hammer away in its belt loop, and approaches
  with Bosco, speaking to the gnomes in dwarven)  Ho, there!
svirfneblin:  (eyeing the duo warily)
Bosco:  They're probably just nervous-

  To the companions' utter surprise and amazement, the gnomes cast
small globes of glass at them!  These missiles burst at the very
slightest impact, releasing a strange and potent vapor that the two
victims couldn't help but breathe, such was the unexpectedness of
the attack.

Bosco:  Aw, no...
Mongo:  Shit!  (coughing, he pulls out Stormcrest, but his vision
  has become blurry)  Little bastards...(he prepares to throw the
  hammer, but finds his limbs increasingly unresponsive)
Bosco:  (having taken to the air almost by reflex, he still got a
  good lungful of the gas; he teeters and totters in mid-air, four
  feet up, before dropping to the ground, twitching)  Ow...

  The last thing Bosco saw was the armored form of Mongo, struggling
to get up off his knees.  The last thing Mongo saw was the pack of
svirfneblin, approaching from all quarters; then, all went dark.





next:      Otto, alone and hunted!
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:     One word:  _Eraser_.  Another word:  Must-see.
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