Chapter #397

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                                  +
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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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Peldor       20th level human thief                          (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/4/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        several hours before dawn                           +
+  Place:       the Free City of Greyhawk                           +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I heard you were dead."                                         +
+  "Oh yeah?  Well, you heard right."                               +
+                                     - from _The Usual Suspects_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                 CCCXCVII.  From the Dead...





  The two guards grunted with exertion as they plodded through the
sewer.  The heavy, canvas-wrapped object they lugged between them
only seemed to get heavier as they went deeper into the dank, dark
labyrinth.  Trying to lug the body around _and_ carry torches _and_
keep from slipping was a major feat, and one that neither of them
enjoyed.

guard#1:  I still can't believe Peldor did this.
guard#2:  Me neither.  And I heard Org saying something about Peldor
  doctoring his ledgers, too - ripping off the guild for months, now.
guard#1:  Shit.  Who'd have thunk it?
guard#2:  Not me, man.  Peldor always seemed like a stand-up guy - a
  real straight shooter.  I've heard that, too, from some of the guys
  who worked for him.
guard#1:  Damn shame...
guard#2:  (nodding)  Just got a little too ambitious, I reckon.

  They climbed down another ladder, cursing all the while.  Neither
of them wanted to be down here, but Org had been very specific.  His
orders had been to take the body and leave it so deep in the sewers
that no one would ever find it.  So here they were.

guard#1:  (drags the body along a slime-covered pipeway)  Y'know, he's
  getting ripe.
guard#2:  You idiot, that's the sewers you smell.
guard#1:  Don't call me an idiot.
guard#2:  This place is getting on my nerves.  (he looks around)  I
  say we dump him soon, then get the hell out of here.
guard#1:  (nodding)  I need a bath.
guard#2:  (points to a hatch ahead)  Look there.
guard#1:  (helps his friend pull the corpse over to the thick, rusty
  iron hatch)  Here, put him down and help me get this open.

  They turned the hatch's wheel, evoking a loud squeak from the old
metal of the locking mechanism.  Pulling the hatch open, they looked
down into pitch-black darkness.  It only took a moment to remind them
that they really had somewhere better to be.

guard#1:  (peering into the darkness, from which a fouler stench
  wafts upward)  Down there?
guard#2:  As good a place as any-

  Just then, they heard an echoing roar - the bellow of some unknown
but definitely horrific beast.  The terrible sound came from below,
through the hatch over which they stood.

guard#1:  (looks at guard#2)
guard#2:  (looks at guard#1)

  As one, they grabbed the bagged body and pushed it through the
opening.  A loud splash soon followed, and they quickly closed the
hatch, grunting with the exertion.

guard#1:  Whew.
guard#2:  Glad we got rid of that.  I sure hope Org's satisfied,
  'cause I ain't going any deeper than that.
guard#1:  You're telling me-

  Through the metal of the hatch, they heard a second roar.  A nearer
roar.  Even though logic told them that the thing below, whatever it
was, couldn't get to them, they still turned and made a hasty ascent.
After all, they'd gone pretty deep, and if Org had wanted them to go
deeper...well, a little stretching of the truth surely wouldn't hurt.
Climbing moldy ladders and slimy ramps, the two guards made their way
back to the guildhall as fast as their feet would let them, all the
while casting nervous glances back the way they'd come.  Neither of
the men would truly be happy until they once again stood above street
level.

  Far behind and below them, immersed in several feet of water within
the lightless pipe, the canvas-wrapped package floated.  Slowly, inch
by inch, it sunk as it took on water and grew heavier.  Sensing a meal
somewhere within the wrappings and ropes, the rats and bugs began to
move in on the prize...only to recoil in animalistic fear as the prey
twitched!  The package took on a life of its own, moving about with
frantic, jerky motions and sending waves through the normally-still
waters of the sewer.  Finally, a hand emerged from between two folds
of canvas, scrabbling and groping wildly until it found a knot.  The
fingers of the hand worked at the convoluted piece of rope, almost
tearing at the knot more often than not.
  Fortunately for this particular visitor to the sewer, the knots of
his sacks had been tied in haste, and by some lazy fellow.  A moment
later, the sacks burst open, exposing Peldor!  Half-naked, the thief
had nothing on his person save a few rags.  It seemed that Org - the
creature posing as him - had taken everything of Peldor's.  Nightfang,
his throwing daggers, his ring of telekinesis, his leather armor,
even his boots - all were gone!

Peldor:  Shit.  (he looks around, seeing nothing in the darkness, but
  he smells his surroundings)  Shit.

  The master thief was possessed of extraordinary night vision, and
it wasn't long before he could at least make out vague shapes.  Or
thought he could, for it was hard to tell.  All he knew was that he
was in deep trouble.  Otto was unaware of Peldor's supposed death,
presumably, which made him an even easier target for Org's minions.
Mongo, Belphanior, Bosco, and Darek were _still_ missing, as well.
Tanya's fate remained unknown, and this drove Peldor even more crazy
than his own predicament.  Yes, things were bad indeed.
  But at least he was alive.  Running his fingers over his heart,
Peldor could feel the massive scar, still in the process of healing
from the terrible wound Org had inflicted.  The evil shapeshifter
had taken every item that Peldor carried, but he still hadn't gotten
everything.  Peldor's feather tattoos, a secret to all save Tanya,
had saved his life, slowly but steadily regenerating his torn heart
while Org's men trussed him and carried him down here.  The tattoos
were the only thing he had left, the only resource the shapeshifter
hadn't taken.  These, and Peldor's mind.  The thief resolved then and
there that he'd live to see the false-Org regret his mistake.
  But first he had to get out of here.  The only safe assumption was
that he needed to go up.  Slowly and carefully moving to the side of
the pipe, he inadvertently knocked a rat out of the way.  It took many
moments - long, tense moments - but Peldor's groping fingers at last
found the cold, wet rungs of a ladder!  Testing the metal bars one-by-
one, he then began to climb.  One bar gave out under his weight,
wrenching free from the stone and falling, to hit the stone with a
loud "clang."  Another bar almost came free, but he quickly took hold
of the next rung, avoiding a painful bump.
  Shortly, he encountered the hatch above, head-first.  He struggled
with the thing for long minutes, but it did have a handle-wheel on
the lower side, and the two guards hadn't spun it that tightly.  It
took him an excruciatingly long time, and his entire upper body felt
like it was on fire, but eventually, Peldor climbed free, collapsing
onto the floor of the pipe above.
  A grunting, breathing sound from below snapped him out of his brief
rest.  Hardly daring to look over the rim of the hatch, lest whatever
lurked below grab him, he instead sat up suddenly, slamming the heavy
lid down and spinning the wheel.  As he tightened the thing in place,
much tighter than the guards had left it, he heard an angry, bestial
roar from below.  It sounded somewhat familiar, and Peldor shuddered
as he thought about how close he'd just come to being eaten.  He never
would have known what was happening until the last terrible moment...
  Of course, the same thing could happen up here, and this concept got
him on his feet again.  Noticing a very faint glow to the left, he
headed that way, walking quickly.  It had appeared close at first, but
it actually took him several minutes to reach the source of the glow:
a patch of green fungi.  Somehow naturally luminescent, the stuff had
grown over a large area of the pipe's walls and ceiling.  Peldor took
a look around, finally finding a sizable piece of half-rotten wooden
debris to form the basis of a makeshift torch.  Using this to scrape
a goodly helping of fungus from the wall, he soon had a means of
seeing, albeit a limited one.
  Using his tattoos to haste himself, the thief moved ahead rapidly,
anxious to progress, somewhere, anywhere.  At least the fungus wouldn't
burn out, like a torch would.  Still, he'd have traded it for a torch
in a heartbeat.  As he went, he wondered if the two guards would live
to see the dawn.  He'd actually been semi-conscious during the last
part of their journey, but he couldn't risk attracting their attention.
There had been no telling if they might kill him, or else tell the
false Org of his survival later.  At this point, there could be no
unnecessary risks taken, and if that meant that two possibly-innocent
guards might die, well...that was just too bad.  A fellow had to have
certain priorities, and this was no game.
  Once, a rat attacked him, figuring in its tiny little mind that he
might be easy food.  Peldor suffered several bites before finally
grabbing the animal by the neck.  The thing was as big as a small dog,
and to kill it, he had to break its neck with his bare hands.  Tossing
the wet, hairy form away in revulsion, he could only hope that he
escaped the sewers before some foul disease set in.  Not that there
was anything he could do about it right now, anyway.
  Another time, he slipped in the near-darkness, sliding down into
a vertical shaft.  His feather-falling tattoo saved him, though, for
its power was automatically invoked the instant the thief began to
fall.  He used the extra moments to grab hold of the lip of the pipe
and pull himself back up.  This feat gained him a series of cuts on
his fingers, but it was better than falling an unknown distance.  He
had to console himself thus; it was the only way to keep going.  This
simple but primal will to live was the center of his strength, speed,
and mind; it coordinated these various tools, melding them into a
single, efficient, positive force of not inconsiderable power.
  After another rat attack - this one fended off by a mere swing of
his glowing club - Peldor got the idea to make himself invisible,
using the tattoos again.  This actually helped, for although the rats
and other vermin could smell him, they couldn't see him, and that
bought him time in every case.  Luck was with him, as well, for he
stumbled upon a long metal crowbar.  While rusty, the thing was still
usable, and it was far better than the rotten piece of driftwood.  He
did his best to transfer the glow-fungus from one to the other.
  Using his memory, both of the map and his own travels, he continued
to move on.  Occasionally, he found a ladder or upward-slanting pipe,
and was able to ascend.  Of course, there were other obstacles to
overcome.  Green slime had to be avoided (although he almost walked
right into it.)  A collapsed section of sewer pipe had to be circum-
navigated, its rubble climbed over.  Rats and bats had to be avoided
(if he was lucky) or driven away (if he wasn't.)  Peldor was still
weak from his ordeal, but he kept on, persevering over all dangers
and challenges.  Such was the depth of his hatred, and subsequent
will to survive and escape.  One particularly large and tenacious rat
surprised him, knocking the crowbar from his hands as it leaped to
the attack.  The savage little beast clawed and bit wildly, until
Peldor gouged out its eyes with his thumbs.  The thing shrieked and
flailed, but the thief hurled it aside and continued on his way.
  As he rounded one corner, Peldor suddenly came upon a shapeshifter!
The thing appeared to be wounded, judging from its limp, strangely
bent right arm and the numerous burns across its body.  It also
seemed disoriented, for it stumbled along in shaky steps.  Peldor
only had a moment to surmise that this must be a survivor of the
earlier battle - for the thing sensed his approach!  As the creature
turned to face him, the thief swung his crowbar around in a deadly
arc.  The hooked end bit into the shapeshifter's head, tearing it
open; Peldor then leapt atop the creature and continued beating it
savagely.  His fury continued, unabated, until the foe lay still,
its head now resembling a pile of wet grass.  Breathing hard, Peldor
slumped back against a wall, the crowbar still held in one dangling
hand.  Presently, he moved the body into a nearby side-pipe, covered
the battle-scene with slime and mud, and continued on his way.
  At last - long last - Peldor came across his first stairway.  This
was a very good sign, for it told him that he was in the upper sewers.
Now, the risk of death by monsters was lower, but the risk of being
seen was higher.  To counter this, he made sure to stay invisible at
all times, even if he didn't see or hear anyone.  He knew he was home
free when he encountered a sewer worker.  Since movement would have
given him away, he kept still and let the man pass by.  Only when he
could no longer hear the worker's splashing feet did Peldor continue.
  Finally, nearly naked and covered in blood, sweat, and filth, the
thief emerged from a grate on some deserted city street.  The dawn's
light seemed to him the most beautiful sunrise he'd ever seen.





next:      Otto and Whisper settle their score
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:     Well, I did it.  I went and saw _Striptease_.  At $6.75
  it seemed a cheaper thrill than a strip club trip.
    And guess what?  This movie was actually _entertaining_!  Sure,
  we got to see Demi topless - for a total of maybe fifteen seconds.
  But more than that, the movie made me laugh.  It was both funny
  and entertaining.  As I'm fond of saying, what more can you ask
  for?
    I've thought of another influence on this storyline:  C.H.U.D.
  For some reason, this film terrified me when I first saw it.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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