Chapter #451

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    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                    +
+                           +
+  Halbarad         13th level human ranger                    (NG) +
+    Zephyr         giant wild tiger                            (N) +
+  Mongo            18th level dwarven fighter                 (CG) +
+    Gorin           9th level dwarven fighter                 (NG) +
+  Peyote           11th/12th level half-elven warrior/druid    (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Iptroot          treant                                      (N) +
+  Kup Swiftfoot    halfling thief                              (N) +
+  Relmar           human high priest of Pelor                 (NG) +
+  Date:        5/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midmorning                                          +
+  Place:       the dark, northern reaches of the Vesve Forest      +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "A rolling stone gathers no moss."                               +
+                                          - variously attributed   +

                   CDLI.  The Rolling Rock

  After a day-long journey through the forest, courtesy of the huge
treant Iptroot, the companions have arrived at their destination...

Mongo:  Where?  I don't see any crypt.
Iptroot:  Patience, good dwarf.  We are still a goodly distance from
  the fell place.  (he makes a face that resembles a frown)  Not too
  far for one such as I...
Gorin:  So we go the rest of the way on foot?
Peyote:  That's right, dude.
Halbarad:  We need a scout.  We need...Zephyr.  (at a command word
  from the ranger, his figurine enlarges into the sleek, tawny form
  of that gigantic tiger)
Zephyr:  (growling)
Kup:  Oh, my.
Relmar:  Most interesting.
Zephyr:  (without needing to be told, it pads off into the forest)
Halbarad:  Come along, now.  And be quiet - your footsteps are bad
  enough, but if you talk, you'll surely give us away.
Mongo:  Whatever you say.

  They moved through the forest, Halbarad guiding them, and had soon
regrouped with the big cat.  Zephyr was sniffing around the base of
an ancient stone temple; a black portal, devoid of any door, yawned
ahead of them.

Halbarad:  There.
Peyote:  (whispers)  The entrance to the crypt...

  The forest around this place was wilted and dying, as if whatever
evil was within the ruined temple was spreading out, influencing all
around it.

Peyote:  That's exactly it!  That's exactly what's happening.  (he
  eyes his companions)  Let's go in there.
Kup:  Hold your horses.  (he patiently puts his pipe away)
Gorin:  (wondering why the halfling has the thing out in the first
  place, since he hasn't smoked it for hours)
Zephyr:  (bares his fangs at the doorway)  Grr...
Mongo:  (looks around)  Well, what're we waiting for?  Let's go!
Kup:  (somehow ends up in the front of the group)

  They made their way into the lost tomb, slowly and cautiously.
For Halbarad and Relmar's benefit, the party had to use light; the
high priest created it using a tiny and doubtless magical lantern.

Kup:  (turns, staring at the small but bright ball of light that now
  floats in the air behind Relmar)  New toy?
Relmar:  (nods)  A minor artifact of Pelor.
Kup:  Well, it's blinding me.  (to Mongo and Halbarad, who are in the
  front fighting rank of the party)  I'll go ahead a ways...then I'll
  actually be able to see, and surprise anything I run into.  (he pads
  away silently)
Mongo:  (shrugs)
Halbarad:  He is no Bosco.
Mongo:  He sure isn't.

  They wandered down a musty hallway, its flagstones interlaced with
roots and moss.  After a short distance, this passage opened into a
large hall, from which several exits and stairways led.  The ceiling
here was high, at least thirty feet, and shrouded in cobwebs.

Gorin:  (gazing up at the ceiling, he suddenly realizes something)
  Where's Iptroot?
Kup:  (looking around)  Guess he couldn't fit through the entry door.
  (he wanders away to explore the chamber)
Peyote:  (shrugs)  He's not coming in here.
Halbarad:  Hmm.
Mongo:  (irritated, he turns to Peyote)  Explain.
Peyote:  He _can't_ come down here, man.  His roots have to be firmly
  in healthy earth for him to move about.
Mongo:  Great.  That's one less ally we've got now.
Relmar:  And a powerful ally at that.
Halbarad:  (watching Zephyr, as the big cat sniffs the air)
Zephyr:  (grumbles, deep in his throat)
Halbarad:  Something is amiss here.
Relmar:  (nods)  I sense it too...a burdening sense of...evil.
Mongo:  Gee, where'd you get that idea?
Relmar:  Dwarf, this is no time for levity.  Whatever lurks in this
  place is powerful and malicious.
Peyote:  (raises a finger)  And has designs on the forest, as well.
Kup:  (reappears)  I've found the way.
Halbarad:  What way is that?
Kup:  A stairway down...the dust on its steps has been disturbed, and
  recently.  Unlike the other sets of steps.
Mongo:  Good work.  We'll take over from here.  (he takes a few steps,
  then turns)  Uh, which staircase?

  Soon, the six companions were descending a wide, spiral stairway
which led into web-filled blackness.  Bits of bone crunched beneath
their boot-soles as they walked, eliciting frowns from Kup, who was
avoiding the noise-makers as only a halfling could.

Kup:  (suddenly holds up one fist)
Mongo:  (waves back at the others)  Stop!
Halbarad:  What is he on about?
Mongo:  Dunno...
Kup:  (examining a section of wall, he somehow triggers a latch, and
  a slab of stone is outlined against the surrounding wall)  Ah.
Gorin:  Hey, how'd he see that?
Kup:  You could say I'm blessed...though-  Unf! -I'm not quite strong
  enough to get this thing open.
Mongo:  Here, let me help.  (he grabs the edge of the slab, and easily
  pushes the panel open)
Kup:  Thanks.  (he darts into the secret passage)
Halbarad:  (glances at Mongo, as if to say "who does he think he is?")
Mongo:  (shrugs)

  After traversing a straight section of corridor, they turned to the
right and descended, for the passage had become a ramp.

Kup:  (signals them to stop again)
Mongo:  What now?
Kup:  Something's wrong...

  Without warning, a deep rumbling began, as a gigantic, round boulder
emerged from the ceiling above the secret door.  The thing had been
hidden by cobwebs, but no more - now it was rolling down the ramp,
right toward them!

Halbarad:!  Everybody run!

  They did, but Mongo and Gorin quickly fell behind, their short legs
unable to propel them as rapidly as the others.

Mongo:  To hell with this!  (he stops, turning to face the oncoming
Gorin:  What the hell?!?
Mongo:  Go!  Keep running!
Gorin:  But-
Mongo:  (ignoring his henchman, he draws back his throwing arm, and
  lets Stormcrest fly)

  The mighty hammer sped toward the rolling boulder, and the two met
with a sharp CRACK! which was instantly followed by a loud BOOM!
The deep grinding sound of the rolling rock suddenly ceased, replaced
with the sounds of dozens of rock-shards falling.  The others found
the ramp-hall filled with blinding, choking dust, yet they made their
way back up toward Mongo, fearing for his life.
  However, when the dust cleared, the dwarf was leaning against one
wall, holding his hammer by its thong and grinning.

Relmar:  Good gods, he lives!
Mongo:  I knew I could take 'im.
Kup:  How?  Wait, I shouldn't ask.
Gorin:  (grins)  Huh.
Peyote:  Dude...they should call you Mongo Rocksmasher.
Mongo:  No, that's my cousin, twice removed.  (he picks a shard of
  rock out of his arm, barely wincing)  Good thing this armor can't
  be pierced, or I'd be pulling out chunks of rock all day.
Halbarad:  (still amazed) stopped the boulder.
Mongo:  (shrugs, and brushes grit off his shoulder)  No big deal, not
  for one who's faced the juggernaut and lived to tell the tale.
Kup:  Juggernaut?
Mongo:  (pulls another splinter of rock from his shoulder)  Ow.
Peyote:  Gnarly.
Relmar:  (examining the remains of the boulder)  Incredible.  Simply
Peyote:  And gnarly, too.
Halbarad:  (not really aware that his old adventuring companion had
  this kind of power)  We owe you our lives...we would never have out-
  run that boulder.
Mongo:  Maybe, maybe not.  I know _I_ sure couldn't have.
Zephyr:  (shakes his head, sending dust flying, and grunts at Mongo)
Peyote:  See, even the leopard knows.
Halbarad:  (frowns)  Zephyr is a tiger.
Peyote:  Oh, right.
Halbarad:  Have you been eating those mushrooms again?
Peyote:  No comment, dude.
Gorin:  Whatever.  (to Mongo)  Thanks, man.
Kup:  (nods, and tips his hat to Mongo)
Gorin:  Where'd you get that silly hat from?
Kup:  (points to his pocket)  I put it on when the dust started flying.
Gorin:  Oh.

  Eventually, they continued to the bottom of the ramp, and found a
large double door of rune-engraved stone.

Relmar:  Those might be warding runes...let me have a look.

  The high priest discerned that this was, indeed, the case; he worked
a spell to nullify the runes' dreadful power.

Mongo:  What power is that?
Relmar:  Evil power...sickeningly evil power.
Halbarad:  Then we are on the right track.
Relmar:  I haven't doubted that since we walked into this place, my
  friend.  (he waves his hands, chanting, and the doors glow with a
  pale blue light)  Whew.
Kup:  All safe now?
Relmar:  (nods)
Mongo:  You won't be able to open those doors, either - they're way
  heavier than the other.
Kup:  True, but-

  The question was answered for them, as the doors suddenly swung
inward, hinges creaking - to expose a mob of rotting, hissing undead

Kup:  (standing right in front of the doors)  Yiiiie!

next:      they learn why the crypt was unguarded
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     There was (and probably still is) a great deal of
  confusion over the matter of the Great Druid, the Grand Druid,
  Oakly Greenleaf, and Peyote's ranking within the whole scheme.
  This is because, after the clarification in #440, I forgot to
  go back and correct all the references in all the episodes.

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