Chapter #475

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                                  +
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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Belphanior     (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief    (CN) +
+    Otto           8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief        (CN) +
+    Victoria      11th level female vampiric human fighter    (NE) +
+                                                                   +
+  Helgate's town guards:                                           +
+    Aja           10th level female human priestess of Wee Jas(LN) +
+    Jutokai        7th level human fighter/archer              (N) +
+    Kinichi        7th level human ranger                     (CG) +
+    Razor Charlie  8th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+    Skektek        8th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                 (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Back from parts unknown:                                         +
+    the wispy thing!                                               +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        5/7/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        after midnight                                      +
+  Place:       deep within the mines of Helgate                    +
+  Climate:     cold and dry                                        +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I don't know what the hell's in there, but it's weird and       +
+   pissed off, whatever it is."                                    +
+                                             - _The Thing_ (1981)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                  CDLXXV.  Lurking Evil





  The party has followed mines and tunnels, finally coming upon a
huge cavern deep within the mountains.  Here, amidst scattered bones
and dank slime, they now face a strange and terrible being...

Skektek:  Look!
Belphanior:  (keeps his cool)  Everyone spread out.

  The thing that slithered (crept?) from the stalagmites at the center
of the cavern was a nightmare that moved.  It looked much like a huge
pile of dung, covered with glistening slime, bits of its body falling
to the ground as it moved.  However, a number of appendages sprouted
from its main body:  great muscular arms, writhing tentacles, clawed
pincer-hands, coiled tubes that dripped wet slime from their open ends.
As well, a plethora of heads rested atop (and aside) its body.  Here
there was a human head, its features contorted in rage; there was a
beaked, bird-like countenance; on another flank weaved a green, scaly,
snakish head.  Besides these horrible features, the thing also had a
number of disembodied eyes, ears, and mouths spread across its body.
All visible eyes swiveled to regard the party, and some of the ears
(no two of which were alike) twitched.  As for the mouths, while some
of them were small and inoffensive, a few were huge maws, filled with
long, sharp fangs.
  A horrible stench wafted from the thing's direction, causing some
of the explorers to cough and gag in revulsion.  This odor combined
the very worst of stale air, rank waste, and rotting carrion.  The
creature was a bizarre combination of various other things, and as it
moved toward the adventurers, there was no mistaking its intentions.
Fortunately, the intruders had intentions of their own...

Skektek:  (releases a mighty bolt of lightning, which streaks toward
  the strange foe)  Hah!
wispy thing:  (barks in the direction of the monster)  Spaaa!

  The crackling arc of electricity smacked the monster right in its
center, and there was a deafening explosion.  Moments later, the
nearby areas of the cavern were showered with debris.

Belphanior:  (watches as a chunk of black-blooded gore lands next to
  him)  Hmm.
wispy thing:  (sailing around, dodging bits of flying debris)  Pfsss.

  A thick cloud of acrid smoke obscured their vision - and the monster.

Kinichi:  (strains his ears)  I hear nothing.
Jutokai:  Doesn't mean we're safe.  (he backs away, shortbow raised)
Ys:  Good thinking.  (he flicks his forked tongue out, and hefts his
  sword)
Skektek:  I got it!  My lightning bolt got it!
Aja:  Don't be so sure.  (she points)
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)
wispy thing:  (eyeing the smoky cloud)  Sprrd...

  From the fume-filled area ahead, a monstrous shape emerged.  A huge
and jagged chunk was torn from its hide, but the thing moved onward.
An eye, mounted on a trembling stalk, swiveled toward them, red and
unblinking.  However, even as a huge mouth gnashed its saw-like teeth
and drooled black slime, a more sinister ploy was afoot.

Otto:  What the hell...?

  The severed pieces of the monster were now coming to life!  A thick
arm sprouted two small, hairy legs, then charged toward the party.  A
gory head, missing its entire right half, now had a tail as it moved
toward them, slug-like on a layer of slime.  A featureless chunk of
fetid mass suddenly grew thin, spindly legs and scuttled around their
ranks, peering at them with several dozen tiny eyes that dotted its
"back."  It was insane - but it was happening before the adventurers'
eyes.

Belphanior:  Holy shit-

  Just like that, battle was joined!

arm with tiny legs:  (grabs Kinichi's leg, crushing with deadly force)
Kinichi:  Argh!  (he drops his bow and rips his longsword from its
  sheath)
head with slime-tail:  Screeee!  (it snaps at Otto)
Otto:  Fuck.  (he fires a bolt, hitting the thing squarely and pinning
  it to the cavern floor)
spindly-legged many-eyed thing:  (scuttles toward Skektek)
Jutokai:  (fires an arrow, imbedding it in the thing's back)
spindly-legged many-eyed thing:  (keeps coming)
Jutokai:  By the gods...
Belphanior:  (slashes from the side, cutting the weird foe in half)
spindly-legged many-eyed thing:  (splits cleanly, then sprays dark
  ooze onto the cavern floor)
Belphanior:  Get moving!  No time for delay...
Jutokai:  Right.
wispy thing:  (orbiting a flapping bat-winged mouth, he hisses at it
  furiously)  Sssss!

  The elf couldn't help but notice that he gained no soul-energy from
the slain foe.  Before he had time to contemplate this, however, he
found himself under attack from several clawed arms - attached to the
main body!

Belphanior:  Damn!  (he slices at one appendage, severing it, but is
  held fast by three others)
Skektek:  (backs away, spellcasting, as an egg-like mass of greenish
  flesh rolls toward him)  Aie!
Aja:  (bashes the thing with her mace, sending it whizzing away)  Fore!
Skektek:  Eh?
Aja:  Just an ancient battle-cry.
Razor Charlie:  (hurling knives at other severed-yet-attacking parts,
  he quickly finds that his weapons of choice have little effect on
  these strange foes)  Dammit.  (he leaps backward as a long, writhing
  tentacle tries to snare him)
Victoria:  (slashing at will, she wreaks great destruction all about)
pincer-arm from main body:  (snaps at her)
Victoria:  (ducks, slicing the arm hard with an upward swing, nearly
  severing it)

  The vampiress' teeth were bared, and she was in a near-berserker
rage.  A watcher might have attributed this to bloodlust, but a more
accurate guess would have been rage...the kind of rage that surfaces
when one's very survival is in doubt.

Ys:  (with a mighty cleave, he severs all of the tentacles that assail
  Belphanior, at once)  Yah!
Belphanior:  (leaps and rolls to the side, away from the writhing
  things)  Thanks...(he quickly examines the bloody scrapes on his
  body, from the tentacles' barbed grip)  Ow.
Ys:  (suddenly finds himself caught by several other tentacles)
main body of monster:  (roaring through several mouths)  Rrreeunk!
Ys:  Bah.  (flexing his powerful shoulders and arms, he snaps first
  one tentacle, then another)
main body of monster:  Gglllrngh!  (it lashes out with two pincer-arms)
Ys:  (finds his sword caught up in this pair of grips)  Eh?
Skektek:  (recoils as a winged eye flaps toward him, an insect-like
  proboscis emerging from its underside)  Yaaah!  (he swats at the
  thing, just brushing it)  Get away!
thing:  (squeals as a powerful shock courses through it)  Screee!
Skektek:  (brushes his hands together as the thing falls to the floor
  of the cavern, twitching)  Heh.
Razor Charlie:  (throwing knives as he backs away from a three-legged
  arm, he bumps into a thin stalagmite)  Huh?
three-legged arm:  (bounding toward the warrior)
Razor Charlie:  (hurls a knife, then turns, grabbing the cone of stone
  near its point)
three-legged arm:  (leaps into the air)
Razor Charlie:  (with a grunt, he snaps the stalagmite off, whirling
  with a narrow, five-foot spear in his hands)  Hnph.
three-legged arm:  (impaled on the length of stone, it waves all four
  of its appendages wildly)
Razor Charlie:  (ignores a shallow gash on his arm, and hurls the
  wounded foe away)
Aja:  (sidesteps the thing, eyes the battle with the main monster,
  then casts some spell upon herself)
wounded three-legged arm:  (instantly writhes in pain, then rolls
  itself away from her)
Razor Charlie:  What's that all about?
Aja:  A spell to protect me from Evil...stay close.
Razor Charlie:  (realizes that this will let him hurl his blades from
  a safe zone, and heeds her words)
Skektek:  (spellcasting once more, he also heads for the priestess)
wispy thing:  (darts close to Aja, curious)  Aaarp?  (it flits near
  her head)
Aja:  Do you mind?
wispy thing:  Nrrrp.
Otto:  (facing the severed head with the slime-tail, he watches as
  the thing pulls itself free from the floor, the arrowhead scraping
  on the stone floor as the monster advances)  Hells, don't they ever
  give up?
Victoria:  Damn!  (entangled by a dozen thin, worm-like things that
  came out of the monster's body, she suddenly dissolves into mist,
  her sword dropping to the ground)
worm-things:  (writhing and coiling blindly)
Victoria:  (floats overhead, surveying the battle as she waits for an
  opportune moment to rematerialize and reclaim her sword)
Ys:  (lets go of his sword, grabbing one of the pincer-hands that
  holds the weapon)  Rrrr...(with a loud snapping sound, he tears
  the pincers apart)
other pincer-appendage:  (releases the sword and snaps at Ys' leg)
Ys:  (quickly steps on the thing, right at its base, pinning the
  pincers to the floor as he recovers his sword)  Enough!  (with a
  mighty swipe, he severs the pincers)
bloody stump:  (retracts, spraying forth gore)
wispy thing:  Spaaa!
Kinichi:  (slashing at the severed arm that grasps his leg, he opens
  its length, causing black ichor to spill forth)
arm:  (weakens its grip)
Kinichi:  (shakes the thing away in disgust)  What manner of foes ARE
  these?
Jutokai:  No idea, old friend.  (he stabs at a large, bouncing eyeball,
  popping it as it descends)
eyeball:  <BLOOF>
Jutokai:  (drenched in black slime)  Ugh.
Kinichi:  Well-done.
Jutokai:  Right-  Whaa!  (he falls, grabbed by a tentacle from the
  foe's main body-mass)  Help!  (he is pulled toward a huge, gaping
  maw, perhaps twenty feet away)
Belphanior:  Hold on!  (he pulls out a wand)
flying wing:  (lands on the elf's wrist, a tiny mouth biting hard)  Rr!
Belphanior:  Ow!  (surprised, he drops the wand)
crawling mouth:  (ingests the wand)
Belphanior:  Hey!  (he swats the wing hard, knocking it to the cavern
  floor, then smashes it with the heel of his boot)
crawling mouth:  (half of the wand sticking out from between its teeth)
  Grlmph?
Belphanior:  (pins the disembodied mouth to the floor with Blackrazor,
  grabs the wand, and pulls it out in a single motion)
crawling mouth:  Grrrnk!
wispy thing:  (descends, making faces at the trapped mouth)  Spaaa!
Jutokai:  Aie!  (now ten feet from the monster's maw, and being pulled
  closer, he slashes futilely at the tentacle, unable to sever it from
  his angle)
monster:  (with a sudden snap of tentacles, it yanks the archer into
  its maw, sharp fangs slashing mercilessly)
Jutokai:  YAAARGH!
Ys:  Help is on the way!  (he hefts a small boulder, and hurls it
  directly into the monster's gaping maw)
monster:  Glrrrrrrthp?
Ys:  (charges, his huge sword held high overhead)  RRRRRR!  (he swings
  mightily, his blade chopping foot-deep into the bizarre foe)
monster:  (eyes and limbs flop off, twitching, as a massive gash is
  opened in one flank)

  Despite this wound, the thing was far from done.  While it seemed
that the severed, self-animating parts of its body-mass could be
slain, the main body closed gashes and re-grew limbs as fast as they
were severed.  It was time for a new strategy.

Belphanior:  Everyone back!  I'm going to fireball it!
Ys:  (grabs Jutokai as if he weighed nothing, and retreats from the
  monster, even as tentacles snake after him)
Jutokai:  (bleeding badly, but alive)
Otto:  (hurls a flask of burning oil, the missile smashing and coating
  the foe with fire, causing the tentacles to stop chasing the big
  reptilian)  Got 'im!
Ys:  Well done.
spider-body without head:  (moving around to Belphanior's rear as the
  elf waves his magical wand)
Razor Charlie:  (hurls a knife, severing one of the thing's legs at
  the joint)
spider-body without head:  (trips, stumbling)
Skektek:  (fires a barrage of tiny lightning bolts, two of them
  hitting the small foe and slaying it)
Aja:  (keeps roaming foes at bay - and away from Razor Charlie and
  Skektek - with her previously-cast spell of protection)
Belphanior:  (speaks a command word, and a ball of fire leaps from his
  wand, hitting the monster and bathing it in flame)

  The huge monster screamed in weird tones, from many mouths, as its
body charred and boiled.  Whether the thing's ponderous bulk could
survive this attack or not was uncertain; however, Aja took steps to
influence that outcome.

Aja:  (waves her arms...and drops a blazing flame strike upon the main
  body of the monster)
wispy thing:  Yrrrp!

  If the fireball had hurt the huge thing - which was a certainty -
the tremendous column of flame hurt it much worse.  The cavern, which
had remained relatively dark despite the various light sources and
spells cast thus far, now shone with the fiery attack.  The bulk of
the monster was now completely aflame, and bits of it melted and fell
to the rocky floor of the cavern.

Otto:  (hurls two more flasks of oil into the conflagration, where
  they promptly explode, these sounds muffled by the roaring of the
  flames)
Kinichi:  That might be overkill.
Otto:  No such thing.
Skektek:  You've got that right.

  As if to punctuate their words, Belphanior cast a fireball, the
blast soaring from his hands to detonate upon the burning foe.  They
had found its weakness, and were capitalizing on it completely.  The
smaller, severed parts of the thing collapsed, writhing.  This seemed
to indicate that the minor monsters' health hinged upon the condition
of the main monster.

  The adventurers had to cover their mouths with cloaks or rags, such
was the acrid, oily stench given off by the dying monster.  They moved
back, into the tunnel they had entered by; this was both to avoid the
worst of the fumes and to stay away from the thing, in case it was
still capable of attacking.
  This was not the case, however, and shortly, the fires died out.
All that remained of the bizarre foe was a huge, black stain on the
cracked and charred cavern floor.  The smaller monsters, as well, were
gone, oily black stains marking their last locations.

Kinichi:  What the hell _was_ that?
Otto:  I don't know, but we sure kicked its ass.
wispy thing:  Yrrrp.
Belphanior:  (to Victoria)  Any ideas?
Victoria:  Not really.  In my time, I've heard tales...legends, of
  dark evils that lurk beneath the world's surface.  (she frowns)
  Though that describes a wide variety of monsters, to be sure.
Kinichi:  I'm sure _I've_ never seen the thing's like.
Skektek:  Nor I.
Aja:  One thing's certain:  it was Evil.
Victoria:  Evil?
Aja:  As opposed to evil.
Victoria:  Ah.
Razor Charlie:  (not the only one confused, he sneers and begins
  looking for his knives)
Jutokai:  (lying against the cavern wall, half-conscious, his horrible
  wounds bound)
Ys:  The creature was old, as well...it smelled like long-dead things.
Otto:  (nods)
Victoria:  (frowns)
wispy thing:  Brrrp.
Belphanior:  (examining the cavern's floor, in the vicinity of the
  monster's lair)  Neither it nor its severed parts had any soul...
  not one I could use, anyway.  (he frowns)  Odd, to say the least.

  They found remains of people - now nothing more than charred bits
of bone.  It was uncertain whether the monster had eaten the victims
piece-by-piece, or perhaps all at once, then spitting the bones out.

Belphanior:  I think it's safe to say that the humanoids we already
  encountered were servants of this creature...drones.
Aja:  They bled the same, and died the same.
Otto:  (nods)  Maybe the king monster somehow changed its victims, or
  their bodies, into the drones.
Belphanior:  We'll probably never know.
Skektek:  How's this for a theory:  the thing - whatever it was -
  came here, found a tribe of kobolds, and took them over, turning
  them into weird monsters.  Then they started roaming, to collect
  food for their master...?
Belphanior:  (rubs his chin)  Hmm...not bad...
Otto:  Could've happened.  (he looks around)  Let's get the hell out
  of here.
wispy thing:  (hovering over the dark stain on the cavern floor)
  Pfsss?

  They couldn't find anything interesting - bodies, treasure, or
substantial exits.  The few other tunnels that led here looped back
around, meeting other passages.  It was one big maze, and this big
cavern was its center.

Otto:  Well, that's that.  I think it's safe to say that the threat
  to our mines has been eliminated.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Still, I intend to collapse the tunnel that
  leads to this area...just in case.  (he surveys the cavern, then
  turns to the exit tunnel)  Come on, let's go home.





next:      a reunion, of sorts
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
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:     This story was written while game 6 of the NLCS was
  played.  It was a do-or-die game against the Cardinals, who were
  up 3 games to 2.  Despite a completely bogus "out" call
  involving Mark Lemke tagging up from third, the Braves managed
  to pull it out and claim a 3-1 victory.  Now on to Game 7!
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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