Chapter #556

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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 1991-8 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                    +
+                           +
+  Mongo        18th level dwarven warrior                     (CG) +
+  Date:        4/3/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       the fortress of Greyspire, within the Riftcanyon    +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "I didn't ask to be put in charge of this mission."              +
+  "Actually sir, you insisted upon it."                            +
+  "Right then, let's see how well I can do!"                       +
+                                   - from an unknown WWII movie    +

                  DLVI.  The Battle at the Stairs

  After several hours of marching and rubble-clearing, Mongo and his
exploratory band have reached a crude but imposing door of solid

Varan:  We've definitely not been down this far.  I know, because I
  was here when Lord Marcus first came to Greyspire.
Mongo:  I'm sure you were.
Varan:  (eyes the other, irritated)  Not like some.
Nibben:  Shhh!

  The young dwarf was busy examining the stone around the portal, his
deft hands searching for traps or other dangers.  He found none, and
turned his attention to the actual opening of the door.  It was held
fast, though, and no amount of strength seemed able to budge it.

Nibben:  Dammit.
Mongo:  (turns to Durwood)  Maybe some of your spells, war-priest?
Durwood:  No...unlike the craft of wizards, dwarf-magic is no good for
  opening paths in stone and rock.
Mongo:  That doesn't make any damn wonder I've never heard
  of dwarven priests before.
Varan:  (mockingly)  Maybe you should just smash the door down.  I
  hear that you super-heroes can do that.
Mongo:  (having just strapped on his strength girdle)  Good idea.  (he
  charges the stone door, ramming it with his shoulder)

  The portal, a good six inches thick and bonded with the surrounding
stone, burst open before the dwarf's assault.  Chunks of rock now
littered the floor of the chamber beyond, and as Mongo stood up and
brushed the dust from himself, the others piled into the new room.

Mongo:  (eyeing the shattered door)  How'd I do?
Varan:  (gaping)
Durwood:  We're going to need a way to seal that doorway, if we find
  something dangerous enough down here.
Mongo:  What makes you think that'll happen?
Durwood:  (looking around warily)  It did before...

  They were in a large roughly-hewn cavern, perhaps fifty feet wide
and twice that long.  The floor here was dotted with boulders large
and small, as if some long-past collapse had threatened to bury this
area.  In some places, shallow pools of stale water had formed; the
surfaces of these pools now quivered for the first time in untold
years as the dwarves walked around them.

random young dwarf:  (pointing at the small pools of collected water)
  I wonder if there's anything in those?
other dwarf:  Nah.  They're not that deep.
Mongo:  (claps both youngsters on the shoulder)  Don't be too sure
  of that - I've seen tentacled monsters pop out of puddles smaller
  than those!
dwarves:  (alarmed but unwilling to show it, they give the puddles a
  wider berth)
young dwarven warrior:  Tell me again why we're not just using our
  natural infravision down here?
other young dwarven warrior:  (smirks, pleased to be in the know)
  The general was apparently down here himself once, and found out
  the hard way that some of the monsters here don't show up to
first young dwarven warrior:  Great.  Just great.

  Opposite from the entrance they'd used was an exit:  a stone arch
framing a crudely-cut passage.  Upon entering this new pathway they
quickly saw that it was winding and slightly downward in slope.  It
led to the left, then the right, then the left again, then rightward
for quite some time.  All the while, they slowly descended into the
bowels of Greyspire...down, ever down...

Nibben:  Damned if we're not halfway to the bottom by now...
Mongo:  What's _at_ the bottom?  Of the canyon, I mean?
Durwood:  Nobody knows.  It's shrouded in thick fog, and since those
  areas don't directly impact the fortress, we've never seen the
  need to go down there.
Varan:  Besides, even if we did go down there and secure the whole
  area, new monsters would show up eventually.  Better to leave it
  be and just let whatever lives down there stay put.
Mongo:  (nodding)  Makes sense.

  The winding passageway finally ended, opening into a large, square
chamber.  This room in turn led to a stairway of great size, no less
than fifty feet wide and with a ceiling some thirty feet above the
staired floor.  The steps themselves were oversized, each one about
a foot high and deep.  The dwarves found these steps exceedingly
difficult to descend, and they had to be careful lest they trip and
fall, rolling and bouncing down into the darkness.
  Nibben went first, his lantern cutting a swath into the darkness
as he clambered, step by step, into the guts of Greyspire.  The
others followed, weapons in hand but not fully ready, thanks to the
awkward descent.  A short distance behind Nibben marched Mongo;
whatever else those such as Varan might think about the warrior,
it could never be said that he wasn't willing to lead the way into
the perilous unknown.
  About twenty steps into the descent, the mettle of Mongo as well
as all the others was tested, and sorely.  They heard it first:  a
low hissing sound from the darkness below.  Lanterns were brought to
bear, but revealed nothing; either the source of the feral noise was
quick on its feet, or else it was large indeed to be audible from a
great distance.  The dwarves learned the truth shortly, however, as
a great black tentacle shot forth from the darkness and snatched one
of the dwarven soldiers, a young fellow called Rorgdak.  In the blink
of an eye, Rorgdak was yanked away into the darkness below, screaming
horribly...until his cries were ended with a crunching sound.

Mongo:  Fuck!  (to Durwood)  Shed some light down there, now!
Durwood:  Aye.  (he begins working a spell)
Mongo:  Everyone else, weapons ready!  Stand your positions!

  Each dwarf, wherever he was on the stairway, stopped moving and
set himself for attack.  Those with crossbows readied them, eyeing
the darkness below for a target.  They were nervous, but they were
also dwarves, and they would not back down.  A few moments after the
crunching of Rorgdak ceased, the black tentacle came forth again,
this time for Nibben, who stood right in front of Mongo, lantern
shining into the darkness searching for a target.

Nibben:  (recoils)  Whoa!
Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest)  Die!

  The enchanted hammer struck the tentacle with a wet "thunk", and
the thing writhed in pain before retracting into the darkness.  Just
then, Durwood completed his spell; a smooth, round rock now glowed
brightly, and he tossed this light-source down into the black gloom
below.  The rock bounced down the high steps, casting ever-changing
shadows as it went, until it came to rest against a now-illuminated
horror from the Hells themselves!
  Mongo and the others now saw that there wasn't just one black
tentacle, but rather a dozen.  They were each about fifty feet in
length, and centrally attached to a great scaly body.  The creature
had no head or other limbs - it was just a thirty-foot wide body
from which issued long, powerful tentacles.  In the center of the
main body was a frothing maw, with a circular row of teeth, each
the size of a medium shield.
  Revealed by the light-rock, the beast emitted a loud, bloodcurdling
roar and whipped its tentacles toward the intruders.  Three dwarves,
including Mongo, were seized up in those thick, rubbery arms and
yanked toward the fanged maw.  Mongo, however, wasn't one to stand
by and be dragged to his doom...

Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest at the gaping maw ahead)
monster:  (hit in the mouth, two of its teeth are shattered, and it
  roars in anger)
Mongo:  Take that!

  The dwarf didn't wait for his hammer to return to his hand; he was
wearing his strength-girdle, and he took hold of the tentacle around
his waist.

Mongo:  (sinks his armored fingers into the rubbery flesh...and pulls

  Black blood spouted from the tentacle as the dwarf began to rip it
apart.  Nearby, the other snatched dwarves were also fighting, and
others were coming to their aid.  Axes and bolts tore into slimy
monster-hide.  Nibben hurled a hand-axe, sinking it deep into the
flesh by the monster's maw.  Varan charged forth, his battle-axe
biting deeply into one of the tentacles holding a fellow soldier.
Durwood was busy casting another spell.

Mongo:  (now holding his hammer again, he smashes at the wound he's
  made in the tentacle holding him)
monster:  (tightens its grip with the half-severed tentacle, but
  the dwarf slips free of the bloody limb)
Mongo:  Ha!  (he hurls Stormcrest at the foe's main body, then grabs
  hold of the end of the tentacle he just escaped and begins to pull)
monster:  (roars in pain and drops one of its other victims as Mongo
  tears the far end of that tentacle off entirely)
Mongo:  (waving his gruesome trophy around)  Have at it, boys!

  The other dwarves were having a field day; inspired by Mongo's
heroics, they had surrounded the monster and were systematically
hacking it to bits.  If a tentacle grabbed a dwarf, two of his
companions attacked the tentacle's root.  Others concentrated their
efforts on the central body, which was bleeding from a score of
wounds both minor and serious.  The dark beast was weakening, and
its roars sounded more like screams now.  Only one mighty blow was
needed to silence it forever, and Durwood was thinking along those

Durwood:  (chanting in ancient dwarven, he completes his spell, causing
  several stalactites to launch themselves from the ceiling)
monster:  (hit in its main body by these heavy, deadly missiles, it
  shudders one last time, and is still)
Mongo:  (raises his hammer)  Yeah!

next:      further descent
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
email:       (preferred)
notes:     As I write this, I'm chilling out in Hilton Head, S.C.
  We've had good sun for two days, but it's been raining hard since
  early afternoon today.  Oh well, at least it's not one of those

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