Chapter #557

previous chapter (#556)                                                                  next chapter (#558)

                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      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:       deep within the fortress of Greyspire               +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "Your friends have a high mortality rate, eh?"                   +
+                           - from _Once Upon a Time in the West_   +

                  DLVII.  Frozen in Their Tracks

  Mongo's exploratory force has just slain a tentacled horror in the
depths of Greyspire; now, the dwarves bind wounds and count losses.

Mongo:  Casualties?
Varan:  We lost two:  young Rorgdak in the creature's initial attack,
  and Durvin who was smashed to death beneath the thing.
Mongo:  Two...dammit.  That's two too many.
Varan:  For what it's worth, losses are part of every campaign, and
  I thought you did a good job.
Mongo:  Good job?  Of what?
Varan:  Leading and fighting.  (he turns and walks away)

  Several of the other dwarves were wounded, but overall, the force's
strength and morale were high, and the mission wasn't completed yet.
The stairway continued down another fifty feet or so, opening into a
large cavern.  The entire floor of this place was littered with bones,
many of them broken and smashed.

Mongo:  Must have been a lot of victims to feed that thing.
Durwood:  But where did they all come from?
Nibben:  Let's find out.  (he points to several tunnels along the far
  perimeter of the cavern)

  They formed a battle-line and took to one of the tunnels, but soon
learned that it was nothing more than a dead-end.  In fact, most of
the passages led nowhere; a couple branched out into other passages,
but all of these were dead-ends too.

Mongo:  Looks like a lair...
Varan:  Or a warren.
Durwood:  Maybe there was a settlement of some kind here, before that
  monster showed up.
Mongo:  Makes sense.  Boy, do we have a lot of dungeons to clear out
  down here.

  Only one passage offered exit from the cavern, and it twisted and
turned several times before ending at a small door of solid metal.
This portal was bolted in three different places, suggesting that
someone on this side had very badly wanted to keep something from the
other side out.

Nibben:  (checking the door)  Hinges are on this side...door looks to
  have a slanted jamb.  (he looks up)  Yeah, there must've been some-
  thing really nasty on the other side of this door once.
Durwood:  Maybe there still is.
Mongo:  We need to be careful - really careful.  Nibben, you open
  that door, and I'll lead the way in.
Varan:  (shaking his head)  No way!  The leader of a mission can't-
Mongo:  I said it, and I mean it.  Nibben, unbolt that door.
Nibben:  (hesitates, then obeys)

  The thick portal opened with a rusty squeak, sending tiny plumes of
dust from its edges.  A cold, dry breeze wafted from the newly-exposed
area beyond the door.  Grabbing the lantern from the hands of a soldier,
Mongo stepped through the doorway, his light piercing the darkness
beyond.  The dwarf now stood in another cavern, perhaps fifty feet wide
and a hundred in length.  The ceiling was fairly high, about twenty
feet on the average; stalactites hung from its expanse, in some cases
joining with the stalagmites on the cavern's floor.  The dwarves'
lanterns and torches (some of them preferred to carry torches rather
than lanterns, perhaps due to the comforting heat of fire) illuminated
the many-columned chamber, casting weird, flickering shadows across its
  Unseen by the dwarves, some of these shadows detached themselves from
the walls and stalagmites as the small force moved into the cavern.  It
was Nibben who first spotted one of the dark, shadowy figures that now
loosely ringed the party.

Nibben:  Look - there!  Something's watching us!
dwarven soldier:  (turns his lantern in that direction)
shadowy figure:  (hisses and recoils, using its cloak to cover its head
  in the face of the bright light)

  Other figures - three others, to be exact - now approached the dwarves,
but these too were repelled by the lanterns and even the torches borne by
the stout warriors.

Mongo:  Keep the light on them!  Each of you, work with the others nearby
  to flank and surround the nearest enemy!
dwarves:  (hasten to obey, weapons bristling)

  The denizens of this cavern had a nasty surprise in store for the
intruders, though.  As one group of a half-dozen dwarves surrounded a
cowering figure, the latter suddenly threw back its cloak in the face
of a bright lantern-beam.  Revealed was the creature's green, scaly
head - complete with a writhing mass of snakes instead of hair!  The
monster grinned, fangs gleaming, and hissed evilly; the dwarves gasped
in surprise and fear as the foul power of that horrid visage worked
its cursed magic.  Four of the six dwarves stiffened in their tracks,
unable to move, their thoughts slowing to a crawl.  As their companions
staggered away, nauseous, the afflicted dwarves turned grey, their skin
and armor alike changing...transforming.  Within moments, the victims
had become solid stone!
  The other three monsters were using the same tactic now - their cloaks
no longer used to hide their writhing snake-heads, they exposed their
malevolent faces for all to see.  The result was terrible and effective,
as more than half of Mongo's force began turning to stone.

Nibben:  Ack!  (he freezes in place, his skin color changing to grey)
Varan:  (manages to avert his gaze in time, and hefts his battle-axe,
  unsure how to attack what he can't look at)  Gods be damned!
Durwood:  The gods have nothing to do with this.  (he does his best
  not to look at the monstrous foes while he works a spell)
Mongo:  Enough!  (he eyes the most distant of the four creatures, the
  light near it insufficient to illuminate it fully to him, and takes
  aim, then hurls Stormcrest)

  The mighty hammer sailed true, a bolt of lightning screaming behind
it.  Friend and foe alike stopped what they were doing as the weapon
struck its target; a moment later, the lightning bolt came behind it.
The snake-headed fiend was first smashed by raw, brute force and then
blasted by a powerful jolt of electricity.  The combined attacks were
too much for its body to withstand, and it fell, smashed and burned.

Varan:  That's the way!  (he raises his shield, thinks about charging
  and ramming the nearest of the vile foes, then realizes that he'd
  never succeed)  Aw, hell.
Mongo:  (catches his hammer, turns, and hurls it again)
medusa #3:  (smashed in the back by the weapon, she falls, writhing)
random dwarf:  (darts forth, battle-axe poised to lop off the monster's
medusa #3:  (whirls, catching the unfortunate foe with her deadly gaze)
dwarf:  (stops, then begins to petrify)
Durwood:  (completes his spell, bringing into existence a huge, glowing
  hammer of force)  For Clangeddin!  (he uses the weapon to bash the
  monster nearest to him)
medusa #1:  (falls)  Ssssss!
Durwood:  (to a nearby dwarf)  Use your torch and oil!  Light that thing
nearby dwarf:  (obeys, hurling a flask of oil at the snake-headed foe)
medusa #1:  (recoils as the missile shatters at her feet, spraying her
  with flammable oil)  Sssss!
dwarf:  (hefts the torch, but as he aims, the medusa catches his gaze,
  and he begins turning into stone, torch and all)
Varan:  Damn.  (he grabs another torch that somebody dropped and charges
  forth a bit before hurling the flaming brand)
medusa #1:  (ignites, screaming wildly as her flesh burns)  Yaaaaaeeeeee!
medusa #2:  (walking fearlessly toward Varan and Durwood)  Sssss...
Varan:  (whirls instinctively, axe ready...and meets the medusa's deadly
  gaze)  Ack!  (he stiffens, his skin graying)
Mongo:  No!  Varan!
Varan:  (petrifying)
Mongo:  Die, foul one!  (he hurls Stormcrest, knocking the medusa away)
Durwood:  (still using his spiritual hammer to smash medusa #3, repeatedly)

  The snake-headed medusae were defeated in short order; due to the ranges
involved, and the shadows, Mongo was able to smash the foes at his leisure.
Even when they were reduced to pulp, though, things were still bad:  besides
himself, Durwood, and two others, the entire dwarven force had been turned
to stone!

Mongo:  Crap!
Durwood:  It's not your fault.
Mongo:  I was in charge...that makes it my fault.  It has to be someone's
Durwood:  We can see about reversing the might be possible.
Mongo:  Dammit.  What use is being strong and invulnerable if your friends
Durwood:  Never mind that.  What do you want to do now?
Mongo:  We can't very well proceed.  (he thinks for a moment)  Okay, we'll
  have to turn back.  You two check this area for exits and treasure.
Durwood:  What about you?
Mongo:  I'll move all the petrified dwarves into the last room.  It could
  be days before we are able to come back and get them, and I don't want
  to leave them here, helpless.
Durwood:  They're stone now - probably better-protected from harm than
  ever before.
Mongo:  I don't care.  I'm not leaving them here, at the mercy of unknown
  monsters.  And I'm the only one here strong enough to move them all,
  fast and safely.  (he hefts Varan's rocky form)  Now secure this room!

  A short time later, Mongo had completed his work; all of the petrified
dwarves were in the previous chamber, which he knew could be secured from
the other side.  Durwood and the other two had found some scattered gems
and jewelry, as well as a rotten sack of gold.  They'd also located an
exit:  a ten-foot-wide vertical shaft at the far end of the cavern.  A
cold wind blew up from this tunnel, and it intrigued Mongo.

Mongo:  (wanders toward the shaft)
Durwood:  (across the room)  What are you doing?
Mongo:  Just checking this out.  Get ready to go - when I get done here,
  we're leaving!

  The dwarf reached the edge of the vertical passage and peered over,
seeing only blackness.  He kicked a loose stone into the shaft, then
cocked an ear.
  He never heard the stone hit bottom.

Durwood:  (with the other two, he is at the door, ready to leave)  Are
  you done?
Mongo:  (yelling so that he can be heard)  Yeah.  Let's get-

  The rock around the lip of the tunnel suddenly gave way, causing Mongo
to lose his footing and slide, along with a good bit of rubble and dust,
right into the bottomless shaft!

Mongo:  YAAAAAAaaaaaa...

next:      Rillen and Songa get visitors
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
email:       (preferred)
notes:     I know it's terrible of me to leave Mongo for a bit, at
  this cliffhanger, but some of the other adventurers are clamoring
  for attention.  Fear not, though - you know as well as I do that
  our favorite dwarf won't die from a mere fall...even if it _is_ a
  fall into a bottomless pit...

previous chapter (#556)                                                                  next chapter (#558)