Chapter #569

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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:       deep within the fortress of Greyspire               +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "I wonder if that silly duck will remember he can fly?"          +
+                                                    - Bugs Bunny   +

                   DLXIX.  Alone in the Dark

  After a series of battles that decimated his exploratory force,
Mongo fell into a deep shaft...

Mongo:  YAAAAAAaaaaaa...

  The dwarf took a brutal beating, bouncing off of protruding rocks
and ledges as he plummeted downward.  By the time he remembered
that his armor could save him from this pummeling, he was already
bruised and bleeding.  However, simply thinking about that power was
enough to invoke it; the dwarf's fall halted, his body now floating
like a feather.

Mongo:  (grabs a ledge, pulling himself over and onto it)  Ungh.
  (lying there on his back, he looks up, finding that he's unable
  to make out the opening he fell into)

  After resting for a short time, Mongo surveyed his immediate
vicinity.  The weird fungus that had interfered with infravision
in the levels above was still causing problems, so the dwarf used
his flint and steel to light a small fire.  What he saw made him
pause and take notice.
  The vertical shaft was roughly twenty feet wide, with steep
sides and numerous small ledges like the one Mongo now sat on.
Eyeing the rock above and around him, he quickly realized that
his mountaineering skills wouldn't be enough to get him back up.

Mongo:  (looks down, over the ledge into the blackness below)

  He decided to see just how deep this shaft was; finding and
lighting a torch, he held it over the ledge for a moment before
dropping it.  The flaming brand fell...and fell...and fell.  It
quickly faded to a dot of light...then a pinprick...and then it
was gone.

Mongo:  Damn...

  Much as he disliked it, there was only one way to go:  down.
He wouldn't need ropes or spikes thanks to his armor's power, but
he still wasn't excited about the situation.  All the same, there
really wasn't anything else to do, so after preparing himself and
lighting another torch, Mongo took the leap, sailing off the ledge
and floating down into the darkness.
  He floated for quite a while.  All around him, weird fungus and
odd rock formations greeted his descent, reminding him yet again
that he had entered a lost place...a region of Greyspire that had
seen few, if any, visitors.  At one point, he grabbed a ledge and
stopped himself, for his torchlight had revealed a strange, smooth
green object imbedded in the rock of the shaft.  Upon closer
examination, Mongo saw that it was a small ovoid, about four or
five inches long; most of it was buried in the surrounding stone.
He grabbed the thing, trying to dislodge it, but it was stuck
fast.  Unwilling to give up, the dwarf rapped at the rock with
his hammer, chipping away bits of stone until the odd object
was loosened in its stony prison.

Mongo:  (takes the ovoid, eyeing it before stashing it in a pouch)

  Satisfied, he let go of the ledge and began floating downward
yet again.  As he dropped, light as a feather, he had a lot of
time to notice the increasing number of webs and the narrowing
width of the shaft.  He floated, ever downward, for what seemed
like forever, but finally, his feet touched ground.  Brandishing
his torch, Mongo looked around.

Mongo:  (turns in place)  Whoa.

  The floor of the shaft was littered with shattered fragments of
bone.  Some were draped with tattered bits of rotted cloth, while
others were decorated by dented, scraped pieces of rusty armor.
It made sense, really - most people who fell wouldn't have a way
to survive the experience, and these were their remains.
  A narrow, rounded tunnel led away from this makeshift gravesite,
and Mongo headed that way, his torch casting a dim, flickering
light around him.  The passage twisted and turned several times
before opening into a larger, smoothly-walled chamber.  As Mongo
entered this new area, he found himself face-to-face with a large,
fierce-looking monster!  The thing looked to be eight feet tall,
at least; its limbs were brown, bony, yet thick.  Both hands and
feet ended in long, wicked claws.  The thing's tendons and veins
were visible beneath its pallid, glistening skin.  Its head was
bulbous and elongated, and its mouth was a stretched, wide maw
filled with curved fangs, from which glistening greenish slime
dripped at an alarming rate.

thing:  Ssssss!  (it takes a step toward the dwarf)
Mongo:  Fuck!  (without hesitation, he hurls Stormcrest)

  The hammer smashed into the foe, hitting it in the stomach and
driving it back into a wall.  The thing staggered for only a
moment, bounding back with astonishing agility.

Mongo:  (as his hammer is still on its way back, he throws up one
  arm to protect himself)
thing:  (lands atop the dwarf, flailing and clawing at him)
Mongo:  (protected to a large degree by his armor, he yet suffers
  several deep gashes on his arms and legs, and one of his ears
  is half-torn away)  Argh!

  The strange monster was strong, but not as strong as a giant;
with a single swing of his gauntleted fist, Mongo bashed it in
the face, snapping its head back.  The next instant, Stormcrest
returned to his outstretched hand, and he caught the hammer.

Mongo:  Hah!

  As his left arm still held the snapping, rending monster at bay,
his right brought the enchanted hammer's end to bear on the thing's

Mongo:  Eat lightning, you!

  The powerful bolt of electricity hit the creature point-blank,
knocking it back even as the searing arcs of blue lightning burned
the thing to a crisp.  Incredibly, it was still alive; it staggered
to its feet across the room, melting flesh and green blood dripping
from its ravaged body.

thing:  Scrreeee!
Mongo:  Die!  (he hurls Stormcrest once more)

  The hammer pulverized the monster, but its flight didn't end there;
it flew on, continuing until it smashed into the chamber's wall with
an impact that shook the entire cavern.

Mongo:  What-

  The stricken wall collapsed, burying the weird monster, but then
the chamber's ceiling began to fall apart as well, huge rocks and
flumes of dirt raining down all over the place.

Mongo:  Fuck!  (he looks around, watching in shock as a gigantic
  boulder falls and blocks the way he came in)  Dammit!  (almost as
  an afterthought, he catches his hammer as a fist-sized rock bounces
  off of his helmet)  Ow!

  A few moments later, the entire cavern collapsed in upon itself,
burying all within beneath tons of rock and rubble.
  Well, all but one.  Right before everything came tumbling down,
Mongo had spotted a large crack to one side, opened up by the
miniature earthquake he'd just triggered.  Knowing full well what
was about to happen, he had leapt toward the rift, preferring an
unknown hole to a certain burial.  That mix of instinct and luck
had saved him; as the chamber caved in, he'd slid down the tilted
side of the small crevasse, downward into the darkness.
  His slide ended with a splash, as he plunged into icy water.
He panicked for a moment before remembering that his enchanted
necklace allowed him to breathe underwater, so he calmed down and
took stock of his situation.  He wasn't moving, therefore the water
wasn't moving, therefore he was in a lake or pool rather than an
underground river.  His torch, of course, was gone; he was rather
surprised to find that his infravision worked once more.  Perhaps
the strange fungus that had coated much of the area before didn't
or couldn't grow down here; whatever the case, Mongo didn't care.
Of course, there wasn't much to see.  He could make out the dim
outline of the chamber he was in:  a large cavern, entirely filled
with water.
  Well, that wasn't going to stop him.  With all his armor and
weaponry, he'd sunk to the bottom right away.  He simply began
walking along the deep pool's bottom; as he did so, he had an odd
thought that was completely out of place in the present situation.
It occurred to him that the iron dwarf, last seen and fought on
Necros' remote isle, could have escaped the cave-in just as Mongo
had done here; the savage foe could also have walked along the
ocean bottom until it found dry land, just as Mongo was walking
along underwater right now.
  He put such thoughts aside as he came upon a tunnel in the
cavern floor.  It looked more promising than anything else he
could make out, so he walked down the inclined rock and entered
the tunnel.  It wound this way and that, but was definitely
going elsewhere besides the pool chamber, which was all Mongo
cared about.  He walked, and walked, and moments stretched out
into hours, or at least it seemed like it.  The dwarf's thoughts
drifted, turning to other times, other places.
  He imagined what it would have been like to live in past times,
before dwarves and elves and humans lived in relatively peaceful
coexistence.  He thought of those ancient dwarf-kings, who had
led their people from mountain to mountain, a savage life filled
with few comforts, and much violence.  Here, there was no time or
inclination for diplomacy, friendship, exploration, or even wasted
time.  There was only survival, and the strength of the dwarves
counting on their own on a daily basis.
  Then, just like that, the vision dissipated, returning to whence
it came.  Mongo shook his head, trying to clear it; it was unusual
for him to daydream about anything, much less something so strange,
during a life-threatening situation.  He realized that the slow,
fluid walk underwater had bored him and lulled him.  He swore not
to let it happen again, and he plodded on resolutely.  Unnoticed
by its wielder, Stormcrest glowed, ever so slightly, and ever so

  A short while later, Mongo ascended a natural ramp of stone and
emerged from the water.  He shook the water out of his hair and
beard, then checked out the area he was in:  a small cavern with
no other exits or entrances.

Mongo:  (takes his helmet off, scratching his head)

  The dwarf had experience with stone and its properties; he felt
that something was odd here.  After looking around for a moment
or two, he began rapping on different parts of the chamber's wall.
Sure enough, some of them sounded different than others; this told
him that perhaps he could break through to freedom.  He figured
that by now, he was more than a thousand feet below where he'd
started this adventure; it was quite possible that his altitude
was near that of the Riftcanyon floor.
  Taking no time to rest, he hefted Stormcrest and backed up.  A
single mighty throw caused chunks of rock to fly all around, one
or two nicking his exposed skin.  However, the sound of the impact
and the size and shape of the impact-point told him that he was
on the right track here.  Another hurled blow, and then a third,
were sufficient to expose a narrow crack - through which sunlight
shone, nearly blinding him!

Mongo:  Clangeddin!

  He walked up to the small opening and grabbed at its edges,
ripping pieces of stone away and broadening the hole until it was
big enough for him to stick his head through.  Looking up, down,
and all around, Mongo saw that he was a mere fifty feet above
the rocky floor of a canyon.  It took him a moment to realize
that it was indeed the much-feared and avoided Riftcanyon floor.
Murky mists prevented any clear view upward; what Mongo had first
thought of as bright sunlight was in fact a filtered fragment of
what one above these mists would see.
  With a final heave, he pulled himself through the crack and
emerged from the under-caverns of Greyspire.  Float-falling once
more, he slowly drifted down, until he touched the Riftcanyon's
floor.  As he had known it would, Greyspire's base formed the
western terminus of the Riftcanyon; to the east, the canyon
widened, beckoning.

Mongo:  (looking around)  All I have to do now is figure out how
  to get out of my work cut out for me.

  Without further ado, the dwarf began walking eastward, making
his way through, across, and over the stony debris that made up
the Riftcanyon's mysterious floor.

next:      adventures in the dangerous Riftcanyon floor
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
email:       (preferred)
notes:     Thanks to Quentin Stephens, Bob Ericksen, Thomas Taylor,
  and several others for ideas or comments pertinent to this story.
    I had originally planned to wrap this arc up here, but frankly,
  I'm having too much fun with it.

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