Chapter #629

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                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2000 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Rillen          18th level human monk                                 +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+   Tarl            barbarian warrior                                     +
+     war dogs (9)                                                        +
+   Date:           2/4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           nighttime                                             +
+   Place:          the eastern edge of the Griff Mountains               +
+   Climate:        freezing                                              +
+   "I don't wanna kill anybody...if I gotta get out that door and        +
+    you're standing in my way, one way or another you're getting         +
+    out of my way."                                                      +
+                                     - Mr. Pink, from _Reservoir Dogs_   +

                     DCXXIX.  Lair of the Hairy

  The moon's rays barely illuminated the cave mouth, and yet the watchers
could clearly see that not a single sentry stood guard.

Songa:  These are stupid bugbears.
Tarl:  All bugbears are stupid.
Rillen:  I'd guess that the sentries are inside there, probably in some
  deeper chamber.  As for the other hundred or so bugbears...(he shrugs)
Tarl:  Maybe this is their base - some series of caverns that opens to
  the outside right here.
Songa:  No.  These bugbears first appeared to the west, near where we
  made our home.
Rillen:  Actually, we're not quite sure where they _first_ appeared.
Songa:  True.  Still, they didn't come from this cavern, so either it's
  a base or it leads into the depths of the mountains.
Rillen:  Maybe we should have a wizard or thief among our number, if
  we're going in there.
Tarl:  Much as I hate wizards and magic, they have their uses, and you
  are right.
Songa:  But...we don't have any other allies here, and there's no way to
  get allies right now.  How about this:  we move in and find out what
  we can, and if there's trouble, we simply retreat.  Without horses,
  the bugbears probably can't chase us down.
Rillen:  A reasonable plan.
Tarl:  (shrugs)  Sounds good to me.

  A short time later, Songa implemented her idea, sneaking slowly and
meticulously down to the cavern mouth.  She made no sound, and blended
in almost perfectly with the shadows.

Songa:  (spends some long moments near the cavern mouth, listening for
  even the slightest sound)

  Hearing nothing, she signalled the others, who made their way down as
well.  Once they were about thirty paces from the entrance, they took
cover behind a large outcropping of rock, Rillen's bow covering the
opening.  Songa then moved into the cavern, holding her bastard sword
rather than the longer and bulkier spear.  As Rillen watched nervously,
Songa disappeared into the darkness of the cavern.

  Her eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness, and within moments she was
certain that she was alone in the chamber.  Some slight noise could be
made out, down a tunnel that led deeper into the mountain.  Moving back
outside, the huntress signalled to Rillen and Tarl; soon, they had joined
her inside the front cavern.

Songa:  (points to the tunnel, then puts a finger over her lips)
Rillen:  (nods)
Tarl:  (whispering to his dogs, who remain quiet)
Songa:  (creeps into the tunnel, moving silently away from the first
Rillen:  (brings the onyx dog into being, sending it after Songa)

  Rillen and Tarl followed after Songa and the magical hound, and Tarl's
war dogs brought up the rear.  It didn't take them long to encounter a

bugbear:  (snoring on duty, it leans against a large iron door which
  blocks further progress)
Songa:  (frowns)

  There was never any question of taking the humanoid alive; despite
the tremendous strength possessed by all three adventurers, they would
be hard pressed to immobilize a bugbear while making no sound.  That
left only one course of action.

Songa:  (sneaks up to the dozing sentry, then jabs her sword-point
  into his throat)

  The strike accomplished two things:  it rendered the foe incapable of
speech, and it dealt a rapid mortal wound.  Moments later, the bugbear
lay unmoving in a pool of its own blood, and the way was clear.  Tarl's
dogs shifted a bit at the smell of blood, but kept quiet, which further
amazed Rillen and Songa.
  After listening at the door, Songa tried it, finding it unlocked.
Surprisingly, the hinges were well-oiled; the portal swung open without
a sound.  Beyond, two dim passages led away.  Darkness wasn't total here,
thanks to the torches mounted in wall sconces ever twenty feet or so.
All three of the invaders had the same thought:  this place was also
the lair of a non-bugbear - someone who couldn't see in the dark.
  They chose the right-hand passage, passing several side chambers as
they moved.  One of these looked like a storage room for booze and
supplies, while another held weapons and shields.

Songa:  (regards all of this, not liking the look of it)

  They soon encountered another fork in the passage - this one three-
tined - and again chose the rightmost path.  They passed by another
storage chamber, smaller than the first, as well as a tunnel from which
the sound of rushing water could be heard.  By now, they had gotten
dangerously deep into the complex, too deep for a party that contained
ten dogs but no wizards.  Songa had just given the signal to turn back
when the first distant sounds became audible.  Grunting, guttural
conversation and heavy footfalls were close and coming closer - from
the way the adventurers had come!

  In situations like this, there were few choices, and fewer right ones.
Time, too, was of the essence.

Songa:  (points to the passageway ahead, urgently, then moves quickly
  in that direction)
Rillen:  (follows)
Tarl:  (likewise)

  They moved through a section that appeared to have been recently dug;
rubble littered the tunnel floor, making passage difficult.  On the
plus side, the passage narrowed in several places and wound this way
and that, which kept their odd deeper-into-enemy-territory retreat from
being seen by the bugbears.  On the negative side, there weren't torches
mounted in the walls of this area.  Rillen's wand of illumination solved
that problem, despite the risk of the light being spotted; they had to
be able to see.

Songa:  (whispers)  Since the bugbears are in a well-lit area, they're
  not likely to notice our light here, not with all of those twists and
  blockages the passage took.
Rillen:  (nods)

  They moved on, although the dogs were getting nervous now.  The air
was dry and stale, and somewhat dusty.  Rillen wasn't so sure that they
shouldn't have just attacked the bugbears and tried to fight their way
out, but it was too late now.  Right or wrong, Songa had made the call
and they were going to have to live with it.
  Without any warning, the passage ahead opened suddenly onto a large,
wide shelf of rock.  Songa had been a bit ahead of the others, and she
had the presence of mind to back up and bid Rillen to conceal his wand
of light.

Songa:  (presses her finger to her lips, then whispers again)  Big cave
  ahead.  People in it, below us.  Shh.
Rillen:  (passes the message on to Tarl)

  The humans moved out onto the shelf of rock, lying flat as they looked
at the scene below.  Perhaps a hundred feet down, on the floor of this
vast cavern, a hundred bugbears were gathered.  Several small fires lit
their camp, suggesting some vent-hole overhead or nearby.  The invading
adventurers could clearly make out several shaman-types among the hairy
humanoids' ranks.
  It was then that fate chose to take a wicked twist...

bat:  (hanging upside-down near the humans, its sleep is disturbed by
  their presence)  Screeee!
bugbear below:  (looks up, spotting three human heads before they duck
  behind the cover of the rock)  Hey!

next:      fight or flight?
released:  4/10/00
notes:     This past weekend, my softball team had two wins, one a 19-8
  rout, the other a win by forfeit.  Both games were followed by a party
  with a hot tub, which helped ease the pain.
    Something you need to know if you email me about getting an address
  added to the Adventurers mailing list:  DON'T email me from a different
  address than the one you want added!  I've been burned a couple of times
  by prank list additions, and so the trust system doesn't work for me
  anymore.  If you want an address added, please email me from that
  address only.  Thanks.

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