Chapter #632

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                                   +   +
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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                                 +
+     onyx dog figurine                                                   +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+   Tarl            barbarian warrior                                     +
+     war dogs (8)                                                        +
+   Date:           2/5/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          deep within the eastern Griff Mountains               +
+   Climate:        temperate                                             +
+   "You never told me they could do that!"                               +
+   "I didn't _know_ they could do that!"                                 +
+                                                     - from _Vampires_   +

                      DCXXXII.  World of Fungus

  All in all, it had been a rather amazing turn of events, Songa thought
to herself as she rested on the soft moss.  Nearby, Rillen slept, his
many cuts and gashes all but healed now.  Tarl was walking around taking
in the sights, amazed at the restoration of his vision.

Songa:  Not bad for a bunch whose ranks included one wounded and one
  blind man, a few hours ago.

  The short, stubby little fungus-man hadn't looked or acted threatening
since its appearance earlier that morning.  In fact, within a short time
after the first one had shown up, the open shelf of rock had been filled
with others.  Their slow, cautious movements - not to mention the way
they had started cavorting around the corpse of the slain white worm -
had convinced Songa of their lack of hostility.  It had quickly become
apparent that the great worm had been a menace to them, and thus the
adventurers were heroes, after a fashion.
  The weird little fungus-people varied in height, thickness, and color,
but they all had the same basic appearance:  a mushroom with limbs and
eyes.  The caps of the mushrooms seemed to correspond to hair.  They wore
no clothes, but also had no private parts to cover up; it wasn't possible
to tell if they had any gender whatsoever.  Most of them carried crude
spears or clubs, obviously fashioned from hardened pieces of root.  The
odd little beings didn't communicate by speech, as they had no tongues,
but they seemed intelligent enough.  Songa had reached a primitive form
of communication with them using hand signals, but that hadn't been
necessary after the shaman had showed up.  A tall, thin mushroom with
light blue coloring and large eyes, this one had seemed to hold some
sway over the others.
  She had initially called that mushroom-person the shaman, although
there was no real reason to suspect that it had spellcasting powers
worthy of that appellation.  What it did have was some strange sort of
telepathic power, which had allowed it to communicate with them using
no spoken words and thereby get some real conversation going...

  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to them)  We friends.
  Songa:  What's that my head?
  Rillen:  Did he say that?
  Tarl:  I have seen wizards do this...I think that little fellow is
    trying to speak with us.
  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to them)  Speak.  Yes.
  Songa:  How do you do this?
  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to them)  Use mind, not mouth.  Mind.
  Songa:  (thinks, rather than speaks)  Like this?
  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to her)  Yes, better.
  Songa:  (ESPing to the thing)  How is this possible?
  mushroom-shaman:  (makes a swaying movement that could be the rough
    equivalent of a shrug, then ESPs to her)  Always had.
  Rillen:  But-
  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to him)  Use mind.
  Rillen:  (thinks his words instead)  How long have you been down here?
  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to him)  Always.
  Rillen:  (ESPing to the thing)  Can the others hear me do this?
  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to all)  Not all.  Just me, can heard by all.
  Tarl:  (hears this thought, broadcast to all three of them)  What?
  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to them all)  Stop for now.  Must make able
    all hear at once.

  This had been accomplished with some small purple mushrooms...

  mushroom-shaman:  (ESPing to them)  Eat.
  Songa:  (does so, handing one to the blinded Tarl)
  mushroom-shaman:  Now thoughts like words spoken.  Even for you.  All
    of you.
  Songa:  Is it true, Rillen?
  Rillen:  Yes.
  mushroom-shaman:  Next to give back sight.
  Tarl:  Can you do that?
  mushroom-shaman:  Can do.  Worm juice hurts, but not more.  (he makes
    a gesture to another of his people, who scurries away)
  Songa:  (wondering if there are more white worms about)
  mushroom-shaman:  No.  Only one, dead now.  We come back out like did
    long before.
  Songa:  Do you have a name?
  mushroom-shaman:  Call me...Fungo.
  Rillen:  (nods)  Fungo.
  Fungo:  Must go home.  Needed healings there.

  At that time, they'd ventured to the home of the mushroom-people:  a
warren of caverns and passages nearby the tunnels of the slain worm.
These were accessed by moving through a wall of soft, foul-smelling
moss, which had kept the white worm at bay (as Fungo had explained in
his halting telepathic speech.)  It appeared that the mushroom-people
had lived in fear of the white worm for quite some time, as it had
seemed to like the taste of their spongy flesh.
  Other mushrooms had been fed to Rillen (though he hadn't wanted to
eat them - Songa had finally persuaded him) to speed his healing, and
as a side-effect he'd fallen into a deep sleep.  Fungo had used wet
moss on Tarl's eyes, and only moments later, his vision had begun to
  That brought them back to the here and now...

Tarl:  I wasn't afraid of the moss.
Songa:  Not even a little?
Tarl:  I already couldn't see.  I figured, what do I have to lose?
Songa:  Hmm, good point.
little mushroom-person:  (ambles by)  Bok, bok, bok.
Songa:  Huh?
Tarl:  If I understand correctly, we can read the thoughts of all of
  them, not just Fungo's.
Songa:  (regards the little mushroom-person as it bops away into a side
  tunnel)  I'm not sure all of them _have_ thoughts...

  The mushroom-peoples' warren was made up of a series of large, open
caverns like the one they were in now.  Mild light emanated from the
yellow moss on the walls.  The temperature and climate were pleasant
as well:  not too hot or cold, moist or dry - simply ideal.  The
larger chambers were connected by tunnels, which the humans had to
traverse on hands and knees due to their size.  Of course, the dogs
had no problem; even now, they roamed about the chamber, sniffing and
pawing at everything.

dog #2:  (sniffs at a mushroom-person, then starts nibbling on its
mushroom-person:  Neek!  (it darts away)
onyx dog:  (shaking its head)

  Songa, not wanting any surprises for the magical animal, had taken
its figurine from the sleeping Rillen and summoned the dog.  This
also confirmed something she'd been wanting to prove to herself:
either of them could use the figurine if necessary.

Tarl:  You know what?
Songa:  What?
Tarl:  We should go back to that big worm's lair and search it, for
  any treasure that might be lying around.
Songa:  Good idea.

  When Fungo returned, they expressed their wishes to explore the
worm's lair.

Fungo:  Why?
Songa:  There could be treasure there.
Tarl:  From previous victims.
Fungo:  Valuables in worm place?
Songa:  Yes.
Fungo:  If say so.
Songa:  (eyes the sleeping Rillen)
Fungo:  Let sleep.  Needs recover.
Songa:  Of course.
Tarl:  (looking around)  I'm not sure how to get to the worm's
Fungo:  I send help with.

  The help turned out to be Bulba, a short, chunky mushroom-person
who only "spoke" in one-word sentences.  Bulba led them out of the
chamber, through the warren, and eventually back into the wide open
area by the river.  Here, the white worm's corpse still rested, its
flesh already being consumed by a number of jellylike things.  They
ignored the intruders, intent upon their feast.

Songa:  There's the worm's tunnel.
Bulba:  Tunnel.
Tarl:  Talkative fellow, isn't he?
Bulba:  He.
Songa:  (heads toward the tunnel)
Bulba:  Worm?
Tarl:  No, the worm's been killed.
Songa:  It can't hurt you now.
Bulba:  Worm?
Tarl:  (to Songa)  Maybe he thinks there's another worm.
Songa:  Fungo told us there was only one.  I'm sure he's the one who
  would know.

  Just in case, they held weapons ready as they entered the smooth-
walled tunnel.  As it turned out, this tunnel was just one of a maze
of such passages.  This was where Bulba came in handy; the little
guy had an unerring sense of direction, and kept them from getting
lost on more than one wrong turn.

Bulba:  Find.  (he points to a tunnel ahead, which opens into a
  wider area)
Tarl:  This might be it.

  And it was:  some primitive instinct had led the worm to gather
indigestible odds and ends in this chamber.  Among the useless bits
of metal and bone, they found a helm, the head of a small axe, a
dagger, four iron spikes, two medium-sized gemstones, a metallic
potion bottle, a battered iron bucket, a broken arrow, and a large
number of silver pieces scattered about.

Tarl:  Hmm.  No way to tell what's magical and what's not.  Maybe
  we should take it all.

Bulba:  All.

  With that, they gathered the loot and made their way back to the
warren of the mushroom-people.

next:      a little help
released:  4/20/00
notes:     You have no idea how long I've been waiting to use the name
  "Fungo" in a story.

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