Chapter #679

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                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
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+     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   +
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+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+     onyx dog figurine                                                   +
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+   Date:           2/7/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          deep below the Griff Mountains                        +
+   Climate:        temperate                                             +
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+   "Where are we going?"                                                 +
+   "Anywhere but here."                                                  +
+                                               - from _Sleepy Hollow_    +
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                    DCLXXIX.  The Lair of the Black Worm





  The adventurers are between a rock and a hard place:  behind them lies a
town of troglodytes, while ahead of them looms a huge dark worm with a maw
full of sharp teeth.

black worm:  BWUUUUUURRR...
Rillen:  Dammit.
Songa:  Agreed.  (she takes a step back, spear held at the ready)

  The worm was perhaps ten feet thick, and resembled other such worms of
purple coloration that they'd seen or heard about in the past.  However,
the thin, writhing tentacles around its mouth could only have a sinister
purpose; furthermore, the pale white eyes atop the thing's head were
downright spooky.

Rillen:  (puts an arrow to his bow)  Maybe if we back off-

  They had no such luck, for the great dark worm lunged forward suddenly,
its deadly mouth snapping at Rillen.

Rillen:  (leaps backward, evading the attack)
black worm:  (gets a mouthful of rock for its trouble)  BWURRRR!  (its
  head weaves back and forth)
onyx dog:  Arf!  Arf!  (it stays well out of the worm's range, behind
  Rillen and Songa)
black worm:  (slithers toward the magical animal, more of its body coming
  into view from the abyss below)
Songa:  (takes three steps forward, hurling her spear with great force)

  The huntress' powerful cast sent the weapon deep into the worm's head,
right behind one of its large, pale eyes.  The monster thrashed about in
pain, its roars echoing loudly from the cavern's walls.  The spear was
sunk so deeply that only three feet of its shaft protruded from the wound.

black worm:  (rears up, roaring and thrashing wildly)  BWURRR!
Songa:  Arrows!
black worm:  (instantly turns in her direction)  BRRRRRRAARRRR...
Rillen:  (yells to Songa)  I think it's blind - it's tracking us by sound!
  (he lets an arrow fly, the shaft doubling into two, both of which hit
  the worm's head)
black worm:  (turns back toward Rillen)  BWURRRRRRRRR!
Songa:  (pulls her bastard sword from her magical backpack)

  Rillen was able to get another arrow fired, but then the worm caught up
with him.  Narrowly avoiding the toothy maw, he ended up getting slammed
to one side by the monster's head, dropping his bow and rolling back up
to a standing position.

Rillen:  (bruised, scraped, and aching)  Argh...
Songa:  (leaping into battle from the other flank, she slashes at the
  worm's head with all her might, burying her blade deeply in the flesh
  between its eyes)  Yaaaaaah!
black worm:  BWURRRRR!  (it undulates, knocking the huntress away as the
  great wound spurts great gouts of dark blood)
Songa:  (rips the blade from the monster's body, leaping back just in
  time to avoid its renewed thrashing)  Wow...damn good balance on this
  sword.

  With the great worm in pain and basically ignoring them, Rillen knew
that he had to act.  Despite his pain and the risk, he charged in, his
quarterstaff raised...and _pushed_ the worm toward the precipice!  Such
a feat would normally have been impossible, but the strength-belt he
wore, combined with the inherent unbreakability of his staff, made the
levering action work.  In fact, it worked very well; the worm's huge
body, slick with its own blood on the stony floor of the cavern ledge,
slid toward the edge, and then over.  The monster's roaring continued
for a few moments, until there was a loud "thump" as the thing's body
struck some stone surface in the unseen darkness beyond the wide ledge
they stood on.

Songa:  Damn!  It took my spear with it!  (she curses)
Rillen:  I wonder if it's dead.
Songa:  Who cares?  We need to get out of here.
Rillen:  Agreed.
Songa:  If the thing's not dead, it might come back for more.
onyx dog:  Arf!
Songa:  So let's get out of here.
Rillen:  Why take a step when we can take a leap?
Songa:  What the hell are you talking about?
Rillen:  Well...right now, we're basically in a world of trouble.  We
  don't know how far beneath the mountains we are.  We don't know which
  way is north, east, whatever.  We're out of food, and our light won't
  last forever.  Last but not least, we're likely to be outnumbered or
  physically outmatched in most encounters we might have.  Which reminds
  me, we'll eventually run out of arrows too.
Songa:  I've never known you to act hopeless-
Rillen:  I'm not.  I'm just reviewing the facts, which aren't good.
Songa:  To what avail?
Rillen:  (retrieves a ring from a secure pouch at his belt)  The genie
  of this ring has one task left to serve for me.
Songa:  And?
Rillen:  I'm fairly sure that he can get us out of here.
Songa:  (thinking about this)  Well, if we don't have any alternatives...
Rillen:  We really don't.  Without greater numbers, wizards, or priests,
  our lifespan down here is dangerously short.  (he eyes the ring)  It's
  the only way.
Songa:  The genie, eh?
Rillen:  The genie.
onyx dog:  Arf!

  After some cautious checking at the edge of their stone platform,
they were convinced that the black worm was either dead or gone, more
likely the former.  Rillen invoked the final use of his ring's mighty
power, and immediately, smoke began to whirl about before the warrior,
forming itself into a humanoid shape.

djinni:  WHAT IS THY BIDDING?
Rillen:  The three of us grow weary of these caverns, and would return
  to the surface world.
djinni:  (looks surprised)  THAT IS ALL?
Songa:  (shrugs to herself)  What more is there?
Rillen:  (to the djinni)  Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt if we broke
  the surface in a friendly land, rather than a hostile one.
Songa:  Actually...as long as we're doing this, I'd like to know that
  Tarl's okay, and if not, be there to help him.
djinni:  (concentrating)  YOUR FRIEND IS ALIVE AND WELL, FEAR NOT.
Rillen:  Good.  Then it's the surface world for us.
djinni:  VERY WELL.  ART THOU PREPARED?
Rillen:  (nods)  Songa?
Songa:  Ready.
onyx dog:  Arf!
djinni:  (regards the magical animal)  THEN...LET IT BE.



  The sudden glare nearly blinded them, such was its intensity after so
long underground.  The sun shone brightly, and the sky was crystal-clear.
They were standing at the intersection of two streets in what appeared
to be a fairly large city.  All around, people had stopped what they
were doing to gape in wonder at these two huge, dirty barbarians who'd
just materialized before them.

Songa:  Uh...where the hell _are_ we?
Rillen:  Good question.
Songa:  We'll find out before long, I guess.
Rillen:  Perhaps we should find a bathhouse, a tavern, and a leech.  Not
  necessarily in that order.
Songa:  I vote for food first.  The other things can wait.
Rillen:  Well, we got what we wanted - freedom from the underground.
Songa:  If I never see another cave again, I'll die happy.
Rillen:  All in all, not an excessively good or bad experience...things
  could have been a lot worse.
Songa:  At least it's over with.
Rillen:  And we learned something important.
Songa:  What's that?
Rillen:  That, as much as we prefer to be secluded and doing what we
  want, we are much weaker adventurers without companions.
voice:  It's about time you figured that one out.
Rillen:  (turns)  I know that voice...
Songa:  Arnold?!?
Arnold:  (grins)  Yes, it is me, Arnold!  I don't know what you're doing
  here, but let me welcome you with open arms!
Rillen:  (looking around, he shrugs...then checks his finger, finding that
  the djinni ring has vanished)  Friendly land, all right...
Arnold:  Enough time for talk later.  Come, come - we must get you cleaned
  up.
Songa:  Since when did you care about such things?
Arnold:  (regards her and Rillen, wrinkling his nose)  Really.  You are
  both covered in blood, sweat, and slime.
Songa:  (looks at Rillen)
Rillen:  (shrugs)  It's true.
Arnold:  But to answer your question, I began to care after the wife and
  children came along.
Songa:  What?!?
Rillen:  Wife and children?!?





next:      Arnold's story
ftp:       ftp.peldor.com
www:       http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:  http://www.peldor.com/
email:     tmiller@peldor.com
released:  10/2/00
notes:     I'll finish this arc up with the next episode (680) and then
  shift gears to the Halbarad/Peyote/Rob triad.
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