Chapter #913

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2006 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!                                          +
+   Date:          8/22/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          indeterminate                                          +
+   Place:         a dungeon somewhere near the Crystalmist Mountains     +
+   Climate:       dry and cool                                           +
+   "You know, you're more clever than you look."                         +
+   "Better than looking more clever than you are."                       +
+                       - James Bond and "R", from _Die Another Day_      +

                   CMXIII.  The Godsend

  The situation was grim.  The party was stuck on the ninth and bottom-
most level of the dungeons of the Mad Over-Wizard Nebiluzeenub XIII,
with a murderous horde of orcs on one side and a gigantic cave dragon
on the other.

Durg the dwarf:  (hurls a hand axe at the nearest orc, splitting its
  nappy head like a soft melon)  That was my last throwing-axe!  Do
  something, wizard!
Sardeep the wizard:  I am, you fool!  (he launches a sheet of flame that
  bathes the entire front rank of the charging orcs in searing flames,
  killing a dozen and setting a dozen more aflame)  That should slow
  them down!
Bartoz the priest:  We don't need to slow them down, we need to stop
  them.  (he gazes past the burning orcs at the ranks behind, who are
  yelling and chanting with a sense of imminent victory)  They've really
  got the blood-lust, don't they?
Hilda the amazon:  Blood-lust, my ass.  (she fires an arrow, hitting an
  orc in the forehead and felling it instantly)  They die just like any
  other animals.
Durg the dwarf:  We can't even go the other way, thanks to that dragon
  in the big room.  (he gazes at the body on the crude litter)  We were
  doing okay until they got Weebo.
Bartoz the priest:  (gestures, causing his summoned spiritual hammer to
  swing back and forth, giving the attacking humanoids some pause)  This
  won't stall them for long...and it wouldn't really have stalled them
  at all, except that they're so stupid.
Hilda the amazon:  (takes down another orc that dared to dart around the
  smoking pile of bodies, fifty feet away)  They're stupid _and_ they're
  easy targets.  They may overwhelm us, but not before many of them die
  much-deserved deaths!
Bartoz the priest:  Of course, but let's try to avoid getting to that
Durg the dwarf:  We need to do something, and fast.
Sardeep the wizard:  (spellcasting)  I'm working on it.

  The group's other wizard, Weebo - a half-elf who was also a priest -
had been felled by a monster's poisoned stinger several hours ago.
Bartoz had been able to neutralize the poison, but the damage had been
done, and the unfortunate Weebo was now just dead weight, literally.

Sardeep the wizard:  Between him and that idiot halfling, we're moving
  slower than we need to be...too slow to survive, that's for damn sure.
  (he creates a thick wall of ice, blocking the passage and cutting the
  orcs' attack off)  There!
Hilda the amazon:  (bangs on the ice-wall with one fist)  Dammit!  Now
  we can't kill any more of them!
Sardeep the wizard:  (drily)  It wasn't them I was worried about.
Durg the dwarf:  That won't hold them for long.  (he looks around, his
  gaze falling on the other end of the winding underground passage)  We
  can't go back that way - the dragon is waiting, in that big cave.
Serge the halfling:  Dragon?  What dragon?  (he wanders over to the wall
  of ice and touches it, recoiling from the intense cold)  What is this?
  Where are we?  Who are you?  I'm so confused.
Bartoz the priest:  He hasn't been the same since he drank from the
  fountain of forgetfulness.  (he chuckles)  Some thief.
Durg the dwarf:  It's his own damn fault.
Sardeep the wizard:  A halfling can always be counted on to do something
  monumentally stupid.
Serge the halfling:  (wandering around near the ice-wall, confused)  Why
  is this ice here?
Durg the dwarf:  Well, remember that he did disarm a number of deadly
  traps in that maze-like area.
Bartoz the priest:  He also found the secret treasure room behind the
  chamber with the fire-beetles.
Sardeep the wizard:  Perhaps, but what has he done for us _lately_?
Serge the halfling:  (whistling a nameless tune to himself, he scratches
  his head)
Hilda the amazon:  (sighs)

  This party was in bad shape.  Eight previous levels of adventuring in
this dungeon had slowly sapped their strength, magic, and supplies.  The
obvious answer - simply teleporting out to some same place - had failed,
as for some reason that mode of transportation wasn't working in these
deeper levels.  Worse, the cave dragon (and its cave) now stood between
them and the way they'd come.  That beast had stripped the party of its
elven cleric/thief and two warrior henchmen, and was probably feasting
on their bodies right now.  Luckily, the group had been most of the way
across that cavern before the dragon awakened, and they'd escaped into
this complex of passages and rooms, where the huge monster was unable
to follow.
  With Weebo slain and Serge effectively useless, the group was down to
four functional members (they'd lost Crestus the paladin to a basilisk's
gaze, back on the sixth level.)

Durg:  What the hell are we going to do now?  They'll get through that
  wall sooner or later.  (he raps on the ice with the pommel of his
  battleaxe)  Well, okay, it might be a while, but still...
Bartoz:  (disgustedly)  Well, we could just sit here and wait to die.
  Think of the choices:  cut down by a mob of wild orcs, or torn apart
  by a subterranean dragon.
Sardeep:  Those choices are unacceptable.  (he begins rummaging through
  a pouch of holding)
Hilda:  What are you up to now?
Sardeep:  Occasionally, we find magical items that we either can't use
  or don't understand.  I don't know about you people, but I tend to
  retain such items...and I happen to have one that falls into both
  categories.  (he produces a scroll)
Hilda:  Paper?  How will that help us fight an army, or else a dragon?
Durg:  (scratches his beard)  You've seen as well as I how sometimes
  wizards can cast spells from such scrolls.
Hilda:  Bah.  (she paces back and forth restlessly, her longsword held
  tightly)  When this wall of ice falls, we'll see whose names make it
  into the legends.  (she glances at Serge the halfling, who is staring
  at the ceiling)  And whose do not.
Bartoz:  (leaning over Sardeep's shoulder)  What have you got there?
Sardeep:  It's a scroll of summoning, and it's quite powerful - beyond
  even my esteemed level, I will admit.  I can perhaps use it to summon
  some aid for us...if I am careful.
Durg:  (puts his ear to the ice-wall, hearing the sounds of impact from
  the other side)  Time's short, friend.
Serge:  (also puts his ear to the wall, but gets a little too close, and
  finds his ear frozen to the ice)  Uh-oh.
Bartoz:  (to Sardeep)  How long?
Sardeep:  (double-checking the scroll's contents, he scribbles some
  notes on another piece of parchment)  Soon...very soon, if my quick
  deciphering of this is accurate.
Hilda:  And if it's not?
Sardeep:  Then nothing will happen.
Durg:  And what happens if you _are_ able to read the scroll?
Sardeep:  Then some mighty ally - or perhaps several - will be magically
  brought to our aid here.
Durg:  Like a dwarven battle-lizard?
Sardeep:  Mmm...something like that, yes.
Durg:  Oh.  Well, that would be good.
Bartoz:  (absentmindedly watching the amnesiac Serge as the halfling
  tries to get his ear loose from the wall of ice)  We definitely can't
  get worse than our current state.
Serge:  Uh...can someone help me here?
Sardeep:  Somebody shut him up - I'm trying to think.  (he scrutinizes
  the scroll, frowning)  Some of these characters are just scribblings.
Durg:  I think they're chopping through your ice-wall.
Sardeep:  This scroll and its incantations are precise and powerful.
  There can be no rushing of the casting-
Hilda:  (stands suddenly as a huge impact shakes the ice, and a large
  crack appears in the barrier)
Durg:  That was no orc.
Sardeep:  (quickly holds the scroll aloft)  Ah, here we go, time to cast
  the spell.  (he begins chanting)
Serge:  (finally free of the wall, he regards the wizard oddly)  What's
  he babbling about?
Bartoz:  (ignores the halfling)  I wonder what we'll get from the spell
  of summoning?  An iron golem would be good.
Hilda:  Or a gigantic, savage bear.
Bartoz:  Hopefully Sardeep is striving to be more ambitious about the
  sort of creature he summons.
Hilda:  (firmly)  A gigantic, savage bear.
Durg:  Or a dwarven war-lizard.
Bartoz:  Well, we can't all ride that.
Durg:  I can ride it, and that would be more than enough to scatter
  that horde of orcs in no time!
Sardeep:  There is no controlling what sort of ally we gain from this.
  Now be quiet, all of you.  (he backs up as the air in front of him
  begins to glow with arcane energies, and the scroll begins to burn
  with weird purple flames)  The summoning is beginning.

  The wall of ice (and the pounding from the other side of it) seemed
suddenly distant, as the magic took effect, somehow reaching across the
space of reality to a distant place, where an unsuspecting creature was
plucked from its surroundings and deposited here...

Peldor:  (appears on the dungeon floor, garbed in nightclothes and sound
  asleep, if only for a moment)  Zzzz...(his head bumps the cold stone
  floor)  Ngh...huh?  (he sits up, yawning)
Durg:  Who the hell are _you_?
Peldor:  (suddenly alert, he leaps to his feet)  What?!?  Where?!?
Hilda:  (glares at Sardeep)  A man, unarmed and unarmored, and garbed
  in nightclothes as well?  (shaking her head)  We're doomed.
Sardeep:  But...I don't understand.
Peldor:  I don't understand either, but someone had better explain to
  me what the hell is going on.
Hilda:  (steps close to the man, who she towers over by a good foot)
  Or what?
Peldor:  (abruptly realizes that he's dressed in nightclothes, and has
  none of his usual weapons, armor, or magical items)  Or...or...damn.
  (he looks around, noting the icy wall and the pounding coming from
  its other side)  I'm assuming that this isn't some bad - but very
  realistic - dream.
Bartoz:  (looking around at the slain half-elf, the amnesiac halfling,
  the cracked ice-wall, and then this strange man in pajamas)  Oh, this
  isn't a dream - it's a nightmare.
Sardeep:  (regards the ashen remains of the scroll he just used)  What
  a cruel jest of the gods.
Peldor:  Gods?  (he thinks for a moment)  Okay, this is obviously some
  dungeon, and you are explorers within it.  So you've summoned me here?
Bartoz:  You don't miss a thing, do you?
Sardeep:  Are you some kind of hero, or perhaps a high priest?  Or even
  a wizard?  Tell me you're an archmage...
Peldor:  (shakes his head)  No, no, and no.
Bartoz:  It figures.  You don't _look_ like an archmage.
Hilda:  Are you a thief, then?
Peldor:  Well...yeah, I've been known to steal a thing or two.  (he
  frowns)  Have any of you heard, by chance, of the mighty Peldor?
Bartoz:  Nope.
Sardeep:  (shakes his head)
Hilda:  Not at all.  Should I have?
Peldor:  (sighs)  _I_ am Peldor.
Serge:  Peldor?  What is a "Peldor"?  (he begins walking around in a
  random circle)  Peldor, Peldor, Peldor...
Peldor:  (regards the halfling, who is obviously insane)  What's wrong
  with him, anyway?
Bartoz:  Long story.
Hilda:  Here's a short story.  (she points to the wall of ice)  We don't
  have long before those orcs break through and chop us to bits.
Peldor:  Actually, orcs usually take prisoners, for torture and sport
  later on.
Bartoz:  Well, at least there's a bright side.
Sardeep:  So...Peldor.  Have you any skill, any power, anything that
  might even remotely be of use to our continued survival here?
Peldor:  (points to the other direction of the passage)  Why not just
  go that way?
Durg:  Oh, we don't want to go that way.  Trust me.
Peldor:  Something worse than orcs?
Hilda:  Dragon.  Big, angry dragon.
Peldor:  Right.  Okay, is there some reason you haven't tried simply
  teleporting out of this dungeon?
Bartoz:  (to Hilda)  Well, at least he obviously knows something about
Sardeep:  We can't teleport, either.  This place is either too deep, or
  else somehow shielded against such magic.
Peldor:  (walking along the wall to his left, examining its stonework)
  And where are we, exactly?
Sardeep:  The lower levels of the dungeons of the Mad Over-Wizard,
  Nebiluzeenub XIII.
Peldor:  Well, that explains everything.  (he taps one section of wall,
  then another)  Never heard of him.
Bartoz:  I'm sure he's never heard of you, either.  Then again, he's
  been out of sight for a century.  This is his dungeon, but it's not
  known if he's actually in this place.
Durg:  (helpfully)  We came down here searching for the fabled treasure
  hoard of Neb-  Nebbul-  oh, forget it.
Peldor:  (moving toward the corner of a small dead-end stub to the main
  passage)  Treasure, eh?  Did you find anything?
Durg:  A bit, here and there, but nothing to match the legends.
Bartoz:  Plenty of traps and monsters, though.
Peldor:  And secret doors.  (he pushes a section of wall, and it moves
  inward an inch)  Ungh!  (he turns to the others, then points to Hilda)
  You look strong - can you give me a hand here?
Hilda:  (rushes over)  What's this you've found?
Peldor:  A secret door.  I'd have figured that experienced dungeon-
  dwellers like yourselves would have found this easily.
Bartoz:  Look, we've lost four members, plus Serge there lost his mind.
Sardeep:  Not that he had much to begin with.
Bartoz:  And Sardeep's used just about all of his magic, and we haven't
  had time to rest, much less sleep, in many hours.  As for the door,
  Serge was our thief, and his job was to find things like this.
Hilda:  (helping Peldor push the door further open, she peers beyond,
  excited)  There's another passage back here!  We've got our way out!

  Without further ado, they carried Weebo's litter through the opening,
then ushered Serge into the new passage as well.

Peldor:  Wait, before you close that door.  (he gathers up random bits
  of debris from the floor)
Durg:  What are you doing?!?  They'll break down that ice-wall any
Peldor:  Yeah, but we'll gain a lot more time if we lead them down a
  false trail.  (he tosses the debris down the passage, in the direction
  of the dragon's cave)  If they think we went that way, they won't look
  around here.  (he darts through the door)  Okay, let's get this thing

  It was a simple matter to push the secret door back to its closed
position.  Durg lit a torch, and they stood ready to explore this new

Peldor:  I don't suppose any of you have an extra longsword, or even a
Sardeep:  (rolls his eyes)  What kind of summoned ally shows up without
  a single weapon?
Peldor:  The kind who was sound asleep in his bed in the middle of the
  night, that's what kind.  (he takes the dagger offered to him by
  Hilda)  Thanks.
Hilda:  Don't ask for boots or clothes.  We barely know you.
Peldor:  (smirks)  Okay, here's the deal.  Since I can't get back home
  without getting out of here, my interests now parallel yours.
Durg:  Para-who?
Peldor:  I'll help you as best as I can, but it's not going to be easy.
  All of my magic items - sword, armor, and the rest - didn't make this
  little trip with me.  Fortunately, I have a good bit of experience in
  these sorts of adventures.
Bartoz:  I'm Bartoz, a priest.  I hope you realize that we'd take you a
  lot more seriously if you had real clothes on?
Peldor:  (shrugs)  I'll do my best.
Hilda:  I am Hilda, warrior-woman of the barbarians!
Peldor:  I can see that.
Durg:  (nods)  I'm Durg, of the dwarves.
Peldor:  (glances at Sardeep, who has said absolutely nothing in the way
  of introduction)  And who's this happy, jolly barrel of laughs?
Sardeep:  (fuming)  I am Sardeep, a wizard.
Bartoz:  (points at the halfling who's absentmindedly examining this
  side of the secret door)  Uh...
Hilda:  (picks Serge up by the collar and pulls him away from the door)
Serge:  But...but...
Bartoz:  This is Serge, who can't even remember who he is or what he
Serge:  I know nothing, because I can't remember anything.
Peldor:  What about this dead half-elf?
Durg:  That's Weebo, our other wizard.  And priest.  (he shakes his
  head)  He went and got himself poisoned.
Peldor:  I hate it when that happens.  (he gestures at Durg's torch,
  whose flame is flickering a certain way)  Looks like there's a draft
  in the direction we need to go to get away from the secret door, and
  the orcs on its other side.
Durg:  (nods)
Sardeep:  Wait, who put you in charge?
Peldor:  No one.  I got summoned here to help, and though I want to save
  myself and get the hell out of here, I'm also trying to help you people
  since you seem like decent folks.  I'm just offering suggestions here.
Bartoz:  And good ones, thus far.
Hilda:  (to Sardeep)  Yeah, so shut up.

  As they walked along the passage, which made a slight turn every now
and then, Peldor reflected on this situation.  Obviously some powerful
magic had been used to summon him, apparently through no control from
the one who had cast the spell from the scroll.  Peldor had always had
a nagging suspicion about exactly _where_ summoned monsters came from,
and now he found himself wondering if he had the answer.  If so, he
now felt a slight pity for all of the countless monsters that had been
plucked from their homes (and perhaps families) and thrust into random
dungeons to help adventurers, or their foes.  It was, he realized, a
truly crappy thing to have happen to you.

Hilda:  -I said, is that some kind of wedding ring?
Peldor:  Eh?  (he looks at the ring on his left ring finger)  Yes, it
  is.  I'm happily married and have a wife and daughter who I'd really
  like to get back to.
Hilda:  What about that ring on your other finger?  Do you have two
Peldor:  (opts not to reveal the fact that he's wearing a telekinesis
  ring, as he neither knows nor trusts these people)
Hilda:  Oh.  (matter-of-factly)  In my homeland, some warriors have two
  wives, or even more.
Peldor:  It must be nice.
Hilda:  (scowls)  It's foolish!  Some womens' places may be in the
  kitchen, or in the bed...but not me.  Not Hilda!
Durg:  (to Bartoz)  Here she goes again.
Bartoz:  (sighs)
Hilda:  I was born to fight - to plunder and loot!  My place is on the
  battlefield, amidst the blood and the steel!  (she raises her sword)
Peldor:  I see.
Hilda:  (frowns)  Is it so wrong?
Peldor:  Not at all.  You've got to do what makes you happy.
Bartoz:  And what makes _you_ happy?
Peldor:  Good question.  It used to be...plundering dungeons, or better
  yet, swindling people.  All kinds of people.  But these days, it's a
Sardeep:  What exactly do you do for a living...these days?
Peldor:  I'm a businessman, applying my skills in the best possible way
  for the benefit of the most possible people.
Sardeep:  (simply nods)
Peldor:  (sighs)  But I'm not a businessman at the moment, which reminds
  me, we need to cut out the chatter.
Durg:  Why?
Peldor:  Because we don't know where we're headed, or what lies there.
Bartoz:  A wise and well-taken point.

  They fell silent then, and Peldor took the lead, his old habits and
methods coming back rather easily.  He moved quietly, out in front of
the party, his dagger held easily in his hand, his eyes scanning the
path ahead, catlike and alert for any movement or trap.  Few in Greyhawk
were aware that the Guildmaster still took the time and made the effort
to practice his skills.  Though he did this in private, away from the
eyes and ears of others, he took it seriously, never forgetting, never
slacking.  The truth was, Peldor had seen far too many ex-adventurers
grow fat and soft as they changed careers; to the master thief, fat and
soft meant weak and careless, which in turn meant dead.  Long ago, Peldor
had decided that this would never happen to him.

Peldor:  (holds up a hand, stopping the others, and then slowly moves

  The thief's sharp ears had picked up the muffled sounds of a nearby
conversation, and he prowled ahead to see who was doing the talking.
The passage split into two forks, and the left one made a sharp turn
before opening into a chamber containing three ogres sitting around a
fire-pit, having some kind of merry feast.  Peldor observed them for
a short while before returning to his group to share the information.

Peldor:  (whispering)  They're big and strong, but they're also slow and
  stupid.  I'll go in first and backstab one, then we hit them with some
  magic, immediately followed by steel.
Sardeep:  (skeptically)  You can fell an ogre with a single blow?
Peldor:  (eyes the dagger he was given)  Possibly.  If I fail, though,
  it's up to the rest of you to make the attack successful.  Each of us
  has a part to play pieces in a puzzle.
Serge:  Puzzle, puzzle...(he begins to wander in the direction of the
  ogre camp)
Hilda:  (grabs the halfling, holding him in place)  This plan sounds
  good.  (she hefts her sword)  Let's do it.

  As it turned out, the plan went like clockwork.  Peldor snuck in and
took out the nearest ogre (whose last thought involved amazement at
being slain by a man in pajamas) and then Sardeep hit the other two
with magic missiles.  This set them up to fall to the weapons of Durg
and Hilda.  The battle was over almost before it had begun.

Peldor:  (checking the ogres' boots)  Too big.
Bartoz:  The real question is, would you want to wear something that
  had ogre toe-cheese in it?
Peldor:  Good point.  (he takes a shortsword from one ogre's belt)
Durg:  What are you doing?  Is your thief's eye for quality telling you
  that's a magic weapon or something?
Peldor:  No.  (he slashes the air experimentally)  This is just a better
  weapon than the dagger.
Durg:  Oh.  (he turns his attention to the ogres' fire)
Peldor:  (after checking that no one is watching him, he pockets a small
  pouch that was also on the victim's belt)

  The slain humanoids were "officially" checked for treasure, and then
the next course of action had to be determined.

Peldor:  The smoke from their fire has to be going somewhere - you don't
  just build a fire in the middle of a dungeon.
Bartoz:  Well, some creatures do, though they tend to die from smoke
  inhalation.  (he points to the smoke, which is vanishing into a hole
  in the chamber's ceiling)  That's got to be it, since this room lacks
  any other exits.
Peldor:  That hole looks sizable...hmm, I wonder.  (he glances around)
  Can someone boost me up so I can reach the ceiling?

  Shortly, Peldor had wedged himself in the air-shaft, which was about
three feet wide and led away into the darkness.

Peldor:  I'll be right back.
Sardeep:  Where are you going?
Peldor:  This may lead somewhere.  If we stick to the dungeon itself,
  we're following a path that someone else set up for us.  By breaking
  loose of that and making our own way, we might get out of here faster.
  (he vanishes into the opening, leaving the others to debate his plan
  of action)
Hilda:  He's crazy.
Durg:  Maybe not.  If you think about it - the way dungeons are built,
  and the nature of rock - there's a good chance that such a natural
  vent hits a main dungeon floor somewhere above...which would be good.
Hilda:  Hmm.
Bartoz:  Well, this Peldor did prove useful by finding and fighting the
Sardeep:  (glancing at Serge, who is busy poking a stick into the fire
  and watching it burn)  More useful than _he_ ever was.
Serge:  Fire, fire, fire...
Bartoz:  We'll have to-
Peldor:  (reappears above)  Good news, people:  this shaft leads into
  an apparently-abandoned passage up above.  If you toss me some rope,
  we can get up there.
Durg:  (finds a length of rope, and throws it to Peldor)  A little rock
  climbing, huh?
Hilda:  No climb is too much for me.
Sardeep:  Climb?

  It took some patience and some work (especially with the directionless
Serge and the completely limp form of the slain Weebo) but eventually,
they all stood in the abandoned corridor that Peldor had found.  From
the tools scattered around, and the nature of the debris, the area looked
like a former mining site.

Durg:  Picks, shovels, mallets...yeah, someone was doing something here
  long ago.
Peldor:  And it's a good thing, too.  (he finds a pair of old, cracked
  boots)  These look like they're about my size.  (he raps the boots'
  soles on the floor, hard, then dumps out the dust and dead spiders
  that were in there)  Hmm.
Sardeep:  Ugh.  You're not really going to put those on, are you?
Peldor:  Sure I am.  Even this beats walking around with no protection
  for my feet.
Durg:  (surveys the passage)  Well, there's only one way for us to go,
  since it's a dead end to the left.
Hilda:  (eyes the passage to the right, as it curves away into the
  darkness)  Let's go, then.

  The group started moving again, with Peldor leading the way, ever-
alert for danger.  The next challenge came, not in the form of a guard
or monster, but rather something else...

Peldor:  Whoa, hold it...what's this?  (he kneels, examining the floor)
Sardeep:  (impatiently)  What is it?
Peldor:  A trap...see here, where this loose rock covers...oh, yeah.
  They set up a rockslide, for whoever walked through here.
Durg:  This must be ten years old, if not more.  Do you think the trap
  would still work?
Peldor:  Maybe, maybe not.  Let's not find out.  (he points to the
  loose rubble on the floor)  Everyone, walk around there and don't
  stir up anything.  I'm going to move ahead and scout for anything
  else like this.
Hilda:  (grabs Serge and bodily lifts him over and past the dangerous
Serge:  Wheeeee...
Bartoz:  (finds himself wondering whether the halfling would have
  spotted the rockslide trap or not)

  The master thief was doubly-cautious now, since there was proven
intention by the former occupants of this place to do harm to future
trespassers...but there were no more traps.  The debris-strewn passage
curved around to the right and then opened into a larger area, a cavern
about fifty feet wide.  This area was completely empty, but it did have
one important feature:  it lacked a ceiling.  The cavern stretched
upward as far as they could see - and better yet, there was a stairway
along its outer edge, winding around and around...and upward and upward
as well!

Peldor:  That could be our way out.
Hilda:  Out?
Peldor:  There's no need to explore this dungeon further, not with your
  ranks diminished and your magic depleted.  Everyone - even the best
  thief in the world - has to know when to retreat.  (to Durg)  How far
  down did you people go, from the surface where you entered this place?
Durg:  Two hundred feet, tops.  (he points upward)  I can't see why this
  wouldn't lead out of here...though we were in some mountains when we
  entered the dungeon...
Peldor:  How about I lead the way, with the spellcasters in the middle
  and Durg at the back, just in case?
Sardeep:  What about Weebo's body, and the halfling?
Serge:  (looking around)  Stairs, high...
Hilda:  (conks the halfling on the head with the pommel of her sword,
  then throws him up over her shoulder)  I can carry him, but it's going
  to be tough to carry Weebo's litter as well.
Durg:  We can't just leave him.
Sardeep:  Well, we could always come back.
Bartoz:  Don't you have some spell that could carry him along with us
  as we ascend?
Sardeep:  No, and-
Peldor:  We may not have a choice anymore.  (he points)

  Several shadowy forms had detached themselves from the opposite edge
of the cavern and were moving toward the party, their bones clicking
and clacking as they walked.

Durg:  Skeletons!
Bartoz:  Allow me.  (he holds up his holy symbol and advances, chanting
skeletons:  (back away)
Bartoz:  And that's that-
Sardeep:  Uh-oh.

  There were more skeletons than the explorers had first thought...about
three dozen more!

Sardeep:  You can't turn away that many, can you?
Bartoz:  No.  (he sprints toward the bottom of the curving stairway on
  the outer edge of this chamber)  Let's get the hell out of here!
Peldor:  (already in motion, he reaches the bottom step just before the
  priest)  Let me go first, in case there are any traps or such.

  The others quickly joined them on the stairs, except for Weebo, who
was left behind as the skeletons threatened to overwhelm the party...
and one other.

Hilda:  (after reaching the stairway, she hands the unconscious Serge
  to Bartoz)  Here.
Bartoz:  Me?  But I'm not the strongest-
Hilda:  Not my problem.  (she charges the skeletons, swinging her sword
  wildly)  Die!

  The warrior-woman's attack was effective, for three of the undead
warriors had fallen within moments.  Has these been human foes, with
conscious thought and the potential for morale issues, they might have
broken ranks and fled.  However, that was not the case here, and in the
blink of an eye, Hilda was surrounded and fighting a hopeless battle
for her life.

Durg:  (to Bartoz)  Take the halfling and go!  Go up the stairway!
Bartoz:  (struggling with the dead weight of Serge, he slowly makes
  his way up the stairs, grumbling)
Durg:  Hang on, Hilda - I'm coming to rescue you!
Hilda:  Rescue?!?  Me?!?  (she crushes a foe's skull with a gauntleted
  first)  Bah!
Peldor:  (above, he pauses in his ascent)  Why don't people ever listen?
  (he stops walking, looks down, and concentrates on the warrior-woman)
Hilda:  (below, she suddenly finds herself lifted from the midst of the
  skeletons by some unseen force)  What?!?  No!  (she struggles wildly)
Peldor:  Stop thrashing - you're making this tougher!  (using his ring
  of telekinesis, he moves her through the air, depositing her on the
  stairway in front of Bartoz)
Hilda:  What the hell is going on?  Why did you pull me from that fight
  down there?
Peldor:  Because we're getting out of here alive - all of us.
Durg:  (at the bottom of the stairs, he backs up, finding that all of
  the skeletons are now moving in on him)  Whoa.  (he swings his axe,
  shattering the legs of the nearest undead foe, then turns and dashes
  up the stairs, as fast as his dwarven legs will allow)

  With Hilda removed from the foes, the group now had a basic marching
order:  Peldor in the lead, followed by Sardeep, then Hilda (who had
reclaimed the unconscious form of Serge) and then Bartoz, with Durg in
the rear, pursued closely by dozens of skeletons.

Peldor:  (climbing the stairs much faster than Sardeep behind him, he
  still has time to be cautious, checking the path for obstacles and
  hidden niches which might contain an enemy)
skeleton:  (emerges from one such niche, ten feet ahead, blocking the
Sardeep:  I'm out of magic missiles!
Peldor:  Not a problem.  (he TKs the skeletal foe, lifting it off the
  stairway and hurtling it down toward the other undead who are close
  on Durg's heels)

  The skeleton flew down from above, smashing into its fellows and
causing quite a crippling mess, literally.

Durg:  Whew!  (he gains some ground while the skeletons untangle
  themselves, those who can still walk trying to regain their bony
Sardeep:  (spellcasting)
Peldor:  What now?  I thought you didn't have any-
Sardeep:  I just had an idea.  (he drops a mass of sticky webs down onto
  the main force of skeletons, trapping them against the stone steps and
  each other)
Durg:  (pumps his fist in the air)  Well done!
Sardeep:  (nods)
Peldor:  (resumes his ascent)

  There were two more "hidden" skeletons, both of which Peldor spotted
and summarily tossed over the edge, where they exploded upon hitting the
hard, unforgiving floor below.  The stairway continued to wind upward,
even as the upper reaches of the cavern grew narrower; eventually, the
steps led onto a ledge, which extended in a new direction, away from
the cavern proper.  A small metal door was set into the far side of this
ledge area, about ten feet from the topmost step of the stairway.  Even
as the others were still climbing the stairs, Peldor was at the door,
checking it for traps and such.

Sardeep:  (emerges onto the ledge)  A door, eh?
Peldor:  Yep.  It's locked, and I can't find any traps - which pretty
  much means there aren't any-
Sardeep:  Aren't you being a bit overconfident?
Peldor:  Not a chance.  I'm simply being Peldor.  Now to get it opened.
  (he kneels down...and then realizes that he has no lockpicks)  Damn.
Hilda:  (steps out onto the ledge, the unconscious Serge draped over her
  shoulder)  What's going on?
Peldor:  Aha.  (he walks over and starts going through the halfling's
Bartoz:  (reaches the top step)  Well.  I simply am not going to ask
  what you're doing picking another thief's pockets, even if he _is_
Peldor:  (holds up a couple of picks)  Crude, but they'll do.  (he goes
  back to the small, locked door and gets to work)
Durg:  (huffing and puffing, he appears from the stairway)  About...
  damn time...
Sardeep:  It's getting a bit crowded up here.
Peldor:  Maybe I can do something about that.  (he opens the iron door,
  exposing the explorers to the bright light of the sun and the sweet
  scent of fresh outdoor air)
Bartoz:  (grins, following the thief out, where a dense growth of scrub
  brush conceals this entrance, which is set in the side of a hill, which
  blends in with the score of other hills all around it)  We're out!
Durg:  I never thought I'd be so happy to see the outside of a cave.
Hilda:  I never thought _I'd_ be so happy to have a rest from battle.
Sardeep:  Thank the gods.  (to Peldor)  And you.
Peldor:  (nods)
Serge:  (wakes up)  Where are we now...and isn't it time for breakfast?

next:       finally, we return to the lost continent!
released:   3/31/06
notes:      This seemed like a good time to do an April Fools comedy
  episode again.  Of course, this one's in continuity, and it features
  a scenario I've had in my mind for many, many years:  what if someone
  somewhere needs help and uses a high-power summoning spell...and gets
  an adventurer instead of a monster?  There might have been a reference
  to this somewhere in the 1st edition rulebooks, or I might have gotten
  the idea from the old encounter tables in those rulebooks.  I can't
  remember, but this seemed like a good time to put the idea into play.
    Other points I should probably clarify now:
      1)  Peldor's feather tattoos have been gone for more than a year
          of game time (specifically 8/23/579 which was episode 693.)
      2)  This episode was intended to be a sort of "semi-serious spoof"
          and for that reason, I purposely didn't specify the levels or
          exact power of the adventuring group who summoned Peldor, nor
          do I intend to make them recurring characters.
      3)  I'm not sure that it's necessary to show Peldor making his
          way back to Greyhawk, especially given how easy it would be
          for Tanya to find some Greyhawk-based wizard to locate and
          retrieve her stolen husband.  If I don't explicitly show that
          process, I'll at least mention it next time we see Peldor.

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