Halloween 2000

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +     Halloween     +
                             +    Special    +
                               +    2000   +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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   +
+   Otto            6th/8th level dwarven fighter/thief                   +
+   Date:           6/28/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           dusk                                                  +
+   Place:          a trail somewhere within the Forlorn Forest           +
+   Climate:        chilly                                                +
+   "Strong people do one simple thing:  win, lose, or draw, they get     +
+    back up, they get the fuck back up."                                 +
+                                             - John C. Roat, _Class 29_  +

                      A Midsummer Night's Nightmare

  The dwarf spurred his horse on, making for the lights in the distance.
The sun's rays were just about gone, and the Forlorn Forest was no place
to spend the night, not even near a well-used trail like the one upon
which the dwarf now rode.  It seemed a stroke of great fortune that he'd
spotted the remote building up ahead.
  Otto had wanted - needed - to get away and spend some time alone after
the unpleasant business at Yargan's Tor and then Greyspire.  Unable to
find a battle or war to embroil himself in, he'd opted to venture alone
into dangerous, uncharted territory.  His travels had brought him here,
to the Forlorn Forest - a most unpleasant place to be after dark.  Both
Celene and Luna were full tonight, and the beasts of the night were likely
out in force.
  Grumbling to himself and not at all in the best of moods, he rode up to
the source of the light:  a large, grand old inn.  Outside, built so that
it butted up against the inn proper, a stable held several horses.  Two
floors high, and fairly sizable, the inn was situated right off of the
forest trail.  It seemed almost too good to be true.

stable boy:  (walks out of the stables)  Your horse, milord?
Otto:  (dismounts, brushing the dust of the trail from his clothes)  Sure
  thing, kid.  (he flips the lad a silver coin)
stable boy:  (bows slightly)  Thank you, milord!
Otto:  (heads up the steps, opening the inn's sturdy front door)

  Within was light, warmth, and company - as well as a hot meal and a real

Otto:  Just what I need.

  He made his way to the bar, while discreetly taking stock of the inn's
interior.  A barkeep worked to serve drinks and keep the bar clean, while
a barmaid served the tables scattered throughout the common room.  Much
to Otto's surprise, the place was far from filled to capacity:  only a
handful of others were eating and drinking here.

Otto:  (to the barkeep)  Business bad tonight?
barkeep:  (shrugs)  It's the full moon...the Demon's Moon, as we call it
  in these parts.  Not many people care - or dare - to ride the forest
  trails this night.
Otto:  Beer, please - the dark beer, not that light stuff.  (he takes a
  big gulp from the mug handed to him)  Ahh.  (he wipes his mouth with
  a dirty sleeve)  Demon's Moon, huh?
barkeep:  (nods gravely)  You do not know of the legend?
Otto:  (shrugs)
barkeep:  It is said that every midsummer, when both moons shine in their
  full glory, the Demon walks the Forlorn Forest, collecting the souls of
  the unfortunate.
Otto:  Right.
barkeep:  You jest...but five gets me ten that you'll be having a room in
  here tonight, rather than venturing back out into the forest.
Otto:  (frowns for a moment)  Okay, you got me.  (he checks his money-
  purse)  I'm starving.  What do you recommend?
barkeep:  We have a special stew - home-brewed recipe, generations old.
Otto:  No, I need some real food - a chicken, a hen, a lamb, something
  like that.
barkeep:  ...of course.  I will have the cook get right on it.  (from
  beneath the bar, he takes a wire basket with a half-loaf of bread)  In
  the meantime, some bread.
Otto:  Many thanks.  (with food and drink handy, he turns his attention
  to his fellow patrons)

  There weren't many.  One table held a young couple, well-dressed and
fairly obviously not from these rough parts.  A table close by them was
occupied by two big, burly men, also well-dressed but bearing swords at
their sides.  Otto made this group out to be a noble couple, far from
home, accompanied by their bodyguards.
  Aside from these four, a trio of rough-looking mercenaries shared a
corner table; every so often, their gazes fell upon the noble couple and
their guards.  Across the room, a lone priest, garbed in heavy robes,
tried to stay conscious as he nursed a large mug of ale.  Otto figured
this man to be quite drunk, on the verge of passing out.
  Eight others, each with their own story, their own past...none of which
Otto really gave a damn about.  All he wanted was to eat his hot meal and
get some sleep.

  Hours later, having accomplished everything else, the dwarf shut the
door to his room and bolted it.  The meal had been good, not outstanding,
but far from the worst he'd ever had.  He felt a drowsiness coming on, no
doubt the result of the large meal combined with the fatigue of long hours
on the road.  Setting his sword and crossbow on the simple nightstand that
accompanied the bed as the only furniture in the room, Otto set about his
usual precautions taken when sleeping in a strange place.  Razor-sharp
caltrops, painted dull black so as not to reflect any light, were put on
the windowsill.  More of the same were scattered on the floor just inside
the door.  These things, though unnecessary nine times out of ten, had
kept the dwarf alive more than once, and the habit was hard to break.
  His work done, Otto promptly went to the bed, laid down, and fell into
a deep sleep.

  Hours later, the dwarf was tugged from his slumber by a faint noise.
It was odd; his mind knew that he needed to wake up, but his body wasn't
listening or obeying.  He wondered vaguely if he'd been drugged or hexed
with a spell.

Otto:  (reaches over toward the nightstand, nerveless fingers scrabbling
  for his sword)

  The weapon wasn't there!  Gone, too, was the crossbow.  Otto struggled
to lift his legs over the edge of the bed and stand up, but this only
resulted in him rolling onto the floor, hitting his head on the wooden
nightstand in the process.  As he lay on the floor, facing up, someone's
face came into his vision.  It was not a face he recognized, and he tried
to speak, without success.  The face seemed to be leering at him, though
it was hard to tell.  Through the haze of thoughts, Otto decided that
he'd definitely been drugged, probably by his dinner.
  And then, the bearded man standing over him raised a sword, bringing
the point down, down, toward Otto's chest...and through it!
  Otto's last thought was that he'd never know who had killed him, or why.

  Shortly, in a small room, the dwarf's body was tossed roughly onto a
cold stone floor.

man #1:  (brandishing his torch)  No more hooks?
man #2:  All taken.  (he snickers)  Just leave him on the floor for now.
  He'll have his chance.
man #1:  Right.  (eyeing the bodies impaled on the hooks that dangle from
  the ceiling, he closes the door, cloaking the room in darkness)

  Pain.  Sharp, burning pain.  Otto had felt pain before, many times, but
never such as this.  The pain burned, red-hot, then white-hot, his chest
about to explode...

Otto:  (sits up suddenly)  Ghak!

  He was dizzy and sore, but he was alive.

Otto:  How...?  (he checks his left hand)  Ah.

  Whoever killed him had seen fit to take all of his armor and weapons,
but for some reason they'd left the ring on his finger.  Otto recalled
that his caltrops had been stored in black grease, to keep them from
rusting.  He realized that he must have fallen asleep before cleaning
his hands, thus hiding the ring, which was unobtrusive and fashioned of
dull metal to begin with.
  The ring's appearance belied its power, though, for it regenerated
broken bones, torn flesh, and such.  Apparently, this power even worked
on pierced hearts.

Otto:  (trying to get to his feet)  Gonna make those motherfuckers pay...

  He was weak and lightheaded, and it took a great force of will to stand.
He grabbed onto something for support; whatever it was, his infravision
detected only a faint bit of heat from it.  And then he felt a hand within
his grasp...

Otto:  Aie!  (he backs up, right into something else)  Aaa!

  After composing himself, the dwarf used his hands to discern the nature
of the room...and it was horrific.  Six bodies, all recently slain, hung
from the ceiling on great hooks of metal.  Though he couldn't see a damned
thing - it was pitch-black in here - he could feel the blood, the wounds,
the cold flesh.
  Like the hanging bodies, Otto was still clothed, though without weapons
or equipment.  That was fine, though, for if he'd learned anything in all
his years of life, it was that sometimes you had to make do with what you

Otto:  (climbing one of the hanging bodies, he reaches the hook, and finds
  that it's suspended from a chain attached to the ceiling)  Ah.

  Working quickly and quietly, the dwarf did some gruesome work.  He
wanted that hook, which meant that the body had to come off of it.  Once
this was accomplished - and it took some doing, for the hook was buried
deeply in the corpse's back - he had to detach the chain from the ceiling.
The only way to accomplish this turned out to be standing on the shoulders
of a second dangling body in order to remove the chain from the ceiling.
  This all might have sounded easy, but it wasn't, not in the dark, with
every muscle in his body aching, with a barely-healed chest wound, with
blood and grease slicking his hands and feet and the chain.  But he would
not give up - he could not give up.
  And he didn't, and finally, after what seemed like forever, Otto held
the metal hook in his hands, a four-foot length of chain dangling from
its non-business end.  He was working out a way to remove the noisy piece
of chain from the weapon when there was noise outside...coming toward the
door to the room...

man:  (enters)  Damn, sure does stink in here.  (he moves into the room,
  torch raised)  Hey, what the hell-

  The door closed behind the man, causing him to turn...and catch the
sharp end of the hook right in his forehead!

man:  Gurk!
Otto:  (the force behind that hook, he pushes, knocking the man down to
  the floor as he clamps a hand over the dying man's mouth)
man:  (thrashing his arms and legs wildly, he quickly slows his efforts)
Otto:  (hissing)  Die...(he twists the hook, causing things to crunch and
  crack inside the other's head)
man:  (dies)
Otto:  Whew.  (he picks up the fallen torch, which is sputtering due to
  the blood it landed in)  Damn...

  Now that he could see the hanging bodies, Otto was even more horrified.
These were six of the people from the common room:  the young nobleman and
his two guards, and three of the mercenaries!  All were dead, of course.
Otto found himself wondering if the drunken priest and the noblewoman
still lived.  If they did, it wasn't his problem.  Getting out of this
place was his problem.  Then again, so was making sure that the bastards
who tried to kill him - DID kill him - didn't live to see the sunrise.
  The man he'd killed had only a dagger, but Otto took it.  The hook was
heavy and unwieldy, its length of chain potentially noisy.  As well as it
had served its purpose, he preferred the simplicity and familiarity of
the dagger.
  Before leaving the room, Otto tried to replace the body on its hook,
but he didn't have the height or the strength, so he gave up.  Slipping
out into the hallway, dagger in hand, he looked both ways, trying to get
his bearings.  It was impossible; he could be anywhere in the inn.
  More noises came suddenly - someone approached!  Ducking into a recessed
doorway, Otto waited...

man:  (dragging a robed body down the hall)  Damn...he was a big one...
  friggin' Ralphus, where is he?

  The man was obviously heading for the room with the hooks and bodies,
which meant that Otto only had one course of action.

Otto:  (sneaks up behind the man, who's entirely occupied with the body
  he's dragging along)

  The dwarf was well-versed in ways of taking down larger opponents while
not allowing them the luxury of a death-cry.  The fact that this one had
long hair made it easier.

Otto:  (in one fluid motion, he grabs the other's hair, yanks his head
  back, and slices his throat from ear to ear)
man:  (falls, blood spurting from his neck)  ...!
Otto:  Yeah, that's right.

  This man also held a dagger, so Otto took it.  The robed body was just
who he thought it would be:  the priest from the common room.  He, too,
was dead.  Both bodies were stashed in the hook room, though there was
nothing Otto could do about the blood in the hallway.  Thus, he set out,
heading in the direction that the man had just come from.  Before long,
he came upon another passage as well as a set of stairs leading upward.
He took the latter path, which brought him to the kitchen which then
led into the bar and common room.  All of this was dark and deserted,
shut down for the night.  Another stairway led up to the second floor,
and he took this, finding a series of guest rooms.  All of them were the
same:  unlocked and empty.  There was no sign that anyone had ever been
there, though he knew that the inn had guests this night.  He concluded
that all of them were now hanging on hooks in the small room downstairs.
  But then, what about the young noble girl?

  Moving quickly but stealthily, Otto went back downstairs, and then
down again, to the floor he'd come up from.  He took the other passage,
making his way through the cellar level of the inn.  Each door was
checked, listened at, and then entered.  He found a wine chamber, and
a storage chamber, and several rooms full of junk.  One room was locked,
but that was why Otto kept a couple of lockpicks within the sole of one
boot.  Once the door was unlocked and the chamber beyond entered, some
reward was at hand:  Otto's weapons and armor, along with several others,
most likely those of the other, dead guests.  Quickly clasping his
leather armor on, he then buckled his sword onto his belt.  He checked
his crossbow, then loaded it.  The torch was still held in his other
hand, and he chose this moment to put it out, for others were held in
wall sconces, here and there within the cellar.  He had enough light to
do anything he needed to do.
  Re-armed and feeling hardier than ever, Otto moved back out into the
main passage and continued his search.  The difference was this:  before,
he had just been searching...now he was searching for victims.
  Hearing noises ahead, he crept up to a locked door, looked around, and
put an ear to the portal.  Jackpot - there were definitely several others
beyond, and it sounded like they were chanting.  He took the time to dip
his first crossbow bolt in poison, made a few other preparations, then
tried the door's handle.  Locked - it was time for the picks again.

  A very short time later, Otto burst into the torchlit chamber suddenly,
his crossbow held high, his muscles and nerves ready to face a superior
force and kill as many of them, as quickly as possible.  The dwarf's eyes
and mind, however, were not at all ready for what they then encountered.
The chamber was small and pentagonal, perhaps thirty feet across.  There
were five people within:  the barkeep, the barmaid, an old man, and two
  All were stark naked and smeared in blood, the source of which became
obvious:  the young noblewoman, lying on an altar in the chamber's center.
Her chest had been opened from neck to crotch, and her organs and flesh
were everywhere.
  Including in the five people's mouths.

Otto:  What in the _hell_ are you people up to?
barkeep:  (matter-of-factly)  You're supposed to be dead.
Otto:  Never mind that.  What's going on here?
barmaid:  This is the most holy-
Otto:  Cannibals.  Fucking cannibals.
children:  (smiling through bloodstained teeth and lips)
old man:  (gnashing his teeth, he drools)
barmaid:  Our secret history is not yours to understand.
Otto:  Good, because I don't even want to know.  (he looks around)  Why
  her?  Why the girl?
barkeep:  Women and children first.  It has always been thus.
Otto:  Always...how long have you been _doing_ this?
barmaid:  Generations.
barkeep:  (begins walking toward the dwarf)
Otto:  (shaking his head)  Uh-uh.
barkeep:  The blood and flesh make us whole, invulner-
Otto:  (shoots the man through one eye)
barkeep:  Urk!  (he falls, a pool of dark blood spreading beneath his
  pierced head)
barmaid:  Aaah!
Otto:  (reloading, even as they make no move to approach)
old man:  (waving his arms about, he begins screaming)
Otto:  That's it.  No more.  (he takes a flask of oil from his pouch)
barmaid:  What are you-
Otto:  (hurls the oil at the nearest torch, upon which it shatters and
  makes a pool of flame)
little boy:  Waaaah!
little girl:  (looking around wildly)
Otto:  (hurls a second flask of oil in front of him, blocking the escape
  of the others)

  As the people began to mill around and scream more, Otto calmly took
the torch he'd put out earlier and re-lit it from the nearby flames.
Backing out of the room, he closed and locked the door, then threw a
third flask of oil at it for good measure.  He didn't think the freaks
in the chamber would escape, but there was no reason to take any
chances.  He'd thought - briefly - about trying to rescue the two
children and then getting them some help, but that idea had been
dismissed.  Sometimes, you just had to know when there was no hope and
no good in doing a thing.
  Running to the stairs, he darted up them, two at a time.  With his
torch, he quickly set fire to the common room, then went outside and
freed all the horses in the stable, keeping hold of his own and the
largest and strongest of the others.
  Then he fired the inn from the outside as well.  Before long, the
entire building was an inferno, and Otto thought - but wasn't sure -
that he could hear the screams from within.

  He just stood there, warmed by the blaze, and shook his head.  The
weird thing - the really weird thing - he mused to himself, was that
they'd seemed so _normal_.  And that made their deeds even more insane.
Otto didn't even try to understand or come up with answers.  He simply
overcame, and moved on.  Such was his way.

ftp:       ftp.peldor.com
www:       http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:  http://www.peldor.com/
email:     tmiller@peldor.com
released:  10/31/00
notes:     Obviously, this story took place between Otto's leaving of
  Greyspire (lost tales #4, 3/574) and his meeting of Belphanior in the
  unnamed town within the Barrens (7/574.)
    This story was born of just about every senseless horror movie I've
  ever seen.  I mean the ones where you kind of sit back and wonder if
  there are really people that fucked up, out there, somewhere...

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