Chapter #259

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic II      +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1995 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons     +
+  or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  +
+  Copying and/or distribution of these tales is permissible only   +
+  under the sole condition that no part of them will be used or    +
+  sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them...         +
+                                                                   +
+                                  Thomas Miller                    +
+                          +
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Mongo        17th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+     Gorin     8th level dwarven warrior                     (CG)  +
+  Bosco        10th level halfling thief                      (N)  +
+  Date:        2/10/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       Thunderdelve Mountain, in the northern Lortmils     +
+  Climate:     temperate, within the mountain                      +
+  "All hope abandon, ye who enter here."                           +
+                             - Dante Alighieri, from _The Inferno_ +

                        CCLIX.  Descent

  At the head of a hundred-strong dwarven force, Mongo and Yod
Ironbeard are preparing to enter the depths of Thunderdelve
Mountain.  With Gorin, Bosco, and the twin halfling warriors
Spikey and Sparkey, they are standing at the top of a round

Mongo:  (shaking his head in disbelief)  This is the way down?
Yod:  It is now.  There used to be several such shafts, but in
  recent weeks, we've sealed all of 'em off.  Except this one.
Bosco:  (grabs the edges of the stone shaft, which is about ten
  feet wide, and looks down)  How far down is that?
Spikey:  About fifty.
Sparkey:  Too far to make it easy for the orcs.
Bosco:  Fifty feet?!?  (he looks again)  But there's a rock right
Yod:  Yes.  Watch.

  The dwarven monarch reached into the hole and grabbed a chain
from within the shaft.  The chain was a strong one, with links
greater than an inch in thickness; Yod pulled upward slightly,
drawing the chain taut.

Yod:  See, this chain is secured to a boulder we've set in place
  down there.  The shaft tapers slightly as you go down, so the
  rock is wedged pretty firmly in place.  It's a pretty heavy one,
  laced with iron ore; moving it upward would take more orcs than
  can fit in the shaft.  Many more orcs.
Gorin:  Well, how do you move it then?
Yod:  Like this.  (he grips the chain tightly, and pulls slowly)

  There was a muffled grinding sound, and the surrounding rock
quivered as the boulder was meticulously pulled from the hole.

Yod:  Ungh!  (he tugs the big rock from the shaft, and pulls it to
  one side, where several guards hold it in place)
Mongo:  Hmm, you're stronger than you look.  A lot stronger.
Yod:  Giant strength.
Mongo:  Yeah, I have it too.
Bosco:  I should have it.  (looking into the shaft again)  That's
  more like fifty feet.
Yod:  Yup.  The ladder-rungs that used to be here have long since
  been removed, so we'll have to put a rope down.

  They took a knotted rope and tossed it over the side of the shaft,
and prepared to descend.

Yod:  Usually, this area is guarded by a dozen dwarves.  While we're
  down there, though, there'll be two dozen guards stationed here.
  The boulder goes back into place at the first sign of trouble.
Spikey:  Like orcs coming up from below.
Sparkey:  (pointing to some barrels nearby)  Of course, there's
  plenty of oil to dump on them first.
Mongo:  Just out of curiosity, how do you keep the other shafts like
  this one secure?
Yod:  We've cemented their boulders in place.  Only this one isn't
  tightly sealed.
Bosco:  (looking longingly into the dark hole)  Can I go down now?
Yod:  Yes, the scout must check on things, mustn't he?
Mongo:  Go to work, Bosco.
Bosco:  (hops on the rope and shimmies downward)
Spikey:  We'll follow him.
Sparkey:  In case of trouble.  He doesn't look like he can fight.
  (both halfling warriors descend after Bosco)
Mongo:  (recalling some of the maps he's seen in the last day)  What
  exactly is the layout of this place?
Yod:  Well, in a nutshell, everything below - which you could also
  call the non-secured part of Thunderdelve - is mines.  See, on
  the way to this shaft, we dropped down eight levels; the first two
  were parts of the city, while the last six were the Deeps.
Mongo:  The Deeps?
Yod:  Yeah, that means the lower city, where the mines start.  There
  are another three Deeps, or mine-levels, below us.  It just so
  happens that levels six and seven are joined by shafts, such as
  this one.  Also levels one and two...and four and five...
Mongo:  Hmm.  What's below the ninth Deep?
Yod:  I don't really know.  We've cleared out the nine city levels,
  and six of the Deeps, over the last fifteen years.  We almost had
  the seventh Deep secured when the hordes of orcs showed up.
Mongo:  Well, let's plan to re-take it.
Gorin:  (to Mongo)  Bosco's giving the all-clear signal from below.
  We need to get going.  (he heads down the rope)
Mongo:  Well, it's time.
Yod:  Yeah.  (he secures the straps on his armor)

  They descended, to be followed by the hundred dwarves.  The order
of marching once they reached the Seventh Deep was simple:  Bosco
would lead the way, backed up closely by Spikey and Sparkey, who
weren't as quiet as the thief, but weren't nearly as loud as the
armored troops.  Yod and Mongo were to follow the halflings, and
the soldiers (and the six dwarven priests) came next.  The general
idea was that, in narrow passages, the strength and weaponry of
Yod and Mongo would let them prevail against any orcs.  Should the
passages widen into larger caverns, the dwarven troops would move
forward to engage a greater number of foes, if necessary.
  Shortly, everyone was on the level below, and Yod bade farewell
to the guards above, with a mere wave of his hand.  They were in
an underground passage, ten feet wide and high; the climate was a
bit warmer and more humid than the levels above.  Presumably this
was because the upper and lower levels had been sealed for quite
some time, and different climes had developed.
  They were in the center of a four-way intersection of passages.

Yod:  Okay, Bosco, we'll be moving through the east passage to start.
Bosco:  Right.  Um, which way's east?
Mongo:  (pointing)  That way.
Bosco:  How do you know?
Mongo:  (pointing again)  Cause that way's north.
Bosco:  (thoroughly confused)  Oh yeah.

  Bosco headed forth into the darkness, mumbling something to him-
self as he went.

Mongo:  Why east?
Yod:  One of Feuerhauch's vaults is in that direction, not too far
  from here.  Probably filled with orcs now.
Mongo:  Ah.  Well, let's get underway.
Yod:  (as he and Mongo move toward the front of the group, he talks
  briefly with random dwarves whom he passes)  Now remember all
  the things we talked torches...keep your
  armor and weapons from hitting the walls.
Mongo:  Even little sounds will carry a long way down here.
Yod:  ...check the walls as you pass them, for any hidden passages
  in the rock; you know what dwarven secret-doors look like, and
  we don't want to get ambushed.  And remember, if you hear those
  whistles, you know what to do.
Mongo:  What whistles are those?
Yod:  The halflings, as well as me, are wearing whistles around
  their necks.  If we run into a massed orcish force and need our
  men to charge quickly, a whistle will be blown.  It's a last-
  ditch measure, believe me.

  They reached the head of the column of soldiers, and then moved
about thirty feet ahead, as planned.  Another thirty feet ahead were
Spikey and Sparkey, and perhaps fifty feet in front of them was the
point-man, Bosco.  All was dark, since everyone had infravision and
no torches were required.  It had been quite some time since the
three adventurers were in a no-torches situation, since they always
had humans with them, but it didn't take them much time to adjust.

Yod:  (gives Spikey & Sparkey the signal to move out)

  The long and somewhat complicated train of explorers began moving
forward, into the unknown passage.  At the front of the group was
little Bosco, who picked his way quietly through the rubble-filled
mine.  He nimbly stepped over small rocks and rusted tools as he
moved rapidly through the darkness.  The halfling was progressing
more quickly than expected, such was his deftness and agility.  It
was his job to forge ahead, disposing of any lone sentries he might
encounter, and warning those behind if larger numbers of orcs were
found.  The hope was that Bosco, with his sneaky, soundless approach,
would spot foes before they spotted him, and retreat to let the
dwarves know.  And they had done well to pin their hopes on Bosco,
for Spikey and Sparkey were shocked about five minutes later, when
they almost stumbled upon a freshly slain orcish body in the passage.
Though he surely wasn't used to keeping his mouth shut for this long,
it seemed that Bosco was on top of things.  Right next to the body,
they found Bosco's tiny plate mail suit, apparently discarded.

Yod:  (looks at Mongo inquisitively)
Mongo:  (shrugs)

  Almost seventy feet ahead, the halfling continued to scout.  He
stopped briefly to pick up an iron spike and set it aside; it just
wouldn't do for one of the hundred-and-eight clumsy dwarves to kick
that spike as they walked by.  Bosco had more faith in Spikey and
Sparkey when it came to avoiding such noisemaking, but who knew what
the dwarves would do if someone didn't watch out for them?
  As he went, Bosco (and of course, the dwarves after him) passed all
kinds of subterranean wonders.  There were frequent side passages,
both small tunnels and larger caverns; this was, after all, a mine.
One such passage contained piles of mining tools:  picks, shovels,
iron spikes, hammers, and the like.  In fact, there was quite a wide
variety of things to see here.  Bosco was particularly surprised to
find "live" veins of ore in the passage walls:  he had been walking
by one for a minute before he realized that it was gold!  It was no
wonder, he mused to himself, that the dwarves lived like kings; the
gold contained in this one vein could probably set a person up for
life.  Of course, Bosco figured that he was already set up for life,
so he contented himself with simply caressing the golden ore-vein
rather than trying to dig some out.
  Other veins seemed to contain silver, iron, and yet other metals
that the halfling wasn't familiar with.  He found more evidence of
mining operations, passing carts and buckets, some filled with
debris and all abandoned.  It seemed that the orcs weren't keeping
themselves as busy as the dwarves had before them.  Bosco navigated
his way through the maze of passages and mineshafts using a special
map that Yod had given him.  This map used special ink, made from
the blood of salamanders.  Though Bosco wasn't quite sure what a
salamander was, the map's ink was visible in the darkness, due to
heat differences or something.  The halfling didn't understand
exactly how it worked, but he knew which way to go, as did those
who followed him.
  Things were uneventful for ten minutes or so, but then Bosco
spotted a doorway in one wall of the passage ahead.  Sneaking up to
this portal (really nothing more than a gaping hole in the tunnel
wall) he peeked inside, noting three orcs on crude piles of straw.
They appeared to be fast asleep, so he entered the room, to take
advantage of their lack of diligence.
  Shortly, Spikey and Sparkey entered the side chamber, finding
three corpses on the floor.  The twin halflings were rather
surprised that Bosco had managed to dispose of four orcs already.
Bosco was nowhere to be seen, so they resumed their trek down the
main passage.
  In the passage ahead, Bosco put even more distance between him-
self and those who followed.  He scurried ahead like a spider,
though he was even more silent than a spider could ever hope to
be.  Shortly, he spotted a large iron door in the passage ahead,
and quickly moved forward to study it.  After about ten seconds,
he produced a potion, and took a sip from it, vanishing from sight
(not that anyone was there to see him, and not that they could
have in the darkness) instantly.

  On the other side of the thick door, the pair of bored orcish
guards who stood watch were surprised to hear knocking.

orc#1:  Huh?
orc#2:  They's back already?
orc#1:  Why?
orc#2:  Maybe dey got hungry.
orc#1:  Fat slobs.  (he pats his own paunch)
orc#2:  (peering through a small peephole, he sees nothing on the
  other side)  Dat's strange.
orc#1:  (scratching his butt)  What?
orc#2:  Nobody out there.
orc#1:  Somebody knocked.  Must be _somebody_ out there.
orc#2:  (un-bars the iron door and pulls it open)
orc#1:  (steps out into the passage)  Nobody here.
orc#2:  Huh.  (looks around, picking his nose)
orc#1:  Hey!  _You_ knocked!  Can't trick me!
orc#2:  Did not.
orc#1:  Did too!
orc#2:  Did not!
orc#1:  Did too!
orc#2:  (fingering his sword)  I'll show you trick if you don't shut

  Finally deciding that there was indeed nobody in the passageway, the
two orcish guards closed and locked the door.


Spikey:  (approaches the door, a quizzical look on his face)
Sparkey:  (wondering where Bosco vanished to)

  Just then, the big iron door opened, just a crack.

Spikey:  (draws his weapon)
Sparkey:  (approaches the door from the side)
Bosco:  (sticks his head out)  Hey, don't just stand there looking
  tough!  Help me get this blasted door open!
Spikey:  (rushes over to help)  Shh!
Sparkey:  You're going to alert everyone to our presence.
Bosco:  No, I'm not.  The other door is closed and locked, and it
  looks thicker than this one.
Spikey:  Other door?
Sparkey:  What other door?
Bosco:  That one.  (points into the chamber behind him)

  The room was small, containing only a table and three chairs.  A
second iron door was set into the room's far wall, and a pair of
crumpled orcish bodies littered the floor.

Spikey:  Two more?
Sparkey:  (eyeing the most recent Bosco victim)  You're pretty lethal
  when you try.
Bosco:  So I've heard.  Hey, maybe we'd better regroup with Mongo and
  Yod before moving on.
Spikey:  Eh?
Sparkey:  Why?
Bosco:  Because I peeked through that far door...and it looks like an
  orcish barracks is beyond.

next:   battle!
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  Here's the basic layout of Thunderdelve, partially inspired
  by Tolkien's Moria.

                    W <--+--> E               |----------| = 1 mile

       /______\_______\_______\____           9th floor of city
  |_____/________\_________/_________/_______ 4th floor of city
__:___________/_________\_________/_______/__ 3rd (also ground level)
   ______/_________/________/_________\______ 2nd
   _________\_________\__________\___________ 1st floor of city
   _____/_________________/_______________/__ 1st level of Deeps
   _______|___________|__________|___________ 2nd level of Deeps
   ____________\___________\____________\____ 3rd level of Deeps
     ____/____________/____________/_______   4th level of Deeps
       ________|_________|____________|__     5th level of Deeps
         __________\______________/____       6th level of Deeps
           ___|_______|_______|______         7th level of Deeps \
             _____/________\_______           8th level of Deeps  > *
               ________\_______\_             9th level of Deeps /

/ and \  =  stairways
   |     =  vertical shafts
*        =  levels not controlled by the dwarves

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