Chapter #264

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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)  +
+                                                                   +
+  special guest stars:                                             +
+                                                                   +
+  Yod Ironbeard, dwarven hero and king                             +
+     Spikey, halfling warrior                                      +
+     Sparkey, halfling warrior (twin brother of Spikey)            +
+  Date:        2/11/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        around midday                                       +
+  Place:       Thunderdelve Mountain, in the northern Lortmils     +
+  Climate:     temperate, within the mountain                      +
+  "Every time I think I've hit the bottom, somebody throws me      +
+   a shovel."                                                      +
+                                        - Garfield, by Jim Davis   +

                  CCLXIV.  Back Into the Depths

  At long last, Mongo, Yod Ironbeard, and the others have found and
slain the orcs and their would-be king, Grimthaard.  However, Yod
has recently declared that the adventure isn't over...

Bosco:  (rubbing his eyes)  It isn't?
Yod:  Nope.  (produces a large iron key)  See this?
Bosco:  Hey, I never found a door with a lock for that!
Mongo:  Exactly.  Grimthaard wore that key around his scrawny little
Yod:  ...meaning that he had something locked away, somewhere.
Bosco:  Hmm.
Yod:  And all we have to do is find out where that somewhere is.
Bosco:  Sounds like a good day's work.  Hey, lemme grab some break-
  fast first.
Spikey:  Lunch, Bosco.
Sparkey:  It's noon.
Bosco:  Lunch.  Right!  (he pads away, barefoot)

  As the halfling chowed down, and the others prepared their weapons
and equipment, Mongo was busy checking the fit of his gleaming new

Mongo:  Ah...the best armor in the world!
Yod:  Lucky for you that Grimthaard actually found it.
Mongo:  Yeah.  There was no way I was gonna settle for the _second_
  best armor in the world.
Gorin:  Whoa!
Mongo:  Huh?
Gorin:  I was just thinking.   If Grimthaard found that armor, then
  the other treasure with it must have been great, indeed.
Yod:  Priceless might be a better word.
Mongo:  Hmm.
Yod:  For many years, we've been unearthing loot here.  Gold...
  gems...magical items...artwork...(his eyes roll)
Gorin:  Wow.
Yod:  (counting on his fingers)  Dwarves' loot...dragon's loot...
  giants' loot...humans' loot...elves...(he looks around)  In fact,
  the only thing we haven't seen yet is orcs' loot.
Mongo:  We'll see it soon enough.
Bosco:  (trots into the ready room)  We sure will.
Spikey:  Hi, Bosco.
Sparkey:  Ready to go?
Bosco:  Almost.  (to Yod)  Something occurred to me.
Mongo:  Uh-oh.
Yod:  Do go on, Bosco.
Bosco:  Before...we were just looking for the armor for Mongo.
Yod:  And we found it.  So?
Bosco:  Well, now we're looking for treasure.  For all of us, right?
Yod:  What are you getting at?
Bosco:  Shares, m'friend, shares!  Specifically, in what manner are
  we going to divide any loot we find down there?
Yod:  Hmm, I hadn't thought about that.
Bosco:  Didn't think so.  Luckily for me, _I_ did think about it.
Yod:  (surveying adventurer and hench-halfling alike)
  about twenty-five percent, for you and Mongo and Gorin to split as
  you see fit?
Bosco:  (looks shocked)  Heresy!  Fifty and no less!
Mongo:  (starts to say something)
Yod:  Thirty, then, no higher.
Bosco:  Ah, how my heart bleeds at this backstabbing, from one pal
  to another.  Forty-five would be okay, but that's pushing it.
Yod:  Grr...thirty-five percent, then, and let's be done with it!
Bosco:  But consider!  Mongo's new armor makes him nigh-invulnerable
  to damage...and then there's that hammer, and the strength to use
  it.  Surely that must count for something.  And Gorin too - a fine
  warrior, skilled in axe and dungeon-delving alike.  Then, last but
  far from least, is me, Bosco:  juggernaut-warrior, dragon-slayer,
  Thunderdelver.  (his eyes move shiftily)  Forty-five percent seems
  a pittance to pay, for skills such as these!
Yod:  Dammit!  Forty, take it or leave it.  That's my final offer!
Bosco:  Surely-
Yod:  You speak far too much for one who has slept in my treasure
  vault and lived to tell of it...
Bosco:  Hey, forty sounds good to me!
Mongo:  Done, then.
Bosco:  Let the bargaining end.
Gorin:  (exasperated)  About friggin' time.
Mongo:  Really.  (smiles, secretly pleased that Bosco negotiated a
  higher share of the treasure)
Bosco:  Have no fear, you won't regret the hiring of Bosco!  (looks
  around)  Take me to the dungeon.

  No extra dwarves accompanied the group on this trip; Yod only
wanted what he called "a small exploratory party" to hunt for the
hidden treasures of Grimthaard.  After a fairly long walk, they had
returned to the chamber in which Grimthaard was slain.  Few signs
of the great battle remained, and no bodies were to be seen.

Yod:  (explaining)  We dumped the orcs' carcasses down a mineshaft.
Bosco:  Good for you.  They smelled bad when they were alive - who
  knows how bad it could get after they died?
Gorin:  A shaft to where?
Yod:  Who knows?  Who cares?  I'm sure some critter will come along
  and get rid of them.
Mongo:  So, where to now?
Yod:  Let's explore Grimthaard's former lair.

  The dwarven king led them through several passages and rooms, as
well as a mine-shaft, in which veins of silver shone dimly.

Bosco:  (using his magical knife to slice away chunks of pure silver,
  he stashes them in his pack)

  Taking new paths and tunnels, they explored other chambers, the
ones where Grimthaard's orcs had lived.  They found sleeping quarters,
storage chambers, and a few scattered weapons.

Gorin:  How come we haven't found any orcish women and children?
  Where are they?
Yod:  A damned good question.  (he turns and sniffs the air)  Hmm.
Mongo:  Yeah, something's not quite right here.
Bosco:  It's that smell.  The smell of orcs' quarters.
Yod:  No, this is the stone...the rock.  (he heads off in a new
Bosco:  Oh, great, now we're smelling our way to the treasure.
Mongo:  Can it, Bosco.

  A few minutes later, they found a heavily-barred door, which was
quickly opened.  A crude tunnel lay beyond the door; it led away,
and a slight breeze flowed through it.

Yod:  I'll be damned!  (he trots down the tunnel, and the others
Spikey:  What's going on?
Sparkey:  (shrugs)  Beats me.
Gorin:  (to Mongo)  Could it be?
Mongo:  I think so.
Bosco:  What?!?  Someone tell me what's going on!
Mongo:  An exit, kid.  A secret entrance to Thunderdelve.
Gorin:  An entrance that the orcs used at will.
Bosco:  Aie!  Say it isn't so!

  But it was - the tunnel led around and away, winding as it ascended,
often very steeply.  After many minutes of marching, they emerged into
the world above.  The sun shone through a thick cover of trees, and
the rocky terrain served well to hide the entrance.  This exit seemed
to be near the base of the mountain, and the main entrance to Thunder-
delve was nowhere to be seen.

Yod:  Damn!  So this was how they came and went...right under our
  noses.  This doesn't really surprise me.  The varmints had to have
  some way in and out.
Gorin:  Mostly went, recently, I'd think.  I bet this is how all the
  orcish women and children escaped.
Bosco:  Orcish women?  Is that something like dwarven women?
Gorin:  Quiet, Bosco.
Yod:  (utterly ignoring the halfling)  Escaped...yeah.  Just as well.
  I have no heart to kill women and children, even orcs.
Bosco:  (babbling to himself as he tosses pinecones)  Women and
  children first...
Spikey:  We'll have to get this tunnel sealed up.
Sparkey:  And fast.
Yod:  Yes...we'll get crews on the job immediately.  Until then...
  (he spots a boulder, and begins pushing it over toward the tunnel
  mouth)  Ungh.
Mongo:  (puts his hammer away)  Let me help you with that.

  Together, they moved the big rock to the tunnel's entrance, until
only a narrow crack remained.  Going through this, back into the
passage, they grasped the boulder at its edges, and slowly, carefully
pulled it, until the way to the outside was sealed.

Yod:  That won't stop a determined crew, but we'll seal it up good
  and proper before long.
Bosco:  Just cave it in.
Mongo:  That's the idea.  Well, actually, we should apply some mortar
  to the boulder...then build a really thick wall.  I don't want orcs
  or anyone else coming this way again.  Hmm.  Spikey?
Spikey:  Yeah, boss?
Sparkey:  (almost replies)
Yod:  I want you and Sparkey to go back upstairs, and get a crew of
  my miners down here, pronto.  We'll wait in Grimthaard's, er, my,
  hall for you to return.
Spikey:  Right.  (he and his twin brother run off to do this task)

  The remaining four adventurers searched the area carefully as they
headed back to the cavern-hall where the climactic battle took place.
However, there was nothing to be found; a short time later, the two
halfling warriors rejoined them in the hall.

Spikey:  All taken care of, boss.
Sparkey:  Twenty miners are working on it now.
Yod:  Excellent.
Mongo:  So, back to more exploration?
Yod:  Yeah.

  Heading back into the mines, they continued their search; roaming
through all kinds of rooms, caverns, mines, and burrows, the group
found just about everything there was to find - except treasure.

Yod:  Damn it!  Where'd that little bastard hide all his goodies?!?
Bosco:  (muttering)  Under the bed.
Yod:  Huh?  What's that?
Bosco:  I said under the bed.  That's where I'd hide my goodies - in
  my bedroom somewhere.  That way, no one can get the loot without
  me knowing about it.
Yod:  Hmm, an interesting concept.  (he consults the map)  This way.
Mongo:  You're actually gonna buy into this idea?
Yod:  It's the best one I've heard recently.

  They navigated their way back to the dead orc-king's chambers, in
reality no more than a forty-foot wide cavern with a single entrance.
Earlier, Mongo and Yod had kicked down the door, but a thorough search
of the bedchamber had revealed nothing.

Bosco:  (climbs under the old bed that was Grimthaard's)  We weren't
  thorough enough.
Yod:  What have you found?  (he grabs the bed's frame with one hand,
  and lifts it out of the way, revealing a crouching Bosco)
Bosco:  Hi.
Yod:  (hurls the bed aside)  What've you got?
Bosco:  (scanning the floor underneath the bed)  There's a hatchway
Mongo:  Where?  I don't see anything.
Yod:  Me neither.
Bosco:  You've gotta have the sight.  Like me.  (he uses his magical
  stone knife to peel away the stone of the floor)
Gorin:  (explaining to Spikey and Sparkey that Bosco has a ring of
  x-ray vision)  -and he's never been the same since.  He sees things,
  all kinds of things.
Spikey:  Hmm, that explains it.
Sparkey:  I wonder if he can see through womens' clothing?
Bosco:  (busy with the stone of the floor, he doesn't even look up)

  Within moments, the studious halfling had exposed a metal plate,
which had been buried beneath an inch-thick layer of stone!

Bosco:  Told ya.
Yod:  Aside.  (he scrapes away the remaining rubble)
Mongo:  Whoa.

  The hatchway was two feet square, and in its center was a lock,
a lock whose keyhole was the same size as the iron key Yod had taken
from Grimthaard.

Yod:  Aha.  (he prepares to try the key)
Bosco:  Ah, ah, ah.  (holds up his hand)  Could be traps, you know.
Yod:  Err...of course.
Bosco:  (examines the keyhole from all angles)  Hmm.
Gorin:  (wondering how Grimthaard had this hatch/safe/whatever put
  in without other orcs knowing about it)
Spikey:  (going through the dresser, he marvels at the bad fashion
  sense of the deceased orc-king)
Sparkey:  (resting against one wall, he keeps an eye out for any
  intruders or monsters, just in case)
Bosco:  (stands, positively beaming)  No traps.  You may proceed.
Yod:  Gee, thanks.  (he inserts the key, and turns it slowly; the
  lock produces a muffled "click")
Mongo:  Pull it open.
Yod:  (does so, revealing a square hole, of the same dimensions as
  the hatch; it leads down about a foot, to a five-foot cubic room)
  Well, lookee here...

  In the hole were several chests, atop which rested two decaying
orcish bodies.  A pickaxe was still gripped in one of their hands.

Bosco:  (holding his nose)  Phew!
Gorin:  Well, at least we know what happened to the orcs who dug this
  hole for Grimthaard.
Mongo:  Ruthless bastard.
Yod:  Yep.  (he jumps into the vault, landing atop one of the rotten
rotten corpse:  (falls apart)
Yod:  (lifting one chest)  Ungh!  (he hoists the thing upward, where
  the equally-strong Mongo grabs it and sets it on the bedchamber's
  floor)  One up, two to go!
Mongo:  Gotcha.  (he prepares to take the second chest as Yod lifts
  it up)
Bosco:  (begins examining the locking mechanism on the first chest)

  Within moments, all three chests were out of the hole, followed
shortly by Yod.  Bosco already had the first chest open, and was busy
tossing random items out of it.

Yod:  Hey, watch it with my loot!
Bosco:  _Our_ loot, remember?  (holds up a large ruby)  Ahh, sweet
Mongo:  Actually, Bosco, uh...
Bosco:  (taking out one of his light coins to examine the treasure)
  Black pearls!  These babies are huge!
Mongo:  That's...uh...
Bosco:  (holding up a small ceremonial dagger)  I think this is
Mongo:  Yod and I agreed...
Bosco:  (tosses another ruby at Mongo)  Hey, check this one out!
Mongo:  (looks at Yod)
Yod:  (shaking his head, he gives Mongo the OK sign)

  Actually, and much to their pleasant surprise, Grimthaard had quite
a stash hidden away in the three chests.  Heaps of gold and silver
coins...gems of all shapes and sizes...brooches, rings, amulets, and
the like...

Bosco:  I'll take this...and this...and one of these-
Yod:  Stop right there.
Bosco:  (freezes, a gem-studded diadem clutched in one tiny hand)
Yod:  We'll divide this stuff later; for now, toss it all in Mongo's
  portable hole.  I can have one of my priests sort out any magical
  items later.  (he eyes, then picks up, a faded map of some sort)
  Now what's this?
Bosco:  Aw, darn it!  (he drops all the treasure he had picked up,
  though a ring somehow makes it into his pocket, unseen by all)
Mongo:  (opening up the portable hole, grinning)  Fill 'er up, boys.
Bosco:  (reluctantly obeying)  What do I look like, a treasure scoop?
  I still say this stuff's better off divided now, not later...
Yod:  By Moradin's dark beard!
Mongo:  Huh?  What?
Yod:  The Ninth Deep!  The stinking orc had the map to the Ninth
Gorin:  I thought you had maps to all the Deeps?
Yod:  All I had for the Ninth Deep was a fragment...badly decayed.
  If this map's accurate, we can clear out that level in a third of
  the usual time!
Mongo:  Why not get started now?
Spikey:  Yeah.  We want some action, boss.
Sparkey:  There should be monsters galore in the Ninth Deep...
Yod:  There will be.  (consults the map)  C'mon, this way.  We'll
  take this stairway, and go down.
Bosco:  (palming an emerald earring)  Treasure secured, chief.
  Ready for phase two.

  Walking through the quiet orc-lair for a while, they eventually
reached a massive stairway.  It looked like the last one they had
descended, and they pensively walked down these stairs as well.
There was one difference this time, however:  the Ninth Deep hadn't
been occupied by the orcs, meaning that totally new dangers were
hidden within.  At the foot of the stairs, a large iron door blocked
the entrance to (presumably) the mines.  The heavy door was secured
with two thick iron bars, in addition to two locks.

Yod:  Hmph.  Maybe the orcs weren't as stupid as they looked.
Mongo:  Yeah, seems like they're afraid of what's down here.
Bosco:  I'm not afraid.
Yod:  You will be.  This area may well be more dangerous than
  anything else we've yet seen in Thunderdelve.
Bosco:  Bring it on.  (he reaches the bottom of the stairs, and goes
  to work on the locks)  Someone else get the bars, they're too heavy
  for me.
Gorin:  Oh yeah, you don't have super-strength anymore.
Bosco:  Just a temporary setback, mind you.

  Shortly, the heavy door was open, revealing a mineshaft going in
both directions, right and left.

Bosco:  (struts in and looks around)  Hey, which way do you wanna go?
Yod:  (scanning the map)  Hmm.  I wonder...could it really exist?
Mongo:  What?
Yod:  Only one way to find out...Bosco!
Bosco:  Yep?
Yod:  (points)  That way.  We're going that way.
Bosco:  Gotcha.  (he cracks his knuckles, draws his shortsword, and
  ventures off in that direction)
Gorin:  What are we hunting for?
Yod:  You'll see.

  It seemed that the mines and tunnels of the Ninth Deep were laid
out in a much simpler fashion than those of the previous eight levels.
They seemed to consist of a series of long, spacious mine-shafts,
running roughly in parallel to one another and connected by smaller
side passages.  Entering one such shaft, whose walls were lined with
veins of solid gold, they ventured down the mine's vast length.  A
slight breeze, coming from somewhere ahead, blew by them.

Mongo:  A breeze?  Here?  How can it be?
Yod:  We'll know soon enough, if my guess - and this map - are right.

  Some time later, they emerged into a large, airy cavern, roughly
cylindrical in shape.  About fifty feet wide, the chamber extended
upward and downward for as far as the eye could see.  A narrow stone
ledge circled the massive shaft, permitting them to walk around the
edge.  The breeze, stronger here than in the mineshaft, wafted its
way through the huge vertical tunnel, smelling faintly of brimstone.

Yod:  Behold:  the Bottomless Stair!  Tread with care.
Gorin:  No joke.
Mongo:  What is this place?  Where does it lead?
Yod:  The Stair is one of the legends of Thunderdelve.  It's said to
  go down into the very heart of the world...
Bosco:  (peering over the ledge, fascinated)  Has anyone ever tested
  that tale?
Yod:  Nope.  No one who lived, anyway.
Bosco:  (kicks a rock into the shaft; it vanishes into the blackness
  without a sound)  Aie.
Gorin:  We're going down there?
Yod:  Hells, no.  We'd need wizards to even think about it.  I can
  do a lot of things, but flying at will isn't one of them.  Besides,
  I told you, no one's done it and come back to tell the tale.
Bosco:  There's always a first-
Yod:  No.  We're headed elsewhere, not here.  I just wanted to see
  if this place really existed, and show it to you.
Mongo:  Interesting, no doubt about it.
Bosco:  (still caught in the throes of confusion, he follows them
  as they leave the shaft)  Hmph.

  The massive shaft seemed to be in the very center of the Ninth Deep,
with all the horizontal mineshafts running on either side of it.


                              #         #
                           #  #         #               E
                           #  #         #  #          N + S
                        #  #  #         #  #            W
                        #  #__#         =  #
                        #  #  #         #  #        #   mine shaft
                       #  #  #         #  #  #      =   stairway up
                       #  #  #         #  #  #      %   stairway down
                       #__#  #         #  #__#
                       #  #  #         #  #  #
                       #  #  #         #  #  #
                      #  #  #         #  #  #
                      #  #  #         #__#  #
                      #  #__#         #  #  #
                      #  #  #___/ \___#  #  #
                      #  #  #   \_/   #  #  #
                     #  #  #         #  #  #
                     #__#  #         =  #  #    <-- stair where party
                     #  #  #         #  #__#        entered 9th Deep
                     #  #  #         #  #  #
                    #  #  #         #  #  #
                    #  #__#         #  #  #
                    #  #  #         #__#  #
                    %  #  #         #  #
                       #  #         #  #
                       #  #         #  #
                          #         #  #
                         #         #
                         #         #

  They had crossed the Bottomless Stair, following Yod, and were now
in the northern end of the Deep.  Turning left, and heading westward,
they ventured into a mineshaft that hadn't seen dwarven feet in two
or three centuries.  Their every step raised little clouds of dust,
and the stale air and slightly warm temperature only served to remind
the adventurers of the millions of tons of rock that surrounded them
down here.

next:   the indigenous life of the Ninth Deep
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  As I write this, my car's all better (though my checkbook
  isn't) and I've returned to the days of the car alarm (I used to
  have one on my old 280ZX)  That's pretty bad - I write one story
  just after my car gets broken into, and in the very next story
  you read, the car's fixed.  Methinks my writing pace has slowed
  down considerably this summer.  Hmm.  I'll have to work on this.

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