Chapter #386

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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 1991-6 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                    +
+                           +
+  Otto            8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief         (CN) +
+  Peldor         20th level human thief                        (N) +
+  Date:        4/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the sewers beneath the Free City of Greyhawk        +
+  Climate:     warm, damp, and smelly                              +
+  "I've always wanted to fight a desperate battle against          +
+   incredible odds."                                               +
+                                       - General George S. Patton  +

                     CCCLXXXVI.  The Nest

  After a catastrophic explosion and cave-in, Peldor and Otto have
escaped, apparently the only survivors.  Forced into a new pipeway
by the collapsed sewers, they have just stumbled upon what appears
to be a shapeshifter lair...

Peldor:  (staring down into the large cavern below, he notes the
  occupants of the area:  several dozen pods, plus a half-dozen
Otto:  (grips his sword tightly, thinking thoughts which would
  make an assassin squirm)

  Because they were both invisible, the two adventurers couldn't
talk in thieves' cant.  Thus, they retreated back along the pipe
until they were confident that the creatures in the cavernous
chamber couldn't hear them.  Even then, they spoke in little more
than whispers...

Otto:  Those motherfuckers are dead.
Peldor:  Don't go off half-cocked-
Otto:  To hell with that!  They caused the death of three friends,
  or did you forget?
Peldor:  Look, I agree with you - they have to die.  I'm just
  saying that we need to plan it carefully.  We can't just charge
  in there, swords swinging.
Otto:  (grimaces)  Okay, point taken.  (he pauses)  Not that I
  was going to do that...(he flexes his arms and shoulders)  Ahh.
  (he removes the sling from his broken arm)
Peldor:  Hey, what're you doing?  That thing can't heal if you
Otto:  (extends his right arm fully, then flexes it)  What were
  you saying?
Peldor:  How...?  (he examines the dwarf's arm)  Crap!  The damn
  thing healed!
Otto:  (shrugs)  I'm a fast healer.
Peldor:  There's got to be more to it that that.
Otto:  (frowns)  If so, I'm not telling.
Peldor:  (gives up on this topic, turning to another)  So, let's
  inventory our remaining items and see what we can do with them.

  Perhaps the greatest stroke of luck was the fact that Otto had
stored all his oil, poisons, and acids in his pouch of holding.
As a result, all of this ordnance was intact and undamaged; Otto
also had several coils of thin, strong rope.  He also had a potion
of speed which he could drink when the time was right.  Peldor's
potentially useful magical items included the telekinesis ring,
rope of climbing, hat of disguise, and boots of striding and
springing.  In addition, several of his feathers might prove useful.
  As both thieves were invisible, they went into action as soon as
their plan was drawn up...

Otto:  Are you sure this is going to work?
Peldor:  No.
Otto:  (surprised)  What?!?
Peldor:  Its about all we've got.  Unless you have other ideas?
Otto:  (muttering)  Not any we can implement.
Peldor:  (in a strangly monotone voice)  There are too many of them
  to take on by conventional means.  And we've got to get them.
  All of them.
Otto:  Yeah. But if it doesn't work...
Peldor:  Then I'll see you in Hell.
Otto:  You may, but not anytime soon.  Let's _make_ this work.
Peldor:  (nods)

  They went into action; Otto held onto Peldor's back as the former
leaped from the pipe, falling to the cavern floor as lightly as a
feather.  From there, the pair split up, each heading around a
different edge of the chamber.  Peldor hasted himself using his
tattoos, while Otto drank his potion to achieve the same effect.
From the safety of the pipe, they had already checked the cavern,
and knew that there were only two narrow passages leading out of
the area.  These were indeed passages, not pipes, for this area was
even older than the sewer system.  Each thief worked on one exit,
and both were as inaudible as they were invisible.  Even so, the
shapeshifters were possessed of far different senses than men or
dwarves, and they quickly noticed that they were not alone.
  Judging from the way they moved toward the invisible intruders,
it seemed that they could sense, but not see, Peldor and Otto.
Still, they moved in, lurching in their own weird fashion as they
neared the thieves.  The shapeshifters had split into two different
groups, three creatures stalking each adventurer.  Luckily, these
were the smaller, "normal" variety, not the bigger, stronger sort;
this fact had been noted, and bolstered the thieves' confidence in
their plan.
  Suddenly, Peldor became visible - but now he appeared as a shape-
shifter, thanks to his magical hat!  The foes knew that something
was wrong, but they hesitated for a moment.  In that time, Peldor
hurled a bottle directly at the creature nearest to him.  The glass
flask shattered against the thing's head, covering its face with
acid.  As the shapeshifter clutched its head with both hands, Peldor
executed a mighty leap, vaulting over the shapeshifters that stalked
him.  Landing just beyond them, in the room's center, he whipped out
several flasks of oil and hurled them against the greenish-brown pods.
  This attack seemed to enrage the shapeshifters; even those who
were nearest to Otto moved away, heading for Peldor, who was now
smashing more oil against other pods.  The thieves had guessed
correctly:  the strange creatures valued the pods above all else,
and all of them moved to block Peldor from the cluster of ovoids.
As the shapeshifters moved to encircle the thief, Otto completed his
own work, thoroughly dousing his assigned exit's edges with splashed
  In the room's center, Peldor was now trapped; the creatures were
now too close to Peldor for him to jump over, and in addition, the
pods were tearing open, admitting yet more foes.

Peldor:  (completely surrounded)  Okay, let's do it.  (he begins
  throwing oil wildly, onto shapeshifters or the floor, heedless
  of the oil spilling onto himself)
shapeshifters:  (closing in, within striking range of the thief)
Peldor:  (yells desperately)  NOW!

  Otto, who had already loaded his crossbow and arrayed several
bolts, was ready.  A small flame-pot burned next to him, and as
he dipped the first bolt into the fire, its head, coated with oil,
ignited fiercely.  A moment later, the missile was stuck in one
of the shapeshifters - who, being doused in oil, burst into flame.
Of course, a number of the things were covered in oil by now, and
the resulting chain reaction was rather bright and hot.  Within
moments, most of the creatures were ablaze.  Peldor, still trapped
in the center, kept smashing flasks of oil against foes, especially
those who hadn't been hit and set aflame yet.
  Satisfied with his attacks, Otto fired his next bolt at the exit
he'd doused in oil.  The natural archway of stone burst into flame,
doused as it was with the oil he'd just splashed there.  His next
shot was a difficult one, across the cavern, but the bolt flew
true, and the other exit, which Peldor had oiled, was soon aflame
as well.
  Amidst the blaze at the room's center, Peldor now moved about
methodically, his sword weaving death wherever he went.  Although
his red feather tattoo had always given him complete immunity to
nonmagical fire, the thief had never knowingly and willingly walked
through an inferno.  Until now.  It was quite a strange sensation,
but after he realized that he wasn't even sweating, he grew very
confident, and began dispatching shapeshifters with cool, calculated
precision.  He either backstabbed the foes, or else made crippling
attacks, ones intended to hamper their mobility.
  Otto aided his companion, firing a steady hail of bolts into the
fiery mess.  He reserved his shots for the targets he could most
clearly see - which meant any burning shapeshifter that stumbled
from the center of the cavern.  Several times, he was able to hit
one of the creatures in the leg or knee, and at least once, the
target fell, unable to move away as the fire consumed it.
  The desperate, deadly trick had worked, and well; though Peldor
was greatly outnumbered, his immunity to the blazing oil that clung
to his foes kept him moving, and alive.  Of course, his hasted state
didn't hurt, nor did his magical equipment.  More than once, the
master thief escaped a flaming but determined shapeshifter by deftly
leaping over its clutching arms.  When his position didn't allow for
that avenue of retreat, he simply used his telekinesis ring to push
the attackers away.
  Peldor somersaulted from the flames, burning oil running off of
his body.  Otto covered his companion's dash for freedom by firing
bolts at whichever foe was closest on Peldor's heels.

Peldor:  (sprinting along madly)  Gangway!
Otto:  Come on, run!  (he fires another bolt)

  The thieves had nothing to worry about, though, for Peldor was
naturally fleeter of foot than any shapeshifter, and he was hasted
besides.  The pair ran back to the area of cavern beneath the pipe
they'd entered through, and as planned, Otto tossed Peldor's rope
of climbing toward the pipe, speaking a command word.  The magical
rope stretched and wrapped itself around the pipe's rim firmly.
Otto next produced a black candle and lit it, muttering commands
as Belphanior had once taught him.  The arcane candle flickered to
life wit a dark flame - and the fires covering Peldor were sucked
into the candle!  Quickly, Otto blew the thing out before it took
the other fire and heat in the room; the candle went back into his
pack.  Peldor grabbed the rope and climbed up, hand over hand, as
Otto fired his last few bolts at the still-flaming shapeshifters
who approached.
  Peldor reached the top, and the cache of oil flasks they had left
up there.  Grabbing several, he began hurling them at any targets
he could see:  burning shapeshifters, the inferno at the chamber's
center, and the exits (where the flames were finally dying out.)
Meanwhile, Otto leaped up, the rope's loose end in his teeth, and
shimmied up.  Below, several shapeshifters groped at him, but he
was out of reach.  The creatures didn't even have the rope's lower
end to grab, since Otto was carrying it with him.
  By the time the dwarf had reached the pipe, Peldor had the room
blazing again.  It was actually a relatively easy task; all that
was required was to hurl flasks down, for eventually they would
catch flame.  It was a lethal game of connect-the-dots, but these
foes were beneath contempt, and Otto wasted no time joining in.
Soon, the pair had run out of oil, and had to be content to merely
watch the flaming inferno beneath them.

Otto:  Well, I don't fucking believe it - our plan worked!
Peldor:  I hope they all rot in hell.
Otto:  Hear, hear.  (he sniffs the air)  They're starting to stink.
  And with this amount of fire, we're going to run out of air here
  soon, unless we get moving. No point in dying here with them...
Peldor:  (nods)  We'd better get away from here.
Otto:  Yeah...time to find our way back to the surface.

  With that, they turned and left, oblivious to the crackling of
the flames - and bodies - in the cavern behind them.

next:      the long trek upward
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     A mere week after I bought my PC for home, a new one
  arrived at work.  How coincidental.  Now the one I work with
  is more powerful than the one I play with.

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