Chapter #472

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    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                    +
+                           +
+  Belphanior     (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief    (CN) +
+    Otto           8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief        (CN) +
+    Victoria      11th level female vampiric human fighter    (NE) +
+                                                                   +
+  Helgate's town guards:                                           +
+    Aja           10th level female human priestess of Wee Jas(LN) +
+    Jutokai        7th level human fighter/archer              (N) +
+    Kinichi        7th level human ranger                     (CG) +
+    Razor Charlie  8th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+    Skektek        8th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                 (N) +
+  Date:        5/6/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        just past midnight                                  +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     cold and raining                                    +
+  "My mother always said there were no REAL          +
+   monsters...but there are."                                      +
+                                           - Newt, from _Aliens_   +

               CDLXXII.  Denizens of the Mines

  As the explorations continue, it is becoming obvious that whatever
lurks in the mines is no conventional menace...

Kinichi:  Not a dog...not a cat...(he looks up, frowning)  I have
  never seen tracks such as these.
Otto:  Not to mention the blood-stains.
Belphanior:  One thing's for sure:  we're going to find out what
  the hell's going on.  (he gestures with his sword)  Look there.

  The elf was pointing down the passage; in the distance, faint
echoes of a scuffling sound were just beginning to reach the ears
of the adventurers.  Whatever the sound was, it was barely audible,
but that wasn't about to stop this crew.

Kinichi:  We need to follow, but I'd be wary of a trap.
Jutokai:  Right you are.  It's too dark, and too crowded, down here
  for blind pursuit.
Aja:  Especially of the unknown.
Skektek:  I could fire a lightning bolt down the mineshaft...
Belphanior:  No dice.  That would seal us in, maybe, if the tunnel
  collapsed.  Besides, we'd never know what made the sound.
Ys:  Onward, then?
Otto:  Yep.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces, and checks his knives)
Victoria:  (not really worried about anything they might encounter
  down here, she merely smiles)

  They moved out, resuming their narrow marching order as they walked
briskly (but carefully) down the mine's roughly-cut length.  No more
scuffling sounds were heard, though Kinichi found a few more tracks
as the group went.

Kinichi:  Same spoor...we're onto something.

  After a hundred more feet, they stumbled (literally) upon a decline,
a natural ramp of stone that went downward at a small but significant
angle.  After a slight descent, the passage levelled off once more,
but after a mere twenty feet, it ended abruptly.

Ys:  Or maybe not...(he looks up)

  Above the eight-foot reptilian and the ten-foot shaft ceiling was
a gaping hole, quite obviously not man-made.  A good six feet in
diameter, the opening had been made recently, judging from the fresh
scrape marks around its edges.

Otto:  We need to boost somebody up there to have a look-see.
Skektek:  But who?
Otto:  Me, of course.
Aja:  Maybe Ys should go.
Ys:  I would love to, but I don't think I can climb up there easily.
  The lip of the hole would break off.
Otto:  He's right.  (to Ys)  Boost me up there, wouldja?

  The huge lizard-man did better than that; he lifted Otto clear up
onto the ledge, and the dwarf checked the passage before giving the
clear signal.  Soon, everybody except Ys stood in the crudely-hewn
tunnel above.

Ys:  Now, how are you going to get _me_ up there?
Belphanior:  (reaches down)  We'll pull you up.  Give me your hand.
Ys:  (shakes his head)
Victoria:  (reaches down also)  Give me your other hand.
Ys:  (flabbergasted, though no one can tell because they can't read
  his facial expressions)  Very well...

  With surprising ease, the two hoisted Ys up onto the next level.
Otto and Kinichi helped too, once the reptilian was halfway over
the edge of the hole.  Shortly, the marching order had been restored
and the explorations resumed.  This tunnel was old, given the state
of its walls and ceiling; the floor told Kinichi that the passage
was well-trod.  As best as they could guess, something had lived in
the tunnel (and wherever else it led to) and only recently broken
into the mineshaft below.
  Occasional stains of blood soon gave way to an entire puddle, in
which a pile of gnawed bones rested.

Otto:  Human bones...
Victoria:  Yes, they are.
Belphanior:  So we've got flesh-eaters down here.  I'd guess they
  have souls, and that means...whoa.
Kinichi:  What?  What is it?
Belphanior:  (points further down the passage)  They're there.  I
  can feel them.
Jutokai:  Let's go, then.
Skektek:  (nervously preparing a spell as the group ventures into
  the unknown)
Victoria:  (takes the light-staff as the wizard works his magic)
Ys:  (leading the way, jolly as can be)

  After only thirty feet, which wound and twisted about, the rough
tunnel opened into a large cavern.  Water dripped from stalactites,
pinging against the cave's floor and forming shallow puddles.  The
light from Skektek's staff showed the area to be about fifty feet
wide, with a slightly higher ceiling.
  The adventurers were not alone; a number of strange, humanoid
beings swarmed in their direction.  Their bodies were basically
the size and shape of short, wiry humans; the tallest among their
number was a mere five feet in height.  Their skin was pale and a
dead white in color, like the belly of a fish.  Their heads were
bizarre in shape and appearance, having a wide mouth full of long,
needle-like fangs.  This fearsome maw caused their jaws to be
significantly wider than the rest of their heads.  In addition, their
eyes were long and narrow, almost slitted, and glowed with a pale
yellow aura.  Short pointed ears jutted forth from bony, bald heads.
Though the things had no reason to be physically imposing, their
appearance was nevertheless unnerving; they were surely spawned from
some dark nightmare.
  The creatures' hands and feet were tipped with long, curving nails,
which looked more than capable of tearing flesh from a victim's bones.
In many cases, these claws were crusted with something that looked
very much like dried blood.  The things wore no clothing of any kind,
but strangely enough, they appeared to be completely asexual; no
gonads of any sort were apparent.
  The monsters, about a dozen in number, scuttled to the attack
with fearsome quickness, running along hunched over, as primitives
might have done.  There was no mistaking their strength and speed,
however, and as the things leapt toward the explorers, they hooted
and screeched wildly, a terrible sound that was a cross between a
howl of joy and a scream of pain.  The nine companions had never
heard anything like it.

Jutokai:  By the gods...
Belphanior:  Stand fast, all of you!  They have souls, and therefore
  they can die!
Otto:  Good, because it's either them or us.  (he raises his loaded

next:      battle with the cave-things
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     I finally saw _The Glimmer Man_, which was good for an
  action/mystery mix (not Seagal's usual cup of tea) but I haven't
  yet seen any of the recent Van Damme/John Woo/action releases
  (there are three or four, and all of their names escape me.)  I
  also need to see _Two Days in the Valley_.
    I'm about to embark on a great journey:  Denver, for the
  Gathering III, a Highlander convention running from 10/11-13/96.
  I also have tickets to tonight's NLCS game 1 in Atlanta.  Whee!

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