Chapter #649

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                                   +   +
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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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   +
+   Adolphus        half-ogre warrior                                     +
+   Damien          rogue imp                                             +
+   Peyton          gnome thief                                           +
+   Rogar           human priest of Olidammara                            +
+   Sylus           dark elf warrior/thief                                +
+   Wembly          human wizard                                          +
+   Date:           2/17/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          a ruined moathouse near the town of Nulb              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "You're nothing but a bunch of rotten troublemakers!"                 +
+   "Wrong.  Only some of us are rotten troublemakers."                   +
+                                                            - unknown    +

                     DCXLIX.  Dungeoneering 101

  After some exploration and battle, the party decided to camp in the
upper area of the ruined moathouse.  Holing up in one of the larger but
still empty rooms was a piece of cake, as was reinforcing the door in
case anyone came a-calling.  After an uneventful night, morning finds
the group refreshed and ready for another day of adventuring...

Wembly:  So which stairway do we take?
Peyton:  Why, the one behind the secret door, of course.  As my dear old
  uncle always used to say, never come in by the obvious entrance when
  someone left a hidden one open.
Damien:  Any jackasses down there and...BAM!  We'll surprise the living
  shit out of them!  And then kill 'em!  (he waves his tiny trident in
  the air)
Rogar:  (rubbing his head)  Strong brandy last night...
Sylus:  Perhaps you should stop drinking the stuff in such quantities.
Rogar:  What fun would that be?  (he yawns and begins searching for a
  place to relieve himself)
Adolphus:  (looking around as he finishes the last scraps of his morning
  meal, which includes the frogs slain yesterday)  Smash today?
Peyton:  Undoubtedly.
Adolphus:  (looks confused)
Peyton:  Plenty of smashing for all, my dear Adolphus.
Adolphus:  (grins, revealing his jagged teeth)  Good.
Wembly:  Is that a frog leg you're eating...ugh.
Adolphus:  Urp!
Damien:  Hey, those frogs were damn fine eating!

  Shortly, they stood atop the secret stairway within the large chamber
to the northeast.  Rogar prepared a magical light for himself and Wembly,
keeping it covered for now as the other four - all of whom could see in
the dark - led the way.  What they found at the bottom of the stairs was
almost anticlimactic, though:  a ten-foot square chamber with no exits.

Peyton:  No fucking way...(he begins checking the walls, tapping lightly
  and feeling along the edges)  Aha!

  Within moments, the thief had found not one but _two_ secret doors!
Choosing the one on his right, Peyton and Sylus slid it aside, revealing
a large chamber supported by five thick columns.  It also had a resident.

ogre:  Hey!  (he grabs for a gigantic bardiche that leans against the
  wall beside him)
Peyton:  Yes.  We're from the Commission for the Regulation of Dungeon
  Exploration.  You haven't paid your monthly dues-
ogre:  You ain't got the symbol.  You ain't s'posed to be here.  (he
  takes a step toward them)
Adolphus:  (hefts his military pick)  I handle this.

  They met in the room's center, ogre and half-ogre.  Adolphus had more
experience in battle, however, and batted the foe's attack aside, both
combatants' weapons clattering to the floor and forcing a hand-to-hand

Adolphus:  (despite bleeding from a smashed nose, he finds the strength
  to smash the ogre's head into the floor repeatedly)
ogre:  (struggling, he ceases as a thin blade slices into his back)  Glk.
Adolphus:  Huh?
Sylus:  (withdraws his blade, cleaning it on the slain foe's tunic)
Adolphus:  Hey, me not needed any help!
Sylus:  (shrugs)  This is no game.
Adolphus:  (growling)
Peyton:  Enough.  Adolphus, we've no time for long, drawn-out fights - we
  have to move quickly, and kill the enemies quickly.  And there will be
Adolphus:  (grumbling, he retrieves his pick)

  The room contained a large pile of coppers, but nothing else of value.
The ogre's bardiche wasn't magical, though Adolphus took a fancy to it
and claimed it as his own.  Two doors led from the chamber, and the first
one opened into a stinking and sickening room that contained prisoners...
and parts of prisoners.

Adolphus:  Food larder.
Peyton:  Phew.
Wembly:  (begins retching)
Sylus:  I do believe that those two are alive.
Damien:  And that gnome over there.  He looks alive too.
Rogar:  If just barely.

  Indeed, three prisoners had survived this long.  Two were humans, only
the slightest bit worse for wear; the third occupant was a gnome, as
Damien had noted.  This third prisoner had been badly beaten, but he was
alive and coherent.

human #1:  Free!  Free at last!
human #2:  (claps his hands joyfully)
Peyton:  Don't be so sure.
human #1:  (pales)  What?!?
human #2:  Are you not here to rescue us?
Sylus:  (sighing to himself)
Peyton:  It's not a matter of rescue.  It's a matter of you alerting
  whoever else is here to our presence.
human #1:  We can reward you - we are merchants!
human #2:  We have friends, and they have money!  You can all be rich!
Peyton:  We'll see about that.
Rogar:  What allies does the ogre - did the ogre - have?
human #1:  You'll let us go?
Damien:  We'll let you go, all right.  Now speak up and tell us what we
  need to know.
human #2:  We've seen a couple of humans...and some walking dead!  (he
Wembly:  Eep.
Rogar:  What kind of walking dead?  Skeletal?
human #1:  No, they had flesh.  Though it was rotting.
Rogar:  They moved fast, or slow?
human #2:  Slow...shambling.  Terrible!  It was terrible!
Adolphus:  (to the man)  Don't worry.  Adolphus smash.
Rogar:  (to his companions)  Zombies, sounds like.
Adolphus:  (shrugs)  Adolphus still smash.
human #1:  Can we be freed now?
Peyton:  (sighs)  You'll need to be taken up above...escorted back to
  civilization...and we don't have the time.
gnome:  (weakly)  I can take them back.
Peyton:  You sure, buddy?  You don't look so hot.
gnome:  I am from this area, and I have many friends.  Upon my soul,
  these two and I will make it back to Hommlet safely.
Damien:  (chuckles)
human #1:  That's fine.  We'll go back with him.
human #2:  (eager to be out of this place)  Yes, yes.
Peyton:  (weighing the situation)  Okay, fine.  Get going - but don't
  forget to have our reward money ready when we get back to Hommlet.
Sylus:  I shall go with them, to ensure that they escape the ruins
  above.  I can be back down here in no time.
Peyton:  Good idea.  Wembly, go with him.
Wembly:  Me?  Why?
Peyton:  Because.
Wembly:  Oh, all right.

  The three liberated prisoners and their two escorts disappeared up
the staircase, leaving the other four adventurers to wait.  In the
interest of saving time, Peyton checked the other exit from the late
ogre's chamber, finding a messy room full of junk, with a single other
exit.  Astute as ever, the gnome noticed that the hinges of the door
he'd just come through were greased.

Peyton:  Probably so the ogre could come and go as he pleased.
Damien:  Why the hell would he need to do that?
Peyton:  Damned good question.

  Listening at the next door revealed nothing, so they waited; after
a short while, Sylus and Wembly returned.

Sylus:  They are on their way.
Peyton:  And out of our hair.  Good.  I think the next door leads to a
  larger chamber, an open area.
Wembly:  How can you know that?
Peyton:  Years of experience, kid.
Wembly:  Oh.  (he frowns, wishing he knew the Wizard Eye spell)
Adolphus:  Me smash?
Peyton:  No, not yet.  I'll peek out, and then we'll move through the
  door one at a time.  If there's anyone out there, we charge without
  any warning.

  The door was opened, revealing a large L-shaped hallway with numerous
columns.  To the northwest was a stairway, which was probably the lower
end of the main stairway from above (the non-secret one they hadn't
opted to take.)  To the south and east was an open section of wall that
led into another, unseen area.  As they moved to explore the latter area
of the hall, two dark forms emerged from behind columns and shuffled in
their direction...

Peyton:  Oh, you have got to be kidding...
Adolphus:  (gleefully)  Adolphus smash!

  Pick held high, the half-ogre charged at the foes, swinging wildly.
Before anyone had a chance to do anything, a rotted head had been torn
from its rotten body and was sailing through the air.

Wembly:  (shrieks as the head lands next to him, its teeth still
  chattering and chewing)

  As Adolphus made short work of the other zombie, a door on the west
wall - one of five that were concealed in darkness and therefore hard
to see - opened, admitting two more zombies into the main hall.  From
the look of the room from which the monsters had emerged, it and the
other four were all small closets, no more.

Peyton:  I don't like this at all.
Rogar:  Fear not.  I shall send these infidels back to whence they
  came.  (he holds his holy symbol aloft, and it glows)

  Rogar stepped forth, forcibly confronting the undead.  The undead
could not advance before his power, and turned, seeking refuge in
the chamber from whence they had come.

Peyton:  Not good enough.
Rogar:  Eh?
Sylus:  They may come back out later and sneak up on us.
Peyton:  I have just the solution.  Adolphus!

  Even as they sent the hulking warrior after the zombies, the next
door in the row opened, emitting yet another pair of zombies.  Rogar
turned these as well, just in time for Adolphus to back out of the
closet, having hacked the previous pair of zombies to bits.  Just
then, the third of the five doors opened, and still another pair of
zombies shambled forth.
  Still, Rogar's holy power and Adolphus' ability to kill the undead
with but a single blow won out, and when all was said and done, twelve
zombie corpses (in significantly more than twelve pieces) were strewn
about the hall.

Adolphus:  (surveys the carnage, pleased with himself)
Wembly:  Good job, Adolphus!
Sylus:  We had best secure this entire area, before something comes
  along that cannot be stopped with symbols and brute force.

  The area to the southeast turned out to be a torture chamber, one
that had obviously been used fairly recently.  It was, however, devoid
of both corpses and foes.  Peyton and Rogar stayed in the hall to hide
the bodies, while the others went north and west to explore that end
of the hall...

Sylus:  (spots two doors, almost totally hidden behind piles of junk
  and old furniture)  Ah, look.

  One room held a stock of weapons, while the other had suits of armor
and shields.  Damien discerned no magical auras, but there was something
of perhaps more interest.  Dozens of black capes, each with a bright
yellow eye-insignia sewn into its back, hung on pegs.

Wembly:  Maybe this is what the ogre was talking about when he said that
  we didn't have the symbol...
Sylus:  (nods)  Agreed.  We should take five of these with us.  Such a
  bluff may come in handy later.
Damien:  Hey, what about me?
Sylus:  What _about_ you?  You are too small to wear one of these.
Damien:  We'll see about that.  (he whips out a tiny knife and begins
  hacking at one of the capes)
Adolphus:  None of these big enough for me.
Sylus:  Close enough.  You'll be fine.

  By the time Damien had completed his makeshift cape (keeping intact
the area with the patch and not much more) the others had finished
their cursory search of the chambers.

Damien:  Ta-da!  (he stands proudly with his new cape)
Wembly:  It's never going to work.
Sylus:  We could just pretend he's a halfling.
Damien:  Hey, I resent that!

  When the four rejoined Peyton and Rogar, they were surprised to find
no trace of the dozen zombies, save a few smears of blood on the floor.

Sylus:  Whatever did you do with their remains?
Peyton:  (grins)  You'll see.

  As they moved back through the ogre's room, Peyton's scheme became
apparent.  He had directed Rogar to help him place the zombies' remains
all around the fallen ogre, suggesting that the undead had swarmed and
killed him.  Peyton had even gone so far as to put some of the zombies'
hands in the ogre's wounds.

Wembly:  Good gods.
Peyton:  (shrugs)  If it makes someone wonder, then it helps us.  If
  not, well...
Damien:  (laughing so hard that he wobbles in the air)  What a sight!
Adolphus:  Find more enemies to smash now?
Sylus:  We may find more than that...
Rogar:  (still pleased that he had such good luck with the zombies and
  his holy symbol, he begins searching for a flask of liquor)
Peyton:  So now it's back to where we came down, and we'll take the other
  secret door...

next:      the conclusion to this band's adventures
released:  6/19/00
notes:     Finally, my take on the John Rocker issue:  yes, he has some
  problems, and he made his share of mistakes.  However, it's become too
  fashionable to bash him.  Especially when we have other pro athletes
  who have done worse things (like murder perhaps) and gotten away with

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