Chapter #678

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

+     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   +
+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+     onyx dog figurine                                                   +
+   Date:           2/7/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          deep below the Griff Mountains                        +
+   Climate:        temperate                                             +
+   "Running ain't a plan!  Running's what you do when a plan fails!"     +
+                                                  - Val, from _Tremors_  +

                      DCLXXVIII.  One Danger to Another

  After some nearly-blind underground roaming, Rillen and Songa have come
upon a small town of troglodytes...

Songa:  Unless we want to backtrack and try to find another passage...
Rillen:  (shakes his head)
Songa:  ...we can try to sneak around the edge of this dwelling.  It won't
  be trivial, but it shouldn't be too tough either.
Rillen:  (buckles on his belt of giant strength)  We can't afford to take
  any chances.
Songa:  I don't plan to.

  The huntress' approach was simple:  the pair would keep to the fringe of
the huge cavern that contained the troglodytes' lake-town.

Songa:  There have to be other exits somewhere in this place - the one we
  came through can't be the only one.
Rillen:  (nods)  What if we're spotted?
Songa:  Then we run like hell.
Rillen:  Ah.  (after a moment's thought, he activates his onyx figurine,
  and the magical dog appears)
onyx dog:  (regards the nearby town, then its masters, as if it suddenly
  understands the situation)  Arf.

  Without further ado, they moved out.  Songa led the way, and Rillen
followed her lead, doing his best to stick to the shadows and make no
noise.  By and large, they were successful; the troglodytes were all in
their town or around it, or else at the lake.  This meant that none of
them roamed the cavern, and none spotted the three stealthy figures that
circumvented their dwelling place.
  However, the troglodytes had another defense mechanism that the humans
couldn't know about.

tall, skinny mushroom-like fungus:  (quivers as Songa walks past)
Songa:  Eh?
tall, skinny mushroom-like fungus:  (begins squealing loudly)
Songa:  Damn!

  With a single, savage thrust of her spear, the warrior-woman impaled
the fungus, silencing it.  However, it was too late:  the alarm had been
raised, and troglodytes were swarming, weapons in hand, to see what had
set off the shrieker.

Rillen:  (unlimbers his bow)
Songa:  Run!  Come on!
Rillen:  But...

  Cursing, he sprinted after Songa, who was continuing on their intended
course, only much faster and without trying to keep out of sight.  Ahead
of them both raced the little black dog.

black dog:  (spies a side passage)  Arf!
troglodyte:  (wanders out of the tunnel)  Grrrrrk?
black dog:  (darts between the scaly humanoid's legs, throwing it off-
troglodyte:  (nearly trips over itself...and then finds Songa's spear
  tearing through its throat)
Songa:  (flips her weapon to free it, nearly ripping the creature's head
  from its body)

  The passage seemed clear, but there was another one - a larger one - not
too far ahead.  Unfortunately, a half-dozen of the troglodytes had moved
between the adventurers and the exit.

Rillen:  (noting the foes' lack of good, accurate missile or throwing
  weapons, he hefts his staff and charges ahead)
Songa:  What are you doing-
Rillen:  (plows into the ranks of the things, bowling them over with ease)
Songa:  (having forgotten about Rillen's belt of giant-strength)  Oh.

  They reached the mouth of the large passage, where it became necessary
to dispatch four more troglodytes.  After that, Rillen and Songa both
readied their longbows; there were no foes anywhere within melee range,
which meant that the adventurers could use missile fire from a safe
distance.  Rillen had been hit a couple of times during his charging
attacks, but his magical bracers and robes had saved him from serious
  Five troglodytes had fallen, dead or dying, before the others realized
that these outsiders' weapons meant death for any who approached too
closely.  Both sides were engaged in a wary standoff; the troglodytes
didn't dare to charge and risk death by arrow, and the adventurers had
the large tunnel to their back, but no other means of escape.

Rillen:  We'd better hope that this passage behind us is clear of foes.
black dog:  (returns from its running exploration of that very passage)
  Arf, arf!
Songa:  It's safe?
black dog:  Arf, arf!

  While Rillen kept his bow ready, Songa put hers away and readied her
spear again.  Almost immediately, some of the troglodytes tested this
new development, creeping slowly toward their human foes.  Just as
quickly, one of them fell back, a pair of arrows lodged in its chest.
This seemed to cow the others, and Rillen backed up, following Songa,
his bow still held at the ready.
  After a hundred feet or so, he found something that would greatly
help their escape:  a large, jagged boulder half-blocked the tunnel.

Songa:  Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Rillen:  Of course.  (he hands his bow to her and gets behind the big
  rock, setting his legs and adjusting his grip)  Rrrrrrrg!

  Even with the enchanted belt, the feat was a difficult one, but not
impossible.  Rubble fell from the boulder as it was freed from its
resting place; with a mighty push, Rillen sent it rolling down the
passage, in the direction from which they'd come.  The tunnel floor
wasn't sloped, so the boulder didn't make it very far, but it did crush
three troglodyte advance scouts before lodging nicely in a slight bend
in the passage.

Songa:  Damned if that didn't block the whole path...
Rillen:  It won't take them long to figure out that they can climb over
  the boulder.
Songa:  (nods)  Let's get moving.

  Oddly enough, there seemed to be no effort at pursuit - no noises
came filtering down along the passage.

Rillen:  I wasn't joking.  Those things may not be geniuses, but you'd
  think they could climb over a rock.
Songa:  (shrugs)  Maybe not.
Rillen:  Maybe they're afraid of our bows.  (he smirks)  As well they
  should be.
black dog:  (growling at something ahead)
Rillen:  What is it?
black dog:  (still growling, it ignores them)
Songa:  We had better take a look.  (she hefts her spear, behind whose
  metal head is twined some of the glow-fungus)  A careful look.
Rillen:  (readies his bow)

  About two hundred feet ahead, and around several gentle bends in the
passage, they encountered a sheer dropoff.  From the sound of echoes
in the dark space ahead, they were on the brink of a huge underground

Songa:  There's a breeze here, but I'd wager that it doesn't lead to
  any way out of this underground complex.
Rillen:  What's that smell?
black dog:  (growling in a deeper tone now)
Songa:  This isn't good...

  Suddenly, a large, dark shape rose from the abyss before them, its
fetid bulk looming overhead...

Rillen:  By the gods!
Songa:  Or the demons...
black dog:  (barking loudly)

  The monster was some kind of great dark worm, but that was about all
they were sure of.  Weird tentacle-like growths sprouted from its head,
on all sides of the pale, pupil-less eyes and the maw filled with white
teeth.  The beast emitted a low, rumbling sound as the frontal portion
of its mammoth body flopped down onto the stone precipice before the

thing:  BWUUUUUURRR...

next:      battle with the dark one
released:  9/28/00
notes:     This story arc will wrap up when Rillen and Songa find our
  long-lost friend Arnold.  After that, I'll move to Halbarad/Peyote/Rob
  and then Peldor and then Alindyar/Lyra.  Only after all of these other
  peoples' arcs are at least somewhat resolved will I return to that
  wacky Belphanior and his group.

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