Chapter #233

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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.                                             +
+    Due to the nature of the Internet, these stories have been     +
+  widely available since 1991.  I have given them to the world     +
+  freely, and have never intended to market them or in any way     +
+  make money.  However, due to TSR, Inc.'s copyright restrictions, +
+  old episodes of the Adventurers are no longer being archived on  +
+  any ftp site anywhere.                                           +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY (or more accurately, a fragment of it):                +
+                                                                   +
+  Arnold       12th level human warrior                      (NG)  +
+  Ged          14th/14th level grey elven priest/mage        (NG)  +
+     Nenya     8th/9th level female elven warrior/mage       (NG)  +
+  Mongo        17th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+     Gorin      8th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+  Bosco        10th level halfling thief                     (CN)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    7/18/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:    afternoon                                              +
+   Place:   a dungeon beneath the floor of the Suss Forest         +
+   Climate: mild                                                   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "Each problem solved introduces a new unsolved problem."        +
+                                                        - unknown  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





      CCXXXIII.  Back Doors, Rewards, and an Old Acquaintance





  After finding and exploring a new section of dungeon, the party
has several projects going at once.  First, they are searching for
whatever route the fire trolls used to venture beyond the confines
of the dungeon.  Second, they are waiting for the dwarven miners
to finish unearthing the newly found treasure chest.  Third, they
are waiting for the miners to begin work on another, nearby caved-
in chamber.

Ged:  It seems to me that any hidden passages would have to lead
  upward, toward the surface.
Mongo:  Makes sense.  Even though there's plenty of monsters down
  here, I doubt the trolls could eat well.
Bosco:  (examining various walls)  Gotta be around here somewhere...
  maybe in the ceiling?
Arnold:  (casually leans against a wall)  AaaAAA?

  The section of wall that the big warrior was leaning against
suddenly moved, pivoting around a central axis.  Arnold stopped
it after it had rotated about ninety degrees, revealing a dark
corridor beyond.

Arnold:  Whoaaa.
Gorin:  (to Nenya)  Hey, look.
Ged:  Arnold!  You've done it!
Arnold:  Of courdse.
Bosco:  Huh.  (he ventures tentatively into the new passage)
Mongo:  (to the miners)  We'll be back shortly...maybe.  Keep at
  that chest.
Ged:  Yea.  When it's out of the floor, move it aside - but _don't_
  open it.
dwarven mining chief:  You're the boss.
Ged:  And also, send whoever you can spare to that other rubble-
  filled room.  We'll be looking there next, and I'd like to get
  in there by nightfall.
Gorin:  That's one thing about being down here - you never know if
  it's day or night outside.
Nenya:  Truly.

  Readying their weapons, the adventurers prepared to follow Bosco
into the secret passage.

Mongo:  Where'd he go?  It sure is dark in there.
Nenya:  (eyeing the passage ahead)  Aha.  (she tosses one of her
  light-pebbles into the dark gap, illuminating everything)
Bosco:  (suddenly surrounded by bright light, he covers his eyes)
  Hey!

  The corridor was rather short, perhaps twenty feet long.  After
that distance, it became nothing more than a crudely-dug tunnel,
initially quite steep but then sloping slightly upwards, out of
sight.

Bosco:  Nobody told me I'd have to _climb_.  (he nimbly scrambles
  up the earthen slope)  I should get time-and-a-half for this.
Ged:  (muttering something about "labor-leader Bosco")
Mongo:  (finds that he's too heavy to follow, easily)  Damn.  (he
  struggles up the tunnel in pursuit of Bosco)  It's practically
  mud!
Arnold:  (having the same problem)  Yah.  Maybe Bodsco will throw
  us a rope.
Gorin:  (being more lightly armored, he follows the halfling, if
  not rapidly)  I'll go help him.
Ged:  (hesitant to dirty his hands climbing up the slope)  Hmm.
Nenya:  (casting a spell)

  While the others made their way after him, or tried to, Bosco
continued on his journey.  As the lighted area behind him grew
smaller and smaller, he clambered upwards.  His infravision, not
in peak form due to Nenya's light-pebble, was yet able to tell
him that no living monsters lurked ahead.  After several minutes
of climbing, the halfling came to a dead-end.

Bosco:  Hmm.  (examining the stone ahead, in the dark)  Feels like
  a sphere...
Nenya:  (floats up behind Bosco)  Need a light?
Bosco:  (somewhat startled)  Yie!
Nenya:  Sorry.  I just thought I'd warn you this time.  (she cracks
  a mud-covered pebble, illuminating the cul-de-sac)
Bosco:  Ow.  (grumbling something about rude elves, he looks around
  the area)  Hey!  I was right!

  The tunnel was blocked by a huge, round boulder, of which less
than half was visible; this would seem to indicate that the boulder
has been pressed into place from the outside.

Nenya:  Truly.  What's this?  (she examines a large metal handle,
  set into the rock of the boulder)
Bosco:  Hey, pull it.  (he leaps up, trying to grab the handle, but
  he's too short)
Nenya:  (floats upward, to the level of the handle)
Bosco:  Hey, why are you floating around like that, anyway?
Nenya:  Levitation magic...why should I walk, or climb?  (pulls on
  the handle, but nothing happens)
Bosco:  Hmm.  Maybe we need Mongo...
Nenya:  Maybe we should secure a rope.
Bosco:  Yeah.  (he quickly does so, hammering a spike into the big
  boulder itself, since the tunnel isn't solid rock)  Here we go.
  (he ties one end of a rope to the spike, and begins carrying the
  other end down)  See ya in a few...

  Soon, Mongo and the others (save Ged, who was now talking to the
dwarven miners) had climbed up to the boulder.

Mongo:  You want me to move that, eh?  (he grabs the handle)  Of
  course, only an idiot would _pull_ on this thing, since this
  boulder is bigger than the tunnel mouth.  I bet we'll have to
  push, to get it moved.
Nenya:  Good advice.  We'll remember it.
Mongo:  (pushes on the boulder)  Ungh!
Arnold:  (moves to help)  Aaa!

  Slowly, the huge boulder rolled away from the pair.  As it did,
the growing opening between it and the tunnel admitted a sliver of
bright light.

Mongo:  Daytime!
Bosco:  Must be the above-world...
Nenya:  The forest floor.

  To be sure, the large boulder was one of several within a rocky
outcropping, which was nestled within the forest.  They stepped out
into the forest and had a look around, noting that this area didn't
look familiar.

Gorin:  We must be a good ways from the campsite.
Bosco:  I wonder how these boulders got here?
Mongo:  Yeah...what _I_ wonder is how the trolls found the dungeon
  in the first place.  Unless they came from within...but that would
  make them centuries old.
Gorin:  Impossible!
Nenya:  Nothing is impossible...only improbable.  (she floats up
  into the sky)  The camp is about three hundred paces from here.
Arnold:  This must have been the trolls' secret esgabe route.
Mongo:  Yeah...well, it explains the handle on the other side of
  the boulder.  The trolls used it to pull the thing back, sealing
  their lair.  After all, only a giant could have moved that rock.
Bosco:  A giant, or someone as strong...
Mongo:  That's the general idea.
Nenya:  (floats back down to the forest floor)

  They went back into the tunnel, and Mongo pulled the rock back
into place after the group.  After all, they didn't want to have
random beings wandering into the dungeon - the place was dangerous
enough as it was.  Returning to the trolls' lair, they briefed Ged
on what they had found.

Ged:  Boccob!  There was a back way in, the whole time!  Who would
  have guessed it?!?
Arnold:  Not me.
Ged:  Excellent...and guess what we've got down here?
Bosco:  Supper?
Ged:  No, fool.  The miners have unearthed the chest!
Bosco:  (his eyes light up)  Ah.
Mongo:  Yeah!  Let's bust that thing open!
Ged:  I was thinking that Bosco could apply a more...delicate touch.
Mongo:  Oh.  Oh, yeah.
Bosco:  I'm on it.  (he begins examining the chest)
Nenya:  (levitates nearby)
Ged:  (looks at his apprentice)  What are you doing in the air?
Nenya:  Resting.
Mongo:  (looking at the mud on his armor, he reflects on the dis-
  advantages of being a warrior)  Hmph.
Gorin:  I'm getting hungry.
Ged:  Shh.  The chest is almost open...
Bosco:  (holds up a needle)  Aha.  (he stabs the tiny metal pin into
  the soft mud of the wall)  One poison needle trap...(he holds up a
  metal wire)  One gas trap...
Ged:  Mighty traps, indeed.
Bosco:  (holds up a spring)  Yep.
Gorin:  What kind of trap is that?
Bosco:  None.  I just pulled it out of the lock.  (he pops a catch,
  and the chest opens)  Whoa.  What's-
Ged:  No!  Get back!
Bosco:  (leaps backward)  What?!?

  The chest just sat there; nothing happened.

Mongo:  What's the deal?
Ged:  Look there...on the inside of the lid.  Magical runes!
Bosco:  So?
Ged:  They could be a trap...(he casts a Find Traps spell)  I'll let
  you know in a second.
Arnold:  I can't even read those.
Bosco:  Yeah, but I can.  Better to be safe...
Ged:  (his eyes light up)  ...than sorry!  Indeed, magical explosive
  runes!
Nenya:  Shall I dispel them?
Ged:  They seem powerful...allow me.  (he casts another spell)

  As the elf worked his magic, the runes within the chest vanished
suddenly.  At once, everybody rushed over, to peer into the gigantic
chest.

Ged:  By Boccob!
Mongo:  A mother lode!
Bosco:  Wowee.

  They had good reason to gape, for the golden chest was _filled_
with treasure.  Within piles of shiny gold, silver, and copper coins
were mixed numbers of other items - potion bottles, vials, urns, and
jugs.  There were also gems of all shapes and sizes, from emeralds
to garnets, and several items of jewelry poked out from the pile.
A bit of digging revealed other, more uncommon items:  a quiver of
arrows, a pouch of marbles, a mace, a trident, a ring, a staff, two
wands, several books and scrolls, and at least two swords.  There
may have been other items, too, buried beneath the visible loot.

Ged:  Boccob!  This is what we came here for - ancient Sueloise
  treasure!
Mongo:  And the coinage.
Ged:  Of course.
Nenya:  So, what do we do with this treasure?
Bosco:  Take it home!  Throw a party!
Gorin:  (looks at the halfling)
Ged:  Not today, small one.  (he closes the chest)  The miners and
  other workers can move this thing to the camp above.
Mongo:  What if they can't?  It's awfully heavy...
Ged:  Hmm, I guess we could unload some of the treasure into the
  portable hole...
Gorin:  Sounds good.
Bosco:  I'll help!  (he moves toward the chest)
Mongo:  Oh, no, Bosco.  We need you to help explore the new area
  the miners have opened.
Bosco:  You do?
Ged:  Err...that's right.  Mongo and Arnold will load the treasure;
  the rest of us will wait at the newly opened area)
Mongo:  (gives Ged a "you don't trust the miners?" kind of look)
Ged:  (shrugs, then shakes his head no)

  Thus, Ged, Nenya, Gorin, and Bosco headed down the passage, to
the site of the miners' latest efforts.

dwarven mining chief:  It's not exactly a new passage...more like
  a hole.
Ged:  A hole?
chief:  Yup.  Goes right down into some big, dark room.



KEY TO ROOMS:
    a   entry room (# = hole in ceiling, to level above)
    b   corpse room
    c   secret room
    d   cave-in room
    e   river room/cavern/pool
    t   huge hall w/trolls
    u   room w/troll lair
    v   empty room w/chest buried in floor
    x   salt golem room



               (to surface)

                   / /
                 / /
        _______/ /       ___              ___
       |__     /_       |   \____    ____/   |
      ____|  u   |      |__      \__/      __|
     |__     ___  \       _|              |_        _____
        \_  |    \  \____|                  |______|     \
          | |      \_____                    ______   x   |
          | |____        |        t         |      |      |
           \     \       |                  |       \_____|
           |  v   |      |                  |
            \____/       |_                _|
                           |_            _|
       ______________________|____  ____|_____
      |    b  __________\  \  a            #  |           N
      |      |    | c  ||  |__________________|          W+E
      |______|    |____||  |                              S
    _        __##__     |  |______
.._| \______|      |____|   ______   (to other section of dungeon)
    e _\____    d   _______|
    _/      |______|
    \_
..___/                     ## = unexplored hole going down



  The dwarves led Ged and the others to a gaping hole in the dungeon
floor.

miner:  We figure it goes down about thirty or forty feet.  Judging
  by stones we dropped.
Ged:  Hmm...Nenya, how about a light pebble?
Nenya:  Certainly.  (she drops one, and a few seconds later, the
  cavern below is illuminated by the magic of the enchanted pebble)

  The cavern below was large, and looked awfully familiar.

Ged:  Boccob!  (he staggers slightly)
Nenya:  What?
Ged:  This is the room where the juggernaut lurks!
Bosco:  The who?
Ged:  The juggernaut!  (to the halfling)  Quickly, go get Mongo.
  He won't want to miss this...
Bosco:  Right.  (he dashes off)
Lightbringer:  (in a weary voice)  I don't suppose this monster
  is any form of undead?

  From their vantage point above, they could see most of the huge
cavern below.  Forty feet high and at least a hundred feet wide,
the chamber contained no staircase, like last time.  Whatever else
had happened above, the stairs going into this area had vanished.
The floor was still composed of soft clay, mixed with occasional
rocks, and numerous tread marks, footprints, and craters were
visible.

Ged:  Evidence of past juggernaut battles!
Mongo:  (runs up, huffing and puffing)  Bosco said you guys found
  the juggernaut!
Ged:  Its cave, anyhow.
Nenya:  What was this "juggernaut"?
Mongo:  Heavy-duty bad company...(he peers down into the cavern)
  Where is the blasted thing, anyway?
Ged:  I'm not sure.  I suppose we'll have to go down and see for
  ourselves.
Nenya:  (still levitating)  Sounds like a good plan.
Arnold:  Ah-nold sdands ready to face the judgernaud!
Bosco:  Yeah, and Bosco too!  (he stabs his sword into the air)
Ged:  Your funeral, perhaps.  (he looks below, one more time)
  Yet, my skill with Boccob's magic has grown since last time...
  perhaps it is time to show this juggernaut the true powers of
  the almighty Boccob.
Mongo:  That's the spirit!  I, too, have a score to settle with
  that bastard!
Nenya:  (to Ged)  You still haven't answered my question...what
  exactly are we dealing with here?
Ged:  Hmm...okay...it's basically a big stone ram, on rollers.
  It moves pretty rapidly, once it gets going, and it's virtually
  indestructible.
Mongo:  Nothing is indestructible.
Nenya:  Hmm.  I think I understand.  (she levitates in place)  I
  can offer air support.
Ged:  Ah!  (he begins spellcasting)
Gorin:  What are you doing?
Ged:  Making myself airborne, as well.  No sense going on foot
  if I don't have to.
Bosco:  Hey, my boots are winged, too!  (he flies around in a
  circle)
Arnold:  Aaa.  Ah-nold mudst go on foot.
Gorin:  And Gorin as well.
Mongo:  Not so...(he hands gorin a potion)  This will let you
  fly.
Gorin:  But...what about you?
Mongo:  I don't need to fly.
Ged:  Nonsense!  That thing ran you over last time!  You should
  be airborne!
Mongo:  I will not!  I'm staying on the ground and that's final!
  Gorin?
Gorin:  I suppose it couldn't hurt...(he drinks half the potion,
  then gives the rest to Arnold)  Drink up, big guy.
Arnold:  <glug glug>  Urp.
Ged:  Hmm.  Well, at least you two can fly if you need to.  (he
  looks at Mongo)
Mongo:  Don't worry about me...a lot has happened since that
  thing ran me over.
Nenya:  So, are we ready?
Ged:  Yea.

  Cautiously, slowly, they descended into the cavern.  Bosco
tied a rope to another spike, and Mongo, Gorin, and Arnold went
down (the warriors preferred to avoid flying unless absolutely
necessary.)  Ged, Nenya, and Bosco flew down ahead, to scout out
the cavern.

Bosco:  Huh?  (he flies off to one side, slowly, his little boot-
  wings flapping wildly)  What's that?
Ged:  Awfully dark in here...
Nenya:  Not for long.  (she tosses light-pebbles in several
  different directions)

  The huge cavern was suddenly a lot brighter, and the adventurers
could now see the deadly master of this chamber:  far to one side,
buried in a half-collapsed archway, was the stony engine of death
that was the juggernaut.  Its rearmost roller, and a couple of the
rearmost sideways-rams, were visible, but the rest was buried.

Gorin:  Whoa.
Bosco:  (hovering in the air near the thing)  Do you think it's
  alive?
Ged:  Quite possibly...proceed with extreme caution.
Mongo:  I hear you...(he grips his hammer tightly)





next time :  battle!

notes     :  Starting with this episode, the stories are now six
  characters wider.  Funny about that...over 230 stories and I've
  never once thought about the 80-character margin.  I need to make
  the stories as wide as possible, to reduce the number of lines
  that each one takes up.
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