Chapter #385

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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                    +
+                           +
+  Date:        4/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        afternoon                                           +
+  Place:       the sewers beneath the Free City of Greyhawk        +
+  Climate:     warm, damp, and smelly                              +
+  "There's no problem on this earth that can't be solved with      +
+   a liberal dose of high explosive."                              +
+                                              - Richard Marcinko   +

                      CCCLXXXV.  Fallout

  The sludge had long since settled, and rubble was strewn every-
where.  A casual observer (had there been room for one to walk here)
would never have known that the wrecked passage had once been a sewer.
If such an observer had looked hard enough, they might have spotted
patches of burnt grass-like stuff, as well as the occasional blood-
stain.  Whatever and whoever had been here was irrelevant; all was
buried now, crushed beneath tons of rock and dirt.
  Further down the passage, the rubble and debris finally began to
thin out.  The massive explosion that had caused this cave-in had
only destroyed everything in a hundred-foot radius or so, and here,
a good distance from the focal point of said explosion, the mess
wasn't quite as bad.  Indeed, a trickle of water leaked from a gap
between chunks of rock, cutting a swath through the thick layer of
slime that coated everything.
  A small rock dislodged itself from the heap, bouncing down until
it hit the floor, coming to a stop.  It was followed by a larger
rock, and then another.  Presently, a hand burst free, its skin
ripped and bruised.  The arm behind the hand worked its way free...

Peldor:  (stands erect, bits of rubble falling from his dust-caked
  body)  Ungh...w- what hit me?

  Then, the thief remembered.  He remembered the mission he had
been tasked with:  to come down into the sewers beneath the city
and find the shapeshifters.  He remembered how he and his five
companions had gotten trapped in a small room, assaulted by a host
of the strange creatures.  And he remembered how, with the battle
going badly, Belphanior had used his fireball-wand, heedless of
the oil and fumes down here.  There had been a tremendous,
deafening explosion, and Peldor had been knocked out.
  Fumbling with his backpack, he finally extracted a lantern, but
it was shattered, probably by the rubble.  After a moment, Peldor
fired up a torch, its bright light filling the collapsed passage.
Looking around, he started to make sense of it all.  He'd been
close to the door when the explosion occurred, and he realized
that he must have been blown through the doorway into the hall.
That was the only way he could have escaped the cave-in, as he
had obviously done.  But, that meant...

Peldor:  No!  (he begins moving rubble, using his hands and his
  magical ring alternately, arbitrarily)

  He dug for long minutes, and his efforts would have done an old
dwarf proud.  However, there were countless tons of collapsed
rock here, and he had no hope of searching it all.  Though his
hands were bloody and torn, he could find no trace of Belphanior,
Mongo, or any of the others.  Finally, exhausted and upset, he
had to stop digging; he leaned against the wall, gasping for air.
It was then that some rocks began to shift and fall - someone else
was alive!  Or was it one of the shapeshifters...?

Peldor:  (moves around the rubble and waits, sword poised for a
  backstab if necessary)
figure:  (rises to his feet, tossing rocks and pebbles aside)
Peldor:  Otto!
Otto:  (turns around)  What...the fuck happened?

  Peldor filled Otto in on recent events.  As it turned out, the
dwarf's back had been to the wand-firing elf, so he never knew
what hit him.  In fact, he wasn't uninjured:  his right arm was
broken, the bone above the elbow jutting out through the muscle
and skin of his arm.  In addition, he suffered from numerous
burns, an effect of Belphanior's fireball and the resultant
explosion.  Peldor, as well, had some burns, but his weren't as
serious as Otto's.
  Despite his wounds, the dwarf was still able to move and work.

Otto:  (picks up his sword and sheathes it, with his left hand)
  Good thing I'm ambidextrous.
Peldor:  You are?
Otto:  Yup.  (he winces as the shattered bones grind together)
  Ouch!  Dammit, that hurts like a motherfucker!
Peldor:  We'd better get that arm in a sling.
Otto:  I guess so.

  Using a scrap of cloth and some rope, Peldor rigged a sling to
keep Otto's arm stable.  He then spent some more time searching
the rubble, in the hope that finding one companion meant there
were more nearby.  However, it was not to be, and finally, Otto
had to pull Peldor away from the wreckage.

Otto:  You're not gonna find them.
Peldor:  We've got to keep trying-
Otto:  I was near you when the blast hit - I got blown through the
  doorway too!  No one else was anywhere near us.  We'll never dig
  them loose!
Peldor:  (slumps to his knees)  Damn...
Otto:  We'll come back and hunt for them - or their bodies - but
  we can't do it alone, right now.
Peldor:  (resigns himself)  I guess you're right.  Heck, if anyone
  could have lived through that, it'd be Mongo.
Otto:  (nods)

  After a while (he wasn't sure how long, as he might have passed
out for a time) Peldor got to his feet, as did Otto.  Though both
of them were depressed and angry, they were also experienced
professionals, and they now had to turn their attention to the
immediate goal:  getting out of these sewers.  The maps, which had
been of dubious value anyway, had been lost, and without Belphanior
to teleport out, there remained a single option.  Turning away from
the mountain of collapsed rock, the thieves headed back toward the
main sewers.  Otto cursed, and Peldor silently vowed to return for
his companions' bodies, as soon as he made it out of here and
gathered the necessary manpower.
  He became invisible, and hasted himself again - for there was
no telling what he might run into.  Otto had a potion that enabled
him to become invisible, and the pair of thieves moved on, each
staying to one side of the passage to avoid invisible collisions.
This would also be their strategy during any fights they found
themselves in.  As they walked invisibly, swords drawn, they both
noted that the destruction had been more widespread than either
had first thought.  In fact, they were unable to go back the way
they'd come, as the passage was blocked off, its ceiling fallen.
However, part of the nearby wall had collapsed as well, revealing
a narrow crevice which led into another pipe.

Peldor:  Damn.  (he looks around, then points his torch at the
  jagged opening)  Guess we have to go that way.
Otto:  Either that or try to dig through this mess...

  That didn't seem to be a good idea.  It was obvious even to
Peldor (who was no miner) that the place - at least this area -
was far from safe.  Any attempt to dig might well collapse the
remainder of the passage upon them.  This being the case, they
resolved to get as far away from it as possible.  Otto agreed,
and they headed into the new pipe, away from the destruction.
  After several minutes of walking, they were greeted by all the
elements of normal sewer-pipe:  dampness, stench, and slime.
Otto noticed that the new, unfamiliar pipeway sloped down, ever
so slightly.

Peldor:  Going down, then...but to where?
Otto:  Beats me.  Nowhere good, that's for sure.

  Cursing silently, the pair continued on, determined to find a way
out if they had to search every last passage and pipe here.  Though
both adventurers were injured and exhausted, their more immediate
problem was rations.  They only had a limited amount of food on
hand, likewise for water.  Mongo had held the magical cornucopia,
a limitless source of food and drink - but Mongo wasn't here now.
It was never supposed to happen like this, Peldor thought to him-
self...the party wasn't supposed to have gotten split up.
  And yet, it had - not to mention ambushed, beaten, and buried.
Everything had gone wrong, almost from the moment they'd come down
here.  This fact, and others, did not escape either of the two

Otto:  It was a setup, I tell you.  Look at the evidence.  Fact:
  we were led to a small room with no exits.  Fact:  the creatures
  got there pretty damn quickly after we did.
Peldor:  (sighs)  Fact:  the room was laced with oil, stopping us
  from torching the things outright.
Otto:  Face it - we were set up.
Peldor:  Maybe so.
Otto:  No maybe about it!  The maps were wrong, and as Darek said,
  there were no disappearances among sewerworkers in recent times.
Peldor:  (frowning)

  They ceased their conversation then, for they realized that the
pipe was sloping down more steeply.  The ancient stone was pitted
and cracked in many places, but this helped them to keep their
balance as they moved along.  Moments later, they rounded an old,
worn corner joint - these pipes would never hold water successfully
in their present state! - and approached a strange, dim green glow.

Otto:  (eyes Peldor's torch, which is visible even though its
  bearer isn't, and whispers)  Torch out!
Peldor:  (nods instinctively, and wipes the torch out on a wall)

  They crept along carefully, doing their best to make no noise.
Creeping up to the rim of the pipe, they found themselves looking
down over a large, cavernous area.  The place was lit by glowing
green fungi which coated the walls, but more interesting still
were the dozens of pods and shapeshifters which filled the place!

next:      the nest
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     The Olympics will be here very soon, and they bring with
  them all kinds of changes.  The campus has taken on a different
  look, with new buildings and structures, plus old ones being torn
  down.  We've got fences and gates and security zones.  As for me,
  I'll have to park downtown and take a shuttle into campus.  I do
  get to telecommute (work from home) 2-3 days a week, though.

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