Chapter #388

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                                +   +
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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                    +
+                           +
+  Otto            8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief         (CN) +
+  Peldor         20th level human thief                        (N) +
+  Date:        4/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        nighttime                                           +
+  Place:       the sewers beneath the Free City of Greyhawk        +
+  Climate:     completely fetid                                    +
+  "Only dead fish swim with the stream."                           +
+                                                       - unknown   +

                CCCLXXXVIII.  A Harrowing Journey

  Peldor and Otto have taken to a narrow pipe, in order to continue
onward and upward.  However, strange slithering noises from behind
have caused   them no small amount of anxiety.  Unable to turn their
heads to look behind them - much less fight - in the cramped pipe,
their only option is to hurry forward, as fast as the confining walls
of the pipe allow...

Otto:  (pushes Peldor's feet, urgently)  Hurry up!  Move faster!
Peldor:  I'm going as fast as I can!
Otto:  You'd better make it faster, or whatever's back there will
  catch us!

  They wriggled along as fast as they could, their arms and legs
scraping slime from the pipe's walls.  After a short, frenzied period
of near-panic, they popped out into a small, square room.  The pipe
they had arrived through was one of several that drained out of here,
sloping downward into darkness.  However, these didn't concern the
adventurers at the moment; they both drew their swords and faced the
narrow pipe, sweating and gasping for breath.  Whatever was following
them, at least here it could be faced and fought directly.

Peldor:  What the hell is _in_ there?
Otto:  (moves to the side of the opening, sword raised to cut down
  anything coming out of the pipe)  No idea, but I've got the
  feeling we're about to find out...

  They watched and waited, poised to strike, but nothing emerged
from the pipe.  Indeed, they heard no sounds at all, and began to
wonder what was going on.

Peldor:  I don't like this, not one bit.  (he looks around uneasily)
  Maybe we should get out of here.
Otto:  Yeah.  (he points to the largest pipe leading out of the
  chamber)  Let's take that one.
Peldor:  Right.

  They entered the new pipe, which was about five feet in diameter,
and scampered along at a rapid clip.  This mission had changed from
one of exploration to one of survival, and their goal was simple:
escape alive.  The passage turned and twisted for a while, then
emptied into another cistern.  Both thieves stopped short, though,
before entering the cistern proper.

Otto:  Look out!
Peldor:  I see it.

  The entire chamber was covered in a greenish-black slime, a foul
growth that coated the walls and ceiling.  There was no way to get
around to the cistern's opposite side (and the pipe-exit there)
without stepping across the slime.

Otto:  Could be green slime...
Peldor:  Maybe, or maybe something worse.  Or maybe harmless.
Otto:  You could burn it.
Peldor:  We're out of oil, remember?
Otto:  With the torch.
Peldor:  Yeah, but I can't burn it all.  Maybe we'd better retrace
  our steps and-
Otto:  Holy shit!

  At first they thought their eyes were playing tricks on them, but
momentarily they realized the terrible truth:  the fungus was moving
_toward_ them!  Granted, it crept slowly along, perhaps advancing an
inch every five-count, but it _was_ moving.  They backed up, swords
at the ready.

Peldor:  I guess that answers our question.
Otto:  Yeah...let's get the hell out of here.

  They retreated along the pipe they'd come by, and Otto cursed the
fact that they didn't have any oil left.

Otto:  If we did, we could set a little fire, to block that shit
  from progressing toward us.
Peldor:  (wondering if the slime would use the ceiling instead)

  Shortly, they returned to the square room, quickly choosing a
different pipe.  This one was only about four feet wide, and Peldor
had to stoop over to walk.  Nevertheless, he and Otto hurried through
this new tunnel, eager to be far from everything they'd seen in the
last hour.  Unfortunately, the pipe they'd chosen began to slope
_downward_ after a short time.

Otto:  Fuck, we're going in the wrong direction.
Peldor:  We don't have any choice now; we'll see where it takes us.

  The pipe wound on for a few hundred feet, gradually forcing them
downward.  Suddenly, it dropped off, becoming completely vertical.

Peldor:  (stops abruptly)  Whoa.
Otto:  Good thing we had the torch.

  Actually, their pipe had T-ed into a two-way vertical shaft,
as they noticed when they looked up.  Rusty iron rungs were set
in the shaft's walls, and led both upward and downward.

Peldor:  Easy choice...
Otto:  (peers downward)  Hmm.  (finding a small chunk of rock, he
  drops it into the darkness and cocks an ear)

  They never heard the rock hit bottom.  Looking at each other, they
both nodded; they were going upward.

Peldor:  I've still got my iron spikes.
Otto:  Good.  (he produces a small hammer, and quickly ties it around
  his neck)  I'll go first - I weigh less, and I've got better mining
Peldor:  No, I'll go first.  I can climb better than you can.
Otto:  Forget it.
Peldor:  No way am I gonna forget it!  I'm the better climber, and
  I should go first.
Otto:  We don't know that.  Besides, if I fall, you might be able to
  stop me with your ring.  If you go first, and fall, all I'm going
  to do is get nailed by you on the way down.
Peldor:  But I have feather falling power-
Otto:  (hops onto the ladder and scrambles up several rungs)  Come

  Peldor grumbled a bit, but he followed.  Every few rungs, Otto
hammered in an iron spike, checking it to make sure it was secure
before tying off the rope.  Below, Peldor would then untie the rope
two spikes down.  This allowed them a double safety at any time,
should the rungs give way.  It was slow going (especially for Peldor,
who also had to bear the torch) but they took heart with every foot
ascended.  Long minutes later, as their arms and legs ached with the
effort of the stop-and-go climbing, they emerged into a thirty-foot
wide horizontal pipe.  The bottom eight inches or so of this new
passage were covered in water, which flowed away to their left.  The
vertical pipe they had arrived by was set several feet above the
floor level of the larger pipe, suggesting that it was some kind of
flooding-control mechanism.

Peldor:  If the water rises above a certain level, it just drains
  down that pipe into the lower sewers...yeah, I bet that's it.  (he
  looks back down into the shaft)  How far do you think we climbed
  just now?
Otto:  I'd guess a couple hundred feet...(he eyes the water on the
  pipe's floor, which is moving relatively rapidly)  Let's see...
  it's going that way, so we need to go the other way.
Peldor:  (nods)
Otto:  And look here...

  Along either side of the pipe were inset ledges, about a foot in
width.  They might have made adequate walkways for a halfling, but
because of the curve of the pipe's walls and the inherent narrowness
of the ledges, Peldor and Otto wouldn't have been able to keep their
balance atop them.

Peldor:  Why in the hell would someone build tiny walkways like
Otto:  (scratches his beard)  Maybe they're not walkways?
Peldor:  But what, then?
Otto:  Hey, don't ask me.  I didn't build this fucking place.

  They set out, sloshing through the water, but hadn't walked more
than a hundred paces when they heard more noises.  These weren't
like the previous sounds, though; what they now heard was more akin
to screeching.

Otto:  Rats!
Peldor:  You think so?
Otto:  I know so.  (he frowns)  I spent several weeks in a sewer once.
  You never forget that sound.
Peldor:  Oh.  (he eyes the darkness, and realizes that his torch is
  little more than a stub now)  Shit, it's been sneaking up on me.
  (he hastily lights another torch from the remnants of the first)
Otto:  How many more torches have you got?
Peldor:  This is the last one.
Otto:  Crap.  We're fucked.
Peldor:  Not if we move quickly.

  Perhaps it was a vain hope, but it was better than sitting around
doing nothing, so they got moving.  The screeching gradually grew
louder, and got closer, and they cast uneasy glances behind them as
they jogged along through the water.

Otto:  We'd better get ready to fight.

  Suddenly, a hairy, sleek, wet form launched itself from one of the
ledges, hitting Peldor in the chest.  More than a foot long, the
giant rat screeched and squeaked as it clawed and bit at the thief.

giant rat:  Screeee!
Peldor:  Yiearh!  (backpedalling, he almost trips and drops the
  torch into the water...almost)  Shit!  They're using the ledges!
Otto:  Should have known.  (he slashes out, cutting another rat in
  two as it leaps)
Peldor:  (stabs his torch into the face of his foe, causing it to
  let go and fall into the filthy water, twitching)  Damn!

  Waving the torch about, Peldor now revealed dozens of the things,
on the ledges and in the water.  Quickly, the two adventurers did
what they should have done in the first place - move to the very
center of the wide pipe.  This kept them out of range of the ledge-
roaming rats, and they ran through the water, heedless of obstacles.
Some of the cunning rats dashed along the ledges, getting ahead of
the two thieves, then took to the water, boxing them in.  This didn't
stop either of the companions; rats died with every stroke of long-
sword or shortsword.  Still, there was no question about it:  there
were too many to stay and fight.  Already both adventurers suffered
from several scratches and bites, and if they concentrated all their
efforts on fighting, they would surely fall.

Otto:  We've got to run for it!
Peldor:  No shit!  What do you think we're doing?!?

  They ran along, splashing noisily in the foot-deep water, fighting
waterborne rats at every step.  They were aided by the sewer's current,
which slowed the rats down considerably more than it slowed them down.
Miraculously, Peldor kept the torch held high and dry, and this was
what enabled them to spot a possible means of salvation.  Ahead, a
large metal chain dangled from the ceiling, its half-inch thick links
gleaming dully in the torchlight.

Peldor:  (points)
Otto:  Yeah, I see it!
Peldor:  (sheathes his sword as he runs, and leaps, catching the
  chain with one hand)  Hah!  (whipping out his rope of climbing,
  he speaks a command word, and the coil lashes itself to the chain
  links, ten feet up)
Otto:  (also jumps, but only catches the end of the chain, and his
  fingers slip; he ends up dangling by one hand)  Shit!

  Two of the giant rats had latched onto the dwarf's legs, determined
to get a piece of him.  Otto couldn't dislodge them, though, for he
was barely hanging onto the chain as it was.

Otto:  Shit!  (he looks up to Peldor, above)  I could use some help
Peldor:  Gotcha.  (his rope tied around his waist, he is secured)

  Peldor looked downward, then used his ring to lift Otto up.  Once
the dwarf realized what was happening, he unsheathed his barbed knife
and made short work of the rats that clung to his legs.  Their bloody
corpses fell back to the water, becoming fast food for their ravenous

Otto:  Whew...thanks.
Peldor:  I had the situation well in hand.  (he moves Otto up to the
  pipe's ceiling)  I'm thinking there should be a hatch up there...
Otto:  (checks the ceiling)  Yup.  It's right here, next to this
  chain.  (he examines the chain, which is anchored firmly into the
  ceiling, then goes to work on the rusty iron hatch)

  Moments later, they were scrambling through the ceiling hatch, glad
to be away from the rats.  A louder sloshing sound from below got
their attention, though, and they gazed down into the wide pipe from
the lofty perch they occupied.

Peldor:  What's going on down there-
Otto:  Hell...would you look at that...

  In the pipe below, the rats were leaving, heading back the way
they'd come with frantic speed.  A moment later, Peldor and Otto
saw why.  Wading through the murky water were half a dozen shape-
shifters, the larger kind.  They stopped directly below the chain
and peered up at the thieves.

Otto:  Uh-oh.
first shapeshifter:  (grabs the chain and begins pulling itself
second shapeshifter:  (follows the first)
Peldor:  Oh, hell.
Otto:  We'd better cut 'em down as they reach us, or else...

next:      escape!
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Every once in a while, I find that there's some great
  movie which I failed to see.  Today I found one:  _Goodfellas_.
  Utterly riveting, and it kinda reminds me of a Peldor gone bad.

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