Chapter #631

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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   +
+   Rillen          18th level human monk                                 +
+     onyx dog figurine                                                   +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+   Tarl            barbarian warrior                                     +
+     war dogs (8)                                                        +
+   Date:           2/5/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          deep within the eastern Griff Mountains               +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Does anybody have any idea where the fuck these people are?!?"       +
+                                           - Vincent Hanna, from _Heat_  +

                     DCXXXI.  Lair of the White Worm

  After fleeing a bugbear lair, stealing a boat, and riding out the rapids
of an underground river, the adventurers have been sailing along for long

Songa:  Well, look on the bright side:  we know it has to go _somewhere_.
Tarl:  That's little consolation.
Rillen:  Still upset about the loss of your dog?
Tarl:  (glares at him)
Rillen:  (shrugs)  Stupid question.
Tarl:  No, it's okay.  To tell the truth...these animals are in many ways
  better traveling - and fighting - companions than most of the people I've
Songa:  I could see that.
Rillen:  Does that include the old adventuring party you used to roam with?
Tarl:  Yod, Marcus, Kup, and the others?  No...those were tried and true
  comrades-in-arms.  (he gets a nostalgic look in his eyes)  Oh, the dark
  dungeons we explored...the evil foes we took out...the exotic locales we
  journeyed through.
Rillen:  Those were the days, eh?
Tarl:  Aye, they were.  My beginnings as a young barbarian warrior...full
  of anger and wild fury.  (he regards them)  I did a lot of growing up
  over the course of those years.
Songa:  Whoa...(she points)  Land ho, maybe.

  It was indeed land, of a sort:  an outcropping of rock that jutted out
into the river, perhaps ten feet.  With the light they had, it appeared
that there was a substantial cavern beyond the outcropping.

Rillen:  Might as well tie off and go see what we can find.
Songa:  That stalagmite there will suffice.  (she readies the rope as the
  other two pull the oars)

  They tied the boat and disembarked, to do a bit of exploring.  Tarl left
four of the dogs with the boat.

Tarl:  Just in case.  The other four will come with us and help us scout
  this area.

  The cavern was cold and damp, and they were all glad that they'd been
dressed warmly before entering the depths of the mountain.  As they paced
through the large chamber, they got a true idea of its size:  several
hundred feet wide and high.  More importantly, Songa found some tracks
in the sparse sand that covered the rocks near the river.

Songa:  Humanoid tracks, I'm pretty sure.  They weren't wearing boots like
  any I've ever seen, though...odd.
Rillen:  We can't follow them?
Songa:  No, they fade out where there's no sand.
Tarl:  Over here!

  The huge barbarian was standing before the mouth of a tunnel.  The sides
of the passage were smooth, and it was almost perfectly rounded.

Songa:  If this is a natural passage, then I'm a snow ape.
Rillen:  (declines comment)
Tarl:  It could have been fashioned by any number of-

  They all turned to regard the tunnel, from which a slithering sound was
now emanating!

Songa:  (backs up, hefting her spear)  What in the hell...
Rillen:  (moves to one side, quickly readying his bow)
Tarl:  (also backs up, drawing his huge sword)

  They didn't have to wait long.  The sounds got louder...closer...and
then, with a blur of motion, a gigantic white worm erupted from the

white worm:  Eeeee!  (it barrels into Tarl, knocking him from his feet)
Tarl:  Ungh!
white worm:  (rears back, preparing to bite the warrior)  Eee!

  Actually, Tarl was more likely to be swallowed than bitten, for the
beast's maw was wider than he was tall - and filled with fangs.  Two
small violet eyes, small and insect-like, were mounted on either side
of the head.  The head in turn tipped a pale, segmented body that was
at least ten feet thick.

white worm:  (snaps at Tarl's feet)
Songa:  (intercepts the attack, stabbing at the worm's eye with her

  The huntress missed the eye, and her spear only scored a shallow cut,
for the monster had a thick, armored hide.  Still, her attack diverted
its attention, and it reared up at her.

Rillen:  (takes this opportunity to fire an arrow, the missile splitting
  into two and striking the worm right behind its head)
white worm:  (ignores the missiles, which only penetrated an inch or two,
  and snaps at Rillen)  Eeeee-
Rillen:  (drops his bow as the monster's huge jaws close around his body)
Songa:  Rillen!  (she drives her spear forward with all her strength,
  watching with great satisfaction as the blade sinks into the beast's
  pale body, at least a foot)
white worm:  (thrashes about as green blood spurts from the stabbing
  wound)  Eeeee!
Songa:  (backs up and draws her sword)  It ate Rillen!

  While his war dogs couldn't do much against a foe like this, Tarl very
well could.  The barbarian leaped forth with an agility that belied his
huge size, and the enchanted sword Spellbreaker sunk deep into the worm's

white worm:  EEEEE!  (it lunges, trying to coil around the barbarian)
Tarl:  (jumps back, sword held high)

  The worm paused then, for something strange was happening to it, some-
thing that it didn't quite understand.  The prey it thought it had just
eaten was lodged in its mouth - and it was pushing the mouth open!

Rillen:  (exerting the giant-level strength conferred by his enchanted
  belt, he forces the jaws open)  Ungh...
Songa:  Rillen!

  While the worm was distracted, Songa and Tarl moved as one, each from
an opposite side.  Their swords sliced deep into the monster's head, as
close behind the jaws as possible.  Rillen felt a slackening in the
toothy prison and took the opportunity to jump out, escaping just in
time as the worm's maw snapped shut.

Rillen:  (rolls away, badly cut and bleeding)

  The white worm was badly hurt as well, however; the rock flowed with
the green gore from the thing's wounds.

Tarl:  (charges in again, sword flashing)
white worm:  Eee!  (it rears, spitting a stream of green ooze at the foe)
Tarl:  (unprepared for such an attack, he tries to leap aside, but still
  takes the spittle in the face)  ARGH!  (dropping his sword, he thrashes
  about, holding his eyes)

  Songa realized that the battle now depended on her.  She considered
rummaging in her magical pack to find her enchanted javelin, but decided
that such an effort would waste valuable time and give the worm a chance
to strike again.  Her spear was still stuck in the thing's hide, leaving
only one option.

Songa:  (charges right at the thing, forgoing evasion for speed)

  The ploy worked.  The worm reacted, but by the time it had lunged
forward to bite the smaller prey, Songa's sword had bitten deeply into
its head, slicing one eye open in a spray of milky slime.

white worm:  EEEEE!  (it thrashes about wildly)
Songa:  (darts over to the tunnel mouth, where the tail end of the
  monster is still partially out of view, and raises her sword high

  Her blow was delivered with all of her considerable strength, and
it landed on a thinner and less-armored section of the worm's body.
The powerful attack sliced clean through the tail section, and Songa
was instantly covered with the green blood.

Songa:  Ugh.

  The worm was in bad shape now, and its struggles grew weaker.  Songa
could afford to take no chances, and her next blow sliced deep into
the thing's head, finally killing it.

Songa:  (bloody, slimy, and sweating, she breathes a sigh of relief)

  The huntress acted quickly, fetching water from the river to rinse
Tarl's eyes before dabbing a bit of her magical healing salve on the
blinded man's face.  Next, she applied the remainder of the salve to
the worst of Rillen's wounds, binding them as well.  Only then did she
go back to the river and wash all of the gore from herself.


Rillen:  (sitting against a rock wall)  Ungh.
Songa:  How bad is the pain?
Rillen:  Pain I can handle.  Injured muscles and limbs are far more
Tarl:  At least you can see.
Songa:  I washed your eyes thoroughly, and there's no obvious damage.
Tarl:  Must have been some kind of acidic spittle...

  The big barbarian's eight dogs, which hadn't proven overly useful
thus far, were deployed around the cavern.  Some guarded the tunnel
mouth, while others guarded the boat and the river.

dog #7:  (looking up at one wall)  Rrr?
Songa:  Can you see anything?
Tarl:'s very blurry, though.  (he clenches his fists with
  rage, not used to being helpless)
Rillen:  (watching the onyx dog)
dog #7:  (glaring up the wall)  Rrrrr...
Rillen:  Um...I think he smells something.
Songa:  What is it?  (she follows the direction of the animal's gaze)

  Standing on a narrow shelf about ten feet up was something that
looked for all the world like a halfling-sized, living, walking

next:      kingdom of fungus
released:  4/17/00
notes:     This is one of those story arcs that is writing itself.  At the
  beginning of Rillen and Songa's adventures, the only intention was to
  have them figure out that there was humanoid activity near the Fruztii
  lands.  Now, all of this chaos is happening.  Oh well - I'm having fun.

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