Chapter #819

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2004 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!                                          +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Bosco           13th level halfling thief                             +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven warrior                            +
+   Date:           1/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          the silent, empty fortress of Greyspire               +
+   Climate:        chilly                                                +
+   "Maybe this world is another planet's Hell."                          +
+                                                     - Aldous Huxley     +

                     DCCCXIX.  Forbidden Depths

  After some quick, fruitless explorations of Greyspire, the party has
descended to a collapsed stairway...

Bosco:  Can you smash through all that with your magic hammer?
Mongo:  Yeah.  (he looks around uneasily)
Alindyar:  (to Mongo)  You seem ill at ease.  Is there something about
  all of this which you have failed to mention?
Mongo:   Yes...and no.
Lyra:  What does that mean?
Mongo:  Well, a few years back, when I worked here for Lord Marcus, I led
  an expedition of dwarven miners and warriors into the depths of the
  fortress.  We were just cleaning out some old chambers and passages,
  places that hadn't been used in a while.  We ran into some medusas and
  almost all of my party got wiped out.  And then I fell down a deep hole
  and explored some caves, and finally smashed my way out into the bottom
  of the Riftcanyon itself.
Bosco:  Weird.
Mongo:  (nods, remembering)  Damn right it was.
Lyra:  Do you think that had something to do with this blocked stairway
  we face now?
Mongo:  No...seeing this just made me think, and remember.  Lord Marcus
  and his wizard, Wu, used to say that there were all kinds of areas in
  Greyspire that predated people being there.  I'm just wondering if one
  of them caused whatever happened here.
Alindyar:  It does seem likely.
Lyra:  What monsters did you find in the depths of this rock, and on the
  Riftcanyon floor?  Were they dangerous?
Mongo:  There were some tough beasties, for sure - but nothing that could
  have wiped out everyone in the fortress.  No.  No way.  Besides, all
  the monsters I went up against were big bruisers.  They would've made a
  hell of a mess if they had been up there.
Bosco:  (points to the collapsed rubble ahead)  So...we go that way?
Mongo:  Yeah.
Alindyar:  I realize that you could smash a path through there, but it
  may be more prudent to make a quiet entrance...?
Mongo:  Yeah, sure.  I'll save the real smashing for whatever we find on
  the other side.

  Alindyar worked some arcane spell, and the rock ahead just...opened up
for them.  The passage was about six feet across and perfectly round, as
if burned through butter with a hot metal spike.

Bosco:  (touches the walls of the passage)  Whoa, not even hot!  What
  kind of spell is this?
Alindyar:  I am simply reshaping reality.

  Lyra was silent, but she couldn't help but think about how Alindyar's
entire approach to magic - and indeed, the world around him - had been
changed since his mastery of illusory magic under the Lord of Illusions.
Everything - every single thing - was now referred to as "reshaping" or
"redefining" or something like that.  When Alindyar wanted to create a
fire, he talked about changing nothingness into flame.  When he needed
to teleport something or someone, he commented that the subject's place
in the world would simply be redefined.  And when he needed to move vast
quantities of earth, as he had just done, he was liable to say something

Alindyar:  ...the stone you saw before was merely one possible state of
  its being.  Now, it takes another.
Bosco:  (looks fairly confused)
Alindyar:  Another way to think about it is this:  what most people call
  an illusion is actually just a projection of a possible reality.
Bosco:  Yeah...okay.  (he trots after Mongo, shaking his head)

  Mongo had gone ahead into the dark space beyond, which was one reason
why Alindyar had taken the time to talk to Bosco about his spell.  The
dwarf now descended the last few steps of the previously-blocked stairway
and reached level ground again, his torch blazing.

Bosco:  What about infravision?
Mongo:  I've both seen and heard about things down here that don't have
  enough body heat, or the right kind of body heat, to show up that way.
Alindyar:  (raises an eyebrow)  Such as undead?
Mongo:  And worse.
Bosco:  Oh.  Well, we need more light then.
Lyra:  (already completing a spell, she waves one hand, and two floating
  spheres appear a little ahead of Mongo and Bosco)  There you go...twin
  torches that don't burn fuel, give off heat, or cast uneven shadows.
  Plus, they will always float ahead of us, giving more time to react to
  anything that comes into view.

  The magical light-sources were actually brighter than any torch, and
they bathed the area ahead in strong, clear light.  The explorers could
now see details of the passage at the bottom of the stairs.

Bosco:  This isn't like the levels above.

  Indeed it wasn't.  This passage was rough-hewn, the rock dull and gray
with small protrusions and niches everywhere, as if the passage had been
excavated with random sweeps of huge, gnarled claws.  At about twenty feet
square, it seemed fashioned for those much larger than men.  The stairway
had opened into one terminus of this odd tunnel, and it led away from the
adventurers, giving them only one direction in which to proceed.

Mongo:  Right.  Let's get to it.

  Mongo and Bosco took point, though the latter had nothing in his
possession that could compare to Mongo's enchanted warhammer.  Though
the group knew they were in mortal danger down here, they definitely felt
a lot safer with the dwarf wielding Stormcrest.  As for Alindyar and Lyra,
the two dark elves were ready with quick spells in case something nasty
showed its face.

Bosco:  (points at the rough floor with his sword-tip)  Look there...a
  trail of dried blood.
Mongo:  Someone was dragged through here.
Bosco:  Lots of someones, by the look of this stain.  (he frowns)  Hmm.
  I wonder what happened to all those people?

  The passage had continued on for several hundred feet, descending at
a slight angle all the while.

Mongo:  We've probably dropped fifty feet while walking three hundred.
  (he looks around)  Of course, we could drop a lot more before we hit
  the bottom of this rock-tower.

  The air down here was dry and stale, not unlike a tomb, but there was
a slight acrid hint to it as if something had recently burned
here.  As they progressed, they began to see cobwebs on the passage's
ceiling - not in large amounts, or enough to hide spiders, but just a few
here and there.  Shortly, the sloping passage opened into a much larger
area; this chamber was about a hundred feet across and appeared to be
domed, its ceiling concealed in darkness and more webs.  The stonework
of the room was intricate, with elaborately carved columns around the
perimeter every twenty feet or so.  These all arced upward, presumably
to meet in the unseen center of the ceiling above.  From what the party
could see of the columns closest to them, the carvings depicted strange
and terrible creatures.  Age had damaged the stonework, but it was still
quite sinister.

Mongo:  Hold up.  Those webs up there-
Lyra:  I know.  (she concentrates, and one of the light-spheres begins
  to float upward, into the hidden ceiling of the huge chamber)
Bosco:  Hey, what's that sound?

  Just then, several large, dark forms scuttled out of the darkness,
their many legs clicking as they advanced.

Mongo:  What the hell?!?

  The things that emerged from the dark reaches of the chamber were
monstrosities in every sense of the word.  From a distance, they would
have looked like giant, plump spiders, five or six feet across and about
that high off the floor.  However, there were differences.  They had more
than eight legs - perhaps as many as a dozen - and each appendage was
pointed, tipped with a wicked-looking barbed point.  Their eyes were
large and red, gleaming with malicious intent and a cunning beyond the
level of a simple animal.  The spider-things had huge toothed maws,
flanked by jutting, serrated pincers that dripped a clear venom.  Their
backs were protected by rows of dark, gleaming spiky growths.
  The monsters were chattering, their mandibles clicking together with
an odd, unnerving sound.

Mongo:  (barely notices that his armor's started glowing, indicating evil
  and the enchantment that protects him from it)  These are some ugly
  damn spiders!  (he raises Stormcrest)
Lyra:  (beats the dwarf to the punch, launching a lightning bolt at the
  nearest attacker)

  The bolt sizzled as it hit the first spider-thing, then leaped over
to the next one, and so on.  A number of the foes were blasted by the
electrical attack, and the smell of ozone permeated the domed chamber.
There was only one problem:  the lightning didn't seem to injure the

Lyra:  Well, damn.  (she uses her boots of flying to rise about ten
  feet above the floor)
Bosco:  Hey, that's my trick!
Mongo:  Bah.  (without further delay, he hurls Stormcrest at the nearest

  Lyra's spell may not have worked, but Mongo's warhammer did.  The fat
spider burst like a ripe tomato, splattering the floor (and one of its
fellows) with greenish-black gore.  Amazingly, the thing wasn't dead -
its legs still scraped the floor, seeking to right its smashed body -
but it was out of the fight.  Another monster headed for Bosco, who
promptly took to the air thanks to his winged boots, leaving the thing
chattering below, its claws swiping only empty space.

spider-thing #2:  (rears back slightly, and blasts the halfling with a
  jet of shiny green slime)
Bosco:  Ack!  (he bobbles in the air, then falls to the floor, covered
  in the stuff)

  It was clearly some kind of fast-drying webbing, and it was incredibly
strong.  Bosco barely had one arm free, but the rest of his body was
completely incapacitated.

spider-thing #2:  (scuttles toward the halfling)
Bosco:  Uh-oh!
Alindyar:  (fires a magical bolt of acid at the thing...and watches as
  this spell, too, fizzles)  Aie.
Lyra:  It's not just lightning - they've got some kind of innate magic
Alindyar:  I see that.  (he ESPs a new tactic to Lyra, who nods)
Mongo:  I know how to deal with magic resistance.  (he hurls his hammer
  again, knocking the thing away from Bosco in a spray of dark blood)

  Before his hammer returned, the dwarf immediately found himself beset
by the remaining three monsters.

Mongo:  Hey!  (he raises his shield, just in time to block several of
  the barbed legs as they stab for him)  Get off, dammit!  (he swings
  the shield, knocking one foe back ten feet, then catches Stormcrest
  as it returns)  Okay...okay!  Time to die!

  As the fourth monster attacked, Mongo swung his hammer, smashing two
of its legs and causing it to shriek inhumanly.  Then, the dwarf went
down as the fifth foe pounced upon him.

Lyra:  Maybe some indirect magic will be of more use.  (she brings a
  wall of fire into being, near Mongo and most of the spider-things)
Alindyar:  Outstanding.  (he uses his Bigby-wand to summon a gigantic,
  disembodied hand, which comes down next to one of the monsters and
  begins pushing it toward the blazing wall of flame)

  Bosco, meanwhile, had been using his enchanted sword to slice away the
webbing that covered him.  He got to his feet just in time to duck as a
monster sailed over him, knocked away by a struggling Mongo.

spider-thing #5:  (lands on its back, and wriggles its legs in the air
  as it begins to right itself)
Bosco:  Now or never!  (he jumps atop the thing, stabbing its underbelly
  repeatedly with his sword)

  The halfling was rudely surprised, though, for the monster's underside
was covered in tough, chitinous armor!  Even the magical sword's sharp
point was unable to score more than a minor wound - and then the beast
righted itself, sending Bosco rolling off to one side.

Bosco:  Whoa!  (he comes up standing, his sword pointed at the thing)
spider-thing #5:  (advances on the small opponent, several of its lethal
  legs dancing in the air menacingly)

  The monster was suddenly pushed aside, as Alindyar's summoned hand
intervened, moving the foe away from Bosco and into the wall of fire.

Lyra:  The things burn, that's for sure.
Alindyar:  Yet they seem somewhat resistant to the fire.
Bosco:  Maybe we need a bigger fire!

  The first monster that Alindyar had forced into the fire was shrieking
wildly as it smoldered, its tough flesh seared.  It scuttled out of the
flames, just in time to meet Mongo's hammer, which obliterated its head.

Mongo:  Die, all of you!

  The dwarf was covered in spider blood, as well as numerous wounds,
some of which were undoubtedly poisonous - all of these ailments being
countered even now by his powerful enchanted armor and other possessions.
The companions knew from experience that despite the resistances and
immunities conferred by the dwarf's many magical protections, wounds
still hurt and poison still burned.  The look on Mongo's face said it

Mongo:  Damn bastards!  (he hurls his hammer at a wounded monster,
  splattering a wall with its guts, then strides toward the one intact
  foe, which is backing away nervously)  You!  (he charges suddenly,
  not waiting for his hammer to come back)
spider-thing #3:  (screeching, it scuttles toward the dwarf, firing
  the green web-slime at him)
Mongo:  (holds up his shield to block the stuff, then slams into the
  foe, shield-first)

  The monster was driven back fifteen feet, into the wall.  Mongo used
his shield two-handed, as a weapon, smashing the thing repeatedly with
all the strength he could muster.  By the time he caught his returning
warhammer, the foe was little more than a pile of dark pulp.

Mongo:  Whew!
Bosco:  Good job - you really showed _him_!
Alindyar:  (using the Bigby-hand to keep pushing the wounded monsters
  back into the fire every time they scuttle out)  Those were not normal
  spiders...and I would know.
Lyra:  Normal spiders don't have magic resistance.
Bosco:  They sure didn't have hammer resistance!  What a fight!

  Unnoticed by all, the tongues of flame from Lyra's wall of fire had
been licking at the webbing higher up, in the ceiling area.  As strands
of the stuff dissolved, something else was revealed above...

Bosco:  (looks up, frowning)  Uh...

  Using numerous strands of thick, fibrous webbing, a new foe lowered
itself to the floor.  This spider was like the others, except bigger...
a lot bigger.  It had to be thirty feet across, with pincers the size
of pikes and leg-tips that could punch through a thick wall.

gigantic spider-thing:  (chattering and hissing as it faces the four

next:      onward and downward
released:  5/7/04
notes:     The last few episodes have been short and hurried, and quite
  possibly not of the quality that they should have been.  That was
  entirely my fault because, as always, real life comes first.  But I'm
  doing the best I can and will try to get back on track soon.
    On another note, I re-read the episodes in which Mongo had his little
  adventure in the bowels of Greyspire (555 and some after that) and was
  reminded of a question a few people asked me at the time:  did Mongo
  encounter an Alien (like from the movies) down there?  The answer to
  that question is, of course, the same as to the question "did Halbarad
  encounter a Predator in episode 252?"

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