Field Trip to the Ancient Dwarven Prison Camp
Part X of the Terrence Saga
Part X of the Terrence Saga
Chad, Chomsky, and Gavin stopped for a moment to catch their breath as NGE switfly descended from her rocky perch. In front of the group, Chomsky’s rats formed a seething, roiling rodent carpet over the bodies of the two giant crablobsters.
Derfin looked mournfully at the dead creatures. “I told you, Sarge,” he said, a single tear in his eye. “I told you Charlie had mustard gas, didn’t I? But you didn’t listen.” He began to weep openly. “I loved you, Sarge! I loved you so gods-damned much!”
He knelt down to caress the body of one of the beasts. He reached out–
And unleashed a mighty, mighty fart. It reverberated throughout the tunnels. Rats scurried for cover. Somewhere far beneath the group, a pebble nudged a rock, which tapped a stone, which initiated a rockslide, which annihilated a small colony of underground butterflies that had just barely achieved sentience.
The group was immediately struck with two things: a horrendous odor, and the realization that the two masks they found in the storage closet could protect them from the stench.
Chadwick put both masks on.
As Gavin, Chomsky, and NGE cried for help to their respective deities, Derfin straightened up, his eyes lucid for the first time in hours. The thunderous windbreaking had seemingly roused him from his war flashbacks. Huzzah! Once the smell dissipated, the group filled him in on the events of the day, stopping briefly to hope that the insanity mist hadn’t reached the freed villagers back in the barracks.
At the mention of the villagers, Gavin cocked his head to the side, his eyes slightly unfocused. “Did you guys hear that?”
Chad glanced at him. “Hear what?”
Everyone froze. Everyone listened as hard as they possibly fucking could.
Silence, except for the sound of a thousand tiny sets of teeth tearing into lobstercrab flesh. So, not silence. But definitely no voices.
Definitely no fucking voices.
“Yeah,” Gavin said casually, “Some voice said that ‘if they died, they deserved it’ or something like that.”
Chomsky, Derfin, and Chadwick exchanged slightly extremely terrified glances.
“Welp,” said Chadwick, “Keep us informed if the voices tell you anything else. Like, literally anything at all, ever.”
Gavin nodded, and an awkward silence ensued. Derfin finally broke the tension by pointing out that the organs of the spidercrablobsters were pretty valuable, and they should probably harvest them before the rats ate them.
Harvested organs firmly in hand, the group ventured further into the dark tunnels. NGE, as always, led the way.
The group came upon a junction, and was faced with a choice: go straight ahead, turn left, or turn right? According to their map, right would lead them to a hallway - the hallway that they had seen two doors barricaded against. Nope.
Straight ahead would lead them…hmm. Possibly towards the “Temple” room on their map? Hard to be sure.
To the left, NGE felt an unnaturally strong chill. Chad, upon hearing this, promptly directed her towards the cold. He explained to his companions that, in his expert dungeoneering experience, cold things had more treasure in them. NGE turned left.
She came upon yet another junction, this time with only two choices: left or right. To her left was a cave illuminated by a soft purple glow. To her right was a long, low-ceilinged cavern that seemed to be…
That was preposterous. But, in the greyish hues of her darkvision, NGE could see something fuzzy covering the floor of the cavern. There were two shades of grey to the furry floor, and the colors split evenly down the center of the cave. She relayed her findings back to Chad, and the group sent Derfin ahead, followed by two of Gavin’s glowing balls.
Derfin stepped into the cavern, and the balls swooped forward to illuminate the room. Stretched in front of him, all along the cave’s length, was a thick carpet of mold. It was brown on his right, and orange on his left. He was standing only a few feet away from the edge of both, and for good reason: it was as close as he could get without being hurt by the extreme temperatures.
For the temperature was indeed extreme. From the orange mold radiated intense heat, like standing in front of a furnace. Conversely, the brown mold seemed to suck the heat from Derfin’s right side. The difference left him shivering on one side and sweating on the other.
Seeing no immediate danger, Derfin called the rest of the gang over. He pointed out to them a long stone box of some sort at the far end of the cavern. He could tell that it was hinged, and that the hinges faced the group; the portion of the box that opened was facing a wall.
There’s an old saying about every problem looking like a nail if all you have is a hammer. The same can be said for elves with bows, except that in their case, every problem looks like a soft, fleshy target just waiting to be filled with arrows.
Derfin bravely shot the mold, which was just sitting there, man, minding its own business, jesus christ. The mold was entirely unperturbed. The arrow twanged against the floor and bounced once before coming to a rest. It sat upon its moldy cushion, questioning the life decisions that had brought it to this point.
The group put their brain-trust into high gear. Many solutions were proposed (“Maybe we shoot it again?” “SHUT UP, DERFIN.”), but finally the group decided that they should send someone fleet of foot and brave of soul to traverse the icy hot fungus.
Derfin took the initiative and a deep breath. He took a leap and ran to the box–
Oh man. The mold got SO MUCH WORSE WHEN YOU WERE ACTUALLY ON IT. Derfin helpfully relayed this fact to his companions: “OW SHIT FUCK OW GOD FUCK DAMNIT SHIIIIIIT”
“What’s that, Derfin?” called Chomsky. “Is it hot? Or is it cold?”
“EAT A DICK,” Derfin confirmed. He leapt upon the stone box. It was split halfway between the two molds: a few feet of it sat near the brown, and a few feet sat near the orange. As a result, the box was, shall we say, cold comfort to Derfin. Wait, that’s not right, because it was also hot. Forget I said anything.
Derfin breathed heavily atop his dubious stone refuge. He looked at the other side of the chest. Perhaps he could open it before the box got too uncomfortable to sit on!
He was met with the sight of a lock, and chains. So many chains. Derfin informed the others of the box’s status.
“Goddamn motherFUCK shitballs!” he called across the cave.
Chomsky translated. “He says it’s locked.”
Derfin couldn’t stay on the box any longer, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to run all the way back across that damned mold. He had noticed a small passageway near the box; the orange mold extended only a few feet into it. Derfin jumped from the box to the passageway and immediately discovered that it was only a few feet deep. It dead-ended only a short distance from the mold. Above him, he could see a faint bit of natural light, and a wall that seemed climbable, given time and effort.
He looked back over at the stone box, and noticed for the first time an engraved metal plate on its side:
Here lies Matthias, bravest of us all.
Derfin was out of sight of his friends, but he could still hear them. Recovered from his fury, he called out once more. This time, he spoke in Common rather than Dirty. “I think it’s a coffin, you guys!”
Chad immediately shouted back. “Is it made of gold?”
Derfin made a rude gesture at the wall, but limited his voice to its usual level of contempt. “Nope! Rocks!”
Back at the edge of the molds, Chad cursed. He, Chomsky, and Gavin discussed their options. It was Chomsky that came up with a novel idea.
“Hey Gavin,” he said. “Can’t’cha, like, zap it with your cold finger beam thing?”
Gavin cocked an eyebrow. “Ray of Frost?”
Chad nodded in approval and replied, “Yeah, yeah! Zap the hot orange one with your frosty finger!”
(Chomsky mentally noted that this was the fourth time in three years that he had heard that exact phrase.)
Gavin shrugged, pointed at the orange mold near NGE and Chomsky, and spoke the invocation. A beam of blue light streaked from his finger and struck its target squarely.
Instantly, NGE and Chomsky found their feet and legs covered in more orange mold. They yelled in pain and leaped back onto safe ground, cursing God for not allowing them to jump away before the mold burned the shit out of their shins. God looked down from heaven and chuckled heartily at their suffering.
Chadwick and Gavin were as surprised as NGE and Chomsky, although they were far enough in the rear that the mold didn’t reach them. Derfin heard only shouts of pain, and was about to ask his friends what they had fucked up this time.
He was stopped by a high, hissing voice. “Tressssspasserss!” it cried.
Chomsky, NGE, Gavin, and Chad whirled around. The voice had issued from behind them: the cave lit by purple light. The voice hissed again: “Leave thisss placcce! NOW!”
The voice fell silent. Chad, Gavin, and Chomsky exchanged glances.
“Soooo…keep trying to open the box?” asked Chad. “I mean, I think that whole thing will keep.” He flapped a hand towards the voice’s origin.
Gavin nodded. “Let’s get this mold shit figured out, then we can deal with snake man or whatever.”
Their next plan was simple: NGE would zip over to the box and hack the chains apart with her sword. Foolproof!
Derfin sat against the cave wall, twiddling his thumbs, trying to muster the will to get back to the chest, or run back to his friends, or something. It was so boring over here, he thought to himself. He had already tried using his bedroll as an insulating platform to scoot across the mold, but he quickly abandoned that plan; the bedroll had started to smoke after only a few seconds on the mold. Derfin began to ponder other methods of passage.
At that moment, NGE raced into view, hopping from foot to foot like Derfin had been only moments earlier. She flung herself atop the box, alternately burned and chilled.
She raised her greatsword, lined up a shot, and smashed it as hard as she could into the box’s chains, landing a blow so mighty that the chains couldn’t help but not be damaged at all.
Meanwhile, her cloak was smoking on one side. Lacy patterns of frost edged their way up the other. She ignored the pain, and lined up a second shot.
The chains laughed at her, holding tightly to each other. They were spectacularly unshattered.
From across the cave, Chadwick snapped his fingers. NGE disappeared with a pop. “Fucking chains,” Chadwick offered by way of explanation, before plopping himself down onto the ground to meditate.
In Which God Forgives That was when Derfin remembered something. “Hey! Idiots!” he called down the cave.
“Yeah?” responded Chomsky, without delay.
“Didn’t you say you got a key off of the skeleton warden guy?”
“Oh shits, yeah! Gavin has it!”
“Maybe the mysterious key opens the mysterious lock, you guys!”
God smiled and shook his head. Poor, silly Derfin; he had been stuck in war flashbacks when his compatriots used the key to open the prison gate. His friends would surely ridicule him to no end.
Gavin called back. “Sounds reasonable enough! One sec, I’ll get it to you!”
God was confused. They had just used that key on a lever, like, ten minutes ago.
Gavin tossed the key into the mold, far into the cave. Palms out, eyes empty, he chanted.
The key floated up, floated over, and plopped to the ground in front of Derfin. He grabbed it and once again leaped onto the box, singeing himself on the mold. He grabbed the lock in one hand, and jammed the key inside.
The key didn’t fit. God sighed. Of course it didn’t fit, why the hell would it fit? But God checked his watch, and the group had been trying desperately to figure out this coffin for way too damn long. And so despite not fitting in the lock, the key just happened to shatter the lock’s rusted, brittle interior. It popped open! What were the odds?
Derfin opened the box, hopping from foot to painful foot. Inside was another goddamned skeleton, wearing leather armor. “Scatter the bones!” yelled Chomsky helpfully.
Derfin declined to scatter the bones, and instead decided to hop inside the coffin. He was now in a very hot (yet very cold) box with Matthias’s leather-clad skeleton. Very close. Very hot. Very intimate. The sheer sexiness of it all was overwhelming.
Derfin couldn’t take it anymore. He ripped the skeleton’s armor off in a fit of passion.
“What’s, uh…what’s going on in there, Derfin?”
Chad’s question brought Derfin to his senses. His mind scrambled for an answer they would believe.
“Just…looting?” Derfin held up the armor.
Chad’s pupils were momentarily replaced by gold coins. “What the fuck are you waiting for? Get that shit over here so I can magic eye it!”
Derfin gathered the armor and a few stray bits of jewelry, and bid farewell to Matthias. Had they really met only moments ago?
He raced back across the mold, boots smoking. He handed the leather armor to Chad, who determined it to be magically enhanced studded leather armor.
“Bitchin’,” said Derfin, but his heart wasn’t in it.
Reunited, the group formed a battle plan. Step one: forget that they possessed a suit of magically enhanced studded leather armor. Step two: investigate Snake Voice. They turned towards the violet-lit passage, and prepared to enter.