Field Trip to the Ancient Dwarven Prison Camp
Part X of the Terrence Saga
Part X of the Terrence Saga
Our intrepid adventuring squad regrouped back in the tunnels. Chad informed them all of something that he had noticed during the battle with the lizardmen. He had been standing in the passage that led to the unexplored hallway, which they had collectively dubbed the Hallway of Hell No. While standing there, he had heard a noise.
whump. whump. Whump. Whump. WHUMP. WHUMP.
The sound had crescendoed, faded slightly, and grown louder again. It sounded as if something was pacing back and forth along the hallway’s length. Something big.
The group agreed to wait a bit before challenging what might be in that hallway. Instead, they decided they should check out the “Temple” room; the passage in front of them looked to lead straight into that room!
However, before they headed out, Chad realized that NGE needed some healing. She had been bitten pretty substantially by the legions of spiders on the garbage mound. He put the question to the group. “Hey, anyone got any potions?”
Chomsky silently held up his four-pack — now a three-pack — of sketchy-as-hell potions.
Chadwick thought back to the fight. They had fed one of those potions to NGE, and it had felt as if some outside force attempted to yank her away. His connection to her had flickered and almost dissipated. Was it wise to try such a thing again?
Yes. Definitely. Chad swiped another potion from Chomsky and handed it to NGE. She chugged the whole thing without hesitation.
And disappeared. Chad couldn’t feel his connection to NGE. It was gone. He decided that the best way to handle the situation was to calmly and carefully analyze all the factors by freaking the fuck out.
“SHIT WHAT THE FUCK WHERE DID SHE GO BALLS SHITASS”
Everyone else sort of moved off to the side of the corridor. Chadwick began kicking the tunnel walls, spraying gravel and dirt everywhere.
Derfin kept his voice low and spoke to the other two. “Well, looks like we’ve lost our meatshield.”
“What the fuck is up with her, anyway?” asked Chomsky. “There’s the whole rune thing, and the whole ‘follows his every whim’ thing…”
“You probably don’t want to know,” said Gavin sagely. “Soul binding, contracts, shit like that? The details are never pretty.”
Chomsky eyed the sorcerer. “I suppose you’d know, Mr. evil goddamn voices in your head.”
Gavin whistled nonchalantly.
At the other side of the tunnel, Chad’s breathing finally slowed to something resembling normal. He sighed and rejoined the others.
“I think we should sleep,” he said. “Meet up with those people we saved, rest up the night, see if NGE is back in the morning.”
Chomsky cheerily agreed. “Good idea! Boy, I sure hope they didn’t get poisoned by the insanity gas and murder each other!”
The party walked back towards the barracks. Past the spiderlobster corpses, still teeming with rats; past the jail cells, which still smelled faintly of pine-scented death mist; past the living chains, which uncoiled from the skeleton warden’s remains to watch the party pass by. And there was the rusted iron door, with its rusted iron nameplate. “Barracks.”
Derfin rapped on the door. “Hey, you guys okay in there?”
Silence. Then, “Yeah? Basically? Who’s there?”
“It’s us! The guys from before!”
“Oh, hey! Password?”
“Fordswish! Shit, no! Wait! Swordfish!”
There was a pause, and then click! The door unlocked and swung open. Inside the room, the group could see the woman and man they had left there earlier, seemingly no worse for wear.
The woman greeted them from beside a small campfire. She had found some basic cookware in the slavers’ packs, and had a small meal in progress on the flame. “Hey again! You guys find anything interesting?”
“Well,” said Chad. “That depends on your definition of interesting oh also by the way did anything weird happen while we were gone like oh I dunno mist that made you go insane?”
The two took a moment to exchange confused glances and parse through Chad’s run-on sentence.
“Oh, hey, good, don’t worry about it! Is that bacon? I love bacon! Let’s forget I said anything else!”
After dinner and some small talk, the group retired for the night. Derfin laid on the hard stone floor and fell immediately into a light sleep. Gavin muttered to himself as he unfurled his bedroll. Chomsky was burrowed into his bedroll, and absolutely nobody wanted to know what was going on in there. And Chadwick lay awake. A single tear rolled down his cheek, as he began, softly, to sing:
“Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight…”
Morning dawned cold and hard. Well, it might not have been morning. It could have been the middle of the night. Everyone was in a dungeon. So I guess evening dawned cold and…fuck it. Everyone woke up!
Chad began serious soul-searching, looking for his connection to NGE. Nothing. What could possibly have happened? In desperation, he cried out to God to answer his question.
“Nope,” said God.
“Alright,” said Chad. “Hey guys, we’re all just gonna sleep here until NGE shows back up. Sound good?”
Gavin raised an eyebrow. “How long were you thinking we’d stay?”
“I mean, just until she shows up. However long that takes.”
“And if it takes a month?”
The collective “fuck that” from the rest of the group eventually proved strong enough to push Chad forward. Like a baby bird trying its wings for the first time, Chad stepped out of the barracks without NGE to protect him. A touching moment indeed.
Our heroes bade farewell to the rescued townspeople, who were preparing to leave the dungeon and return to their homes. As they left, Chomsky called back to them. “And remember, feel totally free to just straight-up murder those kidnappers if you run into them!”
The party made their way back to the tunnels. This time, their destination was the temple marked on their stone map.
When they arrived at the junction where Chadwick had heard footsteps, they stopped for a moment. It seemed like the footsteps followed some sort of pattern. Derfin used his keen elven senses to lean against a wall and clean under his fingernails. Chomsky used his keen gnomish senses to idly coil and uncoil his whip around his own throat.
Chad sighed, listened for a minute or so, and determined that the footsteps were pacing back and forth along the hallway. When they reached the entrance to the temple, they turned around. When they reached the magically-barricaded door, there was a “clunk” sound, as if the walker attempted to open the door every time it reached it. After a single attempt, the footsteps returned to their patrol.
For that was what it was, Chad realized: something on patrol. Something big.
Well. They could just leave, of course, but there was probably treasure in the temple. So leaving was right out.
After a few moments of discussion, the group decided they needed more information. They concocted a clever plan to discover the patroller’s identity without putting themselves in danger: Gavin and Chomsky would use magical lights and sounds to create the illusion of an intruding human. They would send this illusion into the path of the creature, and Derfin would hide in the temple to see what they were up against. Flawless!
Chad cast Message on the daring elf so that the group could stay in contact. With communications in place, Derfin crept through the tunnel until he reached the opening to the temple. Unlike the other tunnel entrances, this one hadn’t been hidden at all. Dirt and rocks from the tunnel were strewn about, as was broken temple masonry from the tunnel’s ingress. Odd.
The temple was extravagant, despite its considerable wear. Stone dwarves loomed from the walls, proud and cruel. Derfin viewed the room from raised dais. To his right was an altar, with ancient candles still affixed to its surface. In the corner to Derfin’s left was a statue.
And what a statue it was! An enormous stone dwarf, winged and horned, towered from a pedestal. It wielded a mace of flame in one hand and brandished a scroll with the other. The demonic statue glared at the world with the air of a conqueror.
Oddly, the statue seemed newly carved. There were no blemishes, cracks, or other marks of age upon its surface. However, scattered on the floor around the statue were fragments of a similar statue. Very similar, in fact. It looked to be the remnants of a duplicate of the statue that stood in front of him. Strange.
But there was no time for statuary conundrums! The telltale “whump” of footsteps was coming closer to the temple! Derfin alerted his teammates through magical whispers, and they sprang into action. Well, not “sprang.” They just sort of cast their shit. You know how it is.
A ghostly, shimmering figure appeared at the far end of the temple, accompanied by faint footsteps. The large footfalls immediately halted. And then—
The patroller charged out of the hallway and grabbed at the ghostly figure with enormous hands. The light from the illusion sparkled and burst apart, giving Derfin a glimpse of a metal dwarf twice his size, armored from head to toe, with glowing red eyes.
Derfin, safely out of view of his companions, whimpered a little and pressed himself up against the demonic dwarf statue behind him.
A stony hand reached around his neck.
Abandoning all pretense at dignity, Derfin let out an ear-piercing, childlike shriek of terror and bolted for the tunnel. With a clack, the iron monstrosity’s head swiveled to face him. The golem lunged across the room, but Derfin was already deep inside the lizard people’s tunnelhole.
Chad, Gavin, and Chomsky had barely registered Derfin’s shriek when they felt a fear-scented wind pass them by. WHOOSH.
“What was that?” said Gavin.
“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE TUNNEL ENTRANCE, YOU SHITS! IT’S A FUCKING IRON FUCK THING!” yelled Derfin, who had already passed them all and run as far as the spidercrab’s lair.
The others heard crunching rock and shifting dirt. It sounded almost exactly like an ancient iron golem forcing its way into a narrow tunnel.
Derfin’s advice suddenly seemed extremely reasonable. They fled.
The group paused for a moment to catch their breath in prison cell six. Derfin and Chomsky listened hard at the tunnel entrance for sounds of pursuit.
Nothing. No sound at a–
“Wait,” said Derfin.
whump. whump. whump. whump.
The faint sounds of metal footfalls could be heard, back in their regular pattern. The creature was on patrol once more.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. But there was still one problem, Chomsky pointed out: there was a room on their map marked “Supplies” that they hadn’t looted yet. Chad, for one, felt that this was a travesty.
“I, for one, feel that this is a travesty,” said Chad.
“But how are we going to get in there?” said Gavin. “Our meat shield is gone. And I don’t think any of us are much good as a diversion.”
Chad smirked. “No. No, none of us are.”
A few moments later, everyone was in position. Derfin stood in the tunnel that lead to the golem’s hallway. Chadwick crouched further along the tunnel, near the exit to the temple. Chomsky and Gavin waited in the Processing room, ready to open the barricaded door at a moment’s notice.
Chad’s whisper magically sounded in the others’ ears. “Alright, guys. Ready?”
“Then here we go.”
Chad wiped a bead of sweat off of his forehead. It had been a while since he had tried this — tora u tora tatsu i tora inu? Or was it tori inu?
His hands flashed in a series of complex gestures. There was a puff of smoke, and…yes! A medium-sized dog stood before him, wearing a light blue headband with a small metal plate affixed to it. Chad grinned.
The dog, serene and elegant, looked at Chad expectantly. What evil would you have me smite this day? it seemed to say.
Chad’s response was to wave his hand around in front of the dog. “Look here, boy! Look what I’ve got!”
The dog immediately dropped all noble pretense. It wiggled excitedly, eyes lit, ears perked, and gaze locked on Chad’s empty hand.
“You want it? You want it?”
The dog jumped for Chad’s hand.
“Then go get it!”
Chad made a wild throwing motion in the direction of the temple. The rear of the temple. The dog barked with joy and raced into the temple, tongue lolling.
The golem charged once more. Derfin shoved open the false door from the tunnel into the hallway and leapt for the door to the storage room. He put his hand on the latch–
FUCKSHIT. It was LOCKED. There was no way he would be able to open it before the golem resumed its patrol.
Unless, of course, he happened to have the key. Which, of course, he did. Derfin slid the key smoothly into the lock, penetrating its depths, lovingly parting each tumbler until the device could take it no more, and unlatched with a moan of pleasure. I mean with a click.
Derfin was so weirded out, he almost didn’t open the door at all. Then he herd a canine growl followed by a yelp of pain from the temple behind him, and decided that oddly sexual locks were far preferable to having every one of his bones shattered like fine china. He opened the door, stepped inside, and—quietly—closed it again.
The room was pitch dark. Derfin fished a torch from his pack, lit it, and placed it in a nearby bracket. With the room lit, he set out to explore its contents.