By Mark Dunstan
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(A Roek the dwarf adventure)
The small stone slid perfectly back into the wall. The mechanism was working well even after all these years the place had been left unattended. Even though the tunnel was dark, the dwarf could still see things with a slightly reddish glow due to infravision. Craning his head left he patiently waited for the door to slide open. A dripping sound could be heard from far off which had started to annoy Roek. It was something that he decided he did not like, among other things like Elves and trees.
"Hurry up you old bugger. I 'aint be waiting 'ere for ever." The dwarf gave the wall a kick with his heavy boots that brought another curse flying from his mouth. It seemed to work though, and within seconds a wave of damp air hit him as the wall fell back to reveal a staircase.
"Good!" He said and took a firm grip on his axe. He peered inside quickly as if unsure whether or not to enter. He looked around and pressed against different parts of the floor and wall with the haft of his axe. He hated traps.
Once he was certain he had nothing to worry about the dwarf entered slowly. He smiled to himself and spoke out loud in common.
"Ha I see you show some respect!" He lit a torch from his pack with his flint stone and held it out in front. His eyes did not adjust quickly to the new source of light and because of his infravision it caused blindness. He stumbled into the wall and gave a moan before opening them. I'll remember never to do that again he said quietly as he leant against the wall covering his eyes with his free hand.
He was not exactly sure why he had lit the torch, perhaps it was because he disliked using his infravision but deep down he knew why. It reminded him of his old home, the Underdark. He had been lighting torches ever since the day he left that dark and cursed place. He told his companions when he had them that he liked the warmth of the fire and he had almost convinced himself.
He rubbed at his beard and then at his eyes and took his small round helm from his head and began to scratch at his hair. Damned lice had gotten there somehow he thought as he placed his helm back on.
The dwarf picked up a slow pace but made regular stops. He did not like the way his steps echoed loudly down the dark halls. There was little he could do about it though and continued with a quickened pace. His journey took him through a thin tunnel where the ceiling had looked as if it had recently dropped from its original place and out into a larger cavern that looked as if a dragon had carved a home for itself wearing away at the rock with its talons.
Water could be heard running from somewhere far off but the ominous dripping sound had continued to get louder. Roek reached out and touched one of the walls and withdrew his hand quickly finding the rock coated in some kind of resin. It was thick in substance and a sickly green colour. He held the torch up and could see that the whole place was coated in it. He wiped his hand on his muddy tattered brown trousers and turned around walking away from it.
He made to leave the cavern but hesitated when he realised that the room split of two ways. Roek scrunched his face up into a ball and began to tug at his brown beard. He did not like these kinds of decisions. Quickly he dropped his small bag to the ground that made a ringing sound flow on the wind. Placing the torch carefully on the floor he took out a small folded paper object. He opened it and studied the map that his friend Flidifus had given him in Nashkell. The map was not the original he could tell but had aged quite badly. Some of the writing was eligible and the paper ripped.
So far he had followed the correct path laid out by his Gnome friend. He had travelled to the Cloudpeaks and had made good time too. He had found the small stone complex that led deeper into the mountains and towards his goal. Why Incubus the elf mage had refused to join the expedition and why Flidifus had backed out was beyond him but the promises of extra riches had not stopped him. In fact he had been quite excited on the prospect of getting a lot of gold and precious items for himself. Now however he missed their presence. He had no one to talk too and no one to cover his back in a fight.
With the map he found confidence in his decision to take the right path. It was pitch dark almost like the labyrinths of the Underdark and a strange smell emanated from the ceiling while large cobwebs clung to his clothes, beard and face like a leech.
He brushed the webs away finding them irritating. Sometimes he found himself being buried in them and the struggle to release him had taken a lot of energy from him.
Roek followed the path though and was glad to see the end of it. The tunnel had led to a large spacious cavern that stood at least a mile high. On the ground about one hundred yards in front lay a small stream bubbling away as if it were acid. Roek stepped closer towards it and found that it stunk of ozone and that it was a dark purple colour, almost black. He kicked a loose bit of rubble into it and was amazed to see it float on the waters surface for a few heartbeats before sinking.
"What be ye." He asked as if expecting an answer, bushy eyebrows raised peering over into it. Roek turned away from it after several minutes locked in a staring contest and began to examine the cavern. Large stalactites and stalagmites roamed the ground and ceiling covered in the same resin the previous cavern had been. He raised his torch up towards the ceiling but found that it rose too high. He thought he caught movement up there though and took a firm hold of the large axe that had been strapped to his back.
He moved on however, trying to find a way over the stream but kept looking at the ceiling as if certain that something lurked up there. He was not nervous though, even looking forward to a bit of blood spilling. He hadn't been in a decent fight for a few days, ever since the group of Kobolds.
He looked over the axe he now carried. It was a nice weapon able to split most heads in two but a clumsy one, which took a lot of energy to swing. He wished he had brought his twin scimitars with him but they were miles away in a shop cellar in Athkatla waiting for his return. He missed them dearly, like a father would miss his son if he had died or went missing.
Did his ears deceive him or did he hear a scuttling sound from above him? Roek glanced upwards swallowing his building saliva. Perhaps he should move a bit faster. Breaking into a run he dashed across the cavern back over to the stream looking for a way to cross. His eyes scanned the length but found no visible crossing point. He would have to wade through it.
He shook his head and cursed some invisible companion. He made to step in the water but back away quickly. He wanted to know if he could physically cross it first or he could drown. He lent forward putting his axe shaft into the water. It hit the bottom halfway up the haft.
It would come up to his thighs and with that thought he comfortably entered the murky water. The fumes rose up into his nostrils making Roek feel sick. He did not want to think about actually drinking the stuff.
The water was thick and harder to walk through than any streams he had tried in Toril and he found himself breathing harder and harder with each step.
When Roek eventually made it to the other side he rested and took a look at himself. His trousers were ruined. Curse that damned Gnome forever talking me into this!
"Look at 'em. Ruined they be. That will cost me a few gold coins to get fixed. Bloody stream. What's it doing in a bloody mountain anyway?" As if in answer a scuttling sound filled the cavern. A sound of a hundred thousand crickets joined it. Roek stood up quickly and looked around. His torch went instantly up towards the ceiling and could see what he had earlier expected. Spiders.
From large spanning webs connected to the ceiling dog sized spiders hung from individual strands. From the other side of the stream he could see them already dropping down onto the ground and making an advance towards him. Roek cursed his luck. He hated spiders almost as much as he hated elves.
The first spider to drop besides Roek was separated in two and the second was equally easily dispatched but it became apparent that they would overrun him if he stayed in the cavern. He dodged an attack from a black furred spider and sent it spirling in the air with a deft kick to its side. Roek cried out in a mocking tone.
"Damn fine sport that could be!" He looked forward and spotted where he would make his exit. He ran as fast as he could but was hindered considerably by his pack. Stopping to short of the caverns exit, where it would span off into the dark Roek stopped and turned. The spiders had stayed where they were eyeing him suspiciously. Large hairy abdomens bounced up and down against the ground.
"Why 'aint ye be moving? Roek scared ye!" A look of triumph past his face and he turned towards the tunnel.
Roek had passed through two more chambers without delay. He stopped in the second one to admire a wall of stone that had been crafted in the shape of undistinguishable creatures. The carvings were ancient and had suffered through the years but the craftsmanship was excellent. One was still completely intact; a carving of a man with a torso of a spider carrying swords in each of his eight arms. Besides this was a smaller one humanoid in form but with snakes for arms. Roek ran his hand over another shape which was below these; a dog sized animal but with the head of an Elf. Roek decided whoever carved these was talented but insane. As he turned to leave he felt himself shiver at the sight of them.
His torch had begun to die out and soon he would have to rely on his infravision. The dwarf stopped to rest in the adjoining cavern against a tall stalagmite. He sat on the ground and took off one of his torn boots. His feet were aching and he began to rub them. Once he stopped his hand slipped into his pack to retrieve the map. He studied it for several minutes wondering what the runes were that danced across the paper. He had asked Flidifus but the young Gnome had simply shrugged his shoulders. If it was important he would of found out wouldn't he? Even Incubus could not decipher the language stating that it was archaic and was a lost tongue.
Roek rubbed softly at his eyes and wiped his nose, which had begun to drip. His head began to itch again but it did not bother him. He was too tired to care. He felt himself fell giddy, as if he was watching clouds in the blue sky when exhausted and found his head was straying to his left hand side.
"Wake up you fool! Don't wanna' be fallen asleep in this place." He shook his head until his eyes felt like they had jumped clear from the earthquake and stood up slowly, gripping the stalagmite for support.
After he felt sure he would not collapse he let go off the rock and pushed onward. His torch had died out and his eyes had adjusted. He could see a vast array of colours now, from blue and red to purple. Looking at his map in his hands he smiled to himself thinly and patted the wall he stood by. He was close now if the map was right.
Roek smelt the air and could smell the decay. The room he now stood in was covered in cobwebs that had collected a fine amount of dust. The stone floor was littered with bones of the long dead. He kicked a few away that had bothered his feet and started to brush away and push through the webs.
They were not strong like the last ones and it was not long until he found the cavern that was marked on his map. A faint white glow rimmed the outline of its entrance but Roek could not determine the source of the light.
He peered inside, looking left and right, then towards the ceiling. It looked safe but the light just seemed to be there. The room was not large and it did not look like there was another exit from it. Towards the end, directly in front of him by about twenty yards stood a gold statue sitting upon a giant hand carved out of the mountain itself. Perhaps this was where the white light was coming from he thought as he stepped into the room. A gush of air met him and he felt as if something had passed right through him. He shivered and could feel the hairs on his arms and neck rise.
The floor to the room was decorated in tiles with simple letters that matched the runes on the map. Roek shook his head and laughed out loud. His voice held no trace of fear.
"An easy picking then is it." He stepped towards the hand cautiously looking about the room for any traps that could end his life. Luck was with him and he reached the platform. Roek looked at the statue he had come for. It was of simple design and looked to be blatant gold. Its shape was that of a bear standing tall arms stretched out wide holding small orbs, which Roek guessed, were emeralds. Was this it? One statue! He had thought the room was to be filled with riches beyond his wildest dreams but all he could see was this object. No chest of Gold sat waiting for him.
Roek did not want to go back empty handed however and he grabbed the statue and made to pick it up. He failed. It seemed attached to the hand itself. Roek eyed it up and down, one bushy eyebrow raised. He leant his axe against the hands thumb and gripped a firm hold with both of his hands on the statue. He tugged and pulled until red in the face but it still would not leave its place. Roek stared at it.
"Don't play silly bugger with me y'hear." The statue did not respond. Roek found himself getting angry and soon he knew he would be at the point where he would take his axe to it. Calming himself Roek decided that there must be an easier way to let the hand release it. He studied the statue again and then the hand. He found something just below the treasure. It was a length of buttons bearing more of the runes the map and the tiles had. Perhaps this was the key.
Roek randomly pushed in a button and stopped when he heard a click. He could here pistons working from inside the mountains and before he knew what was happening a billow of green smoke launched itself over the dwarf. Roek took in a mighty gulp of air before being covered and fumbled in his pack for a flask he carried in these situations. It was gas and probably the worst kind. He could feel his eyes stinging and his lungs had begun to feel like they were going to explode. Desperately now he fumbled his way towards his bag pulling out the flask. He quickly unscrewed the lid and took out a wet scarf that he wrapped around his mouth and nose.
With it on he felt safer to breath but could smell the piss on it instantly. He rushed out of the evaporating smoke towards the exit, eyes like waterfalls. His lungs were screaming at him now.
He was glad he had the scarf though. It had saved him many times. Why everyone else refused to do it was beyond him. All it was was a scarf soaked in piss so that you could breath during a gas attack. It was a trade commonly used by dwarf miners but seemed to work well in these situations. Roek fell to the floor and rested against the wall watching the thick green smoke dissipate. It vanished quickly afterwards but Roek kept the scarf on.
He got back onto his feet and entered the room again thinking that he just had a lucky escape. He moved cat-like towards the hand and kicked it violently.
"Tried to gas me did yer' bastard!" He swung his axe and chipped a large piece of rock from it. "Don't be trying that again!"
Roek looked back at the runes and then thought instantly of the map. There were some similar looking ones on there. Sure enough he was right and before long he had entered in the runes that were scribbled across the paper. Nothing happened, not even the sound of a click. Without hesitation Roek grabbed the statue and found that it still would not move. He looked at the runes on the paper and could see that one had been destroyed. He could not make heads or tails of it. He cursed his bad luck and went instantly back to the keys on the hand. One of them would be the right one he thought but there were five he had not pressed, including the one that had released the gas into the room. He brought the paper up to a few inches from his face and tried to make out its basic shape. He could have sworn it curved at the bottom to make a sort of T shape but the panel on the hand did not have when to meet the description so he dismissed his thought.
Obviously he would have to try blind luck. With that as a guide he pressed a square shaped one with two lines running through the middle vertically and heard a click. Roek ducked expecting a barrage of poisoned darts to fly from the wall but all he heard was three more clicks. Once certain that he would be safe to rise the dwarf went for the statue. It was free. He held it up in the air and whispered as if to it.
"You better be worth some money " Suddenly the chamber began to shake violently and bits of rock crumbled down from the ceiling that was lost in darkness above. Wide-eyed Roek hugged the statue to him like it was a child and ran out of the chamber.
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