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The Manticore Keep Campaign

Underground Visitors

Martin F. Melhus

The tale commences:

Greetings, dear readers. I have a tale to tell you. Mine is not a harrowing tale, although there is some death and danger. My tale is not of the mightiest warriors or the most potent wizards, although our players might, in time, become mighty and potent. In short, it is a sordid little tale wherein persons of little consequence perform small feats and think themselves lucky to be able to recount their adventures.

The players:

I am Radames. Some have dubbed me Radames the Seeker, although it is not a thing I seek, but rather an understanding. My trusted companions are Qanth, an elf of considerable cunning, Dwayne the ruddy cheeked, a mighty dwarven warrior and experimenter, a formousi that we call Nancy, a dark elven woman named Liarthra, and Drek Z'Rek, a half orc woman, using the term loosely. We have been inhabiting Manticore keep for some time, and using the associated "machinery", a name that will suffice for the telling of this petty tale. The machinery is best not spoken of at any length, and accordingly, I will not dwell on it here.

Things that go thump in the darkness:

One night as we were resting in our humble beds after a day of mundane toil, Qanth awoke upon hearing a thump in the night. He went to investigate, awakening the other members of our little band, but was unable to detect any obvious source. While downstairs, he heard some noises from underneath the floor. I went up to the observatory to determine the time of night, but as it was cloudy and the chronological equipment is a total mystery to me, I returned to simply announce that it was sometime in the middle of the night. Meanwhile my companions had been carefully searching the area where the noises under the floor were heard, and Dwayne discovered a very well crafted and cleverly concealed trap door in the floor of the stable. I detected magick by the trap door. We agreed to leave it alone until morning, and set Liarthra to guard it for the remainder of the night. Then Dwayne pulled out the iron phallus of Ignar. (Ed: This of course was not the true phallus of Ignar, but a forgery.) The rest of us were mystified by this action. Perhaps that explains his ruddy cheeks.

Dawn occurs:

The sun, bound by millennia of habit, rose again in the East at the appointed time. We were not overly moved by this phenomena. Our humble band armed and armored themselves, and prepared to investigate the trap door. Dwayne pried up the rock, and marveled at the fine old workmanship. We could not see any bottom, so we dropped a torch in. In the few moments before the torch sputtered out, we glimpsed a scene of frightening carnage. We proceeded down to discover the recently expired bodies of a human and 17 giant roaches. We dispossessed the man of a healthy sack of money (at least by our standards,) a fine sword, and a bracelet that appeared to be related to our control bracelets. The roaches had nothing of value to us.

We get buggy:

After pondering that this ex-human must have been a potent fighter indeed to dispatch 17 opponents before succumbing to their number, we proceeded in the direction of our caves. Shortly, we were met by a large group of the same giant roaches, who were prepared to attack us until Nancy convinced them of our peaceful intent and mutual self-interest. We attempted to negotiate a loose alliance, but they seemed confident in their mastery of these caverns, and were uninterested in any aid we might offer them.

A not so nameless horror:

Continuing along towards our caves, we discovered a clutch of tiny, translucent orange eggs with small greyish spots in the center. There were perhaps a thousand of the tiny gooey spheres. We didn't have any more time to ponder them, as their issuer came upon us. Qanth and Drek were frightened out of their wits, and started to slowly shuffle towards the creature, while screaming "oooh no, I'm gonna die!" I stopped them from walking into the creature's tendril filled maw, while Liarthra, Dwayne, and Nancy made short work of the creeping terror. Knowing what the eggs would likely produce if allowed to develop, we took a few for samples, and burned the rest.

A somewhat more nameless and nebulous horror:

Proceeding more cautiously, we came upon a brightly lit room. The illumination came from an obelisk in the center of the room covered with magickal glyphs. The glyphs glowed with an unearthly light that worried my hearty companions, and for good reason. I sensed strong magick from the pillar, and the glyphs seemed to suggest some sort of demonic spell. I have learned that the quest to acquire this kind of knowledge often ends all learning for the seeker, so despite my natural curiosity, I stayed well away from the obelisk and warned my companions to do likewise. We were able to escape the cavern without incident.

The mad dwarf finds a soul mate, and a problem:

Continuing on our way to our caves, we came upon an ogre. Dwayne managed to befriend said ogre, who introduced himself to us as Ak. Ak accompanied us to our caves, where we discovered that the machine had been tampered with. After much pondering our situation, the voice of reason informed us that there were others with access and knowledge of the machine, and they were aware of us, and our movements. We must perforce keep these movements the same, and set snares for these intruders, to capture them and prevent them from depriving us of our source of power.

A drinking party:

Upon exiting, the three junior members of our party were able to drink from the pool of wonders. Drek untapped a new source of internal fortitude. Nancy had a realization of how the strengths and weaknesses of humans had adapted her fighting styles, and how to change them for the better. Liarthra was very secretive about any changes in herself after sampling the enchanted pool's bubbling waters. Then we proceeded back to the keep overland, to continue the charade of our mundane existences.

A diminutive conclusion:

No other ending would be appropriate for such a common tale. I hope I have not offended the gentle reader with my prose. Our hapless band must perforce continue their lives, so no doubt there will be more vulgar tales to recount. I may be fortunate to pen these, if I am not reduced to so much food for grubs and creeping vermin, or discover the true nature of the iron phallus of Ingar. But until then, I leave you to return to whatever awaits you in your universe, and wish you a world in conformity with your desires.