Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena
unclehyena

Dragon Hunting, Part Three

(Turn Twenty-One)

Aarrra, Grumlahk, and G’noll

Storms naturally make one think of shelter, but it was still fairly early in the morning, and stopping to make shelter at that time would leave them ever further behind the traveling Mhegrrrim. Looking at the thunderheads closing in, they decided it was better to stay beneath the trees and make their way downhill, all the while looking for an outcrop of rock. The wind picked up and the rain grew heavier as they worked their way downhill through the forest. G’noll flew and levitated his trunk full of gear along behind him, but he had to do so much weaving and maneuvering that it really didn’t seem any easier than walking like the other two. Late in the afternoon they reached the bottom of the hill and started up the slope of the next one. Edging their way toward the open terrain that was off to their right they had the luck to stumble upon a cave entrance.

“This cave looks a little strange to me,” commented Aarrra, “but any port in a storm. Is it my imagination, or is the rain getting harder?”

“It’s raining harder, and I say “let’s get inside this place,” said Grumlahk.

They entered, although it was a bit of a squeeze for Aarrra. Inside, the cave opened up a bit. There wasn’t much light, but they could all see well enough. The first thing they found was the remnants of an old cooking pit—fire cracked rocks arranged in a circle around a layer of ashes.

Aarrra had gone in a bit deeper than the others. “Hey, I think there’s a tunnel back here,” she yelled.


Mhegrrrim

Mhegrrrim drank his fill of water and picked out a nice looking stone. He sank down to lay under the water. He worked his magic to store 13 Kremm into his new pet rock :)

He could feel his body rebuilding itself as he rested. By morning he would be back to full power. He drifted into a meditative state, not quite asleep, but not paying much attention to the world around him.

At sunset the night gaunts came out and flew above him on their way to the swamp. They didn’t notice him under water.

About midnight, he stirred, thinking something was wrong. His pool of water had been draining slowly but steadily down hill, and now parts of his reclining body were above the surface of the water. Mhegrrrim sat up to think about it. Any shelter the water provided was ebbing away. The rain had subsided to a drizzle.

(Turn Twenty-two)

Aarrra, G’noll, and Grumlahk

Everyone was in favor of doing some exploring. G’noll provided for a continuous supply of light, and they headed deeper into the cave. It soon became apparent that the tunnel followed some natural fissure in the rock, as it snaked back and forth, up and down. Aarrra led the way. If the tunnel ever narrowed so much that she couldn’t get through, there would be no point in continuing.

But the tunnel stayed fairly large. At points it looked as if it had been worked with tools to enlarge it—in those places there was stone dust and many chips of rock on the floor.
“Something lives down here,” said Grumlahk, “and with our luck, it will be something numerous and hostile.”

The others agreed.

It was slow going, but they worked their way into the hill for well over an hour before anything notable happened. The tunnel opened up into a large oval cave, and from that cave seven other tunnels led off in different directions. In the center of the cave was a fire, and around the fire moved a small group of strange beings. They seemed to have arachnoid bodies from which an erect torso sprang which rose to a pair of shoulders with arms and an almost humanoid head. The creatures were entirely covered with a brownish black fur, and seemed to be speaking to each other in a language that was partly clacking and partly guttural vowel sounds with an occasional whistle.

Mhegrrrim

The lone troll found it a bit difficult to walk once he got out of the streambed, but when he got far enough away that the ground became a single slope, things became easier. Definitely out of the stream, and moving downhill, he found that the night was alive with noises. Night birds, lizards, insects, rodents were everywhere, and since he seemed to be nothing more than a rock to them, they frequently ran across his body. The hillside was rocky and strewn with boulders. Webs stretched between the boulders, and some of the webs were enormous—big enough to entangle even a rock troll. Once he saw something crocodilian but with longer legs and a vane of skin that stretched between front and rear legs glide silently down out of the sky to fall upon a spider the size of a large dog. Once he saw a big spider pounce twenty feet through the air upon some dark creature the size of a raccoon. Yes, the night was alive. He moved cautiously, and nothing really bothered him.

After about an hour he began to hear something that sounded like a low roar. It was not a constant noise like a waterfall, but more irregular, a noise that might be made by one or more animals of considerable size. Sometimes louder, sometimes softer, sometimes fading away for a moment of silence. As Mhegrrrim walked further, he noticed that the land ahead seemed curiously empty, but he didn’t realize what it really was until he had almost reached the edge of a gigantic sinkhole. The land in front of him ended. Ragged, rocky cliffs extended straight down for a thousand feet or more. Off to his right he could see a thin line of water pouring into the chasm. From down below came the roaring and bellowing he head heard in the distance. Some of the noises were impessive enough to be made by dragons, but nothing could be seen from where he stood.

(Turn Twenty-three)

Cathal

Cathal went to see the Trollgod. “I’m ready to go dragon hunting, now. I’d like to join G’noll and the group.”

“Very well.” Trollgod gestured toward a blank stretch of cave wall, and a tunnel opened up. “Follow this tunnel and you will come out very near G’noll and his friends.”
Cathal started off down the tunnel. It seemed like he walked for hours, but he was a tireless sort. Every once in a while he would stop and yell, “G’noll, where are you?”

Finally, the tunnel came to a dead end. It just stopped.

“That’s strange,” thought the skeleton-troll. “The Trollgod said this would bring me to G’noll.”

“G’noll, G’noll, where are you?” he bellowed.

Aarrra, G’noll, and Grumlahk

Grumlahk stepped out of concealment with both hands visible. “Hi, there! How’s everyone on this fine night?” He had both hands in sight with no weapons visible. He did have a potent TTYF spell ready to go.

Of course he was using the wizard speech which enabled the gobnids to understand him. They all scuttled back a bit when he appeared. But one seemed a bit braver than the others. It held its ground, and spoke back. “Greetings, stranger! What brings you to the land of the gobnids?” It seemed perfectly willing to enter a conversation with him.

Meanwhile, G’noll and Aarrra lurked invisibly a bit further back the tunnel. They were ready to unleash a flurry of destruction on these hideous-looking bug creatures. They were somewhat disappointed when the gobnids reacted calmly and greeted Grumlahk.

Just then they heard Cathal’s voice yelling, “G’noll, G’noll, where are you?”

“What was that?” cried the gobnid, jumping back about 8 feet in a single bound.

Mhegrrrim

Meanwhile, many miles away, Mhegrrrim began to climb down into the sinkhole. It was a difficult climb, and he often had to go slowly. From time to time, a hand or foothold would crumble and he had to hug the wall and quickly try to find another grip. It was worse when a foot hold crumbled, for then his massive rock troll weight would tend to drag him down.

He had descended about half way, and the bestial bellowing from below had gotten much closer. He found himself entering a region of mist and much warmer, wetter air. He would have detected a strong odor of sulfur except that rock trolls really don’t have a sense of smell. Then the crisis came. Two of his four holds on the rocky wall crumbled at once. He started to fall.

But he was a mighty rock troll. Stiffening his hand into a blade he stabbed it at the rock wall, intent on making his own handhold. (L12SR on STR, rolled 7 for 84 a.p. but missed it by a lot. He broke a finger and failed to make his own handhold that would stop his fall (-2 CON). He toppled backwards into the abyss.

However, Mhegrrrim had known that he might fall. He had a plan, and that was to cast an upsidaisy spell on himself that would at least break his fall. Since he was now going down headfirst, he figured to wait until he could see the bottom before casting.

He fell through the mist and a few seconds later emerged into a gray world of falling rain. A hundred feet below him was a jungle of ferns and fronds unlike any forest he had ever seen before. The hooting, hollering, and bellowing seemed to come from below tree level. (L4SR on INT to see if he can cast the spell, rolled 11 for 44 a.p. His fall began to slow, and by the time he was 20 feet above the treetops he had stopped falling. With some contortions, he managed to get his feet pointing down and his head pointing up again, and there he stuck, drifting in the air some 20 feet above the tree tops.

As he was assessing the situation, what had to be a dragon head rose through the greenery below him on a long, long swaying neck and moved in his direction. The head of the beast was half the size of the troll. As the dragon head approached, it opened wide a mouth full of large rectangular teeth and emitted a belch of terrifying proportions. Luckily, however, rock trolls have no sense of smell, and Mhegrrrim only felt a kind of hot breeze. However, the dragon head on its long, long neck was zeroing in on him, and looked very much like it wanted to take a bite of him.

(Turn Twenty-four)

Aarrra, Cathal, G’noll, and Grumlahk

Grumlahk tried to reassure the gobnid. "My friends and I are looking for dragons. I think I recognize that voice, I know him and he must be lost and looking for us. We don't intend to cause any trouble to you or yours."

“If you have a lost friend, you’d better go find him. There are no dragons down in the gobnid caverns, but that doesn’t mean they are a safe place for strangers. I’ll just confer with my fellow tribesmen about how we should welcome you strangers.”

Grumlahk backed away from the gobnid in the direction from which he had come. “Cathal! Where are you?”

“Grumlahk, is that you? I’m in a dead end passage!”

“Try walking right through the end of it. The dead end is probably an illusion.”

Cathal stretched his weapon straight ahead of him and stepped forward. After a few steps he entered a different tunnel which ran at right angles to the one he had been in. Grumlahk’s voice came from the right.

Grumlahk backed into view around a bend in the passage.

“There you are!” Cathal started toward his colleague rapidly, and smacked right into what felt like an invisible boulder.

“Ow, watch where you’re going,” growled Aarrra.. “We’re hiding here.”

“Why?”

“They might not be friendly,” said Grumlahk. “They are pretty savage-looking. Come with me, Cathal. I told them you are my friend. Don’t do anything unfriendly.”

Grumlahk and Cathal moved forward again, rounded a corner, and came upon a group of some 20 gobnids. The leader stood in front of them and spoke, “This is just a hunting cave. Would you care to visit our chieftain in the great Gobnid city? Or do you just want to ask us questions here?”

Mhegrrrim

As the dragon head darted at him, Mhegrrrim mentally released half of the levitation power of the upsidaisy spell, and sank like a stone below the treetops. Even so, the attacking dragon head barely missed him.

Below the treetops, and in the rain, it was almost as dark as inside a cave. The body of the dragon was enormous, more like a wall or a building than a living creature. The body was plain brownish gray and supported on four pillar-like legs that stretched down into a lake. Dragonflies as big as he was buzzed around him. If the dragon had a weak spot, Mhegrrrim really didn’t see it.

Mhegrrrim really wasn’t flying. He was levitating in place. Spinning in place he found some dry land about 100 feet away. When he looked in that direction, though, he saw a flash of orange moving back between the trees and heard a terrible shriek.

(Turn Twenty-five)

Aarrra, Cathal, G’noll, and Grumlahk

Grumlahk and Cathal took a few steps forward. Grumlahk was explaining as he walked, just to keep the gobnid’s attention,

“I am Grumlahk, this is Cathal. We are greatly honored that you would invite us to visit your Chieftain, and we thank you. We aren’t sure where the rest of our party is and should continue trying to find them. It would help us if you could answer some questions, and perhaps if we pass this way again, we could visit the great Gobnid city?”

“Oh, no, only the chieftain and the great wise one can answer your questions. It isn’t very far.” With that communication, it and five of its companions scuttled forward with amazing speed, holding out empty hands toward the two of you.

Rock walls were never far from where the delvers stood. The gobnids held out their little empty hands and clutched at whatever part of Grumlahk and Cathal they could find. With Grumlahk that wasn’t hard, because they were almost as big as him, but with Cathal they couldn’t reach above his waist. Nevertheless, three of them latched onto Cathal’s legs.

“What are you doing?” asked Cathal. The gobnids did not seem to be trying to hurt him, but they were uncomfortably close.

“We are putting the friend odor on you. You cannot wander through our tunnels without the odor of friendship. Other hunters might find you and think you are meat.”

“Not much meat on this one. He seems to be all bones.”

Around the bend in the corridor G’noll whispered to Aarrra, “I’m going to drop the hidey hole. Then we can step out and join Grumlahk. Maybe we’ve finally made contact with some things in this land that can help us.”

“They’re creepy looking,” said Aarrra. “I don’t trust them.”

Around the corner, Grumlahk felt a momentary spike of alarm as his new acquaintance latched onto one hand with quite a strong grip. “What are you doing, friend?”

“Taking you to the city.” The gobnid reached up under its throat hairs and lightly stroked a rocky amulet that hung there. “homedoor, homedoor, homedoor!” it chanted.

A shimmering yellow portal opened in the air. The gobnid sprang through it, dragging Grumlahk behind him. A second gobnid clunk firmly to Grum’s leg.

The other four swarmed Cathal. “Come, come, come, come!” Their chirping voices echoed off the rocks, and only the fact that he was using the Wizard speech enabled Cathal to understand them. Two others pulled Grumlahk through a suddenly shimmering yellow portal in the air.

By the time, Aarrra and G’noll uncloaked and stepped around the corner, Grumlahk had vanished, and four gobnids were rushing Cathal toward a shimmering yellow portal that screamed strange magic at G’noll.

Mhegrrrim

Splash! Mhegrrrim released the spell and plummeted into the water. It was a big splash, but when it was over he found himself standing there in a shallow lake with head and shoulders still out of the water. The mud on the bottom of the lake was soft and squishy, and when his feet hit it, great clouds of it filled the already murky water.

"I wonder if my club washed all the way down here." The troll couldn't see anything in the murky water, and he didn't really want to put his head into it, so he dragged his feet with each step to see if he felt anything that could be a trollish warclub. (L20SR on LK for it to actually be there. Rolled a 4. Missed. Didn't find it. Got 80 a.p. for the try.)

About a moment later he approached the shoreline and climbed out of the lake. The land was still incredibly muddy, and vegetation sprouted everywhere. Mhegrrrim pulled himself out of the water by ripping up a shrub an standing in the insect-swarming earth where it had been. He tossed it behind him into the lake.

Then he looked at the dragon. It didn't look much like any dragon he'd ever heard of before. It looked more like an incredibly huge hippopotamus with a tremendously long neck. Still, it seemed to be a reptile. Those were definitely brown and green scales, not fur nor feathers.

It was clear to him that to make a path down here in the bottom of the sinkhole, he would simply have to trample the vegetation underfoot. He took a step away from the lake, and his ears were assaulted by a mighty roar coming from the jungle in front of him. That roar was answered by an even deeper bellow from the huge beast behind him.

(Turn Twenty-six)

Aarrra, Cathal, and G’noll

Aarrra tried her best to get the scent markings off Cathal, but since she had no sense of smell, she didn’t really do much.

“They’ve taken Grumlahk,” Aarrra reminded G’noll.

Cathal quit cursing to chime in. “You’re the mighty wizard. Can you open that portal and let us follow him?”

“I don’t think so,” said G’noll. “I’m thinking that the best thing we can do is get out of these caves.”

“We can mark the tunnel leading back to the surface and then try one of the other exits,” offered Aarrra. “The great Gobnid city can’t be that far away.”

G’noll seemed to be considering it when they all heard a strange noise—a kind of rattling sound. Out of one of the tunnels crawled a beast unlike anything they had ever seen before. It looked mostly like a huge mottled snake, but it had stumpy legs like a crocodile. It’s triple-forked tongue flicked out into the air in front of it. There were many sets of legs, at least 5 sets, and that was just in the first 20 feet of the creature. More of it extended out of sight into the tunnel. It also had a double sail of semi-transparent scales that rose up a couple of feet into the air from its back. As the double sail swayed back and forth with each step the creature took, it made the clacking noise they heard.

The triple-forked tongue tasted the dank cavern air for a minute, and then the serpentine head turned in Cathal’s direction. Although the delvers were a good thirty feet away, it seemed to know exactly where they were, and with a great hiss, it charged, slithered in their direction.

Grumlahk

"No, I know the rockchomper, we're friends, open the portal and we can settle this right now" (L5SR on Persuasion Rolled 4. Made it, but just barely)

The gobnid hesitated. “Friends with a rockenchomper? Is that possible? They kill everything.” It reached for the amulet around its neck.

Two other gobnids came up and grabbed his hands before he could stroke the amulet. “What are you doing? We must take this stranger to the Chieftain and the Wise One at once.”

“I was just going to let him bring the skeleton and the rockenchomper to the city.”

“You are mad, or bespelled. The rockenchompers must never find our city.”

The gobnid hunt leader shook his head as if waking from a dream. “Come, stranger, you are an honored guest of the great gobnid people. We must go see the Wise One. If he thinks it is allowable, we will bring your friends here also.”

Grumlahk felt certain that he could kill all 6 of his escort, but there were obviously hundreds or thousands of them all around him. He decided to bide his time.

The gobnids took him into the nearest building. The houses all glowed with a dim greenish light that seemed to come from the great irregular splotches of some kind of gooey paste that was stuck on walls, ceiling, and floor in seemingly random patterns. The rooms often had more than one opening, and each one seemed to be a ramp that led either gently up or gently down. The only furniture that looked familiar were some oddly shaped tables and platforms, each set upon six legs, and about the right height for gobnids to stand at them and do things. One table held a collection of rocks, arranged in a spiral with the smallest shard at the center and the largest in the outer ring. Another table they passed had a series of concentric elipses made of what looked like quartz crystals.

The third room they passed through held dozens of tiny gobnids. They were all kept in a glassy cage, and several adults stood on platforms at the top and swatted the younglings back down into the heaving throng on the inside whenever they climbed or jumped too high. As they passed, one of the children managed to elude all the guards at the top of the cage and spring to the floor. It charged directly at Grumlahk, chittering “eat, eat, eat, eat!”

Mhegrrrim

Mhegrrrim climbed out of the water and hunkered down in the shelter of the roots of a forest giant. He very quietly began to study all the plants around him. The open space was filled with brushy plants. Many of them had berries that all seemed to be white or gray in color. The trees were hung with mosss, and had broad flat leaves. Nothing looked familiar, but it all looked a great deal like plants he had seen in other swampy areas. As he sat there quietly observing several bright red water snakes slithered out of the water and vanished into the undergrowth. The huge dragon dipped its head below tree level and began munching on tree branches about 100 feet away from the troll. With a little more searching he found the nearest wall of the sinkhole. He spotted a landmark, a large dark boulder pushing through some moss and leaves high above his head. If he wanted to leave, that would be the way out.

As he sat there motionless, a draconic, reptilian head pushed its way through the bushes some 20 feet away from him. It was black and yellow with stripes and a mouth that split its head in half. It had very impressive teeth, each about 4 inches long and tapering to a sharp point. It had long muscular forelegs that almost looked like arms, each ending in a three-fingered claw. As Mhegrrrim watched, it stabbed one claw into the water and pulled out a wriggling green watersnake which it tossed into the air and then caught. Snip, snap—two chomps, and it swallowed the snake in four pieces.

(Turn Twenty-seven)

Cathal, Aarrra, and G’noll

The many legged krrrogund charged the party. Cathal drew his rogue sword and said to G’noll, “On your command, I will attack.”

Aarrra grinned and moved to one side of the creature's charging path . "Oh good - I haven't had a fight in a couple of days and was getting anxious for one. Nice "friend scent" to keep you safe, eh Cathal? You'll have to thank them properly when we find the gobnids." She prepared herself for a leap and a mighty swing with her weapon.

G’noll simply blasted it with a 5th level TTYF spell, doing 1040 points of damage. (L4SR on INT—rolled 10 for 50 a.p. Killed the monster whose trollish name is declared to be krrrogund [1300 tvp to Lezirrrf for winning the name that monster contest.] The creature had a monster rating of 500—no match for G’noll’s magic.)

(TVP to G’noll of 550).

Cathal looked disappointed when the creature dropped dead in front of him.

Aarrra glared at G’noll. “You’re no fun.” She stalked over and carved a sail scale off the krrrogund’s back. “I name this thing a krrrogund—king cave snake—and take this trophy for the Trollgod.”

Cathal wanted in on the act. He hewed the krrrogund’s head off. It took him 4 blows. “Well, I take this trophy for the Trollgod.”

G’noll noted that his store of kremm was rapidly dropping. (73 now) "I wonder if those gobnids were hunting this creature, or if it was hunting them.”

Grumlahk

The youngling gobnid charged straight at Grumlahk, clacking “Eat, eat, eat, eat!” in its own horrid language. The homunculus didn’t want to hurt the young gobnid, so he went for his lasso instead of his sword. The lasso was coiled multiple times over the left shoulder, across his chest and back, and under the right armpit. He was still trying to get enough of it free to use to lasso the gobnid when two of his “guards” jumped forward, captured the ravenous young creature and carried it, kicking and screaming and cursing, out of the building in the direction from which they had come.

The gobnid hunting leader looked at Grumlahk with his hands full of rope. “What is that strange-looking vine that you are carrying?”

“It’s called a rope. I was going to use it to capture your youngling and protect myself. It would have done him no harm, or at least very little.”

The leader stepped up his pace, dragging Grumlahk out of the nursery chamber. A couple more gobnid guards joined him to replace those that had carried off baby.

“Is it a weapon?”

“A defensive weapon only.”

“What other weapons do you carry?”

“Why do you ask?”

“You can’t expect us to let you carry weapons to your meeting with our great Chieftain and Wise One.”

“No, that would never be permitted!” The clacking remark came from a newcomer that had just entered the chamber, and it had twice the volume of the leader’s voice.

Grumlahk looked up to see that a new gobnid had entered the room. This one was twice the size of the ones that had been guarding him, and its face and body were streaked with patterns of blue paint including a 5-pointed star on its forehead.

Mhegrrrim

Mhegrrrim made a sudden running leap at the draconic reptilian thing with fantastic teeth! He easily cleared the meager 20' landing on its back! All too many delvers have been equally surprised by such a sudden appearance by a troll. His weight crushed the thing down to the earth, unbalancing it. He reached up to twist the beast's skull around, and yearned to hear its neck "Pop!" With a mighty effort he twisted the head around more than 180 degrees. There was a loud cracking noise, and the leathery flesh ripped, and bright orange blood oozed out of the tear and the very pores in the skin.

But, despite having its neck broken, the thing stood up and shuddered violently, flinging the troll off its back and into the shrubbery, which he flattened. Then its tail, flailing wildly came around and thwacked him solidly in the ribs, picking him up bodily and hurling him ten feet into the lake.

The creature, its head lolling grotesquely on its broken neck, blundered back into the forest. It was dead, and didn’t know it. It crashed into trees, rebounded, and staggered on, leaving a swath of destruction in the vegetation.

Mhegrrrm found himself at the bottom of the lake with a big sore spot where his ribs should have been. (Do rock trolls have ribs? Probably not?) His magically armored shirt had protected him from a blow that might have shattered his rocky form into fragments.

(L3SR on Trapper talent—rolls 7, succeeds for 21 a.p. Did massive damage to the toothy beast—60 a.p.)

(Turn Twenty-eight)

Aarrra, Cathal, and G’noll

Aarrra busied herself gathering up trophies and getting them ready for transport back to Trollhalla.

Cathal adjusted his hat of human disguise, looked sourly at the decapitated krrrogund, and turned to G’noll. “Perhaps you could locate Grumlahk with a spell of finding of some sort.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” said G’noll. “Let me just examine this portal area for a moment.”

The detect magic didn’t help much. The magic didn’t seem like anything he had ever seen before.

“I am casting a Level 10 Find Person spell for Grumlahk. If that doesn’t find him, nothing will. It will take a good deal of my kremm.” (L10SR on INT to see if G’noll can actually cast that spell. Rolls an 8, gains 80 a.p.) I’m going to concentrate to let you all see what I see.”

The spell took effect. It was as if a window opened in the air and through it they could see Grumlahk as if he were only a few feet away. He was in a strange place, escorted by gobnids. The gobnid colony looked like a pile of grapes made from stone, the walls all curved and greenish. As they watched Grumlahk entered one of the buildings, and the scene changed to an interior of curving walls illuminated here and there by globs of light-emitting paste.

Then the picture faded away. The whole vision hadn’t lasted more than 2 seconds, but in its place hung a glowing green arrow of light. It moved through the air, finally found the tunnel it sought, and elongated into the dark tunnel.

“I got a distance element of about ten miles. All we have to do is follow the glowing green arrow and we’ll find Grumlahk.”

“Let’s go,” said Aarrra

Grumlahk

Grumlahk casually tucked the lasso into his belt (for quick access) and looked to the decorated newcomer. "Greetings. I am Grumlahk, a collector of stories, guardian of visions, keeper of secrets. Your fellows have called me Friend, but it seems they have marked me instead as food."

“Be not offended, O Creature who identifies himself by meaningless sounds. I am !@#$%^&*”. There was no concept in Grumlahk’s mind that translated that particular burst of wizard speech. It seemed that the gobnids identified each other by scent alone, and while they had names for things and concepts, there was really no such thing as personal names among them. “We are all food in the end. It is our destiny to feed those that are greater than we are. We know they are greater than we are because they are eating us.”

Grumlahk reflected on that concept for a moment. It did not comfort him.

The giant attendant went on. “You have brought novelty to the gobnids. We must learn about you, where you come from, how numerous you are, what you taste like. You shall be the ambassador from your people to ours. And when we know what we must know, we shall send an army of ambassadors in return.”

“But now it is time to give up your weapons. You will not need them any longer. A high honor has been prepared for you. The chieftain will eat one of your legs. The Wise One will eat another, and I shall have a third. We will leave you one with which to feed and groom yourself. And in the time to come, the gobnid people will get to know you very well. Perhaps you can even tell us some of these stories and legends you mention.”

Mhegrrrim:

Mhegrrrim sat in the water for a moment shocked! He had expected the beast to fall down. While he was underwater again, he felt around for his troll hammer or ogre bow. Being a rogue had always taught him the value of perseverance! But he was whistling in the dark, neither weapon was within miles of him.

He dragged himself back out of the water, and examined the orange "blood". It was just blood, although it didn’t seem to clot as fast or as darkly as other blood he had seen.

With nothing better to do, the big troll decided to track the creature whose neck he had broken. There was no difficulty. All he had to do was follow the trail of smashed and bloody vegetation. As he walked, he picked a few of the white berries. They felt more like clay on the inside, and when smashed left a sticky white residue. He mashed a few and left his personal Trollish sign on a convenient tree trunk, although he was beginning to think it was useless. His companions would not be able to trace his route.

He tracked it for a long way, at least half a mile into the jungle. On his journey he saw many small beasts—snakes and lizards abounded. There were insects everywhere, sometimes by ones and twos, sometimes in swarms of hundreds or thousands of bugs. Small rodents scurried beneath the underbrush—some as small as a coin, some as large as a beaver. More than once he simply stepped on things and crushed them.

He began to hear a strange sound, a sound sort of like a bellows sucking air in and pushing air out. He lost it sometimes in the chattering of the monkeyzaurs overhead, but always picked it up again. Then he heard a horrid screech, and the sounds of mighty claws meeting leathery flesh. The foliage ahead shook. Birds and insects rose out of the vegetation by the thousands, and Mhegrrrim saw another strange dragon. It had just struck down the wounded one that he had been following, apparently in a single bound. This creature was about thirty feet tall/long. Its head was bigger than Mhegrrrim. It had a pair of short horns poking out above its eyes and a snout horn like unto that of a rhinocerous on its upper jaw. It had huge strong legs like those of a kangaroo, and it struck down its foe by leaping on it. At the moment, it had half of the smaller reptile in its mouth. The other half was pinned to the ground, where it still thrashed around a bit, by a great three-toed claw.

(Turn Twenty-nine (and last))

In the gobnid city, Grumlahk realized that he was lost. The rooms looked too much alike, and the gobnids just kept coming. There were no corners in these rooms, but he set his back to a wall, mustered his spells, and prepared to sell his life dearly.

Bampf!

In a dark and twisty tunnel Aarrra, Cathal, and G'noll marched sturdily on vollowing an animated green arrow that always pointed further. Suddenly the arrow shattered into a million little sparks of light.

"What just happened?" asked Cathal.

"I've never seen that before," G'noll answered.

"The arrow shattered. Does that mean Grummy is dead?" asked Aarrra.

"I don't think so. I think it means he is no longer in range of the spell."

But your spell has a range of over 1000 miles," protested Cathal.

"Right! I hope that means . . ."

Bampf! G'noll winked out of existence.

Bampf! Aarrra disappeared and the air rushed in to fill the space.

Bampf! Cathal was gone.

Bampf: G'noll's chest of equipment also suddenly vanished.

In the savage land Mhegrrrim had just made a dragon choker. It had taken him quite a while to collect enough white berries to mash into a ball of goo big enough, he hoped, to choke a jungle dragon, but now held one about 4 feet in diameter, and he was headed back to where he had last seen the monster..

The feeding was over. The bigger monster had drawn back from the carcase and now squatted in a digestive torpor. Mhegrrrim cautiously snuck up on it.

But just as he was ready to leap at its head, . . .

Bampf!

They all found themselves in Trollhalla.

The Trollgod sat on his great throne and looked stern. "I know you were all having fun," he said, "but I have a more urgent need for your services here.'

"Whew!" said Grumlahk. "I can live with that."

"I brought you some trophies," said Aarrra.

"Would you like a delicious treat?" asked Mhegrrrim, proffering the giant ball of white berry goo.

"Thank you all!" said Trollgod. "Go get some rest, my valiant ones. Trollhalla will need your services again soon enough. Your rewards are being computed, and you'll have them on the morrow."

The end--for now.
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