Chapter 44

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          Navero, male human cleric, 5th level
          Dania, female 1/2-elf MU, 4th level
          Kortul, male human fighter, 5th level
          Kory, male elf bard, 4th level
          Topash, male elf druid, 4th level
          Serga, male half-ogre fighter, 3rd level

The temple was squat and ugly, but massive, a huge building complex
sprawled along the base of some hills.  A high wall surrounded the
complex, with a great reddish gate at the end of the road.  The party
stopped on top of a hill, looking the place over.

Kory: "Hmmm... well, I don't see anybody on the walls."

Topash: "No.  No one at all.  The temple looks deserted.  Unless, of
     course, it's some sort of trap."

Dania: "Gotta be.  There would be somebody up on those walls if the
     Orb was here."

Kortul: "It's not in there."

Topash: "Maybe so.  That farmer may not have been honest with us."

Dania: "I still don't see why he'd lie.  Or how he'd know."

Serga: "What farmer?"

Topash: "Perhaps I should explain.  We are on a quest, looking for an
     item called the Orb of Spheres."

Serga: "Okay."

Dania: "We met a farmer who said the people in there had it, and were
     using it to make everyone miserable.  The problem is that someone
     else has already tricked us into invading a castle for something
     he wanted, and we're a bit suspicious."

Navero: "But we didn't tell him we were looking for it, so we don't
     think he could be trying to trick us too."

Kortul: "It's not in there."

Serga: (Furrows brow and thinks.)

Topash: "Though we are not unanimous on that.  Anyway, the Orb is a
     powerful magic item, and we're thinking anyone who would have it
     would be able to put up a better defense than this."

Serga: (Scratches head.) "Uh... okay.  Were the frog things from the

Kory: (Slaps forehead.) "Of COURSE!  Damn, I'm slow today.  Those
     things were Slaad, a race of extra-dimensional beings, not demons
     at all.  It has to be the Orb!"

Kortul: (Frowns, looks slightly confused.)

Dania: "Yeah... if the temple isn't operational anymore, they couldn't
     have been summoned by the priests.  There's got to be somebody
     else doing it.  But the Orb was only good for taking one person
     from plane to plane."

Kory: "Hey, the Lizard Lords want it.  It must be good for something.
     Like, say, summoning Nazis from another dimension?"

Dania: "Ok, bard.  Assuming it can summon those things, how did the
     owner know where we were, and why isn't he summoning any more now?"

Topash: "He may be summoning them inside, for when we enter."

Navero: "Maybe the Slaad were part of an old defense screen, and were
     summoned automatically when we went in outside the gate."

Serga: "How do we fight someone who can summon things like that?"

Topash: "Carefully.  And quickly."

Serga: "Oh.  I don't do quick very well."

Kortul: "So stay in rear."

Serga: (Frowns at Kortul with puzzlement.)

Dania: "Are you two going to start fighting?"

Serga: "He started it."

Navero: "Please, why don't we try something else.  Kortul, do you
     think you could shoot the temple from here?"

Kortul "Why?"

Navero: "Shoot an arrow on top of the walls.  Then, we can see if
     anyone moves."

Dania: (In feigned shock) "But Nav, it might hit somebody."

Navero: "Um... maybe.  But I think it will be better than trying to
     talk to them.  Lorrin said the temple residents were doing evil
     things around the countryside, and we know they will summon evil
     creatures from outside our plain."

Topash: "Why, Navero, that sounds like a realistic, practical idea."

Kortul: (Strings bow, takes aim at temple.)

Navero: "Um, yeah.  What should we do if someone's there?"

Kory: "Run away, of course.  If we can shoot them, they can shoot us."

     The arrow flew out over the battlements, landing inside the
temple grounds with a muffled crack.  Nothing stirred.  We waited for
a while, listening for anything inside, before cautiously riding down
to the walls.

     The gates were made of iron, badly rusted, and were hanging open
a little.  There was a strange symbol, a crescent moon superimposed
over a sharply pointed triangle, carved into the lintel high above us,
inlaid with more rusty iron.  Inside the gates, there was a vast open
courtyard, with barrack-like buildings along the walls, and a large
fortress-temple in the center.

Dania: "Huh.  Looks like a war deity.  Kortul, shoot another arrow up
     into those battlements."

Kortul: *grunt* (readies bow)

Kory: "You know... maybe Lorrin was lying after all.  There ain't
     nobody in here.  Let's go look someplace else."

Kortul: (Shoots arrow into fortress.  Nothing happens.)

Dania: "What the hell would you know.  Let's go look in the temple."

Kory: "Well, dear Dania, I know there ain't nobody here but possibly
     ghosts.  And ghosts don't have much treasure, and I, for one, am
     sick and tired of undead.  Let's go someplace else, like a city
     where we can ask a sage where the Orb is."

Topash: "As long as we're here, why don't we look in the fortress?
     There may be something worthwhile, and we can go back to the barn
     before nightfall."

Kory: "Hmmmm... it is still early, yet.  Yeah, lets make a day of it."

Serga: "Will it be dangerous?"

Kory: "Nah, we're professionals.  But don't try this at home."

Serga: (Ponders the ramifications of this) "Why would I do this at
     home?  I wouldn't live in a place like this."

Kory: "Eh... never mind.  Onward, faithful companions!"

     The gates of the inner fortress were closed, but we were able to
pry them open with a rotten hunk of wood.  Inside was a long, low hall
extending back into darkness; we lit a couple of lanterns and trooped
in in double rows, Kortul taking the lead and Topash beside him.  The
hall had a lot of garbage and detritus piled up in it, more and more
the further we went in.  It was soon piled up on the walls, plastered
all over the floor, and even hanging across the hall in long, tattered
strands.  But it didn't start to get disturbing until we began finding
slime trails.

Kortul: (Prods at floor with stick, picks up great glob of greenish
     gelatinous goo.) "Light some torches."

Topash: "This looks like the trail left by a snail, only much bigger,
     of course.  Salt may be more useful to us."

Kortul: "Got any?"

Topash: "Ah... no.  Fresh out."

Kortul: "Hmph." (Lights torch.)

Kory: "Well, looks like the theme of this dungeon is going to be
     slime.   At least it isn't undead again.  God, I wish Raz were
     still here.  He could really get into this place.  Maybe even
     meet some of his relatives!"

Dania: "Wouldn't surprise me.  Just be goddamn careful with those
     torches.  This (steps in something *squish*) yuck! place is full
     of all kinds of crap."

Kory: "Including you and your mouth, Dania.  Hey, that thing you
     stepped in looks just like Duke Dipshit."

Navero: "Um, why are the walls and ceiling moving?"

(Everybody looks around.  Shiny black things are quietly crawling
about in the garbage, all over the place.)

Topash: "Oh, giant spiders.  No wonder there were things strung across
     the hall; those must have been filthy, slimy webs.  They probably
     hide in the garbage until something --"

Kortul: (Draws short sword and readies torch in other hand.)

Dania: "Thank you, Marlin Perkins.  Are these things dangerous?"

(Strands of webbing start dropping from the ceiling.)

Topash: "Only when they're hungry, of course."

Kory: "I was afraid you'd say that.  Ok, spider webs are incredibly
     strong, don't let them get on you.  I think bright lights annoy
     them a lot."

Serga: (Brushes away a web with his shield, but it sticks.) "What
     should we do to stop them?"

Navero: "I'll light some more torches."

Kortul: (Jumps and smashes a spider on the ceiling with his torch.
     More scuttle toward him, flinging webs.)

Dania: (Smirks a bit.) "Let's see how they handle this." (Casts Web
     spell over one wall, pinning several spiders.

Topash: (Draws scimitar.) "A peculiarly apt maneuver.  But perhaps we
     should stand back further and make them come to us."

Serga: "Um... I think they've webbed up the hall behind us."

Navero: (Hands out torches.)

Topash: "Ok, plan B.  Anyone got any bright ideas? (Glances at Dania)
     That don't involve blowing up the fortress?"

Kory: "I know!" (Sings Continual Light.  Spiders retreat some distance
     and hide in the garbage. The hall behind us is slowly webbed up.)

Dania: "Shit.  We're getting trapped in here, unless we go forward.
     They're not webbing it up up there."

Kortul: (Frowns at Dania.) "Why?"

Dania: "How the fuck should I know?  But they're only webbing behind us!"

Navero: "There might be something else down there.  I think."

Topash: "But what?  I don't see anything.  No, wait.  Look there, in the
     distance.  It looks like some small objects floating in the air."

Kortul: "Ghosts?  Commanding spiders?"

Navero: "I don't detect anything bad up there."

     We all watched at the floating things slowly approached.  They
looked indistinct, like grayish blobs floating in the middle of the
hall, and did not become clearer as they approached.  The spiders
disappeared into their garbage as the blobs got nearer, and we saw, in
the brilliant light, that they were embedded in some sort of clear
field or something, that seemed to slide along, flowing over the
packed layers of garbage on the floor...

Kory: (Stops singing and slaps forehead.) "DUH!  It's a Gelatinous
     Cube!  Torch it!"

Dania: (Starts) "Oh, SHIT!  I didn't even recognize the goddamn
     shithead BOLT!" (Hits Cube with lightning from staff.)

Kortul: (Shoves torch into Cube face.  It wilts around the heat, and a
     pseudopod lashes at him, missing.)

Spiders: (Chitter from behind the webbing barrier.)

Topash: "Oh, dear.  Serga (hands him torch) go see if you can burn
     away the webbing behind us, and take care of the spiders.  We may
     need to retreat."

Navero: "I'll go help you."

Serga: "Oh, thank you, priest-friend!  Let's go!" (Slowly plods back
     to the webbing.)

Kortul: "Can we cut this thing?"

Topash: "Weapons will cut it, and it will lose its cohesion."

Kortul: "Good." (Draws Sun Sword.)

Cube: " ... "  (Slimes its way forward, lurching this way and that.)

Navero: (Gets back to the webbing, but spiders are sitting all over
     it.  He tries waving his torch, and they jump towards him, and
     scuttle around the walls and floor.)

Serga: "Don't worry, priest-friend!  I'll save you!" (Barrels shield-
     first into webs, which tear and snap under his weight.  Spiders
     scatter all over, many getting stepped on.)

Dania: "BOLT!" (Zaps Cube again.  It looks much smaller.)

Kortul: (Chops last large bit in two, and both parts fall to pieces
     and ooze all over the floor.)

Kory: "Ew.  On second thought, I'll take the undead."

Topash: "I certainly won't.  These are biodegradable, at least.
     Speaking of which, avoid stepping in the slime too much; there
     are probably still active digestive enzymes in there."

Kory: "Ew!  Did you have to bring that up?"

Dania: "Never mind.  How's Nav doing?"

Navero: "I think we're all right.  All the spiders ran away, but Serga
     is having trouble getting out of the web."

Serga: (Struggles about, stomping and roaring but unable to move much.)

Topash: "Can you burn it off?"

Navero: "Um... I think so, if I'm real careful."

     We got Serga out of the web, and continued on.  Serga seemed to
be becoming quite attached to Navero; he'd lain quietly while Navero
carefully went over him with a torch, burning away all the webs, and
even gave him a big (but much more gentle) hug when he was finished.
Kortul took the lead again, and we went down to the end of the hall,
which ended with a door and two branches to the left and right.  The
doors were very well-preserved, closed tight, and locked, with a new
lock, which shone through a layer of slime.

Kory: (Quietly whistles.) "I think we have a occupant here."

Dania: (Nods) "Pick it."

Kory: (Picks his nose.)

Kortul: (Thumps Kory on top of the head with his fist.) "The lock."

Kory: (Gets his finger out with difficulty, and gets to work on the
     lock.  It proves difficult, but not beyond his abilities.) "Ok.
     Open says me." (Navero hides the lantern, and we peek through.)

     This must have been the main sanctum of the fortress.  But now,
it was just dripping with slime and ooze.  Everything was dripping and
rolling and puddling, except for one clear area near the center, which
had a long table or board with a small, black altar set upon it.  It
was much too far away for us to see any details.

Topash: "By all the elders.  You can just feel the lack of harmony in
     this place."

Navero: (Shudders.) "This is an awful place."

Serga: "I'll protect you."

Kortul: "Floor's moving."

(Everyone jumps back as the floor right in front of the door suddenly
lurches and lashes out at everyone with many pseudopods.)

Kory: "Hey!  Gimme some room!" (Thing gets him in the gut, burning
     through his leathers.)

Dania: "Bard, get out of the way so we can get a shot at it!" (Bashes
     it with her staff.)

Kory: "I'd love to, but it's in my fucking lap already!"

Kortul: (Slashes pseudopod with sword.  It falls into two pieces, both
     still moving around.) "Shit."

Topash: "Kortul, I think your approach will be kind of useless."

Mysterious Voice: "Of course. *fiendish laugh* Everything you have,
     and everything you do, will be quite useless."

Serga: (Looks around) "Who was that?"

Dania: (Suddenly very, very pale.) "Oh, no.  Oh, no."

Voice: "Soon, you shall be feeding my... but wait a moment."

Navero: "Dania, what's wrong?"

Dania: "I think we're very, very dead."

     The slimy thing retreated, and a huge man appeared in the doorway
in front of us.  He(?) was nearly seven feet tall, dressed in a loose
robe like a sundered piece of space, and with huge hands which seemed
to flow into many more fingers than was acceptable.  His cadaverous
features were a study in fascinating ugliness, riveting and commanding
in their grotesquery.

Wizard-thing: "You look slightly familiar."

Dania: "No, nope, not me, never mind us, we're just leaving, only
     dropped by to leave the jello molds we borrowed last week..."

Wizard-thing: "No.  You're that little elven brat who let them loose
     again, after I'd gone to such great lengths to rid the world of
     their presence.  You tiny fools.  Do you have any idea what you
     set loose upon the world?"

Kory: "Who, us?  Look, we had nothing to do with that!  Or at least I
     didn't.  We're merely representatives of the Enlightened Order of
     the Dagon, and we'd like to ask you if you'd like to read some
     literature that I had somewhere around here just a second ago..."

Wizard-thing: "It would be very amusing to tear your souls from your
     screaming bodies and slowly rip them to pieces with my bare

Topash: "Please, don't put yourself out on our account."

Wizard-thing: "But unfortunately, it would only be a moments pleasure.
     And I have some associates who would greatly enjoy a game or two
     with you as well.  So, best to put you somewhere safe, for now."
     (Makes a wild gesture.  Space and time scream, and the party

Daniel Parsons                    "Oh, thank God.  For a minute there,                     I thought we were in trouble."

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