God damn cave. Always with these caves. Croaker caves, ice caves, and now whatever the hell this kind of cave is. Caves, caves, caves. Some probably prefer these shadowy caverns, but surface-dwellers like myself prefer to remain in light. I’ll bet the bear is loving it. A wild animal living a wild, wild life.
After our long rest, Welltick shamelessly fists the asshole of a slain spider and pulls out a handful of web, which he must think is of some significant value, because he puts it in his coat. I think my cousin is a hoarder. I think he might have some psychological issues. And I think we might one day enter his home to find his long-deceased corpse buried under the weight of his own collected treasures. But we are in a cave and we have orcs to kill and these are issues to worry about when we are not in a cave with orcs to kill.
We proceed through an expansive hallway, lined by great statues of giants. Nax is none too impressed by them, shouting “Giants are no match for a dwarf!” I have to hand it to him— even if I have to stoop down to do so, ha ha!— he’s not lacking in self-esteem.
We walk for ages, and after what feels like exactly one half hour, just as I start to worry we are on a road to nowhere, we reach a great slabbed doorway, at the base of which we find the severed arm of an orc in a pool of blood. The poor creature must’ve been caught in the entryway as the slab came down on him. I do not feel sorry for him because orcs do not have Ioun in their heart. He probably deserved it, as any orc you meet is some kind of vile thief, scheming creton, or psycho killer. The arm bears a golden bracelet inscribed with the seal of the Severed Eye, our dear foes. I wouldn’t put anything past those Severed Eye folks. We’ve seen them do some pretty awful things, like that time we caught them surrounding a poor farming family’s home, laughing, burning down the house.
Yoink! Steal that bracelet for sure.
We attempt to lift the stone slab ourselves— even the bear— but are unsuccessful. It is a stone slab, after all. No handles or anything. It is an effective stone slab in this regard.
To the left of the blocked doorway we see a set of stairs leading up to another hallway. Rangram told us of a gatehouse deep within these caves. This must be the place.
Through the doorway we see a hall, the walls of which are lined with slits. Likely for arrows. Certainly, it must be booby-trapped. Welltick dispatches his Dick, and it detects numerous pressure-sensitive plates. At the end of the dark hallway, six glowing red dwarven runes. The red lights turn off, as if sensing our presence, and from the darkness spawn metallic snakes. The gate comes crashing down and Nax gets pinned by the thing. And if you’re wondering, “Is Nax extremely pissed off about getting pinned down by this fucking gate?” The answer is: yes, Nax is extremely pissed off about getting pinned down by this fucking gate.
My pal Foxy and I attempt to destroy the gate and quell Nax’s bellowing, but what happens instead is that we both get poisoned. All the while the snakes continue to attack the helpless dwarf. Welltick finally steps in and, deploying a force orb (“Force orb and seven years ago!” shouts Nax) he shatters the gate, howling “That’s a BULLSHIT GATE!”
Nax is up and fighting again, and that’s a good thing because we are all poisoned. But without that god damn gate to worry about, we make short work of the snakes. We’re a bit worse for the wear, but we press on. We have battles to fight. That’s just life during wartime for you.
Careful to avoid the rigged tiles, Nax makes his way to the end of the hallway and reads the dwarven runes. “Only friends may enter.” We quickly deduce that this is some sort of dwarven supremacist area, and decide that the best route is for Nax to enter the gatehouse alone. We peer around the corner and observe, waiting to jump into action if need be.
The room is filled with turrets and automatons. They regard Nax. He carefully inspects his surroundings and finds a plus-sized automaton behind some doors. On the automaton are more dwarven runes, which seem to outline a ritual. Welltick, being the expert, feysteps into the room with the automaton to avoid detection and performs the ritual. As this happens, we hear what can only be the stone slab lifting. Which is great, but we also hear what can only be a horde of orcs making their way through the stone-slabbed doorway.
Fox hears the orcs howling in their wretched tongue and yells back “I don’t understand your dumb language! You’re dirty!”
And this is the part so often featured in many of our journal entries: chaos. Blood everywhere. The orcs storm the hallway. Fox, Ronald and I stand our ground at the end of the hall and slowly advance upon them. Many of them are mowed down by the arrows triggered by the booby-trapped tiles they so carelessly tread upon.
Meanwhile, Welltick and Nax harness the power of the automaton. Alongside their fighting machine, they rein fury upon any orcs that slip past our defenses into the gatehouse, as well as the other smaller automatons.
The encounter is harrowing, and in the blind rage of battle, we hardly even notice that the bear is matted with blood. But we all fight on, and just as we are picking off the last few orcs, the bear is on his last legs. He is at death’s door.
We finish off the orcs and rush to the bear. It is quiet now. The bear’s eyelids are lowering, slowly. He seems to be dreaming of salmon. His eyes seem to be saying, “Take me to the river.” Fox is distraught, but seems to take comfort in the fact that he will very shortly resurrect Ronald for the second time. So he does that and Ronald is fine.
We rummage through the corpses and find some gold, as well as a strength-granting stone hand that should prove ‘handy’ in future battles.
We have much cave left to explore. I cannot say if we’ve finished off the last of the orcs. I hope so, but I also know they tend to breed in large numbers. Like the Irish, if “the Irish” were a people that existed. So I would not be surprised to find more as we journey deeper.
We’ve yet to find the young dwarven girl we’re looking for. She was allegedly lost to the caves when the orcs raided. I guess sometimes when orcs raid your caves, sometimes people will get left behind. And she was.
I sometimes wonder why we continue onward in the face of such constant opposition. But it is obvious: we are adventurers. With adventurers’ hearts. And an adventure like this… is once in a lifetime.