Well, we did it again. We managed to stick our appendages into a hole and we'll be lucky to pull back a bloody stump. If we can pull back anything at all. We had it good for a while: warm beds, a roof over our heads, a year's supply of food of a wide variety (except no cooking oil), and hot running water. We had it all. We had all-you-can-drink DWARVEN ALE by the 55-gal keg! We were (relatively) safe, for days, with our greatest danger being no more than staying in the mineral hot springs for too long.
Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way
Apologies to Mary Hopkins. Okay, to be honest we were short on some stuff. Like firewood. And fresh meat. And fresh water could only be had as snowmelt. So it wasn't perfect. But it was sure a heck of a lot better than anything else we'd experienced for weeks... or months.
But when we last left our intrepid adventurers they were fleeing for their lives, running with their tails between their legs, routing away from a seemingly endless horde of orcs and trolls that was pouring out of a little hidey-hole like too many clowns stuffed in a Volkswagen. Except that by the time WE were running, so were THEY.
Once again, a battle without loot. Groundhog Day again.
So we took off running, with our only goal being to make it back to the steam vent hole. Running cross-country. In the winter. Did I mention the snow? No? Into a blizzard where we couldn't see more than a few dozen feet in front of our faces. It was miserable. Three days, minimum. No food. Water? Snowmelt. I don't know how the woodsmen did it, but the rest of us made it back by my use of Heat Solid to give us a little warmth so we didn't completely freeze to death. It snowed FEET of SNOW every night of the trek back to the steam vent hole, and the first night back in the hole it snowed another three feet. The entrance was almost snowed in. We had nothing to eat but mule: steamed, boiled, baked, or raw. Yeah, it was pretty raw.
By the time we got snowed into the steam cave, I swear I heard the whistle of a train. I was looking for the tracks. I was feeling like we'd managed to railroad ourselves pretty good.
So thats how we got from fighting for our lives to the steam cave. From there to Utopia, it was only a few short steps:
1. About 75 feet down the hole, the tunnel narrowed and ended in an iron grate. Reuben managed to jump on it like a fat guy until it fell out of the wall.
2. Another 25 feet past the grate was the water level. A nice 110-degree natural mineral hot springs. Underground cave system. Worked stone. Collapsed tunnels. Lots of stuff to explore.
3. We picked the closest tunnel, went up a half or two thirds of a mile, and found a collapsed wall into a Dwarven storeroom full of kegs and casks and chests of magically preserved foodstuffs of all sorts: dried meats, salted meats, whole grains, ground grains, lentils, ale, sugar, you name it. Everything dry, nothing fresh, and the only liquid was ale. No cooking oil.
We could have holed up there for however long we needed. Want light? We could have ferried food up the hole to the cave entrance, which we DID for the horses and mules. Except the one mule we already ate. BuUurp!
But we're ADVENTURERS! We're in a DUNGEON! We had 200 years combined D&D experience in the room, half of it as dungeoncrawl.
We could have explored a little more. We sorta did. We picked a hallway and a direction. We'd already gone almost a mile in a straight line underground, so checking out any of the other two tunnels leading out of the main cavern would have meant almost a mile of backtracking to get anywhere. So we went forward. Onward! Downward!
At the end of a looooong tunnel, a few hundred yards further (enough to make me think we're now a full mile from the start cavern), the tunnel exited into a huge cavern, hundreds of feet off the floor, and about 75 feet straight down from us were lit torches and prison cages and suspended rope-and-wood bridges straight out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Without the snakes.
It was actually pretty cool.
Until the trolls and orcs showed up.
But you had to know this was coming, didn't you?
So now we find our intrepid adventurers fighting for their lives, sloughing off Fate Points like dandruff flakes, hacking our way through orcs and trolls in that fiendishly bloody and self-destructive way that only Rolemaster characters can.
We got to the tunnel entrance and were curious about these 9 prison cages hanging down below and the rope bridges, so we sent the hobbits down for a little scouting. It seemed safe. So everyone wanted to go down and have a party. On our side of the bridges we found a big platform with a cave/tunnel leading further back. On the far side of the bridges was another big platform with a door and above it a window. I went over there to scout, and I heard some voices/noise. Flitting up above the door, I peered into the window and found orcs. Several orcs. I didn't take a careful count, but instead went back down to the platform so I could try to signal someone's attention and communicate my find.
My luck: Matt saw my signals and came to ferry my message back to the rest of the gang: orcs upstairs, many, 5 or more. Seeing that nobody cared, I magically locked the door. Or maybe I did that first. It was locked, when from the tunnel on the other side of the big cavern out popped a troll. They have a Cave Troll! A Cave Troll? Two of them. Plus orcs. I knew it would only be a short matter of time before reinforcements would start pouring through the magically locked door and catch us from behind, time that our warriors needed to deal with the threat on the other side of the bridges. So I teleported back up to the window and started pissing away fate points and casting spells.
Did I say 5 orcs? I meant 20. 21, actually, but who is counting? Lesser Illusion with 100% Audio to distract them. Marginally successful. Dodge a knife: minus one fate point (or take a 10B). Sleep VII. Three drop right in front of me. Dodge an arrow: minus one fate point (or take a worse hit). Sleep VII again. Two more drop. Now Matt and I, Matt who scaled the stone wall like a mad miniature pirate with a magical knife in his mouth and leapt insanely in front of me to fend off 6 orcs with nothing more than his cutlery collection, are almost surrounded by the last 6 orcs. Our backs are to the wall. No, our backs are to a WINDOW! Matt takes hold of me, and I leap out the window like a flying leaping suicidal thing. Except that its less than a 10' move for me, and all I'm really doing is activating my Flight ring. Hovering outside the window, watching the rest of the orcs pour through the now-broken door below me, I rain Electrical-C crits down on the orcs left in the room until it was time for us to regroup back with the rest of the gang. We left devastation and twitching fried electrocuted bodies behind us as we flew back to the "start" side of the cavern, whereupon we discovered that the big buff tough warrior types had managed to fell one of the two trolls. With a little help from mean old Mister Gravity.
So thats about where we are. One troll and a dozen or so orcs, plus the threat of reinforcements.
The one thing I can be pretty sure of from the heroics that Matt and I performed on the far side of the bridge: none of the orcs in that room left to call for reinforcements. That we saw. They didn't think they needed to. I'd cast an audio illusion on the stairs leading UP that sounded like a battle that direction. No need for them to go up for reinforcements, with a closer battle at hand and a crazy flying wizard at their window.
But still no loot.