Excerpt from Mana in the Modern World II
2016 Edition, ---- License Notes
I’ve broken my sequel into short stories (and at lower price) to publish.
Later I will combine them all together in chronological order as a full novel.
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Excerpt from the Mana in the Modern World II sequel
A group of D&D gamers found a way to another Realm.
-- one where the Gods and demigods of mythology reign supreme.
Would you like to meet a Faerie Dragon or Unicorn, or other mythical creatures?
Magical Artifacts begin to be found – some benevolent – others not so much.
There they learn of the much, much more dangerous sort of undead, the and Zombie -
So yes, the group finds it to be quite thrilling and… most certainly dangerous.
By R. McCullough
Excerpt from Mana in the Modern World II
A Dungeons and Dragons gaming group and occasional medieval reenactors from east of Valle, Arizona, are concerned about their special ‘gaming’ room. An earthquake, while relatively small, may have caused damage to the room and equipment. They decided to check it for damage and to game this coming weekend. Eight months ago their newest member Cletus W. “Blake” Blakeman Jr, had happened across a cave while hiking. He had been looking for new areas to use for teaching one of his survival classes. The cave is located five miles north of town and about two miles east of 180. Once they saw the cave, the group all easily agreed to chip in and set it up for use for their D&D gaming. They installed a ping pong table complete with covered terrain maps where sections would be uncovered as the characters proceed in a variety of directions.
New gaming software by the group’s software guru, Dennis Wheeler, is nearing design completion and the group had been doing the Beta testing. Dennis had already offered a small percent of profits as payment should the program sell. Once complete, the DM could then place various map sections on their current TV as the characters advance. They had almost enough now to purchase a much larger led TV to use for testing and gaming. The program will have various landscapes, buildings and other terrain features that the characters would ‘see’. The program would have an extensive selection of various features with the ability to change as needed. This would enable the DM to unveil only portions that the player would then plot on hand drawn maps the characters use. Once development and testing is completed, they hope they will be able to sell the program for a small, maybe even large, fortune.
A combination of solar and a small wind generator were soon added to provide power for LED lighting. Then, a small refrigerator and wireless internet system. A small clear stream of cold water squirts about six inches out from a tiny crack in the right rear wall of the cave. A portion of the stream was diverted into a gravity filtration system for fresh water although they are careful to also use purification tablets. All in all, it’s a very nice setup for gaming or just for a get out of town time. The cave also made the perfect venue for the occasional movie, especially horror movies. It took a month to assemble everything and complete the setup but everyone felt the results are well worth the time and money.
Hire a couple models for here??
Cletus Blakeman Jr. (call me Blake) – 31, 5’10”, shaggy hair, muscular, ambidextrous, owns a small two man motorcycle repair shop, occasionally teaches survival classes on weekends, his main character is a fighter altho he is usually the Dungeon Master.
Jill Walker – 23, looks more like a teenager, 4’4”, long jet black hair, slim, Healer, has a small clinic located in the Grand Canyon Inn. High spirited, easy going, likes jokes, many considered her ‘flighty’ (until she came into her healer ability almost two years ago); very steady in emergencies, quick and strong, esp. for her tiny frame size. Her character is a Cleric. The police and volunteer fire department consider her their ‘mascot’.
Lucy Freeman – 19 – soon to be 20, 5’1”, petite, surprisingly strong physically and mentally acute, lovely with long red hair, high IQ, a receptionist at Jill’s clinic and her BFF. Originally from Georgia, abused very briefly at fifteen – emancipated at sixteen and moved to Valle then closer to Bedrock City to work for Jill. Character is Red Sonja, ambidextrous, and has become very proficient with throwing knives (Blake has been teaching her).
Dennis Wheeler – 21, 5’6”, single, shaved head, still slightly plump but losing weight, software developer, moderately rich, careful with money, prefers to remain out of the limelight, and primarily runs his small software company via internet from his dome home. Hobby is prestidigitation at which he is very skilful; character is good natured thief.
Larry Benson – 51, 5’9”, short graying hair, plumber, amateur geologist, chubby but also losing weight, divorced 5 years, no kids. Thinks of Lucy as the daughter he always wanted but never had. Excellent wood carver, character is fighter with large hammer (his actual hammer is light weight wood painted to look like oak).
Jim Adams – 23, 5’9”, long black hair done in dreadlocks, new to D&D, quiet, paralegal, moved here ten months ago, character is a Ranger, weapon is a short sword and mace, knows first aid. He is descended from the Jarawa Tribe in Andaman Islands and has very black skin with Caucasian features.
Ron Taylor – 26, 6’4”, scraggly red hair and beard, Mage, very skinny, nickname is Sticks which he detests. His character is also a Mage, both he and his character tend to be obnoxious, especially toward females.
Each player always dressed in the medieval garb of their individual characters when at the cave. Before going inside they decide to inspect the outside to insure nothing is seen that may fall and cover the almost solid rock entrance. They find there are just a few more fallen rocks and maybe cracks in the rock face but nothing of significant size. Approaching the entrance, they see the fence and gate installed to keep out critters above mouse size was somewhat buckled but still relatively intact. An outhouse, about twenty feet from the entrance, enclosed the portable potty. It now leans a bit more but otherwise looks intact. Entering the gaming room located at the front they see things are jumbled, tumbled about. The TV had fallen but is ok and everyone is pleased that so far they see no real damage. The water flowing from the crack has slightly increased and is dirty looking; the filter stand had fallen over. From the looks of the water on the floor, the water looks to be clearing. Some small rocks have fallen from the ceiling above the entrance to the other room. A closer look into that room reveals more fallen rock at the far end of the room and a tall crack had opened up in the wall. The opening is about eight feet tall and maybe two foot wide.
Blake checks the opening and is able to get past a narrower section to see that, after a fair distance, it opens out into a large area. The floor drops at least seven feet to a rock strewn floor. Focusing his flashlight to a tight beam Blake saw at least two exits across the room across the way. He hurries back to tell the others.
Ron said he has been on many caving trips and believes he is a somewhat experienced spelunker thinks they should explore it. They soon decide that this new discovery does indeed require further exploration. Everyone is in reasonably good physical condition so they beginning planning what they need for a caving adventure. Ron has a small ‘space’ spelled bag to carry many items. The spell was one of the last lessons he was able to learn in the IMS Arcane School. He was told that his inability to adequately train his mind to maintain simultaneous spells was the problem and needed to practice that more. Jill also has a spelled bag gifted to her by the Healer School. So most, if not all of the necessary items can be easily distributed and carried between the two ‘space bags’ or backpacks.
Items they decided to take include:
100 feet of 200 lb test rope; florescent chalk for marking the return path; flashlight each; extra batteries; two liters of water each; a First Need XL water filter and purification tablets as they might encounter occasional water; two small first aid kits; pocket knives; butane lighter and a flint magnesium striker kit; duct tape; jerky; toilet paper and a small cheap digital camera.
Blake was thinking this seemed a bit excessive but, having never been caving, said nothing, and accepted Ron’s suggestions.
A quick trip to town to get the needed materials then back to distribute the items and they are set to leave. A somewhat heated discussion finally decided the order of advance; Blake; Ron; Lucy; Dennis; Jill, then Larry. Rather than go home to change into different clothing they decide to do this first trip a short one wearing their respective reenacting costumes. Besides, this was an adventure like their characters would delight in.
Jim refused to go, feeling that someone should stay behind in case help needed to be summoned and that a time limit of six to eight hours should be set for their return.
Knowing the first obstacle is a seven foot drop, maybe more, they take along an aluminum extension ladder. Dennis has a little trouble with the narrower portion and Larry just barely squeezed through. Although no other openings were seen along the way before the drop, they still often mark the tunnel side with the fluorescent chalk. Larry, using his ever present laser ruler determined that the very irregular shaped room is 78 feet 5 inches at the longest point. The ceiling varies from five to twenty-five feet. Withdrawing her lantern from her space bag, Jill switches it to high power. Loud cries including some minor profanity are heard and Jill says, “Sorry guys; I should’ve warned you.”
After their eyes adjust, they see numerous rocks of various sizes and three that could be termed boulders. But none are really large. Larry, their amateur geologist, identifies most as ordinary stone and shines his strong light at the irregular ten foot ceiling. He whistles and says, “I think we’re in luck. It looks like the ceiling’s solid; something, probably water, eroded the sandstone, and left solid rock. Must have been a long time ago and I think it’s safe to proceed.
Blake says, “How about I go a ways down the left opening first to check it out? Ron, you take the narrow one to the right?”
“I don’t think so Blake. I’m not going by myself so how about Jill comes with me?” Ron replies looking toward Jill with a leer.
Blake starts for Ron as Jill stamps her foot and speaks up, “Stop it Blake, I’m not scared and willing to go,” she glares at Ron… “. Besides, I’m finding this closeness does not bother me and in fact feels… well, rather soothing.”
Giving Ron a hard look, Blake then nods to Jill, turns and enters the five foot wide irregularly shaped left tunnel entrance. The tunnel slopes down slightly and is fairly level, straight for some distance before turning right where it continues, now a more downward slope. There are small rocks and fine gravel occasionally but it’s still easy going. After continuing a long distance, he finds the way blocked with various sized rocks, almost to the ceiling. Carefully climbing up partway, he shines his light into the three foot gap at the top. The light revealed that the debris continued a short distance and then dropped out of sight. They looked solid enough to easily crawl across safely. Looking up he thought the rock did not look to have fallen from the ceiling. He decided to creep over a short distance to see if it cleared further ahead.
After another fifteen feet or so, the rocks dropped sharply down and his light revealed a wide chasm, so deep his that light failed to find the bottom but faintly lit the other side. He carefully starts to turn around but halfway around he slid back some. This dislodged several smaller boulders which tumbled down and fell into the void. He froze, heart racing, afraid to move as the stones shifted slightly beneath him before settling once more in place. Whispering under his breath he comments to himself, “Is this ever a stupid thing I am doing.” It had taken two or three seconds before he heard the rocks hit bottom as he waited, then he very carefully moved away to head back. Almost back off the mound, he thought he heard more rocks sliding into the crevasse. “Damn, I about peed my pants,” he whispered with a shudder. Checking his watch, he sees it has been almost two hours and hurries back.
Once back, he quickly tells the others of the chasm where he saw only very small side crack openings along the way. A concerned Lucy, standing at the other opening, tells him that Jill has not returned and she no longer hears Jill occasionally banging a rock on the tunnel side. The last one she heard was very faint as if from a long distance. After another half hour or so, a discussion starts about whether someone should go after Jill or wait a little longer.
Suddenly Lucy, at Jill’s tunnel with her hand cupped to her ear, calls out, “Quiet you guys! I think I hear banging.” Then, as silence settles in the room, she adds “Yes, I hear banging and it’s getting louder!” Cupping her hands together Lucy shouts into the opening, “Jill, Jill, can you hear me?”
A faint reply comes, “On my way Luc. It’s just slower coming back up this slope than going down.” Jill finally emerges from the tunnel looking dusty, sweaty, and tired. Sitting on a boulder and drinking water, she starts to begin the account of her expedition.
Blake holds up a hand and says, “Wait a minute Jill. I think we all just made a big mistake. We just allowed two people, let alone our only Healer, to go off alone into possible danger. We could be in dire straits if something happened and someone got hurt, especially if it was Jill. Am I the only one that thinks that was plain out stupid?”
Jill speaks up, “It was pretty scary, and I, for one, agree that to have split up the group, especially singly, was a clear cut mistake. Think I’d like to just sit and rest a minute, drink some more water before I tell what I found. But let’s head back to Jim before I tell my tale or we discuss a future quest, ‘cause I certainly want to explore further.” Holding up her phone, continues, “You guys will want to see what I found.”
Jim had been getting very worried and was thinking about calling for rescue when he heard them coming back.
Resting with her feet up, hand around a soda, Jill pulls out her ever present small notebook, and begins her tale. “I started down the tunnel being careful to mark my process on the wall with the florescent chalk and bang occasionally on the wall as Lucy requested. The tunnel began to slope downward after short distance. Sometimes the walls looked as if they were carved and were fairly smooth with some cracks but those were mostly very small. The floor, strangely enough, was almost smooth but quite dirty with few rocks and those were small. The height of the tunnel varied from maybe ten feet down to about five and a half feet. One short section dropped sharply to about four feet for six feet or so. I thought it strange that the floor had few fallen rocks and the walls only had occasional narrow cracks.” Drinking more water, she coughs and continues. “Guess I should’ve taken Larry’s laser ruler. Anyways, the tunnel had begun to slope more sharply downward when I noticed very faint markings on the walls. Several looked like the writing I saw at the Healer school. Intrigued, and wishing I had the camera, I shot some rather poor pictures with my phone and decided to continue. When I came to a split in the tunnel, I realized that I had lost track of time and I forgot to check the time before I left.”
“I was getting a bit tired and the left tunnel didn’t seem to slope so I decided to try it first but only after a short break. Then, after marking the main tunnel with a message rather than just a mark, I was ready to continue. That tunnel curved sharply to the left and, after another 50 feet or so, there were a lot of scattered small fallen rocks so I went much more carefully. I also began putting the flashlight on the ceiling more often to check but realized the rocks didn’t look like they came from there. The tunnel ended abruptly at a wide crevasse. In case the edge was crumbly, I crawled on my belly up to the edge to shine my light down into the crevasse. I could faintly make out a rocky bottom and my light glinted off water. Looking across, I could faintly make out that the tunnel continued on.”
Taking several swallows of water, she then continued. “I turned back and was approaching where the tunnel separated when I heard something behind me. I quickly turned my light back down the tunnel and waited. My heart was jumping so much I thought sure it would jump right outta me. Then I heard what sounded like several rocks hitting the floor, maybe an even fainter splash and felt sure it came from the crevasse. I didn’t see or hear anything further so I left a better note about the tunnel and crevasse. I decided to go a short way down the other tunnel before turning back.”
Everyone listening is spellbound at her story.
“Finally the slope gradually became less but still continued downward I think for, well I’m not sure how far, but some distance before it leveled off. I was thinking about heading back when I thought I saw very faint light ahead. Shutting off my flashlight, I saw there was dim light from ahead. Encouraged and certainly curious, I switched the light back on and hurried forward. The light seemed to be getting brighter as I got closer. The tunnel opened into a small cavern with a vast number of glowing crystals on all the walls, the ceiling, and a few loose ones on the floor. I had my sunglasses in my bag so put them on, because it was brighter than at noon. I could tell a few crystals were a slightly different color but the vast majority was white with the glasses on. Some distance further through the crystals, I could see that maybe the tunnel continued on. It looked as if a path had been made at one time through the crystals and maybe the crystals had grown back over time.”
She took several deep breaths and had a faraway look, then let out a big sigh. “The crystals were producing extremely dazzling and shifting rainbows. The reflected light from my flashlight and its movement was being shifted and bounced around. Even with my sunglasses it got so bad I got dizzy and was about to either throw up, pass out, or both. Even when I turned off my light, the crystals continued to glow, but not as bright and without the rainbows, and then they got dimmer. My wooziness quickly faded and I swear I heard a faint, low humming sound. My guess is the crystals started making it as they slowly dimmed so I shot a couple pictures with my phone but they didn’t turn out too good.” She passed her phone picture around saying, “It does do justice to the actual thing. Probably the flash messed it up but I’m not sure how to turn the flash off. But you can make out the path a little and a dark area I think is an exit on the far side.”
Pausing, she looked around at the wide eyes, gulped down more water and munched on a Granola bar before continuing. “Anyway, it reminded me of those hollow rocks with crystals inside. I think they’re called Geodes or something like that. When I picked up one of the very small crystals loose on the floor and I quickly found out they are razor sharp. It felt like a paper cut but didn’t burn like paper ones do but it did bleed some. I put the cut finger in my mouth to clean it off before carefully wrapping the crystal.” Waving off an oblivious comment about to come from Lucy she said, “Yeah I know, a bad habit, anyway this is it.”
Opening a folded cloth, she displayed a small, maybe half an inch, glowing crystal. “When I started to put one of my band aids on my finger the cut was gone. I’ve always healed quickly but never that fast. Oh, I also felt really ‘energized’ and certainly much less tired than I had been. I began thinking I should head back, I hadn’t heard Lucy’s banging in response to mine for some time. Normally I am not one to talk to myself but as I walked away, I looked back and spoke to the crystal room. I told them that I really hated to leave, but that I gotta go back and I’d see them soon. I know, silly of me but somehow it felt right and I swear they flashed. The sound of the crystals accompanied me for some distance before fading to where I could no longer hear them.” Sighing again she continues, “I really miss the sound, it was terribly soothing.”
Everyone stayed very quiet after her story and then Larry speaks, “Jill, may I look at the crystal? Even from this distance it looks rather unusual.”
“Of course Larry,” she answers, carefully handing him the crystal. “Keep it on the cloth or even your tough fingers might get cut.”
Pulling out his omnipresent lighted loupe magnifying glass, he squints at the crystal. “With such a bright shine I can’t really tell much but I have never heard of anything like this. I don’t see any obvious flaws but then I’m certainly no expert. For its size it feels rather skimpy on weight, most intriguing.” He carefully hands it back and continues, “You have made quite the find Jill. I think we need to carry sturdy bags to collect more, if we go back. They might be worth something. One thing for sure; it’s not a Leaverite.”
“Oh, without a doubt Larry, I be going back.”
“What is a Leaverite anyway Larry, and are they valuable?” ask Ron.
“Leaverite is a slang term used by geologists, mineralogists, archaeologists, and more knowledgeable amateur rock collectors. I have no idea where the term originated but it’s used to identify a specimen in the field that may look valuable but actually is not. They’re generally worthless… well except to the finder. Leaverite supposedly derives from the phrase ‘leave ‘er right where you found ‘er,” explains Larry with a hardy laugh. “This one’s luster alone should make them worth something but how much I have no real clue.” ‘Hmm, was that a tiny trigon I saw inside it? Na, probably not likely, especially that deep inside,’ thinks Larry.
Jim, their resident paralegal, speaks up, “But what about the legality? After all, we’re actually trespassing here.”
“Blast! You’re right Jim,” says Lucy. “But what can we do? Sooner or later one of us may let something slip about the crystals and then what if they’re worth something? Jill certainly looks intent on keeping hers.”
“Better believe it people,” Jill quickly quips.
“Yes, especially if we decide to go back and bring some up to sell. We’d have to answer all kinds of questions about where they came from. Doubtful that we could keep the information secret for long,” says Larry.
“They would probably never find out where, especially as this area is fairly isolated,” says Ron while sporting a strange grin.
“No, I think you’re wrong Ron. Just being from a giant Geode will create a great deal of furor.” Holding up a hand toward an irritated Ron, Dennis continues, “But: I may have an idea. First I’m gonna get back to the refrigerator and talk around some more food; I’m still hungry and want another cold beer!” states Dennis.
“Dennis, food, and cold beer have my vote,” says Blake. “Head um up and eat um up!”
Everyone quickly fixed their favorite foods. Between bites of a peanut butter with bologna sandwich and gulps of an illegal beer Lucy says, “OK Dennis, out with your idea.”
“You all know I have some money. I think if we pool together what resources each can afford to risk, maybe we can buy this area. It’s pretty isolated, mainly rocky steep hills so may not cost too much even with including the subsoil rights. Comments and suggestions?” replies Dennis.
Jim asked, “How would we divide up the cost and shares? I, for one, don’t have much in the way of extra money to risk.”
“Me either,” chime in Jill, Lucy and Ron one after the other.
“How about this; I first quietly find out who owns the area and how much acreage. With a little luck, one person may own enough so we only have to deal with one person.” Pointing at Jill and Blake, Jim asks. “Either of you have an idea how far you traveled and maybe in what direction? That can make a big difference.”
Blake shook his head and said, “I can’t be sure but maybe about a mile with gradual turns back and forth but mostly to the right. After a short distance, it did have a pretty good downward slope. Jill?”
“I just realized that, at least at first, I may have been going in a wide circular downward path so I think most, maybe all, of mine was downward like a corkscrew. It certainly felt like it coming back! But I have no idea how far… wait; I did have to swallow several times to pop my ears going down and back. They felt stopped up, like I hear divers do or going up a high mountain,” responds Jill. “Tell you one thing; it was a bitch of a climb coming back up!”
“Great; I can work with that. Hopefully I won’t have to say why I’m looking to buy. Once I find the owner, or owners, I will quietly see if any might be available, including subsoil rights and if so at what cost.” Jim ginned and continued, “I love auctions and haggling so who knows? Until then I suggest we all keep mum about all this and Jill; please do not talk about your crystal, especially as to where you found it. Everyone OK with my suggestions?”
All indicate their agreement.
Once back home Jim begins a discrete search to find the property owner or owners. He finds only one owner owns that specific area. He cautiously checks into her background as much as legally possible. Once he learns of her situation, he met with the group for discussions before making contact with her. She is in her late eighties and her only living relative is her seventeen year old great grandson. Although she owns the land and subsoil rights outright, she is about to lose the land and possibly her home in town to unpaid taxes.
After a long discussion with the group members, Jim meets with her. He finds she will not sell a portion, only all of the 52 areas and that intact. Jim bargains hard and, after checking with the group, agrees to purchase the land including sub soil rights for $41,200. This left enough to clear her home and land taxes; plus helping to pay toward her great grandson’s college. In four years, once reaching his 21th birthday, he will receive any remainder.
Dennis fronts $12,000; Blake $4,500; Jill, $3,200; Larry $2,000, Lucy $1,250, Jim $1,000 and Ron with $650. They jointly borrow the rest using the land as collateral on a sixty month loan. They share a percentage ownership according to the amount each put forward and any monies generated are shared via owner’s share percentage. Each person’s loan payment would also be according to the amount of ownership. Ron oddly insisted on a provision providing that should a member die that member’s shares would be divided equally within the immediate group.
Jill worked with her close friend, Jaci, a Hopi American Indian and semi professional jewelry maker on a design for her crystal. Working in utmost secrecy, they were able come up with a bracelet design where Jill could wear the crystal without getting cut. Made of silver it had a translucent cover over the crystal and a clear thinner one beneath the crystal. The crystal glows bright when first exposed to sunlight and slowly dims, then almost to off in the dark. It also produces a soft humming sound for about five minutes when first taken off her arm. Jaci would accept no payment but Jill persuaded her to accept a small crystal in payment if Jill happens to find another. They noticed a curious thing when the crystal was finally sealed in; two almost microscopic holes had formed. One on the top and another on the bottom but water did not seem to enter. The covers were replaced; top and bottom; and produced the same holes, as if the crystal somehow made them. Jill and Jaci decided it was best to leave the holes alone.
Jill’s’ clinic is now doing better as she was getting stronger and able to treat more patients. She also doesn’t tire near as much when treating injuries or minor illnesses. Previously she could, at great physical cost, partly heal a serious injury and slow the effects of a snake bite or accidental poisoning. This usually allowed sufficient time to get the victim to the main hospital that was miles away. But now, after treating a severe injury she does not collapse as before, is just very tired. She found she can also treat a wider range of illnesses.
Sometime later, the group finally agrees on a date when all can take a full week off. Their plan is to get crystals and search further down the tunnel past the Geode room.
Unbeknownst to the others, Ron had made a solo trip back to the ‘Geode’ room and collected several small loose crystals. He sent one to a young crooked Gemologist acquaintance from a six month stay in jail. He received a text back on their worth just before the group are to leave for their trip. The Gemologist said the crystals were not worth much except as a curiosity, possibly as a mood enhancer. He would attempt to cut the crystal and see if it could be shaped and would let Ron know in a week or two.
It had taken longer than expected but everything is at last ready for the grand adventure. After extensive research on spelunking, they had realized how woefully ill equipped they had been on their first trip. This time they were better prepared and equipped. Blake loaned a space bag to those without a bag, simply saying he called in some favors. Everyone had arranged for a week off from work. Blake had kept his father informed on what was going on so, should he not hear from Blake after a week, rescue could be sent.
Nearing the cave, Jill heard a grunting, huffing sound coming from the forest about twenty feet away. Stopping she points and asks, “Anyone recognize that sound? Maybe someone is hurt over there?” as she takes a few steps toward the sound.
“It’s none of our business Jill so come on. I want to see the Geode room,” says Ron. “You’re holding things up and we’re burning daylight.”
“For crying out loud Ron, we’re gonna be in a cave and you’re worried about losing daylight? I swear Ron, you’re really something else.” Walking over to Jill, Lucy continues, “You sure have sharp ears girl; see anything yet?”
“No, but the sounds are getting louder. Let’s back up some, I’m getting a bad feeling about this,” replies Jill.
The rest of the group eased up to join them as Jill and Lucy back up. Two small bear cubs waddle out from between several large blackberry bushes, turn, and begin eating berries. “Oh how cute,” Lucy and Jill whisper.
“Uh Oh,” says Dennis quietly. “We need to back away slowly. Mama Bear is bound to be close by.”
“No sweat,” Ron states proudly. “I’ve been working on my lightning bolts and I can do a small one to run them off,” as he points a finger at the cubs.
Too late Dennis says, “No, don’t do it you fool.”
Ron had said a short phrase and a small lightning bolt shot from his finger first striking one, then the other cub. They begin squealing loudly and run away. Ron begins laughing saying, “See, I told you ladies. Nothing I can’t handle.” A loud growl is heard as a large bear charges from the heavy bushes. Ron fires a much larger bolt, hitting her in the head. She set back on her haunches shaking her head but continues growling softly.
Blake says, “Everyone back up slowly without looking directly at her.”
Ron, looking somewhat astonished from the bear’s being alive after his strong bolt says, “I will not. Another bolt will finish her or make her run off.”
“No,” states Blake as he stopped backing up and pulls out Baby 2, his tiny .22 magnum revolver, and takes aim. “She may know gunfire so this should make her decide to follow the cubs now that they have run off.” As she growls louder and rocks forward to get up, he fires three quick shots just in front of her making dirt fly up. Startled, she huffs, backs, turns, and ambles off after her babies.
Reloading the revolver while staring at Ron, Blake says, “You have done some outrageous things before but that takes the cake. You needlessly endangered all of us.”
“Back off Blake, I have more than enough power to handle any bear.”
“Sure, maybe you could; … Sticks. But you did look a bit shaky after the last bolt. You endanger us like that again and I just may pound you to a pulp.”
“You just try ; I got the magic and you wouldn’t survive… And stop calling me Sticks.” As Blake takes a step toward Ron, he points a hand toward Blake. The others quickly step between them.
In a commanding voice, Lucy says, “Back off; the both of you, enough with the testosterone already!”
Jim says, “OK you two, it’s done and no one got hurt. So let’s get on with our business.”
Stepping back Ron mutters, “Yeah, sorry ‘bout that, Blake, guess I just got a bit keyed up.”
“Understood Ron, me too… I suppose,” says Blake in a low calm voice but still had a grim expression.
Gathered with cold sodas in the gaming room they discuss who will be the point person. Surprising everyone, Ron stands and, as he walks away, says, “I volunteer to go first, for awhile anyway. Coming?”
“Oooo K, well that’s settled; so let’s be off,” says a very surprised Lucy. “Everybody remember the first rule of a successful adventure – Come back alive!”
Jim very quietly whispers to Larry, “I would have bet good money that Ron would never volunteer to be a ‘Springer’. His character certainly never takes a turn.”
“Yeah, that is pretty strange for him to volunteer and makes me wonder why.”
This time they’re better equipped with several LED lanterns in addition to their flashlights along with extra batteries. They all also decided to celebrate by wearing, as much as possible, their character’s outfits and bring their weapons along. Jill and Lucy keep pausing to take pictures of the occasional very faint writings on the walls. “You know some of these look like they could be names. Maybe the people that built the tunnel? Wonder how they did it?” questions Lucy.
Ron came stomping back saying, “All right ladies enough of this lollygagging about. There will be time to take pictures later on. Let’s get going. I want to see the Geode room and get some more crystals.”
“Wait a second; what do you mean by – get crystals Ron?” asks Jill.
“Oh, I meant more crystals like yours of course,” he replies. “Come on, let’s go already.”
The writings on the walls stopped well before they reach the Geode room.
Everyone is in awe of the Geode room and thankful they brought dark glasses. The crystals seem to be absorbing the light from the flashlights and electric lantern. The crystals dim considerably after about five minutes to where the sunglasses were no longer needed. Ron looks around, sees a crystal protruding further out from the others. Moving closer to the crystal, he puts on gloves and takes out a small rubber mallet to remove it from the wall. As he starts tapping on the crystal, it makes a loud ear piercing shriek. Everyone cover their ears as Ron drops the hammer, covering his ears, and almost falls off the small path. The shriek suddenly cuts off and the crystal turns as black as obsidian. The crystals around the black one become dimmer, almost as if trying to back away. The sides of the crystals adjacent to it begin taking on a blackish tinge on the side close to it. Lucy comes closer saying, “You killed it Ron!”
“It’s just a crystal Lucy. For Christ’s sake, don’t go getting your panties in a wad!” retorts Ron.
Glaring at Ron, Jill motions him back, approached the crystal, removes one glove, and very carefully touched the crystal saying, “I’m so sorry, he didn’t know.” All the crystals flared brighter as she touched the crystal; no one noticed her bracelet crystal also brightened. Everyone watched with squinted eyes as Jill’s healing glow enveloped her head but it was filled with tiny spots of white light. Alone, the specks raced down her arm, fingers and flowed into the black one. At first, nothing happened, and then the crystal flickered several times, brightens up to a steady light like all the others.
“Oh wow,” exclaims Lucy, “Did you just bring it back to, to …well, back to life Jill?”
“I have no idea what I did Luc.” Now in a whisper, Jill continues, “But I have to admit it felt… purely amazing.” Then, with a trembling voice says, “Almost well… almost orgasmic.”
A blushing Jim says, “Look Jill, I think it’s coming loose, at least it certainly looks like its vibrating and sliding forward.”
Jill quickly pulls her glove back on, placed her hand under the crystal just as it detaches and, dropped into her hand. Ron, reaching for the crystal says, “That’s mine.” As his gloved hand touched the crystal, it flared and a single beam of bright light from it strikes Ron’s eyes. The crystal seemed to emit a low growling sound. Rubbing his eyes Ron replies, “Ok, you healed it, maybe birthed it, so I guess you can have it. Probably better to get more crystals on the way back anyway.”
Behind the hand over her mouth covering a snigger, Lucy whispers, “Yeah, the grapes were probably sour anyway.”
Jill cautiously wraps the crystal and, designating it as ‘Sam’ for easy retrieval, placed it into her space bag. Deciding to harvest crystals on the way back, they carefully go along the very narrow path to avoid ankles getting cut or worse yet to trip and fall into the sharp crystals. The light from the combined crystals have again diminished. They no longer needed to squint because of the light from the… healing? As everyone continues down the tunnel, all but Ron are talking about the soothing sound coming from the crystal room. Ron does not inform anyone that he does not hear it. The tunnel gradually begins to widen to five or six feet and is as much as ten feet high in places. There are a few side tunnels but shinning a flashlight down them reveals none seem to continue very far. The walls are still carefully marked with the luminous chalk showing directions.
Jill and Lucy, not having noticed any for awhile, are quietly discussing the lack of markings. About twenty feet before a sharp bend, a large amount of writing which looked to have been hastily written was found. Everyone, but impatient Ron, felt this writing needed to be documented so time was taken to ensure Jill and Lucy were able to get clear pictures of the lettering. There was sufficient light with the lanterns so flash was not needed. Shortly, around an almost ninety degree turn, the tunnel widened quickly to twenty or thirty feet and over fifty feet in height. There were twenty carved rocks shaped like seats with backs and eighteen of what might be the remains of disintegrating cots although they all looked rather short. Several large dusty ceramic pots, rusting bent short swords and knives and what look like several piles of folded material lay about. There are also several decayed boxes that appear wooden.
A small pouch caught Larry’s attention and, as he picked it up, it fell apart dropping several coin-like objects and a small ring. He picked up the ring and coins, looking them over. “Hey guys, these coins have a bearded face on one side and some kind of bird on the other side. This ring has what resembles a brown eye ball. It’s well made although the gold colored portion looks tarnished. It must have been here a very long time from the looks of all the dust on the floor and I don’t see any footprints. No idea about what metal these thin coins are, but they’re lite weight for their size, weigh about as much as aluminum would. Color’s much darker too. Huh, can’t scratch the coin with my knife or bend them so it must be an alloy with little, if any, soft metals.”
Place picture here of ring and two coins in his gloved hand showing both sides of the coins?
Jim had been shinning his light into the ceramic pots and says, “Looks like three pots might have held food stuffs, think I can see possibly some grain residue at the bottom of this one. Two may have held liquid, maybe wine ‘cause something left discoloration and a line. Whatever they once contained have been gone so long there’s no odor.”
Lucy and Jill had gone to one pile of material which, upon touching the top one, all slumped to powder. Blake, pointing with his light to one side says, “Looks like water once flowed in from there,” he moved the light across to the other side, “and out over there. Someone chipped out a shallow ditch to contain and direct the flowing water. Too bad it’s dried up, we may have to locate potable water before too much longer or turn back.”
“Quit the bitching granny Blake, we have plenty,” says an annoyed Ron.
Lucy says, “Quiet for a moment everyone, I think I hear the faint sound of running water.” Pointing she continues, “I think it’s coming from over there. I’m gonna take a look in that crack above the opening where Blake thought the water once flowed from.” She gets down looking saying, “I feel a strong cool breeze coming from the crack and… Oh, now this is just too weird.” she exclaims as she peers into the crack.
“I thought I was imagining it but I heard it to. Move over Lucy so I can see too,” remarks Jill. She gets down and says, “Oh my yes, that is really something and it’s lit up so weird too! Wonder where the strange colored light is coming from?”
All but Ron take a look and agree it does indeed look strange. Blake says, “I don’t think we should try to chip through to the water, it might cause a flood. Plus it would also take too long.”
Ron, standing impatiently at the only exit, calls out, “Hey, are you guys coming, or what?”
Except for some areas, the tunnel now looks more natural but is rather clear of loose rocks and the stone floor looks artificially smoothed. Shortly, after another sharp bend in the tunnel, it again expands into an open space but this has a swirling mist concealing the far side. Their flashlights produce strange multicolored reflections, constantly changing color with the occasional flash of white light inside, almost like static sparking. There are several more stone chairs, disintegrating cots and a small stone box. Jim walks over to it and says, “Seems to be locked somehow, maybe it’s a puzzle box. I’ll put it in my space bag and we can get it open later.”
Shuddering slightly Jill points and says, “That looks different but still a little like a blind person’s eyeball.”
“Yeah, it’s kinda spooky all right,” comments Lucy in a quiet voice.
Jim swallows hard and asks, “Does it look like it’s pulsating to anyone or is it just me? Almost like a very slow heartbeat?”
Ron laughs and, after looking at it for awhile, he advances toward the cloudlike mist. Blake clears his throat saying, “Sure you want to do that Ron? There might be a drop-off in there causing the mist and those flashes of light could be dangerous.”
Ron stops, pulls a shiny twelve or so inch rod from his bag. Looking back toward Blake, he points to the rod and answered, “Point; could be. I can use this to check ahead and also ground any static.” He then extends the pole and taps his way into the cloud.
“Smart about that pole and I reckon he’s got more gumption than I would’ve thought,” says Larry. “Sure doesn’t say much for his common sense tho.”
“I certainly agree Larry. I suggest we wait a bit to see if he returns or starts screaming. Besides, I for one would like to take advantage of a seat, a hard seat but a seat none the less,” states Lucy as she sat down with a sigh. “Nice, this seat is hard but cool like marble and sure beats setting on the floor. Hey, I just realized this and the other seats are kinda smallish, more like children’s chairs than adult size. But you know something; Ron’s still an ass most of the time, especially how he plays his character. I’ve thought several times of wasting his obnoxious Mage character in a game. I just might do that next time.”
“I know what you mean Lucy,” says Dennis. “His character likes to aggravate mine too.”
“Yeah, I noticed that. For me, it’s not only just in the game. He keeps hitting on me in real time too.” Doing air quotes Lucy continues, “He likes reminding me that he’s a ‘Mage’ and ‘Got the Magic’. Man, he can be as obnoxious as his character. I slapped him once when he grabbed my thigh saying how he really liked my legs!”
“Ha; you should’ve used one of your martial arts moves on him Luc,” laughs Jill. “But you won’t really kill his character would you?” asks Jill.
“E yap, I certainly will if his character keeps up bugging mine,” replies Lucy. “Here’s another thing; I’m fairly sure his character is stealing from the treasure we find but I can’t get Blake to admit it. How long should we wait?”
“How about we give him another ten, or fifteen minutes? I doubt he will move far thru that mess and we should be able to hear him if he does yell,” says Jim.
“OK by me,” says Blake as he takes a seat, then pulls out and opens a liter of cold water. “I sure like that space bags keep stuff exactly the same as when they went in. And Lucy; …you know that as the DM, I cannot reveal what may or may not be happening in a game. That’s why notes are passed.”
To cool possible intense rhetoric Jill comments, “You know, I once did an experiment with my bag. I put a windup clock in mine and when I took it out an hour later the time had not changed, still works too. Then I put in a digital watch for thirty minutes and it was thirty minutes behind but still operational when I pulled it out. It’s like it stops time. Sure glad the Healer School gave me my bag, couldn’t afford one otherwise. You know, I sometimes wonder what it’s like inside there. I don’t feel anything when I reach in to call out something.”
Pointing at the cloud Jim speaks up, “Know somebody we can experiment on, just to see?” Everyone laughs, put away their snacks, and get up to follow Ron.
Blake pulls out a roll of thin rope and a thicker, heavier rod which he extends to over four feet. He looks over at Larry, “Mind being tail end Charlie?”
“Sure, fine by me,” answers Larry.
“Ron hasn’t screamed or anything but I think we should still rope ourselves together, just in case. This rope is stronger than it looks so, me in front and six feet of rope between us, but stay a bit closer and in sight of me if possible. Certainly keep the person in front of you in sight as that cloud may severely limit vision.” With Blake tapping the floor ahead, they cautiously move forward and enter the cloud. After several steps Blake is quite surprised to realize that he can faintly see the floor just ahead. After another eleven steps, he thought he could see faint light ahead. He calls back to the others but cannot hear his own voice or any answer. Looking back, he cannot see any or the others, not even the floor. Using the rope, he slowly pulls the others to him.
Once almost physically touching they realize can clearly see and hear each other. “Weird but oh so cool,” states Lucy and the others softly voice agreement.
Blake suggests they redo the ropes into a staggered upside down V shaped line with Blake at the apex so they can exit the cloud reasonably close together. The cloud may have kept any cries from Ron reaching them so best to be cautious. They step out into the light dim flashes of light from the cloud and of Ron’s lantern into a fairly large area. They faintly see two exits and Ron squatting beside what looks like some jewelry and stuff spread out on a cloth. There are numerous skeletons in various places about cavern, rusty looking swords, knives, and more small carved stone chairs. Scattered about are what look like the remains of more cots along with several intact and broken large urns.
“Hey guys, I was about to head back and check on you. What took so long? Look at the stuff I found so far,” indicating a number of items spread out on the cloth.
“Ron, you’re stealing from these people!” blurts Jill as she points to the skeletons. “We need to notify the authorities.”
“No I ain’t and we don’t. They been dead a very, very long time so this stuff is free for the taking,” he counters. “So are you guys wanting your share or not?”
Jim says, “We should at least get good pictures for the forensics people. Which skeletons have you already loo… ah… removed items from so we can tell which you moved? From the tracks in the dust you must have hurried to all and moved several.”
“Luc, how about we get the pictures?” asks Jill as she calls out her camera from her space bag.
“Sure thing,” answers Lucy as she calls out her camera. “How about starting with photographing this side of the cloud from an angle and swinging our way outward? We already have pictures of the other side.” She tries to focus on the cloud but finds the auto focus isn’t working so does it manually. She clicks the shutter and nothing happens. “Jill, my camera isn’t working; think maybe the space bags did something to it? This is the first time mine has been in the bag for so long.”
“I don’t see why, they both worked fine in the tunnel. We took them in and out of the bags several times. Mine was working fine then and so was yours… Hum; ok, mine’s not working either,” says Jill attempting to use hers. “Weird… here’s something else strange, I can call up the pictures we took, but it’s not working for taking more.”
“Yeah, mine is doing the same thing. Bet the flashing in the cloud did something to our cameras. Rats, I’ve only had this camera two months and this happening certainly makes me glad we decided to leave our phones in the gameroom,” said Lucy.
Dennis says, “I brought some paper and pencils ladies so I will do a rough sketch. Larry, how about you use your laser ruler to get the distances?”
“Sure thing Dennis,” answers Larry pulling out his ruler and asks, “Which one first?”
“How about starting at the widest point and work your way around clockwise?”
“Will do,” as he moves to the far wall, aims and fires the ruler at the opposite wall. “Hey, I thought I saw a slight puff of smoke where the laser dot hit the wall. It said 53 feet then went erratic, now nothing and it has new batteries.”
“Maybe that cloud did affect some electronic gadgets,” states Blake. “Those intermittent light flashes may have had enough static electricity to damage some of the more intricate electronics, even in the bags.”
Lucy says, “Jill, let’s not worry about all that for now and check out Ron’s finds.”
“No Luc, I want to look at the skeleton nearest the cloud first. I think there is something different about it and those two bags. Ron, did you look in the two small bags?” asks Jill.
“Yeah, I did. Just a quick glance when I first came in. I think it looked like there might a baby skeleton in each,” answers Ron. “At least it looked like a small head sticking out of one.”
“Babies, you said babies? Come on Luc, let’s go check.” They are carefully removing bits of the disintegrating bags to expose more of the tiny skeletons. Then they suddenly realize there are no obvious wounds and begin to cry.
Blake came over where they set and asks, “Why are you two crying?
Between sobs Jill says, “We think the babies must have starved to death.”
“Damn, man, that’s just… horrendous.” Blake continues after he looks back over the scene carefully. “You know, I’ve been thinking. From the looks I would say the bigger one was dragging the babies toward the cloud.” He points, “That looks like a very faint trail, maybe dust covered blood, and leading away from that contorted looking skeleton. My guess is she, and I am assuming a she, was wounded, but still managed to kill the long armed skeleton, maybe an ape? Then she died before managing to escape with the kids. But how did she kill it, if she did? I don’t see a weapon near the ape thing except a club like the others. Something else strange, all the other skeletons have remnants of clothing or something but her skeleton does not have any.”
Lucy says, “From the remnants of clothing on the other small skeletons it looks as if they were wearing something like Togas.”
Scratching his head in thought, Blake points and continues, “From here it looks to be simple scraps of cloth on the all ape skeletons. Over there closer to that ape is what looks like discarded clothing and if it’s hers, maybe she was a slave? No, doesn’t make sense… why would a she disrobe?” Waving to indicate the area, “I’m beginning to think all of this was one wicked battle and without clear winners. The smaller skeletons are not scattered about much and they look like they were clubbed to death. The long armed ones look to have been killed with the swords and daggers. While chewed on some, it doesn’t appear that the bodies were chewed on by something of much size. I think simple decomposition, ants, or insects, and possibly small animals cleaned the bones.”
Walking over to the longer armed ape, he looks closely saying, “This is even stranger, its head looks more like a dog or wolf than ape. The upper arm bone has a set of holes that remind me of snake fangs but actually penetrated through and through the heavy bone. These holes are large and widely separated, over two inches apart. That was one big snake if that’s what caused the punctures and strong enough to bite through the bone. It also looks as if the ape’s rib cage was almost crushed, certainly several ribs are cracked. I also think this ape died in agony so the snake was probably venomous too. In addition, it might have been a constrictor. Of course, there could have been two different creatures. There’s not much dust but it sure looks that way to me even tho we have disturbed the dust a great deal. This, possibly a blood trail, starts there and leads directly from the ape to her and the babies. I wonder if any escaped? Where is CSI when you need them?”
Suddenly Jill gasps loudly saying, “Lucy, look at the adult and the babies’ skulls! They look like the ones discovered on Crete! O my god, what a find! I bet these people were from over 10,000 years ago. We need to get out and notify the… the… the… well, somebody!”
“Calm down Jill, they have been here awhile. I say we should check out this jewelry and stuff first. There’s bound to be more.” Ron continues with, “Hell, we may be in a lost valley or something, you know, hidden from the world by a cloud layer or… well, who the dickens knows what? Maybe there is a gigantic cavern and dwellings further down the tunnel with more stuff just lying around.”
“Seriously Ron? A valley? Gimme a break man, we’re underground,” snorts Lucy.
Jim says, “I have to agree with Ron, Lucy. At least in part, so let’s see what more we can find. We can go on down one of the exit tunnels later, after some rest.” He sighs and continues, “I’m very tired and it’s been a long”, he did air quotes, “‘day’.”
Larry had found a good sized hammer that looked heavy but proved to have little weight, no rust and was well balanced although the handle’s diameter was small for his hand. Still, it is much better than the one he usually carried. He shows it to the others saying, “I found this by a single skeleton that had three of the ape things close by. The ape bones, especially two of the heads, look shattered so I think the hammer’s owner took them out before dying. Man, what a fight it must have been.” He lightly tapped the hammer on an empty chair. A very loud ringing sound rang out as multiple pieces flew from the chair. “Oh my… I didn’t think I swung it that hard, the stone must be more fragile than it looks.”
Shortly, over by one of the broken jars, Jim calls out, “Take a look at the size of these things, they look like giant acorns.” He holds them aloft and came over with them. “Wonder what the tree looks like? I’d sure like to see one, must be something like a Sequoia. There was some parchment like materials with a lot of strange symbols near these. But they disintegrated when I tried to pick one up. Just dust now.” Holding up a rolled thick cloth he says, “There’s a rolled rug in one too.”
By the end of the search, everyone’s feeling very tired so they spread out the lovely rug Jim had found and placed all the various items found on it. Most of the things looked a bit tarnished but several looked almost new.
Lucy had previously admired the ring with the brown eye and everyone agreed it matched her brown eyes. Ron suggested that she wear it and in fact, that everyone should choose what they like as a good a way as any to carry some items. Ron says, “It’s too bad so much of this gold tea set, if it is gold, was busted during their fight. Sure is beautiful and from the amount of shards I found it may have been a set of six, maybe more… Wonder if I can figure out how to use Mana to put the pieces back together?”
Larry quips, “Well, at least to me, I think it looks a bit on the gaudy side.” With a grinning leer and twitching of heavy eye brows, he continues, “But that little statue is truly exquisite, even with the elongated head.” Sighing he adds, “Wish I could carve anywhere near that well, it’s really first rate, very smooth and I don’t see any obvious tool marks. I think it’s carved in some kind of stone too but I don’t recognize it… interesting.” Everyone laughs; they knew from the small carvings he gave to some that he is quite good indeed.
Lucy says, “That spider necklace is rather neat too. Those crystals will sparkly nice in the sun. I think some spiders and especially snakes are kinda cool. Been thinking about getting a pet snake. Decanter thing’s cute too.” Lucy picks up the small carafe and, although empty, pulls out the stopper to sniff at the previous contents.
The empty carafe gave off a most pleasant scent. She gasps in surprise, almost dropping it as it suddenly fills with a heavy greenish fluid. “O my Lord, how on earth did that happen? It certainly smells wonderful. Wonder if tastes as good as it smells?”
Ron held his palm toward it, muttered a moment, and said. “Strong Mana and there is something weird about the feel of it too. I think its best not to drink it Lucy. There’s no telling what it might do.”
“You’re probably right Ron.” Lucy set it down and after a moment, the liquid disappeared from the plugged container. All sit staring at it, wondering just what the liquid was and agree about not tasting an unknown liquid.
After a bit, Blake put out several unscented ten hour Votive candles to conserve battery power. As he pulls out his hand cranked charger to top off his flashlight’s batteries, he asks if anyone needs their batteries topped off. Then, “Damn, never mind, something else not working, this could get bad. Sure glad I brought extra batteries,” he mutters quietly as he puts it away.
They begin to break out MREs, and get ready to bed down. Jill pulls out her MP3 player, not thinking about other devices not having worked, hands one ear bud to Lucy. They both settle back to relax on small pillows and share the tunes. Larry pulls out a small unfinished five inch wooden weenie dog statue, begins to whittle and quietly hum a tune.
Jim pulls his flask from his belt and takes a sip only to spit it out with a curse. “OK, which one of you bozos thought it funny to play with a man’s booze?” Confused expressions indicate no one had any idea what he was talking about. “Look; I put scotch in this flask and now this is certainly not it!”
Larry laughs, “I don’t think anyone here would mess with a man’s booze, even if it dreaded scotch. Nice flask you have there, but isn’t it sacrilegious to put scotch in a fancy flask labeled Bourbon? And it says Wild Turkey to boot.”
“Not if you can’t find a scotch one in town. I’ve ordered one made but it hasn’t arrived from China yet.”
“Well, hand it here and let me smell n taste it.” Carefully wiping his hand, he tips a bit from the flask into his palm, sniffs the liquid, sticks his tongue into it, laps it up, and then takes a sip from the flask. He looks at Jim and says, “Hell man, you’re right, that’s certainly not scotch but very good, very tasty mead. Probably the best I’ve ever tasted.”
“No, I know I put scotch in the flask. I’ve sipped on it three, maybe four times so far and it’s always been my best Scotch! I have never touched mead that I know of. Not even sure I know exactly what it is.”
“Mead is something like a cider and generally made with water, yeast, and honey. Tell you what; I’ll be happy to drink it a tiny sip at a time if you don’t want it. This stuff is great! Sure would like to know where it came from. Ron, is this some kind of a magic trick? If so, it’s not really funny, well… ok maybe somewhat, but I would really like to know so’s I can get some.”
Ron does not answer but stands, moves closer to the cloud, begins waving his palms toward it while muttering. He paused, turns to the others saying, “That cloud is the strongest Mana I have ever felt, much more so than the stuff at that damn Arcane School. It, certainly not me, is probably the cause and it feels different too.”
“Well, before I get some sleep I’m going to do a quick recon on that smaller tunnel,” says Blake as he gets up.
Dennis also stands up saying, “I’ll go with you. I’m ah thinking its best not to have people wander off alone down here, especially what with that cloud and all. I’m not too tired or sleepy yet but am quite curious too; besides, I need to find a place to tinkle.”
“Absolutely correct Dennis and happy to have company,” said Blake. Both almost crawl to get thru the low narrow entrance but it quickly opens out wider and very high. He focused his four cell flashlight to a tight beam and shines the beam upward. Then says, “Looking up in here makes me think we’re looking up from the bottom of a crevasse. Wonder if it’s the one Jill and I saw. Hard to tell but the walls do look as if they may come together a long ways up. Course they may open out again too. Wait…, never mind, just remembered she saw water at the bottom. Say Dennis, did that entrance look built to you?”
“I agree and yes it does. Plus I wonder why, and more especially how. That work at the entrance must have taken a considerable effort to almost seamlessly close up the blocks that way. I know very little about stonework but that looked to me like outstanding work. All I saw were very faint seam marks.”
Shining his flashlight’s narrow beam ahead Blake replies, “I agree and the floor is not all that dusty and doesn’t look natural either. Hum, it looks like a dead end up ahead.” Shining the light right and left he continues, “Look there; there are sconces across from each other on the walls. Aren’t those the remains of torches in them?”
“Yes,” Dennis answers as he points his light to one side, “and look over there. I think there are several dozen more and unused in that opening in the wall. O boy hidey, look further up ahead, the walls on both sides are carved out into recessed bench seats and looks like there’s three holes in each,” laughs Dennis. As they get closer he adds, “Holes seem kinda small but given the skeletons size, I think we found their outhouse! That’s good ‘cause now I’m thinking I need one for more than a pee and starting to wonder where to go. The ceilings in there are pretty low so most of us will have to lean forward for any setting.” Shining his light down one opening, he leans in, sniffs, “Hum… It’s been so long there’s no longer an odor, can’t light up the bottom either so it must be deep as all get out. You know, none of this, especially the holes, can be natural either.”
Breaking into a hardy laugh Blake says, “I do believe you’re right. They,” waving a hand, “well… are very smooth, not like you usually see with carved rock.” Giving a chuckle, “I wouldn’t recommend dropping a lit match down to see its depth, might be some odorless gases down there! What say we see if one of the torches will light? It will save on batteries, especially as my charger no longer works.” Lighting a torch is easily accomplished and gives off a pleasant odor. “Hum, I like the smell too. Well, reckon it’s time to head back?” asks Blake.
“Yeah, but I’m gonna whiz first and then come back with my T paper,” says Dennis.
“Good idea, me too but be sure not to miss, the girls would, at the very least, berate the fire out of you!” Blake laughs as he goes to the opposite side, drops his cargo pants, and takes a seat.
Once back in the cave they announce the finding of the outhouse. Jill jumps up saying, “Yea! Ladies first! Hey, you ah’ coming Lucy?” The women grab T paper and hurry off amid laughter from the men.
Dennis is too late calling dibs and, looking glum, sat down to wait.
When they return Lucy says, “Man that was so much better that pulling out that tiny porta-potty and slinking off into the dark! And that torch, least ways I guess it’s the torch, seems to eliminate any odor, and no smoke either. I would like to take a couple or more back with us for our outhouse.”
Jill, standing with hands on hips, leans forward, glaring first at Blake, then Dennis. “One more point… ! We marked opposite sides with hers and his signs. We do appreciate damp seats!”
First Blake, then Jim, Ron, and Larry are pointing at the cringing, red faced Dennis and roar with laughter that echoes numerous times and fades. Dennis’s face, even his arms, are bright red as he grabs his T paper and stalks off.
Everyone awakes to find very faint light coming from around the corner of the larger exit. Blake, leaning against its entrance wall says, “Several minutes ago I checked out that light. The tunnel is not long and opens into a large area with huge boulders. The light is coming from its exit and no, I didn’t go further to investigate. From the slight distance away, the floor there looks much more dusty and dirty than in here. There is also a trail that looks well used at one time.” Pointing his thumb toward the light says, “Now, I ask… Does anyone, besides me, find it rather strange that we travel deep into the underground and find what I think looks like daylight?” All look at each with shocked expressions, obviously the idea had not occurred to anyone else…
As Jim returns from the outhouse, he asks. “Did anyone replace the torch with a new one? Cause it looks like the same one and it’s not showing signs of burning out.” Everyone replies in the negative.
Lucy declares, “Someone must have changed it. It was still burning fine a couple hours ago when I went. I’m a light sleeper and the only ones that woke me were you and Blake. Ron, would you check the torches for Mana?”
“Sure, I gotta go anyway.” He returned a few minutes later and says, “Yes, they all have strong Mana emissions. Mystery solved. Let’s get going.”
Everyone stares in amazement at the scene outside. It appears they are in a small rocky valley with very steep stone sides. The sky seems a lighter blue and has a slight green sheen area in one place. Occasionally flying about high overhead are oddly shaped birds or something and making faint eerie sounds.
Looking back, they see the entrance is at the base of a very high cliff. The cave opening had opened out and is wide and low, maybe eight feet at the highest point. Across the way rises another high cliff more than 100 feet tall, almost straight up. Stunted trees and some bushes are in both directions. A relatively rocky stream is about thirty feet away, maybe ten feet wide, and at a somewhat lower level having once cut a deep bed. The temperature feels about 65 degrees with a light breeze. The air is very… unsoiled, clear and with none of the usual odors back home.
Dennis walked over to the creek, climbed down, and put a hand in the water. “Man is this water ever cold.” Jill and Lucy walk over to look. The water is extremely clear with small eel-like fish darting about. In a slightly deeper portion and partly poking out from an opening, an armored crayfish like creature is attempting to catch one of the swirling eels in its claws. The eels are darting about closer and closer before moving further away when it makes a close grab. The eels appear to be playing a game of chicken with the crayfish. Suddenly it succeeds in grabbing one of the slightly larger eels and quickly drags its wriggling prey into an opening under the rock. The women had been watching intently where Dennis was pointing when he chuckles, “You ladies think the eels or that crawdad thing are safe to eat? I do love sea food although I guess this would called be creek food?”
To be continued::::::::
Excerpt from the Mana in the Modern World II sequel A group of D&D gamers found a way to another Realm. -- one where the Gods and demigods of mythology reign supreme. Would you like to meet a Faerie Dragon or Unicorn, or other mythical creatures? Magical Artifacts begin to be found - some benevolent - others not so much. There they learn of the much, much more dangerous sort of undead, the intelligent and regenerating Zombie - So yes, the group finds it to be quite thrilling andâ€¦ most certainly dangerous.