“Step-up,” Poot almost shouted.
Step-up cut him off, “Relax, I know what I’m doing and what I’m looking for. Don’t stress.” With that he began to go down his chain for dealing with doors. Is it trapped? What do I hear on the other side? Can I smell anything coming from the room? If I place my hand near the door do I feel a temperature change? Is there anything odd about the door frame? Does the entry way have any indention, rises, or other unexpected changes? We waited in silence as Little E answered each of his questions, and then as Step-up doubled up on points that might have been missed.
Finally he seemed satisfied and announced, “We’re clear to go through.”
“About fucking time,” Neverwas growled out, “you’d have thought you were trying to build the damned thing with how long you took.”
“Okay, next time you check the door for traps.”
No, you didn’t think and we can’t afford for him to check for traps for two more rooms. Remember, we have to get through room three for me to win the bet and six more to go further than anyone else who’s played here.
“You won’t make it,” Little E said, “you guys are already falling apart. So why don’t you just go ahead and hand the money over so you guys can do what you do best: fuck off.”
“I’m kicking the door clean off its hinges. I have an eighteen strength; what do I need to roll?”
The door exploded into the room as Biggboy rolled his first natural 20 of the night and we were greeted with a dead orc, his arm outstretched towards us and a door on our left. Step-up and Poot went to the door while Kid Icarus and Neverwas checked out the dead body. For my part I fell into a conversation with Biggboy. “This mother fucker is asking for me to kick his ass.”
Don’t let him get under your skin. He’s just trying to get into your head and throw you off your game.
“Fuck him,” Biggboy said as he rolled his knuckles.
I couldn’t help but feeling sorry for Little E as he sat there in his seat, comfortable in the idea that all of this was just gamesmanship, while Biggboy was genuinely getting agitated. Biggboy got his name not for being heavy or for being a tiny man that we mocked with this appellation. He got it because he could haul two man rocks out of a quarry by himself without breaking a sweat; and I can personally testify that he picked up my brother in one hand, and me in the other, and carried us into the house without so much as a second thought. The boy was incredibly stout and gentle of heart. So as I watched Little E pick at him I couldn’t help but thinking that if he pushed Biggboy too far there wasn’t a thing in the world that any of us could do to stop him from kicking E’s teeth in.
“The door’s clean,” Step-up announced. “The room beyond is quiet and I don’t trust Little E’s description. Something’s in there waiting for us.”
“I never said,” Little E began.
“I don’t trust your fucking description.”
“It didn’t fill me with high hopes either,” Poot confirmed. “I’m positive that we’re about to run into a kill zone.”
“Could be stirges,” Kid Icarus chimed in.
What makes you think it might be stirges?
“The body is riddled with puncture marks and it looks like his life has been drained out of him,” Neverwas answered. “The only thing we can guess that would do that is the stirge. E’s trying to throw us off with calling it ‘vampire-like’ but there’s too many holes for a vampire.”
Okay, so stirges. You didn’t hear anything from the room that sounded like a buzzing or any such thing?
“No. It was ‘quiet like death’ according to Little E,” Poot said.
Alright then. Are we ready for this?
“I’ll recon,” Step-up answered. “Are you going to be using the Ju-ju cans?”
Not if I can help it.
“Right then,” Poot said, “I’ll open the door.”
“I’ll check what’s beyond. Remember no one goes in until I give the all clear.”
We approached the door with me and Biggboy on the right, Neverwas and Kid Icarus ten feet back and directly in front of the door, and Poot holding the handle. It opened into our room so he would be falling back with it while Step-up started the investigation. Step-up held up his fingers, counted down, and we were off.
Step-up started going through his check and spotted it on the ceiling before we had even made our first misstep into the room. He pulled back to confer. “Definitely a darkmantle on the ceiling. How do we want to take this guy?”
I’ve got an idea. Biggboy would you mind heading back and grabbing us one of those orcs we just killed.
“What do you have in mind,” Kid Icarus asked.
These things are hunters so they’re looking for fresh prey, right?
“Oh,” Poot said, “I like it. Do you think it’ll work?”
Only one way to find out.
Biggboy was back with the biggest dead orc slumped over his shoulder. “Alright now what?” We bent our heads together as Little E went to get a drink from the front.
“What are you planning on doing,” Rudy asked as soon as Little E was out the door.
Spoilers only ruin the fun, Rudy.
“Hey, I just thought that if I could help,” he trailed off.
Thanks for the offer, but we’ve got this.
When Little E came back Thief 1, Thief 2 and Laughing Boy had joined him. It seems we were about to have an audience. “So what are you guys going to do,” E asked.
Biggboy ran towards the door with the orc on his shoulder and yelled, “Run, I’ll hold them off,” as he flung the corpse in. We mocked the sounds of combat as Little E looked at us with disbelief.
“Did it attack the orc?”
A roll, then, “The room with the darkmantle gets cloaked with a magical darkness and you can hear something crunching from within.”
Excellent. Neverwas, if you please.
“Mind if I shine some LIGHT on this situation?”
“Do you have to do that every time you cast a spell,” Little E groaned.
“Yes. Did the counterspell work?”
Good. Biggboy, Poot, rock this bitch.
We dispatched the darkmantle in a single round without any of us taking a point of damage and started to scour the room in hopes of finding something worth keeping. It was then that Neverwas earned his keep because while we were all busy searching for loot he was watching that northern doorway.
“Guys,” Neverwas called out, “something’s coming this way, and it sounds hungry!”
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