Good evening, my friends!
We’ve arrived at the second part of a multi-part storytime. I’ve been wondering—would you readers prefer shorter, more concise answers to your inquiries? If so, I could attempt to shorten my answers a bit, though I’ll admit I’m a rather long-winded dragon!
A quick search of my cave and I found the place where the thief must have entered—a small hole, only a few feet wide, at the very back of my new lair. Beyond I could see a deep cavern, diving straight down into the bowels of the earth. Unpleasant as it would be, it was time for dear old Grendel to go spelunking! Thief - Part 1
Last time we left off, I had rushed back to my lair after detecting that a piece of treasure—a finely crafted mithril staff—had been pilfered by some thieving thief! Focusing my senses, I could tell my treasure was being carried far below the earth. A long, narrow tunnel plunged straight into the depths at the back of my new cave; a place I had not been before and one I would normally be uninclined to explore had it not been for the stolen treasure. Fortunately, this event was taking place a long time after my polymorphing experience with the dwarven vault (See Storytimes #5-7), thus as much as it pained me to do so, I knew I had to assume the form of something small enough to fit through the small hole, and one that could descend the vertical shaft however deep it may go.
A few years prior, I had fought and consumed a handful of giant centipedes. They tasted awful, but by this time I had realized that eating a creature really helps me change my form into it more accurately, thus I had been eating a wider variety of two, four, and hundred-legged beasts in case the need ever presented itself, regardless of flavor. I willed myself into the lesser form, the unfortunately familiar squeezing feeling encasing my ancient form. A hundred disgusting legs sprouted from my newly segmented body, and I plunged through the hole. Down I fell, nearly a hundred feet before I could find my grip on the slick stone tunnel. How the thief found their way up this incredibly difficult climb, I’ll never know, but after what felt like an awfully long time, I found my way to the bottom.
In the inky blackness of this underground cavern, a lesser being would have found travel to be nearly impossible. However, as I have stated before, dragons such as myself can see perfectly, even with an absolute lack of light. The cavern at the bottom of the shaft opened up just enough to allow my full form, so I allowed myself a moment of respite to stretch my wings before needing to shift back. I took a breath and focused; my staff was lower in these depths and still moving. Ahead of me was a maze of tunnels I could already see, as multiple caves ahead offered the challenge of choice. Taking the form of a large lizard (which also tasted terrible, but not quite as bad as a giant centipede), I picked the one that seemed to head downward and continued.
Sometime later a faint glow met my eyes, the source of which became immediately obvious as I entered into a vast cavern. An astonishing variety of mushrooms grew in this expanse, many of which glowed with a faint light in a hundred different colors. Milling about amongst the forest of mushrooms were some sort of humanoid creatures, and upon closer look, they appeared to be actual mushroom-men! A bunch of fun guys, if you will. I sensed the staff moving somewhere lower still, but on the other side of this shroom-covered cave. How to proceed? I could easily roast the entire cavern with a few blasts of fiery breath, but many of the larger funguses seemed to be growing up to and through the ceiling, thus a blazing assault may cause a full cave-in, slowing my progress even further. On top of this, the thought occurred to me that though I was headed in the somewhat-correct direction, there was a chance the thief could have traveled in a different, parallel tunnel. I could have been heading in the wrong direction this whole time. Curse this underground maze!
I decided that as much as it pained me, I would need to politely ask the fungus people for directions. I willed my body from the lizard shape to one similar to these toadstool-dwellers and walked quickly into a large crowd of them. Immediately, in the common tongue I blurted,
“Greetings, fellow mushroom men! I am umm… Tony… from the next cave over. How are all of you? Say, have you seen anyone come through here carrying a large staff?”
The mushroom people all stopped and stared at me, completely blank expressions on their beady-eyed faces.
“Eh… umm… Yes. Large staff. Made of mithril. Spider-looking thing on the end? Sorry to intrude, but just point the way and I’ll be out of your hair…er… tufts? Hats? Hmm…”
They continued to stare, nearly frozen solid. Was it fear? Could they somehow discern I was a dragon? Why weren’t they saying anything? Would I ever catch up with the thief? Was the spidery staff doomed to be lost forever? I have storytold long enough as it is this week, thus for now I will have to leave these mysteries still mysterious! Until next time, continue to season your delicious minds with knowledge!