Good day, miraculous mortals!

                This week I shall continue my story of my underground adventure. I had been in pursuit of a stolen piece of my magnificent hoard, one finely crafted mithril staff. It had been pilfered by some mean elves, and they had taken it far below ground, though my dragon senses were able to pinpoint it until the moment they put it in some sort of dragon-sense-proof box or something. I knew not how they did this, but I had gained an army of mushroom men by polymorphing into their leader and convincing them they had to help get the staff back through violent means. It had been quite the series of interesting events!

     It was fortunate that I had a legion of these fungus folk, since I fear I would have had a difficult time traversing these twisting, mazelike tunnels without their guidance. I knew the general direction of where I had last sensed my staff, but the moldy mortals knew exactly where the elves resided. For years they had avoided this section of these subterranean caves, being peaceful folk themselves, and now their own elder was apparently leading them right into this so-called “mushroom-free zone.”

     I knew they called it this, since the entire time I had been leading them, they kept sending panicked communication spores at me.

     “Please, Elder! Maybe the Great Mushroom meant something else?” one said.

     Surelythe Great Mushroom does not want us to die at the hands of the elves!” begged yet another.

I ignored them and trudged on as quickly as my tiny, wrinkly, polymorphed-mushroom man’s form would allow, only stopping now and then to ask if I was headed in the correct direction. A few hours of similar-looking caverns later, we arrived. Cresting a small ridge, I gazed at a massive, miles-wide subterranean city. Thousands of houses spread out in the massive cavern, from large palaces to tiny servant-sized dwellings. Towering spires, nearly ceiling-high, loomed over everything. At the top of these, just like the top of my stolen staff, were giant sculptures of spiders. In fact, images of arachnids were absolutely everywhere; windows were shaped like webs, eight-legged statues stood on nearly every street corner I could see from my vantage point. Even a few buildings were built to look like giant spiders. These elves were absolutely obsessed!

From here I could also see no less than a few hundred of these mean, white-haired elves milling about in and around the buildings. Judging by the size of the city, I figured there must be a few thousand of them at least. I turned and took stock of my mushroom army. Maybe two hundred nervous pacifists waited for their faux elder’s next command. Not enough for an easy assault on the city, though in my impossibly powerful dragon form I presumed I might be able to take out every last angry elf with little problem. Still, I didn’t know where the staff was, and if I ate every elf, I would have some trouble locating it.

Though my fungus army wouldn’t stand a chance at actually making a dent in the elven civilization, they could at least provide a decent distraction. I raised my stubby mushroom arms to once again quiet the onslaught of panicking spores and gave my final, silent, rousing speech.

“Friends! We! Must. Get. Staff.”

Though their beady-eyed faces remained still, I could sense that many of them were thinking of turning and running, despite the apparent duty that was being thrust upon them. If I did not have my clever distraction, I may not be able to find my staff, and I would lose a valuable piece of my hoard. This cannot happen. A dragon losing any part of his hoard would be an absolute embarrassment! I had to emphasize the necessity of their mission. I continued,

“Mushroom! BIG MUSHROOM! Say world. Explode? IF not. Get. Staff now! Big world go BOOM!”With the last word I released an explosion of spores, equivalent to a bellowing shout, though completely silent. The mushroom army reacted perfectly.

If an expressionless face could show grim determination, this handful of scrappy, unequipped, untrained, soft fungus folk had faces as resolved as any soldier. They all let out a uniform spore shout of agreement—a veritable pact of absolute purpose as they awaited their elder’s next command.

I raised my tiny, spongey arms and without further instruction shouted, “CHAAAARGEE!!”in an explosion of communicative spores. The mushroom men crested the hill, the only noise being the light patter of hundreds of muffled, soft feet as the fungus folk rushed headlong toward a group of unwitting elves. From my perch on the small hill, I could see a few unarmed elves panicking and running away from the charging army, but many of them apparently took quick stock of the situation and simply drew their weapons and waited, more confused than frightened.

Within seconds, dozens of my mushroom soldiers were cut down, the elven weapons slicing through them as easily as I would have guessed they would. Whoops! This distraction wouldn’t last long!

I skirted around the ensuing battle, surveying it for only a moment before scuttling into an elven garden. From a glance, it seemed that at least a third of the mushroom men lay in neat slices, almost like a chef’s cutting board before making a hearty soup. To my surprise, however, a few of the elves were actually laying on the ground! It seemed like maybe my army had a bit of fighting spirit to them after all!

Then the elves sat back up and brushed themselves off, apparently unharmed. I guess the sheer mass of the attackers momentarily knocked the defenders down, but much like getting smacked by a soft pillow, the elves were much more annoyed than injured. I jumped between a few odd-looking subterranean bushes and into the garden.

From here I could still feel the war cry spores of the dying invaders, and thanks to my amazing understanding of every language ever, I could even understand the elves’ cries for backup.

“Everything ok over there?” one elven onlooker asked.

“Eh… yeah. I believe so. We may need another few fighters over here,” another replied, which was quickly followed by, “Oh, actually, I think we got it. There’s only a few left. Anyone know why they ran at us? I didn’t know these things even knew how to fight!”

“I don’t think they do, brother!” yet another elf replied, and with this I felt only a handful of angry spores float through the air to my spore…receptors. Mushroom ears? To this day I honestly have no idea how I actually heardthe mushroom men, but it didn’t matter. They were nearly dead, and I had found my way into the elven city unnoticed. I wouldn’t need my fungus form anymore and was about to shapeshift into something more stealthy and innocuous, when I began to once again pick up an increasing amount of spores.

Were there more mushroom men out there on the battlefield? Did they somehow have some sort of regenerative ability? Maybe they were zombie mushrooms! Then again, these spores felt more base level, like the large, regular mushrooms back in the fungus cavern…

“Intruder!” one spore said. Then another. “INTRUDER!!” Then many, many more spores whispered, all in unison. I whirled around to find the source of the airborne communication and to my horror, I saw that these odd bushes I was hiding in were themselves even MORE mushrooms! And worse yet, these fungi were covered in multitudes of gas-filled holes, all slowly filling to emit a burst of alarming noise! I had erroneously tripped an elven security system!

It seemed that I was about to be found out. How would dear old Grendel get out of this one undiscovered? Though this is now officially our longest story, you will all have to read next week’s storytime to find out the exciting solution to yet another moldy problem! Continue to season your minds, as I’m sure you all know by now! Until next time, have a great day, whether above or below ground!