Conan the Librarian on the Information Highway
Chapter 15
With the golden key, Conan easily opened the dungeon door. He turned back to where Reynard cocked his head in the window trying to see down to him. 

"Have you any more hints for me, little friend?" Conan asked. 

"Just make the right choices and strive for the high ground," Reynard replied. "With luck and skill we will meet again soon." He was gone before Conan could reply. 

The corridor turned out to be a maze. Around the first corner, Conan found his sword leaning against the wall. An empty sack lay next to it. He picked both up, slung the sack over his shoulder and with sword in hand continued. Around the next corner a two-headed dragon blocked his path. 

"Lexxx," hissed the left head; "Nexxx," hissed the right. Both heads bobbed and weaved, looking for an opening. But Conan gave them none. His sword flashed in the torchlight as he feinted to the left then swung sharply to the right and back to the left again, cutting off both heads. The monster made no sound, but collapsed and melted into a puddle of thick, foul-smelling mud. 

Conan stepped carefully around and was surprised to discover a bar of gold behind where the dragon had stood. He deposited the gold in his sack and went on. 

The ceiling of the corridor grew higher until the torches could no longer illuminate it. The corridor itself widened only slightly but seemed to go on and on into ever darker shadows. The air became redolent of wood smoke and Old Bay seasoning. Conan suspected a dead end when he began to hear the sound of his steps coming back to him, but the smell of seafood lured him on. A great wooden door blocked the end of the passage. To one side, smoke curled around a great pot, wafting the smells that made Conan's stomach rumble. Under foot he noticed that the simple stone floor now included a mosaic design based on the letter T. He advanced cautiously. 

A troll squatted in the dim light by the fire. He looked like a typical troll, except for the neatly trimmed mustache. "Welcome, Traveler," the troll said with a chillingly pleasant smile, "Come forward and show me your tribute." 

"Tribute!?" Conan's voice betrayed his information warrior's sensitivity to budget issues. 

The troll stood, stroking his chin with misshapen fingers. "Perhaps I should introduce myself," he said, "I am but one of the Legion of Trolls and lord of this hall. You may call me Brian. As you see, I am better prepared than you and well positioned in front of the only door. So, show me the tribute." 

Conan regarded the door. It bore the T logo but no visible lock or handle. It blocked the passage with a solid finality. Less bleak was the prospect of the fire and the feast spread out around it. 

"Yes," the troll said, "I can also offer you a wide variety of comestibles. This little recipe I picked up on the waterfront." He smiled. "Our collective vision is to devour the entire world." 

It was the only food he had seen since landing in the dungeons and its wonderful smell overpowered any misgivings Conan might have had about accepting the hospitality of trolls. As they shared a pleasant meal, Conan listened to the troll brag of his acquisitions. After dessert, Conan emptied the contents of his treasure sack. The troll counted it up and, when he was sure the bag was empty, deemed it satisfactory. He then muttered an enchantment that ended with "so open then, eh?" and the massive door swung inward on invisible hinges. 

Behind the door a stairway led upward. Conan climbed, not missing the treasure's extra weight. At the top landing he found an amulet on a chain and two oblong bars wrapped in paper and labeled simply "food." He secured these items in the pouch on his belt and, following Reynard's advice, turned right. And so he continued for some time, fighting monsters and collecting treasures. With every level he rose the monsters became more terrible, the treasures more grand. When he became fatigued the food bars restored his strength, though their chocolate flavor left an artificial aftertaste. 

He was feeling tired again when he came to a particularly dark intersection on the seventh level. The sound of footsteps approaching from around the corner stopped him. The footsteps stopped. He held his breath and waited. There was silence, then the sound of shallow breathing and a stealthy step. Conan jumped out, sword raised, and found himself facing a beautiful woman dressed in warrior garb, a broadsword clasped in both hands. 

© 1997, by Hadley V. Baxendale 

Follow Conan Through the Web: 

To learn more about the type of dungeon in which the Wizard has trapped Conan, try the MUD Resource Collection

All characters or monsters are completely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons or corporate home pages is purely coincidental. 

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