Chaos Theory
Or: I Know How the Fried Bard Shrieks
The padded clothing under my armor itched like hell, and I was sweating buckets staring out at the room beyond the shattered door frame.

"That looks like a platform on the other side," Mythran, the mage, mentioned by way of pointing out the obvious. I didn't say anything. My master, the paladin Lythan, peered at the rusted and shattered chains that dangled over the boiling mud more than fifty feet down. Only one chain, long and rusted, still stretched the entirety of the room, and geysers of boiling mud blasted it at intervals.

"I think...I think there's a pattern," I hazarded, hoping no one would be terribly offended. I was a bard and - and a squire, damnit! My other ideas had not been received terribly well by anyone but my master, who patiently explained their folly in an environment such as this. Fitting in was proving difficult, to say the least. I reached out and yanked on the chain. Sturdy enough. Surprisingly so, actually. I swung myself upwards and wrapped my legs around the steel.

"I'll check it out," I told my companions. Lythan started to say something, but I lost it in the roar of a geyser blast. Counting the seconds, I crawled my way across the chain.

The room boiled, and sweat ran down my face and into my eyes as I crawled. The noise was deafening and I could feel the heat of the chain through my leather gauntlets. Still, foot by foot, I made my way across and set my feet down on the platform on the other side. It was surprisingly wide, with a large wooden chest backed against a far wall and a stout oaken door riddled with holes set into another. Remembering the words of the mage upon my arrival ("White Plume Mountain is a hell-hole. Everything is trying to kill you. I mean it. The walls, the floors, the chests, the doors, hell, the air is probably trying to do you in. Got me kid?"), I ignored the chest for the time being. Instead, I drew my longsword and strapped a buckler to my left wrist, advancing cautiously towards the door.

When I saw the fine mist pouring out of the door, I knew something was wrong. The vapors coalesced into a tall, pale humanoid that lashed out at me with its fist. I brought my buckler up to block and nearly broke my wrist for the trouble.

"Vampire!" Mythran called out. "Stay calm! Fight defensively!"

I ducked another blow and backpedaled, spitting and cursing. "How else do you expect me to fight?" I shouted back as I lashed out clumsily with my weapon. It didn't matter. The creature took the blow and laughed.

"Use your spells," my master called out in a calm, clear voice. "Blast it into the muck!"

I parried a crushing hook with my sword and winced as I heard the metal snap in half. I spat out a group of syllables that burned my tongue on the way out and twin bolts of magical force slammed into the undead creature's chest, sending it staggering backwards, hissing in anger.

"Great job," Mythran yelled helpfully, "You made him mad!"

I spat the spell out again as the vampire charged, barely managing to throw myself out of the way as it nearly bowled me over. "Push him into the muck!" Lythan yelled out in the clear, strong voice of command. But how?

Struck by inspiration, I dug into a pouch at my belt, spilling spell components all over the floor as I triumphantly seized a grasshopper in my left hand. Thrusting it into my mouth, I chanted an incantation around it and bit down on the dried insect.

For all future reference, raw dried grasshopper tastes absolutely foul when kept for months in a spell component pouch.

Feeling the magic tensing in my legs, I crouched and jumped at the vampire as it charged me, barreling into it at incredible speeds. I scrambled as my feet hit the floor again, desperately trying to avoid pitching forward into the muck, and stopped four feet short as the undead thing hit the bottom and combusted.

The chest, upon investigation, held a replacement sword bearing Dwarven runes along with several hundred gold pieces. Thus laden, I began climbing across the chain to the triumphant praise of my companions.

A brief, boiling roar was all the warning I got before the geyser hit me, firing out of turn. Perhaps the vampire disturbed the muck when he hit the bottom. I died. Instantly.

It would be some weeks before I was resurrected. The gold paid for the reconstitution of my body, but on the plus side, I got to keep the sword.

"Told you," Mythran said as he pulled me to my feet. "Come on, Twitchy. We're going back."