What the miners further up referred to as 'The Basement' was a huge section of natural caverns and tunnels where Harry, (As he insisted Milo refer to him.), had set up a laboratory and a large mushroom farming operation. It was damp, dark, and smelled like shit. Perfect for mushrooms, but Milo understood why Harry had trouble finding people to do his little jobs.
And he had his doubts that Harry ever went up to the city. The trip would be difficult for someone of his girth. He wheezed as he walked on flat ground. Somehow, he survived down here. Milo was sure he didn't want to know the details.
This job was at least fairly straight forward: Go to this area in the nearby tunnels, find patches of Black Bristlecaps, and fill up a sack. He at least knew what they looked like now. Harry had insisted on a quick tour of the area that consisted of a large number of mushroom filled side tunnels, the main cavern with a hundred different tiny mushroom farms, and then his laboratory.
The lab was a chaotic area of tables filled with beakers, retorts, mortars and pestles, strange looking apparatus, and books. So many books! Most were huge things nearly half a foot thick with faded writing on the front or spine and yellowed and curling pages. Damp and books go together poorly.
One such tome had been brought down, and shown to be an encyclopedia of different mushroom types, complete with colored pictures. This made it easy for Harry to show him what he needed to find. "About 4" high when mature, and the top will be colored black and have prickles like the husk of a chestnut. If they scream when you cut the stalks, you have the wrong ones and should probably run."
Milo was given a crude map, a gathering bag, small trowel, and a bottle of milky white liquid. "If you think you may have been poisoned, this will take the edge off. It's a wonderful little concoction I make myself." He was also offered a small lantern, which he left in his pack. Much of the lichen on the walls gave off enough light that he could easily see his way. Light would just make sure anything else down here saw him coming.
He immediately saw why Harry needed an assistant down here. The tunnels got much smaller as soon as they left Harry's area with many twists and turns. Milo paused after he entered them and shifted to his more comfortable were-rat form. Claws and a tail made for easier climbing.
The tunnel he was in should come out into a larger area soon. He was disappointed to see it had been nearly blocked by a cave in. There was still a small crawlspace he could slither through. The blockage was only about ten feet deep. As he got to the other side, he saw he wasn't the only one there.
A withered body leaned against the blockage; one leg pinned under a fallen boulder. Harry had mentioned that several of his 'new apprentices' had run off on him. This one had met a worse fate. The body was not much more than scraps of leather clothing and bones. Well gnawed bones. A glint of something shiny showed him a metal guild tag hidden in the ribcage, fallen from a cord around the neck that had decayed. Milo grabbed it to take it back to the guild.
Milo carefully searched around. A rotted leather pouch proved to have 6 copper pieces in it, and he found a small rock hammer that was in decent shape. The head was a bit rusty, but still solid. Not so the pitted dagger the corpse held in one hand. The blade snapped as he picked it up. The body was a good reminder to be cautious. One rolling stone could trap you forever.
Moving cautiously along the small tunnel, Milo finally came to the larger cavern. It was a natural domed area some hundred feet across. It was filled with mushrooms. There were several types in a confusing mixture. Tall pointy mushrooms with red spots loomed over clusters of brownish shrooms that grew in clumps. Large ones with glowing green caps over a foot across grew singly in many areas. He saw patches of the black spiky ones hairy wanted and got to work. Harry hadn't cared if he dug them up or cut them low to the ground. Either method left parts that would regrow.
Milo decided to dig them up. They came up easily and he got into rhythm of uprooting them and tossing them into his bag. He was almost done when he met more resistance than expected as he uprooted a sort of black shroom, and noticed it's not-so-spiky cap. The mushroom came out of the ground, and proved to have arms and legs, one of which had been crushed somewhat by the trowel. Small eyes opened, and a small mouth started screaming. Startled, he dropped it on the ground and stomped on it. The screaming stopped.
Wow, what a start to a magnificent monster hunting career! Could you have picked on anything smaller, you big bully?
A large glowing, green capped mushroom was vibrating and shaking, and then a larger mushroom man heaved itself out off the ground. The body was a long stem that split into stumpy legs and arms with large, hard looking fists. Its angry face sported a long root-like beard. The green cap made it look like it was wearing a huge hat.
Milo remembered the next part of Harry's advice: Run!
He grabbed his bag and headed back towards the tunnel with its unlucky occupant. The angry mushroom man gave chase. Milo got to the tunnel, and realized a flaw in his plan to flee. The narrow tunnel would be slow going. Leaving his legs exposed to green capped adversary. How tough was this guy? Milo decided to fight. He drew one of his daggers and threw at the mushroom man. The knife hit the top part of the cap and went straight in, not causing much damage.
Dodging a fist, he rolled to the side and grabbed the machete. This would be better. He brought the bladed down on one of its shoulders, and to his surprise, the blade cut straight through, lopping off an arm. The other arm hit him in the stomach, doubling him over. Milo decided to just keep going down and went into a painful shoulder roll.
Coming up, he took the machete in both hands and swung hard horizontally. The blade hit where a neck should be, and he lopped off the entire top of the myconid. The fight was over.
At least you picked on something closer to your own size!
Those weren't really so bad. Milo had only taken 10 points of damage from the punch and the creature was actually pretty easy to dodge. He decided to clear the tunnel a little, and then go back and try again.
As he was clearing rocks, he noticed something shiny on one them. Taking a better look, it seemed to be a small bit of ore. He used the rock hammer to beat the rock around the ore until a walnut sized chunk of shiny stuff came loose. He tossed it in his pack to see what it was later. After a careful half hour, he had a much larger escape tunnel dug.
This time he paid a lot more attention to the mushrooms he was digging and the placement of the larger ones that he knew now to be guards. When the bag was full, he ran back and put it and his pack on the other side of the cave in, and went back to the mushroom field with his machete. Instead of picking one of the immature myconids, he tossed a rock at a mature ones' cap. It came out of the ground like the first, angry and charging.
Milo danced around the slower moving creature, easily dodging it's blows. With three slashes he disarmed and killed it, getting another EP announcement. He could do this all day! And after they were all cleared, he could easily harvest all the mushrooms Harry needed without distractions.
An hour later he had killed over a dozen of the myconids and only saw one left on this side of the cavern. He sauntered over to it and tossed a rock at it. Nothing happened. Looking closer, he noticed this myconid had bit larger cap that was a darker green. He tossed a second rock, and it put a dent in the cap, exposing the pale flesh underneath. But that had done it, the cap started vibrating and something heaved itself out of the dirt. And heaved. And heaved. And heaved!
The creature that came out of the ground was shaped like the others, but was gigantic, nearly 10 feet tall with a body that looked brown and gnarled. A long green beard stretched from it's face to it's stumpy feet. A massive dark green cap over 8 feet across covered it's head. Smaller mushrooms grew from the large cap. Milo had been tossing rocks at one of those. The creature roared at him.
You have angered Cronk, Guardian of the Cave! He vows revenge upon the meat-thing that disrupted his spore mates. You will make amends by fertilizing their regrowth.
Maybe Harry hadn't been warning him about the little ones! Milo ran, and Cronk was right behind him, taking ten-foot strides. Before Milo even got to the smaller cave, Cronk brought one of his huge feet up and stomped heavily on the ground. Rocks fell in the small cave, blocking his retreat.
Milo had a sneaking suspicion how the other rockslide had happened.