Chapter #1002

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2016 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+   Belphanior     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+   Irina          7th/14th level female human warrior/priestess          +
+   Neera          12th level female human wizard (sage/astrologer)       +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Date:          5/28/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          early evening                                          +
+   Place:         deep within the Griff Mountains, in northeastern Oerik +
+   Climate:       chilly                                                 +
+   "Too much has been lost for us to leave here with nothing."           +
+                                                                         +
+                           - Charles Weyland, from _Alien vs Predator_   +

                   MII.  Fallen Fortress

  After an unexpected attack by the purple dragon Mesoloth, who had not
been quite as dead as thought, the sky castle was knocked from the sky
and destroyed when it crashed into the Griff Mountains.  Fortunately,
all of the adventurers were able to escape in time.  Unfortunately, they
all now technically fell into the category of "homeless" - and worse,
each of them had just lost everything that wasn't being carried on his
or her person.

Otto:  It's less than an hour until dusk.  How do you want to proceed?
Belphanior:  Well, we can't very well search the impact crater at night,
  not without attracting attention.
Skektek:  You mean any more attention than a gigantic, falling chunk of
  rock smashing into a mountain would attract?
Belphanior:  Point taken, but we don't have enough light to do a proper
  search in the dark, and any light we did use would really stand out.
  For better or worse, we need to postpone the searching of the ruins
  until the morning.  Which means setting up a camp here, for the night.
Skektek:  (thinking of the nice soft bed he had in the sky castle)  When
  I woke up this morning, I sure never thought I'd be spending the night
  outdoors, on the ground.  (he wanders away to try and find a soft spot
  on the ground)
Irina:  (eyes the wizard, muttering to herself quietly)  Maybe we should
  find him a nice soft pillow or something.
Razor Charlie:  (overhears the quip, and actually cracks a smile)
Belphanior:  (rubs his temples, within which a small headache has begun
  to develop)  What am I thinking?  We already have a perfectly good
  place to spend the night.  (he nods in the direction of the grounded
  skyship)  Its ability to fly may be damaged, but it's still got plenty
  of rooms, with beds and locking doors.
Skektek:  (instantly looks happier)
Otto:  (to Razor Charlie, wearily)  We must be really strung out, to not
  have thought of that right away.
Razor Charlie:  That's for damn sure.
Ys:  (aware that he possesses an item that supposedly transforms into a
  small, secure fortress, he decides to keep quiet since Belphanior has
  the situation well in hand and the others all seem happy about bunking
  within the skyship)

  The vessel had plenty of room for all of them.  Belphanior and Neera
took the captain's cabin, of course.  Otto got the nearby first mate's
cabin, and the others chose officers' cabins on the deck below, except
for Ys, who berthed in the guest cabin, mainly because it was the only
one with a bed large enough for him.  Fire was out of the question, but
the ship had thick walls and was well-insulated, as it had been designed
to sail the skies, where temperatures were typically cold.  As well, the
group had kept the ship well-provisioned since acquiring it, and there
were more than enough blankets to ensure that everyone was comfortable.
By the same token, there was a substantial quantity and variety of food
and drink on board, enough for them to enjoy a decent supper before bed.
  With shelter and hunger solved, they next turned their attention to
security.  Several of the spellcasters worked magic to protect or guard
the ship and the area surrounding it, after which everyone prepared to
bed down for the night.

wispy thing:  (hovers in place, its intangible eyes nearly shut)  nrrrf.
Otto:  (stifles a yawn)
Skektek:  I hear you.  I'm beat.
Belphanior:  (addresses everyone)  A moment, please, before you all head
  to your rooms for some much-deserved sleep.
wispy thing:  (opens one transparent eye, regarding the elf)
Belphanior:  Good work today, all of you.  As I said earlier, I'm proud
  of everyone, and happy with the level of teamwork and expertise you've
  all displayed recently, in all of our battles and adventures.  We work
  hard, but we also play hard, and we have spoils the likes of which few
  can claim.  Today we suffered a major setback...but as always, in the
  end we'll come out ahead.  Get some rest.

  The brief motivational talk served its purpose:  although everyone was
deep in slumber almost immediately, the last thing they remembered before
falling asleep was the elf's speech.  The night passed uneventfully, as
might be expected in a campsite secured by the magic of multiple powerful
individuals, and morning found them well-rested, if a bit sore from their
recent battles.  No one rang a breakfast bell or anything like that; each
individual simply rose, dressed, and joined the others when he or she was
fully awake and ready.  This was a departure from the group's normal ways
and another intentional move by Belphanior to boost morale.  After all,
there really wasn't any hurry...for who, really, would spend all night
searching the crater blasted into a mountaintop by strange forces beyond
comprehension?  Indeed, who really _could_?

Otto:  Maybe a few random animals from the area...might wander into the
  crater.  Or humanoids, if any live around here.
Belphanior:  We'll soon know.

  Without the skyship, they again had to use magic to reach the nearby
crater, which they couldn't even see from the ground.  The four wizards
could cast flying spells, and the wispy thing could fly on its own power.

wispy thing:  (happily flies in lazy circles above their heads)  yrrrp!

  That left four of them (Irina, Otto, Razor Charlie, and Ys) who would
require assistance to get up to the crater.

Skektek:  I have my own ring of flying, so I can just use that, and cast
  a spell of flying upon one of you.  I also have a potion of flying.
  (he frowns)  Or at least I used to.
Ys:  You're just a flying fool.
Skektek:  True.
Neera:  And I have a flying carpet.  Although it's new and I haven't yet
  had a chance to practice with it, so that might be a bit of a problem.
Hope:  I've actually been thinking about this situation, ever since the
  skyship was damaged yesterday, and again after we scouted the crater
  atop the mountain last night.  And I know how we can accomplish this
  with a minimum of wasted magic and effort.
Belphanior:  (genuinely interested in such problem-solving lines of
  thinking)  How's that?
Hope:  I'm sure we all have the levitation spell.  (she watches as the
  other wizards all nod)  Good.  So four of us can cast that upon one of
  those who can't fly, then while they rope themselves together, we all
  cast flying spells upon ourselves.  One of the fliers simply tows the
  non-fliers, who will float along behind, with little danger of sailing
  off unattended or uncontrolled.  And all of the spells will last more
  than long enough for us all to get to that crater and land.  (she looks
  around at the other wizards)
Irina:  (shrugs)  Sounds good to me.
Neera:  Seconded.
Skektek:  That's-  (he finds himself at a loss for words)
Hope:  (smirks)  Just say it.  Say the words..."what a great idea, Hope."
Skektek:  (fuming slightly, he mumbles something)
Neera:  (amused, she glances at Belphanior)  What do you think?
Belphanior:  It's brilliant.  Let's get it done and get up there.

  A short time later, the airborne group was moving upward, approaching
and then passing the edge where the rising mountain slope became a fresh,
ragged crater.  The concave depression was just about the opposite of
what one would expect to see at the upper portion of a mountain.

Ys:  It occurs to me that, given a little time and enough rainfall, this
  could become the world's most remote lake.
Skektek:  Heh.

  Yesterday, some of them had noted the full extent of the damage from
the massive impact, but now the rest gazed upon it for the first time.
Where a peak had once topped the mountain, a rough crater of no less than
two hundred feet in depth had been blasted into the rock.  Approximately
five hundred feet across, its outer edge contained debris from both the
fallen castle and the destroyed mountaintop, and more debris was strwen
about randomly throughout the rocky bowl.  The chunks of rock that were
somewhat lighter in color and finer in texture were remnants of the sky
castle.  As for Mesoloth...the dragon (or more accurately, parts of the
dragon) could be seen everywhere.  Shreds of purple skin, both large and
small, were scattered throughout the crater; mangled pieces of its flesh
appeared to have burst from the skin that once covered them.  Dark blood,
now dried, was everywhere.  The stench wasn't yet overpowering, but it
was strong, and would only get worse as the sun spent all day warming
the contents of the crater.

Neera:  (covers her nose and mouth)  Phew.
Skektek:  It must have been like dropping a sack of soft fruit from a
  great height, onto a floor of stone.
Belphanior:  I really couldn't tell you.  I was busy escaping the same
wispy thing:  (hovering near a gory chunk of dragon-flesh)  pwwww.
Otto:  Something else to think about, maybe...I had a lot of different
  poisons in my quarters.  While I'm sure they got obliterated, we need
  to be careful here.
Razor Charlie:  (grimacing)  Could one of you wizards make it rain or
Ys:  He's got a point.  That would _really_ help.
Skektek:  (turns to Irina)  What about it?
Irina:  Weather is not one of my specialties.
Neera:  (shakes her head)  I actually don't have that spell.
Hope:  (points at Skektek)  What about you?
Skektek:  Well...err...that's not the sort of thing I usually find myself
  casting, you know...
Hope:  (crosses her arms)  I have that spell, and would be happy to cast
  it, and given the cloudy sky, I believe we could get some good rain
  fairly quickly.  But the question is...should we?
Neera:  Why wouldn't we?
Belphanior:  Because rain will turn all this dirt and dust into mud, and
  that will severely hamper our search efforts.  Dried blood might well
  be preferable to wet mud.  (he looks around)  With the use of magic, we
  can at least see if there's anything worth salvaging here.  I propose
  this:  we first determine what if anything is worth finding...and then
  try to get it, before this gore really starts to rot.  If we find that
  there's a lot worth recovering, then we'll also know that more work is
  required, and we can see about washing the area clean and also getting
  more help.  Alternatively, if it's not looking good, we can be done
  before the smell gets overpowering, and we won't have to waste time
  altering the weather either.

  Spells, magic items, and other methods were soon employed to determine
what, if anything, had survived the sky castle's destruction.  Almost all
of the golems were beyond repair.  Every single one of the stone golems
had been shattered, more or less pulverized by the tremendous impact of
the sky castle hitting the mountain; a few sundered pieces lay scattered
and half-buried amidst the other rubble.  The iron golems, while somewhat
more durable, had also been destroyed by the impact, broken or flattened
beyond hope of repair.  This unfortunately included the remains of Angus,
recently recovered from the Pelisso Swamp.  The diamond golem, as well as
the one from Xusia's secret dungeon complex, were also destroyed, ruined
pieces of them turning up here and there within the crater.  All of those
constructs' remains weren't even good for raw material anymore, as the
complex enchantments that had originally animated them were broken, their
bodies ruined.

Belphanior:  This is the second time I've been through this...having to
  dig through rubble of a castle I used to inhabit - the first time was
  in Helgate - and it's bothersome.
Otto:  Where'd you put the anti-magic sphere?  Obviously it's not here
  because if it was, none of the other magic would be working.
Belphanior:  The day we moved into the sky castle, I made an executive
  decision to _not_ store the anti-magic sphere there.  Doing so would
  have been far too risky.  I stashed it elsewhere.

  They were able to find one golem that had survived more or less intact:
the fifteen-foot tall construct of black metal, forged in the shape of an
armored warrior and with a massive hammer in one hand.  This golem had
been found in one of Xusia's dungeons, along with many others now lost
or destroyed, about a year ago.  The exact composition of this golem had
never been determined, but what little testing they'd done had revealed
that the metal was much stronger than iron and didn't rust.  Anyhow, the
golem of unknown metal now had one arm (its non-weapon one) bent back at
an unusual angle, but was otherwise intact; it even obeyed Belphanior's
spoken command now, freeing itself from the rubble and saving them the

Skektek:  Whatever this one's made of, it's a hell of a lot tougher than
  everything else.
Neera:  We really need to solve this mystery, once we've taken care of
  all the other business at hand.
Belphanior:  (nods)

  While the golems and the sky castle itself - all made of stone or iron
or similarly durable material - has been destroyed, at least those things
were recognizable in their now-ruined state.  Everything else (personal
possessions, furniture, basically the entire contents of the castle) had
basically been vaporized on impact.  This included magical items as well
as more mundane ones...of these things, only tiny pieces and shards were
sporadically evident in the wreckage within the blast crater, though it
was likely that many more such fragments were buried somewhere in the

Irina:  (using powerful divination magic, she frowns)  I'm afraid there's
  nothing here worth the effort of retrieving.  (she eyes the rubble all
  around the massive crater)  This place will always have a residual aura
  of magic, and will undoubtedly fool treasure-seekers for a long time,
  and maybe even become a whispered place of legend some day...but none
  of your items survived.  I'm sorry.
Skektek:  (fussing)  How can you just say that?  How can you be sure?
Irina:  Istus' magic doesn't lie.  You can spend days digging through
  this gory mess - a process which will be unpleasant and difficult to
  accomplish with the level of care necessary.  And you might eventually
  find some of the tiny pieces of some of your possessions.  (she shrugs)
  But I sincerely doubt it.
Belphanior:  (carefully scanning the site of destruction with his magical
  eye, he frowns)  I'm afraid she's right.  Think about it:  an entire
  _mountaintop_ was utterly obliterated by the impact.  Even golems made
  of iron were shattered as if they'd been fragile sculptures.  Nothing
  short of a true artifact or relic would have survived, and even then
  it's hard to say.

  Belphanior already knew exactly what he'd lost, and the list of those
items was substantial, but he was pleased that the truly powerful ones
(the Loom of Ages, the Eye of Celestian, Blackrazor) had remained on his
person.  To be sure, the elf had actually lost a lesser percentage of
his overall hoard than some of the others, because he always carried one
of those wondrous extradimensional storage spaces known as a portable
hole.  And another of his unique possessions, the anti-magic sphere, was
hidden in a secret place.  That strange grey chunk of rock had been too
dangerous a thing to have in the sky castle, as it was capable of making
the structure drop from the sky.  Indeed, if he'd had the sphere handy
in the final battle against Mesoloth, Belphanior could likely have used
it to render the highly-magical dragon powerless AND crash the castle,
but the sphere would have also taken away Belphanior's ability to escape,
so he'd be dead now as well.

Belphanior:  Heh...better that I didn't have that as an option...
Otto:  What's that?
Belphanior:  Nothing.

  As the crater was really beginning to emit a horrible odor of rotting
flesh (which was now attracting flies and buzzards) and since there was
nothing more to be gained here, Belphanior called a stop to the search
efforts.  The big golem, too heavy to transport by any means they had at
hand, was ordered to descend the mountain on its own power and meet them
back at the grounded skyship.  The adventurers made their way back in the
same manner they'd ascended to the huge mountaintop crater, via magical
flight.  However, when they landed near the skyship, they had a visitor
waiting for them...

Kronos:  (standing there regarding his grounded skyship)  I sincerely
  hope someone can explain this.

next:       the fury of Kronos
released:   2/29/2016
notes:      We only get a 29th of February every four years, so I knew
  I had to use that as a release date for an episode.

    I tried to make it as clear as possible about the sheer force of the
  impact and what it did to the castle and everything in it.  Equivalent
  amounts of force, in the real world, will pretty much destroy anything.
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