Chapter #166

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                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1994 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                    +
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Arnold        11th level human warrior               (NG) +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Ged           14th/14th level grey elven priest/mage (NG) +
+   Mongo         16th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+      Gorin       6th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       7th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+   Date:    10/9/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    morning                                          +
+   Place:   the Vast Swamp                                   +
+   Climate: slightly cold                                    +
+   "Either I've been missing something or nothing has        +
+    been going on."                                          +
+                                - Karen Elizabeth Gordon     +

                   CLXVI.  Into the Tomb

  The adventurers have spent the night atop a strange hill
within a vast swamp.  Morning finds them ready to explore
the old passage they found yesterday.

Bosco:  Well, at least we don't have to worry about guarding
  the horses...
Rillen:  (glares at the halfling)
Mongo:  I'd say we should worry about whatever's inside this
  hill, instead.
Ged:  Truly.
Belphanior:  C'mon, let's go for it!

  They climbed down from their campsite, and approached the
crumbling north face of the hill.  Brushing aside thorns and
weeds, they entered the passage.

Mongo:  (examining the walls in the light of Peldor's green
  torch, which Arnold is holding)  What the hell...?
Belphanior:  (standing behind the dwarf, he has no trouble
  at all seeing over his companion's head)  That's odd.
Arnold:  Aaa.

  The passageway was painted, brightly; strange murals of
doors, semi-human forms, and other weird things decorated
the walls.  The floor, too, was painted, being comprised
of an assortment of painted stones.  A distinct path of red
tiles, about two feet wide, snaked further down the tunnel,

Ged:  Boccob!
Rillen:  These paints must have been applied years ago...
Belphanior:  Yeah, and since this place was sealed off from
  the outside world, they stayed as fresh and bright as the
  day they were painted.
Mongo:  (examining the stonework)  Huh.
Gorin:  What?
Mongo:  I can't really look at the stonework.  See here?
  The paint's been put on over some kind of
  flagstones or seams are still visible.
Peldor:  Weird.
Arnold:  Yah.
Bosco:  (looking back, behind the party)
Ged:  Watch out for that red "pathway" there.
Belphanior:  Yeah...(he considers walking along it)
wispy thing:  pffft.  (hovers inches from a wall, looking
  at one of the paintings with interest)

  The frescoes depicted a wide variety of subjects; one was
some kind of nature scene, while the next showed slaves at
work.  These unfortunates were not just commonly-seen races,
but also strange half-human, half-animal combinations.  Yet
another mural portrayed a room, a laboratory of some kind.

Belphanior:  (strides past Mongo, to the front of the party)
  Given the powers of my magical eye, _I_ should be in the
  forefront of the party for now.
Arnold:  Suid yourself.
Mongo:  (about to object, he decides against it)
wispy thing:  (sails down the hall, viewing the various
Peldor:  (feeling rather useless in the rear of the party)
  This dungeon has yet to prove its worthiness-
Mongo:  Quit yapping - he's found something.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (examining a fresco of two jackal-headed
  things holding a metal box)  Whoa.  (he realizes that the
  box is actually real, protruding a couple of inches into
  the passageway)  Will you look at this...
Rillen:  Careful.
Belphanior:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  (he pops the hinged bottom
  of the box open, and holds up a tiny needle)  See?
Arnold:  Whaaat?
Peldor:  Hey, that's a poison-
Belphanior:  -needle.  But I disarmed it.  (he gets on all
  fours and looks up into the box)  Hmm.  (he squints)  Ah!
  (reaching up into the cavity, he grabs an invisible lever
  and pulls it before anyone else can say anything)

  There was a brief grinding sound as a ten-by-ten foot
section of floor, directly in front of the box-mural, swung
open, throwing several of the adventurers off balance.

Ged:  Boccob!  (he backs away from the hole)
Mongo:  Aaaaaaa...(he grabs for the edges of the pit, but
  falls in anyway - until his feather falling kicks in, at
  which point he drifts downward)  Uh-oh.  (sighting some
  iron spikes in the floor of the pit, about thirty feet
  down, he drifts around in the air)  Whoa...
Belphanior:  Oops!  (he manages to grab the little bronze
  box, and avoids falling into the pit)  Ungh.
Gorin:  Talk about hanging on by your fingertips...
Arnold:  Yah.  (he quickly grabs the elf and hoists him
  back onto safe ground)
Rillen:  (falls, passing Mongo)  Aie!  (he lands amidst
  the large spikes, but none wound him)
Mongo:  (floats downward)
Rillen:  Careful...
Mongo:  (lands, a spike nicking his armor)  Whew, good for
  me that I wear plate mail...
Rillen:  (examining one of the spikes)  Indeed...look, they
  are coated with poison.
Mongo:  Shit.

  Above, the others lowered a rope down, and soon, the two
were back in the passage above.

Belphanior:  (makes a mental note to use his eye a bit more
  actively when searching for traps)
Ged:  Perhaps a Find Traps spell...
Belphanior:  Don't bother.  I've got it covered.  (he looks
  at the floor ahead)  Watch out - there are several more
  ahead, there.  (he walks gingerly down the passage)  Come
  on - if you follow my steps, you'll avoid the pits.
Mongo:  Uh...okay.  (he and the others carefully follow the
Gorin:  Hey, slow it down a bit.

  At the end of the hall, there were two things of interest.
The red-tiled "path" on the floor split, one fork going into
a misty arch on the left, the other going directly ahead, to
an evil-looking demonic face, set into the very wall itself.
  The swirling mists in the archway blocked all vision, even
Belphanior's.  As the elf approached, three of the keystones
around the archway began to glow.  To the left, one glowed
yellow; to the right was an orange stone; and directly above
the elf, a stone glowed blue.
  Meanwhile, Ged and Mongo were looking at the strange face
in the wall.  Its mouth was a perfect "O", fully three feet
in diameter, which was dead black.

Ged:  (casts Detect Evil)  Boccob!  This whole place is
Belphanior:  (turns briefly)  Hell, _I_ could have told you
Ged:  (regards the face and mouth)  But this...this is even
  more evil.
Mongo:  Hmm, it kinda looks like that black sphere that ate
Peldor:  Aie.
Ged:  You're right!  (he grabs a pebble, and tosses it into
  the mouth, where it vanishes suddenly and soundlessly)
Rillen:  I think this...thing is best avoided.
Mongo:  No shit.
wispy thing:  (hovers near the black mouth)  ffffffpt.
Belphanior:  (carefully examining the three glowing stones,
  and the mist)  Hmm.
Ged:  I don't think we should go through those mists.
Belphanior:  Aw, why not?
Mongo:  (remembering Flint, and eyeing the dead black hole/
  mouth)  forget it!  (he storms back toward the entry end
  of the hall)  Uh...where were those pits again?
Rillen:  Maybe we can come back here later, to look at these
Belphanior:  (leads the party back, mumbling something about
  lack of curiosity)
Ged:  Curiosity killed the cat, you know.
Arnold:  (wonders how the grey cat is doing)

  They began a more careful examination of the painted
frescoes on the walls.

Mongo:  (looking at a fresco, right past the box-trigger,
  of a dungeon)  Huh.
Arnold:  (pokes at the painted cell window, and the two big
  claws gripping its bars, with his sword)  Aaa.
Belphanior:  (spots something)  Eh?  (he walks over next
  to Arnold, and begins probing the paint with his own
  sword)  Hmmm.  (he chips away some of the painted plaster,
  revealing wood)  Aha!
Ged:  But how...?
Peldor:  Question not the mighty thieves, nonbeliever.
Belphanior:  Really.  (he and Arnold tear away more plaster,
  and shortly an entire door is revealed)
Rillen:  Interesting.
Belphanior:  (checking for traps)  Looks clean; let's open
Peldor:  (quietly worms his way to the front of the party,
  hoping to relieve his boredom)

  The elf opened the door, revealing a twenty-foot passage
which ended in another door.

Belphanior:  (scans the floor and door, his eye glowing a
  bit more brightly)  This one's clean, too.
Peldor:  Huh?  How'd you know that?
Belphanior:  Never you mind.

  They opened the second door, revealing a twenty-by-thirty
foot chamber, in which two more doors were barely visible
around a corner.  However, their scan of the new room was
interrupted as a huge, four-armed gargoyle charged forth,
clawing at the lead party members!

gargoyle:  RAAARGH!  (it tears at Mongo, Belphanior, _and_
Mongo:  (staggers back, saved from damage by his armor and
  shield)  Ow!
Peldor:  (gets hit by two claws, and suffers rending
  damage as well)  Argh!
Belphanior:  (slashed by one claw, his Stoneskin protects
  him from injury)  Ugh!
Ged:  Boccob!  (he begins spellcasting)
Rillen:  (perhaps disgusted by the slowness of those in the
  front rank, he shoulders past Peldor and bashes the stone
  gargoyle with his staff)  Hai!
gargoyle:  Aaargh!  (reels)
Arnold:  (unable to get an attack in, in these cramped
  quarters)  Aaa.
Belphanior:  Let me at him!  (leaps forward, stabbing)
gargoyle:  (its belly is chipped)  Rargh!
Peldor:  (swings, and misses, with his sword)
Mongo:  (tackles the thing, bashing it with his hammer)
gargoyle:  (though strong, and made of stone, it topples
  before Mongo's fire giant strength)  Urgh.
Mongo:  (pounds the thing in the face)  Take that!
gargoyle:  (its nose shatters)  Argh!  (it leaps to its
  feet, wings flapping)
Ged:  (blasts the monster with a volley of magic missiles)
  Taste Boccob's wrath!
gargoyle:  Argh!  Urgh!  Ugh!  (it staggers, pits torn in
  its stony hide)
Belphanior:  (leaps forth again, and slashes the foe)  I
  said die, and I mean die!
gargoyle:  (its neck is sliced open, and sand flows from
  the terrible wound)  Glurgh...(it falls, slain)
Belphanior:  Ahh.  (he looks around)  See?  No problem.

  Peldor bound his wounds, while some of the others kept
busy examining the monster's body or the exits.  The thing
had a collar, studded with ten large, blue gems; this was
removed and examined by Ged and Belphanior.

Belphanior:  What's this?  (he finds a secret compartment
  in the item, and pulls out a slip of parchment)  Wow.
Ged:  (reading the paper)  It's written in magic...(he
  casts Read Magic)  Ah, much better.  Let's see.  "Look
  high and low for gold, to hear a tale unfold."  Good
  stuff, eh?  "The archway at the end, and on your way
  you'll wend."  It's signed with the letter "A".
Mongo:  Maybe it stands for "asshole"...
Bosco:  Shh!  You might curse us!
Arnold:  Aaa.

  There was nothing else of interest in the room, save the
two doors that led out, in different directions.  They
went through the rightmost of these portals, and entered
a tiny, ten-foot square room with another door.  Belphanior
discerned no traps, and the party went through the second
door, entering another tiny room with another door.

Rillen:  Bah.  This grows old.
Belphanior:  And quickly.

  This door was on the right, and led to another tiny room
and another door, also on the right.

Mongo:  We're going in circles...
Arnold:  Yah.

  After yet another tiny room with yet another door, they
re-emerged into the gargoyle room.

wispy thing:  (waiting there for them)  sss?
Belphanior:  Someone's playing us for fools.
Ged:  (looks at Peldor)  Yea.
Mongo:  Well, we could try that other door, since the first
  one just circled around.
Peldor:  We should have looked for secret doors in all those
  little rooms.
Belphanior:  No need - there weren't any.
Peldor:  (starting to feel useless)  Oh.

  The second door out of the gargoyle room led to a ten-foot
sqaure room, this one without any doors.

Mongo:  Huh?
Gorin:  Mazes are stupid.
Rillen:  Perhaps-
Belphanior:  Yup.  (he feels the plain stone wall, then
  tries to pull it downward, toward the floor)
Mongo:  What the hell are you-

  Suddenly, several bolts shot out from hidden cracks and
crevices in the small room!

Rillen:  Whoa.  (he dodges aside, grabbing a bolt as it goes
Mongo:  (gets hit by a bolt, but it bounces off of his helm)
Belphanior:  (gets nicked by a bolt)  Ouch!  (he looks at
  the bleeding cut in his arm)  Dammit.
Arnold:  (watches other bolts hit the walls)  Aaa.
Ged:  (due to the cramped conditions, he is still back in
  the last room)  It would seem that we need to make haste.
Belphanior:  (ignoring his wound, he goes back to work on
  the wall)  Come on...
Bosco:  You're hit!  You're bleeding!
Belphanior:  (considers numerous snappy comebacks)  Just
  a scratch...  (he pulls the "wall" downward, revealing
  another tiny room with no doors)
Arnold:  Led's go.
Belphanior:  Hold on a second.  (he scans the room)  More
  bolts await us.  I'll go first.  (he dashes over, and
  quickly examines another blank wall)  Hmm.
Rillen:  (follows him)
Mongo:  Wait-

  More bolts fired from hidden places, whizzing toward the
two adventurers.

Rillen:  (catches two bolts this time)  Hai!
Belphanior:  (hit in the back by a bolt)  Argh!  (the other
  bolts, four of them, hit the walls and floor harmlessly)
Mongo:  Hey, maybe you'd better slow it down a bit.
Rillen:  (holding the two bolts)  No, this is good practice.
Belphanior:  (pushes the "wall", revealing that it pivots
  on a central vertical axis)  Aha!
Arnold:  Aaa.
Bosco:  (to Peldor)  We need some of those magical eyes.
Peldor:  I wouldn't be so sure of that.
Belphanior:  Uhh...would someone pull this thing out of my
Rillen:  (complies)
Belphanior:  Aargh!
Rillen:  Don't you want to bind the wound?
Belphanior:  Nah, I'm too busy opening doors and being a
Ged:  (moves to the front of the party)  I'll stay with you
  here - my magical belt will stop these missiles from
  posing an threat.
Belphanior:  Sure, whatever.

  The next room was like the last room - tiny and doorless.
Six bolts shot out almost as soon as the front rank of the
party entered the room.

Ged:  (gets hit in the shoulder by a dart)  Argh!  Hey!
Belphanior:  (snickers)
Rillen:  (catches a bolt)  It seems that your belt is of no
  use here...
Ged:  (cursing to Boccob)

  Belphanior found that one of the walls here pulled up from
the bottom, revealing a thirty-by-ten foot corridor.  Like
the last few rooms, this one had both darts and a secret
door at the end.  Truly, the darts were more of a nuisance
than anything else, but they still made wounds that had to
be bound, and the adventurers grew paranoid and uneasy.
After three more such rooms, the party emerged into a hall,
over a hundred feet long and twenty feet wide.  This place
was similar to the earlier hallway, for its floor was made
up of tiles, and its walls were painted with all kinds of
weird murals.  Humans, humanoids, and monsters decorated
this hall; all of them had one thing in common - they held
spheres, of every color.  Some were held waist-high, others
at eye level, and others at the feet.

Arnold:  Sberes.
Ged:  They _look_ two-dimensional.
Belphanior:  (scans the hall, his eye glowing)  Hmm.

next time :  explorations continue

ftp site  : in /pub/frp/stories/adventurers

notes     :  Still don't know where the party is?  Here's a
           hint:  S1...

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