Chapter #172

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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) +
+    (LN and female, for now)                                 +
+      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) +
+   Sylvie, a siren (guest)                              (NG) +
+   Date:    10/9/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    evening                                          +
+   Place:   an ancient tomb within the Vast Swamp            +
+   Climate: slightly chilly, inside the tomb                 +
+   "You always taste so much better when you're afraid."     +
+                              - "It", from (naturally) _It_  +

                  CLXXII.  A Lost Soul

  The adventurers have come upon a pair of huge doors, more
formidable than any thus far...

Ged:  Boccob!
Belphanior:  Yeah.
Arnold:  Aaa.  They look preddy tough.
Mongo:  I guess I could try and bust these open, but I don't
  think it would work.
Gorin:  Agreed.
Mongo:  They're solid mithril...tough stuff.
Peldor:  Bah.  Has it become necessary for the mighty Peldor
  to ply his trade at last?
Rillen:  We hope not.
Bosco:  (looking around)
wispy thing:  (hovering nearby)  sss.
Sylvie:  (rather fearful of the doors, she steps back)  It's
  up to all of you.
Ged:  (spotting a hemispherical concavity in the door, with
  a smaller hole at its center)  We need a key.
Belphanior:  (holding the first key, that which was joined
  from two parts)  Could it be this one?
Mongo:  (holding up the second key, that found just moments
  ago, on the steps leading up to the door)  Or this one?
Peldor:  I'd vote for the second key - it's actually more
  cylindrical, and looks like it would fit that hole...
Arnold:  Yah.
Rillen:  Well...
Mongo:  Wel, nothing.  Here goes!  (he steps forth, and
  pushes the second key into the concave depression)

  There was a bright flash, and a loud "POP", and the odor
of ozone manifested itself as Mongo was hurled backwards.

Mongo:  YEOW!  (his hair and beard are sticking straight
  out)  The door shocked me!  (he still grasps the key)
Bosco:  Maybe you should have tried the first key.
Mongo:  Quiet, you.  (he staggers around, cursing)
Ged:  (looking at the first key)  This thing doesn't look
  like it would fit...
Arnold:  What about the rod?
Rillen:  Eh?
Arnold:  The rod, from the thdrone room.
Ged:  Rod...(he produces the rod, and the crown as well)
  By Boccob, I think you've got it!
Belphanior:  (she nods)  Yeah.  That thing looks much more
  suited to the door than this stupid first key.

  Mongo, too, was convinced; in fact, he took the rod and
approached the big doors again.

Mongo:  Well...(he looks at the rod's gold and silver
  orb-ends, and picks one at random, thrusting the gold
  end into the depression)  Whoa.
Ged:  Look!

  The gigantic doors opened!  Beyond, the adventurers could
see a fabulous chamber.  The room shone brightly, due to
its gold-inlaid ivory walls, silver ceiling, and polished
agate floor.

      ______  ______
     |*     ^^     *|     ^^  entry doors          N
     |              |     0   bronze urn         W + E
     |      0       |      !  sarcophagus          S
     |*_[]___!__[]_*|     []  large chests
                          *   9' black iron statues

Bosco:  Whoa!

  The urn was huge, forged of solid bronze, and a thin wisp
of smoke escaped through a tiny hole in its stopper.  The
large sarcophagus was carved from granite, and strange
glyphs of inlaid platinum decorated its lid.  The southern
end (the head) was shattered, open to the elements.  Two
large iron chests lay on eiher side of the sarcophagus,
sealed with multiple locks.  The four statues, one in each
corner, were fully nine feet tall, and depicted armored
warriors with fearsome weapons.  Their black, metallic
forms seemed to loom over the other contents of the room.

Belphanior:  (scanning the chamber, she turns back to the
  others)  Magic galore - the statues, the urn, even a dim
  aura from the chests.
Ged:  Something to interest everybody.  (he walks over to
  the granite sarcophagus)
Peldor:  (moves to check one of the chests)  C'mon, Bosco.
Bosco:  Right, boss.
Rillen:  (approaches one of the statues warily)  Hmm.
Arnold:  (looking at the bronze urn)  Aaa.
Mongo:  (examines the urn too)  What'd they need an urn this
  big for, anyway?
Arnold:  They?
Gorin:  (searching for any hidden exits)
wispy thing:  (hovering near the wisp of smoke that escapes
  the urn, it imitates the smoke-wisp)
Sylvie:  (staying to the rear of the party)

  The shattered end of the sarcophagus revealed a wooden
inner shell, also stove in.  Within this were a few bones,
a lot of dust, some ruined jewelry, tatters of ancient cloth,
and a broken staff.

Ged:  (as he pokes at these remains with Lightbringer, a
  skull rolls into view)  Boccob!
Lightbringer:  Odd.
Ged:  What's that?
Lightbringer:  I sense no undead here, even long ago.
Ged:  Maybe it's a fake crypt.  I mean, we've already found
  one - why not another?
Rillen:  Good question.

  Meanwhile, Peldor and Bosco had disarmed three traps and
sprung three locks on the left chest, and were busy looting
its contents.

Peldor:  (sifting through platinum coins)  We're rich!
Rillen:  We were already rich.
Peldor: can never be too rich!  (he leaves the
  loading of these coins to others, and heads for the other
Belphanior:  (already there, she has bypassed the traps,
  and opens the chest to reveal thousands of semi-precious
  gems)  Wow.
Peldor:  Really.  We're double-rich!
Ged:  Greedy fool...
Mongo:  (sniffs the wisp of gas coming from the big urn, and
  then removes the stopper)  Hey!

  The trickle of vapor became a stream, as it billowed forth
from the urn, forming a huge, hazy shape in the room...

Belphanior:  An efreet!
efreet:  That is correct.  (to Mongo)  How may I serve you?
Mongo:  Huh?
efreet:  You freed me, thus I shall grant you three services.
Mongo:  Damn.  What a deal...
wispy thing:  (orbiting the efreet)
Belphanior:  (to Mongo)  Ask him for wishes...for he has the
  power to grant three!
Mongo:  Three wishes, eh?
efreet:  That is correct.
Ged:  By Boccob, be careful!
Mongo:  Do I have to use them now?
efreet:  I'm afraid so.
Mongo:  Crap.  This sucks.  Okay...first, I wish that we'll
  all be at our peak performance during battles, until we
  have beaten the master of this dungeon.
Ged:  (gaping, as he never suspected Mongo to have such wit
  and grace under pressure)
efreet:  (grins)  Done.
Mongo:  Second...uh...I wish that any foes we fight in this
  tomb would be hampered severely in battle.
efreet:  Hmm...done.
Belphanior:  (she wonders what evil twists the efreet is
  putting on these granted wishes)
Mongo:  Last...hmm...I wish that, if this party is down to
  its last member, we would all be teleported to safety
  before utter defeat can occur.
efreet:  Done.  I wish you well against Acererak, seeing as
  how he imprisoned me here...(it vanishes in a puff of
Mongo:  (turning to the others)  Well, how'd I do?
Ged:  Fairly well, I guess.
Belphanior:  Yeah.
Mongo:  (realizes that he forgot to wish Belphanior back
  to his normal self)  Oops.
Peldor:  (glares at the dwarf, as if reading his mind)
Rillen:  Aye.  (he is trying to move one of the statues,
  but it is far too heavy)  Ungh!
Bosco:  What are you up to?
Gorin:  I've searched everywhere except behind the four
Mongo:  Let me help you with that.
Arnold:  Yah, me too.

  They slowly slid the statue out of the corner, but nothing
of interest was revealed.  Repeating this process with the
other three iron statues, they found that the northwestern
one hid a ring in the wall.

Belphanior:  Whatever it is, it's no trap.
Mongo:  Good.  (he tugs at the ring, and a small section of
  wall rises, revealing a short chute going down to an area
Arnold:  Aaa.  Another floor.
Rillen:  It would seem that this is the only way to progress
  onward...(he peers into the chute)
Ged:  Well, let's have at it.

  They all slid down the chute, landing at what appeared to
be one end of a passage.  The corridor led away to the north
and then turned sharply to the west, out of sight.

Mongo:  Let's go!
Belphanior:  (she spots no secret doors or traps)  Ready.

  They began marching, but Bosco, bringing up the rear with
Sylvie (undoubtedly no mere coincidence) happened to spot
something in the wall next to the chute.

Bosco:  (sees a keyhole at - for him - eye level)  Hey!  I
  found something!
Peldor:  Let me see.  (he examines the keyhole)  Yep, he
  sure did find a keyhole.  Now, of course, we need a key
  to try in it...
Ged:  (holds up the first key)
Peldor:  (takes the key)  I don't see any traps...
Belphanior:  (peering over Mongo and Ged)  Neither do I.
Peldor:  (inserts the key into the hole and turns it)

  Suddenly, there was a grinding noise, as the entire ten-
by-ten foot section of wall slowly sunk into the floor!

Ged:  Boccob!
Mongo:  Now _that's_ a door...
Rillen:  Quite a door, to be sure.

  Beyond the stone slab was a ten-by-twenty foot vault with
a high, peaked ceiling.  It was utterly empty, but still,
the adventurers spread out, searching the chamber.

Ged:  (finds a depression in the center of the room)  Eh?

  The depression was square, about two inches on a side
and three inches deep.  At its center was another keyhole.

Ged:  I think we should try the other key - it's the only
  one we haven't used yet.
Belphanior:  Agreed.
Mongo:  Well, that door back there used it to shock me...
Bosco:  Oh, that doesn't count.
Rillen:  No - if _you_ had been the shocked one, we'd be
  burying you right now.
Bosco:  Eep.
Sylvie:  (she seems rather uneasy)  I sense that the evil
  one is nearby, somewhere...
Belphanior:  (nods her assent)  Yeah, I feel kinda weird
Ged:  Evil.  Evil is what pervades this place...
Gorin:  Let's hope you're not too right.

  Momentarily, they tried the second key.  While nothing
happened at first, after numerous turns and re-insertions
the floor began to rumble.  The south fifteen feet of the
room began rising - those atop it had to leap back rather
quickly, to avoid being crushed to a pulp.  Moments later,
the south fifteen feet of the crypt was filled by a mithril
vault, newly risen from below.  The door in its center had
an inset ring...

Ged:  Well, folks, this is it.
Belphanior:  Truly.
Mongo:  I've never seen this much mithril!  Not even in the
  hearts of mountains...

  Mongo pulled the ring, opening a thick door.  The smell
of a millenium of dust and decay issued forth from within.
The adventurers could see a pile of items, presumably some
kind of magical items and weapons.  More prominent, though,
was the simple stone block, upon which rested a cracked
skull and a pile of dust.  The skull seemed to grin at the
party, although it was unmoving and dusty.

Ged:  Boccob!  A burial chamber!
Belphanior:  Perhaps.
Bosco:  Wow!
Gorin:  You can say that again.
Ged:  He could, but don't encourage him.  (to Lightbringer)
  Anything we should know about?
Lightbringer:  I sense undead...but not clearly.  This is
  highly irregular.
Rillen:  I'd say.
Sylvie:  Aie.
Mongo:  (enters the small vault)  Time to-

  Suddenly, the dust on the stone block swirled together,
assuming a vaguely man-like shape.  It hovered near the
party, as if taunting them.

Lightbringer:  (begins a high-pitched wailing)  Eeeeeeeeee!
  (the weapon blazes with bright light)
Ged:  Boccob!  What's going on?!?
Rillen:  (steps forth to meet the dust-thing, waving his
  staff menacingly)  Back, you!
dust-thing:  (sails toward Rillen)
Rillen:  (swipes at the thing, causing it to reel)  Whoa!
  It's not a solid monster...
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer at the thing)  Die!
dust-thing:  (reels again)
hammer:  (bounces off the rear wall of the vault with a loud
  metallic "clang", and returns to Mongo's hand)
Mongo:  The thing's coming at us again!
Belphanior:  Hold fast!  (she charges the foe, and slashes
  at it, spraying dust everywhere)
dust-thing:  (reels as the elf's sword passes through it)
Belphanior:  (the momentum of her charge carries her through
  the foe and into the stone slab)  Oof.  (she finds herself
  face-to-face with the skull)  Huh?
skull:  (grins silently)
Belphanior:  Bah.  (she stands up, knocking the skull over
  in the process)
skull:  (rolls around the slab)
Arnold:  (facing the dust-thing, behind Belphanior and the
  slab)  Aaa.  (he hacks at the foe, and it disintegrates
  into motes of dust, which float around for a second - and
  then re-form into a lich-like body!)
lich-thing:  (gapes soundlessly)
Gorin:  (gapes in terror, and flees)  Aie!
Bosco:  (likewise)  Aaa!  (they both leave the vault)
Sylvie:  (likewise)  Aaa!  (she runs after the two henchmen)
Mongo:  (his magical helm has started glowing brightly)  By
  Clangeddin's beard!  What's going on?!?

  The others resisted the lich-thing's strange attack, but
now another foe had risen, literally - the skull was hovering
in the air near Belphanior!

skull:  (howls, a horrible keening sound which freezes the
  hearts of the remaining adventurers)  Ooooooooo!
Mongo:  (his helm saves him from doom, but he still flirts
  with death's icy grip)  Whoa!
Ged:  (saves, and charges the humanoid lich-thing)
Lightbringer:  (still screaming and glowing)
Belphanior:  (the only other one near the skull, she also
  saves, and slashes at the cranial foe as it sinks back
  onto the stone slab)
skull:  (ignores the blow)
Belphanior:  (she gapes in amazement)  I hit it directly!
Arnold:  (slashes at the lich-thing, but his blade passes
  through its immaterial body)  Aaa.
Rillen:  (swats the thing also, and his weapon, too, has
  no effect)  What the hell...?
wispy thing:  pfsss!  (it sails forth, and passes through
  the ghostly lich-thing)
lich-thing:  (appears to stagger)
Arnold:  Aaa?
Ged:  (bashes the lich-thing)  For Boccob!
lich-thing:  (screams wordlessly, and begins burning)
Lightbringer:  (finally stops screaming)  DIE!
Mongo:  (having watched Belphanior's unsuccessful attack on
  the skull, he hurls his hammer at the thing)
skull:  (hit, it cracks, and is knocked a few inches across
  the slab)
Mongo:  (highly confused)  It barely budged!  (he catches
  his hammer)
Peldor:  (slips in from behind the slab)  This'll be the
  easiest of all backstabs...(he chops the skull with his
skull:  (quivers slightly despite the direct blow)
Peldor:  (becomes visible)  Uh-oh.
Arnold:  (he and Ged are watching the lich-thing dissolve)
Ged:  Hah!
Lightbringer:  No time to waste!  That thing was just an
  apparition - the skull is the real threat!  It radiates
  tenfold the power of the other thing...
Ged:  It does?
Arnold:  Aaa.
Lightbringer:  I've never before encountered something this
  powerful - or evil.  Hurry, destroy it!  Now!
Mongo:  We're trying!  (he hurls his hammer at the skull
  again)  Die, dammit!
skull:  (numerous cracks appear - but it rises again)
Ged:  Most unholy...(he charges the thing, Lightbringer
Rillen:  Beware its howl!
wispy thing:  (hovering nearby)  pcnfs!

  However, the skull didn't howl.  Not this time.  No, it
simply stared at the adventurers.  It regarded Ged for a
moment, but then turned to face Mongo, and its gem-teeth
gleamed evilly.

Mongo:  Wha-  (his eyes go blank, and then his limp body
  falls to the ground heavily)
Ged:  Boccob!
Gorin:  What happened?!?
Mongo:  (his body shrivels and dissolves, just like that)
Rillen:  (staring in horror)
Peldor:  Aie.
wispy thing:  (goes berserk, sailing around the vault like
  a balloon)  pfzzzzzzz!
skull:  (sinks down to the stone slab)
Ged:  Oh, no you don't!  (he charges the skull on its slab)
Lightbringer:  (screaming and glowing brightly)  Destroy it
  now, else you'll be next!
Arnold:  (charging the skull as well)  Yah.
Ged:  No way!  (he brings the holy morningstar smashing down
  upon the skull)  For Mongo!
Lightbringer:  (glows so brightly that everyone is blinded)
skull:  (shatters into a million pieces)  <BLAM>

  Everyone staggered around for a few moments, until their
vision returned.  There was a huge black blast mark on the
stone slab, and tiny bits of bone littered the vault.  The
various armor, weapons, and possessions of Mongo lay where
he had fallen, but of the dwarf, there was no trace.

Belphanior:  The skull is gone...but so is Mongo...
Ged:  I can't believe it.
Rillen:  (bowing his head sadly)  Aye.
Peldor:  (spots something)  Eh?

   Atop the slab of stone were the remains of eight large
gems, which had been the skull's eyes and teeth.  All but
one of the gems were ruined beyond repair, but a single
stone, a fiery red ruby, remained unscathed.

Peldor:  (picking up the gem)  Ah, treasure.  Like it
Belphanior:  (she walks over)  Let me see that.  Hmm.
Ged:  What?
Belphanior:  I can see a tiny figure within the gem-
Peldor:  Huh?  (he squints)  I don't see anything!
Belphanior:  (her eye glowing)  Of course not.  Only I can
  see such things...
Ged:  A tiny figure?
Rillen:  What?
Belphanior:  Yeah, it-  By the gods!  It's Mongo!

  Surely enough, though only the elf could see the tiny
figure within the gem, it was definitely Mongo, or at least
a likeness of him.

Ged:  What could it be?
Lightbringer:  (speaking weakly)  Soul...
Ged:  Eh?  What's wrong with you?
Lightbringer:  Battle with the most powerful of undead has
  a...debilitating effect upon me.
Arnold:  Oh.
Lightbringer:  I could have been destroyed...anyhow, I was
  saying that the fellow in the gem is Mongo's _soul_.  It
  cries for release...
Belphanior:  (scanning the gem)  Yeah, I'd say so.
Ged:  Soul...
Lightbringer:  That is the fearsome power of a demi-lich -
  the stealing of souls and the destruction of bodies.
Rillen:  Demi-lich?  How do you know these things?
Lightbringer:  Come now.  My very purpose is to vanquish
  the undead.  I know all there is to know about them.
Arnold:  You have detailed files.  (he wanders back to the
  vault entrance)  I'm going to find Gorbin and Bodsco, and
  Sylbie too.
Rillen:  Good idea.
Ged:  (collecting Mongo's equipment)  We have to find a way
  to regain his body.
Lightbringer:  Impossible.  It has been destroyed.
Belphanior:  (she frowns)  Nothing's impossible.
Peldor:  (looking around)  Whatever we do, do we need to do
  it _here_?  I get a bad feeling about this place.
Rillen:  Aye.
wispy thing:  (hovering around)  pff.
Ged:  Hmm.  I'll need my laboratories and priestly resources
  to commune with Boccob about this...I'll prepare to use a
  teleport to take us home.  (he takes the Mongo-gem and
  carefully puts it in a pocket)
Lightbringer:  First, you'd better see to the demi-lich.
Ged:  Why?  Surely it's dead.
Lightbringer:  For now.  However, if you don't properly deal
  with its remains, it will come back...
Ged:  Oh.  (he begns taking Lightbringer's instructions,
  which have something to do with holy water and a Dispel
  Magic)  We'll teleport in a bit, guys.
Rillen:  (helping Peldor load the demi-lich's treasure, seen
  earlier, as well as Mongo's possessions, into the dwarf's
  portable hole)  Sounds good.
Peldor:  Nice treasures, here.
Arnold:  (returns, dragging Gorin, Bosco, and Sylvie)
Rillen:  Are they asleep?
Arnold:  I had to knog them out - they wouldbn't come back
  of their own free will.
Peldor:  Oh.
Ged:  (realizes that he can't teleport this much weight)  I
  hate to say it, but we'll need some people to get in the
  portable hole for awhile.
Arnold:  I think I have three volunteerbs.

  Shortly, they had gathered the treasure and stashed the
trio of unconscious ones in the portable hole.  Ged had
immersed the remains of the skull in holy water, and then
dispelled their magic.  Since all was in readiness, the
remaining adventurers linked hands.

Belphanior:  (to Peldor)  This doesn't mean we're engaged
  or anything.
Peldor:  Ha.  Ha.  You're pretty funny sometimes.  (to Ged)
  Let's get this over with.
Ged:  (completes his spell)

  The adventurers blinked out of the tomb, never to return.

next time :  loose ends are cleared up

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

notes     :  Let's face it, there's simply no synonym for
             Now for something really meaningful.  It's not
           exactly as if Lightbringer instantly killed the
           demi-lich skull.  The thing had ~50 hp and had
           already taken ~48 hp from Mongo and Peldor.  This
           was not a "holy Lightbringer" kill, but rather a
           simple kill based on hp dropping below the 0 mark.
           It would appear that the skull's death was overly
           dramatized.  Thus...
             NEW CAVEAT:  Lightbringer is powerful, but so
           are lich-level undead.  Anything of lich caliber
           or more will NOT be instantly destroyed by the holy

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