Chapter #222

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells,    +
+  and other terms used in these stories are the property of  +
+  TSR, Inc.  However, this does not mean that TSR in any     +
+  way endorses or authorizes their use, and any such items   +
+  contained within these stories should not be considered    +
+  representative of TSR in any way, shape, or form.          +
+    Due to the nature of the Internet, these stories have    +
+  been widely available since 1991.  I have given them to    +
+  the world freely, and have never intended to market them   +
+  or in any way make money.  However, due to TSR, Inc.'s     +
+  copyright restrictions, old episodes of the Adventurers    +
+  are no longer being archived on any ftp site anywhere.     +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The player 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                    +
+                            tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   THE PARTY (or more accurately, a fragment of it):         +
+                                                             +
+   Belphanior    13th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Rillen        17th level human warrior                (N) +
+                                                             +
+   Otto, a dwarf                                (guest star) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    7/18/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    late morning                                     +
+   Place:   the northernmost reaches of the Barrens          +
+   Climate: cool                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "They want to test me, make sure I can hack it.  Fine     +
+    by me - I need a good workout anyway."                   +
+                                            - the Punisher   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





           CCXXII.  The Temple of K'ai-L'un Hing





  Four days ago, Rillen, Belphanior, and Otto, along with the
wispy thing, set out to find a secluded temple in the north-
ernmost reaches of the world.  There, Rillen hopes to learn
the location of this year's fighting tournament, two months
hence.  As they ride through the barrens, the trio discuss
the events of the past four days.

Otto:  I thought you said _three_ days.
Rillen:  Three, four - what is the difference?
Belphanior:  Not much, in these barren parts.  (he scans the
  landscape)  Where's this temple?
Rillen:  It's around here...somewhere.
wispy thing:  Yrrp.
Belphanior:  (produces his magical compass and murmurs to it)
Otto:  (looks over, interested)  Hey!  What's that?

  The compass' needle swiveled around and around, but never
came to rest.

Belphanior:  Hmm.  That's odd.
Otto:  What?
Belphanior:  It can't find Rillen's temple...
Rillen:  That wouldn't surprise me.  Those who set up these
  tournaments are secretive in the extreme.
Otto:  Well, we'll just have to keep searching, then.
wispy thing:  Pfffs...
Rillen:  (eyes the wisp)
Belphanior:  (to Rillen)  Didn't you say something about
  landmarks?
Rillen:  Indeed I did.  (he points ahead)  And there we have
  one!

  Ahead, a peculiar rock formation stood like an ancient
monolith, which, actually, it was.  The stones, heavily
eroded, were stacked in such a way as to rule out any
natural process.

Otto:  I bet there's something about those rocks that makes
  them uncommon...
Rillen:  They are arranged to resemble one of the secret
  runes of the K'ai-L'un Hing.
Otto:  I knew you were gonna say something like that.  (he
  begins cleaning his fingernails with a knife)
Belphanior:  What exactly is this...K'ai-L'un Hing?
Rillen:  It's a dead religion...more like a monastic order,
  really.  They incorporated magic of all sorts into their
  martial arts techniques.
Otto:  Sounds interesting.
Rillen:  We'll soon find out.  (he consults his notes and
  then his map)  We must head due west from these rocks,
  until we find a small pyramidial structure built into a
  hill.
Otto:  Let me guess...the temple, right?
Rillen:  Truly, your powers of deduction rival those of
  Peldor himself.
Otto:  Who's Peldor?
Belphanior:  More importantly, what if whoever's at this
  temple doesn't want to talk to us?
Rillen:  Rumor - legend, actually - has it that those of
  K'ai-L'un Hing know all.  I'm sure they will be waiting
  for us.
Otto:  With open arms, no doubt.
Belphanior:  (straightens Blackrazor's loop on his belt)
wispy thing:  (watching the sky, which is rather cloudy at
  the moment)  Aaaarp?

  After about an hour of riding, west from the strange rock
formation, they spotted a small, dull pyramid amidst a group
of low hills.  Perhaps fifty feet wide at ground level, it
was only fifteen feet or so in height.  The structure's top
was almost rounded, suggesting extreme erosion, as with the
rock formation earlier.  A single large door presented itself
to the travelers; it appeared to be made from some old, heavy
wood.

Otto:  Hey, that looks like worn-down hornwood.
wispy thing:  (nods)  Yrp.
Otto:  What would _you_ know?
wispy thing:  Nrp, nrp.  (it flies toward the door)

  As they approached, the portal opened, revealing a dimly
lit passage beyond.  The horses were somewhat reluctant to
proceed, but with repeated urging, they did.

Belphanior:  This is weird.
Rillen:  (looking at the pyramid as the group rides through
  the door)  Yes...
Otto:  (keeps his hand on his knife)

  Once they were through, the door closed silently, sealing
them inside the cool but stale-smelling temple.  As they
pondered this happening, a disembodied voice beckoned from
nowhere...

voice:  Leave the horses...they will be tended to.
Rillen:  I have come here to seek entrance into the fighting
  tournament.  I am Rillen, formerly of-
voice:  Of course.  You may proceed down the passage.

  They did, going for about twenty feet, then turning left
and walking down an inclined section of passage.  At this
point, doors began appearing infrequently, to either side.

Belphanior:  Souls, ho.
Otto:  Huh?
Belphanior:  (muttering)  Like they just appeared from
  nowhere.
wizened, yellow-skinned man:  (emerges from a door)  Not
  from nowhere...from everywhere.
Belphanior:  (raises his sword in surprise)  Yah!
Rillen:  Whoa.
wizened old man:  Do not be frightened.  (he looks Rillen
  over)  You wish to fight, yes?
Rillen:  Correct.  I am here to learn the hidden location
  of the tournament.
Otto:  Yeah!
Belphanior:  (stares at the dwarf)
wispy thing:  Pffffs.
wizened old man:  (cocks an eye at the wispy thing)  The
  tournament...ah, yes.  But you are here to prove your
  worthiness as well, no?
Rillen:  I suppose...there is a trial, a tribulation that
  I must undergo?
wizened old man:  Indeed.  Indeeeeeed.  All who are granted
  admittance into the event must be great warriors, among
  the finest in the land.
Rillen:  I am.
Otto:  He is.
wizened old man:  We shall see, we shall see.  (he walks
  away)  Come.

  They followed the geezer through a door, into a larger
room.  A few benches were propped against the walls, and
another door led into a huge, sunken circular chamber.
Steps around its periphery led down to the center area,
and the whole area was quite brightly lit, from dozens of
torches on the walls.

Otto:  Looks like an arena, if you ask me.
Belphanior:  Yup.
wizened old man:  That is one way to look at this place...
  (to Rillen)  This is the court of worthiness.
Rillen:  Meaning I will fight here?
wizened old man:  Indeed.  You may prepare yourself first.
Rillen:  I shall.  What are the rules?
wizened old man:  When you think you are ready, descend to
  the center of that chamber.  You will then face three
  tests to prove your fitness for the great match.
Otto:  Hey-
Rillen:  (to the old man)  Weapons?
wizened old man:  If you wish.
Rillen:  I understand.  (he begins unpacking his items)
Belphanior:  What do _we_ do now?
Rillen:  Leave me.  I must meditate and stretch.
Otto:  Good combination, there.
wizened old man:  Come with me.  Though we do not usually
  have...spectators for the trials of combat, I shall find
  someplace where you may observe the goings-on.
Belphanior:  Fine.
Otto:  Sure, we'll spectate.  (they follow the old fellow,
  leaving Rillen in the smaller anteroom, stretching on the
  wooden benches)  Say, this place is a lot bigger on the
  inside.  They must have dug deep into the earth...
Belphanior:  Methinks the pyramid is bigger that just the
  bit we saw above-ground.

  About a half-hour passed, during which the elf and the
dwarf discussed recent events.  They had been seated on a
stone bench, high above the center arena of the larger
chamber.  The wizened old man was sitting across the arena,
along with several other wizened old men.  The whole group
watched and waited patiently, and the pair of adventurers
kept their voices down as they talked.

Otto:  Greyhawk?  Yeah, I was there once, long ago.  Bad
  place, for someone like me.  Someone of my...talents,
  that is.
Belphanior:  I know that feeling.  If I ever go back, I'm
  going to have to be extremely careful...if nothing else,
  to avoid losing control and trashing the whole city this
  time.
Otto:  Sounds like you did pretty well as it was.
Belphanior:  Yeah, no doubt about that...

  Suddenly, their banter was interrupted by a loud, metallic
gonging sound.  The torches flared up a bit, and Rillen then
strode down into the center arena.  Clad only in some loose-
fitting breeches and light boots, his staff in one hand, the
warrior stood impassively.  He appeared ready to challenge
an army, if need be.
  Without further ado, the group of wizened old men nodded
to some unseen servant, and a grinding sound signalled the
opening of a pair of heavy stone doors, off to one side of
the arena.  Rillen turned to face the doors, his staff ready
and his gaze focused.

Otto:  Well.  This oughtta be good.
Belphanior:  It should...it certainly should.





next time :  the three tests

notes     :  Being an avid roleplayer and owner of a Super
  Nintendo system, I finally broke down and bought the new
  game, Final Fantasy III...which explains why I've taken a
  while to write this episode...
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