Chapter #272

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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.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1995 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                    +
+                          +
+  Belphanior   13th/14th/14th level elven warrior/mage/thief (CN)  +
+     Otto      6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief           (CN)  +
+  Date:        1/26/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        afternoon                                           +
+  Place:       the Cairn Hills                                     +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Have you ever met anybody you _didn't_ kill?"                   +
+  "Well, I haven't killed you yet!"                                +
+                                          - from _Lethal Weapon_   +

                      CCLXXII.  Arrival

  Having journeyed to the Cairn Hills, Belphanior and Otto must now
find the particular cairn they seek, in order to retrieve the riches

Belphanior:  (consulting his magical compass)  See, it's a short
  ways north of here.  No problem.
Otto:  The only question is, does the cairn contain that which you
Belphanior:  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But we can't pass up the chance.
  A wizard's lair is bound to contain magical items and spells -
  something that I can't ever get enough of.
Otto:  Ah.

  Spurring their mounts onward, they entered the hills, guided by
the elf's compass; it was hard to tell where they'd be without the
enchanted item.  The hills were generally silent and empty, though
there were times when they heard distant wails of despair.

Otto:  (cocks an ear)  What was _that_?
Belphanior:  I don't know.  Let's hope we don't have to find out.

  They traveled for the remainder of that day, and though they made
good time, they had not yet reached their destination when dusk crept
upon them.

Belphanior:  I think we'd better find a place to hole up for the
  night.  Even I respect the tales that are told about these hills.
Otto:  Agreed.  (he points westward)  How about...there?
Belphanior:  Is that someone's house?!?

  Indeed, not a hundred paces to the west rose a small hill, within
which was carved some kind of dwelling.  As they approached, they
saw that it was actually a deserted tomb of some kind.

Otto:  No house, but still useful, maybe.
Belphanior:  Almost too convenient...(he enters the place, sword at
  the ready)
Otto:  (follows, knife and sword drawn)

  If the tomb looked ominous from the outside, it was the opposite
on the inside, primarily because it was small and totally empty.
About twenty feet deep, and almost that wide, the place had no other
exits or passages, and its narrow doorway suggested that it would be
an easy place to defend.

Belphanior:  Hmm.  This will do nicely.
Otto:  I'll put a few traps in place outside, and in the doorway.
  It never hurts to be safe...especially in a forsaken place like
Belphanior:  Right.  I'll get a small fire going.

  Otto did more than set traps, though - he returned with a large,
fat rabbit he had somehow slain.  Soon, the two adventurers were
roasting the animal's meat over their fire, and it was a good bit
better than any ration they carried.

Belphanior:  Mmm.
Otto:  (chewing on a bone thoughtfully)  You know, those people who
  are chasing us-
Belphanior:  -supposedly chasing us-
Otto:  -whatever...they'll be on our trail soon.
Belphanior:  I'm not worried about them.  The cairn is my first
  priority, and everything else can wait.  I can't fight people who
  aren't before me.
Otto:  True.  I'm just saying that we have to think about them.
Belphanior:  Oh, I am.  Trust me, I am.

  After supper, they bedded down for the night, Belphanior's sword
in his hand and Otto's crossbow at arm's length.  All of their many
precautions proved to be useful, for later - in the depths of the
dark night - something approached.

Belphanior:  (already awake, sword in hand, he nudges Otto)
Otto:  (sits up, silently, crossbow in hand)
Belphanior:  (points at the tomb entrance, and holds up seven fingers)
Otto:  (nods, and silently moves to one side, creeping along the wall
  of the tomb as he nocks a bolt)

  Suddenly, there was a shriek of pain from outside!  It was almost
immediately followed by another, and then some dirty grey humanoid
was sticking its fanged head into the tomb's entrance!

thing:  (gnashes its pointed teeth)  Bleaaaargh!
horses:  (deeper inside the vault, they whinny and neigh in terror,
  but strong knots keep them tethered in place, out of the way)
Belphanior:  (faces the thing)
thing:  (doesn't see the elf, but turns to Otto instead)
Otto:  Here, eat this.  (he fires a bolt directly into the visitor's
thing:  Graaaahk!  (reels back, out of sight)
Otto:  (begins reloading his weapon)
other thing:  (much like the first, leaps into the tomb)  Reeeeak!
Belphanior:  (meets the thing sword-first, splitting its head from
  skull to sternum)
thing:  (falls, putrid grey and black slime spurting from its fatal
  wound)  Glurrr...
Belphanior:  Ahhhh.  (revitalized, and fully awake, he slices at a
  third intruder)
thing:  (doesn't seem to see Belphanior, as it looks around; most
  of its head hits the tomb's rocky floor a moment later)  Graaak!
Belphanior:  (kicks the carcass back, into the tomb entrance)  Heh.

  As they watched, more of the things began clawing their way into
the chamber.  Otto, now standing by the small campfire, dipped his
nocked bolt into the embers, lighting it, and then fired the flaming
missile into the eye of the nearest monster.

thing:  Guh.  (staggers)
Belphanior:  (slashes the foe, gutting it)
thing:  Eeeeraaak!
Belphanior:  (slashes the creature another time, lopping off an arm)
thing:  (sinks to the ground)
Otto:  (sends another flaming bolt into another foe)
thing:  (regards the fiery missile now protruding from its chest)
Belphanior:  Yah!  (charges forward)
thing:  (looks up, apparently confused)  Grrrk?
Belphanior:  (opens a gaping wound in the foe's chest)  Back, slime!
thing:  (stumbles around)  Glerrrggggg!
Otto:  Gangway!  (running, he leaps and barrels into the creature,
  knocking it, and its companion behind, out of the tomb's doorway)
Belphanior:  Good move.  (he begins spellcasting)
Otto:  (sword flashing, he sends another foe reeling, its head half-
  sheared off)  I don't see any more out here!  Not standing, anyway.
Belphanior:  No, but it never hurts to be safe...(stepping past the
  dwarf, he moves his long fingers in arcane gestures, and a sheet
  of flame sprays forth, engulfing the dead and half-dead creatures
  surrounding the mouth of the tomb)
things:  (begins screaming as they burn)
Otto:  Huh.  Sure wasn't _them_ we heard earlier today.
Belphanior:  No, these were just ghouls.  No problem, if you have
  the power and the knowledge to destroy them.
Otto:  We have both.
Belphanior:  (scanning the darkness outside)  I sense no more souls
  out there.  Not close, anyway.  (he looks into the fires)  Time
  for some more sleep.
Otto:  Sleep?
Belphanior:  Why not?  One gets me ten that any other beasts out
  there won't bother us.  A little scaring goes a long way.
Otto:  If you say so.  (he reaches into a pouch, and scatters dozens
  of sharp caltrops at the tomb's entrance)  Me, I live safely.
Belphanior:  (already dozing off)

  True to the elf's theory, nothing else attacked their camp that
night, and in the morning, they surveyed the carnage outside.

Otto:  Heh.

  Seven charred skeletons littered the blackened dirt outside the
cave.  Two were still stuck in Otto's traps, their foot-bones held
fast in steel jaws.

Otto:  The jaws of death.  (he recovers his traps)  Good steel -
  it didn't melt.
Belphanior:  Well, I didn't use more powerful magic.
Otto:  Hmm, speaking of powerful magic, I have a question.
Belphanior:  Shoot.
Otto:  Last night, during the battle...
Belphanior:  Yeah?
Otto:  It seemed that the ghouls didn't _see_ you.  That one looked
  right at you, then started toward me.  The next one went right for
  me, even though you were closer.  What's going on?
Belphanior:  (holds up his right hand, where a slim band of black
  metal rests on one finger)  This ring - this Dark Ring - has a few
  useful powers and properties.  One of them renders me invisible to
  all but the most powerful undead.
Otto:  Oh.  Well, that explains it.
Belphanior:  So, they won't ever see me, but rather those who are
  with me.
Otto:  Comforting thought, that.  Heh.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)

  Shortly, they moved out, heading northward.  Before the sun had
reached its zenith in the cold winter sky, they stopped at a small,
rocky hill, one much like all the others that surrounded it.

Belphanior:  This is the place.
Otto:  (looking unsure)  Must have a secret entrance, then.
Belphanior:  Let's find out.  (they ride closer)

  Circumnavigating the hill on horseback, they searched for some
entrance or portal.  Seeing none, they dismounted, and began the
longer, more tedious search by hand.

Belphanior:  (pulling at old, dead roots and shrubs)  Nothing here.
Otto:  Hmm...(finds a thick stone plate behind a layer of dirt)  I
  think I've got something.
Belphanior:  (comes over to have a look)  Yeah...

  They cleaned away the dirt, and found that the stone surface was
actually a door, set vertically into the stone of the hill.

Belphanior:  Stone?
Otto:  Yeah, this hill's stone, with maybe two feet of dirt on top.
  The stone's old, but sturdy.  Must be magical.
Belphanior:  Then this must be the place we're looking for.  (he
  regards the door)  No handles.
Otto:  Barely a crack, besides.  I don't think I'm carrying a big
Belphanior:  We won't need one.  (he casts a Knock spell)

  With a brief creak, as if the very stone resisted movement, the
door grated open.

Otto:  Eureka.
Belphanior:  Got a lantern ready?
Otto:  No infravision, eh?
Belphanior:  Nope.  Infravision doesn't tell me what runes decorate
  the walls, or what soulless undead lay in wait.  I want to be able
  to _see_ things.
Otto:  Makes sense.  You think there're undead in here, then?
Belphanior:  Wouldn't surprise me.
Otto:  Great...(he produces a large, hooded lantern, and lights it)
  Shall we?
Belphanior:  By all means.  (he takes one last look at the daytime
  sky, then leads his companion into the cairn)

  Meanwhile, to the south and west, the party of Torin the Crusader
was riding hard, in pursuit of the two adventurers.

Roland:  Good thing they made an appearance in that town.
Torin:  Simple but noble witnesses always help us track the evil
  ones.  Why, it is their duty!
Lorax:  Bah.  My magic can do just as good a job, if not better.
Zardoz:  Then use it instead.
Lorax:  Quiet, sonny.
Sprague:  My communions with Trithereon will always tell me more
  than anything else.
Weasel:  Cripes.  If you people'd spend half as much time worrying
  about the quarry as you do about tracking it...
Roland:  Ever the patient one, eh, Weasel?
Weasel:  You know it.
Torin:  Patience, my soldiers.  We have a great mission, and nothing
  shall deny us.  It shan't be much longer now.
Skell:  (busy composing a new song about Torin's deeds)
Weasel:  (watches the bard)  Do you have any useful skills?
Skell:  Eh?  My lyrical compositions are among the greatest ever
Weasel:  I said any _useful_ skills.
Kobay:  (hefts his magical bow)  I know _I_ do.
Warrax:  And I as well.
Korrid:  (meditating in his saddle, he looks relaxed as always, his
  tattooed face belying no emotion)
other soldiers:  (talking quietly amongst themselves as the group
Torin:  Not much longer at all, my children.  (he points ahead)
Roland:  The Cairn Hills!

next:   into the cairn
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  3-day weekends are cool, even more so when you don't do a
  single thing.
    I need someone (one of you fans, who has more time than I) to
  go through all the old episodes and make a time- and location-
  guide for everywhere the party has been - and when.  Any takers?
    I was just cleaning up my e-mailbox when I found all the old
  mail from Paula.  Needless to say, I deleted it all, but it was
  a good reminder of what a bitch she was toward, and after, the
  end.  A real f***ing BITCH!  There, I just had to get that out.
  I'm all better now.

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