Chapter #273

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                                  +
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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Belphanior   13th/14th/14th level elven warrior/mage/thief (CN)  +
+     Otto      6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief           (CN)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        1/27/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        early afternoon                                     +
+  Place:       the Cairn Hills                                     +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I still say we're asking for trouble!  A fella like that..      +
+   what do we know about him?  Who is he?  Where does he come      +
+   from?"                                                          +
+                                     - from _High Plains Drifter_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                     CCLXXIII.  The Cairn





  After a bit of traveling and a midnight battle with some ghouls,
Belphanior and Otto have found the tomb they seek, within the haunted
Cairn Hills.  Even now, they descend into a dark corridor, their way
lit by Otto's bullseye lantern.

Belphanior:  (in the lead by mere feet, he brushes thick cobwebs away
  with his sword)  Well, one thing's for sure:  nobody's been down
  here in awhile.
Otto:  Maybe never.

  They were descending a ten-foot wide stairway, which wound down
steeply.  Before long, they realized that they had descended quite
a distance.

Belphanior:  How far, do you think?
Otto:  (frowning as he eyes the surrounding rock)  I'd guess about
  fifty feet, maybe sixty.  We're definitely under ground level.
Belphanior:  Maybe the wizard wanted to make sure nothing tunneled
  into his lair.
Otto:  Or maybe he was a dwarf.
Belphanior:  (raises an eyebrow)
Otto:  Just kidding.

  The stairs eventually ended, opening into a twenty-foot wide hall.
The chamber was about fifty feet long, and like the stairway, it was
filled with cobwebs.

Belphanior:  (strides into the hall)  I think I see a door across
  the way...(he squints, his magical eye glowing)  Yep, definitely
  a doorway.
Otto:  Well, let's-  Whoa!
Belphanior:  (raises his sword in front of him)

  Before the pair, several moldy skeletons were rising from the
dusty rubble of the floor.  Though weaponless, and without armor,
the fell things still approached, bony hands clicking and clacking.

Belphanior:  Hey, where'd these come from?
Otto:  Maybe some poor sap who once did exactly what we're doing.
Belphanior:  Graverobbing...(he eyes the approaching skeletons)
Otto:  But who cares?  Where they're going - back to hell - is all
  that really matters.
Belphanior:  (nods)  You're absolutely right.
skeleton:  (heads for Otto, disregarding Belphanior since it can't
  see him)
Belphanior:  (swings his sword, hitting the creature so hard that
  it snaps in half)  Hah!
skeleton:  (its two halves fall, twitching)
other skeletons:  (three more, they approach, shuffling along the
  stone floor)
Otto:  Crossbow won't do much good against the likes of these...(he
  brandishes his shortsword)  C'mon!
skeleton:  (obliges, groping as it lurches forward toward the dwarf)
Belphanior:  (hits the undead creature from behind, caving in its
  head)
skeleton:  (falls)
Belphanior:  Too bad these things don't have souls for me to take.
Otto:  Hey, look on the bright side.  They can't see you!  (he ducks
  under a bony claw, then smashes the foe's ribcage with a mighty
  blow)
skeleton:  (reels, shattered pieces if its body flying everywhere)
Belphanior:  Good swing.  (he kicks the fourth undead opponent in
  the back of its knee, knocking it down, then slashes at its neck)
skeleton:  (decapitated, it shudders for an instant before being
  still)
fifth skeleton:  (has Otto backed into a corner, and moves in)
Otto:  Fuck you!  (produces his knife and charges at the fifth
  skeleton, both weapons flashing)
skeleton:  (claws at the attacker)

  The dwarf and the skeleton went down in a tangled heap, Otto
stabbing and hacking wildly as the foe groped and tore at his flesh
with bony fingers.

Otto:  (bashes the thing's skull with the pommel of his knife)  Ha!
skeleton:  (its skull caves in)
Otto:  (severs the creature's head with a sword-blow, and kicks the
  thing across the room as he stands)  Got 'im.
Belphanior:  (notices the gashes and scratches on his companion)
  You're wounded.
Otto:  Nah, just scratches.  They'll heal.
Belphanior:  Okay then.  (he looks around)  How'd they hide in the
  floor, I wonder?  It seemed like they came out of the stone itself.
Otto:  (kneels down, examining the stone of the floor)  Maybe they
  did.  (he points at several dust-filled depressions)
Belphanior:  Aha.  Who knows how long those moldy things lay in wait
  here?
Otto:  Not me.  But who cares?  They're dead, and we're not.  (he
  turns his lantern's beam to the far doorway)  Ahead lies treasure!
Belphanior:  Ahead lies the unknown.
Otto:  That, too.  But often, the two are intertwined, like peas in
  a pod.
Belphanior:  Uh, right.  (he leads the way through the doorway)

  They entered a smaller chamber, its floor covered with a thick
carpet of dust.

Otto:  More untraveled places...
Belphanior:  Don't be so sure.  Something's not right here.
Otto:  How do you know?
Belphanior:  Trust me, I always know things like this.

  Without warning, a thick vapor began to issue from the floor!

Belphanior:  (eyes the floor, where his foot has brushed away the
  dust)  Uh-oh.
Otto:  (backing away from the billowing gas)  What?
Belphanior:  I just broke some kind of seal, in the floor.
Otto:  Oh.
Belphanior:  A magical seal...like the kind used to ward off demons.
Otto:  You mean tanar'ri?
Belphanior:  Call them whatever you want, but they'll still be demons.
Otto:  (brandishes his heavy crossbow, watching as the vapor shifts
  and forms into a shape)  Holy...
Belphanior:  Man, that's one ugly motherfucker!

  The thing that now stood before them resembled a cross between a
crocodile, a large cat, a monkey, and a leech.  It had a six-legged,
feline torso, covered in sickly pinkish fur.  Its head, however, was
reptilian, with a flat, misshapen nose and glaring, multifaceted blue
eyes.  Its snout ended in a sucker-covered mouth, from which some-
thing much like vomit dripped.  The thing's long tail appeared to be
prehensile, for it whipped about, snapping every time it struck the
stone floor.  All in all, the thing looked like some mad wizard's wet
dream.

Otto:  Look, it's got little man-like ears too.
Belphanior:  I've seen 'em come, and I've seen 'em go, but I've never
  seen one quite like this.
demon:  Slluuuurp!  (it leaps toward the elf)
Belphanior:  (dodges aside, slashing at the beast at it sails by
  overhead)
demon:  (nicked slightly, it now sticks to the wall behind the elf)
  Sssss!
Belphanior:  Whoa!  It clings to walls!
Otto:  Let's see it cling to this.  (he fires a crossbow bolt)
demon:  Greaaak!  (the bolt lodges in its neck)
Belphanior:  Poisoned?
Otto:  I'm hurt that you have to ask.  (he begins reloading)
demon:  (swishes its tail at Belphanior, nicking his arm even as he
  ducks)  Skkkrrr!
Belphanior:  Argh!  Stings...poison?
Otto:  Shit!
Belphanior:  (still standing, he notices that the wound he inflicted
  is already closing up)  Hmm.  (he charges, slashing at the strange
  creature's head)  Die!
demon:  (climbs nimbly onto the ceiling, scurrying away from the elf)
  Bchnnnnk!
Belphanior:  Oh, for crying out loud...
Otto:  I'll bring it down.  (he fires another crossbow bolt, this one
  hitting the thing in its pink-maned back)
demon:  Shrrrrrreeek!  (it drops from the ceiling, attempting to land
  on the dwarf)
Otto:  Shit!  (dropping his crossbow, he rolls aside, yet his leg is
  caught in the demon's suckered mouth)  It's got me!
Belphanior:  (charges again, slashing at the foe's head)
demon:  (takes a deep gash from Blackrazor)  Reeee!  (it turns its
  head and spits a spray of white frost at the elf)
Belphanior:  Argh!  (he recoils, numbed and frostbitten)
demon:  (since it let Otto go to emit its icy breath, it turns to
  find the dwarf a mere five feet away, his sword pointed at its
  face)
demon:  Shreeee...
Otto:  Come and get it, ugly.
demon:  (bounds toward the dwarf)
Otto:  (hacks at the beast's face, slicing one of its insectoid eyes
  open)  Hah!
demon:  (shrieks in pain, biting at the small foe)
Otto:  Argh!  (held fast in the thing's suckered mouth, he stabs it
  in the neck with his knife)  Let go!
Belphanior:  (appears behind the demon, and slashes the back of its
  head with a well-aimed blow)
demon:  (releases Otto, and begins twitching)  Glurrrrrb...
Otto:  (gets to his feet)  You killed it.
Belphanior:  Naturally.  (he frowns)  No soul coming...but that's
  impossible.
Otto:  Why?  It is, after all, a demon.
Belphanior:  Yeah, and all intelligent demons have souls.  Hmmmmm.
  (he eyes the weird but unmoving carcass)
Otto:  It must not be dead.
Belphanior:  Maybe it's regenerating.  (he begins spellcasting)
Otto:  (douses the body with oil)  Shoot.
Belphanior:  (sprays the demon's body with magical flames)
demon:  (begins squirming in pain)  Graaaaarrruuuu...
Belphanior:  (hacks at the demon's blazing body)
demon:  (ceases its flagellations)
Belphanior:  Ahh...its soul is mine...
Otto:  (watches, fascinated, as Belphanior stands, seeming more
  powerful somehow)
Belphanior:  So much for the demon guardian.  (he turns to his
  henchman)  You okay?
Otto:  Yeah.
Belphanior:  Good.  Let's get moving.  And this time, I'll check the
  floor for pentagrams.  Not all demons are that easy to kill.
Otto:  Too bad.  (he eyes the black smear on the stone floor)  The
  fumes from that damned thing smell like...like...
Belphanior:  Like what?
Otto:  Hell, they just smell _bad_.
Belphanior:  (opens a small, secret door in one wall)
Otto:  How'd you know?
Belphanior:  My eye.  (he glances around, his eye glowing brightly)
  Let's see where this passage goes.

  The narrow tunnel led into an ancient, primitive workroom, with
rotten tables and chairs, and dusty beakers, stoves, tubes, and other
such arcane furnishings.  Directly adjacent to the run-down workshop
was a small, compact bedchamber, containing a simple cot, a rotten
wooden wardrobe, and a simple washbasin.

Otto:  What do you think?
Belphanior:  (points to the dull metal basin)  That's magical.  (he
  indicates the cot)  And that's dead.
Otto:  Good.

  On the cot, a shriveled husk of a body rested.  Little more than
a skin-covered skeleton, the thing was garbed in a simple red robe.

Belphanior:  Kronos, I presume.
Otto:  I don't think he's going to answer you.
Belphanior:  No problem there.  (he begins scanning the chamber)
  He had to keep his treasures somewhere...
Otto:  (wary of the mummified body nearby, he peers under the cot)
  Nothing here.
Belphanior:  (peers at the rotted wardrobe)  Hmm.  (he pushes the
  heavy piece of furniture aside)  Look here.
Otto:  Eh?

  Beneath the wardrobe was a cavity, which contained a small iron
chest.

Otto:  Watch out for traps.
Belphanior:  Yeah.  If I were him-  (gestures to the withered corpse
  on the cot)  -I would have protected this thing.  (he examines the
  chest, without actually touching it)  It's definitely magic, but
  I can't see any traps on the outside.  (he lifts the thing out of
  the niche in the floor)  Hmm.
Otto:  Looks pretty simple.  Still...
Belphanior:  Whoa, there's an enchanted rune on the lock here.  See?
Otto:  Ah.
Belphanior:  (begins spellcasting)  Gotta fight magic with magic.
Otto:  Hah, easy for you to say.
Belphanior:  (releases his spell, and the rune vanishes)  Whew.
Otto:  Maybe Kronos wasn't that powerful after all.
Belphanior:  Or maybe I am.

  Opening the box (it had a poison-needle trap, which was easily
bypassed) they found a variety of items:  a small pouchful of teeth,
a red candle, a tiny mithril hourglass, a vial of silver fluid, a
tiny but ornate lock, a small circle of grey cloth, and a thin metal
flask containing five blue marbles.  Last, but certainly not least,
was a thick book - Kronos' spellbook.  All of these treasures were
magical; in addition, the chest contained two dozen large, well-cut
rubies.

Otto:  Wow.
Belphanior:  (grins widely)  I'd say, my friend, that we got what we
  came here for.



  While the two adventurers were busy in the dungeon, other things
were going on, far above...

Sprague:  Here...this is the one.
Torin:  Hold!  (he reins in his horse)

  The score of mounted soldiers, Torin's Crusaders, had stopped in
front of a certain cairn.  The place was no more than a small hill,
really - except for the thick stone door, ajar, in the hill's western
face.

Roland:  Aha!
Torin:  The scum won't escape us.
Lorax:  Nowhere to escape to, but down.
Zardoz:  If you call that an escape...
Skell:  (composing some epic poem, on a scroll)  Ho-hum.
Torin:  (to Sprague)  You're positive it's them?
Sprague:  Certain.  Trithereon's power tells me all.
Weasel:  So, we're going in after them, right?
Torin:  No.
Skell:  (stops his writing)  Eh?  We're not going in to purge the
  evildoers?
Torin:  No, we aren't.
Roland:  Uh...why not?
Torin:  Pure simplicity, really.  (he makes gestures with his hands)
  Why should we go in there, when they can come out here?
Weasel:  Hmm, good strategy.
Kobay:  Fine with me.  I'll get much better range with my bow, out
  here in the open.
Warrax:  My wands and spells will work equally well, no matter where
  they're used.
Roland:  It seems that we'll win no matter what.
Torin:  Of course.  Such is the nature of great heroes.
Korrid:  (studying the cairn thoughtfully)
other soldiers:  (patting each other on the back)
Weasel:  Calm down, kids.  We don't have that elf's head on a pike
  _yet_.
Torin:  We shall.





next:   confrontation!
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  A mighty table from the 1st Edition DMG:  APPENDIX D:
  Random Generation of Creatures From The Lower Planes.  It's on
  p. 194-5 and can provide hours of entertainment after just a
  few dice rolls.
    Something else that I'll add as an afterthought, because so many
  readers are asking:  If Blackrazor strikes a level-draining undead
  {spectre, vampire} it will have a reverse effect, harming its
  wielder.  Other undead, i.e. anything that doesn't tie into the
  Negative Material Plane, can be slain without risk, although not
  all of them have souls for the sword to take.
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