Chapter #299

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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  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Ged          14th/14th level grey elven priest/mage        (NG)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        2/14/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        nighttime                                           +
+  Place:       the wilds of Ulek                                   +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "If only you could see what I've seen - with your eyes."         +
+                                  - Roy Batty, from _Bladerunner_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                     CCXCIX.  Last Redoubt





  After wandering through Ulek, searching for some sign from Boccob,
Ged has undergone a day of fevered battle.  Indeed, the dozens of
fell creatures who have hounded his journey have taken their toll on
the elf.  On the verge of collapse, he has been driven to a small
inn, amidst the wilderness.

Ged:  (stands before the door he just slammed shut and bolted)
people:  (staring at the elf, they all look rather confused)

  The inn wasn't crowded, but neither was it deserted; perhaps a
dozen people watched the elf with suspicious gazes.  Most of them
were strapping, weather-beaten farmers, probably just staying the
night here while en route to some further destination.  The inn-
keeper, who also seemed to be the bartender, was a big-boned woman,
her round face topped by long hair which had been tied into a bun.
The woman didn't seem to be either intimidated or puzzled by Ged's
boisterous entrance.

innkeeper:  What're ye about, elf?
Ged:  Q- quick, bolt your doors and windows!  I am being followed!
farmers:  (murmuring nervously)
innkeeper:  I dinnae what ye're talk-

  From outside the inn now came the unmistakable sounds of panicking
farm animals.  Panicking, and dying.  Mixed with the terrified neighs,
bleats, and other animal sounds was the low-pitched keening that Ged
had heard earlier today.

Ged:  (managing to look shocked and determined, at the same time)
farmer:  The horses!
innkeeper:  And the animals out back...
other farmer:  It sounds like...like they're being slaughtered!
Ged:  They very well may be!
third farmer:  You, priest!
Ged:  (somewhat surprised)
first farmer:  What are we to do?!?
Ged:  Calm down.  (he looks around)  You, and you - barricade those
  windows.  Use tables, chairs, whatever.  You others - clear a path
  to the stairs.  Innkeeper?
innkeeper:  Yae?
Ged:  Are there any other doors, on the lower floor?
innkeeper:  Nae, just that one.
Ged:  Very well.  (he begins spellcasting)

  Shortly, the elf had placed a Wizard Lock upon the inn's front
door, sealing it with the powerful incantation.  Meanwhile, the
others had done a good job of blocking the windows.

Ged:  Good work.  With any luck...(he eyes a window)  Boccob!

  Before his terrified eyes, ghostly figures were coming _through_
the glass of the window!  These figures were man-sized, but vaguely
formed, to the point of having no defined limbs.  One floated toward
Ged; what might have been its head contained a single red, unblinking
eye.

Ged:  (backing away, his morningstar raised)  Away!
shadowy thing:  (keeps coming)
Ged:  (bashes at the strange thing with his weapon, to no effect)
man:  (steps forward, a sword gleaming)  I'll help you, elf!  (he
  slashes at the thing, but also has no effect)
shadowy thing:  (floats closer)
Ged:  (to the man)  You're a warrior?
man:  That's right.  Come, let's try to drive it away!  (they both
  surge forward, weapons swinging in an attempt to repel the weird
  foe)
shadowy thing:  (seems to swipe at the warrior)
warrior:  (falls, screaming)
Ged:  By Boccob!  (he backs away)
shadowy thing:  (ignores the fallen warrior, advancing on Ged)
other shadowy things:  (closing in from other sides)
Ged:  Enough!  (he considers using his fire-wand, but realizes that
  even its slightest power would torch the inn and surely doom all
  within)  Aie!  (he begins spellcasting, as the shadows close in)

  The things moved slowly, and Ged was yet a skilled magician; they
flitted and danced about his robed form, perhaps seeking to get at
his pack, perhaps seeking to get at him.  Just as they seemed about
to take him, the elf's hands glowed, and a huge sword of yellow
energy materialized.

Ged:  Aha!  (he swings the magical force-weapon before him, wildly -
  and the shadowy things recoil!)
farmers:  (cowering in corners of the inn, they gasp)
Ged:  Boccob's power - revealed!  (he strides forth triumphantly,
  his energy-blade driving the foes before it)  Out!  Begone!  This
  I command!
shadowy things:  (quickly vanishing)
Ged:  (stands there, breathing hard, and not quite understanding what
  is happening)  Whew.

  Just as suddenly as they had appeared, the things were gone; those
in the inn now stared at each other, bewildered and also relieved.

Ged:  (keeping the sword ready, in the air by the door)  They could
  be back.
farmer:  They never would have _come_ if not for you.
Ged:  Eh?
innkeeper:  'Tis true!  Yer the one brought 'em here in the first
  place!
other farmer:  (tending to the unconscious warrior on the floor) And
  they went right for you, when this one fell.
innkeeper:  Aye...
Ged:  No...I was just-
farmers:  (looking angrier and angrier)
Ged:  (backing, amazingly, toward the door)
innkeeper:  Out with ye!
Ged:  B- but...only I can save you!  How can-
innkeeper:  Out, I say!  Out!
farmers:  (move to help force Ged out)

  Ged didn't want to leave, but he didn't intend to fight the simple
farmers and their superstitions.  Therefore, he found himself outside
within moments, the inn's door slammed in his face.

Ged:  Damn.

  The elf wondered to himself.  What if those within the inn were
wrong, and the shadowy beings would come for them?  When would they
come for Ged himself?  What _were_ they?

Ged:  (looking around at the darkness, where shadows flit wildly)
  What _are_ you?!?
shadowy things:  (approach)
Ged:  No, by Boccob!  You'll not have me!  (he brings his dormant
  Mordenkainen's Sword into play, slashing at the things)

  This time, however, the force-blade didn't drive the things away;
in fact, they congregated around it...and then, the mystical sword
shimmered...dimmed...and vanished!

Ged:  Aie!  (he falls back)  What's happening?!?
shadowy things:  (now surrounding Ged, they close in, immaterial
  yet real)
Ged:  (ignoring his imminent doom, he begins another spell)  If the
  fates decree that I'm to die, I shall know the reason why!

  The elf worked, rapidly, and the shadows surrounded him, blocking
off all light - from the inn, from the moon...all light.

Ged:  (completes his True Seeing spell, and gazes at the strange
  figures that surround him)  Wh-...aaah!  No!  NO!  NOOOOOOOOOOO!

  For the things were perverted caricatures of Ged himself!  Their
faces and bodies were contorted in obscene ways - some had multiple
eye, others had horns or fangs or tails.  All, however, resembled
Ged, and all floated and danced around him, laughing and mocking.
The strange horror of the many insane images was enough to drive
his tortured mind over the edge.  The elf fell to his knees, then
to the ground, his face landing in the muddy remnants of a puddle.



  Ged woke up to the sound of crickets chirping in the high grass.
He rose, sore and still tired; he was nearly covered with blood and
grime.  Looking around, he saw an amazing thing:  the inn was gone!
Impossible as it might have seemed, it was true.  Then Ged realized
that other things were amiss.  A holy symbol of Boccob, untainted
by dirt or mud, lay on the ground beside him.  As the elf picked
the item up, he noticed that the area around him was littered with
thousands of tiny shreds of paper, scattering with the coming of
the morning breeze.  Examining a few of these fragments, he soon
realized that they had once been pages from some book...perhaps a
spellbook.
  Moaning in anticipated misery, the elf began digging through his
pack.  The worst was quickly realized, for he quickly found that
all his spellbooks were gone, and he had a pretty good idea where
they might be.  As realization set in, the elf felt an odd tingling
in his body.  This feeling permeated his mind like a loud buzz, and
was unfamiliar at first - until he realized that it was Boccob's
holy power, returning to him.

Ged:  Boccob!  (gets to his knees)  BOCCOB!
apparition:  (appears)  Ged.
Ged:  Boccob?!?
apparition:  I speak for him.  You lesson is now complete.
Ged:  (trembling, he nods)  Aye.
apparition:  You once placed something - your magic - before Boccob.
  You bore it as a mantle of your own power, when it is truly the
  wondrous creation of Boccob.
Ged:  (just kneels there, trembling)
apparition:  All else could be put aside:  your castle, your friends,
  your wealth.  Yet you clung to your magic, rather than looking to
  Boccob.
Ged:  (nodding slowly)
apparition:  But now you see.  And the trials are complete.  Your
  power is restored to you.  Go now and bear it in the true name of
  Boccob.

  With that, the glowing figure vanished into the sky, leaving the
elf alone in the wilderness.  He thought about using magic to get
home, but decided to go on foot.  Besides, for the time being, his
magical power was scant indeed, and what power he had left was
preciously scarce.





next:   300?  Huh?
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  This story was written during Game 5 of the 1995 World
  Series.  The Braves didn't end this series.  I'm quite upset.
  About the story:  since I'm non-religious in real life, a story
  like this one is _very_ difficult for me to write.  If I can't
  buy into a concept in real life, how can I write about someone
  who lives by it?  I had help from many quarters on this one, and
  I thank all of you (you know who you are...)
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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