Chapter #311

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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 1991-5 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  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



Prologue:

  Somewhere very far from Greyhawk, a small group of people met in
a darkened room.  The chamber, a large domed hall, was fashioned of
massive, shiny black flagstones.  A pulsing red crystal at the center
of the curved ceiling bathed the room in a ghostly crimson light,
outlining the figures below.  A half-dozen in number, they were all
obscured by shadows, despite the glow from the red gem overhead.
They had gathered in a circle around a huge crystal ball in the dark
chamber's center.  The magical sphere was mounted on a carven stone
pedestal, its engravings depicting strange and horrific creatures
from the nightmares of man and monster.
  One of those in the room broke the silence of the bizarre scene,
striding forth to the crystal sphere.  Well over six feet in height,
this person wore a black robe that seemed to absorb any light cast
upon it.  The robed one stood quietly for but a moment, then raised
a long arm, pointing with a pale, nearly-skeletal hand.  The robed
one then spoke, with a deep, ghastly voice that could not be ignored.

black-robed figure:  Potas Potay.
Potas Potay:  (steps forth, a bit closer to the crystal ball than
  the others in the circle)
black-robed figure:  You have failed in your assignment.
Potas Potay:  (absolutely terrified)  I beg your forgiveness, dread
  Necros!  It was not my fault-
Necros:  You believe that there is some excuse for your failure.
others:  (shifting uneasily)
Potas Potay:  The dwarf was mightier than reported, dread one!  He
  slew all of my warriors, and survived every spell I used on him!
Necros:  Perhaps magic is not the answer, for that one.  Still, you
  failed, and now Mongo Thunderhead knows of your existence.  His
  guard, and that of the others, will be doubly strong as a result.
Potas Potay:  Another chance, dreaded one!  I need more forces to
  accomplish the task.
Necros:  Then you shall have them.
Potas Potay:  (bowing and whining)  Many thanks, great Necros.  I
  will not fail this time!
Necros:  You had better not.  There will not be a third chance for
  you.  (he gestures at the crystal ball)  Now we must turn our
  attentions to another.  (the sphere becomes translucent, showing
  the face of an elf - the face of Ged)



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY (or a portion of it):                                  +
+                                                                   +
+  Arnold       12th level human barbarian warrior             (NG) +
+  Ged          14th/14th level grey elven wizard/priest       (NG) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        6/5/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        night                                               +
+  Place:       the Free City of Greyhawk                           +
+  Climate:     Ged's castle, west of Greyhawk City                 +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise."   +
+                                - Louis Cypher, from _Angel Heart_ +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                     CCCXI.  Second Strike





  Several days after his problematic encounter with Mongo, Ged was
going about his normal, if troubled, routine.  At this time of day,
that meant that he had finished supper and was in his study, praying
and meditating for the morrow's magicks.  Some would say that the
priests of Boccob might as well be magi; whether or not this is true,
in Ged's case it was a moot debate, for the elf was both.
  Ged flipped through his spellbook, but tonight the arcane formulae
and enchanted words weren't as defined, as clear as they usually
were.  This same problem had been evident for the past three days,
and to be sure, Ged was in a troubled state of mind.  He was having
troubled reconciling his loyalties to Boccob with his loyalties to
his friends.  This may have been partially due to his elven blood.
The lesser races (humans, for example) had very limited lifespans
and outlooks on life, and this often caused them to swear fealty to
one deity or another, for their entire lifetime.  Faith, and the
belief in it, seemed to come much more easily in such cases, given a
more defined mortality.  Elves in general, though, and grey elves in
particular, could live for millenia, and it was a rare elf indeed who
maintained one fixed mindset for all that time.
  Ged wiped sweat from his brow, cursing.  Besides being out of sorts
mentally, he was also becoming sick, an uncommon but entirely possible
occurrence in the early summer months.  His head ached, his nose was
stuffy, his eyes watered, and every muscle in his body ached.  Truly
and surely, the elf felt terrible; on top of all this, he had to deal
with Mongo's reactions and anger of three days ago.

  In the state he was in, Ged failed to notice the wisps of mist that
began to trickle in through one window's lower seams.  The vapors
sunk to the carpeted floor, staying low as they coalesced.  A casual
observer might have thought that they had a life of their own, which
would have been an accurate estimation.  In any case, it wasn't until
the mist had taken a semi-tangible form, and humanoid dimensions,
that Ged turned to look at it.

Ged:  What in Boccob's name...?  (he reaches to his side for his
  enchanted morningstar, only to remember that he left it in his
  bedroom)  Damn!  (he stands, backing away as he begins casting a
  spell)

  The mists, however, had already completed their transformation,
solidifying into a grey-robed figure, roughly six feet tall and very
slender.  As Ged worked his magic, the visitor calmly produced a
handful of tiny, fletched darts.  Palming one, raising its arm, and
hurling - all in the blink of an eye - the figure sent a black dart
in Ged's direction.

Ged:  (struck in the shoulder, he feels a prick of pain, for he does
  not usually wear his armor at night)  Ow!  (he grabs at the dart,
  pulling its point from his flesh)  Who are you?!?
robed figure:  (speaks in a raspy voice)  The wreaker of vengeance.
  (it throws another dart at Ged)
Ged:  (already in motion, he leaps for cover behind a table as the
  dart misses him by mere inches)  Yie!

  The elf quickly began casting another spell, since his first had
been ruined by the attack.  The intruder wasted no time either,
moving to circumvent the cover Ged was temporarily hiding behind.
A new dart was held in the robed one's raised hand.

Ged:  (leaps to his feet, releasing a volley of magical missiles
  in the robed figure's direction)  Away!
robed figure:  (struck by the entire complement of missiles, it
  reels backward)  Argh!  Ungh!  Urgh!
Ged:  Hah...in a pinch, magic missiles are still the fastest and
  best spell...(he dashes toward the door to the study)

  The elf was feeling slightly woozy, and suspected that the dart
had been poisoned.  His vision swam, but he pressed on somehow, and
reached the door, tugging on the handle.

Ged:  Locked!  (he pulls at the door, in vain)  But how...?
robed figure:  (recovers)  A trivial matter, really.  (it sends
  several more darts at Ged)
Ged:  (amazingly enough, he is hit by all three darts)  Argh!  (he
  begins spellcasting once more, as the robed figure approaches)
robed figure:  (crosses the distance between itself and the elf in
  mere moments, and pushes the half-conscious elf roughly, sending
  him to the floor and causing him to smash his head against a rough,
  uncarpeted area of stone)
Ged:  Ungh!  (writhing around on the floor, he struggles to remain
  conscious - a losing battle)  Fiend...poisoner...!  (he struggles
  to a half-sitting position, anger in his expression, and reaches
  toward his foe)  How can you defeat me so easily...?
robed figure:  (ignores the elf's curses)  Your castle is virtually
  unguarded against assassins, foolish elf...a fatal mistake, for
  you!  Besides the ease of my entrance, there is the matter of the
  poison you drank, scant hours ago.
Ged:  (looks confused, then falls to the floor, unmoving)

  Just then, a small, furry grey form appeared from somewhere, and
launched itself across the room, hitting the intruder with a loud
growl and a flash of tiny claws and teeth.

Endymion:  Meow!  (it rakes and tears at the robed figure, taking
  shreds of skin and flesh)
robed figure:  (staggers into an endtable, knocking it over with a
  loud crash)  Argh...away, animal!  (it swats and bats at the cat,
  momentarily connecting with one swinging arm)
Endymion:  (sails through the air, landing twenty feet away, on its
  feet of course)  Meow!  (it arches its back, preparing to leap
  again)

  Just then, the study's door exploded inward, raining wooden debris
and admitting a towering, armored form bearing a gigantic sword.

Arnold:  Whaat is going on here?  (his question purely rhetorical,
  he takes in the situation instantly, and charges at the grey-robed
  figure)  Aaa!
robed figure:  (leaps backward with amazing grace, hurling a group
  of darts at the charging warrior)
Arnold:  (ignores the missiles as they bounce from his armor, he even
  swats one away with his sword)  Get back here!  (he kicks a table
  out of the way)
robed figure:  I hadn't planned on this...(it points both hands at
  Arnold)  Away!
Arnold:  (suddenly pushed away hard, as if by magic, he crashes into
  the far wall, smashing a bookshelf apart and bringing a hail of
  books and wooden shelves down upon himself)  Aaa...
robed figure:  (quickly produces a sphere of black glass, hurling it
  to the floor)

  The tiny ball shattered, but produced no sound in the process!  At
the point where it exploded, though, a small ball of pulsing blackness
formed and grew, reaching an eight-foot diameter within moments.  The
robed one grabbed the limp form of Ged, tossing him over its shoulder
with surprising ease, and strode toward the sphere.

Arnold:  (stands, shaking books off of himself)  Oh, no you don't!
  (he charges toward the robed figure)
robed figure:  (takes Ged into the black sphere, instantly vanishing
  from sight)
Arnold:  Aaa!  (he bounds toward the sphere)

  Right before the onrushing warrior reached the thing, it shrunk
into a smaller sphere...then a marble-sized ball...then a pinpoint
in the air...then it was gone!  Arnold stared at the space where the
black sphere had just been, eyes wide with awe and fear.

Arnold:  Aaa...(he swipes at the empty air with his sword, but there
  is nothing to hit)  Aaa!  Geb!  Geb!





next:   more sinister machinations
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  I'm at least as sick as I described Ged as being.  I've
  been this way for a week (ever since writing 307) and yet I've
  still made it to work.  Since it's now Saturday, I'm hoping to
  recover by Monday morning.  Work's gotten so busy that I can't
  afford to miss any days.  Besides my previous job, I'm working
  with the FutureNet team, which deals with planning, wiring,
  testing, installing, and maintaining a brand-new network back-
  bone in GT academic buildings, for the Olympics.  I'm also
  involved with the project to run fiber to the Greek houses, the
  telecommuting task force, the implementation of the Remedy
  software for our campus-wide helpdesk computer support system,
  and the project to replace archaic print methods with new
  TCP/IP print servers.
    I'm telling you all this because I think it's actually the
  _reason_ I've been doing so much writing recently - higher
  pressure often leads to more stress release.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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