Chapter #323

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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 1991-6 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 (to be more accurate, those who have been kidnapped)   +
+                                                                   +
+  Alindyar     16th level dark elven mage                     (N)  +
+  Arnold       12th level human warrior                      (NG)  +
+  Lyra         12th level female dark elven mage              (N)  +
+  Belphanior   13th/14th/14th level elven warrior/mage/thief (CN)  +
+  Ged          14th/14th level grey elven priest/mage        (NG)  +
+  Peldor       19th level human thief                         (N)  +
+  Rillen       17th level human warrior                       (N)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        6/10/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       a dungeon within a castle, on an island             +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "We are both seekers of truth and in this quest I am your        +
+   friend, philosopher, and guide."                                +
+                              - the torturer, from _Closet Land_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                      CCCXXIII.  Revelations





  The seven prisoners have neither seen nor heard from anyone in
nearly two days, and consequently are beginning to wonder what's
going on.

Mongo:  Maybe this is it, then.  Maybe they plan to let us slowly
  starve to death.
Alindyar:  In actuality, we would die of thirst first-
Mongo:  Whatever.
Belphanior:  (shaking his head)  No.
Ged:  Eh?
Belphanior:  If they wanted us dead like that, they'd have killed
  us already.
Arnold:  I abgree.
Lyra:  What, then, is their master plan?
Peldor:  We've got to assume that we'll find out soon enough.
voice:  Correct, thief.

  The voice belonged to but one of an array of visitors.  The seven
prisoners bristled with rage as they recognized the various foes who
had ambushed or attacked them.  The one who had spoken, however, was
unfamiliar to any of them; he (it?) was draped in a robe of utter
blackness, a garment that seemed to absorb what little light was
present in the dungeon.  This person, if indeed that term was an
accurate one, raised a nearly-skeletal hand and pointed to the cell
before speaking again in a dry, raspy voice.

black-robed one:  Your torments have only begun.
Belphanior:  Bah.  My _real_ torments lie in not knowing who the
  hell you people are, or why you even matter.
black-robed one:  Perhaps I should allow each of my...allies to
  explain that to you themselves.

  A slender elven woman in a blue cloak stepped forth; the look on
her face and her cruel demeanor helped the prisoners remember that
she was Kynn Trylannan, who had visited them recently.

Kynn:  (bows, smartly)  Of course you remember me.
Peldor:  Not really - you're quite forgettable.
Kynn:  Your taunts will not get you anywhere, scum.
Mongo:  Who _are_ you?
Alindyar:  More to the point, where do we know you from?
Kynn:  Ah...surely you remember your rampage through the lands of
  the Sea Princes?  The city of Westkeep, perhaps?
Belphanior:  I remember it well...a wondrous journey, that.  I
  thoroughly enjoyed it.
Kynn:  (spitting)  Fool!  Your "journey" cost us scores of thousands
  of gold pieces!  I personally lost almost everything I owned, all
  my slaves and other property.
Lyra:  A slaver...you are a slaver...
Kynn:  _Was_ a slaver, until you fools came along.  I'll never again
  see my former glory...
Ged:  (looking rather amazed)  An elf?  You, an elf, resorted to
  throwing in your lot with such animals?
Kynn:  Don't be sanctimonious.  Merely being an elf means nothing.
  Your friend in the cell there can attest to that.
Ged:  (glances at Belphanior, then back at Kynn)  Bah.  He's done
  more for the good of the world that you ever will.
Kynn:  Has he?  In any case, I would have gladly pursued you people
  myself, to take revenge, but the kingdom actually _paid_ me to go
  after you.  (she holds up a talisman of some sort)  And with this
  item - one I found by sheer fate - I have the power to control
  _him_.

  A short, armor-clad form moved forward, its heavy iron-heeled
boots clicking on the stone floor.

iron dwarf:  Grr...
Mongo:  Hey, it really _is_ him!
Kynn:  Yes.  As you can see, his armor has been improved.  Note the
  razor-sharp spikes which now jut outward, in all directions.
Alindyar:  A true killing machine.
Kynn:  (obviously pleased with herself)  Yes!
Peldor:  Good thing you have that talisman, then.  Otherwise, he'd
  have your head on his helmet spike.
Kynn:  (clutches the talisman to her chest angrily)  It will never
  happen!
Ged:  A slaver...I had forgotten...
Kynn:  I hadn't.
Peldor:  So that's what this is all about?  Slavers' revenge?  (he
  looks over the others)  I can't believe it.
Kynn:  (opens her mouth to retort)
black-robed one:  (interrupting)  Don't believe it, then, for it is
  far from the truth.

  Another figure stepped forth, then; garbed in a long cloak, he was
instantly recognizable to those who had fought him.

Mongo:  Potas Potay!
Potas Potay:  Indeed...
Lyra:  (disbelieving, she looks at Mongo)  You let _this_ little
  shrimp take you down?!?
Mongo:  Hey, now-
Potas Potay:  (interrupts this bickering, as if it's important for
  him to speak his piece)  No doubt you remember the fortress of
  Hadeus, and the devil worshippers.
Belphanior:  That place?  Gods, that was _years_ ago!
Potas Potay:  Perhaps, but your meddling demolished the temple and
  destroyed the Sacred One's most holy material form, and caused all
  of the high council to be slain...all except for myself.
Mongo:  And lemme guess, you're here to take your revenge on us?
Potas Potay:  Like the elven woman there, I have joined others in a
  common cause:  to make you fools suffer endless torments for your
  past deeds.
Arnold:  It's good to know we have so many friendbs.

  Then, another member of the ring of captors stepped forth; he was
clad in grey garments, and was fairly tall, and slender.  Ged knew
him, for it was this one who had slipped into his castle and beaten
him.  The fellow had a pale, nearly featureless face, one that was
devoid of either emotion or expression.  Indeed, the man seemed to
be nearly dead, though of course this wasn't the case.  The effect
was unsettling, nonetheless.

grey-garbed one:  I am Kheldar, the most feared assassin on Oerik.
Peldor:  Bullshit!  Whisper is the most feared assassin on Oerik.
  You're only second, maybe even third.
Kheldar:  Opinions vary.
Peldor:  The hiring practices of Greyhawk's assassins' guild don't.
Mongo:  So, assassin, what's _your_ stake in all this?
black-robed one:  Kheldar isn't personally involved; we merely hired
  his unique services.
Mongo:  Oh.
Kheldar:  (smiles grimly)
black-robed one:  (waving its bony arms about)  As you see, fools,
  your past "exploits" have caught up with you.
Alindyar:  (to Lyra)  Not ours...
Lyra:  Shh, they're not all revealed yet.

  A shadowy figure stepped forth then, and Arnold winced as he
remembered the foe who had attacked him in an alley in Greyhawk.

Alindyar:  (to Arnold)  This is the one who used poisoned needles
  and odd dust-tubes?
Arnold:  Yah.  A true baastaad.
shadowy figure:  (bows)  I am Szen Szing-
Belphanior:  Impossible!
Szen Szing:  Not entirely.  You slew most of Lao Khan's loyal minions
  and servants, but I escaped the carnage unscathed.
Belphanior:  Well, I'll be damned.
Lyra:  You may indeed.
Ged:  You _know_ this guy?
Belphanior:  Let's just say he was part of a greater hive of scum.
Rillen:  A rather small part.
Szen Szing:  (ignores the insult)  I have tracked you for many moons,
  elf, but never could I catch you.  I was enlisted by...(he gestures
  at the black-robed one)
Belphanior:  Why didn't you come after me, then?  Why Arnold?
Szen Szing:  (shrugs)  You were already taken before I could get my
  chance - a lucky coincidence-
Kynn:  (fumes)  Hold your tongue, skulker!  My power is no "lucky
  coincidence"!
Szen Szing:  (sighs)  Please excuse my dialectical errors, I meant
  no insult.  In any case, elf, I have done my part, and in time I
  will have my revenge, for the honor of my fallen master Lao Khan.
Belphanior:  Any time you're ready, scum.

  Another of the foes moved forth to introduce himself; this was the
short, pudgy human wizard in green robes, the wizard who had led the
mercenaries who had defeated Rillen.

wizard:  I am Pumpledorf, mage of the Black Forest and-
Rillen:  -and a coward who hides behind his magic.
Pumpledorf:  Quiet, dolt, or I shall turn you into a toad!
Rillen:  Bah.
Pumpledorf:  (making motions as if to cast a spell)
black-robed one:  Stay your hand, good Pumpledorf.
Pumpledorf:  But-
black-robed one:  Soon.  Not just now, but soon.
Belphanior:  So, 'dorf, what's your game?  Why do _you_ hate us?
Pumpledorf:  (furious)  Such impudence!  Such arrogance!
Belphanior:  Especially for one in my position, yeah, yeah, I know.
  Answer the question, would you?
Pumpledorf:  No.  I will not.  Sit, and wonder.  (he returns to the
  group of foes)
Belphanior:  (surprised)
Mongo:  Bah.  A fat fuck, and worm food, once I get out of here.
black-robed one:  Out?  No, you shall not escape.
Peldor:  Why not?
black-robed one:  Because torment awaits you.
Mongo:  Hey, who are you, anyway?  We don't know you.
black-robed one:  But you do.  You may recall a certain dungeon, in
  which a certain host of demons met their end at your hands.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
black-robed one:  A host of demons, including one of the generals of
  the great one's cause...one of the leaders of the Chaos War...one
  of the six great Balors itself!
Alindyar:  That demon?
black-robed one:  Not just _any_ demon, but one of the balors.  Such
  an act cannot fail to draw the attention of the Prince of Undead
  himself...
Belphanior:  You can't mean Or-
black-robed one:  Yes!  Great Orcus himself!  And for nigh five years,
  it has been my personally appointed task - I, Necros, his highest
  priest - to find and capture you seven miscreants!  (he draws back
  his hood, causing friend and foe alike to recoil)

  The evil priest's head was little more than a bald, hairless shell,
skin shrivelled and tightened about the skull.  Not only were his ears
pointed, but he had no eyes to speak of, only dark hollows within his
eye-sockets.

Necros:  Sleep, now!  (he waves at the prisoners, and a black mist
  forms within their cell, causing them to fall unconscious, one by
  one)  Very well.  (he replaces his hood)  They shall sleep for many
  hours, and when they awaken...they shall not be pleased.
Potas Potay:  Impressive.
Necros:  Silence.
Kynn:  (crinkles her nose)  What's that smell?
Necros:  Power.  (he turns, giving orders to the band of zombies that
  has entered the room)  Take the prisoners to the torture chamber.
  We have much work to do.





next:   can the rescuers save the adventurers before permanent
  damage and disfigurement is inflicted?
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've continued the trend of unpredictability by slowing
  down my writing pace, of late.  There's a lot going on right now.
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