Chapter #324

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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 (more accurately, those who haven't been kidnapped):   +
+                                                                   +
+  Bosco         10th level halfling thief                     (CN) +
+  Gorin          8th level dwarven fighter                    (CG) +
+  Nenya          8th/9th level elven fighter/mage             (NG) +
+  Otto           6th/8th level dwarven fighter/thief          (CN) +
+  Tanya          5th/11th level human female fighter/thief     (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  SPECIAL GUEST STARS:                                             +
+                                                                   +
+  Drawmij       16th level human mage                          (N) +
+  Halbarad      13th level human ranger                       (NG) +
+  Peyote        11th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid       (N) +
+  Rob           15th level human priest                       (LG) +
+  Yod Ironbeard 19th level dwarven fighter and king           (CG) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        6/10/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        afternoon                                           +
+  Place:       an uncharted island amidst the Azure Sea            +
+  Climate:     mild                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "You be careful.  You're in this now and it's gonna get mean."   +
+                                               - from _Silverado_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





               CCCXXIV.  Into the Evil Ones' Lair





  After sailing under the sea in Drawmij's magical ship, the party
of adventurers, ex-adventurers, and allies has arrived and disembarked
on the lost island that the evil ones have been tracked to.  Now, they
face an hours-long march through a thick forest, to reach the mountain
that looms in the center of the small isle.  Within this peak is the
lair of the kidnappers, as well as the kidnapped friends of this
current group.

Yod:  Let's get going.
Nenya:  Right into the forest?
Tanya:  Right in.
Peyote:  Right on.
Drawmij:  (sitting atop an invisible chair of some kind, he hovers
  above the ground)  I am ready.
Bosco:  You sure are.  (he wonders how he can get one of those seats)
Gorin:  It's a good thing you knew where these scum were hiding.
Drawmij:  It's a bad thing, for them, that they chose a lair amidst
  my domain.  _Nothing_ within the Azure Sea escapes my notice.
Nenya:  Say, you wouldn't be able to summon some of your archmage
  friends to help us, would you?
Drawmij:  (gravely)  Let us hope it doesn't come to that.
Otto:  (checking his crossbow's cable, he addresses the group as they
  march into the forest)  Are all of you ready to kill?
Rob:  (startled)  Eh?
Otto:  Kill.  Destroy.  Obliterate.  Terminate.  (shrugs)  Kill.
Halbarad:  What are you getting at?
Otto:  Just want to remind everyone what the stakes are here.  (he
  eyes Rob and Bosco especially)  Any foes we find, we're going to
  have to kill them, and quickly, before they can spread an alarm.
  The stuff we drank may protect us from any detection from afar,
  but not from someone we fight who then gets away.  (he glances to
  Drawmij, questioningly)
Drawmij:  You are correct.  Foes can still physically _see_ us, and
  tell other foes...
Otto:  I just wanted to remind all of you.  This won't be a joyride,
  and we can't afford to be flippant, or merciful.
Rob:  How harsh.
Otto:  Maybe you'd better go back to the ship, kid.
Rob:  Never.  You need Trithereon's power, now more than ever.
Otto:  Then you've got to be ready to use it.  No mercy.
Yod:  (raises his axe)  Well spoken, fellow!  (to the others)  He's
  absolutely right, you know.  We've got to hit the enemy hard, and
  we've got to hit them fast, and we've got to hit them without
  warning.
Gorin:  Yeah.  Now you're talking.
Halbarad:  If the foes are evil, then they shall be slain.
Drawmij:  These foes are as evil as they come.  Their minions and
  guards will be, as well.
Nenya:  We can handle it.
Otto:  Good.
Tanya:  Let's go.  (she leads them into the forest)
Yod:  Hold!  (he watches the determined woman move away)  Damn fool
  woman...(he follows her, intending to be in the lead of the group)
Halbarad:  Worry not, friend Yod.  I shall be leading this group, as
  a scout.  (he vanishes into the woods, leaping over branches and
  bushes without even knocking them aside)
Yod:  Oh.
Drawmij:  (floats along on his unseen chair, smiling)

  The band entered the forest, and was promptly swallowed by the
forest.  Meanwhile, back at the ship, Wendell had been sitting on
the deck, his back propped comfortably against a rudder, watching
intently as his companions vanished among the dense trees.  As they
moved from sight, he stood, stretching.  Picking up the crates and
packs of supplies that had been left behind, he carried them over
to the open stairway and tossed them roughly down into the ship's
innards.  Next, he furrowed his brow in concentration, and his form
shifted, the unremarkable clothing he had been wearing reverting to
its true form.  Only his face remained the same; the enchanted
leather armor beneath his shirt, and the weapons hanging from his
belt, were secrets that he had kept hidden from the adventurers.
Deftly hopping off of the metal ship, he dashed along the beach,
toward the forest.  Behind him, as if it had a mind of its own (a
notion not far from the truth) the ship retracted its entry stairs
and sealed itself against intrusion.



  Elsewhere, the ten companions were making good time in their march
through the forest.  Halbarad had overtaken Tanya, and explained to
her that falling into a trap or walking into an ambush wasn't going
to help her rescue Peldor.  Forced to admit the logic of this, Tanya
had rejoined the main group, while the ranger scouted ahead, preceded
by Peyote.  The half-elf had changed form shortly after entering the
forest, and now leapt from tree to tree as a flying squirrel.  The
plan was simple:  the squirrel formerly known as Peyote moved ahead
of Halbarad, along a roughly straight course, toward the great peak
at the mountain's center.  Should it find anything of note, it was
to return to warn Halbarad, who in turn would warn the others.
  The plan was put to the test, and not long after they had entered
the forest; the furry little squirrel leaped from the branches above
to land on Halbarad's shoulder.  The ranger listened to the chirping
sounds, for he possessed a pendant that enabled him to understand
and speak the language of any natural animal.  Frowning, he returned
to the main group to brief them on the situation.

Yod:  (recoils, axe held high, as the ranger appears from the trees
  without a sound)  Yah!  Don't _do_ that!
Halbarad:  Sorry.  Listen...a short distance ahead lurk a pack of
  undead.  Guards, I would guess.
Drawmij:  (grimaces)  Foul crypt-scum, sent forth to infest the
  island!  This is the pollution I spoke of.
Tanya:  Undead, eh?  What kind?
Halbarad:  Several kinds, I believe.
Rob:  (talking to his holy symbol)
Otto:  Undead...(he opens a bottle and dips several crossbow bolts
  into the liquid within)
Gorin:  What do you propose we do about them?
Halbarad:  Listen carefully...

  A short time later, in a nearby clearing, the pack of undead
bristled, for something living had entered their vicinity.  The tall
wight who was the leader of this troop barked orders at his zombies,
and the slow-moving things spread out, to search for the source of
the noise.  The wight had the skeletons move to surround him - no
sense risking his own neck when these lesser minions were about.
That was, after all, what they were for - not that there was much
chance of anything threatening the squad.  Their sole purpose in the
forest was to eliminate any living beings they might find.  This
directive was part of some greater plan, something the wight would
likely never be privy to.  So be it; his orders were simple, and he
intended to carry them out.
  A small, screeching squirrel leapt into the clearing, landing on
the ground before the wight.  As the undead creature watched, relief
filling its dark and cowardly heart, the furry animal began to make
loud chittering noises.  The entire scene was absurd, but only the
wight had the intelligence to be capable of laughing.
  Its evil laugh died abruptly when a silvery streak flew into the
clearing, smacking one of the skeletons in the chest.  The bony
warrior shattered into untold pieces, littering the surrounding
area with its debris, and the other undead in the area turned to
see a foe who now approached:  a wide, stout dwarf.  This fellow
was charging into the clearing at full tilt - and was weaponless!
The undead moved directly for the dwarf, bony claws and rotting
fingers clenching in expectation.

Yod:  Yaaah!  Come and get me, boneheads...(he catches his flying
  axe as it returns)  Hah!  (he swipes at the nearest foe, smashing
  it into flinders)
wight:  (frowns)

  All was chaos, then, even to the half-insane undead leader.  Foes
charged into the clearing, tearing into the skeletons and zombies
with great ferocity.  Another dwarf, battleaxe gleaming in the light
that shone through the treetops, collided blade-first with a zombie,
shearing off a rotten arm.  A human woman with a fiery red mane of
hair met a skeletal warrior, and their swords clashed briefly before
the undead thing had fallen, decapitated.  Another human, this one a
male in leather armor, met a pair of zombies, axe chopping and dagger
stabbing; both foes were driven back.  Just when the wight didn't
think things could get any worse, a crossbow bolt buried itself in
his shoulder.  The missile's barbed point was painful enough, but
something else now burned at the wight's flesh.  He had felt this
particular acid before - holy water!  Screaming in agony, the undead
leader backed away, even as a priest of some thrice-accursed god,
holy symbol blazing like a lantern, caused all of the remaining
skeletons and several of the zombies to disintegrate.  That sight
was the last the wight saw, for as he turned to see what had made
a crunching sound behind him, he met the blade of a half-elf's
bastard sword - with his face.  The wight fell, writhing, and the
sword bit into him again, severing his head and spilling dark ichor
onto the soil.
  The battle was going favorably, but nobody wanted to be left out.
Nenya launched a volley of magical bolts, tearing into three zombies
and driving them back just in time for Gorin, Halbarad, and Yod to
meet them.  The zombies didn't last much longer, and within moments,
the group was resting and regrouping.

Yod:  (raises his bloody axe)  Well-fought!
Halbarad:  Aye.
Tanya:  (surveying the carnage)  No casualties for our side...
Gorin:  What, are you joking?  These stupid undead couldn't hope to
  even dent our helms!
Tanya:  (eyes Halbarad, who is binding his forearm)  You took a hit?
Halbarad:  A mere scrape...nothing to worry about.
Nenya:  (to Drawmij)  Why didn't you help, in the battle?
Drawmij:  Girl, my spells are much more powerful than those used to
  repel simple creatures such as these.  Fear not, though - my time
  will come.
Halbarad:  (cleaning his weapons)  Disgusting.
Peyote:  (eyeing the bloodstained clearing)  Designer colors...
Rob:  (beaming)  Trithereon was with us today.
Otto:  Yeah...good job, kid.  You took out seven or eight foes all
  by yourself.
Rob:  (shrugs)
Yod:  Yes, a battle well-fought!  We were quick, we were efficient!
  What glory!
Bosco:  (appears)  And you didn't even need the powers of Bosco!
Drawmij:  (wondering just what the powers of Bosco might be)

  Soon, they resumed their journey through the forest.  It seemed,
however, that there weren't many guards, and that those who ruled
the island weren't overly concerned about security.

Otto:  (to Drawmij)  Explain.
Drawmij:  Explain what?
Otto:  This was too easy - it feels like a trap!  How come these
  oh-so-mighty people haven't set up any more defenses?
Drawmij:  (shrugs)  I would venture a guess that they feel secure
  enough as it is.  After all, their presence here is masked from
  conventional magical detections.
Tanya:  But not yours.
Drawmij:  A goodly portion of my power derives from the sea, and
  all those within.  No magic was required to learn of the foul
  happenings here.
Yod:  (looking around)  Well, we should be there soon - I can see
  the mountain through the treetops.
Halbarad:  (appears again)  Aye.  We shall be there within the hour.
  I have discerned no guards, at least not until we reach the peak
  itself.
Gorin:  Well, let's get there, and find someone else to fight.

  They continued their march, then, and as expected from Halbarad's
scouting, they encountered no further foes en route to the mountain.
Soon, they had left the forest behind, and climbed the shallow hills
that ringed the peak's base.

Nenya:  (looking upward and ahead)  A mighty mountain, this.
Yod:  Bah.  This is a baby, compared to other peaks in the world.
  I could scale this thing in a mere hour.
Peyote:  You don't wanna do that, dude.  We've got to find a way in,
  not a way to the top.
Otto:  (to Drawmij)  Yes, what _is_ the best way in?  Do the foes
  lair within the mountain, or is one side carved into a fortress,
  perhaps?
Drawmij:  The castle - fortress, if you will - lies atop the peak.
  They haven't been here long enough to finish their construction,
  but it's still a fairly big place.
Tanya:  How to get in, then?
Drawmij:  We have a variety of options at this point.  We could try
  to scale the mountain, or fly up...but someone might see us.  We
  could look for their sewer outlet, and sneak in that way.
Otto:  (sighs at this)  Come on, that's how _everyone_ does it!
  Hell, if _I_ built a castle, I wouldn't have a sewer big enough
  for people to crawl through, because someday, someone would.
Drawmij:  Just an idea.
Yod:  Here's a better one.  (he begins waving his axe around)
Halbarad:  What are you about?
Yod:  Just watch.
Gorin:  (recognizes this from a previous time)  Heh...(to Tanya)
  Pay attention - this is going to be good.
Bosco:  Yeah...
Tanya:  (watching anyway, awed as the rock of the ground begins to
  shift and rise up)

  As they watched, even the more stoic among their number - even
great Drawmij, who had seen oceans of fire and castles that moved
through the sky - were impressed by the towering leviathan of rock
that now stood before them.  The thing was well over twenty feet in
height, and at least ten feet wide.  No one present doubted that
the thing could topple buildings with ease.

elemental king:  WHAT IS THY BIDDING, KING OF THUNDERDELVE?
Yod:  We seek passage into this mountain...a path along which we
  might walk, until we can enter the inhabited areas above.
elemental king:  HMM.  (it seems to furrow its great brow)  WILL
  THIS BE A FRIENDLY ENTRY, OR A FIGHTING ONE?
Yod:  (grins)  Fighting!  But we need to stay unheard and unseen as
  long as possible.
elemental king:  FOLLOW ME.  (it enters the mountainside, vanishing)
Peyote:  Now what-

  Suddenly, a rough tunnel appeared in the formerly-solid rock; about
six feet wide, it led into the heart of the mountain.

Yod:  No time to waste.  Come.  (he dashes into the passage, more
  like a youthful warrior than an old monarch)
Otto:  Hmm.  (he jogs after the dwarf-king)

  The others followed, and as they moved into the mountain, they saw
that the passage wound upward as well as forward.  It seemed that
the elemental lord was taking them almost straight up, into the lair
of the evil ones.  Bosco, bringing up the rear, noted that the entry
into the outside world had just sealed.

Gorin:  That would be the elemental king, protecting us, making sure
  that our means of entry isn't found.
Bosco:  Still-
Otto:  Look, it's not like we're going to be fleeing in a hurry.  If
  we don't slay all the foes, we won't be coming out at all.
Bosco:  Uh...(he grimaces for a few moments, then slaps his hand on
  his shortsword's pommel)

  On they went, the elemental king forging an instant passage from
the rock that was his to command.  His power over the rock, they had
to hope, would be enough to keep their progress hidden from those
who lurked above.  The way went on, onward and upward, the rough,
steep walls of the tunnel challenging their march.  They prevailed,
however, someone always catching a comrade who slipped and pulling
him or her up, to march forth once more.
  Moments - ones that seemed like hours - later, the elemental king
turned to Yod.

elemental king:  DIRECTLY ABOVE US LIES AN UNOCCUPIED BASEMENT OF
  SOME SORT.
Yod:  Excellent, and we thank you.
elemental king:  IS AUGHT ELSE REQUIRED OF ME?
Yod:  Hmm...
Otto:  (to Bosco)  You've seen this thing in action before, right?
Bosco:  Yup.
Otto:  Tell me that Yod can command it to stay with us, and help us
  in battles...
Bosco:  Yup.
Otto:  Outstanding.  (he turns to Yod, as if to make that suggestion,
  but the dwarven king is already talking with the elemental)
Yod:  We could use some help, in fighting the foes we will soon face.
elemental king:  VERY WELL.
Yod:  Stay close, within the rock of the castle walls if you can.
elemental king:  CHILD'S PLAY.

  Moments later, they emerged from their tunnel (which the elemental
promptly closed behind them) into some kind of storage room.  Crates
and barrels were piled about, and the room was fairly large.  A set
of crude steps wound upward, apparently leading out of this chamber.
Halbarad moved to climb them, to scout ahead, but was held back by
both Bosco and Otto.

Bosco:  Time for thieves to take a part.
Halbarad:  But-
Otto:  We've got the edge here, good ranger.  Anyway, we insist.
Tanya:  What about me?
Bosco:  (looks up at the woman with an expression of sincere concern)
  Tanya...your skills are great.  But, you've been retired for a long
  time.  We've got two good thieves - scouts - and that's more than
  we need.  Stay back, and let us handle this one.
Tanya:  But I can-
Bosco:  Please.
Tanya:  (sighs)  As you wish.
Gorin:  (to Nenya)  Huh.

  Bosco and Otto vanished up the steps, to see what might lie ahead.
Shortly thereafter, those in the storage room heard a few slight,
muffled sounds from above.  Before they could move to investigate,
to follow the thieves, the pair returned, blood on their swords.

Halbarad:  What happened, up there?
Bosco:  There were two guards.
Rob:  And...?
Otto:  Like he said, there _were_ two guards.  Listen, there're two
  passages leading away, up there.  One goes east, the other goes
  west.  Both are fairly large hallways.
Nenya:  (to Drawmij)  Any idea which one leads to our missing friends?
Drawmij:  I don't know much about the inside of this place.  Either of
  the paths could be the correct one.
Peyote:  You know what this means, dudes.
Bosco:  Party split...
Rob:  Is this wise?
Yod:  I'd say we have no choice.  If we go the wrong way, and end up
  fighting numbers of foes, they'll whisk Mongo and the others away
  to some other hell before we can find them.
Drawmij:  Sound reasoning.
Tanya:  Damn, if only we had Belphanior's magical compass...
Halbarad:  It is decided, then.  Two teams.
Otto:  Forces.
Gorin:  But who will make up the two groups?

  An impromptu discussion followed, and the following split was
agreed upon:

Group #1 (west passage)
  Bosco
  Yod (and the earth elemental king)
  Rob
  Tanya
  Nenya

Group #2 (east passage)
  Otto
  Halbarad
  Peyote
  Gorin
  Drawmij

  The two groups bid each other farewell, fully aware that some of
them might not make it through this escapade.

Rob:  (clasps hands with Peyote)  Best of luck to you.
Peyote:  And to you, man.
Halbarad:  Aye.
Rob:  Take care.
Tanya:  (to Gorin)  You make sure you come back, okay?
Gorin:  (hefts his axe)  I'll do my best!
Yod:  As will I.  Farewell, friend Gorin.
Nenya:  (smiling)  Otto, don't lead them astray.
Otto:  Don't worry.
Bosco:  (to Drawmij)  I hope you're as powerful a wizard as you're
  supposed to be.  I want to see everyone back in one piece again.
Drawmij:  Fear not, small brave one.  And remember:  your team has
  the elemental.
Bosco:  (nods, sad despite himself)
Drawmij:  (produces two small spheres, one light blue, the other dark
  blue)  But just in case...(he hands Bosco the light blue sphere)
Bosco:  (holds the item up to his eye)  What's this?
Tanya:  And why'd you give it to Bosco?
Drawmij:  These are teleport spheres.  If one is hurled at something,
  hard enough to shatter it, everything within a twenty-foot radius
  of the _other_ sphere will be teleported to the vicinity of the
  broken one.
Otto:  Ah.  So if one group finds the missing people...
Nenya:  They can call the other group to them!
Halbarad:  Excellent.
Peyote:  Downright gnarly.

  Without further ado, they went their separate ways, each group of
adventurers heading toward what they hoped was their missing comrades.





next:   nonstop battle
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
notes:  Slowly but surely, things are coming to a head.  I've taken
  my time, but finally, I'm getting there.
    Picking the two sub-groups was like choosing teams for baseball;
  I had to play the part of both team captains.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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