Chapter #348

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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 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.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Belphanior     (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief    (CE) +
+                                                                   +
+  Alindyar       16th level dark elven wizard                  (N) +
+  Arnold         12th level human barbarian                   (NG) +
+  Ged            14th/14th level grey elven priest/wizard     (NG) +
+  Lyra           13th level female dark elven wizard           (N) +
+  Mongo          17th level dwarven fighter                   (CG) +
+    Gorin         9th level dwarven fighter                   (NG) +
+  Peldor         19th level human thief                        (N) +
+    Bosco        11th level halfling thief                    (CN) +
+    Tanya        5th/11th level female human fighter/thief     (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Otto           7th/8th level dwarven fighter/thief          (CN) +
+  Razor Charlie  8th level human fighter                      (CN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        1/10/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       the plains just southwest of Greyhawk               +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Killing me won't stop anything."                                +
+  "Hey, there are worse things than dying, hombre."                +
+                                         - from _Licence To Kill_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CCCXLVIII.  Deadly Friend





  The adventurers have assembled, and their mission is as simple as
it is challenging:  they must find Belphanior, defeat him in combat,
and find some way to break the hold the evil eye has on him.

Otto:  We've got a plan.
Bosco:  Plan?
Peldor:  I'm game - what's the plan?
Ged:  We teleport to his present location, prepared to attack, and
  try to reason with him.
Mongo:  If he attacks, then we attack, is that it?
Otto:  That's it.  Simple and functional.
Tanya:  (sarcastically)  Good plan...
Otto:  (shrugs)  What more do you want?
Arnold:  Well, Belphandior could surbender peacefully.
Ged:  I wouldn't count on that.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers as he checks the myriad knives he keeps on
  his person)
Bosco:  A plan is a plan is a plan...
Lyra:  Bosco, what in the hell are you talking about?
Bosco:  The plan.  (he produces an apple and begins peeling it)
Lyra:  (taken aback)
Gorin:  (rubbing his bearded chin)  You think it'll work?
Otto:  Probably not, but we've gotta try.  (to Alindyar)  You've
  got his location?
Alindyar:  Aye.  'Tis hard to believe, though.
Ged:  Try us.
Alindyar:  Surely you remember the Hold of the Sea Princes?
Mongo:  The slavers!
Peldor:  No, that was in the Pomarj.  He's talking about the place
  where we tore through once, and freed those thousands of slaves
  from government-sanctioned servitude.
Mongo:  Oh, the _other_ slavers!
Ged:  What in Boccob's name is he doing _there_?
Alindyar:  Do you really want to know?
Mongo:  If I had to guess, I'd say he's destroying slavers by the
  dozen.
Peldor:  Maybe slaves too.
Lyra:  Actually, he was sleeping.  I suppose even one such as he
  requires sleep occasionally.
Alindyar:  However, half of the city was aflame.
Otto:  Well, let's get to our teleporting.
Ged:  I'll prepare it.
Alindyar:  No, I shall.
Ged:  What?  Why?
Alindyar:  Because you cannot.
Ged:  Why not-  oh, the weight limitations.  (he eyes the party)
  Err, excuse me for asking, but what can _you_ do that I can't?
Alindyar:  I have developed a mass teleportation spell.  With it,
  moving this group will be no problem.
Ged:  Hmph.  (he wanders away)
Lyra:  Don't wander too far - we'll be leaving shortly.
Peldor:  (to Otto)  Can I talk to you for a moment?
Otto:  Certainly.  (they step away from the others)
Bosco:  (to Alindyar)  Hey, how'd you know all that?  About where
  Belphanior is, I mean?
Alindyar:  (simply)  The crystal ball reveals all.
Bosco:  I'm gonna have to get one of those.
Lyra:  Just make sure it's someone else's...

  Nearby...

Otto:  What's on your mind?
Peldor:  I just figured I'd say something before it was too late.
  Have you thought about using that big anti-magic sphere to help
  corral Belphanior?
Otto:  I sure have.  There're a host of problems, though.  For one,
  the thing's buried and would take a while to dig out.
Peldor:  Not for Ged.
Otto:  Even if we unearthed it, the thing weighs a ton, what with
  the metal box it's stored in.
Peldor:  So?  We can drop it in a portable hole or just teleport it
  too.  (he frowns)  I'm not following.
Otto:  You can't use magic to teleport the thing.  The box prevents
  its radiations from escaping, but the _sphere_ itself still won't
  be affected by magic.
Peldor:  Example.
Otto:  Okay, say you teleport the box.  So, the box goes, then the
  sphere is exposed and the spell's fucked.  Or, you try and put the
  box in a portable hole, but once the sphere inside the box crosses
  that interdimensional threshold, it cancels out the hole itself.
Peldor:  (somewhat mystified)  You're talking like a wizard, Otto.
Otto:  (frowns)  Sorry.
Peldor:  So we can't move the thing, bring it along?
Otto:  Not that I can see.  Plus, it'd take those elves hours to
  argue about _how_ to do it, and like I said, nothing'll work.  I
  watched Belphanior try for days once.
Peldor:  Okay.  Just checking.
Otto:  (claps the thief on the shoulder)  C'mon, let's get this show
  on the road.  (they rejoin the main group)

  Weapons were checked, armor buckled, spells reviewed, and items
readied; momentarily, everyone was ready.

Alindyar:  All, link arms now.  (he begins weaving multicolored
  mystical tapestries of energy)  Quickly, quickly...
Bosco:  (having somehow wound up between Tanya and Lyra)  I'm ready!
Mongo:  Belphanior, here we come...!

  The air shifted, the wind ceased, and the magical aura swirled...
and the eleven adventurers suddenly found themselves amidst a city.
Or, more appropriately, what was left of it:  at least half of the
buildings and towers were aflame, or else in ruins.  Wreckage and
ashes were strewn everywhere, and amidst the debris could be seen
bodies, and parts of bodies.  Here and there, people ran away,
looking back fearfully, and with good reason.
  A tall, imposing form was standing in the middle of the street,
its tattered, bright red cloak drifting in the slight wind that
blew through the city.  Its back was to them, but they knew who it
was, and acted accordingly.  Mongo, Arnold, Gorin, and Otto fanned
out to the sides, approaching more closely than their companions.
Razor Charlie, Tanya, Bosco, and Peldor also spread out, but kept
more distance between themselves and their quarry (except for Razor
Charlie, who defied the stated plan to move dangerously close.)
  Ged, Alindyar, and Lyra moved apart and stayed well back, forming
a loose but powerful rear rank.
  Someone had to say something first, and Mongo volunteered himself.

Mongo:  Yo!  Belphanior!  Turn around...slowly.
Belphanior:  (turns around, more slowly than necessary)
Tanya:  Good gods...

  The elf was clearly over the edge.  His magical eye shone like a
tiny crimson star, his hair was wild and unkempt, and his teeth were
bared, like some feral animal's.  Belphanior's black blade was at
his side, held in his dangling left hand; both the sword and its
wielder were splattered with blood.  The expression on his face was
not unlike that of the few terminally insane people the adventurers
had met in their travels.

Belphanior:  (in a chilling, monotonic voice)  Well, hel-lo there.
  It's _so_ nice to see you.
Otto:  Just take it easy, man.
Belphanior:  (he raises his voice to a near-roar)  Take it easy?!?
  I've been taking it easy all my life!  Now, I've finally come
  around...and around...and around...
Bosco:  (to Tanya)  He's nuts!
Belphanior:  Hardly.  (he gestures to the wreckage around him)  Could
  I have accomplished all this if I was...nuts?
Ged:  And just what have you accomplished?
Belphanior:  Here?  Not nearly as much as in the last few stops I
  made...remember that little town called Drek?  Or perhaps those
  fools in Blackmoor?  Or even those elves in the...(he breaks off)
  Ah, what's the use?  I can clearly see that none of you appreciate
  my feats.
Alindyar:  Aie.
Belphanior:  Oh, don't worry - Greyhawk's next on my little tour.
Ged:  You're dreaming...they'll destroy you!
Belphanior:  Maybe.  Maybe not.  There's only one way to find out,
  though, isn't there?
Mongo:  Don't even think about it, Belphanior!
Belphanior:  Think about what?
Mongo:  Casting a spell.
Lyra:  Or did you even remember to bring your spellbooks on this mad
  odyssey?
Belphanior:  Oh, I've got spellbooks, all right.  And wands, and
  all kinds of other little toys.  (he reaches in a pocket)
Mongo:  Stop!
Peldor:  Stop, please...we don't want it to come to this...
Belphanior:  Tough.  (he produces a wand and yells a command word)

  Complete chaos broke out then, as several things happened at once.
Fast as Belphanior was, Razor Charlie and his knives were a wee bit
faster; three of the blades hit Belphanior's body even as the wand
was raised.  Unfortunately, the elf's stoneskin spell deflected them
easily, sending the razor-sharp blades bouncing away.  At the same
time, the wand unleashed a massive lightning bolt in Mongo's general
direction.  Apparently, Belphanior had enough of his wits about him
to remember who could hurt him the most.
  Mongo, hit squarely in the chest by the lightning, never even had
a chance to hurl his hammer.  The dwarf was knocked back, sailing
about forty feet before crashing into a half-demolished shell of a
building, demolishing it fully.  Also located too near the lightning
bolt's path were Peldor and Otto, both of whom leaped aside right
before the bolt (and then Mongo) came flashing by.  Nevertheless,
they were singed by the powerful electrical discharge and staggered
about, stunned and injured.
  Others, however, were quick to pick up the fight.  Alindyar, who
had been acting even before Belphanior had gone for his wand, dropped
a sphere of pitch-black magical darkness directly atop the mad elf.
Lyra, now airborne thanks to her winged boots, followed moments later
with a web.  The enchanted net's sticky grey fibers drooped around
(and then disappeared into) the sphere of darkness.
  A moment later, a tremendous ball of fire shot out of the darkness
(which was now moving, centered as it was on Belphanior) and, totally
at random, blasted Gorin and Razor Charlie (who were in a rough line
away from the issuance point of the fireball) before igniting a tall
wooden building behind the two warriors.
  Right after that, Ged (who was also floating above the ebon sphere
now) finished his spell, creating a translucent wall right within the
boundary of the darkness.  Only he knew exactly what he had done, for
his wall of force had a radius one foot less than that of Alindyar's
darkness-sphere.  Of course, the sphere of darkness moved and bobbed
about, since Belphanior was within but unable to escape the sphere
of force.

Ged:  Boccob, but that ought to hold him!
Alindyar:  For a while, at least.
Arnold:  (runs over, armor clanking loudly, to help Gorin and Razor
  Charlie, both of whom are twitching and smoking)
Gorin:  (staggers to his knees)  I'll...live...
Arnold:  Gorbin!  Your beard is sindged!
Gorin:  ...always...happens.
Tanya:  (hands Gorin a healing potion)  Here, try this.
Gorin:  (guzzles the thing, then tosses the empty bottle into a wall
  nearby)  Thanks, I needed that.
Razor Charlie:  (sits up, rubbing his hair where it was singed away)
  Needed a haircut anyway...
Peldor:  (barely singed himself, he helps the wounded Otto get to his
  feet)  Hell of a blast...
Otto:  (his side badly charred by the lightning, he walks lopsidedly)
  You're telling me.
Alindyar:  What of Mongo?
Lyra:  He hasn't come out of there yet...damn...
Ged:  (eyeing the darkness sphere, worried, as he hears sounds from
  within)  Uh, people...

  Within the darkness, Belphanior had already discerned the nature
of the force-wall, and even now, he unleashed a fearsome spell that
disintegrated Ged's barrier.  About the time the foes realized what
was happening, Belphanior, unseen within the sphere of darkness,
soared skyward, perhaps hoping to escape the close quarters and catch
his breath.
  However, the bleeding, burnt form that exploded from the collapsed
building had other ideas.  Mongo, possessing the strength of a giant
and the anger of a dozen giants, charged forth.  Flagstones and dirt
alike fell from his stout body; behind him, the pile of rubble gave
a final sigh and heave and was silent.

Mongo:  (spies the airborne darkness-sphere, and draws back his
  mighty arm)  No fuckin' way!

  The dwarf's hammer flew into the air, whistling toward the center
of the airborne darkness-sphere.  Immediately after the weapon
vanished into the blackness, there was a loud impact from within,
and the dark bubble plummeted to the ground.  Stormcrest shot out
from the falling sphere, returning to Mongo's hand.

Ged:  You got him!  (he watches the darkness bubble hit the ground
  with a loud "thump")
Mongo:  (sadly, for despite his wounds, he doesn't enjoy fighting
  his former companion)  Yeah...
Bosco:  Holy cow!
Alindyar:  (readying another spell)  Beware...the elf is hardier
  than most...
Arnold:  Aaa.

  The sphere of darkness shifted, slightly, and they knew that
Belphanior stirred.  Alindyar's spell was a mixed blessing:  it
prevented them from seeing what Belphanior was doing, but at the
same time it had saved one of them from being reduced to jelly by
the mad elf's evil eye.  Indeed, a mixed blessing, but one they
were glad to take.

Peldor:  Now what-
Lyra:  Shh!  (listening to the mumblings from within the darkness)
  Hells, he means to dispel the sphere!
Ged:  We can't allow that to happen...(he begins another spell of
  his own)
Alindyar:  Too late - look!

  As they watched, horrified, the darkness evaporated, revealing
the charred, scarred form of Belphanior.  The elf was standing and
cackling in triumph.

Belphanior:  Hah!
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer again, knocking Belphanior down)  Shit,
  but I hate to do this...
Belphanior:  (gets back up, bleeding from the ears, nose, and mouth)
  You...should have said...it hurt you...a lot more...than it hurt
  me...(he points his wand at the dwarf)
Mongo:  Oh, no!  Not twice in one day!

  Another lightning bolt blasted the dwarf, though this time he only
dug a twenty-foot long trench in the street as he was knocked back.
Half-buried at the end of the jagged scar in the ground, Mongo didn't
move.

Belphanior:  Oops!
Razor Charlie:  (takes this opportunity to hurl knives, burying two
  in the elf's back)
Belphanior:  Argh!  Urgh!  (he whirls, his eye glowing)  Why, you...!
Bosco:  (airborne, little boot-wings flapping like mad, he drops a
  thick blanket over the elf's head and shoulders)  Don't look now,
  but you can't look now!
Lyra:  Good move, Bosco!  (she casts a Slow spell at the elf, who is
  busy tearing the blanket off of himself)
Belphanior:  (feels odd for a moment, but then resists the spell and
  pulls the blanket from his head)  Fools!
Alindyar:  Not quite.  (he zaps the maniacal elf with a Feeblemind)
Belphanior:  (succumbs to the powerful enchantment)  Blerk.  (he
  stands there, drooling)
Ged:  Thank Boccob!  I was about to _really_ let him have it...
Otto:  Hey, we need to cover that eye.  I think it's got a mind of
  its own.
Peldor:  To hell with that - let's destroy the thing!
Otto:  Hey, now that's the best idea I've heard all day.  (the party
  converges on the catatonic Belphanior)

  The dwarf was worried about the eye reducing someone's bones to
jelly, much like one worries about being near a shark's mouth after
the shark is slain.  Or perhaps he was worried about something even
worse:  the eye suddenly possessing someone else.  He needn't have
worried about the latter, at least, for the eye's evil powers were
built around slowly, inexorably enticing a single host.
  Unfortunately, what the evil eye _did_ next do was far worse than
anything Otto or any of the others could have imagined.  With its
host incapacitated, the eye of Elik tore itself free (several of
those present actually gasped in horror) and levitated into the air
before the eleven weary adventurers, blood and ichor dripping from
its slimy form.  As it ascended, it grew: it was now a good six
inches in diameter. It hovered in place, staring, and then it spoke.

eye:  FOOLS!  DID YOU THINK TO STOP US SO EASILY?
Ged:  Wh-  what in Boccob's name _are_ you?!?
eye:  I AM BALOR...BUT I DO NOT SPEAK FOR HIM AT THE MOMENT.  (an
  eerie purple glow fills the sky above the hideous disembodied
  organ)  THE TIME HAS COME FOR YOU MORTALS TO LEARN THE TRUE FOLLY
  OF YOUR ACTIONS!

  As they watched in awestruck horror, dark, terrible forms began
flying, charging, or crawling through the gateway - demons, of all
shapes and sizes!

eye:  BEHOLD:  THE ABYSSAL LEGIONS OF ORCUS!





next:   demonstorm!
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:   tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu  (preferred)
        thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu    (emergency)
notes:  I know what you're thinking:  Belphanior didn't cast a
  single offensive spell!  Belphanior didn't even slash anybody!
  The fight went too easily for the party!  Some people didn't
  even do _anything_!
    Well, folks, remember what we're dealing with here:  three
  mighty, diverse, smart wizards, plus the fighting power of the
  others.  A battle like this, I realized as I wrote it, wouldn't
  drag out like other big battles in the past - it would be short
  and efficient and not everyone would have a major role.  Hell,
  outnumbered as Belphanior was, he couldn't have had a chance to
  do much at all, as long as they kept hammering away at him.
    Anyway, there's still the next episode, which promises more
  action than you can shake Blackrazor at.

    On an unrelated topic:  I should've said something by now, but
  I hope you'll take a moment to join me in saluting George Burns,
  RIP 3/9/96.  Not only did he have a great sense of humor, but he
  remained sharp as a tack through his 100th year.  I would have
  replaced one of the current (336-7 at the time) story's quotes
  with one of his, but most of his quotes openly mocked death, so
  it would've been tacky (at the very least) to use one.
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