Chapter #409

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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 Company of Nine (visitors in Helgate):                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Abner               5th level human magic-user              (LN) +
+  Aggro the Axe       4th level human fighter                 (CG) +
+  Arkayn              4th level human cleric                  (LG) +
+  Arlanni             2nd level human female thief             (N) +
+  Balto               1st level human monk                    (LN) +
+  Barjin              4th/5th level half-elven f/m-u           (N) +
+  Gutboy Barrelhouse  5th level dwarven fighter               (CN) +
+  Blastum             4th level human magic-user              (CN) +
+  Sarnath             5th level human magic-user              (NE) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/9/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       Helgate, deep within the Yatil Mountains            +
+  Climate:     chilly w/light drizzling rain                       +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "_Where_ are the guards?  Where _is_ everybody?"                 +
+                                        - from _Enter the Ninja_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                    CDIX.  The Castle of Doom





  The Company of Nine has completed its ascent of the mountain road
to Belphanior's castle.  Now, they are faced with the task of finding
a way in...

Abner:  Well, there it is.
Aggro:  Huh.

  The massive, foreboding castle loomed ahead, rising like a dark
spire into the sky.  It was set atop a natural pillar of rock, the
terminus of the slope they had spent the last hour climbing.  The
castle rose from the surrounding stone, its outer walls jutting a
hundred feet into the air.  These walls were about three hundred
feet wide (as one faced the front) and somewhat longer than that
(measured from front to back.)  The castle proper - some would call it
the inner keep - was set within the outer wall, a separate structure
entirely.  The cliffs from which the castle's outer wall rose were
steep, and the road was the only conventional way to get inside.  It
left the forest's edge (where the adventurers were concealed) and
continued onward for perhaps two hundred feet, rising on a natural
ramp of stone.  The path finally ended at a ruined gatehouse, this
decrepit structure spaced about twenty feet from the main castle wall.
  The twenty-foot gap between the gatehouse ruins and the castle's
front entrance was spanned by a lowered drawbridge.  This ramp was
fashioned of heavy, iron-banded wood.

Abner:  Hmm.  What should we do?
Aggro:  What do you mean?  We're here, so let's get cracking!
Arlanni:  (scanning the battlements atop the outer wall)  Don't see
  any sentries...tell you what, I'll sneak up there and cross that
  drawbridge.  If the coast looks clear, I'll come back and get the
  rest of you.
Arkayn:  A good plan.
Barjin:  Are you sure it's safe, Arlanni?  One of us could go with-
Arlanni:  No, I work better alone.
Blastum:  How do you intend to get to the wall without being seen?
Arlanni:  Don't worry, I have my ways.

  After again checking to make sure that all was quiet, the slender
woman sipped from a flask, and vanished completely from sight.

Balto:  (astounded, for he has never seen this sort of thing before)
  Inconceivable!
Barjin:  A simple trick, really, as spellcraft goes...
Blastum:  Bah!  Simple conjurations like that can never match the
  might of-
Gutboy:  Would you two shut up?!?

  Arlanni was only gone for a short time, and when she returned, her
presence became known only when she suddenly appeared from thin air.

Aggro:  (recoils in surprise)  Eyaaah!
Gutboy:  (chuckling)  Heh, heh.
Arlanni:  Sorry.
Aggro:  Don't _do_ that!  I might have accidentally chopped you in
  half!
Gutboy:  Doubtful...
Abner:  What news?
Arlanni:  Clear sailing.  The drawbridge is solid and stout, and no
  guards are about.  I'd guess this place is abandoned.
Barjin:  Way to go!
Arlanni:  Within the outer wall is the real castle, which is only
  slightly less imposing than its outer wall.
Arkayn:  Truly a warlock's den.
Abner:  Let's move in.  Everyone be on the lookout.

  They cautiously approached the drawbridge, passing through the ruins
of the gatehouse before crossing the chasm below.  After passing under-
neath a pair of raised portculli, they had entered the courtyard of the
castle.



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  Obviously, the place was vast, far beyond their capabilities to
search in a single day...

Abner:  I'd say we get into the main castle, and find this warlock.
  No need to waste time exploring all the outer walls and courtyard.
Barjin:  Agreed.
Balto:  (examines one of the two-foot square flagstones that make up
  the outer wall)  Rugged stone, this.
Gutboy Barrelhouse:  Granite, or I'm a halfling clown.  This place'd
  be one tough nut to crack, if it came to a siege.
Barjin:  Good thing it won't.
Balto:  Probably because we're nine people, rather than an army.
Aggro:  Nine will be enough to beat that warlock!  (he raises his
  axe defiantly)
Arlanni:  Quiet, you fool!  If he's got guards hiding inside, they
  can hear your bellowing a mile away.
Aggro:  (shuts his mouth, for once)
Gutboy:  (thinking of all those guards hiding from him, he grins)
Abner:  (to Arkayn)  What think you, old friend?  Does the place
  reek of evil and corruption?
Arkayn:  (wipes a grey lock from his forehead)  Er...not blatantly.
  Then again, it's hard to tell.
Blastum:  It sure _looks_ evil enough...(he shivers despite himself)
Sarnath:  (waves a robed arm)  Enough talk.  Are we going to find a
  way in, or just stand here all day?
Arlanni:  We're going to just stand here-
Abner:  Arlanni, let's go have a look at the castle's main gate.

  As they walked, they had the opportunity to observe other areas
of the front courtyard.  There were no sheds, gardens, or other
things that they might have expected.  Instead, the high, battlement-
topped walls loomed above, giving more than one of them an inkling
that they were in a prison.  Numerous arrow slits and windows could
be seen, on the wall and inner keep respectively.

Arkayn:  (notes several stone gargoyles perched atop towers and
  abutments)  I wonder if those things are alive?
Barjin:  Could be the case...these sorcerers are a powerful lot.
Aggro:  (sarcastically)  They sure are.  (he looks at Blastum)
Blastum:  (caught up in the sight of the castle)
Balto:  I am no expert on mass warfare, but this castle doesn't seem
  to be very secure, if a siege was to happen...
Abner:  Good observation.  Gutboy...?
Gutboy:  (scratching his beard)  Hmm...yeah, there're plenty of
  arrow slits and murder holes...only one main gate...wide gap under
  that drawbridge...probably nowhere climbable around the base of the
  whole thing.  But yeah - he ain't got the muscle he needs to man
  this place right proper.
Arlanni:  (cranes her neck, squinting as she eyes the windows near the
  top of the inner keep)  I don't think I could get through those
  windows, Abner.  They've got bars...thick bars from the look of them.
  I don't have the strength to try and rip them out, but they look
  pretty sturdy.  I doubt that two or three of you could do it, even
  if you could get up there.
Barjin:  Hmm.
Abner:  Look, the front door is closed.
Arlanni:  Maybe locked.  (she listens at the portal)
Aggro:  Can you hear anything in there?  Guards?  Monsters?  The evil
  elf himself?
Arlanni:  Nope, nothing, nada.  But this door may be _real_ thick.
Gutboy:  (looking around, he scratches his beard)  Where the hell are
  all the guards?
Balto:  (nods)  It's odd.
Blastum:  Not for a powerful wizard's castle.  He's probably got all
  sorts of magical guards inside...just think of the spellbooks he's
  sure to have!
Abner:  That might be bad...
Arlanni:  Look at this...(she gestures to a rune carved into the stone
  above the inner keep's door)

  The rune was readable by all present, for it was in Common.  It
read "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.  You have been warned."

Aggro:  What is this, some sort of joke?
Arkayn:  The warlock seems awful sure of himself.
Aggro:  He can die like everybody else, I'd wager, regardless of
  how sure he is.
Blastum:  My mighty magics will take care of him!
Barjin:  Not alone, they won't.  Remember, this mad elf is supposed
  to be hardier than most.
Abner:  Yes, but someone must put an end to his evil reign.
Sarnath:  (mutters something incoherently)
Aggro:  Someone, like us!
Gutboy:  Right!  Who's to be turned away by such wimpy words?  I say
  we move on - go in!
Abner:  Yes...but we'd better be on our toes.

  They spoke like this because the inner door was now ajar, having
opened while they were talking.  A high, broad portal, it was about
ten feet high and perhaps eight in width.  No keyhole or knob was
visible, and neither was any person or monster, yet the door stood,
half-open.





next:      into the castle!
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
www:       http://www.access.digex.net/~dpm
           http://www3.hmc.edu/~kshobaki/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     This story was written the day of the Centennial Park
  bombing.  Thanks to all who emailed asking if I was okay.  Quite
  obviously, I am; I hope to stay that way for the duration of this
  madhouse.
    Sorry about the crappy castle maps.  Until I can get the real
  maps scanned into my web page, you're stuck with ASCII.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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