Chapter #417

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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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Unwanted guests, The Company of Nine (now Six):                  +
+                                                                   +
+  Aggro the Axe       4th level human fighter                 (CG) +
+  Arkayn              4th level human cleric of Trithereon    (LG) +
+  Arlanni             2nd level human female thief             (N) +
+  Gutboy Barrelhouse  6th level dwarven fighter               (CN) +
+  Blastum             4th level human magic-user              (CN) +
+  Sarnath             5th level human magic-user              (NE) +
+                                                                   +
+                                                                   +
+  Freshly deceased:                                                +
+                                                                   +
+  Abner          5th level human magic-user                   (LN) +
+  Balto          1st level human monk                         (LN) +
+  Barjin         4th/5th level half-elven fighter/magic-user   (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/9/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        evening                                             +
+  Place:       Belphanior's castle, above Helgate                  +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Surrender, and I will be merciful...and quick!"                 +
+                     - the Gorn captain, from Star Trek's _Arena_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CDXVII.  Nearing The End





  Using a massive, open-centered spiral stairway, the surviving six
adventurers have just ascended to the castle's fourth floor, 120'
above ground level.

Aggro:  What's this?!?
Arlanni:  Well, I'll be damned.
Gutboy:  Bah.

  They had reached the top of the tower!  The ceiling began at the
outer walls, tapering to a point ten feet above the ledge on which
they stood.

Arkayn:  No ladders or hatchways we could use to get out...
Arlanni:  And these windows are too narrow.

  Indeed they were, little more than arrow slits that overlooked the
lower portions of the castle and courtyard.  They could see the roofs
of some parts of the castle.  They could see all the access ledges
and parapets.  In fact, they could see everything but an escape route.

Gutboy:  Well, that tears it.  We're gonna have to fight that statue,
  and beat it.
Sarnath:  I told you, the thing is a golem.
Gutboy:  Don't mess with me right now.
Blastum:  I could try and blow a hole in the roof here...
Aggro:  And risk collapsing the tower on us?  No thanks.
Arkayn:  (nods)  One of us can go a bit ahead, using a lantern to
  make sure nothing surprises us.
Arlanni:  I guess you need a volunteer, huh?
Arkayn:  We need someone who knows how to look for traps and is quick
  on her feet.
Arlanni:  (sighs, and checks Balto's lantern)  Let's go.
Aggro:  (follows her down, closely)
Arkayn:  (likewise)
Gutboy:  (thinking of ways to try and knock the golem out of the way)

  However, yet another surprise waited below:  the landing to the
second floor, where the golem had been only a short time ago, was
deserted!

Arkayn:  Trithereon be blessed!
Arlanni:  (visibly relieved)  We'd better get away from here - that
  thing couldn't have gone far.
Aggro:  Right.
Blastum:  To the first floor, then?
Arkayn:  No, the first floor was merely the turret accessways, from
  this stairwell.  We want to go south and east from here, and take
  the narrow stairway to the chapel.
Arlanni:  Right.
Aggro:  (somewhat confused)  Uh...yeah.
Gutboy:  (advances to the front of the party)  C'mon.
Sarnath:  (wondering where the golem went, and why)

  They followed Arkayn's suggested course, and ended up in the chapel.
From here, they had four options.  Firstly, they could use the larger
stairway (which they had just left) to go down, below the ground floor
and into parts unknown.  Secondly (and thirdly) they could use the
smaller spiral stairway that connected to the chapel's southern end,
and go either up or down.  Fourthly, they could simply go due west,
through the hall of murals and the entry hall, and leave the castle.

Arlanni:  I say we leave.
Gutboy:  (somewhat unhappy with this suggestion)  Bah.  Warlock ain't
  gonna die if we don't find him.
Arkayn:  We're too weak - we really should get out of this fell place.
Aggro:  (stands there, impassively, arms folded)
Sarnath:  We should move on, and kill that warlock.
Blastum:  I'll go either way.

  Thanks to Arkayn and Arlanni, who were walking westward as they
talked, the debate carried into the great entry hall.  To tell the
truth, neither the cleric nor the thief were much interested in what
the others wanted to do at this point.

Sarnath:  I say again, we must-

  The discussion was interrupted by some familiar-looking ghouls,
the undead swarming to the attack from the dining room, to the south.
At the same time, a stony form swooped down from a hidden perch amidst
the rafters - a gargoyle!

Arkayn:  Aaa!  (he begins chanting)
Aggro:  Ghouls!
Gutboy:  The same ghouls, I'd wager!  (both warriors charge to the
  attack)
Arlanni:  (preparing her crossbow)  And a gargoyle!
Blastum:  (spellcasting)
Sarnath:  (spellcasting as well)

  The seven ghouls quickly moved out, the middle ones meeting Aggro
and Gutboy as the others came around to menace the rear adventurers.

Aggro:  (hacks a ghoul's leg off)  Yeah!
ghoul#1:  (reels)  Aaaaaie!
Gutboy:  I'll do you one better!  (he bashes a second ghoul in the
  face, driving it back)
ghoul#2:  (staggers)
Blastum:  Die!  (he drops a flaming sphere amidst the pack of undead
  foes)
ghouls:  (scatter, several of them aflame)
Aggro:  (recoils as his ghoul's backside is scorched)
Gutboy:  Yaaah!  (kicks his ghoul into the flaming sphere)
gargoyle:  (flies down past Arkayn and the magi, perhaps testing the
  party's defenses)  Grrrrr!
Arlanni:  (the gargoyle in her sights, she fires her crossbow)
gargoyle:  Gg?  (it ignores the bolt, which bounces off its stony hide)
Arlanni:  Oh, hell.  My bolts won't hurt it.
Arkayn:  Take heart, and fear not!  (he waves his holy symbol at the
  few ghouls who aren't dead or aflame)
ghouls:  Ssss!  (they cringe for a moment before fleeing)
Aggro:  Good deal.  (he turns, a throwing axe in hand, looking for
  the gargoyle)
gargoyle:  (swoops down again, right toward Arkayn)  Grrrr...
Arlanni:  Arkayn, look out!
Arkayn:  (distracted due to his undead-turning activities)  Wha-
Sarnath:  (launches a fiery arrow at near-point-blank range)
gargoyle:  (hit in the chest, it suffers both piercing and burning
  damage)  Graaarg!
Blastum:  (impressed)  Nice...
Sarnath:  I have my moments.
Arkayn:  Whew, thanks.

  He wasn't out of danger, though; as the gargoyle reeled and wavered
in mid-flight, still stunned from the spell, it crashed right into the
surprised cleric.

gargoyle:  (begins clawing and biting and goring the man)  Grrrrarrg!
Arkayn:  Argh!  Urgh!  (he puts his arms up in an attempt to defend
  himself)
Gutboy:  Hang on, Arkayn!  (he brings his hammer smashing down onto
  the back of the monster's head)

  The dwarf's warhammer was enchanted, and it sent shards of the foe's
skin whizzing in all directions.  Aggro hurled his prized throwing axe
a moment later, and it, too, took a bite from the gargoyle.

Gutboy:  Keep at it - the bastard'll fall!
Aggro:  Gotcha.  (he leaps forth, chopping with his battleaxe, but the
  weapon's edge is turned by the gargoyle's tough hide)
Arkayn:  (scrambles out from beneath the heavy foe, bleeding from a
  pair of jagged cuts on his arm and shoulder)  Urgh...
Blastum:  Everyone look out!  (he rolls his flaming sphere toward the
  gargoyle)
Gutboy:  (nearly burned, he scampers back)  Yeow!
Aggro:  Watch where you send that thing, wizard!
gargoyle:  (enveloped in the sphere, it burns)  GRAAAARG!
Blastum:  (watching this)  At least I found a way to stop it!
Gutboy:  Bah, we were getting there.
Aggro:  (wondering if his throwing axe will weather the searing flames)
Gutboy:  (regroups with the others, noting Arkayn's wounds with more
  than a little respect)  Huh.
Arlanni:  (helping Arkayn to his feet)  Are you okay?!?
Arkayn:  Argh...yes, just...a bit under the weather...
Sarnath:  That is most unfortunate.
Arlanni:  Why?
Sarnath:  (points to the wide northern stairway)  Because we have
  company.

  Near the bottom of the broad steps, there now stood a quartet of
people.  One - a tall, eyepatched elf in a flowing red cloak - had
to be the warlock Belphanior, based on the townspeople's descriptions.
To the elf's left was a tall, raven-tressed woman, her face beautiful
and cruel at the same time.  She held a long, thin, straight saber in
one hand.  On the elf's right was a mean-looking, short-bearded dwarf,
a crossbow held lightly in his hands.  Next to him was an even meaner-
looking fellow, a scarred, dark-skinned human in a black sleeveless
vest.

Arkayn:  (thanks to a magical talisman around his neck, he now detects
  strong evil to the north)  By Trithereon!  It's him!
Arlanni:  (her heart leaps into her throat, so to speak)
Aggro:  (grips his battleaxe tightly in one hand as he gets another
  throwing axe into his other)  The warlock?
Blastum:  It _is_ him!  It has to be!
Sarnath:  Aye...a being most foul and cruel.
Gutboy:  (getting ready to charge into battle, he quivers like a taut
  bowstring)

  The elf took a step forward, speaking in a clear, powerful voice.

Belphanior:  (angrily)  Yes, I am Belphanior.  And you people are
  intruding in my home.  (he draws his sword)





next:      the Company of Nine meets its end, but not before a great
           surprise
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:     The mapping is getting confusing - even I had to stop
  in the middle of this story and look over the maps, and where
  they had been.  Fortunately, it all came together and I was able
  to write the second half of the story.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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