Chapter #455

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                                  +
                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +
                                  +

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Halbarad         13th level human ranger                    (NG) +
+    Zephyr         wild tiger                                  (N) +
+  Mongo            18th level dwarven fighter                 (CG) +
+    Gorin           9th level dwarven fighter                 (NG) +
+  Peyote           11th/12th level half-elven warrior/druid    (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Kup Swiftfoot    halfling thief                              (N) +
+  Relmar           human high priest of Pelor                 (NG) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        5/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       an ancient crypt within the northern Vesve          +
+  Climate:     chilly and musty                                    +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Who the hell is that?  One bastard goes in and another          +
+   comes out!"                                                     +
+                  - Tuco, from _The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CDLV.  A New Mystery Arises





  The party has just burst into a vast, dark hall filled with hordes
of undead.  Behind them, more undead spring from the very walls to
block their escape.  And ahead, a mysterious robed figure taunts the
intruders...

robed figure in crater:  (laughs, a dry, dead sound that sets their
  teeth on edge)  You are too late, fools!
Mongo:  Don't know what you're talking about, ugly, but whatever it
  is, I'll put a stop to it soon enough!  (swatting a zombie aside,
  he then sends Stormcrest flying the figure's way)

  A few feet short of hitting the person (or whatever it was) the
enchanted hammer bounced off of some invisible shield, sparks of
energy flying everywhere.

Mongo:  Fuck!  (he catches his hammer)
Relmar:  (points at the robed one in the crater)  There!  That is
  the evil!
Gorin:  Yeah, we kinda figured that...(he chops at a ghoul that got
  by Mongo)
ghoul:  (falls, one arm severed)  Aieeee!
Halbarad:  (hacks a skeleton out of his way)
Relmar:  (working some holy enchantment)
robed figure in crater:  (cursing to itself as it spies the priest)
Kup:  (turns invisible)
Peyote:  Whoa, come back, little dude!  (having noted the earthy
  floor of this dungeon, he casts a spell of entanglement)

  Roots and vines sprouted from the very ground, encircling the feet
of various foes, holding them in place.

Gorin:  Ha!  (he fells a trapped wight, its head split nearly in two
  by his battleaxe)  Good work, druid!
Peyote:  Hey, man, no biggie...

  The half-elf's spell, while effective, was also somewhat weaker
than it should have been.  Peyote attributed this to the great evil
that lurked in this place - whatever it was, it was somehow tainting
the forest and earth nearby.  The roots and vines summoned by the
spell were frail and brittle, and already some of the undead foes
were breaking free.

Peyote:  Ill...most ill...
Relmar:  I'll show you ill.  (brandishing his holy symbol, which
  is glowing brightly enough to make some of the undead foes wince,
  he advances)  BEGONE!

  The high priest's spell had an effect that was both good and bad.
Every skeleton and zombie before him instantly dissolved into dust -
but the more powerful undead remained, for the weaker ones had taken
the brunt of the holy attack.

Relmar:  Damn!  I should have known!
Gorin:  No problem, fella.  We'll improvise.  (he hacks at a skinny
  wight, wounding it)
Halbarad:  Aye - hit them hard, and hit them fast, else we may die
  here!  (he stabs at a shadow, wounding it with his magical dagger)
Peyote:  Time to spill the beans!  (opening Oakly's bean-pouch, he
  casts one of the beans onto the ground)  Grow!  Rise!  Or whatever
    you're gonna do...
Mongo:  He's talking to a bean.  He's flipped.  He's completely
  flipped.

  However, the bean _was_ growing...growing and spreading!  It had
erupted into a seething mass of vines and roots, much like those
summoned by the spell Peyote had cast mere moments ago.  However,
these were more numerous, thicker...and more aggressive.  More than
a dozen undead foes were quickly overrun by the amok foliage, their
bodies vanishing from sight as they were completely entwined by the
tough roots and creepers.

Peyote:  (grins, obviously pleased with himself)  Now I'm playing
  with power.
Gorin:  (staring at the place where numerous undead now lie buried
  in flora, never to rise again)  Damn...!
Zephyr:  (not to be left out, he leaps and pounces about, every
  swipe of his great claws wreaking havoc among the enemy ranks)
Halbarad:  That helped, but what we need is to even the odds a little
  bit...
Mongo:  (points at the robed figure, obviously a leader of some kind)
  Starting with him!
Relmar:  I'll do what I can to bring his shield down.  (he begins
  spellcasting)
Mongo:  You do what you have to - I know I will.  (aiming Stormcrest
  at the lone figure, he utters an ancient dwarven word)

  The warrior invoked one of his hammer's legendary powers, causing
a mighty lightning bolt to issue from the weapon.  The crackling
energy-missile arced toward the foe...and struck him (it?) directly
in the chest!

Mongo:  (whoops with joy)  Got the fucker!
Relmar:  I'll be damned...the shield was only proof against physical
  attacks...
Peyote:  Lucky guess if you ask me.  (he chops a ghoul's head off)
Gorin:  We didn't.  (he staggers as a zombie punches him, the blow
  glancing off his shield)  Ungh!
robed one:  (still smoking from the lightning bolt)  Argh...dwarf,
  you shall die for that affront!
Mongo:  Well, fuck me...he's still alive.
robed one:  (points a finger at the dwarf, and a black ray issues
  forth)
Mongo:  Wha-  (he stands there as the bolt, whatever it is, fizzles
  out as it hits his armor)
robed one:  No!  It cannot be!
Mongo:  But it is!  (he bashes a skeletal thing out of his way as
  he charges the foe)  I'm coming to get you.
robed one:  Bah.  You will never get through my defenses.
Relmar:  Oh, I wouldn't say that.  (he casts a spell, and the air
  around the robed foe shimmers and crackles)
robed one:  Noooo!  My shield!
Kup:  (having moved into position behind the foe, he slashes the
  robed figure in the lower back)
robed one:  Aargh!  (he screams in pain as robe and flesh are cut
  deeply; his black hood falls away, revealing a twisted, shrunken,
  nearly-skeletal face)  Fool!
Kup:  (still invisible, as before)  Whatever.

  The strange, black-robed foe was clearly surprised, for he hadn't
counted on power of the levels being displayed here.  Still, he had
a few tricks of his own left.

robed one:  I see you, dolt.  (he turns to face the invisible Kup,
  gesturing, and the halfling is suddenly hurled across the hall)
Kup:  (hits a wall, hard)  Ungh!  (still invisible, he slumps to
  the ground)
Relmar:  Kup!
robed one:  (barks some arcane command, and all of the remaining
  undead stop what they're doing and retreat to surround him)
Gorin:  (cuts down a shadow as it retreats)  One less to fight later.
Halbarad:  The evil one prepares to do something...
robed one:  Indeed!  You may have won the battle, fools, but the
  war is just beginning!  (he glows with an eerie black light, and
  then blinks out of existence)
Peyote:  Whoa!  He split on us!
Relmar:  And I never got to use my holy word...
other undead:  (suddenly devoid of leadership and purpose, they
  mill about, the more intelligent among their number attacking the
  adventurers again, or trying to rally the others to do that very
  thing)
Halbarad:  (to Relmar)  What was that about a holy word, again, good
  Relmar?
Relmar:  Ah.  (he quickly turns his spell on the other foes, finally
  releasing its energy)

  The mighty spell instantly blasted most of the undead out of
existence; other, more powerful ones were held in place, paralyzed
by the holiness; a few, the most powerful, were merely stunned.
  Naturally, the adventurers took full advantage of this opportunity.

Mongo:  (running from undead to undead, he bashes their heads open
  as if they were a row of pumpkins, lined up for the smashing)
Peyote:  Wow, look at him go.
Gorin:  Why don't you help?  (he emulates Mongo, splitting a wight's
  head in two)
Halbarad:  Quickly - who knows how long the spell's effects will
  last?  (he lays about himself, slaying foes with every blow)
Zephyr:  (swipes a claw, tearing the head from a wight)

  It was almost too easy, for the foes were immobilized or stunned,
and even these latter were barely able to fight back.

Mongo:  (to Halbarad)  Boy, you've changed.  In the old days, you
  never would've slain all these things with this vigor.
Halbarad:  (shrugs)  The world is an extreme place...requiring
  extreme measures at times.
Relmar:  A sad truth...but a truth nonetheless.  (he slays a hissing
  but immobilized shadow)
Gorin:  (seeing that only a few foes remain, he begins searching for
  the invisible Kup, in the area where he thinks the halfling fell)
  Kup!
Halbarad:  (whistles to Zephyr)
Zephyr:  (using his nose, he quickly leads the dwarf to the halfling)
Gorin:  (feeling for Kup's hands, he removes the ring of invisibility
  and reveals the halfling, who is semi-conscious but alive)
Kup:  Uh...wuzzat...?
Gorin:  You'll live.  (he tucks the ring into one of the halfling's
  vest pockets)

  The battle was over, but nobody really felt victorious.

Relmar:  Whatever happened here, we missed it.
Peyote:  And who was that robed dude?
Kup:  A lich.
Relmar:  You're certain?
Kup:  (nods)  I saw him up close and personal.
Halbarad:  (to Peyote)  This bodes ill for your forest.
Peyote:  (frowns)  I don't think they were after the forest...you
  may remember that Oakly Greenleaf said this used to be the tomb
  of a lich.
Relmar:  Maybe that _was_ the lich?
Peyote:  Don't know...the lich has been dead for a long time.
Kup:  That never stopped anyone.
Mongo:  Damn right.  Whatever happened here, it can't be good.
Zephyr:  (growls its agreement)
Gorin:  (looking back into the hall, where the very walls came to
  life just a short time ago)  Hey, it's back to normal in here.
  Except for some featureless areas on the wall, anyways...
Relmar:  The lich said something about us being too late...it
  could be that it came here seeking something.
Peyote:  (nods)  And the seeking took awhile...long enough for
  the forest around to feel the evil, and suffer from it.
Halbarad:  But if that is the case...what kind of item would a
  powerful lich seek?  And why?

  These questions bothered all of them (except maybe Gorin, who
didn't share Peyote's enthusiasm for his forest and its welfare)
as they made their exit.  Of course, they searched the area for
clues first, but found nothing of interest.  The crater-like area
was littered with stony debris, but nothing else.  At its center
was a deep burn mark, as if something had exploded there.  A faint
trace of evil still emanated from the area.

Relmar:  Not from here...but from whatever _was_ here...
Peyote:  It seems that whatever was going on was a quiet affair,
  and unguarded.
Halbarad:  A quick in-and-out operation...a surgical strike.
Mongo:  Hmph.

  Upon leaving the crypt, they found Iptroot once more; the treant
was waiting patiently.

Iptroot:  Nothing has come or gone since you entered that place.
Peyote:  And we need to make sure nothing ever will again.  (he
  begins spellcasting)

  The druidic warrior used magic to seal the place, roots and
shrubs growing and weaving to cover the crypt's entrance, even
as the very stone and earth of the place melted and collapsed
in on itself.  Within moments, all access to the dungeon was
completely blocked.

Gorin:  (astounded by this show of magic)  Wow...
Peyote:  Now we know nothing can wander into the place.
Relmar:  We'll have to talk to Oakly about this, try and figure
  out what happened.
Halbarad:  I guess we need to go back now...though I feel as if
  this mission is far from over.
Mongo:  I agree.  I get the idea we'll be seeing more of rotten-
  face, sometime.
Gorin:  (raises his axe)  But we'll be ready for him!





next:      Helgate aftermath
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:     My PC is still dead.  Lemme tell you now:  don't ever
  buy a Packard-Bell.  Mine, at least, seems to be a lemon among
  computers - and their 1-800 support number is ALWAYS busy.  I've
  been trying for weeks.
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