Chapter #498

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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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Alindyar     17th level drow mage                            (N) +
+    Lyra       13th level female drow mage                     (N) +
+  Belphanior  (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief       (CN) +
+    Otto        8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief           (CN) +
+    the wispy thing                                                +
+  Ged          15th/14th level grey elven priest/mage         (NG) +
+    Arnold     13th level human barbarian warrior             (NG) +
+  Mongo        18th level dwarven fighter                     (CG) +
+    Gorin      10th level dwarven fighter                     (NG) +
+  Peldor       20th level human thief                          (N) +
+    Tanya       5th/11th level female human fighter/thief      (N) +
+    Bosco      11th level halfling thief                      (CN) +
+  Rillen       17th level human monk                           (N) +
+    Songa      13th level human huntress                       (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Ashe         a dark-skinned human warrior                        +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        6/26/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        indeterminate (it was around dusk)                  +
+  Place:       some unknown extradimensional place                 +
+  Climate:     none                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he           +
+   himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze            +
+   long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."              +
+                    - Friedrich Nietzsche, _Beyond Good and Evil_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





       XDVIII.  Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Furnace





  The adventurers have survived an encounter with the great ape
Oonga, seized his treasure hoard, and even rescued Ashe, a lone
adventurer trapped between planes - only to be swept out of the
ape's lair and into a different place entirely.

Belphanior:  (looking around)  Weird.
Rillen:  What makes you think we're no longer in Oonga's lair?
Ged:  Don't be foolish.  That ape didn't build any of this.
Ashe:  Don't be so certain.
Mongo:  Why, do you know something we don't?
Ashe:  (smiles grimly)  Perhaps...
Belphanior:  (frowns)  Out with it, then.  It's the least you can
  do, for us rescuing you.
Bosco:  Hey, I rescued him.
Ashe:  All in good time, I assure you.
Lyra:  (wondering if having this man along is really such a good
  idea)
Otto:  (wondering if a single crossbow bolt to this man's back would
  be a good idea)

  The passage through which they walked was almost perfectly round,
smooth-walled, and rather curvy.  It glowed with some inherent, dim
light, and thus torches or lanterns weren't necessary.  After a
brief time, the color of the passage walls became red - a bright,
bloody red.

Belphanior:  If I didn't know better, I'd like this place.
Ashe:  Let's hope your instincts prove to be right.
Otto:  No kidding.
Tanya:  (to Peldor)  They're joking, right?
Peldor:  Don't count on it.

  The red-hued passage ended after only twenty feet or so, forking
to the left and right.  The leftward passage was pink in color,
while the rightward passage was orange.

Otto:  I'm not walking through any gods-damned pink passage.
Mongo:  I don't see what it matters.
Gorin:  Yeah, we're fucked either way.
Alindyar:  It matters quite a bit.  The wrong choice may be our last.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I agree with Otto...though I'm not sure
  why.

  They proceeded down the orange-walled passage, and were quickly
faced with another fork:  bronze-hued walls to the left, yellow-hued
ones to the right.

Bosco:  Bronze...hmm, that could lead to copper...silver...gold...
  treasure!
Ged:  Bosco, you have a one-track mind.

  This time they chose the bronze-colored corridor, and the next
fork - a mere fifty feet along the path - was pearl to the left,
lavender to the right.

Belphanior:  Well, we might as well go for the pearl, based on the
  last assumption.
Ged:  I, for one, made no such assumption.
Arnold:  (runs his hand along the smooth, slightly cool wall)  Aaa.

  As they advanced along the pearl-hued passage, reality suddenly
began to shift and spin.  Instinctively, they knew that they had
somehow been transported; they now stood within a large hexagonal
chamber, thirty feet across and equally high.  Its walls appeared
to be constructed of translucent crystal, this material as hard as
any mineral they had experienced.

Ashe:  Interesting place.
wispy thing:  (hovering behind the stranger)  Pffft.
Peldor:  (looking upward)  Holy crow!
Tanya:  Celestian's boots...

  Twenty feet above the floor, there floated a huge ruby, almost a
foot across!  The gemstone's crimson depths reflected the ever-
present light in the chamber, bathing the adventurers in a scarlet
glow.  Amazing as this was, however, there was more; slightly above
the ruby, and about ten feet to its left, was an equally gigantic
jacinth.  A bit higher, and ten more feet over, was a huge golden
sapphire...then a translucent emerald, a pale blue diamond, a deep
blue sapphire, and - in the center of the other six - an enormous
corundum amethyst.
  These were, without a doubt, the largest, finest gemstones that
any of those present had ever laid eyes upon.

Bosco:  (gazing upward as a thin line of drool falls from his open
  mouth)  I must have them.
Peldor:  No shit...
Ashe:  (regarding the gems, he scowls at them as a deep rumbling
  sigh escapes his lips)
Gorin:  Damn, but those are some gems...
Ged:  Amazing, by Boccob.  Simply amazing.
Alindyar:  Theoretically, gems of this size are impossible-
Bosco:  Shhhh!  They might hear you.
Belphanior:  'They'?
Bosco:  Yeah, you know...them.

  About this time, they also noticed that each of this chamber's
six walls was actually an edge of another brightly-hued chamber,
touching this one at each of the six walls.  Transparent green...
pale blue...golden yellow...deep blue...blood-red...brilliant
orange - these walls were almost as impressive as the gemstones
which floated above.

Alindyar:  Hmm...could there be some link between the gems and the
  multiply-hued walls?
Ged:  It's possible.
Belphanior:  Anything's possible.
Otto:  But not always probable.
Ashe:  Though you never know.
Lyra:  If we can figure out what the connection is, we can beat
  this puzzle...
Mongo:  (wanting nothing more than to smash the walls, take the
  gems, and get the hell out of here, he grimaces, tightening his
  grip on his metal club)
Arnold:  Take is easy, Mondo.  We'll get out of here sooner or
  later.
Songa:  Better sooner than later.  I don't like this place.
Rillen:  It seems...alien.
Ashe:  It _is_ alien.
Bosco:  (begins flying upward to claim the wondrous gemstones)

  Suddenly, a deep, heavy voice spoke from nowhere...and yet every-
where.

voice:  Choose now one jewel.  It is your fate.  The others are your
  prizes.  (as abruptly as it began, the voice ends)
Bosco:  (muttering to himself)  As far as I'm concerned, they're
  _all_ our prizes.
Tanya:  I don't believe this.  Our fate rests solely upon someone's
  favorite color?!?
Ashe:  Colors are very important to some.

  They debated for a time, then voted...and chose the diamond.

Bosco:  Diamond!  (he turns to Peldor)  Maybe it'll just float down
  into my hands.  That would be neat.

  The blue diamond slowly dropped from the air, landing gently in
the halfling's hands.

Peldor:  Damn.
Bosco:  (grinning ear-to-ear)
Mongo:  This doesn't mean you can have it-

  The other six gems also floated down, landing on the floor of the
chamber.  The adventurers, naturally, wasted no time in picking them
up.

wispy thing:  (frowning)  Aaarp...
Belphanior:  (peering at the ruby)  This one alone would buy a
  kingdom...
Tanya:  I think they all would.
Songa:  But what now?
Ashe:  Good question.

  Suddenly, the walls of the chamber shattered, quickly vanishing
into nothingness.  They were now surrounded by the six colored
chambers, and those alone.  Each of these - ruby-red, bright
jacinth, golden topaz, emerald green, pale blue, deep sapphire -
had an opening in its near face.  Through all of them, the party
could see that the far sides were open, a matching color of light
streaming into them from the unknown beyond.

Alindyar:  Quite confusing, this.
Lyra:  They seem like pathways.
Ged:  (scratching his head)  Which path shall we take, then?
Ashe:  The pale blue one, obviously.
Otto:  What if you're wrong?
Ashe:  I-
Ged:  I think he's right; that one matches the color-shade of the
  gem we chose.
Bosco:  I chose.
Ged:  Whatever.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Could be it...
Rillen:  (shaking his head, he mutters to Songa)  Remind me to never
  again get talked into a quest like this one.
Songa:  Don't worry.
Arnold:  (talking with Gorin)  I have a bad feelink about this.
Gorin:  You ain't the only one, my friend.
Tanya:  Which color?
Mongo:  Yeah, someone make a decision.
Ged:  The pale blue?
Ashe:  (nods)
Ged:  (not exactly looking for that one's opinion, he waits for
  the drow or Belphanior to answer)
Alindyar:  ...aye, the blue face.
Lyra:  If nothing else, it's as good as any.
Belphanior:  But is it good enough?
Peldor:  That's what we're about to find out.

  Slowly, tentatively, they stepped out toward the weird, pale blue
radiance - and were again transported!  Now they stood in a large
room, fashioned of mother-of-pearl; its high, arched ceiling was
gold, and its floor was purest ivory.  A long, ornate table, also
of ivory, lay before them.  Seated around this were eight warriors,
armored in suits of pearl which were chased with gold.  At the head
of the table stood a tall, robed man, dressed in an ivory-colored
robe with golden trim.  This fellow seemed rather stern, but at the
same time he appeared kind.  It was a disconcerting situation, to be
sure.

robed man:  (speaking in a deep, powerful voice)  Bow to me, for I
  am Erak, true ruler of the Eight Circles.  These with me are the
  Eight Paladins of Might - my guards and enforcers of the will of
  the circles - my will, of course!
Mongo:  Erak?  The Eight Paladins of Might?  (to Ged)  Who are
  these guys?
Ged:  (feeling uneasy)  Boccob...
Peldor:  No, I don't think they're Boccob.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Eight Circles?  A body superior to the
  Circle of Eight?
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Perhaps, but you would think we would
  have heard of such.
Bosco:  (to Erak)  Hey, wanna buy a big gem?
Tanya:  Bosco!
Otto:  (muttering)  Why the fuck should we bow to these clowns?
Belphanior:  Right.  I'm not bowing to anyone, I don't care who they
  are.
Erak:  (somewhat flustered)  I grant that you have accomplished much.
  Well done, brave adventurers!  Place now the artifact in the Chest
  of Safe Keeping.  Within its depths, the artifact shall be powerless
  for eternity.

  He pointed at a great chest of gleaming gold, which opened as if on
command, revealing a murky grey aura that seemed to strain to escape
from its magical confinement.

Erak:  Keep the other trantlums and baubles.  You have earned these
  petty magicks and colored stones.  Then you are safely off to where
  you belong.
Ged:  (frowns)  You want us to put the artifact in that chest?  Why?
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  That's a good question.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Indeed.  I wonder what his answer will
  be.  Perhaps we should be ready, in case that answer is not to our
  liking.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Good idea.
Otto:  (to Erak)  What's that chest for?

  Through all of this, Erak's eight Paladins of Might had neither
flinched nor spoken.

Ashe:  Good Erak, your request is a strange one.
wispy thing:  Pffft?  (floating around Erak, it frowns)  Sprrd.
Erak:  Eh?
wispy thing:  Nrrrp.  (it turns to Belphanior, frowning toothily)
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (to Erak)  Why should we give _you_ the artifact?
  We didn't venture to the island on your account...
Erak:  Because you simply must.  It is safer with me than with anyone
  you could name.
Belphanior:  Oh, I'm afraid we're gonna need a more substantial
  reason than that.
Ged:  Careful, don't upset-
Mongo:  No, I say Belphanior's right!  The damned wand is ours.
Erak:  (shaking his head)  Gentle mortals, surely you desire to be
  done with this quest and return to your normal life?  (he makes a
  gesture, and a shimmering portal opens, beyond which can be seen
  the lush green fields around the City of Greyhawk)
Rillen:  Now that's the best offer I've heard all day.
Tanya:  (muttering)  Sounds more like a demand to me.
Songa:  (nods)  I'd be happy to get back to where I belong, but we
  shouldn't charge blindly into that.
Bosco:  Why not?  I wanna go _home_!
Erak:  Of course...of course, all of you do!  What better reason to
  be finished with this unpleasant journey, and go back to your
  homes?
Peldor:  (eyeing Erak, and the Paladins, carefully)  Call it an old
  gambler's gut instinct, but I think something's not right here...
wispy thing:  (making faces at Erak)  Frrrp.
Ged:  What about it, Erak?  Maybe it's time you told us what your
  connection with Rary and the others is.
Erak:  (his brow clouds in anger)  I have not labored this long to
  be denied by your ignorance.  Put the wand in the chest now!
Belphanior:  (grins)  I don't think so.  (he pulls something from a
  small sack at his side)
Ashe:  What the hell?!?
Erak:  (his eyes widen)  Aie!

  Belphanior was brandishing a four-foot stick of old, pale wood.
The thing was tipped with a small ram's skull, the skeletal visage
frozen in a sinister, malevolent sneer.

Erak:  Y- you...(quite flushed now)  YOU FOOL!
Bosco:  Uh-oh.  I think he's gonna explode.
Ged:  Where did you get that wand?!?  I thought we agreed not to go
  through the treasure yet!
Otto:  I never heard you say that.
Mongo:  (staring at Belphanior, he wonders when exactly the elf took
  the wand from the treasure room)  That sneaky little...
Belphanior:  (boldly stepping forward, he holds the wand before him
  and yells)  I can see you clearly now!  You're no paladin...none
  of you are!
Erak:  (whispering fearfully)  He bears the wand, and yet lives!
Belphanior:  Not only that, demon, but I know how to use it!  (he
  laughs, a throaty, half-sane sound)  Did you honestly think I'd go
  out on an epic quest for this thing without studying the legends
  and rumors of its powers?
Erak:  (growling)
Ged:  DEMON?!?
Ashe:  (smiling grimly)  Just as I suspected...
Mongo:  You did?!?
Bosco:  Why didn't you tell us, then?
Gorin:  (raising his axe into a defensive position)  Somebody please
  explain to me what the hell's going on.

  In a heartbeat, everyone - adventurers, Erak, the "paladins" - was
transported yet again, this time to a formless, featureless plain
with neither beginning nor end.  Its horizon stretched out as far as
the eye could see, and the landscape had no distinct features; it
simply _was_.

Erak:  Enough of this paltry charade!  If you choose not to give
  the wand over, we shall take it from you!

  The man, or whatever he was, was shifting and changing before their
eyes.  His hair and face melted away as his form stretched and grew;
bits of hair and bone fell to the ground.  The being who had called
himself Erak was now a twelve-foot monster with dark red skin, huge
wings, and wicked clawed hands which grasped a gigantic sword and a
flaming whip!
  He also looked kind of familiar...

Belphanior:  You!
Elik:  Indeed, it is I...Elik.
Belphanior:  Nice eye you're missing there.
Elik:  The same could be said about you.  (he erupts into a roaring
  laugh)  No matter...you shall perish horribly anyhow.

  The "Paladins of Might" were also changing.  Each of them shifted
and mutated, quickly becoming a towering fifteen-foot behemoth with
four arms - a nalfeshnee, some of the adventurers knew from previous
experience!  The two parties faced one another in rough semicircular
formations, and from somewhere above and unseen, thunder rumbled...

Elik:  You fools could have spared yourself an eternity of pain and
  suffering.  Instead, you chose to defy our will, and that of our
  master...and for that, you shall wish you were dead!
Belphanior:  (holds the wand up, causing the huge demon to recoil)
  Then why are you afraid of this thing?
Elik:  Back, fool-
Belphanior:  (waving the wand)  Begone, demons!  Back to your Abyss!
Ged:  Belphanior, you can't turn demons as if they were undead-

  Elik and the others, however, were staggering back, as if driven
by some supernatural force.  A yawning red fissure opened behind
them, stretching from the ground to a height of about twenty feet.
A tremendous force began to suck everything nearby into this strange
gaping hole.

Belphanior:  (nearly knocked over, he braces himself)  Damn...
Elik:  (being pulled into the fissure, as are the others)  Mortal,
  you have summoned powers far, far beyond your means...(he grins
  evilly)

  Struggle as they might, those nearest to the fissure could not
resist its pull.  Belphanior, still clutching the wand of Orcus in
a death-grip, was sucked into the gap after the demons.  A moment
later, Ashe lost his grip on the ground, and sailed into the red
hole, cursing.

Ged:  Boccob!  I can't-  (he flies off the ground, into the weird
  portal)
Alindyar:  (he and Lyra, hand-in-hand, are tugged toward the thing)
  Aie!
Rillen:  (having established a firm grip on a small boulder, he
  grunts in surprise as the rock is pulled free of the ground,
  sending both him and Songa flying toward the crimson fissure in
  the air)
Mongo:  (smashing into the ground with his hammer, he tries to
  fashion handholds for himself)  Dammit!

  The dwarf actually stood a good chance of keeping himself in
place, but too many of his companions had already been pulled
after the demons.  As he watched Peldor sail by, telekinesis not-
withstanding, the dwarf decided that whatever his friends' fate,
he would share it.

Mongo:  (gives up his grip, and slides along the ground toward
  the glowing red portal)  Here I come...

  The dwarf was pulled toward the fissure...then through it!  A
sea of swirling mists partially obscured the others around him -
both his companions and the demons.  After only a few moments of
this, however, all of them were dumped onto rocky ground, landing
from a height of a few feet.  Wherever they were now, the place
had a red sky, through which flashes of black lightning streaked,
their rumblings shaking the ground.  The surrounding terrain was
bleak and rough, with jagged spikes of rock jutting up from an
uneven landscape.
  Numerous jets of steam blasted up from fissures in the rocky
landscape.  Despite this, the temperature here was cold, almost
painfully so; the air was dry and slightly painful to breathe.
More than anything else, this place - whatever it was - reminded
them of a barren wasteland.

wispy thing:  Sprrd...
Belphanior:  (looking around)  What is this place?
Ged:  Good question.
Ashe:  (looking around)  Seems like-
Elik:  (flying in the air above them)  Ha, ha, ha!
Otto:  What the fuck's so funny?
Elik:  Ha, ha, ha.  (he coughs flame)
nalfeshnee:  (floating around and below Elik, they chuckle)
Belphanior:  (glaring at the balor, Orcus' wand still grasped
  in one hand)  I thought I banished you to the Abyss.
Elik:  But you did.  (he rears back his head, laughing heartily)
  And here you shall remain...forever!
Mongo:  (raises Stormcrest)  Maybe, but you're gonna be a smear
  all over the ground.  (he hurls the hammer)

  There was a tremendous CRACK as the hammer hit the demon in the
face, toppling him like a dead tree.  A peal of thunder sounded as
the lightning bolt - an aftereffect, really - traced the hammer's
path, blasting the twitching demon.

Elik:  (lying in a small blackened crater)  Argh...
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  You've got no _idea_ how long I've
  been waiting to do that again.
Belphanior:  (grins, Blackrazor drawn and held in his other hand)
  I know what you mean.  I felt my old friend here tingle, when we
  first arrived in this place, but I wasn't going to say anything...
Mongo:  Leave that to me.  (with another throw, he knocks down one
  of the eight nalfeshnee)  Gotcha!
Ged:  I can get us home - but for now, we have to defeat these vile
  demons!  (waving Lightbringer, he lashes out at the nearest foe)
  For Boccob!
Lightbringer:  I'm back!  Let undead everywhere beware!
Songa:  (hefts a spear and speaks, to no one in particular)  What is
  "the Abyss"?
Lyra:  (rummaging through her pack)  Don't ask.
Peldor:  If this is really the Abyss, and if we're really stuck
  here, let's not make it easy for these bastards!  (he draws his
  sword)

  Perhaps the deadliest - and certainly most impressive - attack
came not from one of the adventurers, but from the stranger Ashe.

Ashe:  (quivering, as his black skin actually reddens)  Return me to
  my home plane.  Now.
nalfeshnee#7:  (laughs, and lumbers toward the man)  No.
Ashe:  (growing rapidly and impossibly to a gigantic size, his body
  sprouts wings, and scales appear over his skin)  IT WAS NOT A
  REQUEST.  (he swings a huge clawed hand-paw toward the demon)

  Ashe, who had just turned into a red dragon of largest size, took
the nalfeshnee in one enormous talon - and ripped its upper half
off with the other!

nalfeshnee#7:  GYAAAH!  (spraying blood and gore everywhere, it is dead
  within instants)
Belphanior:  (eyeing the dragon, amazed)  Holy shit!
Ged:  Cynder!
Alindyar:  (spellcasting)
Cynder:  (nods angrily)  IT IS I...AND I SHALL DEAL WITH YOU WORMS
  SHORTLY.  BUT FOR NOW...(he buffets another nalfeshnee with one
  titanic wing, knocking the demon away as if it were a pillow)
  GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!
nalfeshnee#5:  (cowers away from the dragon)
Elik:  Stand and fight, you cowards!
Arnold:  (severs another nalfeshnee's arm - one of its larger ones -
  with a mighty blow)  Ah-nold!
nalfeshnee#3:  Aaargh!  (it stumbles back)
Belphanior:  That's it!  Kill them!  Kill them all!
Cynder:  GOOD PLAN.  (he snatches up a fleeing nalfeshnee in his
  jaws, grinding it into pulp with a few chewing motions)
Elik:  (waving its arms, it now hovers in the air above them)  You
  have won the battle...but you will not win the war.  (with a puff
  of brimstone, he vanishes, along with the surviving nalfeshnee)
Mongo:  Damn, he rabbited.  (he looks around for other foes to slay,
  but finds none)
Tanya:  Now what?
Alindyar:  Now, we deal with a rather large problem.  (he turns to
  regard Cynder, who is feasting on a slain demon)
Belphanior:  (sheathes his sword, and tries to keep everyone calm)
  Hold on, hold on, no need to fight.
Ged:  (raises Lightbringer angrily)  Why not?!?
Peldor:  Because we'd lose some lives, that's why.  (to Belphanior)
  Think you can negotiate with him?
Belphanior:  Probably.
Otto:  Go for it anyway, before he finishes that meal and looks for
  dessert.
Ged:  (slyly edging toward Cynder)  This is madness!  This is chaos!
  This is-
Songa:  (moves to block Ged's advance)  -a damned good idea.
Ged:  Argh!  (he turns to Alindyar)  Surely we can't support this
  plan?!?
Alindyar:  'Tis worth a try.
Lyra:  I second that.
Gorin:  (shaking his head, he moves away from the spellcasters, in
  case battle does break out)
Mongo:  What d'ya think, kid?
Gorin:  I don't really know.  I hate to make deals like this, but I
  also know that I don't want to fight that dragon.
Mongo:  Let's just sit here and see what happens.

  Before anyone could do anything, the sky darkened, and a gigantic
image materialized before (and above) them.  The image, through which
no light passed, represented the head and shoulders of a powerfully-
built being.  The thing had the head of a giant ram, complete with
curling horns and snout - but parts of it were rotting or skeletal,
flaking and crumbling off.  Yet, the thing was nothing trivial, to be
ignored or disregarded; death glittered in its eyes, and raw power
radiated from its voice.

image:  I AM ORCUS!  WELCOME TO MY DOMAIN, MORTAL FOOLS...
Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest at the image - but it passes through,
  without any effect)
Orcus-image:  (laughs, causing the ground to tremble)  SAVE YOUR
  EFFORTS, FOR YOU WILL NEED ALL THE POWER AND SKILL YOU CAN MUSTER.
Belphanior:  What do you want?
Orcus-image:  AT FIRST, I ONLY WANTED MY WAND BACK FROM ITS PRISON...
  AND I MANIPULATED A NUMBER OF PEOPLE TO GET IT.
Cynder:  NO ONE MANIPULATES ME, DEMON LORD!  (he breathes a great
  gout of flames...which, when they finally clear, are seen to have
  had no more effect than Mongo's hammer)  GRAARGH!
Orcus-image:  YOUR FLAMES ARE USELESS HERE...(he turns to Ged and
  the other wizards)...AS WILL BE YOUR MAGICKS AND OTHER EFFORTS TO
  RETURN HOME.
Ged:  That's bullshit, by Boccob!
Orcus-image:  (grins, displaying rows of most un-ram-like fangs)
  OH, I DON'T THINK SO.  THIS PLANE - THIS ONE LAYER OF THE ABYSS -
  IS _MINE_.  I AM IN COMPLETE CONTROL HERE...AND NO ONE ARRIVES OR
  LEAVES EXCEPT BY MY WILL.
Belphanior:  What the hell do you want?!?
Orcus-image:  (grins again)  YOUR SOULS.
Rillen:  (frowns, clenching his fists)
Orcus-image:  (frowns slightly)  BUT FIRST, SOME ENTERTAINMENT, TO
  REPAY ALL THE TROUBLE YOU'VE CAUSED ME.  (he gestures with a huge,
  hairy hand, in a seemingly random direction)  THAT WAY LIES MY
  ROYAL PALACE.  IF YOU WISH TO CONFRONT ME, THAT IS WHERE I SHALL
  BE.  GOOD DAY, NOW.
Ged:  You can't-
Orcus-image:  HA, HA, HA!  (it vanishes, just as suddenly as it
  appeared)
Cynder:  (raises his head and lets loose a long roar in rage, the
  deafening sound causing most of the party to recoil; he then wipes
  his bloody fanged mouth with one scaly paw and regards the party
  critically)  A most interesting turn of events, isn't it?





next:      sightseeing in the Abyss
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
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:     Don't even think about asking me what a "trantlum" is.
  If I knew, I wouldn't have used the word.     :)
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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