Chapter #520

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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 1991-7 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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Belphanior      (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief   (CN) +
+    Otto            8th/10th level dwarven fighter/thief      (CN) +
+    the wispy thing                                            (N) +
+                                                                   +
+    Aja             9th level human priestess of Wee Jas       (N) +
+    Kinichi         7th level human ranger                     (N) +
+    Razor Charlie   9th level human fighter                   (CN) +
+    Skektek        12th level human wizard                    (CN) +
+    Victoria       11th level vampiric human female fighter   (NE) +
+    Ys             13th level reptilian fighter               (LN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        9/21/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        nighttime                                           +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "There are always alternatives."                                 +
+                              - Spock, from _The Galileo Seven_    +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                  DXX.  Curiouser and Curiouser





  Belphanior and crew are about to stage a full-blown assault on
the lair of the ghouls discovered earlier that day by Otto.  They
have waited until nightfall to begin this mission, for Victoria's
sake.  Even now, they march up into the mountains, with Kinichi
guiding the way to the scene of the previous confrontation.

Otto:  (mutters to Belphanior)  I don't think he's too happy about
  us leaving Jutokai behind.
Belphanior:  Someone had to stay and supervise the town guards; he
  was the one we needed the least, and that's that.
Otto:  Yeah, but these people are all professionals.  They're not
  the sort to stay back and avoid adventure.
Belphanior:  He'll get over being forced to stay.
Razor Charlie:  (to himself)  Better him than me.
Aja:  Where are these-
Kinichi:  (points)  There.

  Ys' handiwork was still intact; the huge boulder was exactly
where he'd left it, blocking the cavern entrance completely, its
mass more than anything but a giant could move.

Belphanior:  (glances at the rock, then at Ys, then back at the rock)
Skektek:  Crude, but effective.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at the wizard)
wispy thing:  (hovers near the boulder)  Pfsss?
Aja:  So behind that rock lurk ghouls...
Otto:  And over here.  (he wanders around some bushes)  Huh?!?
Belphanior:  What?
Otto:  The bodies...they're gone.
Kinichi:  Gone?  But we piled them up there after we killed them.
Aja:  Are you sure?
Ys:  I'm sure we killed them.
Otto:  Well, they're not here anymore.
Aja:  (moves to examine the ground where Otto was pointing)  Ick.
  (she holds up one finger, coated with a black goo)
Belphanior:  Yeah, ghoul blood.  So what?
Aja:  This isn't exactly ghoul blood.
Otto:  How do you know?
Aja:  Long experience.
Skektek:  Well, if it's not ghouls' blood, then what is it?
Otto:  Damn good question.
Victoria:  (appears from the darkness above)  Maybe the things you
  three fought earlier weren't ghouls.
Belphanior:  Where've you been?
Victoria:  Airborne scouting.  I was seeking living things.
Skektek:  Did you find anything?
Victoria:  Just you people.
Belphanior:  Well, there's only one way to find out what the hell
  those ghoul-things were.  (he nods to Ys)
Ys:  (gets a good grip on the boulder)  Someone cover the opening
  I'm about to reveal.  The monsters may be back there, just waiting
  to attack.
Skektek:  You're afraid?
Ys:  Not for me...for you.  (slowly, he pushes the boulder away)  Unf.
Otto:  (keeps his crossbow trained on the growing crevice)
Skektek:  (keeps a wand aimed in that direction)
Aja:  (looks on with interest, clutching her holy symbol)
wispy thing:  (sails into the opening)  Sssss.

  There was, however, nothing there, and soon, they all stood in the
cavern near the dark passage that led away.  As before, a horrible
stench emanated from this tunnel.

Aja:  Undead, that's for sure - but I can't say what kind.
Skektek:  How are we supposed to know, then?
Aja:  Simple - we go find out.
Belphanior:  (hands Razor Charlie a lantern)  Since you're bringing
  up the rear, you're in charge of the lantern.
Razor Charlie:  (grunts)
Otto:  (eyes the device)  I don't see any fuel in that thing.  What
  is it?
Belphanior:  It's a special lantern I made, using an old case, some
  mirrors, and a continual light spell.
Victoria:  Mirrors...ugh.
Belphanior:  (to her, privately)  Do you miss seeing your reflection?
Victoria:  Sometimes, though it really doesn't matter, since I haven't
  aged in more than three hundred years.

  They filed into the narrow passage, single-file.  Belphanior took
the lead, followed by Otto, Ys, Skektek, Kinichi, Victoria, Aja, and
Razor Charlie, in that order.

Kinichi:  I should be in front.
Belphanior:  Your bravery is commendable, but at this time, we're
  exploring a dungeon, not following tracks.  I'll take the point.

  Down they went.  The passage was about six feet wide, and led down
at a shallow but discernable angle.  Its floor was solid rock, and no
algae or fungi coated its cool, dry walls.  The tunnel was definitely
natural, winding around at random points, and a mapper would have
been hard-pressed to get an accurate diagram of the party's progress.
This wasn't really an issue until the passage forked into two parts,
left and right.

Otto:  Do we choose one, and risk being outflanked...or split up,
  but divide our strength?
Belphanior:  Strength isn't something we're lacking.  We'll split
  up, but everyone stay on your toes.  No telling what's down here.
  Myself, Kinichi, Victoria, and Razor Charlie will take the left
  passage.  Otto, Ys, Skektek, and Aja - take the right.  We'll meet
  back at this juncture in ten minutes.
Otto:  Gotcha.
wispy thing:  (opts to stay with Belphanior)  Psssb.

  They split up then, Belphanior leading his party down the left-
hand passage.  Since the other group had Skektek to cast spells of
light, Belphanior had kept his magical lantern with his own group,
and Razor Charlie still carried it.  The terrible stench grew more
intense as they went, and everyone but Victoria found it necessary
to wrap cloth around their mouths and noses.

wispy thing:  (hovers near Victoria's head)  Pfsss?
Victoria:  Shoo.

  After a good five minutes of steeper and more winding tunnels, they
stopped abruptly as their passage ended in a sheer dropoff.

Belphanior:  Hold.
Kinichi:  (moves up, peeking over the edge)  Hello!  (he hears his
  echoes, and turns back to Belphanior)  Long way down.
Belphanior:  (takes the lantern from Razor Charlie and shines it
  all around the area ahead)  Nothing...complete blackness.
Victoria:  I could fly out there and scout it...
Belphanior:  No need, really - I doubt those ghouls, or whatever
  they were, climbed up from this abyss we've found.
Kinichi:  Which means that the others-
Belphanior:  -are headed right into the monsters' lair!  Damn!
wispy thing:  Sprrd.
Razor Charlie:  (takes the lantern as Belphanior breaks into a near-
  sprint, or at least the closest thing to it possible in these
  cramped tunnels)
Belphanior:  Quickly, we've got to get back there and find them!



  Meanwhile, elsewhere, the others had been following their own
passage, and were even now entering a larger chamber...

Skektek:  (shines his light-shrouded staff about)  Bizarre.  This
  room seems to be a mix of natural cave formations and...man-made
  architecture?!?
Aja:  No, you're right.  Almost as if this place collapsed, a long
  time ago, and gradually leveled off.
Ys:  Or was excavated.
Otto:  (notices some gray ooze on the wall)  Whoa.
Skektek:  Not to worry - I think it's just slime.  Mobile, living
  monsters of this sort tend to be much bigger.
Otto:  (still eyes the stuff)  Sure...
Aja:  (suddenly grows alarmed)  Beware!  Undead abound!
Otto:  Where?!?

  Suddenly, there was a rumbling, and somewhere above, rocks gave
way and tumbled down.  The ground shook, raising clouds of dust as
the adventurers were buffeted by falling debris.  Moments after the
barrage ceased, groans and coughs were heard.  Skektek's light was
gone, so those who were still conscious had to make do with voices
only, for now.

Otto:  Is everyone okay?
Ys:  I...am here.  (the sound of a large rock being moved follows)
Otto:  Aja?  Skektek?
Aja:  Ungh...
Otto:  Aja?
Aja:  (painfully)  I'm alive.
Otto:  What's wrong?
Aja:  My legs...they're buried.  I can't feel them!  I can't-
Otto:  Stay calm.  Does anyone know where Skektek is?
Ys:  He was standing to my left when the rocks fell.
Otto:  Okay, we'll get to him.  But first we need light.
Aja:  But what about-  I mean, we're in serious trouble here-
Otto:  I said, calm down.  I was buried alive in a sewer once.  This
  is nothing.
Ys:  Maybe not, except for those sounds.
Otto:  What sounds?
Ys:  Don't you hear them?  Slithering...scraping...hissing...from
  somewhere above us.
Aja:  Damn, damn-
Otto:  (gathering some tinder from a vest pouch, he quickly strikes
  flint to steel, making a spark which the ignites his tinder, and
  lights the nearby area)  Let's move quickly.  Someone find Skektek,
  and that lighted staff of his.
Ys:  (spots a booted foot, and grabs it, tugging)

  Skektek came free of the rubble atop his unmoving form, and though
his staff wasn't in his hands, the jostling of the rocks and dirt
caused a thin ray of light to shine upward from nearby rubble.

Ys:  Ah.  (setting the wizard aside, he begins plowing through the
  rubble with hands the size of spades)

  Meanwhile, Otto had moved to Aja's side, quickly ascertaining the
situation.  It wasn't good; the priestess' legs were buried under
a significant amount of rock, perhaps crushed.

Otto:  Stay calm, or the shock will overtake you.
Aja:  Calm...right...

  Just then, the chamber was bathed in what seemed like brilliant
light, though it was really only Skektek's staff.  These things were
relative to the situation.

Ys:  (holds the staff up triumphantly)

  The light also illuminated the dozens of grey, rotten forms which
surrounded the foursome.  Some stood on their level, while others
were perched on ledges above.  In all cases, the things looked
hungry.

Aja:  Aie!
Otto:  Shit.
Ys:  Where's my sword?!?
things:  (all of them rush to the attack)


  Ys didn't waste any time looking for his weapon; with a mighty
heave, he swung the glowing staff around, impaling one of the gray
attackers in the chest.

creature:  (falls, convulsing and shrieking, causing the chamber's
  only light-source to move about erratically)
Ys:  (lets go of the staff and turns to face the other attackers)

  It was a nightmarish scene, with light and shadows dancing all
about as the impaled creature continued to thrash.  Otto loaded and
fired his crossbow, his bolt burying itself in one creature's neck.
After that, he was forced to draw his sword to defend the helpless
Aja against half a dozen of the monsters.

  Nearby...

Ys:  (swats one of the things aside, then grabs a large rock, hefting
  it above his head)
other creature:  (claws at the reptilian, scoring only superficial
  damage on his tough skin)  Hssss...
Ys:  (turns around, bringing the small boulder down onto the foe)
other creature:  <splat>
creatures:  (a dozen of them, they swarm the big reptilian all at
  once)
Ys:  Ack-
Otto:  (doesn't really have time to notice Ys' predicament, as he
  has his hands full trying to fend off six foes at once)  Damn!
  (he takes another claw-scratch on his arm, blood soaking through
  his tunic)  They're shredding my armor...but my blows aren't even
  slowing them down!
Aja:  I...noticed that...(painfully, she clutches her holy symbol
  and begins chanting)
Otto:  What the fuck?

  The creatures recoiled, squealing, as a blazing light shone forth
from the symbol in the priestess' hands.

Aja:  (her voice rises in pitch, and the glow brightens)

  An instant later, every one of Otto's foes was obliterated, only
ashes remaining where they'd just stood.  Further, some of those
atop Ys were also disintegrated.

Ys:  (sensing a weakening in his attackers' efforts, he surges to
  his feet, flinging one creature away like a rag doll)
creature:  (its leg breaks off, remaining in Ys' hand while the rest
  of it flies into the wall)
Ys:  (glances at the leg, then whirls, fists lashing out)
second creature:  (knocked back into its fellows)
third creature:  (its rotten spine snaps, and it falls, twitching)

  Enraged, Ys went after the others, and every blow of his mighty
limbs smashed or immobilized a target.  Otto, meanwhile, was roaming
the gore- and rubble-strewn chamber, severing the heads of every
downed foe he found.

random creature:  (its legs shattered, it lies there gnashing its
  teeth)  Gurk!
Otto:  (hacks off the thing's head)  Another down...but how many to
  go?  (he notes that about half a dozen of the creatures have endured
  Aja's turning and avoided Ys' attacks, and are now skulking in his
  direction)  Uh-oh.

  A dark shape flew into their midst then, quickly transforming into
a whirlwind of destruction.  The creatures seemed mesmerized, rooted
to the spots where they stood, and the laughing, dark-tressed form
slashed at them with superhuman strength, ripping limbs and heads
away as if the victims were rag dolls.

Victoria:  (backhandedly claws a foe, shredding its head into dark
  porridge)  Not to fear, good Otto - I'll take care of everything.
other creature:  (simply stands there, drooling a dark liquid, as
  she rips its spine from its back)
Belphanior:  (arrives in the chamber, panting and sweating)  We...
  we got here as soon as we...could.  Huh?
Victoria:  (she holds up a creature's severed head, face-to-face with
  it for a  moment before discarding it in disgust)  I've dealt with
  these pathetic creatures, dear.
Belphanior:  Yeah, I can see that.

  Shortly, Kinichi and Razor Charlie arrived, just in time to help
Ys deal with the few surviving creatures.  Before long, all was quiet,
save for the sounds of fresh exertion by desperate adventurers, and
the dripping of vital fluids from slain foes.

Victoria:  (looks around)  You did quite a job on them, Ys.
Ys:  As did you.
Belphanior:  What's wrong with Skektek?
Otto:  He got flattened by the ambush.  (they check the wizard)  Well,
  I'll be damned.  He's alive.
Belphanior:  Looks like only scratches...no, wait a moment, look.  A
  head wound.
Otto:  We'll need a professional healer to assess that.
Ys:  (moves to Aja, quickly examining her situation before beginning
  to lift large chunks of rock off of her legs)
Aja:  Agh!
Ys:  Stay still.
Aja:  Easy...for you to say...
wispy thing:  (hovering above one of the slain creatures, it suddenly
  chirps in alarm)  Spaaa!  Braaaaft!
Kinichi:  (glances over)  Damn!  The thing's alive!

  Indeed it was.  The corpse, torn nearly in half by Ys, had knitted
itself back together, and was attempting to climb to its feet.

Kinichi:  (slashes the thing in the back, cutting it in two)  There.
creature:  (lies there, twitching)
Razor Charlie:  (notices another "dead" foe trying to crawl away)
  Hmnn.  (he steps on the thing's neck, and is rewarded by a snapping
  of bones)
Otto:  They're not dead...they're regenerating!
Belphanior:  Like trolls.
Victoria:  It's not impossible...I'd not thought the lower forms of
  un-dead capable of this-
Aja:  (through gritted teeth)  They're not.
Belphanior:  Enough talk.  Otto, Charlie - make a fire.  Ys, Kinichi -
  pile the things up.
Ys:  A fire down here might suffocate us.
Belphanior:  Damn, you're right.  What the hell was I thinking?
Otto:  No big deal - it's a rough time for all of us.
Belphanior:  Yeah.  Okay, Ys, pile the bodies in one corner.  Kinichi
  and Charlie, keep the piled bodies from getting back up.  Otto, see
  if there are any exits out of this chamber.  Victoria, help me get
  Aja and Skektek out of here.
Aja:  Be careful...my legs are both broken in multiple places.
Belphanior:  We'll have to splint them first, then.  (he begins work
  on a makeshift double splint)
wispy thing:  Aaarp.
Belphanior:  You...go back up, scout for other creatures on the loose,
  that might have somehow gotten behind us.  I want to make sure our
  escape route is clear.
wispy thing:  Spaaa!  (it flies away)
Victoria:  (eyes the unconscious form of Skektek, who is managing to
  frown even in his state)

  While the creatures' bodies were moved to one location and kept
there, and Aja's splint was fashioned, Otto found that there were no
exits from the place.

Otto:  I did find some interesting stuff, though.  (he holds up half
  a dozen sealed scroll tubes)  These were scattered amidst some old
  coins and worthless gems, other shiny junk.
Belphanior:  Scrolls, eh?  Okay, we'll get to them once we're safely
  back home.  Won't be long now.  (he watches as his people go about
  their tasks)
Otto:  (nods toward Victoria)  Why didn't they attack her?
Belphanior:  And what were they?  And why?  This little adventure
  seems to have generated more questions that it answered...but it's
  far from settled.  Far indeed.






  Deep within a fell dungeon, far away and unknown to Belphanior
or any of the others, a dark form was hunched over a glowing
sphere of crystal.  The image within this sizable orb depicted
the elf and his allies as they left the cavern of the undead.

figure:  Ahh...things are beginning to align themselves.  (bits
  of mist seep upward and snake around its tightly-cloaked body)
  Soon, the elf will follow the bait - and then, we shall see if
  he is prepared to accept his fate...or be a victim of it.

  With a wave of one shriveled, clawed hand, the speaker ended
the scrying, pitching the chamber into darkness once more.





next:      the menace may be over, but Belphanior makes a startling
           discovery
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           http://www.shobaki.org/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:     Following are the most complete stats in existence for
  Helgate's marshals...



Aja
  9th level human priestess
  female, 5'10", 135 lbs, white skin, brown hair, green eyes
  34 years old
  homeland:             Theocracy of the Pale
  patron deity:         Wee Jas (goddess of death & magic)
  alignment:            neutral
  STR  10
  INT  16
  WIS  17
  DEX  14
  CON  13
  CHR  14
  COM  16
  ac    4 (leather armor, magical cloak)
  hp   41
  thac0 16 (2-5/1-4 +1)
spells:
  6/6/4/2/1 priest (accessible spheres:  Astral, Charm, Divination,
    Elemental, Guardian, Healing, Necromantic, Protection, Summoning)
items:
  black silver sickle +1, of wounding
  cloak of protection +3
  circlet of undead control
  ring of vampiric regeneration
  rod of terror (33 charges)
  potion of extra-healing
  potion of invisibility
characteristics:    quiet, sly



Jutokai
  7th level human fighter (archer)
  male, 5'8", 160 lbs, brown skin, dark brown hair, brown eyes
  37 years old
  homeland:             Ket
  patron deity:         unknown
  alignment:            lawful neutral
  STR  15
  INT  12
  WIS  11
  DEX  17
  CON  15
  CHR  12
  COM  11
  ac   1/4 (leather armor)
  hp   47
  thac0 9 (longbow, arrows' damage varies)
items:
  leather armor +3
  longbow +2, of distance
  +1 flight arrows (8)
  +3 flight arrows (2)
  +2 sheaf arrows (11)
  everfull waterskin
  pouch of holding
  tent, weatherproof
characteristics:    thoughtful, cautious



Kinichi
  7th level human ranger (tracker)
  male, 6'0", 180 lbs, light brown skin, brown hair, hazel eyes
  36 years old
  homeland:             Paynims
  patron deity:         unknown
  alignment:            neutral
  STR  18/11
  INT  13
  WIS  12
  DEX  17
  CON  17
  CHR  13
  COM  10
  ac   -1/2
  hp   50
  thac0 11 (longsword 1-8/1-12 + 4) or 9 (bola 2-5/1-4 +2)
items:
  chain mail +2
  longsword +2, frost brand
  bola +2
  bandana of protection +1
  earring of whispers
  potion of extra-healing
  potion of speed
  potion of stealth
characteristics:    casual, disinterested, but efficient
NOTE:  a tracker is a ranger variant, nomadic, unattached, not
  tied to Good alignments - a true wanderer



Razor Charlie
  9th level human fighter
  male, 6'1", 195 lbs, dark brown skin, black hair, black eyes
  43 years old
  homeland:             unknown
  patron deity:         unknown
  alignment:            chaotic neutral
  STR  18/37
  INT  13
  WIS  10
  DEX  18
  CON  18
  CHR  11
  COM   9
  ac   1/5
  hp   74
  thac0 12 (base), 4 (2/1, dblspec, throwing knives, 1-4/1-3 +7)
items:
  3 throwing knives +1
  3 throwing knives +2
  2 throwing knives +3
  1 throwing knife +4
  leather armor +2
  amulet vs. vampires
  potion of extra-healing
  potion of sweet water



Skektek
  12th level human wizard
  male, 6'1", 150 lbs, white skin, grey hair, bloodshot eyes
  48 years old
  homeland:             North Province of Aerdy
  patron deity:         unknown
  alignment:            chaotic neutral
  STR  10
  INT  18
  WIS  13
  DEX  14
  CON  10
  CHR  11
  COM  10
  ac    5
  hp   31
  thac0 17 (does not engage in melee)
spells:
  4/4/4/4/4/1
items:
  robes of protection +4
  wand of lightning
  thunder ring
  boots of levitation
  potion of healing
  potion of flying
characteristics:    temperamental



Victoria
  11th level vampiric human warrior
  female, 6'0", 128 lbs, white skin, black hair, pale green eyes
  366 years old
  homeland:             Urnst?
  patron deity:         unknown
  alignment:            neutral evil
  STR  18/00
  INT  17
  WIS  15
  DEX  18
  CON  18
  CHR  17
  COM  17
  ac   -2
  hp   66
  thac0 10, bare hands, (2/1) 1-10 +6 + level drain
  thac0  6, saber +3, (5/2) 1-8/1-12 +10
items:
  saber +3
powers:
  immune to poisons, charm, sleep
  energy drain by touch, at will
  mist power, need +2 weapon to injure, regeneration
  bat, wolf forms, faster movement rate



Ys
  13th level reptilian fighter
  male, 8'6", 650 lbs, grey scales, no hair, vertical-slitted
    double-lidded black eyes, forked tongue
  age:                  unknown
  homeland:             unknown
  patron deity:         unknown
  alignment:            lawful neutral
  STR  20
  INT  15
  WIS  11
  DEX  17
  CON  19
  CHR  12
  COM   7
  ac  -3/0
  hp  113
  thac0 2, (5/2, 2-20/6-36 +10)
items:
  leather armor +4
  40-lb. greatsword +2
  potion of intimidation
abilities:
  apparently immune to vampiric life drain and other undead powers
  scales act as natural armor AC 4
characteristics:    calm, cool, collected; enjoys eating and drinking

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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