Chapter #523

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                                  +
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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) +
+    Jutokai         7th level human warrior                   (LN) +
+    Kinichi         7th level human ranger                     (N) +
+    Ys             13th level reptilian fighter               (LN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        9/23/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       a forsaken tomb in Blackmoor                        +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "They're not dead, exactly.  They're just sort of...rotting."    +
+                                              - from _Dead Alive_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                      DXXIII.  Answers





  After a bit of hunting and combat, Belphanior and crew have come
upon a truly dangerous place:  a musty tomb, its coffins opening
to admit a horde of weird and dangerous undead...

skeleton in heavy plate mail:  (lumbers, surprisingly rapidly,
  toward Otto)
humanoid-shaped gathering of black vapors:  (floats toward Ys)
wispy thing:  (moves to intercept the vaporous creature)  Spork!
animated bunch of moldy cloth wrappings:  (seemingly having nothing
  inside its wrappings, it yet moves toward Belphanior)
headless rotting thing:  (its body ridden with worms and dripping
  yellowish-green pus, it staggers in Jutokai's direction)
Jutokai:  Oh, great.
zombie-like thing with brown fungus covering its body in patches:
  Aaaarrr...(it stumbles toward Kinichi)
Belphanior:  What the fuck happened to our organized marching order?
skeleton in heavy plate mail:  (draws a broadsword and hacks at Otto)
Otto:  (meets the blow with his own blade, and staggers under the
  impact)  Ungh!
gathered vapor-thing:  (floats toward Ys)
Ys:  (draws his sword, unsure of the best method of fighting his
  oncoming misty foe)  Hmm.
wispy thing:  (flies into the "body" of the foe)
moldy cloth wrapping-thing:  (waves its arms at Belphanior, some of
  its dangling strips grazing his body)
Belphanior:  (recoils as the contacted areas burst into flame)  Agh!
  (he begins slapping himself to put out the fires)
headless rotting thing:  (gropes at Jutokai)
Jutokai:  (steps back, then leaps back)  Get the hell away from me!
headless rotting thing:  (suddenly shifts its attack, moving in on
  Kinichi, who is now closer)
Kinichi:  Hey, no fair!
zombie with brown fungus:  (also gropes at Kinichi)

Otto:  (quickly realizing that he can't go toe-to-toe with the
  armored skeleton, he tries a new tactic, diving at its legs
  with the intention of tackling it)
armored skeleton:  (doesn't budge, instead hacking at Otto with
  its sword)
Otto:  (gashed across his shoulder)  Aaargh!  (he rolls between
  the foe's legs before its next blow can land)
armored skeleton:  (turns around)
Otto:  (drives his barbed knife into one of the thing's knee-
  joints, attempting to pry it open)
armored skeleton:  (brings its knee up, bashing the dwarf in the
  chin and knocking him back)
Otto:  (drops his knife and his sword as he falls)  Ungh!

humanoid-shaped gathering of black vapors:  (having just been
  infiltrated by the wispy thing, it stops in place)
wispy thing:  (somewhere within the black vapors)  Ozzzz!
humanoid-shaped gathering of black vapors:  (floats toward one
  of its fellow undead)
Ys:  (shrugs, and turns, hacking at another of the things that
  emerged from the tomb's coffins)

  The big reptilian's target was a skeletal human - a woman,
actually, given the once-fine garb of the thing.  Her bony head
was crowned with dozens of skeletal snakes, these small spines
tipped with tiny fanged skulls.  Oddly enough, the undead snakes
writhed and snapped at the air, just as if they were alive.  The
creature had been shuffling toward Belphanior when intercepted.
  Ys didn't know for sure what the undead monster was (though he
was pretty sure it had once been a medusa) and he wasn't sure
what fell powers it might possess.  All he knew was that it was
a foe, and within his reach.

Ys:  (brings his gigantic sword down onto the thing)
skeletal medusa:  (split all the way down to its waist)  Aaaaaa...
Ys:  (rips his sword free, sending bones flying in all directions)
  Aha!

  Meanwhile, the humanoid-shaped gathering of black vapors had
just engulfed the bundle of walking cloth wrappings that faced
Belphanior.  There was a great thrashing as the "empty mummy"
(for so Belphanior had named it in his mind) cavorted about, as
might a person who was being stung by a swarm of insects.  The
elf turned his attention to Otto, who seemed in need of help.

Belphanior:  (forgoing a sword attack against the heavily armored
  skeleton, he instead grabs its head, and with every bit of his
  belt-granted ogre strength, he pulls)
armored skeleton:  (its helm is torn off, along with its skull,
  and it begins cavorting about)
Belphanior:  (watches the thing dance in confusion, then realizes
  that he's still holding the helm, within which the skull rolls
  around, its jawbone chattering)  Eyah!  (he hurls the thing at
  a seventh undead foe, a small, shriveled humanoid the height of
  a halfling)
small shriveled thing:  (hit in the chest by the missile, it
  staggers, briefly)  Singaya!

  Meanwhile, Kinichi was locked in combat with his two foes, the
headless worm- and pus- dripping zombie and the fungus-covered
zombie.  The tracker's sword had kept both at bay thus far, but
he was backed into a corner, and on they came, relentless.

Kinichi:  (slashes at the headless zombie)
headless rotting zombie:  (its arm sliced, worms and pus spew out)
Kinichi:  (gags at the sight and smell)
zombie with brown fungus:  (gropes at Kinichi - and then recoils,
  the back half of an arrow protruding from its head)
Jutokai:  (fires another shaft, this one piercing the headless
  zombie's knee)
headless rotting zombie:  (staggers, but doesn't fall)
Jutokai:  (nocks another arrow)  Take heart!
Kinichi:  Don't worry about me.  (he lashes out at the temporarily-
  distracted and slow-moving zombies, his blade cleaving through
  the headless one's ankle)
headless rotting zombie:  (collapses to the floor, unable to stand
  up; worms and ooze spew from it as it hits)  Gork.
Jutokai:  (hits the brown-fungus zombie with another arrow, this
  one landing in its shoulder)
Kinichi:  (slashes at the headless rotting zombie while it's down,
  shearing its other leg off at the knee)  That ought to slow him
  down even more...

  With several of the undead foes incapacitated or down for the
count, the adventurers were able to regroup at the front of the
tomb.  This presented their foes with an organized front:



--------------------------------------------
                                            |
                                            |
                                            |
   O                 1       6              |
    K              5             2/3/w      |
     Y                    4                 >
    J                7                      |
   B                          8             |
                                            |
                                            |
                                            |
--------------------------------------------

O = Otto              1 = skeleton in plate mail (now headless)
K = Kinichi           2 = humanoid mass of black vapors (currently
Y = Ys                    possessed by the wispy thing)
J = Jutokai           3 = "empty mummy" (engulfed by #2)
B = Belphanior        4 = headless rotting zombie (no feet)
w = wispy thing       5 = zombie w/brown fungus patches
                      6 = skeletal medusa (slain by Ys)
                      7 = short shriveled thing that says "Singaya"
                      8 = vaguely visible form within swirling red
                          mist



Otto:  We're not getting too far against these guys...
Belphanior:  It's because we're not thinking, and not using our
  capabilities to the fullest.  (he completes a spell, sending a
  Melf's acid arrow at the little shriveled foe)
short shriveled thing:  Sing-  aaaachk!  (its head covered in acid,
  it collapses, thrashing wildly)
Otto:  (produces his javelin of piercing from one of his magical
  pouches)  Gotcha.  (speaking a command word, he causes the missile
  to hurl itself toward the foes)
zombie with brown fungus:  (speared through the neck, it falls to
  the floor, gurgling)  Glaark!
Ys:  (steps forward, his gigantic strides taking him to the foes in
  mere moments)  Die!  (he chops at the brown-mold zombie)
zombie with brown fungus:  (shorn in half, it spews fungus all over
  the place)  Ggggg...
Ys:  (anticipating this, he has already backed away)  Someone needs
  to torch this thing.
Belphanior:  All of 'em...
Jutokai:  (raining arrows into the footless, headless rotting
  zombie, he prevents it from creeping forth to fight)
Kinichi:  (waits, his sword ready)  Should I attack-
Belphanior:  No.  Ys, get back!  (waving his hands, he completes
  his spell, sending a sheet of flame at the undead)

  The various foes were burned where they stood, except for one
strange case...

zombie with brown fungus:  (spasms oddly...as the brown fungus grows
  into a 10' wide patch around its body)
Otto:  Fuck!  It's spreading!
Belphanior:  Brown mold...I should've known.  No more fire!
Kinichi:  (spots the headless skeleton in plate mail as it nears,
  and moves to engage it)  I never use fire anyway.

  At this point, aside from the headless armored skeleton, few of
the foes were directly menacing the adventurers.  The black mist-
creature, possessed by the wispy thing, had somehow destroyed the
mass of bandages that Belphanior thought of as the "empty mummy."
Even now, the dark mists were spreading out, dissipating into
nothingness.  As for the headless, footless rotting zombie, it
had all but ceased movement, such was the power of the fusillade
launched at it by Jutokai.  The short, shriveled creature was
melting, its head all but dissolved by Belphanior's acid arrow;
it posed no further threat.  This left the weird brown mold-thing
and the vaguely visible form within swirling red mists; Belphanior,
Otto, and Ys were the only ones unoccupied and ready to deal with
these two foes.

Belphanior:  (working another spell)  I'll take care of our moldy
  friend there - you two stop that mist-thing.  (he begins another
  spell)
Otto:  Gotcha.  (he and Ys approach the creature)

  Neither of them had any idea what the thing was.  Its outer
part was a cloud of swirling crimson vapors, but within could be
seen the vague outline of something humanoid.

red-mist-thing:  (surges forward suddenly, with alarming speed)
Otto:  whoa-  (he backpedals, but not quite in time, as the mist
  engulfs his arm)  EYAAAGH!

  The dwarf was totally preoccupied with whatever pain he was in,
so Ys took it upon himself to save the day.  A normal man (or a
demi-human, or a humanoid) wouldn't have been able to reach the
obscured form that was at the center of the mists, but Ys had a
range far beyond a six-foot-tall warrior.  His long arm enabled
him to hit the thing inside the mists with a well-aimed swing.
There was a shattering sound, as of dried and brittle bones being
smashed and snapped, and the red mists began to falter, allowing
Ys to pull Otto out of their clutches.

Otto:  (holds up his arm, from which blood is leaking like sweat
  would on a hot day)  Damnedest thing...
Ys:  Don't worry about that now.  (he gently shoves the dwarf to
  one side, and turns to face the weird foe)

  Nearby...

Belphanior:  (stepping forth toward the near edge of the brown
  mold, he completes his spell, waving his hands)  Out you go!
brown mold:  (touched by the spell, it disintegrates utterly,
  along with its zombie carrier)
Belphanior:  Heh.  (he turns his attention to Ys and his mist-
  engulfed opponent)  What's this?

  Ys had slashed at the thing again, but this time, his own arm
(from the elbow down) had passed through the red mist.  Droplets
of blue blood now showed upon the affected area.

Ys:  (eyes his arm in alarm, and takes a step back)
mist-thing:  (surges forward)
Belphanior:  Must be some kind of vampiric mist...(he begins working
  a new spell)

  The mist-creature wanted Ys now, but the big reptilian knew that
he could slow it with a good attack.  Heedless of the mist and what
it could do to his flesh, he swung his sword another time, and its
blade sliced through the mist and smashed into the figure within.
Bits of the crimson vapor began to drift away from the main mass...

Ys:  It appears wounded...
Belphanior:  Well, let's finish the job.  (he casts a gust of wind
  right at the thing)

  The mist began to peel away, moved by the powerful winds - and a
truly bizarre thing happened then:  the body within the red vapor
simply melted away!  Within moments, nothing remained but stray
wisps of red-tinged mist.

wispy thing:  (floating near one such wispy remnant)  Pffft?
Ys:  Excellent.
Belphanior:  (nods, turning to survey the situation)

  All was well.  The various undead foes were either slain or in
the process of being slain.  The wounded were binding their cuts
and gashes.  A single door in the tomb's far wall beckoned now,
its dull grey metal perhaps hiding new secrets and foes.

Belphanior:  (thinking to himself, he frowns)  My spells are
  running low...I've used a lot of magic today.
Ys:  But you used it well.  (he helps Otto wrap his wounded arm in
  thick bandages)
Otto:  Ow!  That shit hurts.
Ys:  Believe me, I know.
Otto:  It's a weird wound...doesn't seem to want to stop bleeding.
Kinichi:  (surveying the carnage)  Room cleared.
Jutokai:  What now?
Belphanior:  Now, we go through that door and get some answers.
voice:  (gravely and deep, the voice of something not quite living)
  There's no need for that.  I can give you all the answers you
  desire, right now.

  The door had opened, admitting a human-like figure in extravagant
robes.  Only as it drew near did they realize that its robes were
rotting, as was its body.

Belphanior:  (glaring, his sword raised)  Keep your distance, crypt-
  thing.
lich:  Fear not, Belphanior.  If we'd wanted you dead, you'd have
  been dead by now.
Belphanior:  Don't be so-  hey, how do you know my name?
lich:  We've been watching you.
Belphanior:  Why?  What do you want?  (he frowns)  Did you bring
  me - us - here just to tell me all this?
lich:  All this, and more.  (he shakes his head)  You mortals are
  so easily baited.  Placing the ghouls near your town was such a
  brilliant idea...my idea, I might add.
Belphanior:  (dumbfounded at how easily he's been manipulated)
  Who _are_ you?
lich:  I am Skorvus, a faithful servant of Xusia.
Belphanior:  What's a "Xusia"?
Skorvus:  A vast and dreadful power...but that isn't important at
  the moment.  What is important is that you are given another
  chance to do our master's bidding.
Belphanior:  Huh?
Skorvus:  Our master, the demon prince of undead.
Belphanior:  (grimaces, speaking hatefully)  Orcus?
Skorvus:  (nods, his red eyes glowing beneath his shadow-filled
  hood)  He cannot directly meddle in your affairs, but as his loyal
  servants, we can and do carry out his goals and strategies.
Belphanior:  What the hell does he want?
Skorvus:  The same thing he wanted before:  you.
Belphanior:  Me?  Why me?
Skorvus:  You have potential...such great potential.  Even without
  Elik's power.
Belphanior:  Enough about that.  What makes you think I'd serve that
  fat lump of-
Skorvus:  Victoria.
Belphanior:  What?!?
Skorvus:  As a powerful undead, your woman is under the grasp of
  my master.  At a whim, he could...influence her to do some dark
  deeds indeed.
Belphanior:  (livid, he screams furiously, spittle flying from his
  mouth with every word)  You'd better keep away from her, or I'll
  find and kill every last one of you fucking bastards!
Skorvus:  Now, now.  Her continued well-being isn't the price of
  your servitude.
Belphanior:  What?  What the hell are you talking about now?
Skorvus:  Release from the unlife...a complete reversal of that
  woman's vampirism.  That is the boon we offer you, if you co-
  operate.  Think - never again will she have to fear the light
  of day...or the stakes of hunters...or anything else.  Total
  freedom from her curse!
Belphanior:  And in return I'm to become a slave to that bloated,
  laughing piece of shit?!?
Skorvus:  (smiling as only a rotted corpse can)  No.  You will
  merely have some tasks to carry out...tasks you could enjoy very
  much.
Belphanior:  (shaking his head)  Well, I'll be damned.
Skorvus:  You may indeed, yet.  (he folds his arms)  You have one
  week to ponder this offer and make your decision.  Seek us at the
  Isle of Woe.  (with that, he blinks out of existence)
Belphanior:  What?!?  Come back here, I'm not done talking to you!
Otto:  I think he's gone.
Belphanior:  Eh?  (he looks around)  Ah, he really is gone...that
  slinky bastard...(he paces about, fuming)
Ys:  We have a quandary, it seems.





next:      a break from this, as we check on those in Helgate
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/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     Thanks to those who helped with new weird undead ideas.
  If you don't know what SINGAYA means, go rent the uncut version
  of _Dead Alive_ right now.
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