Chapter #549

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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 1991-8 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                    +
+                           +
+  Alindyar         17th level drow mage                        (N) +
+    Lyra           13th level female drow mage                 (N) +
+  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) +
+    Jutokai         7th level human archer                    (LN) +
+    Kinichi         7th level human tracker                    (N) +
+    Ys             13th level reptilian fighter               (LN) +
+  Bosco            12th level halfling thief                  (CN) +
+  Date:        1/4/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midafternoon                                        +
+  Place:       the City of the Gods, within the Land of Black Ice  +
+  Climate:     moderate                                            +
+  "There's no such animal!"                                        +
+  "That may be, but that doesn't mean it's not here."              +
+                                                - from _Sphere_    +

                DXLIX.  The Cost of Adventuring

  The adventurers have entered a room containing a mysterious (and
aggressive) cloud of red mist.  As they retreat before this unknown
menace, however, problems arise...

Bosco:  (staring at the thick door that just slid back into place,
  blocking their exit)  Why?
Otto:  Maybe we're cursed.
red mist-cloud:  (descending toward the party)
Lyra:  We'll never cast three more Knock spells in time!
Alindyar:  I know-
Belphanior:  (holds up the energy-rod that he took from Bosco)  I'll
  end this right now.

  The elf was a quick study in most topics, and arcane weaponry was
no exception.  He'd previously examined the rod and found a tiny
sliding switch at one end.  Now, standing before an unknown menace,
he put his ideas to the test.

Belphanior:  (aiming the rod at the cloud, he reels as a peal of
  white-hot energy issues from the rod)

  The elf staggered, but remained standing; unlike Bosco, he was
prepared for the blast, and unlike Bosco, he possessed a great deal
of strength.  The energy-beam hit dead on target, and the cloud lit
up, glowing brightly.

Otto:  Good shot.
Belphanior:  Well, that should be the end of...that...
red cloud:  (continues moving toward them, maybe even faster than
Bosco:  Ack!
Alindyar:  (spellcasting)
Lyra:  (spellcasting)
Kinichi:  (watching uneasily)
Jutokai:  I guess arrows are useless here...(he fires one anyway, but
  it passes through the mist without effect)
Ys:  A good try, though.

  They weren't bantering idly; they pushed, pulled, and beat on the
thick metal door - but the thing was stuck fast.

Alindyar:  (launches a Knock spell at the door, but as before, one
  doesn't do the trick)  Lyra...
Lyra:  I know.  (she casts a second Knock spell, and again as before,
  the door remains closed)
Belphanior:  (realizes that he should have already been casting the
  third Knock spell)

  Time had run out, though, at least for the adventurer nearest to
the crimson mist.

Kinichi:  (enveloped by the descending mist, he screams in agony)
Jutokai:  Kinichi!
Aja:  (watches in horror as the tracker dissolves - body, clothes,
  items, and all - in a matter of moments)  Aie!
Ys:  (stands there, gaping)
Bosco:  (likewise)
wispy thing:  Braaaaft!
Otto:  Fuck _ate_ him!
Belphanior:  Good gods...(he turns to face the metal door)  Everyone
  move, NOW!  (pointing the energy-rod at the portal, he slides the

  Again, a mighty bolt of pure energy sizzled forth.  There was a
tremendous explosion, and the floor shook, and those closest to the
door had their hair singed.  However, despite a huge charred dent
in its center, the door yet stood.
  And the cloud yet advanced - and they could have sworn that it was
now larger than before.

Belphanior:  Dammit!
wispy thing:  (flies up to the red cloud, interspersing itself
  between the deadly foe and the adventurers)  Spork!
red cloud:  (envelops the wisp, obscuring it from sight)
Ys:  (eyes the cloud, then turns to the door)  No.  (he backs up a
  few steps, then charges, shoulder down)

  The big reptilian hit the door, nearly half a ton of muscle and
sinew against a damaged barrier of cold metal.  The door lost the
contest, as Ys broke through into the passageway beyond.

Ys:  Ah.
Belphanior:  Free...we're free!  (he begins running)  Everybody out,

  Nobody had to be told twice.  With the elf leading the way, they
retraced their steps, sprinting all the while.  Alindyar and Lyra
weren't used to this kind of exertion, but they kept up, the sight
of Kinichi being eaten still fresh in their minds.  Bosco and Otto,
however, weren't exactly fast runners, and they quickly began to
lag behind, as the red mist-cloud followed - no, chased - the party.

Otto:  (slightly ahead of Bosco)  Damn!  It's...too fast!
Bosco:  No, you're too slow!  (he takes to the air, his winged boots
  propelling him along more rapidly)
Otto:  (huffing and puffing)  Fuck.
Ys:  (stops, scoops up the demi-human, and resumes his great loping
Belphanior:  Good work, Ys!  (he crashes through one room, takes a
  left, and darts off toward another)

  In no time at all, they'd reached the jagged rip in the floor where
they'd come up from below.

Belphanior:  (turns, pointing)  There it is!

  The mist-cloud was about a hundred feet behind them, coming around
a corner.

Aja:  (nearly hysterical)  Doesn't it ever give up?
Jutokai:  (grimly)  Not if it's still hungry.
Alindyar:  (gasping for breath, he works a spell)  Perhaps...this
  will...stop it.
Lyra:  What?  (she uses their ESP link)  Ah.  (struck by another
  idea, she too begins spellcasting)
Alindyar:  (completes his spell, pointing both hands at the oncoming

  A great gout of flame and heat appeared, surging down the passage
toward the mist-thing.  Alindyar had recalled the numerous side
passages and chambers as the party had dashed past them.  He was
counting on such spaces to absorb and channel the fireball's deadly
flames so that they wouldn't bounce back and fry the adventurers.
It worked perfectly; the red mist was completely engulfed in the
rolling inferno, which then continued on, pouring into other rooms
and passages.

Aja:  Wow.
Alindyar:  Hopefully...that will rid us of the thing.
Belphanior:  (scanning the steaming passageway with his magical eye)
Alindyar: lives!
red mist-cloud:  (bits of it appear from the smoke and steam, the
  wisps joining together into one greater whole)
Ys:  Diabolical.
Lyra:  (working her own magic)  Let's try something new here...

  Before the cloud could traverse the passageway, Lyra erected a
wall of ice, completely filling the corridor, blocking it solidly.

Lyra:  Maybe that will hold it.
Belphanior:  Maybe...oh, no.  Look!

  At the juncture of ice and passage ceiling, through a crack that
was probably too small too see, red wisps drifted through to their

Otto:  Dammit!
Lyra:  (glaring)  How in the hells can this thing be stopped?!?
Belphanior:  (holding a great, dark tome open before him)  Time for
  some help...

  The elf's incantations produced several monsters from thin air!
An ogre, a carrion crawler, and a grey ooze now rested between the
adventurers and the approaching red cloud, awaiting orders.

Belphanior:  (points)  Go kill that thing.
monsters:  (hasten to obey, charging/slinking/oozing down the
Belphanior:  Hah.
Lyra:  They'll be killed for sure!
Aja:  I think that's the idea.
Belphanior:  Just run.  (looking back)  And don't look back.
Bosco:  (eyeing the great hole in the floor ahead)  Down we go.

  As they began to drop down into the room below, the entire tower
suddenly shook.  A deep rumbling began, from somewhere far below
them, as the floor continued to tremble beneath their feet.

Belphanior:  (throws up his hands in exasperation)  What now?!?
Alindyar:  (shrugs as he eyes the unstable mess of walls, floor,
  and beams down which he and the others must descend)
Ys:  (bats mangled girders out of the way, clearing a better path
  for the others)
Jutokai:  (helping Aja climb down and regain her footing)  Come
  on, come on...we need to get moving here...

  Indeed, the red cloud had almost caught up to them by the time
they were all down.  Running as fast as they were able, they
retraced their steps, returning to the central dome-chamber and
then down into the tower's huge ground-level room.  At every turn,
every step, the red mist was close on their heels.  However, they
had another problem as well:  the tower was shaking with ever-
increasing force.  Explosions, originating from far below, rocked
the structure and those who ran through it.
  It was a miracle that they made it out ahead of the red mist,
but they did, and when they emerged from the city's central tower,
they realized that it wasn't just the tower that was shaking - it
was the entire city!

Ys:  (teeters as the ground shakes violently)
Jutokai:  (falls, then stands back up, only to fall again as
  another tremor shakes the city)
Bosco:  (avoids this problem since he's in the air)  Whoa.  (he
  looks around nervously)
Lyra:  An earthquake?
Belphanior:  Doubt it - I've got a bad feeling about this.
Otto:  Then keep running.  That cloud-thing's still after us!

  And it was.  The crimson cloud, now more than twenty feet wide,
had emerged from the entry portal into the city proper.  It was
still moving in their direction.

Alindyar:  When will this end?
Lyra:  Now, maybe.  (having been spellcasting, she creates a gust
  of wind, a powerful puff that pushes the red mist away)
Jutokai:  Wow.
Belphanior:  Good work - but let's not waste any time.  (he loses
  his footing as the city shakes)  We need to get out of here now!

  Their time, however, appeared to be up.  The very sky shook over
their heads, and the shockwaves beneath their feet were getting

Bosco:  What do we do?
Belphanior:  We teleport out.  Quick, everyone join hands!  (he
  begins spellcasting)

  The red cloud was heading back their way...

Bosco:  (to Lyra)  Blow it away again!
Lyra:  That spell's not an ongoing thing.
Aja:  We're in trouble then.
Alindyar:  (eyeing the busy Belphanior)  No, we are not.  Everyone
  stay calm, join hands, and get ready!
red mist:  (only a mere twenty feet away, it sails toward them)
Belphanior:  (completes his spell)  Let's go!

  In a blink, they stood several arrow-shots' distance from the
city's outer wall, in the black snow.

Jutokai:  What?
Aja:  We're not home yet.
Belphanior:  (looks relieved)
Lyra:  Why didn't you just teleport us back to your town?
Belphanior:  Because I couldn't concentrate.  Be glad we're out of
  that damned city!
Ys:  (watching the city)  Oh, I am.

  The city had somehow ripped free of the very ground around it,
and was rising into the sky, bright yellow flames trailing after

Bosco:  Bye...
Belphanior:  Incredible.
Alindyar:  (shrugging)  I never got the impression that it was from
  around here.
Jutokai:  No shit.
Lyra:  (watches the city, now a distant yellow speck in the sky,
  as it fades from view)  Well, that's it.  The city's gone.
Ys:  But to where?
Otto:  Wherever the city went, I hope those who sent it get killed
  by the red mist.
Aja:  (distraught)  Poor Kinichi...
Jutokai:  (puts an arm around her)  I feel his loss, too.  (he eyes
  Belphanior)  Maybe we're the only ones, though.
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  I'm not exactly thrilled that
  Kinichi's gone, either, but he knew the risks.  We all did.
Ys:  (nods)
Jutokai:  But he's dead, not us.
Belphanior:  And the wispy thing's gone, too.  Dammit.
wispy thing:  (pokes its head out from Bosco's backpack)  Nrrrp.
Bosco:  (jumps)  Ack!
Otto:  Well, I'll be damned.
Belphanior:  We all may be, in the end.  (to the wispy thing)  How
  in the hell...?
wispy thing:  (flies out and hovers over the elf's shoulder, its
  immaterial mouth making a neutral face)  Vroot!
Belphanior:  (sighs)
Jutokai:  (clenches his fists)
Otto:  (watching the huge pit where the city used to rest, as it
  fills up with slush and water from the melted snow, already
  refreezing)  Come on.  Let's get the hell back home.

next:      battle royal!
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Though the adventurers will never know, I'm going to
  give you a rough idea of what the City of the Gods was all about.
  Long, long ago, a space-borne city of a large, alien race took
  extensive damage from a meteor.  The vessel/city set down on
  Oerth, barely avoiding a crash-landing.  As it was, there was
  much damage, and repairs were started immediately.  They went
  smoothly, but before the ship could depart, a deadly experiment
  (the red mist) got loose thanks to damage sustained from the
  meteor hit.  The aliens tried frantically to stop this acidic
  mist-cloud; they came close, but ultimately failed.  The mist
  consumed every inhabitant of the city within a short period of
  time.  Then, its hunger sated, and not possessing any true
  intelligence, it retreated to the laboratory where it had spent
  its entire existence.  The city's automatic security procedures
  implemented themselves, and the mist was trapped again.
    Centuries passed.  One by one, the city's devices began to
  fail, its functions ceasing.  And in its vault, the red mist
    At some point, someone hid one of the seven Runes of Power
  within the city.  Fortunately, they didn't get far enough into
  the city to find and/or free the mist-organism.  And still it
  waited, trapped...and hungry.
    Later, a demon came to claim the Rune, and some adventurers
  came to battle it.  None of them, or those who came after,
  even came close to finding the vault containing the red mist.
    Until now.
    Why did the city/ship take off?  Perhaps its sensors detected
  the escape of the red mist...or perhaps they reacted to the
  damage caused by our heroes.  Whatever the case, some automatic
  pre-programmed reaction kicked in, and off it went.

    But enough of that - next episode's the climactic meeting and
  battle between Belphanior's group and those who await them in

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