Chapter #577

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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Belphanior     (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief    (CN) +
+    Otto           8th/10th level dwarven fighter/thief       (CN) +
+    Jutokai        7th level human archer                     (LN) +
+    Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+    Skektek       12th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                (LN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:           2/3/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                       +
+  Time:           late morning                                     +
+  Place:          a small island somewhere in the Azure Sea        +
+  Climate:        cold                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "You want to kill me, don't you?  Well, take a number and        +
+   get in line."                                                   +
+                                           - from _Cliffhanger_    +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                DLXXVII.  Double the Trouble





  After a brief but fierce battle with Redjack and his remaining
crewmembers, the latter group (what was left of them, anyway) got
away.  Now, Belphanior and the others now prepare to enter the
strange temple at the island's center.

Belphanior:  We should have just killed Redjack and the other
  assholes.  This truce business was for the birds.
Otto:  I was wondering what the hell you were thinking.
Belphanior:  Well, we might have needed those guys.  (he shakes
  his head)  But not anymore.  Now...(his face darkens)  Now
  they're all dead, the instant we find them.
Razor Charlie:  And Omak.
Belphanior:  (nods)  And Omak.
Jutokai:  Especially Omak.
Skektek:  Good thing I memorized only the destructive spells for
  this trip.
Ys:  Can one of your much-vaunted spells get us through that mass
  of rock they used to block the temple entrance?
Skektek:  Well, perhaps a spell of disintegration-
Belphanior:  I've got a better idea.  Everyone, prepare yourselves
  for combat.  We're going in.  (he begins spellcasting)

  A few moments later, the entrance of the temple was cloaked in
a sphere of darkness.

Skektek:  Did you pick the wrong spell?
Belphanior:  Of course not.  This way, when I remove that stone
  barrier, those within won't see the daylight from out here...
  and the element of surprise will remain on our side.
Otto:  (nods)
Belphanior:  (begins another spell)

  The elf's magic caused the stone plug, placed there not long ago
by the wizard Anak, to shift and then melt.  The rock became mud,
flowing down to the ground and re-opening the sole entrance into
the structure.

Skektek:  (quietly)  We should just drop a fireball in there right
  now.
Jutokai:  You're forgetting that they have Aja.
Skektek:  (shrugs)  She might survive...then again, she might not-
Belphanior:  Enough of that nonsense.  (he glares at the wizard)
  It's a good thing I know you're joking.
Skektek:  (backs away)  Y- yes...of course I was joking.  (he
  laughs)  Surely you didn't think I was serious...
Belphanior:  (turns back to the temple entrance)  Let's do it.
  Otto, you're on point.  I'll go next, then Skektek, then Jutokai,
  then Ys, then Charlie.
Razor Charlie:  (grunts)
Belphanior:  And no talking.

  This was a no-light situation, at least until Otto could move
into the unknown area below and see if foes waited in ambush.



  As the six adventurers descended into the dusty dungeon, others
had already made themselves at home, some distance further from
the entrance...

Captain Redjack:  The plan cannot fail?
Anak:  (shakes his head)  Not a chance.  The passage we used to
  enter this room is just long enough.  When they are all within
  and headed this way, my magical eye will see them, and I will
  know.  And then, thanks to our bait-
Aja:  (bound tightly, she stares daggers at the man)
Anak:  -then I will cast my fireball, and they will all be utterly
  obliterated.
Captain Redjack:  Good.  Then we can concentrate on getting out of
  here.
Anak:  (nods)  Tonight, I will study and memorize one of my spells
  that is easily capable of getting us home.
Captain Redjack:  And tomorrow we'll be home free and rid of that
  cursed elf.  (he recalls the sinking of his prized ship)  Dammit.
Aja:  (rather than taunt the two, she remains silent, for she does
  not want to give away any scrap of information that might reveal
  Belphanior's power, or ability to perhaps survive the fireball
  that Anak has in store)
Captain Redjack:  Mighty silent, you are.
Aja:  I have nothing to say.
Captain Redjack:  You will, for when this is all over with and we
  are back in Monmurg, you'll be my prize concubine.
Aja:  (chuckles derisively)  You'd be smarter to just kill me now.
Captain Redjack:  (slaps her suddenly, across the face)  Don't mock
  me, woman!  I've half a mind to kill you now!
Aja:  You've half a mind, period.
Captain Redjack:  (slaps her again, a backhanded blow, and roars
  in anger)  Silence!
Anak:  (grabs his captain's arm)  Do not let her drive you to this.
  She knows you cannot kill her, since we need her for bait.
Captain Redjack:  (calms down, and points a shaking finger at the
  priestess)  Mark my words, woman:  you will soon pay for your
  insolence.
Aja:  (ignores him, spitting blood from her cut lip)
Anak:  (examining the walls around them)  Hmm, odd.

  They hadn't had time to fully explore this chamber - other than
making sure it was empty and defensible - when they first arrived.
Now, however, the necessary spells were in place, and they had a
bit of time to ponder their surroundings.  The long hallway opened
into a wider hall, its ceiling arched and supported by two rows of
thin columns.  The far end of the chamber was a blank wall, with
no exits or other features.  The walls to left and right, however,
both contained a series of stone hatches, rather like concealed
doors except not quite perfectly concealed.  Each hatch was about
two feet square, and slightly discolored from the surrounding stone.

Anak:  What are these?
Captain Redjack:  How the hell should I know?

  Aja knew what they were, however, for she'd spent considerable
amounts of time in places like this.  In fact, though she couldn't
exercise her full powers right now, there was a chance, perhaps...
if this place was more than a simple tomb.  Closing her eyes, the
high priestess called upon her goddess, the grim Wee Jas.  She
reached out with her mind, seeking other minds that were suspended
somewhere less than life yet greater than oblivion.  Sweat broke
out on her brow, yet her captors didn't suspect a thing, since she
wasn't talking.
  It was a slow and frustrating process, and it took more energy
from the woman than a full-fledged combat would have.  For what
seemed like forever, she concentrated and focused.  Just when she
thought she'd failed...she suddenly knew she hadn't.
  And a moment later, Anak broke off his examination of the square
hatches of stone.

Anak:  (nods to Redjack, speaking quietly)  They approach.
Captain Redjack:  It is them, for certain?
Anak:  (nods)  It is.
Captain Redjack:  Very well.  (he grabs Aja, tying a gag over her
  mouth with a practiced motion)  Can't have you warning them, now
  can we?
Aja:  (struggling wildly)
Anak:  Hold her out in the passage, just until they see her - then
  move her and yourself out of the way.  (he begins spellcasting)

  In the chamber behind them, unseen, one of the stone hatches
quivered in its frame...quivered, then moved outward, an inch,
causing dust to drift down to the floor.  Nearby, a second hatch
trembled and began to open as well...as did a third, across the
hall.
  Meanwhile, the villains prepared to spring their trap.  Redjack
held Aja out in the entry hall, so that anyone who approached
would clearly be able to see her.  They could not see Anak, who
hid on the other side of the entryway, readying his spell.



  Nearby...

Otto:  (leading the others down a dark passage, he spots an even
  longer passage, the only way to proceed at this point)
Belphanior:  (one hand holding his cube of force ready, in case
  any offensive spells are launched the party's way)  Hold.  (he
  squints, his crystal eye sparkling)

  The elf moved in a blur, darting forward and to one side, his
sword-arm a blur as Blackrazor came out and slashed at something
unseen.  The others heard a wet splash, as if a wineskin had been
slit wide open, its contents spilled out onto the floor.

Skektek:  Huh?
Belphanior:  A wizard eye.  Someone knows we're here, so we can
  forget about any element of surprise now.



  Down the passage...

Anak:  Closer...just a bit closer...AIE!  (he recoils, swatting
  at the air suddenly)
Captain Redjack:  What's gotten into you?
Anak:  (his fireball fizzles)  They...got my wizard eye.  (he
  crinkles his nose suddenly)  What's that stench?
Captain Redjack:  (flings Aja to the ground as he hears a scraping
  sound behind him and turns, cutlass in hand)

  Both men turned, then stepped back in horror as they saw what
now faced them.  Several tall, bulky, yet awkward figures were
shambling toward them.  Each of the things was swathed in strips
of dirty white or grey cloth, which were rotting in most places.

Captain Redjack:  (eyes wide)  What the hell?!?
Anak:  Mummies!
Captain Redjack:  Stop them, you fool!
Anak:  I can't!  (he backs up, trying to work a spell as he goes)
Aja:  (rolls herself over behind the wizard, tripping him)
Captain Redjack:  You bitch!  (he raises his sword, but is forced
  to turn and slash at the nearest of the undead foes)  Back!

  Pandemonium ensued, as Anak struggled to his feet, Aja tried to
roll toward the entry passage, and Redjack fought for his life.
Ultimately, this battle's outcome was decided by another, though...

Belphanior:  (fully hasted and sprinting at top speed, he barrels
  into the chamber, ramming Anak with one shoulder)
Anak:  Ungh!  (he is knocked forward...right into a mummy's tender
  embrace)  AAARGH!
mummy:  (grabs the wizard with both arms, crushing him)
Anak:  AAAAARGH!  (he shakes as foul rot engulfs his body)
Captain Redjack:  (slashing at his own foe, he turns and sees
  Belphanior)  You!
Belphanior:  I warned you.  (he stabs at the pirate captain, his
  sword goring a minor wound in the man's shoulder)
Captain Redjack:  Argh!  (he backs into a corner, stalked by the
  mummy and wounded now)  You bastard!
Belphanior:  And then some.  (he scoops up Aja as if she weighed
  nothing and retreats back into the passage)

  The elf met Otto and the others, who were rushing to his aid.

Otto:  Found 'em?
Belphanior:  Yeah...they're sort of occupied right now.  We need
  to get away, though.
Razor Charlie:  Let's make sure they're dead.
Belphanior:  If you'd seen what I just saw back there, you'd want
  to retreat too.
Skektek:  Surely it's nothing a fireball can't take care of.
Belphanior:  Maybe in a moment, but not right now.  Let's go!
Ys:  (turns, leading the way back, sword ready)
Jutokai:  Maybe someone should remove Aja's gag.  She looks like
  she wants to say something.

  Just then, they heard voices from ahead - someone was between
them and the exit!

Omak:  (enters the passage)  Ah, there he is.
Canis:  No surprise.
Omak:  (turns to the dozen warriors behind him)  Prepare for
  battle, men.
dozen warriors:  (bristling, ready for action)
Belphanior:  Omak!  I've been looking for you.
Omak:  Well, now you've found me.  I can't say it's in your best
  interests, though.
Ixlin:  (working a spell)  They can't get away now.
Wampa:  Cast that spell, whatever it is, because I'm itching to
  bloody my fangs mopping up what's left.





next:      a hell of a battle, with three parties plus some lonely
           mummies
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           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:     This episode is another good example of me making up my
  own rules as they suit my purpose.  Aja's goddess-granted ability
  to detect and speak with undead, as well as Anak's violent reaction
  to his wizard eye being destroyed, were both my invention.
    I'll answer a question that a lot of you will ask, even though
  it's not for Belphanior to know:  the priest who was with Omak
  and caused the big storm lost control of his work, and was taken
  away by the water/air/storm elemental that he initially called
  upon to generate the storm.  Another example of someone being too
  good at what they did...
    More housekeeping:  thanks to Mark Nielsen for pointing out
  that most crabs and lobsters are poisonous, and thus must be
  cooked live (in this case, they cooked it immediately after
  killing it, so all was well.)  And thanks to Kent Peterson for
  pointing out that Redjack should have left the sails up during
  the storm, to help his ship ride the storm out.
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