Chapter #595

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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) +
+    Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas        (N) +
+    Angus         iron golem                                       +
+    Jutokai        7th level human archer                     (LN) +
+    Neko                     human female thief                    +
+    Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+    Skektek       12th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Victoria      11th level human vampiress/fighter          (NE) +
+    the wispy thing                                                +
+    Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                (LN) +
+    Zhao                     human swordsman                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard (NG) +
+     Deryck       11th level half-elven ranger                (NG) +
+  Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven warrior/druid     (N) +
+    Daffodil      11th level human female druidess             (N) +
+  Rob             16th level priest of Trithereon             (LG) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:           7/20/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+  Time:           early morning                                    +
+  Place:          the dungeons of Castle Mukos, in the Vast Swamp  +
+  Climate:        warm and humid                                   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk           +
+   the earth."                                                     +
+                                       - from _Dawn of the Dead_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   DXCV.  Legions of the Damned





  After some initial explorations and, most recently, a fall through
a trapped shaft, the adventurers find themselves in a large cavern,
surrounded by unknown numbers of undead foes!

Deryck:  Heads up, people!  We're surrounded!
Rob:  By undead.
Aja:  All kinds of undead.

  Simultaneously, the undead masses surged inward, as the adventurers
drew weapons or employed whatever other means of attack they had at
their disposal.  The battle was joined!  The party had already gone
over several different possible types of battle scenarios, including
this one.  However, they'd been thrown off-balance by the fall, and
they had trouble getting into position.  In an ideal world, the plan
would have had the warrior-types form an outer perimeter, while those
with missile weapons or spells would remain in the middle.  As it
worked out, though, not all of the warriors were able to get between
their allies and the undead foes.  Worse, some who would have preferred
to fight from a distance didn't have that option.

Otto:  (faces a rotting corpse looming over him)  Fine.  (he slashes
  and leaps to one side)
zombie:  (falls, its guts squirting out)
Belphanior:  (slashes another zombie behind the fallen one, felling
  it)  Good work!
Rob:  (grabs his holy symbol)
skeleton:  (gropes at the priest)
Rob:  What the-
Skektek:  Watch your back!  (he bashes the undead thing with his
  staff, knocking it back but not really wounding it)
Rob:  Thanks.  (he stands tall, his holy symbol glowing brightly)
  By the power of Trithereon...I have the power!
Victoria:  (having flown up, she has switched to human form and is
  clinging to a stalactite, staying out of the way for now)
Rob:  (wading fearlessly toward a mixed group of undead foes)  BEGONE!

  The priest's efforts caused a dozen foes of different types to
crumble into dust; five skeletons, four zombies, a ghoul, two wights,
and a wraith were taken out.  This sudden opening within the enemy
ranks was filled by Zhao, who leapt in without apparent regard for
his own safety.

Zhao:  (whirling and leaping about, he slashes at a zombie before
  it even knows he's there)
zombie:  (half of its head is sheared away)
Zhao:  (spins, doing a handstand, and lands in front of a ghoul,
  slicing at it)
ghoul:  (slashed across the stomach, it staggers about)
Zhao:  (leaps back, swinging his thin sword in a reverse arc and
  finishing the zombie off)
Rob:  Whoa!
Belphanior:  (glances at Otto, right there in the middle of the
  battle)  Damn fast, that one.
Otto:  (smirks)
Rob:  (to Skektek)  What are you doing?
Skektek:  What's it look like?  (at the top of his lungs)  BLACK!

  Rob's blasting of undead had given Skektek the chance to bring
his staff's magic to bear, and the wizard did just that.  He had
already decided, judging from the echoes of their arrival and the
beginnings of the battle, that this cavern was plenty big enough
for him to cut loose, and that was what he did.  Aiming into the
undead-filled darkness, he launched a white-hot bolt of lightning
which lit up the cavern as it went.  It also incinerated those
unfortunate enough to be standing in its path; more than a dozen
zombies, skeletons, and ghouls were blasted into ashes by the
mighty bolt as it danced through the darkness.

Skektek:  Whoa...YES!
Otto:  Nice work, there.
Skektek:  Thanks.

  Nearby, Deryck had guzzled a potion, and now he was as strong as
a fire giant.  This proved fatal for the ghast that charged at him,
screaming as it leaped.

ghast:  Yeeaaaaaa-
Deryck:  (swings his sword, almost casually)
ghast:  (shorn in two, its halves fall twitching and bleeding)
Deryck:  (quickly moves to flank Nenya and help her in the fight)
Nenya:  (acting before the battle gets too chaotic, she throws a
  web out into the mass of undead)

  The sticky strands did their job, snaring more than half a dozen
foes.  The undead didn't have the strength to free themselves from
the webbing, and Nenya smiled grimly as she began another spell.

Daffodil:  (spots the webbed undead, and works a quick spell)  RED!

  A small, bright flame appeared in the palm of the druidess' hand,
and she wasted no time, running forth and igniting the webs.  The
undead within began to burn, and the cavern was lit up even more.

Peyote:  Good idea, babe.  (he slashes at a wight with his bastard
  sword)
wight:  (falls, one arm severed)
Daffodil:  (advances on the thing, her staff ready now)
Peyote:  Thanks, I'll take a break.  (he drinks a potion, then
  readies one of his javelins)

  Ys had kept from wandering into the midst of the foes, instead
staying back and making sure that his efforts helped his companions
directly.  As usual, his huge sword cleaved through any foes dumb
(or in this case, unlucky) enough to get in his way.  Ghouls clawed
at the big reptilian, but their touch didn't paralyze him.  A wight
tried to stop him, and got cut in half for its trouble.  Thanks to
Ys, Peyote and Daffodil didn't have to face a constant stream of
hissing, rotting undead.
  Others didn't have that good fortune.  On the left rear flank of
the party, Jutokai's bow and Razor Charlie's knives couldn't stem
the rush of undead foes.  Neko readied her sword, but she wasn't
sure what she could do against several dozen creatures.
  They had all forgotten about Aja, though.  The priestess stepped
forth, chanting and brandishing a holy symbol of black metal.

Aja:  Stop your assault!

  The effect on the foes was instantaneous, and surprising.  Rather
than simply dissolving into dust, as Rob's victims had done, these
skeletons and zombies stopped in their tracks...as if awaiting orders.

Aja:  (spots a wight that her powers didn't stop, and points to it)
  Slay that one.
skeletons and zombies:  (obey, dragging the wight down as they mass
  over it)
Aja:  Excellent.  At last, a true test of Wee Jas' power.
Jutokai:  (shaking his head)  I didn't know you could do that.
Aja:  Have some faith, would you?
Jutokai:  Sure...(he draws and fires, his silver arrow sinking into
  a faraway mummy's chest)  Better watch that mummy.
Razor Charlie:  (focused on closer foes, he hurls two silver knives
  into a wraith's eye-sockets)
wraith:  (recoils)  Aaaargh!
Jutokai:  (shifts his aim, hitting the wraith with a silver arrow
  which knocks it back a step or two)  Good thing we had all the
  silver weapons blessed, too.
Razor Charlie:  (grunts his agreement)

  Nearby, young Neko found herself face-to-face with a huge
skeleton, probably belonging to a giant in its previous life.
The thing swung at her, long bony fingers reaching out to rend
and slay.

Neko:  (leaps back a good ten feet)
Jutokai:  Whoa!  Did you see that?
Razor Charlie:  Uh-huh.
Neko:  (times her strike, and as the skeletal colossus lunges
  at her, off-balance, she brings her blade down on its neck)
giant skeleton:  (loses its balance for a moment)
Neko:  (jumps onto its back, striking again, at its skull this
  time)
giant skeleton:  (unable to swat behind its back, and unable to
  keep up with this quick little foe, it flails uselessly)
Neko:  (bounds off of the foe's back, landing next to Razor
  Charlie)  Not bad, huh?
Razor Charlie:  Be careful.  (he gestures at the skeleton, which
  is standing again, stalking toward Neko)

  Meanwhile, Belphanior had gotten himself into the center of the
non-melee group, and was trying to direct everyone.

Belphanior:  Whoa...Angus!  (he points at a group of zombie-like
  things whose bodies are covered with white worms)  Kill!
Angus:  (lumbers into action)

  In battle, the golem was even more impressive than Ys.  Every
blow of its huge iron arms felled at least one foe, perhaps more
if they were in the way.  Sometimes, stunned or wounded undead
found themselves in Angus' path...and then, their rotting, moldy
bodies were crushed to pulp beneath the golem's heavy metal feet.

Angus:  (hits one creature so hard that it flies across the cavern)
creature:  (hits the wall so hard that it explodes, messily)
Angus:  (impassive, he continues to dismantle this particular
  undead contingent, one member at a time)
Belphanior:  (to no one in particular)  You know, I _like_ having
  a golem!



  The battle was going well thus far, but there were still more
undead than anyone could count.  Then again, the adventurers were
well-equipped to take on even a challenge such as this.  They had
already formed into a unit-within-a-unit.  Peyote, Daffodil, Deryck,
and Otto formed a defensive perimeter, along with Rob, who was still
causing undead to evaporate with his holy powers.  Behind this wall
of steel and wood stood Skektek, Nenya, and Belphanior, casting
spells at the foes.

Belphanior:  (launches a volley of Melf's Minute Meteors at a pair
  of translucent spectres)
spectres:  (recoil in pain as the fiery bolts strike their bodies)
Nenya:  Otto!  Duck!
Otto:  (drops to the ground)
Nenya:  (fires a sheet of flame over the dwarf's head, blasting a
  trio of ghasts that was about to charge)
ghasts:  (set ablaze, they dance in pain)
Skektek:  (having scoped out the true size of this cavern, he uses
  his staff to launch a cone of cold)  WHITE!
various foes:  (though mostly unharmed by the chilly blast, they
  are knocked from their feet by its sheer impact)
Skektek:  Hmm, maybe I should stick to fire.
Rob:  Not in here - it'd rebound and roast us!

  Nearby, a second knot of adventurers had sort of broken off from
the first.  This group consisted of Ys and Neko (who were engaged
in melee) plus Jutokai and Razor Charlie (who used missile weapons)
plus Zhao and Angus, who were out by themselves.

Zhao:  (leaps over a ghoul, somersaulting in the air as his sword
  flashes)  Wah!
ghoul:  (its head sliced open, it teeters)
Zhao:  (lands, whirling about with his sword pointed at the thing)
ghoul:  (staggers toward the warrior, but falls, twitching)
Zhao:  Sa!
Angus:  (comes up to a ghost, and swings his huge fist)
ghost:  (semi-material, it is unharmed)
wispy thing:  (flies toward the ghost)  Ozzzz...
ghost:  (stiffens, suddenly possessed)
Angus:  (veers left, one fist pulverizing a mummy)
Neko:  (slashes at the giant skeleton again, but this time, her
  sword gets locked up in its ribs)  Huh?
giant skeleton:  (swats her aside)
Neko:  Argh!  (she lands ten feet away, in a heap)  Ungh...
giant skeleton:  (turns to follow her)
Jutokai:  Uh-oh.
Razor Charlie:  Cover me.  (he uncoils his whip)

  Neko got to her feet, but her sword was lying on the floor, a
good ten feet away.  However, she was just as surprised as the
giant skeleton when the business end of a whip coiled around its
bony ankles.

Razor Charlie:  (gives the whip a sharp tug)  Ungh!
giant skeleton:  (falls on its face)
Neko:  Yeah!
Razor Charlie:  (kicks her sword, and it skitters across the floor)
Neko:  (grabs it, rolling backwards into a standing position)  My
  thanks!  (she brings the weapon down onto the skeleton's knee-
  joint, severing its lower leg and crippling it)

  Nearby...

Ys:  (swarmed by a pack of about a dozen ghouls, he actually loses
  his footing)  Ungh!
ghouls:  (tearing and biting at the reptilian's thick hide)  Sss!
Jutokai:  We've got to help him!
Razor Charlie:  (throwing knives at the ghouls, his efforts have
  little effect on Ys' predicament)
Neko:  (darts in, slashing, and causes one ghoul to drop off, its
  head split open)
other ghoul:  (turns to face the young woman)  Ssssss!
Neko:  Whoa!  (she leaps back)

  Suddenly, Ys took care of his own problem, standing amidst the
mass of undead foes.

Ys:  (hurls a ghoul away)  Get off of me!  (he kicks another one,
  sending it flying across the room)
ghoul:  (sails through the air, then smashes into a stalactite
  and falls to the cavern floor, broken)
Ys:  (punches another ghoul in the face, knocking it back, and
  picks up his sword once more)  Hah.  (he goes to work, slicing
  two ghouls in half with one blow)
Neko:  (shaking her head)  You don't need my help...



  Things were going well, but other undead - more powerful ones -
were about to enter the battle.

vampiric mage:  (drops a sphere of darkness over Belphanior and
  Nenya)
Belphanior:  Hey!
Nenya:  They've got wizards, too!
Rob:  (stops his turning efforts, now working a spell to cancel
  the darkness)
vampiric warrior:  (swoops down, slashing Rob with a dark sword)
Rob:  Argh!  (sliced across the back, he falls to his knees)
bony-winged flying skull:  (sails forth, its toothy jaws open
  wide)
Peyote:  (busy slaying a zombie, he whirls, swatting at the flying
  skull with his bastard sword)
bony-winged flying skull:  <BAM>  (it whizzes away, out of control)
Peyote:  That was definitely the illest thing I've seen in a while.
  (to Daffodil)  Rob needs healing!
Daffodil:  I'm busy!  (she bashes a wraith with her staff, and the
  foe is blasted with a jolt of electricity in the process)
Thornbolt:  (the staff)  Take that, you!
wraith:  (stunned)
Daffodil:  (unsure of the thing's powers, she hesitates)
Thornbolt:  Hit it again!
Deryck:  (steps in the way)  Allow me.  (he lets go of his longsword,
  and it floats toward the wraith)
Daffodil:  A dancing sword?!?
Deryck:  Right.  (he draws his second longsword, which ignites with
  a bright flame upon sensing undead nearby)
Daffodil:  Whoa.  You came prepared.
Deryck:  Of course.  (he fends off a zombie, which falls as its
  stomach is cut open by the fiery blade)
Daffodil:  (quickly goes to Rob's side)

  Meanwhile, above, the floating vampiric mage was preparing to
strike again, as he worked another spell.  A circular wall of iron
dropped down around Angus, also trapping Neko in the process.  The
vampire howled in triumph, but his glee was cut short as Victoria
leapt from her perch, sword swinging in a deadly arc.  The weapon
bit deeply into the foe's neck and chest, and the wound sprayed
blood even as both attacker and victim hit the ground.  Both,
however, were back on their feet in an instant.

vampiric mage:  What?!?
Victoria:  (upset that her sneak attack was not a killing blow,
  she runs him through, sword flashing)  No hard feelings?
vampiric mage:  Aaargh!  (he spits blood)  How could you?
Victoria:  Very easily.
vampiric mage:  You'll pay for that!  (he turns into mist, and
  floats away to the west)
Victoria:  (considers following him, to slay him permanently
  before he can tell others of her existence, but then decides
  to go for the other vampire before he does more harm to the
  party)

  However, Rob was already on the case.  Before Daffodil had a
chance to apply curative magic to him, the priest stood, waving
his holy symbol as the vampiric warrior swooped down for another
pass.

Rob:  AWAY!  I DENY YOUR PRESENCE HERE!
vampiric warrior:  Aie!  (he, too, turns into mist, and floats
  away to the west)
Victoria:  (changing into a bat, she flies off to the west, to see
  what's over there)

  Meanwhile, the flying skull-thing had recovered, and now dove
at Daffodil, who didn't see it coming.

Daffodil:  (screams as the thing bites into her shoulder)
Peyote:  Daffodil!  (he immediately heads toward her)
Skektek:  (closer to the druidess, he points his staff at the thing
  on her shoulder, launching a volley of magic missiles that bombard
  it mercilessly)
flying skull-thing:  (loosens its grip)
Peyote:  (grabs the thing by the wings, pulling it forcibly off of
  his woman)  Gnarly...(he hurls it away)
Razor Charlie:  (sees the thing tumbling through the air toward Ys)
  Ys!  Watch your flank!
Ys:  (turns, sees the skull coming toward him, and swings his sword)

  The wide, flat side of the big sword connected solidly with the
weird little undead thing, knocking it about a hundred feet across
the cavern.

flying skull-thing:  (begins sliding down the wall, slowly)
Jutokai:  Hmph.  (he sights, firing a silver arrow)
flying skull-thing:  (suddenly pinned to the wall)  Skreeeee!
Jutokai:  Hah.

  By now, Nenya had escaped the darkness (which was centered on
Belphanior) and then dispelled it.  Peyote was tending to the
injured Daffodil, who was losing blood and looking pale.

Peyote:  What did that thing do to you?
Daffodil:  Weak...feel weak...
Rob:  Aside.  (he works a powerful spell of curing)  I think she's
  been stricken with some kind of plague.
Peyote:  Can you-
Rob:  Certainly.  You should worry about the monsters that are
  coming this way.
Peyote:  Right.  (he stands, pulling a magical javelin from his
  back)  Okay, you rotten freaks.  Come and get it!  (he hurls the
  weapon, which transforms into a bolt of lightning in mid-flight
  and tears through a dozen undead like they weren't even there)
  Bastards.  (he gets another javelin)
Deryck:  (reclaims his dancing sword, sheathing the other one and
  then heading toward a ghoul)
wispy thing/possessed ghost:  (flying around, bothering the other
  ghosts and spectres)  Bzzzz!
other ghost:  What's gotten into him?
third ghost:  No idea.
spectre:  He's gone daft.
Aja:  (walks toward them, her holy symbol held high, the power of
  Wee Jas flowing through her)  BEGONE!
ghosts:  (forced away, they retreat)
spectre:  (likewise)
Aja:  (growing weary)

  The wall of iron was shaking, as Angus pounded it from within.
As it trembled in place, Neko appeared atop it.

Neko:  (looks around, then leaps off, sword held high above her
  head as she lands behind a mummy)
mummy:  (sliced from behind as it turns around, it staggers in
  place, eyeing the thief)
Neko:  Nyah, nyah.
Razor Charlie:  (hurls a flask of oil at the thing, hitting it
  squarely)  Jutokai!  Fire-arrow!
Jutokai:  (lights one, turning and aiming at the soaked mummy)
  Neko - get back!
Neko:  (jumps back about ten feet, in a smooth leap)
Jutokai:  (lets his flaming arrow fly)
mummy:  (explodes in flame)
Neko:  Hey, neat trick.

  A loud clanging sound interrupted them, and as they turned, the
wall of iron came down, just happening to smash a zombie, three
skeletons, and two ghouls who were standing on the wrong side of
it.

Angus:  (wanders toward the nearest undead, a two-headed troll
  skeleton)
two-headed troll skeleton:  (charges the golem)
Angus:  (brings both fists down, smashing the thing into flinders)
Neko:  That is one good ally to have around.
Jutokai:  No kidding.

  The battle was winding down now, for the undead were losing, and
even retreating, which was strange.

Aja:  That's bad news - it means they're under someone's absolute
  control.  Someone powerful.
Rob:  (obliterates five fleeing ghouls)  Bring that someone on, then.
  I'm on a roll here.
voice:  BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, PRIEST.

  Belphanior knew that voice, but before he could do anything, the
rock beneath his feet turned to mud!  Indeed, this fate befell all
of the adventurers, even Zhao, who leapt up as the footing became
unsafe, only to land in the mud a few feet away when he came down.
The effect, however, was only temporary; as they sank up to their
waists in the mud, it hardened suddenly, becoming rock once more.
Poor Otto was up to his neck in solid rock now, and the rest of
them were immobile as well, effectively helpless.  Weapons (and in
some cases, parts of arms) were trapped within the rock, unable to
be used.  Here and there, one or another of the adventurers could
bring a weapon to bear...perhaps throw a knife or slash at a nearby
foe or cast some spell that required no components or complex hand
motions.  However, there was absolutely, positively no way the party
would do much damage before they were slain by the remaining undead.

  A robed, hooded form floated down from the western side of the
room; it was bathed in a pale, violet light.  When it landed on the
rock and began walking toward its prisoners, there was no sound of
footfalls.

figure:  (passes a badly-wounded zombie, and puts its hand on the
  thing's head)  Rise, my child.
zombie:  (stands up, straight and strong once more)
Belphanior:  Xusia!
Xusia:  (his eyes glow, red, within the darkness of his hood)  You
  have destroyed or injured so many of my brethren this day...why?
Belphanior:  If you don't know, don't bother asking.
Xusia:  (shrugs)  No matter.  This battle is over, and you will rue
  the day you dared to put steel to my neck.
Belphanior:  I should have killed you right then and there.
Xusia:  An opportunity you will sorely regret wasting, I assure
  you.  As will your companions, here.  (he glances over them all,
  as they fidget in their rocky prisons)  Even the strongest among
  you, the golem, cannot rise and fight...powerless!  (he throws
  back his head and laughs, a terrible rasping sound)





next:      Xusia's true plans revealed!
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.intertex.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
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:     Episodes 594 and this one were written during the 1998
  Thanksgiving holiday.  So there.

    The ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories FTP site no longer archives the
  Adventurers, so I will remove it from all stories after this one.

    The Adventurers web page has been overhauled - check it out!
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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