Chapter #638

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
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+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2000 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+      Zephyr          rather large tiger                                 +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+                                                                         +
+   Arion           human wizard                                          +
+   Gallant         centaur                                               +
+   Proctor         priest of Heironeous                                  +
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+   Date:           2/9/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          the northern Shield Lands                             +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "This calls for a subtle blend of psychology and extreme violence."   +
+                                                - from _The Young Ones_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                DCXXXVIII.  Showdown in the Shield Lands





  After observing and ambushing some foes, the adventurers find that at
least one of the enemy is still alive and kicking.

Arion:  Argh!  (he falls, his cloak and shirt in the process of igniting)
  My spell of...shielding?
Halbarad:  (leaps to the side, longbow in hand)  Foes!
Peyote:  (ducks instinctively)  Can't see a damn thing in there-
Daffodil:  Too much smoke-
Gallant:  Could be one, or ten-
Proctor:  (eyeing Arion)  Water-
Zephyr:  Grrrrrr...
Rob:  (waves his magical fan, generating a strong wind that quickly blows
  the smoke away)
Arion:  (the flames on his clothing fanned as a side-effect)  Aie!
Halbarad:  Beware!  (ready with an arrow, he aims now that he has targets)

  Zoltar and his four allies, plus a half-dozen orcs who had been lucky
enough to be within the radius of magical protection, now faced them.  The
entire remainder of the orcish force - including the unfortunate sergeant
Korg - was but char and ash, slain by Arion's fireball.

Zoltar:  (working a spell, he mutters)  ...fools must pay.
Gurbo:  (charges around to the side, his four eyes set on Gallant)  Graaar!
Renna:  (now invisible, she sneaks around the opposite side from Gurbo)
Flaxxus:  (also working a spell)
Sharn:  (the rugged tracker-like fellow)  How interesting.  (he backs away
  from his fellows, becoming invisible as he puts his bow away)
orcs:  (interpose themselves between their masters and the adventurers)
orc #6:  (his nerve breaks, and he turns and flees)  Aie!
Gurbo:  (without breaking stride, he grabs the humanoid, ripping the head
  from the body and discarding both)  Coward.

  As for the adventurers, they too spread out and took action...

Halbarad:  (wastes no time sending an arrow at Flaxxus, who is the closest
  of the dangerous-looking foes)
Zephyr:  RRRR!  (he leaps toward the last known location of the invisible
  Sharn)
Daffodil:  (readies her staff, chanting)
Flaxxus:  (hit in the arm, his thick magical robes save him from serious
  damage, but his spell is ruined)  Argh!
Proctor:  (working a spell)
Gallant:  (readies his weighted net, then gallops toward the two-headed
  troll Gurbo)
Rob:  (having put his fan away, he is spellcasting)
Peyote:  (readies a javelin of lightning)
Arion:  (lying on the ground, he is now aflame)

  The next events all took place at the same time, pretty much, a wild mix
of combat, magic, and other actions.  Proctor summoned a vast quantity of
cold water, right on top of the burning Arion; the latter's flames were
doused with much hissing and steaming.  Zoltar beat Rob to the punch, his
spell sending an arc of powerful lightning to repeatedly ricochet off of
Peyote, Daffodil, Halbarad, Rob, and the unfortunate Proctor and Arion.
  The two druids, however, had some measure of immunity to electricity,
especially Daffodil, whose enchanted staff Thornbolt seemed to suck the
energy from the air.  Peyote's javelin was knocked from his hand, and
Halbarad suffered a similar effect with his bow and nocked arrow.  Arion,
lying in a puddle of water, was knocked unconscious by the lightning; the
priest Proctor was merely stunned.

Daffodil:  (follows through with her intended attack, a blast of lightning
  from her staff)
Thornbolt:  (speaks up in its female voice)  Fools!

  The return bolt was just as strong as Zoltar's arc had been at its start,
with the one difference that this bolt of lightning was aimed at only one
main target.

Flaxxus:  (hit head-on by the lightning bolt, he is roasted on the spot)
Zoltar:  (behind the priest, he takes some of the brunt of the spell too,
  but thanks to a certain item he possesses, the damage is minimal)
Halbarad:  (having given up on retrieving and using his longbow amidst
  this chaos, he readies his battleaxe and dagger)
Peyote:  (stands, still itching from the chain lightning)  Gnarly...(he
  uses his druidic powers to transform himself into a large brown bear,
  both to heal some of his wounds and to sniff out and destroy one of the
  invisible foes)  Graaaaaar!

  Speaking of those two, Renna had moved quickly, making her way around to
a point behind the weak-looking priest whose spell had been interrupted by
the chain lightning.  She wasn't one to hesitate, her shortsword striking
out at the man's back.

Rob:  (sensing the attack, he dodges aside at the last moment, the blow
  deflecting off of his armor but knocking him to the ground)
Renna:  (now visible, she closes in for the kill, figuring this priest to
  pose no threat)  Heh.  (she smiles to herself)

  As for Sharn, his invisibility hadn't completely fooled Zephyr's keen
sense of smell, and he found the animal too close for comfort.  The swift
attack, when it came, slashed into the big cat with deadly force, opening
a large gash in his side.

Zephyr:  (roars in pain and rage, swatting at the air where the attacker
  should be)

  To the surprise of anyone who might have been watching, the invisible
Sharn stayed invisible, even after his attack.  Zephyr was bleeding badly
but hadn't given up, sweeping the air with his great paws.  The unseen
foe, however, was nowhere to be found.

  Nearby...

Gurbo:  (charges at Gallant)
Gallant:  (readies his weighted net)

  The weapon was enchanted, and the centaur was a master with it.  As the
gigantic troll closed in, Gallant hurled the net, the weights and mesh
wrapping around the foe's legs, causing it to trip and fall.

Gurbo:  (hits the ground)  Unf!
Gallant:  (smart enough to avoid moving in close, he unlimbers his bow
  and readies an arrow)

  Elsewhere...

Renna:  (dashes at Rob, who doesn't even have a weapon in hand)
Rob:  (smiles)

  At the last possible moment, the priest simply became intangible, in
much the same manner as a wraith!  The woman's blade sliced the air once
occupied by Rob's body, and she stumbled, hitting the ground.

Renna:  Oof.
Rob:  (ignoring her, he moves toward Zoltar)

  Peyote, in the meantime, had made quick work of the five remaining orcs,
thanks in large part to his bear-form and the fact that it could swat the
humanoids aside like twigs.  He lunged at the spellcasting Zoltar next, but
the wizard blinked out of existence before the bear could maul him.

Zoltar:  (reappears close to Gallant)
Gallant:  (having fired one arrow at the troll Gurbo, who is still caught
  and struggling in the magical net)  Eh?
Zoltar:  (points a wand at the centaur, blasting him with a wave of cold
  and ice)
Gallant:  Ack!  (he falls, coated in frost)
Zoltar:  (looking around for his next target)
Proctor:  (having recovered, he transforms a number of twigs around Zoltar
  into snakes)
Zoltar:  (simply floats up into the air)  Is that the best you can do?  (he
  points the wand at the priest, speaking the command word again)
Proctor:  (blasted by cold, he falls)

  Halbarad, however, had seen enough - and Zoltar, occupied with Proctor,
hadn't seen him.  The ranger charged, leaping at the last moment - and his
axe bit deeply into the wizard's leg!

Zoltar:  Aie!  (he falls, landing hard)  Ungh!
Halbarad:  (closes in)  Time to die, spawn of-
Zoltar:  Not today.  (he blinks away again)
Halbarad:  Damn!

  The evil wizard blinked back into existence right next to Renna, who
almost stabbed him in her surprise.

Renna:  What-
Zoltar:  We're leaving.  Get to the cask, quickly, if you want to escape
  with me.  (he blinks away)
Renna:  Uh, right.  (she sees the Peyote-bear, plus Halbarad and Rob,
  coming toward her in a hurry)  Damn.  (she runs toward the cask, where
  Zoltar just appeared, at a full sprint)
Halbarad:  They're making for that casket-like thing, over there!  Quickly!
Peyote:  (bounds that way, on all fours)  Graaar!
Rob:  (floats in that direction as well)

  Daffodil, meanwhile, had moved between the unconscious Gallant and the
huge two-headed form of Gurbo.  The troll had freed itself from the net
and was lumbering toward the druidess.

Daffodil:  (finishes her spell, bringing a tremendous column of flame down
  on top of the troll's heads)
Gurbo:  AAAARGH!  (it burns, quickly falling to its knees)
Gallant:  (close to the intense heat, he stirs)



  Nearby, as Zoltar worked his spell, Renna nearly at his side, the three
adventurers charged, intent on engaging the foes.  They almost made it.

Renna:  (hurls two potion bottles at the ground between her and the foes)
  Chew on that!

  The vials exploded, bringing up an instant column of flame.  It wasn't
much, but it gave the evildoers just enough time to teleport away, along
with the strange casket.

Halbarad:  Damn it!
Rob:  Gone.
Peyote-bear:  Grrrrrr...

  Of the foes, all orcs were slain, as well as the priest Flaxxus and the
troll Gurbo.  On the adventurers' side, there were several wounded:  Arion,
Proctor, and Gallant were seriously hurt; Peyote, Rob, and Daffodil had
been injured, but less so.

Halbarad:  Where is Zephyr?  (he looks around, then at a whim retrieves the
  tiny statuette, his eyes widening)  Slain!
Peyote:  Huh?
Halbarad:  Zephyr has been slain!
Peyote:  But I thought he just went back to figurine form when that happened.
Halbarad:  That's right, but he was still slain.  (he gets his gem of seeing
  and scans the surrounding area for the one who was fighting Zephyr)

  Of the mysterious Sharn, there was no sign.  It was unquestionable that the
man had moved away on foot - Halbarad made sure of that.

Halbarad:  Magic.  It has to be.
Rob:  Strong magic...all of them had it.  The casket as well.
Peyote:  Hey, dude, what was that trick with the wraithly form, anyway?
Rob:  This armor allows me that power.  It's called the Suit of Shadows.
Peyote:  Oh.
Halbarad:  (checks the figurine again, just to make sure that his tiger is
  going to be okay in the long run)

  Despite the fact that they'd won and not sustained any true casualties,
they were unhappy with the outcome.

Halbarad:  We'll never know what they were doing here, or what was in that
  cask.
Proctor:  Oh, we might, at that.  (he gestures to the slain orcs, the huge
  smoldering form of Gurbo, and the blasted body of the priest Flaxxus)  A
  speaking-with-the-dead shall divine all that we want to know.  One of these
  will know something.

  Wounds were healed and bound and dropped items recovered; after that, the
dead to be spoken with were retrieved and lined up.  Proctor took care of
the first attempt, but the orc knew nothing at all.  The next attempt was
made on the slain priest...

Flaxxus' corpse:  (trembling)
Proctor:  Answer me!  You _will_ answer me!
Flaxxus' corpse:  I prefer not to.  (he goes limp)
Proctor:  (shaking his fist)  Damn!
Halbarad:  What happened?
Rob:  The body - the soul - resisted the spell.  This might be because of
  his deity's hold on his soul, hard to say.  (he regards the troll)  We'll
  have to try again.  Allow me this time.
Proctor:  Sure.  Whatever.  (obviously frustrated, he storms away)

  With the two-headed troll; a second spell was needed to bridge the language
barrier.  However, the monster seemed more open to the questioning...

Rob:  Who is your master?
Gurbo's corpse:  Zoltar.
Rob:  Is that the wizard you were with?
Gurbo's corpse:  Yes.
Rob:  (knowing that he can only ask a total of six questions, he considers
  his next one more carefully)  Who is Zoltar's master?
Gurbo's corpse:  (pauses)  ...Iuz.

  This revelation caused the listeners to exchange glances of surprise and
worry.  After all, they'd assumed all of this to be the work of the Horned
Society, the dreaded Hierarchs.  Iuz was a whole other level of problem, one
worse by far than the Hierarchs.  The evil demigod, it was said, had broken
free of his prison beneath Castle Greyhawk, eight years past.  With him in
that highly magical place - and also freed at that time - were eight other
personages of great and evil might.  If, that was, the whispered stories
held any truth.

Rob:  The demigod is indeed the ruler of his land once again.  This story
  could well be true.  (he frowns)  It has to be.  This troll doesn't have
  the option of lying to me.  (to Gurbo's corpse)  What was in that cask?
Gurbo's corpse:  Don't really know.
Rob:  What was the cask to be used for?
Gurbo's corpse:  (smiles with both heads)  Great evil...
Rob:  (sighs)  What is the cask?
Gurbo's corpse:  (pauses, as if thinking this one over)  Cask of Tuerny.

  With that, the gigantic, charred corpse shuddered and was still.

Rob:  The Cask of Tuerny?
Proctor:  Never heard of it.
Peyote:  (shrugs)  Beats me, man.  It kind of sounds familiar, but I can't
  be sure.
Arion:  (close to remembering where he's heard the name before, but unable
  to quite get it right now)
Halbarad:  The name will bear some investigation, at any rate.
Daffodil:  Later, perhaps.  We need to get out of here, back to a place of
  safety.

  Before they left, they examined the hole in which the cask had been
buried, finding it to radiate residual traces of great magic as well as
great evil.  They also took a few magical items from the body of the slain
priest; the troll hadn't had anything of value.  Finally, before they left
the area by highly magical means, the recent corpses were piled up and then
set ablaze with a fireball, just for good measure.

Arion:  I think I've wasted more fireballs than some magi will ever cast.
Peyote:  (instantly thinks of Belphanior)





next:      Belphanior and co. visit a temple of Orcus to pay some respects
ftp:       ftp.peldor.com
www:       http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:  http://www.peldor.com/
email:     tmiller@peldor.com
           tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu
released:  5/11/00
notes:     Some time ago, I told you about this site which makes great
  fun of Superfriends, among other things.  He's moved again, and he's
  got all-new pages to boot, so check it out:

    http://www.seanbaby.com/super.htm

    Also, here are the stats for Rob's mighty chain mail, thanks to
  Quentin Stephens for coming up with this item:

---

Suit of Shadows

  This wondrous suit of mail, also known in lore as Wraithmail, was
crafted long ago by the elves of Celene for a human paladin so that
he might purge a lich-led horde of undead.  It was later further
enchanted so that he might rescue his elven love, and live with her
for the rest of their days.  In later days, the knight fell in battle
against a dragon, which was later slain by a group of adventurers;
the armour has had numerous owners since then.

  Base armour:  Elfin Chain +4
  Powers:       User can assume Wraithform (as per the spell) 3/day
                Sunray 3/day, 360 degrees, centered on wearer
  Properties:   User is immune to all special undead attacks
                Permanent Non-detection and Proof vs Scrying/Detection/
                Divination/Location
                Wearer ages as if he were an elf, as long as the armour
                  is worn once a month
                Charismatic effect (CHR 18) vs Elves, as long as the
                  armour is worn once a month, initial meeting only

  Note that for an evil wearer, all of the effects are reversed (armour
is -4, undead attacks are double effect, aging is 5x normal, etc.)

---

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