Chapter #640

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Angus          an iron golem                                        +
+     Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas                 +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo         dwarven berserker                                     +
+   Otto             8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+   Date:           1/18/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          the skies above the Horned Society lands              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "How much blood must I bathe in to get clean?"                        +
+                                                  - from _The Hunted_    +

                         DCXL.  A Clockwork Red

  At long last, and after all requisite stops have been made, the band of
adventurers has reached its destination...

Belphanior:  An evil temple.  Which, I might add, we're going to destroy
  utterly and violently.
Skektek:  Good.
Belphanior:  I don't care about treasure.  I don't care about prisoners.
  All I _do_ care about is flattening this place and rendering it useless
  to the powers that put it there in the first place.
Ys:  Sounds splendid.
Mongo:  (to Otto)  Is he kidding?
Otto:  I doubt it.
Gorgo:  (munching on a hunk of dried meat as he listens)
Belphanior:  Okay, people, here's the deal.  We're above the temple.  It's
  one of the smaller, more remote such temples of this particular demon
  lord, but I don't care.
Otto:  Same attack plan?
Belphanior:  Well...I've been thinking about that.  One element I most
  definitely want to repeat is the Angus-dropping.  That worked pretty well
  last time.  But this time we're going to change a few it even
Skektek:  (visibly excited)  How's that?
Belphanior:  Well, here's my plan...

  A short time later, and far below the skyship's location, the temple of
Orcus was beginning its daily grind.  It was a small temple, perhaps the
size of a small castle.  It had three floors above ground, one below, and
a tower from which the high priest oversaw the temple's activities.  The
acolytes had just finished their morning prayers and were preparing to go
about their normal (or perhaps abnormal) grim tasks.  A few warrior-types
could be seen, here and there, but they numbered fewer than the priests...
and like the priests, they went about their tasks, unsuspecting.

  Angus sailed from the sky above, unseen until the final moments before
contact.  Belphanior wasn't dropping the golem from too high an altitude -
that would surely have damaged even the solid iron body of the golem - but
the height was more than enough to inflict the sort of damage that the mad
elf favored.
  The golem hit the top of the tower, obliterating the high priest's living
area and smashing downward, through all six floors.  Every window in the
tower, and most in the temple, exploded outward with the impact.  The sound
carried for a league or more, and the ground shook.  Like he had in Baron
Albert's domain, Angus furthered the destruction once he had landed, plowing
out from the tower's base.  The shock on the already-weakened structure was
enough to topple it, huge stones falling and crushing acolytes and smashing
through other parts of the temple.
  Belphanior had realized that if he planned the attack right, there would
likely be _no_ need for physical combat.  Further, Angus was immune to most
magical attacks, and fire actually healed the huge golem.  This made things
a lot easier for Skektek, who along with most of the others was hiding in
the grass about two hundred feet from the temple.  A spell or two had made
such an approach a trivial matter.
  With a pleased sigh, Skektek released the first of his spells, a thick
bolt of lightning aimed directly at the largest intact part of the temple.
Stone cracked and collapsed with the impact, and a number of nearby clerics
were blasted by residual electricity.  However, Skektek was far from done.
Thanks to the ring loaned by Mongo, the wizard had increased his spell
capabilities by a great degree; he now put this advantage to use.  A fiery
ball, some ten feet wide, hurtled through the air toward the temple.  The
explosion was even greater than the lightning bolt, and perhaps greater
than Angus' initial strike.  Whole sections of the fortress were burnt to
a crisp, and fire grew and spread everywhere.
  Now, finally, the first survivors began to stagger from the ruined temple.
The first, a priest whose robe was aflame, fell and died just outside of the
complex' main gates.  The next, an older priest, ran out and looked around,
trying to see who the attackers were.  Jutokai took the man down with an
excellent shot, the arrow sticking from the unfortunate target's eye.

Ys:  He's still squirming on the ground, there.
Jutokai:  Not for much longer.

  Mongo, Gorgo, and Ys held back - their talents at close combat weren't
needed at this point.  Mongo could have thrown his hammer and taken out
some more parts of the temple, perhaps, but it would have been overkill,
unnecessary.  Besides, this was Skektek's moment of glory, and he was both
earning and savoring it.

Skektek:  (lets another lightning bolt fly, caving in a corner of the main
  temple building)  Hah!  Now this is the way battles _should_ be!

  Apparently, some high-ranking priest had been holding back, avoiding a
run out into the open so that he could get an idea of the attackers'
location.  A blazing green fireball, trailing tongues of flame, soared
forth from the burning temple, right at them.  Even though they were
fairly spread out, the incoming spell promised to be trouble.

Jutokai:  Crap!  (he leaps back, diving for cover)
Ys:  Aie.
Skektek:  Whoa!  _That_ didn't come from any priest...
Mongo:  (steps forth)  I'll handle this.
Gorgo:  What the hell are you doing-
Mongo:  (walks around twenty to thirty feet in the direction of the

  The fireball shot toward them...and then arced down...down...directly
into Mongo!  The others felt the heat, but there was no explosion, no fire
to sear the meat from their bones.  The entire force of the fireball was
sucked away as if it never existed!

Mongo:  Arrgh!  (he sweats from the heat of his armor as it absorbs the
  spell's power)  Whew!  (he stands there, his armor glowing)
Skektek:  How in the bloody hell did you do that?!?
Mongo:  It's my armor.
Ys:  Amazing.
Jutokai:  Hey, don't look now, but some more are coming out of the temple.

  It was true - about a dozen priests, led by another in black robes, had
made their way through the fire and wreckage and now stood outside the
temple, vaguely looking in the direction that the fireball had just been

Mongo:  My turn.  (he hurls Stormcrest)
black-robed priest:  (in the distance, he is hit and pulped by the hammer)
Skektek:  Hell of a shot, but there are others...
Aja:  Finally...(she begins spellcasting)

  The ground beneath the priests transformed into mud, causing most of
them to begin sinking.  The three who had avoided this fate were working
spells now...but there was yet another ace up the attackers' sleeves.  In
the air above, invisible, floated Belphanior, Otto, and Bosco - a backup
force purposely separated from the others.  Now that the few surviving and
powerful residents of the temple had revealed themselves, they were easy
targets for these three.

Otto:  (fires a poisoned bolt downward, hitting a priest in the arm and
  taking him down)
Bosco:  (wondering what to do)
Belphanior:  (completes his spellcasting)

  The air above the priests' heads turned dark...purple...and acid began
to rain down upon them!  Screaming and diving for cover, the priests'
magical efforts were ruined, and they scattered.  One ran right into the
mud created by Aja, sinking quickly thanks to the plate mail he wore.
Another ran out of the acid storm, only to be hit in the neck by a shaft
from Jutokai.  The third stumbled and fell, and was consumed by the
pelting drops of acid.

Skektek:  Can't take any chances...(he launches a second fireball in the
  general direction of the demolished temple, further reducing it to
  rubble and in the process boiling the mud that all those priests just
  fell into)

  As agreed, they all watched the scene for many long moments to ensure
that nobody else still lived.  Nothing moved, however, and eventually,
the attackers closed in, weapons ready in case some freak survivor made
an appearance.

Angus:  (bursts from the rubble suddenly, a large brick somehow balanced
  on his thick head)
Belphanior:  Stand down, Angus.  It's over.
Otto:  (spots a badly-injured priest still breathing, and walks over,
  calmly but carefully putting his sword-point through the man's throat)
Belphanior:  Good work, everyone.  Especially you, Skektek.
Skektek:  I aim to please.
Bosco:  And you aim well.  I didn't even draw my sword at all during this
  whole fight.
Gorgo:  (grumbling)
Ys:  (looks around, surveying the carnage)  I think it's safe to say that
  this site has been rendered inhospitable.
Mongo:  How come you talk funny like that?
Ys:  (shrugs)
Skektek:  (to Mongo)  So how exactly did your armor suck up that fireball?
Mongo:  It's the mighty coat of Arnd.  See, I was talking with Belphanior
  the other day, and we got to talking about it, and he used a spell to
  help me figure out the full powers of this armor.  One of those is that
  it can absorb magic like that.  But I had to try it out...I had to know.
Skektek:  I see.
Aja:  Wee Jas will be many souls sent down that dark road
Jutokai:  (regards her, wondering how in the hell he didn't notice this
  aspect of the woman's personality before now)
Belphanior:  Okay, let's do a sweep of the area.  Make it quick but make
  it thorough.  And gather up all the bodies - slashed, smashed, burned,

  For reasons he kept to himself, the elf wasn't going to leave any of
the bodies lying around here.  His magical and sinister well of many
worlds saw to that:  once that weird portal to unknown places was open,
the bodies were tossed in, never to be seen again.

Aja:  Fascinating.
Skektek:  Gruesome.
Belphanior:  Prudent.  (he closes the well)

  They'd found only a few magical items worth salvaging:  a mace, two
daggers, a ring, and a robe.  All else was ruined.

Belphanior:  Good enough.
Mongo:  Maybe not.  (he grins)  If you want, I can use my horn of siege
  and finish the job here.
Belphanior:  What a damn good idea!  Yes, please do, as soon as we're
  all done here.
Bosco:  What about these magical items?
Belphanior:  What about them?  (he hefts both of the daggers, finding
  the one that feels best to him)  Finally, a boot dagger.  Does any of
  this stuff strike anyone else's fancy?
Bosco:  I'll take the ring.
Belphanior:  I just bet you will.
Gorgo:  (eyes the mace)  Nah.  Mine's better.
Skektek:  Ditto for the robes...I doubt they're as well-made as mine.
Aja:  (looking around)  And nobody else wears robes...
Belphanior:  Okay, then, I'll hang onto the rest of these, and we'll
  deal with them later.

  Shortly, Mongo wound the powerful horn, and the rubble (as well as much
of the surrounding land) was reduced almost to dust.

Belphanior:  Ah.
Otto:  What now?
Belphanior:  Now we head back to Helgate to stock up on supplies and plan
  the next stop on this tour.

next:      Deryck...Nenya...a new name for Ged's lands
notes:     Before writing this one, I actually sat down and sketched out
  a temple complex.  Then I tallied up the assets and abilities of the
  adventurers present.  Then I drew up an attack plan as if I was there
  to formulate and direct the attack.  Hope you like it.
    In other news, I had a lifetime first yesterday:  a funeral for
  someone I actually knew and cared about.  Actually, to tell the truth,
  it's the widow who's a close friend of mine, but her late husband was
  a top-notch good guy and will be missed.  The ceremony was extremely
  powerful - when the Navy officer handed her the folded flag, I felt a
  tug at my heart.  I'd rather have not had to go through all of this,
  of course, but I'm trying to gain what I can from the experience.

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