Chapter #650

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                                   +   +
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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   +
+   Adolphus        half-ogre warrior                                     +
+   Damien          rogue imp                                             +
+   Peyton          gnome thief                                           +
+   Rogar           human priest of Olidammara                            +
+   Sylus           dark elf warrior/thief                                +
+   Wembly          human wizard                                          +
+   Date:           2/17/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          a ruined moathouse near the town of Nulb              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "The most co-operative man in this world is a dead man."              +
+            - Oxmyx, from _A Piece of the Action_ (Star Trek series I)   +

                       DCL.  Wrongful Denizens

  After descending to a lower level and fighting some monsters, the party
now moves into a new area of the complex...

Peyton:  (having checked the second secret door for traps and such, he
  eases it open, peering into the hallway beyond)

  Right in front of the secret door were a series of steps, leading down
at least ten feet before the passage levelled off again, angling away to
the right.  The explorers quickly found that the path split not long after
this; one passage led away to the left, the other to the right.  They went
left, following the hall as it twisted and turned repeatedly.  Eventually
it opened into a larger chamber which contained three doors in its far
wall, as well as a darkened passage to the left.

Peyton:  Doors...
Sylus:  We should check the open passage first.
Peyton:  Why don't you and Damien go have a look, while the rest of us
  investigate these doors?

  Such a split made sense, for both groups would be within fifty feet of
each other, able to assist the other if needed.  In this case, such
assistance did prove necessary.  Peyton methodically checked and opened
each of the three doors; while two simply led to tiny square rooms, the
third concealed a blank stone wall...and as that door was opened, they
all heard the distant "clang" of metal on stone.

Adolphus:  Huh?
Peyton:  Sounded like a portcullis dropping...fucking great.

  Just then, they heard Sylus' call for help from the north - and the
sounds of battle!  Rushing in that direction, they quickly spotted the
cause of the dark elf's yell:  Sylus was surrounded by six big, hairy
bugbears, all wielding wicked-looking morningstars.  Damien flitted
about in the air above, staying just out of reach of the humanoids'

Damien:  (spots Peyton and the others)  Hey, guys, we could use some
  help here!
Sylus:  We certainly could.  (as the bugbears look to the south, he
  strikes, his sword darting forth and finishing a foe he'd already
bugbear #6:  Urk!  (it falls)

  Peyton brought his bow to bear, moving to the side as Adolphus
charged headlong into the fray.  Wembly was working some spell, and
Rogar advanced behind Adolphus, more cautious by far than the half-

bugbear #1:  (swings its weapon at Sylus)
Sylus:  (somehow manages to dodge the blow)
bugbear #2:  (clobbers the dark elf across the back)  Hah!
Sylus:  ARGH!
bugbear #2:  (hit in the arm by an arrow from Peyton, it backs up)
bugbear #3:  (somewhat hesitantly, it moves to meet Adolphus)
bugbear #4:  (charges toward Rogar)  Grrrrr...
bugbear #5:  (swinging wildly at Damien, it knocks a chunk out of the
  ceiling)  Dammit, stay still!
Damien:  Not a chance, bub.  (he whips his stinger-tail about, the
  venomous point catching the foe in the shoulder)
bugbear #5:  Aie!  (clutching its shoulder, it screams in agony)
Damien:  (takes the opportunity to stab the humanoid in the neck with
  his tiny trident)  Moron.
bugbear #3:  (swings its weapon at Adolphus)
Adolphus:  (meets the attack with his own weapon)
bugbear #3:  (suddenly finds its shoulder dislocated with the force of
  the impact)  AAARGH!
Adolphus:  (finishes the blow, piercing the humanoid's chest with his
  military pick)  Adolphus am the STRONGEST!
bugbear #3:  (falls, gurgling)
Adolphus:  (rips his gory weapon from the body)
bugbear #4:  (swings its weapon, smashing Rogar in the leg)
Rogar:  Argh!
bugbear #4:  (finds one of Peyton's arrows lodged in its own leg, and
  hesitates for a moment)  Ow!
Rogar:  (he leaps forward on his good leg and brings his club across
  the foe's head)  Away, infidel!
bugbear #4:  (despite its helm, it is knocked back, bleeding and dazed)
Sylus:  (stabs at bugbear #2, scoring a minor wound)
bugbear #2:  (swings its morningstar, missing the dark elf by inches
  as the spiked ball smashes into the floor)
bugbear #1:  (prepares to smash the elf into pulp)
Damien:  (flies forth, his tiny trident stabbing at the humanoid's
  unprotected face)  Yayayaya!
bugbear #1:  Aaa!  (it bats at the winged foe)
Adolphus:  No more bother!  (disarms the bugbear with a swing of his
bugbear #1:  (watches its morningstar sail away, to land in a corner)
Adolphus:  (grins)
Rogar:  (leaps upon his fallen foe, club-first)
bugbear #4:  (hit in the face by the club's thick end, he is knocked
Rogar:  And now, suffer the fate of all infidels!  (he finishes the
  foe with another blow)

  Meanwhile, Sylus had regained the advantage, despite the smashing
blow he'd suffered to his back.  A flick of his sword sent the other
bugbear to the floor, bleeding from its privates, and a killing blow
soon followed.  As for Adolphus, he had torn the last bugbear's head
from its shoulders with a particularly well-aimed swing of his pick.

Adolphus:  (grins heartily)
Peyton:  What strength!  What daring!
Sylus:  (stands, grimacing as he flexes his upper back muscles)  What
Rogar:  (working a minor spell of healing on his leg)  I hear you.
Damien:  These chumps couldn't have hurt me with those weapons, even
  if they'd been able to hit me.
Sylus:  My congratulations on surviving the fight unscathed.  Speaking
  of which...(he glares at Wembly)
Wembly:  What?
Sylus:  A wizard who casts no spells is useless.
Wembly:  I couldn't aim any spells - you were all in the way -
Sylus:  Bah.  (he frowns)  You had best prove your worth in the very
  near future, wizard.
Peyton:  Enough, enough.  We all have something to contribute, and in
  the long run, I'm sure we all will.  For now...let's have a search
  of these beasts and their lair.

  The bugbears each carried a handful of valuable coins, and one also
had a necklace with several small gemstones.  Aside from that, there
was nothing of value, certainly nothing magical.  After Rogar worked
some healing magic on Sylus, the party retraced their steps to the
first fork in the passage, right after descending the stairway.

Peyton:  Well, well.

  Blocking the way back was a thick iron grate which spanned the space
from floor to ceiling.  The bars were solid, as Adolphus found out when
he tried to lift the barrier.

Adolphus:  Ungh!
Rogar:  (moves to help, but makes no difference whatsoever)
Peyton:  Must be damn heavy.
Adolphus:  (finally gives up)  Sorry.  Adolphus not lift.
Sylus:  So we are trapped down here.
Peyton:  It depends on how you look at the situation.  My dear old uncle
  used to say that you're only trapped when your back's to the wall and
  a mob of nasties is bearing down on you.
Wembly:  What the heck's that supposed to mean?
Peyton:  It means, my dear boy, that things could be worse.
Sylus:  Before they become so, we should move on - away from the site
  of the trap.
Rogar:  Agreed.
Damien:  (having flown off down the unexplored right-hand passage, he
  returns suddenly)  Hey guys!
Peyton:  What did you find?
Damien:  Another room with three doors, just like that last one.  But
  that's not all - there's a side tunnel or room, and somebody's holed
  up in it, and they're waving a white flag.  If I was able to shoot
  fireballs, I'd have roasted 'em all, but...(he shrugs)
Peyton:  How very odd.  Let's go have a look.

  They did, and shortly...

Peyton:  Ahoy there, in the passage!
gruff voice:  (barks something out in a rough, unintelligible tongue)
Peyton:  Huh?
Sylus:  No language I ever heard.
Wembly:  Me neither.
Rogar:  (shrugs)
Damien:  Oh well, I guess we have to roast 'em.  Wembly-
Adolphus:  Me knows it.
Peyton:  What?
Adolphus:  Ogre words.
Sylus:  It figures.
Peyton:  (waiting)
Adolphus:  (silent)  What?
Peyton:  Mind telling us what he's saying?
Adolphus:  Oh.  Ogre says doesn't like it here, wants to leave, no fight.
Peyton:  Can you ask him-  oh, never mind.  Tell him that if he gives us
  all his money and treasure, we'll let him walk out of here.
Adolphus:  (does so, speaking ogrish)

  Presently, the parley-seeking foe did his eight fellows -
none of whom were ogres, after all.  They were gnolls, nine in number and
armed.  According to Adolphus, they didn't care for the pay or living
conditions here in the ruins, and wanted out - right now.  They claimed
to have no treasure, and didn't look like they'd allow the point to be
debated without a fight.

Sylus:  Letting them go could be a big mistake.
Peyton:  As could fighting them.
Wembly:  It could be a trick.
Rogar:  I bet it is.  (he sips from a flask)
Damien:  Ah, fuck it.  Let's waste 'em all.
Peyton:  Hmm...Adolphus?
Adolphus:  (obviously revelling in the fact that he's the only one who
  can communicate with these humanoids)  Huh?
Peyton:  Ask them how they intend to leave if the grate is blocking the
Adolphus:  (does so, frowns, and turns back to Peyton)  Secret room lifts
Peyton:  I was hoping they'd say something like that.

  The explorers made the gnolls show them the secret door and room they'd
missed; it contained a lever which caused the grating to lift back up into
the ceiling.  The gnolls departed with great suspicion, looking back often
to make sure that no attack was coming.

Peyton:  (watches them go)  Well, assuming they were on the level, I'd
  have to conclude that the master of this place - whoever or whatever
  he is - doesn't promote much discipline or morale.
Sylus:  Pathetic discipline, at that.
Adolphus:  Should Adolphus have smashed?
Wembly:  Hard to say.
Damien:  No, it's not.
Rogar:  We'll just have to keep an eye out.
Peyton:  I have a better idea:  since the grate trigger and release are
  both on this side of the grate, we'll just drop it again.  That way,
  it'll keep the gnolls from coming back.
Sylus:  It will also keep us here with whatever lies ahead.
Peyton:  But now we know how to raise it, if we need to.
Sylus:  (shrugs)  True enough.

  After lowering the grate (with the false-door trigger in the first
three-door room) they returned to the second.  As for the three doors,
two led nowhere (a tiny square room and a blank stone wall) but the third
opened into a passage.  This passage forked quickly, though the righthand
path (which looked like the main passage) was caved in and completely
blocked.  The lefthand path branched off at an angle from the main route,
leading about sixty feet before ending in a sturdy-looking door.  Once
checked for traps, this portal was opened, revealing a door immediately
to the left and a passage ahead.  The latter led about sixty feet and
carried a breeze, with good reason:  it led to the surface, opening up
amidst a tangled mess of rocks and briars.

Peyton:  We never would have seen this from the outside.  Must be their
  secret exit.
Sylus:  And entrance.
Damien:  Well, we can scrap that whole getting-trapped worry.  (he scans
  the horizon)  Nobody's out here.
Rogar:  Back to the door, then.

  This door, like the last, was rather stout.  It was also locked, a
condition that required Peyton's deft touch to rectify.  The passage
beyond the door extended almost a hundred feet before turning to the
left and continuing out of sight.
  Three guards were visible:  one directly ahead, one halfway down the
passage, and one at the turning point in the distance.  All wore black
robes with yellow eye-symbols.

guard #1:  (the closest)  Halt!
Peyton:  (holds up one of the robes the party took from the room with
  the dozens of robes on wall pegs)  It's okay, buddy.  We're on your
guard #1:  (looking doubtful)  No, you aren't.  If you were, you'd be
  wearing that robe, not carrying it.
Peyton:  We're new - just got here this morning.  Those stupid bugbears
  didn't tell us we had to _wear_ these things!  (he guffaws, slapping
  his thigh in amusement)  Humanoids - what can you do?
guard #1:  (still looking dubiously at the gnome and his companions, his
  sword in hand)
Peyton:  Aw, come on - cut us some slack.  (he has a sudden thought from
  out of the blue)  Besides, did I tell you we're here to see the boss?
guard #1:  You are here to see the New Master?
Peyton:  (nods)  Came a long damn way, too.  We'd really rather just talk
  with him now, if you don't mind.  We're kinda beat.
guard #1:  (sighs)  Those damn bugbears!  I swear...
Peyton:  Yeah, I know what you mean.

  The first guard made a hand signal to the second, who in turn relayed
it to the third.  That fellow then vanished from sight.

Peyton:  We don't get to go see the Master?
guard #1:  You don't go see him.  He comes to see you.  Can't be too
  cautious, you know.
Peyton:  I know exactly what you mean.  Hell, you never know who could be
  roaming about.
Sylus:  (smiles to himself)

  In relatively short order, they were allowed to proceed down the long
passage, albeit under the watchful eye of more than a dozen guards, some
armed with heavy crossbows.  After making the turn to the left, the
passage soon opened into a wide area, at one end of which was a large
table and about ten chairs.  They were bidden to sit here and wait.

Sylus:  (whispering to Peyton)  This ruse will not hold out for long.
Peyton:  (whispers back)  Just follow my lead, and when I start talking
  about pink elephants, get ready for action.
Damien:  Pink elephants...yeah.
Peyton:  No chaos, please, Damien.  We want to find out as much as we can
  before we start a fight.
Rogar:  (passes the information on to Wembly)
Adolphus:  (bored, almost uncaring, he does what he usually does in calm
  times:  waits for Peyton to make a move)

  They didn't have to wait long, as a young, handsome man in black robes
glided toward them.

Sylus:  (his eyes widen as he sees the emblem on the front of the man's
  robes)  Lolth...
Rogar:  (whispers)  This little punk's in charge-
Peyton:  Quiet!
man:  Greetings.  I am Lareth the Beautiful...the Master of this place.
Peyton:  You don't say.
Lareth:  You claim that you have come here to join my forces?
Peyton:  That's right.
Lareth:  (frowns)

  The man had a certain charisma, as if he would just _know_ a lie upon
hearing it.  Either that, Peyton figured, or else he was able to detect
lies by magical means.  Whichever it was, Lareth didn't look happy.

Lareth:  I was not told of new minions...especially not ones as varied
  and obviously powerful as you six.
Damien:  (grins)
Peyton:  (takes another wild guess)  The Temple didn't inform you?
Lareth:  No, the Temple didn't inform me, and they definitely should
  have-  ah.
Peyton:  Eh?
Lareth:  You are fishing for information...too bad for you that you
  won't live to use it.  (he waves a hand)

  Peyton, Sylus, Adolphus, and Rogar suddenly found themselves awash in
a magical energy!

Rogar:  A spell of holding!  (he stands, resisting the powerful magic)
Adolphus:  (held fast)  Adolphus stuck!
Peyton:  (also resisting the magic, he leaps up onto the table, sword
  drawn)  Pink elephants!
Lareth:  What?!?
Sylus:  (held in place)  Damn.

  In addition to Lareth, there were eighteen guards, three sergeants,
and a lieutenant.  Surprisingly, it was Wembly who acted next, weaving
a spell at the closest guards (those with the crossbows.)

Wembly:  ...and...sleep!
guards:  (six of them drop off, crossbows clattering to the floor)
Peyton:  Way to go, Wembly!  (he leaps at Lareth, figuring a melee
  combat will rob the priest of the chance to cast another spell)
Lareth:  (meets the gnome's rush with a raised staff)  Fools!  We will
  crush you utterly!
Rogar:  (not having time to cast any spell, since the other guards are
  rushing in, he swings his war club in great arcs)  RAAAARGH!
guard #7:  <thwack>  (brained, he falls)
Rogar:  Come then, infidels!
other guards:  (somewhat hesitant now, having witnessed the big, wild
  man's fury)
Damien:  (flies at the lieutenant, who is busy barking orders to his
lieutenant:  Back, demon!  (he slashes at the winged foe)
Damien:  (underestimating the other's skill, he is sliced in the arm)
  Ow!  (even as the wound begins to heal up, he stings the man in the
  neck with his tail-barb)
lieutenant:  Argh!  (he sinks to his knees, clutching the poisoned
Damien:  (stings the man again for good measure, deducing that once the
  leader is dead, the other guards may hesitate)
Sylus:  (watches the battle, furious that he is immobilized)  Someone
  will die for this.  Hopefully not me.
Adolphus:  (also watches, though he is also still trying to understand
  what happened to him)
Sylus:  (silently fuming to himself and praying that his companions can
  win out against these incredible odds)
Adolphus:  Oh, okay.

  Though the adventurers were cornered in the northern alcove, this also
worked to their advantage.  For example, Wembly was in no immediate
danger of being attacked by guards.

Wembly:  (working another spell)
Rogar:  (takes a hit on his side, even as his club bashes another foe
  senseless)  Take that, infidel!
guard #8:  (hits the floor)
Rogar:  (facing a half-dozen guards now)  Shit.
Wembly:  (steps forth to meet the other band of guards that rushes in
  his direction)  I surrender!
Rogar:  What?
Damien:  (busy stinging one of the sergeants)  What?!?
Peyton:  (busy wrestling Lareth on the floor)  WHAT?!?

  The gnome had his hands full, for Lareth was stronger than he looked.
A lot stronger.  Both combatants' weapons had been knocked out of their
hands by now, and Peyton was losing the advantage that his leap had
granted him.

Lareth:  (punches the gnome in the face)  Away, dolt!
Peyton:  Argh!  (he reels, spitting blood)
Lareth:  (uses his legs to propel Peyton back and away)
Peyton:  (hits the wall)  Ungh.
Lareth:  (stands, picking up his staff)  Now you shall witness true
Peyton:  (spitting out blood, he holds up a small bottle)

  As for Wembly and his attempts to surrender, the guards were having
a good laugh at his expense, even as they closed in.

Wembly:  (keeps his hands up in the air)  Just kidding.

  Without sign or warning, the wizard's hands began to glow...and then
a great sheet of flame issued forth!  Five guards and a sergeant were
roasted instantly, and another guard was set aflame and began running
about.  All of this, from the angles and direction of the flame-sheet
to the exact victims, had been hastily but carefully calculated by
the wizard, who now stood there grinning like the cat who ate the

Damien:  Hot damn!  Good job, wizard!
Wembly:  Thanks.  (he finds himself being charged by one of the few
  remaining guards)  Uh-oh.
Damien:  (struck from behind by another guard's blade)  Ow!
guard #18:  (pins the imp to the floor)  Now I've got you.


Peyton:  (puts his thumb at the stopper of his small bottle, even as
  Lareth closes in, staff ready to deal violent death)
Lareth:  What-
Peyton:  Trump card.  (he pops the stopper)

  Great volumes of thick smoke issued forth suddenly; within moments,
both combatants were engulfed in the fumes, completely unable to see.

Lareth:  (coughing and swinging his staff wildly)

  Having advance knowledge of what was going to happen, Peyton had
already acted.  The smoke-bottle was stoppered and stashed even as
the gnome darted toward his dropped sword, to Lareth's left.  As the
evil priest was swinging his staff at the last place he'd seen his
foe, Peyton had recovered his sword and was stalking the other - for
what Lareth didn't know was that Peyton was quite experienced in the
art of fighting blind.

Lareth:  (still coughing and unable to see anything beyond vague
  glimpses of wall, he wonders just how thick and widespread this
  smoke is)
Peyton:  (behind the priest, he unleashed a deadly backstab)
Lareth:  URK!  (he falls to his knees)
Peyton:  Conniving trickery, same as always.
Lareth:  Lolth...(he falls, bleeding profusely)

  As this battle concluded within the small smoke-filled area to the
north and east, others still faced peril...

Damien:  (pinned to the floor by the guard's sword)
guard #18:  Hah!
Damien:  (whips his tail around, stinging at the man's feet)
guard #18:  (stung through his boot)  Aw, no!  I can't believe this!
Damien:  (frees himself)  Believe it.


Wembly:  (weaponless and having just cast a spell, he faces a guard
  who bears down on him, murder in his eyes)  Eep!
Rogar:  (having dispatched the last foe he was fighting, he tackles
  the foe, saving Wembly from certain skewering)  Har!
guard #17:  (has the wind knocked out of him)  Unf.

  Rogar, while wild, wasn't one to kill in cold blood, so he simply
bashed the man over the skull, knocking him out.

Wembly:  (looking around)  It's over.
Peyton:  (emerges from the smoke, his sword bloody)  Whew.
Rogar:  What of Lareth the Beautiful?
Peyton:  He's on his way to a better place.
Damien:  We need to kill all these sleeping or unconscious guards, too.
Peyton:  I'm wondering if they'll be worth more to us alive.  (to Rogar)
  What of Adolphus and Sylus?
Rogar:  The spell will wear off fairly soon - nothing we can do but wait
  it out.
Peyton:  Hmm.
Rogar:  (thinking about how to most efficiently use his remaining spells
  of healing)
Damien:  (thinking about how to most efficiently slay all of the living
Wembly:  (counting bodies)  I'm not sure all of those guards are still
Peyton:  It's entirely likely that one or two of them fled in the battle.
  No point in trying to keep track of such things.  Okay, we need to get
  money, gems, and such from the bodies, then a complete search of all
  of these final rooms.

next:      Belphanior's gang regroups in Helgate
personal:  6/22/00
notes:     Originally I was planning to have Wembly just fireball all of
  the guards, and probably the Master as an incidental.  Then I had a
  flash of inspiration - the same sort that my brother displayed when
  he created and played Peyton.  Outwitting...tricks...clever ideas at
  the spur of the moment - _that_ is what Peyton Farquhar is all about.
    Quick backstory on these guys:  most of them were invented and used
  in a very brief late 1980s campaign I ran for my two brothers.  They
  only had 3 or 4 adventures and only made it to 4th or 5th level, but
  we had a lot of fun.  Then it kind of died out.  Fast forward to 1996
  or so, when I actually wrote 12 episodes of "The Misadventurers" with
  the original six characters.  I was going to start them as a new
  series, but things never really clicked.
    Peyton (the schemer) and Adolphus (the tank) were run by my brother
  Jeff.  Sylus (the deadly) and Wembly (the coward) were run by my other
  brother Eric.  There were two more which I ran as NPCs and who didn't
  make it; one was a healing-priest with no personality to speak of, and
  the other was an evil priest who was going to try to manipulate the
  party for his own ends.  Neither were worth carrying over to this
  debut story arc, so I invented Rogar and Damien - the latter being
  the most fun of all to write.
    Theoretically, the origins and early adventures of these guys could
  someday be written, based on the actual origin and early adventures
  but with a few changes.  However, now that this non-Good party has
  officially entered canon, I'll hold off for a while until the mood
  strikes me.

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