Chapter #700

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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   +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Deryck          11th level half-elven ranger                          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard           +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+   Date:           4/4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          the Crypt of Kyuss, within the Riftcanyon             +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Do you expect me to talk?"                                           +
+   "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"                                  +
+                                                   - from _Goldfinger_   +

                      DCC.  The False Kyuss

  After delving into the crypt and triumphing over monsters, the
party's exploits have been cut short by a falling stone ceiling -
perhaps the ultimate trap.  The dust settled, the trembling of the
floor and ceiling ceased...and then, huge and perhaps magical
pulleys and counterweights came to life, raising the big hall's
entire ceiling back to its former height.
  Thus revealed, the occupants of the shallow, hastily-made pit
in the stone floor looked up in amazement.

Halbarad:  We should be dead.
Nenya:  No question about it.
Deryck:  What the hell happened?
Daffodil:  Just a guess, but I'd say the ceiling fell.  All of
  those thick columns we saw must have been for show...part of
  the trap.
Deryck:  No, I mean how did we survive?
Peyote:  That would be and my cool ring.  I dug us a hole
  at the last possible moment...and even then, it was way close.
Rob:  You can say that again.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  That was _too_ close for comfort.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  No kidding.
Daffodil:  So, err...should we get up out of this pit now, or will
  the ceiling fall again?
Peyote:  Not if I can help it.  (he begins chanting, right there
  in the pit with everyone else)

  Obeying the master druid's summons, the rock and dirt around the
adventurers began to take a life of its own, gathering together in
a tall, wide humanoid form...

earth elemental:  (stands fully, flexing its thick arms)
Rob:  Most impressive.
Nenya:  I've never seen one summoned so fast.
Peyote:  (shrugs)  I am what I am.

  The druid had the elemental reach up and touch the ceiling, its
hands merging with the rock to form a brace.

Peyote:  Now - let's get to that far doorway!
Halbarad:  (realizes that something's missing just as his roving
  gaze spots the broken statuette near the pit)  Oh, no...Zephyr...

  It was fairly obvious what had happened:  the tiger, unlike the
people, hadn't been protected by Peyote's sudden excavation of the
floor.  Zephyr had been crushed, then reverted back to statuette
form...but apparently the damage was too great this time.

Halbarad:  (clenches his fists, trembling with rage)
Peyote:  (moves to help him pick up the pieces)  C'mon, dude-
Halbarad:  I'll handle this.  (he carefully gathers all of the
  bits of stone, stashing them in a pouch)  Someone will die for

  Presently, the pair had joined the others at the exit, which
was, oddly enough, ajar.  It opened into a pentagonal chamber,
perhaps a hundred feet across.  At this room's far end, cloaked
in shadows, stood a tall, thin figure in a red, hooded robe.

Halbarad:  (readies his axe, seething, as the adventurers carefully
  approach this figure)
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I don't see any exits.  I wonder if
  this is the master of the dungeon?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I sincerely hope so.
red-robed one:  (walks toward them)  Greetings!
Peyote:  You must be...Kyuss!
red-robed one:  Me?  Kyuss?  Not hardly!
Rob:  (nods)  You don't have the look of an undead.
Peyote:  (genuinely confused)  So who's the real Kyuss, anyway?
red-robed one:  (shrugs)  I have no idea, nor do I care.  His
  crypt, like everything and everyone else, is simply a tool,
  to be used as I see fit.
Nenya:  Who are you, then?
red-robed one:  One who wishes to...test you.

  Just like that, a quartet of gleaming metallic spheres, each
about four or five inches in diameter, floated past the man,
hovering in the air between him and the party.  As well, a huge
form lumbered forth from the shadows behind the red-robed foe,
its immense legs making odd sounds as they hit the ground and
moved the thing forward.

red-robed one:  (steps back, folding his arms)  Let the battle

  The metallic spheres darted forward with incredible speed,
heading right for the nearest four adventurers!

metallic sphere #1:  (flies toward Halbarad as a pair of three-
  inch blades emerge from its surface)
Halbarad:  Aie!  (he leaps aside, swinging his axe in a purely
  instinctive and defensive motion)
metallic sphere #1:  (easily avoiding the big weapon, it slices
  twin gashes in the ranger's side, then spins back around for
  another pass)
Peyote:  Holy moley!
Daffodil:  Who's Moley?
Peyote:  Never mind that now!  (he readies his sword as the second
  of the spheres whizzes toward him)
metallic sphere #2:  (flies by, dodging the half-elf's sword as
  a tiny tube pops out of its surface, firing a tiny dart)
Peyote:  (hit in the forearm by the thing)  Huh?  (his eyes widen)
  Aaaargh...(he falls, clutching his arm)
Daffodil:  Peyote!
metallic sphere #3:  (soars toward Deryck, a small hatch in its
  underside sliding open)
Deryck:  (waits patiently, timing his move after watching what
  just happened to Halbarad and Peyote)
metallic sphere #3:  (drops a thinly-wired mesh net over Deryck)
Deryck:  (dives to one side, slashing at the part of the net that
  lands on his legs)
metallic sphere #4:  (stops in front of Nenya, a small nozzle
  appearing in its front face)
Nenya:  Oh, no you don't.  (she points her finger at the thing,
  magical missiles streaming from her hand and blasting its metal
metallic sphere #4:  (hit unerringly by the bolts, it wavers in
  place, the nozzle aiming in random directions as a gout of fire
  shoots forth)
Nenya:  (leaps back, avoiding the sweeping burst of flame as it
  arcs by to one side)
huge form:  (lumbers forth toward the party)
Rob:  Dear lord...

  The thing appeared to be a golem made entirely of mud...gooey,
dripping, mud!

Peyote:  (curses to himself, realizing that he left the earth
  elemental in the previous chamber, holding up the ceiling)

  Fortunately, the mud-golem was a rather slow mover, which freed
the adventurers to deal with the metal spheres, which seemed to be
a much greater threat anyway...

Daffodil:  (having made an assumption about Peyote's current
  situation, she zaps him with a Neutralize Poison)
Peyote:  (in great pain, he continues screaming)
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Too bad Mongo's not here - he sure
  would come in handy.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye.  (he drops a skillfully-placed
  web across the room, separating it into two parts)

  The dark elf's gambit had worked, by and large:  two of the
spheres, those that had attacked Deryck and Nenya, were on the
adventurers' side of the webbing, while all other foes were on
the other side.  This allowed Lyra to pummel the undamaged sphere
with magic missiles of her own.  Although a relatively weak spell,
the magical missiles had obviously worked, and (unlike the warriors'
weapons) were a lock to hit the fast-moving metal orbs.

metallic sphere #3:  (spinning about uncontrollably)
Halbarad:  (waiting for just such an opportunity, he wallops the
  thing with the broad side of his battleaxe, the blow knocking it
  to the ground)
metallic sphere #3:  (bounces off of the stone floor)
Nenya:  (darts in and stabs the thing with her sword, denting it)
  Damn...tough little bastard.
Halbarad:  Allow me.  (he deals a well-aimed, crushing blow with
  his axe)  For Zephyr!
metallic sphere #3:  (split asunder, it begins to spark and smoke)
Alindyar: may be trapped.
Halbarad:  (wasting no time, he kicks the thing, knocking it across
  the room)
metallic sphere #3:  (explodes suddenly, blasting a foot-deep crater
  in the stone floor)
Nenya:  Nasty.
Deryck:  (having freed himself from the net cast at him, he stands,
  looking for other spheres to attack)

  Rob had been batting the sphere around with the spiritual hammer
he'd brought into being, but the thing had regained its "senses"
and was now dodging the weapon's blows with relative ease.  Worse,
the other orbs were coming through the webbing...

metallic sphere #1:  (slicing through the strands with its small,
  twin blades, it pops through)
metallic sphere #2:  (follows the first one)
Lyra:  (anticipating such a move, she counters with her own, already
  planned and prepared)

  Lyra's web was smaller than Alindyar's, simply shrouding over the
two spheres as they broke through, sticking to the existing web and
trapping the orbs - if only temporarily.

Nenya:  Good move.  We need to ignite the webs now.
Deryck:  No problem.  (he touches the webs with his flaming sword,
  setting them ablaze)

  Peyote was recovering, just getting to his feet again, but he looked
shaky and pallid.  Halbarad's cuts were shallow, and Deryck was free
and unhurt.  There was no time to waste, though, for the mud-golem was
smashing through the flaming webs...

mud-golem:  Uuuuuuuurblp!
Halbarad:  Zephyr's killers will die...all of them.  (he charges, taking
  a shot at the thing's leg)

  The battleaxe sunk into the thick mud...and wouldn't come free!  The
ranger tugged at it a couple of times, then let go as a huge, muddy
hand smashed the floor where he'd just been standing, spraying the
vicinity with mud.

Nenya:  (pelts the foe with fiery bolts...which fizzle and die on contact)
Lyra:  Lightning...
Daffodil:  Agreed.  Halbarad!
Halbarad:  (nods, leaping clear)
Daffodil:  Thornbolt, let's do it!

  The powerful quarterstaff launched a great, forked bolt of lightning at
the golem's head, the impact a cross between a splatter and a quenching.
A gigantic chunk of the foe's body was blown away, leaving it without any
head or right shoulder, its arm dangling loosely at its side.

Peyote:  (watches with the others as the arm falls off, splattering on the
  floor)  Whoa!
mud-golem:  Uuuuuuuurlp.  (it stands there, the mud of its body flowing
  and shifting)

  The hole closed.  The severed arm flowed into the foot, re-merging with
the body.  A misshapen head rose from the torso.

Alindyar:  Aie.
Rob:  This just isn't right.
Daffodil:  (eyeing the weary Peyote, she ponders spells that have to do
  with rock and mud)
Lyra:  Let me try...this!  (she launches a tiny beam of concentrated cold
  at the golem)

  The spell, invented by the archmage Otiluke, was a potent way to freeze
a large mass of material in a small amount of time.  In this case, it
worked perfectly, for the huge golem was frozen in place, literally and
figuratively.  A thick coating of ice covered its body, and the sections
of flaming web closest to it died out.

  Of course, this still left the red-robed foe, the one apparently behind
it all.  He now floated in the air, cross-legged, surrounded by a thin,
translucent sphere.

red-robed one:  (stroking his thin, mustache-less beard)  Hmm.  (he aims
  a wand at the adventurers)
Deryck:  Scatter-

  The blazing ball flew from the wand, moving toward them in a shallow
arc before landing right in their midst with a tremendous explosion!
The entire room was filled with searing flames, deadly fires that
reached to every wall and to the ceiling, fires that didn't go out for
some time.
  When the flames finally did die out, only four of the combatants were
still in the fight.

red-robed mage:  (still floating, within his globe of invulnerability)
Alindyar:  (having used his magical staff to throw up an identical
  barrier, he hugs Lyra tightly to him)
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Whoa...thanks.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  My pleasure.
Rob:  (ducking behind his shield, he stands, charred and burned but far
  from done)  Ouch.
red-robed mage:  Most interesting.  (having put the wand away, he makes
  spellcasting incantations with his hands)
Lyra:  Hell...(she begins working a spell from within the globe, as does
Rob:  (moves away from them, to avoid giving the foe an easy mass target)

  Both drow were skilled wizards, but their foe beat them to the punch
by mere moments...

Lyra:  (her spell is ruined as she suddenly finds herself blind)  Aaaah!
Alindyar:  (blinks several times, but resists the spell)  Aie.  (he
  watches angrily as his prismatic spray goes awry, bathing the room's
  ceiling in multicolored light)
red-robed mage:  (regards them coolly, then begins spellcasting again)
Rob:  (to Alindyar)  Look away.
Alindyar:  (does so without hesitation or question)
Rob:  (his fingers glowing, he traces a symbol of power in the air
  between himself and the foe)

  The magical lines of power glowed with a bright red light, and the
enemy wizard screamed in pain, shaking uncontrollably.

Rob:  You can look now, but keep your gaze toward the ground.  I'm not
  sure if even you can withstand the symbol I have brought into play.
Alindyar:  Understood.  (he produces his Bigby-rod and carefully locates
  the red-robed wizard)

  A few moments later, that foe found himself seized in a crushing grip
from which no escape was possible.  Alindyar moved around the symbol,
shielding his eyes, as he concentrated on having the huge force-hand
crush the life from the wizard.

Lyra:  (stumbling about, unable to see)  Alindyar?
Rob:  (takes her hand, moving her to one side)  Soon, but first we must
  deal with this foe.
red-robed mage:  Gnnngh...
Alindyar:  (trying to decide between finishing the man off and getting
  some answers to important questions, he waits just a moment too long)
red-robed mage:  (teleports to some other place, just like that)
Alindyar:  Damn!  I hate enemies who do that...!

  The foe showed no signs of re-appearing, which suited Alindyar just
fine.  He knew that he'd inflicted serious damage on the foe, who had
likely fled to lick his wounds.  Besides, there were wounded comrades
to help...

Rob:  (uses a simple but powerful spell to restore Lyra's sight)
Lyra:  (recoiling at the sudden brightness)  Ow!
Alindyar:  (looking around)  Not much to see.

  There really wasn't; of the five companions who'd entered this chamber
with them, two - Deryck and Nenya - were slain, their burned bodies
still smoking.  Peyote, Daffodil, and Halbarad all lived, but barely;
the former two perhaps because of their druidic nature, the latter due
to sheer toughness and a bit of luck as well.

Halbarad:  (staggers over to the spot where his axe is buried in the
  mud, grabs its handle, and pulls it free)  Ungh.
Peyote:  (sitting down, bloody and sweaty)  Ow.  Everything hurts.
Rob:  (surveying the carnage, his gaze comes to rest on the bodies of
  Deryck and Nenya)
Alindyar:  Can you help them?
Rob:  Yes, in time...but not here, and not now.  (he begins casting a
  new spell)  We must retreat, as well.  Days - no, weeks - of healing
  and pondering lie ahead for us.

  With that, the high priest of Trithereon begun the process that would
recall the entire group to his temple, in distant Keoland.

released:  12/14/00
notes:     Actually, no.  I wrote this one in early September 2000, when
  I could have been playing softball - maybe the first time in my life
  that I've elected NOT to play.  It's not because I wanted to write more
  than I wanted to play, though.  I just didn't feel up to it.  Soreness
  may have caught up with me.
    I wonder what it must be like to feel this way if you're a 15- or 20-
  year veteran of major league baseball.
    And on that note, if you like baseball, you should see _For Love of
  the Game_.  Trust me on this.
    One more note:  the night before I sent this out (12/13/00) this
  insane presidential election of ours FINALLY ended!  For better or for
  worse, it's over.  To the lawmakers of America:  I trust that you will
  learn from this and make the laws better.  To the people of America:
  I trust that you will learn from this and make sure you vote properly
  (or vote in the first place) from now on.

    Okay, the good stuff:

    1)  There WILL be Adventurers in 2001.  Same days, same pace.  It
        will kick off with Belphanior and company heading to the Lost
        Tomb of Panagaea quest, then I'll rotate through the other

    2)  It's 12/14/00 but episode 701 won't come out until 1/1/01.
        However, to tide you over until then, I have created a sneak
        preview for what's next:

    3)  New rant #1:

    4)  New rant #2:


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