Chapter #749

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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       +
+   1991-2001 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   +
+   THE GOOD:                                                             +
+     Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief     +
+       Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief               +
+       Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                            +
+       Skektek       12th level human wizard                             +
+       Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                        +
+     Bosco           12th level halfling thief                           +
+     Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                          +
+       Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                        +
+                                                                         +
+     Boltar          high priest of Pholtus                              +
+     Drak            barbarian warrior                                   +
+     Parekh          dark-skinned female wizard                          +
+     Neera           female human sage/astrologer                        +
+   Date:           indeterminate                                         +
+   Time:           indeterminate                                         +
+   Place:          unknown                                               +
+   Climate:        cheerless                                             +
+   "I have done what I could."                                           +
+          - Napoleon Bonaparte, 4/11/1814, before abdicating rulership   +

                        DCCXLIX.  New Peril

  After a tremendous (and for some, final) battle in the depths of the
Lost Tomb of Panagaea, Belphanior and his allies have fled through a well
of worlds, into parts unknown...

Mongo:  (looking around)  Where in the HELL are we?
Neera:  Don't look at me.  I'm a sage, not a plane-shifting tourist.
Belphanior:  (sword in hand, he surveys the environs)

  They had landed (in a heap, to be sure) in the center of a clearing
within a wild jungle.  The heat was oppressive, made worse by extreme
humidity, and already they had begun to sweat.  A green canopy, formed
by the treetops, blocked out the sun at a height of about thirty feet.

Mongo:  Why is the sunlight orange?

  All around could be heard the sounds of the wild things:  birdlike
screeches, beastly roars, great howls made by unseen and unknown
denizens of the jungle.

Neera:  This could almost be the isle we came from.
Mongo:  Except for the orange sun.
Neera:  True.
Belphanior:  It reminds me of that isle we were once trapped on, when
  we quested for that Wand of Or-
Boltar:  You were on the Isle of the Ape?  (he blinks)  That was you?
Mongo:  None other.  (he frowns)  Though it didn't all work out like we
  hoped for, in the end.
Boltar:  So I've heard.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Mongo:  Of course, this isn't that place, since that place didn't have
  an orange sun in its sky.
Razor Charlie:  (wondering what the big deal is with this orange sun)
Neera:  (looking around)  What a strange place.
Belphanior:  Yeah, but we can breathe, and there's no lava or acid or
  water or winds or things like that.  All in all, I think we did okay.
Boltar:  Don't be so sure.
Belphanior:  Eh?
Boltar:  Something's wrong.  I can feel it...this place is evil, or has
  some massive evil within it...pervasive evil...
Belphanior:  Are you sure?
Boltar:  I am a high priest of Pholtus, a strongly lawful and good god.
  If I tell you I sense great evil, rest assured that it lurks about.
Belphanior:  Gotcha.
Boltar:  It is strong here...very strong.  When you factor in that we
  arrived here through a planar portal, the outlook is not good.
Belphanior:  Can you get us home?
Boltar:  (snickers)  Of course.  (he begins working a spell)
Neera:  Good.  I don't want to be here, not at all.
Mongo:  Nobody does.
Razor Charlie:  (wondering about the final fate of Jutokai, back in the
  depths of the tomb)
Boltar:  (checking to see that everyone - even the unconscious - are
  close)  Very well, then...back to Oerth we go.  (he waves his hands
  as he completes his spell)
Mongo:  (looking around)  Was something supposed to happen?
Belphanior:  Fuck.
Boltar:  I don't understand...
Belphanior:  It didn't work.  What's there to understand?
Neera:  We're trapped here, aren't we?
Belphanior:  I wouldn't go that's just that we can't leave
  right now.
Boltar:  (frowns)  Let me do a quick, minor divination...(he begins to
Razor Charlie:  (listening intently to the jungle sounds)
Mongo:  Something's coming.
Razor Charlie:  Yeah.  (he glances at Boltar as he draws two throwing
  knives)  Better get ready.
Mongo:  Right.  (he tightens his grip on Stormcrest)

  The party was not exactly in the best shape for fighting, as most of
them had suffered in one way or another during the great battle.  Bosco
was unconscious and bleeding from his ears after being burned by the
fireball, hitting the ceiling, then falling fifty feet onto a stone
floor.  Skektek and Otto were more badly burned, though the latter had
stabilized, his blackened flesh slowly and steadily regenerating.  Gorgo
wasn't singed too badly, but he had felt the chill touch of the thin
black being, and was still greatly weakened.  The huge, scaled form of
Ys was immobile - for he had been poisoned by the foul blade of the
assassin Snake, and unknown but potent venom coursed through his veins.
  And then, of course, there were those who were no longer with the
living, after the recent battle:  Zhao and Jutokai.  In recent weeks,
Belphanior had not only lost his town and his rulership, but also his
allies Neko and Victoria...and now two more had left his ranks.

  On the bright side (such as it was) the remainder of Belphanior's
group - the elf himself, Razor Charlie, Mongo, and Neera - were fine.
  Their allies had also taken serious casualties.  Boltar was up and
about, probably only thanks to the powerful healing-rod that he carried.
Without that item to counteract the pestilent aura of the diseased being,
the high priest of Pholtus would have almost certainly been dead (or
worse) right now.  Parekh was nonfunctional, her mind wiped clean by a
late spell from one of the Crimson Blades.  Without that mind and the
spells it knew, the overall party's magical might was severely weakened.
Parekh's companion Drak was back down to normal size and comatose, having
been burned quite seriously while at giant-size.
  The tomb battle had taken a great toll on the party, all in all, and
they were left with an effective fighting force of four, not counting
Neera:  Belphanior, Mongo, Boltar, Razor Charlie.

Boltar:  (ceases his chanting abruptly)  Aie!
Belphanior:  What?
Boltar:  I cannot commune with Pholtus...we are beyond his reach!
Belphanior:  Swell.
Boltar:  What can it mean...unless we are on some place of immense evil!
Mongo:  You already said that, didn't you?
Boltar:  I fear that you do not understand-

  Just then, the nearby jungle rustled and shook, as a gigantic creature
burst from the vegetation!  It was an ape from the neck down - which made
for almost all of its ten-foot height - but had the neck and head of a
bird, with a long, sharp beak that hooked downward.  Its powerful hands
ended in fingers tipped with sharp nails, which like the beak looked
entirely capable of ripping a man to pieces.  The torso was broad and
well-muscled, covered in coarse black hair.
  The beast, whatever the hell it was, looked angry on that primal level
that only an inhabitant of the wild could possess.  It never wasted a
moment, leaping to the attack like a thing possessed!

ape-thing:  (roars mightily as it charges forth)  GRAAAAAR!
ape-thing #2:  (crashes out of the jungle to one side)  RRAAAARGH!
ape-thing #3:  (bursts into the clearing from a third direction)  AAARRR!

next:      the terrible truth
released:  6/18/01
notes:     Originally I had another, different idea in mind for a long-
  ranging extraplanar adventure for Belphanior, but that got shelved in
  favor of this one, which can end sooner and also tie in with what the
  others back on Oerth are doing.

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