Chapter #825

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2004 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!                                          +
+   Belphanior     15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Otto           10th/12th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  10th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   Date:          5/22/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         somewhere deep within the Sea of Dust                  +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
+   "The secret of success is to know something nobody else knows."       +
+                                                   - Aristotle Onassis   +

                     DCCCXXV.  Turning the Tables

  Belphanior has worked out a trade with the mummy king Al-arakara, and
now, the adventurers prepare to use the gateway and leave with chests
full of riches and magic.

Al-arakara:  (flanked by several of the mummies under his command, who
  are just standing there)  So, the riches I promised you.  And now...?
Belphanior:  (reluctantly removes a metal rod from his pouch of holding)
  This is what you seek.  It's a control device for the gateway system.
Al-arakara:  (senses the power coming from the thing)  It doesn't look
  like much...but then again, why would it?
Belphanior:  Exactly.  (he hesitates for a moment, then hands the item
  to the mummy king)
Al-arakara:  (smiles thinly)  My thanks.  Oh, how long I've waited for
Belphanior:  You and me both.  (he looks at Skektek...and winks)

  A moment later, a massive lightning bolt shot from the wizard's ring
and arced directly to Al-arakara, blasting him with enough electricity
to melt the stone floor and cause the other mummies to stagger.

Al-arakara:  (his flesh smoking and seared)  What?!?

  Belphanior saw no need to explain anything to the foe - for example,
the fact that the elf had anticipated trouble and drawn up a battle plan
before ever using the gateway...and then verbally told the others an
entirely different (and fake) battle plan while assuming that they were
being spied on.  It had been Skektek's idea to pretend that the lightning
rod was the talisman ("If it comes to that, give him the lightning rod
and I'll blast him with a lightning bolt.  Whether it hurts him or not,
it'll be a good distraction to start the fight, and may give us the
element of surprise.")  The rest of the attack had been drawn up from
there, and by the time the adventurers had activated the gateway, they
knew every part of both plans, the fake and the actual.

Belphanior:  (holds up the hourglass of Kronos)
Al-arakara:  You can't-
Belphanior:  (speaks an arcane word of command)

  The elf's companions, knowing what was coming, had all made sure to
be a good distance from him and the hourglass.  Time stopped within a
fifteen-foot radius of the artifact, freezing Al-arakara and several
of his mummies in place.  The foes outside of the hourglass' area of
effect were still somewhat stunned, and the other adventurers set upon
them instantly and mercilessly...

Ys:  Have at thee!  (he cleaves a mummy's arm off with one swing of his
  gigantic sword)
Skektek:  (brings up a huge, blazing wall of fire near the time-stopped
  area, blocking the path for any of Al-arakara's reinforcements)  That
  should stop them for a while!
Otto:  (douses another mummy in oil)
mummy:  Reaaaarg-
Otto:  Shut the hell up.  (he grabs a heavy golden urn and uses it as a
  ram, knocking the oil-soaked mummy back into the wall of fire, where
  it ignites)
Razor Charlie:  (removes some vials of holy water given to him earlier
  by Jenna, and hurls one, then another at other mummies)
mummies:  (burned by the sacred water, they thrash about)
Jenna:  Istus grant me strength...(she attempts to turn the mummies, but
mummy:  (begins lumbering toward the priestess)
wispy thing:  fssss!  (begins flitting around the mummy's head)
mummy:  (swats clumsily at the wisp, forgetting about the priestess for
  the moment...and then crosses into the time-stopped area, instantly
  freezing in place, motionless)
wispy thing:  nrrrf!
Elgon:  (as instructed, he stays busy moving treasure toward the gateway

  Within the space that was frozen in time, Belphanior had stowed the
magical hourglass and drawn his black blade.  Different people would have
done different things in his situation, but for the elf, there was only
one course of action.  He'd played his most powerful trump card, and now
was the time to take full advantage.

Belphanior:  (swings his sword, as hard as he can, at the standing but
  immobile mummy king's neck)  Argh!  (he recoils)  What the hell?!?

  Contrary to all sense, the sword didn't cut all the way through the
foe's neck.  In fact, it felt to Belphanior like he'd just chopped at a
tree; his sword had only cut an inch deep, and pain shot up his arm from
the impact.

Belphanior:  Damn it!  (he swings again, wondering if this is some kind
  of stoneskin effect)

  The second blow was much like the first, though the cut deepened just
a bit.  Enraged, the elf tried stabbing through the mummy king's heart,
and encountered the same problem.

Belphanior:  Die, why won't you die?!?  (he begins chopping away at the
  foe's neck, heedless of the increasing pain in his arms)

  After a dozen great blows, the mummy king's head was about halfway
severed...and a voice caused Belphanior snap out of his red rage and
think rationally.

Skektek:  I said, do you want to stay or go?  If we're going, I need to
  get my spell done before we open the gateway and he wakes up!
Belphanior:  Shit.  (he looks around)

  The elf realized that he had a problem now.  His plan had assumed that
he'd be able to kill the mummy king quickly and permanently during the
stopping of time.  However, some unknown protection of Al-arakara's was
keeping Blackrazor from doing its dark work, and time was literally
running out for Belphanior.  Worse, several dozen mummies and armored
guards were pouring into the chamber, and it was only a matter of time
before they circumvented the wall of fire and attacked the adventurers.

Belphanior:  Shit, shit, shit.  (to Otto)  Otto!  Oil!
Otto:  (tosses a flask to the elf)
Belphanior:  (catches it, and douses the mummy king thoroughly)  Get the
  gateway open!

  The elf got, and quickly discarded, a sudden idea to use his magical
iron flask to imprison Al-arakara.  He was fairly certain that he didn't
have the time to expel the device's current prisoner and force a new
one in there.  The escape option made the most sense at this point; time
to cut the losses and run.  Belphanior hated above all things to leave
a powerful enemy alive and lusting for revenge, but he also didn't know
if he and his allies could beat the mummy king here and now.  The elf had
underestimated his foe - understandable, since he'd known next to nothing
about that foe before meeting him - and taken a gamble...and he'd lost.
All that mattered now was minimizing that loss.

Belphanior:  (running toward the gateway as the mists appear)  Everyone
  out!  We're leaving!
Elgon:  But all this treasure...
Belphanior:  Staying alive is more important!  Go!  (he dashes up the
  raised platform that holds the arch and the gateway)
Skektek:  (completes a spell, without apparent effect)
Belphanior:  (looks back, and sees the air beginning to shimmer around
  Al-arakara, which is the normal sign of the hourglass' magic wearing
  off)  Damn.  (he leaps through the mists)

  As the mists vanished and the gateway shut down, Al-arakara suddenly
found himself in pain and confused.  A moment ago, he's been confronting
Belphanior, his minions closing in and about to attack.  Now, seemingly
instantly, most of his minions were destroyed or wounded...and someone
had been hacking away at his neck...and the damned foes were all gone...
and there was a wall of fire merrily blazing away nearby.

Al-arakara:  What the...very clever.  A time stop.  (he turns his half-
  severed head to one side, then the other...and the wound closes itself)
  I underestimated the elf.  (he holds up the lightning rod)  Quite badly
mummy:  (shambles by, its upper half aflame)
Al-arakara:  Fire.  (he waves his hand, working a spell, and the wall of
  fire vanishes)  I despise fire.

  Just then, the delayed blast fireball that Skektek had left detonated,
filling the entire chamber with flames.

next:      a little "oops"
released:  6/18/04
notes:     I had originally planned on this episode being much larger
  (since it's a multiple of 25) and showcasing a great battle between
  the adventurers and the mummy-king plus minions.  Then I realized that
  Belphanior would have some kind of plan in place, his goal being the
  quick and efficient slaying of Al-arakara.  And _then_ I realized that
  a creature that had been alive for more than a thousand years wouldn't
  be that easy to kill.  It naturally followed that the first battle
  should be a draw, since both combatants weren't fully aware of the
  other's power.  The nasty little surprise that the adventurers left
  for Al-arakara will be balanced by what they find on the other side
  of the gateway they just went through.

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