Chapter #869

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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       +
+   1991-2005 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/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   Date:          7/2/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       cold and dry                                           +
+   "It's not real easy to like something you know nothing about."        +
+                                        - from _A Fistful of Dollars_    +

                   DCCCLXIX.  Strange Environs

  Delving back into the system of teleportation gateways left behind by
the arch-lich Xusia, the group has arrived at a new location, and begun
exploring it...

Otto:  (peers through the opened portal)  Whoa.

  Beyond the strange metal door was a much larger chamber, wide enough
to completely contain the domed gateway room.  In fact, this new area
was also domed, with a radius of about fifty feet.  The smaller chamber
which contained the gateway was positioned perfectly in the center of
the outer chamber - a small dome constructed within a larger dome.  All
of this became apparent after Elgon cast a quick spell to create a cone
of powerful, focused light.

                       /                \
                      /       ____       \
                     /       /    \       \

                       ^        ^
100' outer chamber ____|        |
30' inner (gateway) chamber ____|

  The outer chamber was not a perfect dome; about thirty-five feet above
the floor and parallel to it was a horizontal ceiling.

Otto:  And there's the reason why.  (he points to something behind and
  above the group)

  A ladder connected the top of the inner dome with the center of the
horizontally-planed ceiling.  It spanned the twenty-foot distance from
the top of the inner dome to the ceiling, and appeared to be made of
metal, bolted in place at both ends.

Jenna:  But how do we get atop the small dome, to reach that ladder?
wispy thing:  (sails up that way)  aaarp?
Belphanior:  I'd fly, but maybe there's another way that doesn't require
  the wasting of magic.  (he addresses everyone)

  They quickly realized something that hadn't been apparent at first:
this entire place was constructed of metal.  Both domes and all floors
(as well as the ladder and the unusual exit door of the inner dome) were
made of the same substance.  It looked and felt like steel, but some had
their doubts...

Elgon:  It's an alloy of some kind.  (he raps on the inner dome)  Much
  stronger than steel.
Razor Charlie:  (testing the curved wall with a knife)  He's right.  (he
  holds up the knife, whose edge is dulled)

  They also found that the inner dome was unusually sturdy; its metallic
wall was nearly a foot thick.  Further explorations revealed a ladder
fastened to the sloped exterior of that dome, on the opposite side from
the exit door.  This ladder led from the floor of the outer chamber all
the way up the 15' high dome, to the base of the vertical ladder.  That
ladder in turn ascended to the ceiling, where another metallic door (or
more accurately, a hatch) could be seen, another of the strange wheel-
like handles in its center.
  Aside from the smaller self-contained room and its ladder-work in the
center of the hundred-foot-wide domed chamber, there were other things
of interest around its perimeter.  The ten feet around the small dome
were clear, on all sides; the outer twenty-five feet or so of the main
room was divided into five sections.  The dividers were foot-thick metal
walls, partitions that stretched from floor to ceiling.  Each of the five
resulting areas was thus open to the center, yet divided from those to its
left and right.

Elgon:  (directs his magical light-cone into one of the five compartments)
Belphanior:  Interesting.

  All five of the areas appeared to be of identical size and shape:  about
sixty feet wide, with curved outer walls that also sloped upward until
they met the ceiling 35' above.  The section that they were looking into
now seemed to be a laboratory of some sort.  Several tables of varying
sizes were arranged within the area; smaller tables or shelves held tools
and instruments, some of which had questionable functions.

Razor Charlie:  (eyes a long knife-like implement with several strange
  protrusions jutting from its side)
Belphanior:  Nobody touch anything.  We're just looking right now.

  A larger shelf to one side held dozens of bottles of all sizes, as well
as several large vats at floor level.  The most prominent feature of this
area, however, was the gigantic table in its center...or rather, the huge
skeleton that lay atop the table.

Otto:  Damn...

  The table was thirty feet long and ten feet wide, and the skeletal
remains atop it hung off of every edge.  There was a large, pale shell-
like central portion, from which hung a dozen long tubes of bone that
resembled snake skeletons.

wispy thing:  pfsss.  (it flies over to the table, flitting around the
Skektek:  I have no idea what the hell that thing is.  Err, was.
Razor Charlie:  Worm food.
Jenna:  What?
Razor Charlie:  Whatever it was, it's worm food now.
Jenna:  Err...right.
Ys:  (yawns)  It's a giant squid.
Otto:  You think so?
Belphanior:  No, he's right.  I've run into one of these once...though
  it was much bigger than this one.
Ys:  Perhaps this one was but a baby.
Belphanior:  It's possible.  (he looks around)  Okay, everyone, enough
  about the squid skeleton.  We don't need to focus on it - or anything
  else - until we check the rest of this room.
Otto:  We'd better get to it then - that could take a while.

  And it did.  They split into two teams and moved around the perimeter
of the large, domed chamber.  The contents of the other four partitioned
areas were just as mysterious as those of the first.  To the right of the
laboratory, as the clock turned, was an area full of tanks.  These were
glass containers full of water (and, in a few cases, other liquids) that
ranged in size from tiny to gigantic.  Most of them contained floating
bodies of various sea creatures; some were common and known to the
adventurers, while others were bizarre.  Even stranger, some of the sea
life was perfectly preserved, but other specimens had decomposed into
skeletons, or even less.  The larger tanks had small ladders at their
sides, ostensibly to allow a person to climb up to the edge of the tank.

Belphanior:  (thankful that Bosco isn't here to "explore" that feature)

  The next compartment was obviously a barracks or living quarters; it
was divided into a dozen tiny rooms, with ceilings and locking doors (the
conventional kind, not the thick metal hatches found on other doors in
the complex.)  In the center of the area were some tables and chairs,
and a small kitchen was found to one side.  A cursory exploration of
the small rooms revealed them all to be empty.
  The compartment to the right of the quarters was nearly empty, its
most remarkable feature being the floor.  In the center of the area was
a twenty-foot-wide disc of opaque glass.

Skektek:  (taps on the disc)  That's not glass, it's glasteel.  And it's
  thick, too - at least two feet.

  A large red lever was mounted into the outer wall, near the disc; no
one had to be told to stay away from it.

Belphanior:  (again gives silent thanks for the fact that Bosco isn't
  along on this expedition)

  To one side were a half-dozen berths, built perpendicular to the metal
wall of the partition; in these spaces were strange suits of armor, the
pieces hanging on hooks or resting on small shelves.

Otto:  That armor wouldn't stop a good bow, or crossbow.  Definitely not
  a lance.
Elgon:  Maybe it's armor of a different sort.  Not all things are as they

  The final of the five areas (that in the counter-clockwise direction of
the first) was clearly an armory, its three walls (the outer edge of the
domed room plus the partitions to either side) lined with racks.  One rack
held a half-dozen long spears, another held the same number of tridents,
and a third contained six shortswords.  Several nets were hung on pegs
in another section.  There were other weapons, and not always in sixes:
long poles with hooks, unwieldy pincer-like implements, and other unusual
instruments of war.

Razor Charlie:  (frowning at the tridents)  Pitchforks.

  Oddly enough, there was no armor of any kind here - not a single suit
or helm or gauntlet.

Belphanior:  Curious.
Otto:  Yeah, just like that.  (he points)

  In the center of the armory was a ten-foot-high metal cylinder, with
a curved door built into its side.

Belphanior:  (scanning the cylinder with his crystal eye)  That thing's
  radiating strong magic...just like most of this whole place.  (to Otto)
  We need to be damn careful.
Otto:  No argument there.
wispy thing:  (floating near the cylinder)  snrrd...
Skektek:  What now?  Do we try to figure out what some of these things
  are, or do we set up a camp, or...?
Belphanior:  We'll get back to all of this.  (he looks up toward the
  ceiling)  Right now, I want to see what's above us, through that hatch
  in the center of the ceiling.

next:       what lies above
released:   4/22/05
notes:      I hope that you enjoy my exploratory stories as much as you
  enjoy my combat stories (then again, after 800+ episodes, I suppose
  that most of you like it all, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this.)

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