Chapter #893

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                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
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+     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 +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          18th level dwarven warrior                             +
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+   Date:          7/7/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
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+   "I don't feel like a new guy."                                        +
+   "You don't much look like one either."                                +
+                                  - from _Planetary_, by Warren Ellis    +
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                   DCCCXCIII.  Exploration Renewed





  Much has happened recently.  After Ys was struck down by a powerful
cursed item, Belphanior sought out his old adventuring companion Mongo
to fill the brute-force-power void in the group.  This took him to the
Free City of Greyhawk, and then to the now-vacant fortress of Greyspire
in the Riftcanyon.  After all of that, and some brief but heartfelt
reunions, Belphanior and the others returned to Parekh's home.  There
they learned that there was no change in Ys' condition, nor had those
studying it come up with any answers.  This matched what Belphanior
had been calling his "almost-worst-case-scenario":  Ys wasn't actually
slain or permanently soulless, but he would be unavailable anytime soon.
It was with this in mind that Belphanior had sought out Mongo; the elf
wanted some kind of heavy hitter along as the group explored the last
few gateways.  Mongo was not only a fearsome warrior, but also a proven
combat veteran who could be counted on.
  Now, after a good night's sleep and some restocking of supplies, the
adventurers stand in the gateway-complex within the Pelisso Swamp.

Belphanior:  This was the first one we ever found.  (he points to the
  stone arch, with its runic dial)
Mongo:  It's just like you described...so you turn that little wheel
  and get a portal to somewhere else?
Belphanior:  Yep.
Skektek:  Sometimes it's an empty dungeon, other times we end up in the
  middle of a battle.  You just never know.
Mongo:  Well, this shouldn't be boring then.  How long did you say
  you've been exploring these things?
Belphanior:  About two months now.
Mongo:  (nods)
Belphanior:  (to everyone)  Let's take a short break to check weapons,
  equipment, and so on.

  As the adventurers did so, Otto took Mongo aside, speaking in a low
voice.

Otto:  Listen, I recently acquired a magic item that's supposed to be
  for dwarven...heroes, but it's not working for me.  I'm not sure it
  ever will, and I need things that are practical, things I can use now.
  Would you be interested in a trade?
Mongo:  Maybe.  What's the item?
Otto:  It's supposedly pretty powerful, a relic of the dwarven god
  Clanggedin Silverbeard.  I'm told it's a strength belt, but I put
  it on and didn't feel any stronger.  (he removes the belt and shows
  it to Mongo)
Mongo:  Adamant plates built into it...that's got to mean something.
Otto:  Several learned people have spoken of its power.  (he hands it
  to Mongo)
Mongo:  I guess I could give it a try-  WHOA!

  The instant that Mongo touched the belt, he felt a jolt of power run
though his body, almost as if he'd been shocked by electricity, except
this didn't hurt.  The very air around him seemed supercharged, and a
low humming was coming from somewhere.

Mongo:  Do you hear that?
Otto:  Hear what?
Mongo:  (frowns as the humming fades away)  Let me try this belt on.

  The dwarven warrior removed the belt he'd worn for years, and put the
new one on, cinching it around his waist.

Mongo:  Whoa!
Otto:  (sighs)  I guess it's working for you.
Mongo:  Yeah, something's definitely going on.  I feel powerful..I mean
  _really_ powerful!  I'm feeling an urge, to fight something, anything.
  (he picks up a small rock, and closes his fist around it)
Belphanior:  (walks over)  What's going on?
Otto:  (pointing to the powder in Mongo's open hand)  It seems that my
  belt likes Mongo a little more.
Mongo:  Wow.  (to Otto)  I need this belt.  I'll take it.
Otto:  I'm not one for haggling, but the price will be high.  What about
  your old belt, for starters?
Mongo:  No - that's the one thing, other than my hammer and armor, of
  course.  Just in case this new belt doesn't work out, or if it turns
  me into a frog or something.  I've got to have a safety measure, so
  that I can go back if I need to.
Otto:  Hmm, what else do you have?

  They talked briefly, and eventually agreed on a three-item trade for
the new belt.  Otto took a vorpal battleaxe, a ring of wizardry, and the
horn left to Mongo in Ged's will.

Mongo:  I'm not sure Ged would have approved of me trading this horn to
  another person, but...(he looks down at his new belt, with its shining
  adamant plates)  I must have it.  (he hands the horn to Otto)
Otto:  Done.

  The dwarf had coveted this horn for a while; fashioned of mithril, it
summoned powerful berserker warriors.  This was exactly the kind of ace
in the hole that Otto wanted and needed.  As for the axe and ring, both
were powerful items that Otto didn't need or couldn't use, but he knew
that he could trade them to someone for other powerful weapons or items.
Further, it was now obvious that the belt hadn't been "dormant" or
waiting for some condition to be met, before it started working; thus,
Otto had not been hasty in trading it away as he had.  When all was said
and done, as much as he hated to barter away something that had been
described to him as a dwarven relic, he felt like he'd made out okay on
this deal.

Belphanior:  You're sure you did the right thing?
Otto:  (shrugs)  The belt was, obviously, not meant for me to use.
Skektek:  (watching Mongo, who stands nearby flexing his arms and hands)
  Well, at least he's good and ready for battle.  (to Belphanior)  Any
  idea which destination we're heading to this time?

  There were six unexplored gateways; the corresponding runes were
iron, darkness, blood, tree, sun, and moon.

Belphanior:  I think we'll go with "tree" - it sounds like the least
  harmful of the six.

  A short time later (and after explaining to Mongo the gateway's
function and what to expect) Belphanior led the group into yet another
misty magical portal...

Belphanior:  (steps out into a very small chamber)  Hmm.

  The room was no more than twenty feet square, with the gateway arch
set into the middle of one wall.  The stone of the arch was dark green,
though at first Belphanior had thought it the same shade of green as
the archway within the Pelisso Swamp complex.  Directly across from the
archway was a five-foot-wide stairway, whose steps began at the wall and
led away and upward.  Belphanior's crystal eye detected no magic here,
and his dark sword felt no souls nearby.

Otto:  (appears)  Where are we this time?
Belphanior:  There's no telling, but I imagine the answers lie up those
  steps.
Otto:  (readies his new crossbow and walks over to the beginning of the
  steps, peering upward)  We'll need some light here, and preferably
  more blades...or hammers.
Mongo:  (appears, almost stumbling over)  Damn, that was weird!
Belphanior:  You okay?
Mongo:  Just a little queasy and dizzy, but I'll be fine.  (he stamps
  on the rough, rocky floor)  Ah, solid earth beneath my feet again.
  (he looks around)  So...basically we're somewhere else, maybe far
  away, and it's time to explore and maybe fight?
Belphanior:  Yep, that pretty much sums it up.  As soon as the others
  arrive, we'll get to it.

  That didn't take long; once everyone had arrived and the small entry
chamber was checked for anything unusual, the group proceeded up the
stairway.  The steps, like the room before them, were fashioned of very
rough stone; a clumsy person might well have slipped and fallen.  Since
the adventurers were not clumsy, they instead ascended, taking the steps
forward and upward for about fifty feet.  The steps ended in a small,
round natural cavern; an entire wall of this chamber was blocked by a
gigantic boulder.  Ten feet wide and high, and probably just as thick,
the massive rock appeared to block a passage or exit.

Belphanior:  It looks like we could just roll that aside...(he looks at
  the shape of the cavern)...over there.  Hell, I'd almost say the cavern
  was designed so that the boulder could be moved off to the side, there.
Elgon:  Agreed, but how are we going to move it?
Skektek:  I could blast it-
Belphanior:  No, the magic would bounce all around in this tiny space.
Mongo:  Let me try.  (he steps forward, flexing his arms)

  Belphanior had seen Mongo perform superhuman feats before, but this
seemed out of his league, even with a magical belt of strength.  The
stout dwarf apparently felt otherwise, however; he didn't hesitate at
all, gripping the boulder with both hands before setting his feet and
pushing with all his might.

Mongo:  Ungh...

  A faint scraping sound could be heard...and then pebbles fell and dust
trickled down from above.

Mongo:  (momentarily loses his grip as his fingers dig into the rock,
  crushing it)  Dammit.  (he gets a new grip and strains again)  URRGH!

  More debris fell, and rock scraped on rock, as the huge boulder was
slowly but surely moved to the side.

Mongo:  Whew.  (he shakes dirt from his arms)  I guess I didn't know my
  own strength.
Otto:  Neither did whoever made that belt.  (he steps forward, eyeing
  the passage revealed by the moving of the boulder)  Hey, everybody...
  it looks like we're headed outdoors.

  The passage was short, maybe ten feet, and absolutely filled with
overgrown vegetation:  thick green leaves and vines.  A blast of heat
and humidity washed over the adventurers, and they moved through the
foliage, emerging into a thick jungle.

Razor Charlie:  Damn, it's hot.
Mongo:  (already sweating)  You'd think I'd have some resistance to
  this, given that I'm wearing a ring made by the fire elementals.
Elgon:  (wipes his brow)  Now I know why I prefer to stay underground.
Mongo:  (nods)  No kidding.
Skektek:  (to Belphanior)  Where do you think we are?
Belphanior:  (looking around)  Obviously a jungle of some sort.  (he
  turns to regard the passage they just came through)  It's completely
  and perfectly concealed there.  Between that and the giant rock, the
  place has remained undiscovered by...well, by whoever lives in this
  jungle.
Otto:  So what now?  Do we explore a bit?
Belphanior:  I say no.  For one thing, we're not equipped for jungle
  travel or survival; I know we don't have enough water.  For another
  thing, we're not going to find any of Xusia's hidden loot here - it's
  obvious that this gateway was just a portal, not a treasure cache.
wispy thing:  brrrd.
Otto:  That makes sense to me.
Mongo:  Me too.  I'm here to smash heads, not wander around in a jungle
  that feels like an oven.
Belphanior:  Everyone back inside.  We'll seal the passage again and go
  back to the gateway, and try another destination.

  A short time later, they were back inside the blessedly cool stairway,
the boulder back in place behind them.  After descending, they found it
necessary to make another choice...

Belphanior:  Iron, sun, moon, darkness, blood...hmm, I say "sun."
Skektek:  Sounds good to me.
Otto:  It'll probably be some blazing-hot desert.
Elgon:  As long as it lacks the humidity we found here.
Razor Charlie:  And the bugs.  (he slaps a mosquito, then examines the
  smear on his hand, grimacing at it)
Mongo:  I hope we find someone to fight...I'm getting antsy here.
Belphanior:  Fear not, my friend.  Odds are that, sooner or later, we'll
  run into a hell of a fight in one of these gateways.





next:       Mongo lends a hand, and a hammer, as foes are found
gateways:   http://www.peldor.com/misc/gateways.php?chapter=893
ftp:        ftp.peldor.com
www:        http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:   http://www.peldor.com/
email:      tmiller@peldor.com
released:   10/7/05
notes:      I wonder if I can finish the gateway arc before episode 900.
  Hmm, let's see...five more gateways, six episodes...it's possible, but
  some of them might have to be big episodes.  We shall see.
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