Chapter #895

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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                             +
+   Date:          7/7/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         an unknown dungeon complex                             +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
+   "The good guys don't hide."                                           +
+                                               - from _The Jackal_       +

                   DCCCXCV.  Three's Company

  After exploring a dry, hot gateway complex and fighting a dragon in
its desert home, the adventurers have used the gateway to venture to a
new destination, one of only four that remain unexplored.

Belphanior:  (emerges from the gateway arch, looking around)  Hmm.

  The elf now stood in a domed chamber, a hemisphere about thirty feet
across.  It was fashioned of light purple stone, as was the gateway
arch; the latter was built right into the surrounding curved wall.  At
the far end of the chamber was a small doorway which lacked a door,
opening into some other chamber that the elf couldn't see.  The domed
room was illuminated by the walls themselves, which glowed with a dim
violet light.

Belphanior:  (lowers his sword, scanning the surrounding stone with his
  crystal eye)

  Shortly, everyone else arrived, and the elf shared his observations
since his arrival.

Belphanior:  -the very rock of this place is slightly magical, though all
  it seems to be doing is giving off light.
Mongo:  What about in here?  (he heads toward the doorway)
Belphanior:  Wait, we don't want to be hasty-
Mongo:  Why not?  (he goes through the portal)  Hey, there's another room
  back here-

  The dwarf's words were interrupted by the clash of stone on steel,
along with a lot of shouting and cursing.  The others rushed to Mongo's
aid, bursting into the next chamber just in time to witness a full-
fledged battle.  The new room was also domed, though much larger; more
than fifty feet across, and illuminated in the same way as the first.
Mongo was under attack by three foes - all of them golems of some sort,
though they were radically different from any type of golem that any of
the adventurers had ever encountered before.  Two of the things ceased
their attack on Mongo, and headed for the new arrivals.  One was built
of a crystalline material, perhaps even some gemstone; this golem stood
ten feet tall, in the shape of a powerful warrior, and bore no weapon.
Rather, both of its fists were covered in jagged spikes of the same
material that made up its body.  The other golem appeared to be entirely
composed of webbing - thick, gray strands not unlike those created by a
spider, except for the fact that the thing was an eight-foot high, only
vaguely humanoid mass of webs.
  The third golem was constructed of what looked, from a distance, like
clay.  It moved in on Mongo, who was getting to his feet and brushing
bits of crystal from his armor.

Mongo:  So, the crystal one hits and flees, and the clay one takes over?
  (he hefts his hammer)  Fine by me.
Belphanior:  Skektek!  Blast that crystal one!  (he draws his sword and
  moves in toward the web golem)
Skektek:  Already on it.  (he launches a bolt of lightning from his ring)

  The lightning arced toward the crystal golem, striking it dead-on...
and reflecting right back at its source!

Skektek:  (before he can even utter a word, he is knocked back into a
  wall with bone-crunching force, and slips to the floor, unmoving)
Elgon:  (in the process of darting to one side, he too is caught in the
  lightning rebound, and falls, quivering)
Belphanior:  Shit.  (he slashes at the web golem, his razor-sharp sword
  slicing its stomach apart)
web golem:  (ignores the attack, as the strands of webbing around the
  wound simply weave themselves back together)
Belphanior:  Hmph.  Figures.
web golem:  (reaches for the elf with its "hands", an attack not unlike
  a nest of spiders all launching their webs at once)
Belphanior:  (leaps back and to his left, avoiding a dozen strands of
  webbing that cover the floor where he stood a moment ago)  Whoa!
wispy thing:  (flying around the golem's head, perhaps trying to distract
  it and buy Belphanior a little more time)  sssss!
web golem:  (tries to grab the wisp, but is unable to touch the thing)
Otto:  (fires a crossbow bolt at the crystal golem's head, without any
  apparent effect)  Damn, maybe it's made of diamond.
Razor Charlie:  (using his newly-gained magical bracer to dart about
  with great speed, he throws one knife, then another at the crystal
  golem, also without inflicting any damage)


Mongo:  (hurls his hammer at short range, against the golem lumbering
  toward him)
third golem:  (halts its march momentarily, as the hammer hits it in the
  chest...and ricochets off)
Mongo:  Huh?!?  (he catches his weapon)  It's rubber!
rubber golem:  (raises one huge, hammer-like fist)

  If there was ever anyone who doubted that a golem made of rubber could
hit hard, that person would have become a believer now, as Mongo was
knocked back thirty feet, hitting the domed wall with such force that
the rock cracked.

Mongo:  (lands on his feet, staggering)  Whoa...
rubber golem:  (charges toward the dwarf again)
Belphanior:  (drops a gigantic magical web atop the lumbering construct)
  Mongo!  Get out of its way!
Mongo:  (moves aside as the golem, covered with webs and unable to see,
  smashes into the wall)
Belphanior:  We need to switch opponents here!  Mongo, you take the
  crystal one!  Otto, you and Charlie see if you can ignite the one made
  of webs!
Otto:  What about you?
Belphanior:  (hefting the golem rod he recently gained from another of
  the gateway complexes)  I'm not sure if this will work, but I have to
  try!  (he approaches the web golem, raising the item defiantly)  By
  all the powers of your creator, I command you to-
web golem:  (suddenly spews forth numerous webs, which completely cover
  the elf)
Razor Charlie:  Dammit.  (he pops the cork off of a vial of oil, and
  hurls the container, which hits the web golem, sticking to its body
  as the oil spills all over the foe)
crystal golem:  (swings a gigantic, spur-covered fist at the warrior)
Razor Charlie:  (dodges, but is knocked from his feet by the impact of
  the huge fist hitting the floor)  Ungh!
crystal golem:  (looms over Charlie, both of its spiky fists raised)
Mongo:  Hey!  (he hurls Stormcrest)

  The crystal golem, while apparently immune to at least some forms of
attack magic, was now proven vulnerable to physical force.  The hammer
hit the center of its back, knocking it over Charlie.

crystal golem:  (bounces a couple of times and then falls face-first to
  the floor)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer, turning his attention to the web golem)
  And now for-
rubber golem:  (launches itself toward the dwarf, knocking him aside,
  and they both go down in a heap)
web golem:  (moving toward Razor Charlie)
Razor Charlie:  (gets to his feet and backs away, fast, a knife in his
  hand)  Damn thing won't be hurt by this blade...
Otto:  Let's try this, then.  (he waves the torch he just lit)
web golem:  (turns to face the dwarf)
Otto:  Enjoy.  (he throws the fiery brand at the construct)

  Otto had been wondering why anybody would bother to build a golem out
of a highly flammable material, but now he was kind of glad that someone
had.  The construct ignited instantly, the strands of its body blazing
into flame.  Charlie had been about to hurl another oil-flask at the foe,
but thought better of it; there was no need to waste good oil.
  On the flip side, the crystal golem was back in action and charging at
the adventurers again.

crystal golem:  (its sharp-edged fists raised, it lumbers toward them)
Mongo:  HEADS UP!

  The dwarf had gotten hold of the rubber golem, by one of its ankles,
and was spinning the thing around.  When he let go, his aim wasn't quite
perfect, but close enough:  the rubber golem sailed through the room and
slammed into a wall.

Otto:  You missed.
Mongo:  (watches as the rubber golem bounces off of the wall, hitting
  the crystal golem and sending both to the floor with a mighty impact)
  No, I didn't.
Otto:  Heh.

Otto:  We need to come up with a way to hold them...or something.
wispy thing:  frrrp.
Razor Charlie:  (busy cutting strands away from the mass of webs that
  contains Belphanior)
Otto:  We'll never get him out in time that way.  (he picks up the torch
  he threw at the web golem earlier, and ignites the pile of webbing)
Razor Charlie:  This is going to hurt.
Otto:  It's still the best way.

  Covered in burning webs, Belphanior didn't take long to act; with the
strands that had held him either dissolving or severed, he ran around in
circles, waving his arms while screaming in pain and fury.

Otto:  Shit, maybe this wasn't such a good idea-
Skektek:  I'll fix him.  (he points his elemental rod at Belphanior, and
  a blast of cold water douses the elf and his flames)
Otto:  Skektek!  I thought you'd had it.
Skektek:  So did I.

  The wizard definitely looked worse for wear; his clothes were tattered
and charred, his hair was singed, and he looked weak and exhausted.  As
Belphanior began to get to his feet, still smoking from the webs, Skektek
pointed to the remaining two golems, which had recovered from their
collision and were heading toward the adventurers again.

Skektek:  (points the rod again, and a thick wall of rock appears, right
  in the golems' path)
Otto:  Whoa!  I didn't know you could do that...
Skektek:  Let's just say I practiced a little bit more than anyone knew.
Razor Charlie:  But not enough.  (he points to the wall, which is only
  five feet high)  That won't stop them.
Skektek:  (looking annoyed with himself)  Crap.  All my practicing was
  with normal-sized foes in mind.  Still-
Belphanior:  (working a spell)  No more walls or other temporary measures
  against these things.  It ends here.

  The elf timed his magic perfectly; just as the two golems clambered
over the rocky wall, the floor beneath them turned into thick mud.  Both
constructs sank instantly, and before they could climb free of the mud,
Belphanior had cast another spell to change the mud back into rock.  The
golems were held fast, with only one arm and part of one head protruding
from the rock-turned-mud-turned-rock.

Skektek:  I bet I can do that, in time, using this elemental rod.
Belphanior:  Well, keep practicing.
Otto:  Excuse me for asking but...shouldn't you both be dead?
Belphanior:  (grins)  Come'll take more than a little fire to
  stop me.
Skektek:  As for me, well, I honestly don't know.  That reflected bolt
  of lightning hit me head-on.  I should be dead.
Belphanior:  Maybe the elemental rod helped protect you.  Lightning is,
  after all, a quasi-element.
Skektek:  (staring at the rod with a newfound reverence)  Hmmmm...
Razor Charlie:  We need to tend to Elgon.

  The gnome was alive, but badly wounded; he wouldn't be participating
in battles anytime soon.  It appeared that he'd caught the same blast
of lightning as Skektek, but less directly.  As for the wizard, he lived
but some of his items hadn't made it; both of his wands (one had cast
fireballs, the other had summoned various magical walls) had been burnt
to ashes, completely destroyed.

Skektek:  ...and by my own lightning, reflected back at me.  How ironic.
  (he hefts the elemental rod)  Well, it's just you and me now, isn't it?
Razor Charlie:  (to Otto, in a low voice)  He's talking to that thing.
Otto:  Cut him some slack - he just got hit by a lightning bolt.
wispy thing:  aaarp?
Skektek:  (looking around)  So what next?
Belphanior:  We need to finish exploring this place, but we also need
  to get Elgon some healing help.  (he rubs his chin thoughtfully)  Okay.
  Otto and Skektek, explore this chamber and look for treasure or exits.
  Charlie, you're with me; we're moving Elgon back to the gateway.  Let's
  get going, everybody!

  Things got very simple, very quickly.  The second room contained
absolutely nothing of interest - no exits, no treasure, nothing.  This
struck Belphanior as suspicious, so he made a second sweep himself, his
magical eye scanning for anything...and finding nothing.

Belphanior:  Well, that settles that.  We're leaving.  (he heads back to
  the gateway arch along with the others)
Otto:  Are we returning to the main gateway in the Pelisso Swamp?
Belphanior:  (nods)  For least until Elgon is in better shape.
Mongo:  Actually, I've already gotten to work on that.  (he points at
  the gnome's hand, one finger of which now wears an unfamiliar ring)
  I've loaned him my regeneration ring.
Skektek:  Smart move.  His burns will heal while we're just sitting
Mongo:  Yep.  In fact, they have been, the whole time we were exploring
  this area.  I figured, as long as we're not fighting anything...(he
Belphanior:  That was a smart move.  (he leads them to the gateway, where
  the prone form of Elgon awaits the magical teleportation jump)
Skektek:  I still say this doesn't make any sense.  Why build an empty
  gateway chamber?
Belphanior:  I think I know why.  (he points to the gateway arch)  Notice
  anything unusual here?
Skektek:  Not really-  wait.  (his eyes widen)  There's no gateway dial!
Belphanior:  Yep.  (suddenly suspicious, he scans the surrounding walls)
Skektek:  I can't believe we didn't see this when we got here.  There's
  no runic dial to choose a destination...hell, there's not even a main
  crystal to activate the gateway!
Razor Charlie:  How do we get out, then?
Belphanior:  We don't.  (he gestures to the walls of the gateway chamber)
  These are thick...thicker than my crystal eye can see through.  It's
  solid stone, with traces of metals.  That means it's probably too thick
  for teleportation or other such spells.
Otto:  Are you saying it's escape-proof?
Skektek:  The rune was "iron" we know why.
Belphanior:  This gateway destination is nothing more than a carefully-
  designed trap...a one-way trip to nowhere, with golems handy to dispose
  of anyone who gets fooled by the trap.
Otto:  Dammit.

next:       We take a break from this cliffhanger for a special one-shot
released:   10/21/05
notes:      Going into episode 894, I had six episodes left before 900.
  Of these six (894-899) I had earmarked one (896) for a horror episode
  due to its release date of 10/28, right before Halloween.  This means
  that I had five episodes to explore five gateways.  You've seen two of
  those five now, and the remaining three will be 897-899 (assuming, of
  course, that the group can figure a way out of the trap they're in.)
    The next episode, 896, will be an out-of-sequence Halloween special.

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