Chapter #899

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                                   +   +
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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                     +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          18th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          7/9/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          early evening                                          +
+   Place:         Parekh's home (exact location unknown)                 +
+   Climate:       pleasant                                               +
+   "Sometimes you have to see a thing to believe it."                    +
+                                               - from _Shark Hunter_     +

                   DCCCXCIX.  From the Oerth to the Moon

  Two full days have passed since the brief and dangerous venture
into the deep underground realm of the vampires.  The group has been
recuperating at Parekh's home...recuperating and strategizing.

Belphanior:  There's no doubt in my mind.  That underground passage led
  to Skava-Ra, the fabled city of vampires.
Parekh:  Wow.  I always thought it was a legend.
Belphanior:  I didn't.  In fact, this isn't the first time I've come
  close to finding that place.  (he frowns, recalling a past adventure
  with another group)  Mmm.
Parekh:  Are you going back there?
Belphanior:  Not without an army...of some kind.  Anyway, that doesn't
  matter.  What matters is that we have one gateway left to explore.
Parekh:  And a hell of a lot of loose ends.
Belphanior:  True, unfortunately.  I intend to wrap up those loose ends,
  just as soon as this "moon" gateway is explored, its dangers identified
  and neutralized, and any treasures taken.  _Then_ I'll address all of
  the loose ends.
Parekh:  And then?
Belphanior:  (thinking quickly and carefully, he lies)  I don't know
  what I'll do next.  Why do you ask?
Parekh:  I had an idea or two in mind, and your...assistance would come
  in handy.
Belphanior:  I'll get back to you.  (he cracks his knuckles)  So there's
  no change in Ys' condition?
Parekh:  (shakes her head)  Sadly, no.  He's comatose, and I've had
  three different high priests here trying to figure out how to awaken
  him from that peculiar slumber.  Nothing's worked so far.  About the
  only thing we're sure of is that the great horned helmet is ancient
  and evil, and it did _something_ to his mind.
Belphanior:  Has Jenna been of any use?
Parekh:  At first, yes, but  Whatever's going on, and whatever
  comes next, it's beyond her ability.
Belphanior:  Good, because we need her healing and scrying magic for the
  final gateway.
Parekh:  (shrugs)  I suspect she's eager to get out of this place and
  back into action anyway.  When are you going back to the Pelisso to
  journey to the last gateway?
Belphanior:  Early tomorrow morning.  I figure a good night's rest, and
  some more time to prepare, can only help my people.

  Meanwhile, in a nearby room...

Elgon:  It's a good thing that Parekh was able to harness the kind of
  power needed to get you and Belphanior back to full strength.  _I_
  sure don't wield that kind of power.
Skektek:  The vampire's touch...I don't _ever_ want to go through that
  again.  It was like... well, it was like someone was stealing my life
  from me!  (he shivers)
Otto:  That is, basically, what happened.  That's what vampires do.
Razor Charlie:  (clutches his enchanted amulet, suddenly thankful for
  possessing it)
wispy thing:  (hovers near Skektek's head)  rrrrb?
Skektek:  I feel fine now, though.  (he frowns)  Man, I sure hope that
  Belphanior's not planning on going back to that place.  If he is, we
  need some kind of anti-vampire spells...or a dozen high priests.
Otto:  If we do go back, it won't be anytime soon, so don't worry about
Elgon:  That brings up a good point:  where exactly _are_ we going next,
  and when?
Skektek:  The last of the gateway destinations, I'd imagine..."moon."
Otto:  Yep.  Belphanior wants to leave in the morning, and he's going to
  try and get Jenna to rejoin us.
Elgon:  That's good, because I'm not much of a healer.  (he chuckles)
  Or a scryer.
Mongo:  (having dozed off, he begins snoring, and then sits up suddenly)
  Whoa!  (he shakes his head)  Dammit.
Otto:  Heh.
Belphanior:  (strides into the room, the door swinging closed behind him)
  It's settled.
Mongo:  It is?
Belphanior:  In the morning, we return to the Pelisso, and explore the
  last gateway.  Ys won't be joining us, but Jenna will.
Razor Charlie:  (silently reflects upon this)
Belphanior:  I'd suggest spending some time tonight to prepare, but be
  sure to get a good night's sleep too.  Just because this is the final
  gateway complex we're venturing into doesn't mean it won't be just as
  deadly as some of the worst...or deadlier.
Mongo:  You make it sound like so much fun.  (he stands)  Well, I guess
  I could use some extra sleep.  I'm beat.
Belphanior:  (to all present)  We'll leave an hour after dawn.

  The next morning, it was a re-energized group of adventurers that
made ready to delve into the unknown.  Once it was time, a spell of
teleportation took them to the Pelisso Swamp dungeon complex; in that
hidden place, they faced the magical gateway.  The arch of light green
stone, with its runic dial, loomed before them, inviting yet foreboding.

Skektek:  It's hard to believe we've been to all but one of these
  destinations.  We're almost done.
Belphanior:  One more to go.  (he steps forth, activating the control
  dial and preparing to step into the mist that begins to form out of
  the solid rock)  Just for the record, I don't believe that this one
  actually has anything to do with the moon.

  With that, the elf vanished into the swirling mists...and found himself
experiencing the strange but now-familiar sensations of weightlessness,
nausea, utter lack of sound or smell, a vague sense of movement but with
no clear direction or rate of speed.  The elf had no way to be sure, as
his various senses were jumbled, but he could have sworn that all of the
things he was feeling in this teleportation were somehow stronger than
they had been in previous gateway trips.
  After an indeterminate amount of time, Belphanior stepped out of the
wall of mists and onto solid footing...

Belphanior:  (walks down two short steps, noting that his boots are
  clanking on a metal floor)  Hmm.  (he looks around)

  This chamber was strange, in more ways than one.  Its floor, ceiling,
and walls were all made of metal; every seam was linear and precise.
The metal was a dull gray, appearing strong yet nondescript, and every
surface was clean and spotless.  Even the gateway arch was made of metal,
a shining silvery metal that stood out from the surrounding surfaces of
the chamber.

Belphanior:  (checking the archway with his magical eye)  Not silver.
  (he steps back as Otto emerges from the gateway)
Otto:  Whoa.
Belphanior:  I know.  Interesting place, isn't it?
Otto:  I'll say.

  The gateway room was small, and octagonal in shape except for a small
"missing" area behind the teleportation arch itself.  Its ceiling was
exactly ten feet high, and it had one feature that might have been an
exit:  the section of wall across from the arch had a wider seam,
suggesting that it was some sort of plate that somehow moved aside.

            ____             __
           /    \           |    = 5'
          /_     \
            #     ||        #    = teleportation archway
          __#     ||
          \      /          ||   = door?
           \____/           ||

Mongo:  (appears from the gateway)  What the hell kind of armor-plated
  place is this-  (he staggers suddenly)  Ungh...
Belphanior:  What?!?  (he deftly moves to catch the dwarf, but is unable
  to support his weight, given the heavy armor and everything else he's
Mongo:  (hits the ground, groaning painfully)  Urrrgh...
Otto:  Mongo!  What's wrong?
Mongo:  I feel...weak...and sore...
Belphanior:  That's impossible.  You're as strong as a giant!
Otto:  (smirks, finding it impossible not to see some kind of irony in
  this situation)  Not right now, he isn't.
Mongo:  It' thing hammer...
Belphanior:  Shit, he's right, and I should have known.  (to Otto)  His
  hammer has a side effect; if Mongo isn't on solid land, he gets sick
  like this.
Skektek:  (appears from the archway)  What's going on?!?  Are we under
Otto:  No, Mongo's sick.  (to Belphanior)  How sick will he get?  Will
  he die?  Do we need to go back?
Skektek:  (turns and checks the runic dial, just to make sure that it
  has destinations)  Looks okay to me.
Mongo:  Urgh...I'll be fine...but I won't be worth...a any
  kind of fight...
Belphanior:  Are you sure?
Mongo:  (angrily but weakly)  Yeah.  Leave me here...go explore...just
  try to hurry...

  Shortly, everyone else had arrived.

Jenna:  I'll try some healing magic.
Mongo:  Won't work...(he coughs painfully)
Jenna:  Nonsense.

  The priestess tried two different spells, but they didn't seem to
have any effect on the dwarf's condition.

Jenna:  Wow, this _is_ serious.
Belphanior:  There's no counteracting the powers of an artifact; we all
  know that.
Skektek:  So we just move on, and leave Mongo here like this?
Belphanior:  I hate to do it, but-
Mongo:  Go.  I'll be fine.
Elgon:  Here's a compromise.  (he summons a floating disc)  Let's load
  him onto this disc, and we'll just bring him with us.
Razor Charlie:  What disc?
Elgon:  (kicks the invisible disc)  Tenser's floating disc.  Oldest
  trick in the book.
Skektek:  (grumbling)  Dammit, I should have thought of that...

  It took a bit of work - Mongo plus his equipment had to weigh many
hundreds of pounds - but the dwarf was put atop the disc, and the group
now faced the section of wall with the unusual seams above and to both

Belphanior:  I don't know what metal this place is made out of, but it's
  thwarting the x-ray vision powers of my crystal eye.  I can't see how
  thick the walls are, or what's on the other side of any of them.
Skektek:  (stepping forward)  We might have to blast this open-

  Just like that, the slab of wall slid to the left with a soft "hiss"
and revealing a corridor behind.  Judging from the slot in the wall, into
which the door had vanished, the latter had only been an inch thick.  As
for the passage beyond, it was ten feet across and perfectly circular,
except for its bottom section which was spanned by a horizontal floor.

Skektek:  This isn't like any dungeon I've ever seen.
Otto:  (nods)  Yeah.  I wouldn't call it a dungeon at all.
Elgon:  It's very...neat.  Precisely constructed, almost perfect in its
  form, as if designed by superior beings.
Belphanior:  I doubt that, since Xusia had something to do with it.
  Still, I've only ever seen one other place like this:  the City of the
  Gods, far north of Blackmoor.
Skektek:  What?!?  You've been to the City of the Gods?
Elgon:  (also disbelieving)  Nonsense.  It's a myth, a fairy tale.
Belphanior:  No, it's not.  I'll tell you all about it sometime...some
  other time.

  The passage extended about fifty feet, ending in another of the metal
doors.  Belphanior, Elgon, and Jenna all had magic in effect to detect
traps or magic; as with the last door, they sensed none of the former.
As for magic, this entire place was strong with the aura of magic.

Elgon:  ...but not evil.  Strange, for a place designed by a lich.
Belphanior:  I had an idea about that...maybe he didn't build it, but
  rather found it, and made it his.
Jenna:  If so, he certainly didn't spend much time here.  There's no
  hint of undead, present or past.
Otto:  No hint so far.  Let's not jinx ourselves.
Jenna:  (smirks)  No such thing, for one chosen by Istus-
Belphanior:  Enough.  (he nears the door, which slides open as the last
  one did)  Aie.

                      __           /        \
            ____     |    = 5'    /          \
           /    \                /            \
          /_     \  __________  |              |
            #     ||          ||        .      ||
          __#     ||__________||               ||
          \      /              |              |
           \____/                \            /
                                  \          /

  Beyond the door was revealed a larger chamber, which had two rather
interesting attributes.  First, it was many-sided, a three-dimensional
polygonal room with five exit doors.  Four of these (including the one
they'd entered through) were equidistantly spaced around the room's
outer edge; the fifth was above, in the center of the many-angled
ceiling.  Second, and perhaps more immediately important, was a complete
lack of any gravity (and therefore weight) in this new chamber.  From
the instant they passed through the door and found no floor to stand on,
they were floating...

Belphanior:  (floats near a wall)  How strange.  (he pushes against the
  wall and goes flying off toward the far, opposite wall)
Skektek:  Wow!  (he kicks off from the doorway and sails toward the
  ceiling of the chamber)
Otto:  (steps cautiously into the room, and then floats away from the
Razor Charlie:  (spinning around in circles, out of control)  Dammit.
Elgon:  (completely in awe at this weightlessness, he doesn't move much,
  rather trying to gain control of his own movements)
Mongo:  (floats away from the gnome's magical disc, and drifts into the
  center of the large room)
Urgh...I think I'm going to be sick...
Jenna:  Well, this is...different.
wispy thing:  (utterly unaffected by this situation, it flies about
  gleefully)  yrrrp!

  Eventually, Belphanior cast a spell of flying on himself, rounded up
some rope, and tied everyone together.

Belphanior:  This is interesting, but we have four doors we need to
  explore here.
Otto:  We need to consider how we'd fight in this weightless situation.
  We're already without Mongo's power, and if we ran into something
  tough, we'd be in trouble.
Belphanior:  That's why we're all roped together.  Besides, we have our
Otto:  That doesn't do me and Charlie any good.  I don't like it.
Belphanior:  We have to deal with it sometime; there won't be any better
  time than right now.  We'll be careful and proceed with caution.
Otto:  (frowns, displeased)

  Otto's worries - and the weightlessness - turned out to be completely
inconsequential, as the lack of gravity was only present in the larger
central chamber.  As soon as they passed through any of the doors (which
all opened automatically, as the first two had) they hit the floor again
with their full weight.

Otto:  Hmph.

  They chose to explore the door to the left first, then move clockwise
around the central chamber to the other two doors, finishing up with the
door in the ceiling.

Belphanior:  Heads up, everyone.  Just because we're walking again and
  we don't sense any traps or souls, we're by no means in the clear.
Skektek:  (holds his hand up, showing off his ring of spell storing)  I'm

  The first three doors, and what lay beyond, were identical:  all three
had another fifty-foot corridor, round with a flat walkway.  They all led
to smaller rooms that were thirty feet across.  The first of these bore
much resemblance to a certain chamber within the underwater gateway
complex they'd explored weeks ago; it had a thick hatch-like door with
several retaining bars.

Jenna: out for that big door there.
Belphanior:  Why?  Is it trapped?  Cursed?  I don't see any runes.
Jenna:  No traps, no curse...just danger, and I mean _strong_ danger.
Otto:  Could it be the room, or-
Jenna:  (points directly at the door)  That door.  Danger.  (she turns
  to Belphanior)  Can we leave this room?  Please?
Belphanior:  (alarmed by this sudden, strange reaction by the normally
  calm priestess)  Okay, okay.  There's nothing else in here anyway.

  The second door led to another small room, identical in size and
shape to the other, except that it lacked the thick hatch.  Instead,
it contained six small pedestals, each of which glowed with a pale
light and held a single item.

Jenna:  (gazing at each pedestal, noting the items atop them)  Now those
  are magical.
Belphanior:  And powerful...possibly more artifact-level treasures.

  The six items were:  a white book, a paintbrush, a silver helm, a
longsword of white metal, a bottle containing a miniature ship, and
an amulet consisting of a small crystal attached to a leather cord.

Elgon:  Neat...and powerful, as you said.
Belphanior:  Mm.
Jenna:  Do you know what else these six items all have in common?
Belphanior:  What's that?
Jenna:  They all radiate strong auras of Good.
Skektek:  That explains why the lich would leave them all in this place;
  he wouldn't want anything like that anywhere near him.
Otto:  That just brings up another question:  what's so special about
  this place we're in?  Why not just stash those items in one of the
  other gateway dungeons?
Belphanior:  (eyeing Mongo, who is lying, weak and dazed, atop Elgon's
  floating disc)  Hmmmm.

  They didn't deal with collecting the magic items just yet, since those
could be claimed later.  Rather, they went through the third door and
into the chamber beyond.

                                      _^^_      <--- hatch room
                                     /    \
                                    /      \
                                   |        |
                                   |        |
                                    \      /
                                      |  |
                                      |  |
                                      |  |
  gateway room                        |  |
     |                              __|==|__
     |                __           /        \  <--- weightless room
     |      ____     |    = 5'    /          \                 ____
     --->  /    \                /            \               /    \
          /_     \  __________  |              | __________  /      \
            #     ||          ||        .      ||          ||        |
          __#     ||__________||               ||__________||        |
          \      /              |              |             \      /
           \____/                \            /        --->   \____/
                                  \          /        |
                                   \___==___/         |
                                      |  |        pedestal room
                                      |  |
                                      |  |
                                      |  |
                                      |  |
                                     /    \
                                    /      \
                                   |   /\   |   <--- cell room
                                   |   \/   |
                                    \      /

Belphanior:  (glancing at the contents of the third room)  Stranger and

  This chamber contained a bubble of force - magical force - within which
was an occupant, apparently in stasis.  The being was curled into a fetal
position, but if it had stood straight up, it would have been at least
ten feet tall.  The being resembled a human male, except for its larger
size and the pair of white-feathered wings that grew from its back.  It
seemed absurd that such a large body could be contained within such a
comparatively small space, yet here it was, right before their eyes.
  The man, or whatever it was, was clad in white robes; he/it had golden
hair and was extremely handsome.

Jenna:  (blinking)  Wow.
Razor Charlie:  (wondering what's gotten into the priestess)
Elgon:  He - or it - is radiating magic of immense power.
Jenna:  (nodding)  And an overpowering aura of Good...
Belphanior:  And it's got a soul, of course.  (he doesn't mention the
  fact that Blackrazor is urging him to slay the imprisoned being and
  take its powerful soul)
wispy thing:  (regards the being in the force-bubble)  pfsss?
Otto:  Looks like this was where Xusia stashed things - or people - that
  he not only had no use for, but that were downright dangerous to him.
Belphanior:  My thoughts exactly.
Skektek:  The only question is, where is "here" ?
Belphanior:  I have some ideas on that, but first let's explore the last
  door from the big weightless chamber...the door in its ceiling.

  After a brief walk, and some more brief floating (and use of ropes) the
group hovered before the last door.

Skektek:  If it's in the ceiling, and we go through it, and the gravity
  returns, how will we avoid falling down?
Belphanior:  I'll go first, since I've already got my spell of flying.
  (he moves up toward the door, and it slides open, and he ascends)  It
  won't be a problem - we're still weightless up here.  Come on up, all
  of you, and have a look at this!

  One by one, the adventurers entered the upper room - and were rendered
speechless.  Mere words could not do justice to the sight they now saw,
a sight that was all around and above them...for this upper room was an
observation dome, much like the one in the underwater dungeon, except
that here there was no barrier.  This gave the explorers a completely
unobstructed and panoramic view of a gloriously beautiful field of stars,
all around them.  It was like they were in the eye of some god, looking
out into the night sky...

Belphanior:  (points)  Hey, what's that?
Skektek:  It kinda looks can't be.  It can't!
Belphanior:  By the gods...
Mongo:  (weak as he is, even he has perked up at the sights from this
  room)  What's going on?
Skektek:  We're not on Oerth anymore - we're far above it, looking down.
Mongo:  What?!?  Are you sure?
Skektek:  (gestures to the blue sphere in the distance, and the stars
  all around the domed chamber)  Well, we've got some pretty compelling
Mongo:  Good point.
wispy thing:  spsss.
Belphanior:  Incredible...simply incredible.  (he walks over to the edge
  of the domed room, looking outward instead of up)  This place is built
  within some kind of rocky surface...a pale, rocky surface...just like
  a certain object which we often see in the night sky from Oerth.
Skektek:  You're saying we're on the moon?
Belphanior:  (nods)  Luna, of course; the other, Celene, isn't gray and
  dull like this.
Otto:  (shaking his head)
Jenna:  (to Elgon)  Words fail me.  How about you?
Elgon:  Right.
Razor Charlie:  (just stands there, gaping in awe, speechless)
Skektek:  (grins like a fool)  I'll be damned...we're on the moon!

next:       return to normalcy, and much wrap-up
released:   11/18/05
notes:      The next episode will be #900, released 11/25/05, and will
  mark the end of my 2005 writings.  Episode 901 will be released on the
  first Friday in January 2006.  The five-week break will be good for me
  (and will also encompass a pair of one-week vacations.)

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