Chapter #909

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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       +
+   1991-2006 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        +
+     giant hornet (summoned monster)                                     +
+     manticore    (summoned monster)                                     +
+     roper        (summoned monster)                                     +
+     iron golems, 3                                                      +
+     stone golems, 6                                                     +
+   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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level drow wizard                                 +
+   Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   Parekh         18th level human female wizard                         +
+   Drak           14th level human barbarian warrior                     +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Pallin         17th level grey elven wizard of Celestian              +
+   Date:          8/20/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes        +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "People will ask if I was insane...just the opposite.  An insane      +
+    man could not have accomplished this."                               +
+                                                - from _Eye See You_     +

                        CMIX.  The Vault

  After causing considerable destruction in Monmurg, the majority of
Belphanior's group has now defeated a platoon of archers and gained
entry into the city armory.

giant hornet:  (flies into the large entry chamber beyond the doors)
manticore:  (swoops into that area as well, almost colliding with the
  hornet)  Graargh!
roper:  (shuffles along behind the two aerial monsters)

  These monsters were being used as scouts, and when the adventurers
didn't hear any sounds of battle or alarm, they quickly followed...

Belphanior:  (strides into the entry chamber)  Ahh, the armory.

  The interior of the tower was, at least on the ground/entry level,
comprised of this one large chamber.  Since the tower was sixty feet
across on the outside, and its outer wall was five feet thick, this
meant that the entry chamber was about fifty feet across with a twenty-
foot ceiling.  This entire space was filled with weapon-racks...rows
and rows of wooden racks, each containing at least a dozen weapons of
one sort or another.  They could see swords, spears, pikes, axes, bows,
arrows, and more.  On the west and east edges of the chamber were wide
curving stairways; the former led downward while the latter wound
upward.  Both were lined with sconces, which contained burning torches
that lit the way.

Belphanior:  I'd guess that they've got barracks and arrow-slits on the
  upper levels, while the vault and any guards it has are below.
Otto:  We need to deal with any foes upstairs before we descend to the
  vault...but we really don't have the time.
Alindyar:  Allow me.  (he concentrates on the ascending stairway and
  begins gesturing)

  A most amazing thing happened next:  the foot of the stairway broke
loose from the stone floor of this level, and slowly folded upward, into
the ceiling above.  The rock groaned as it was shifted and altered, but
within moments, the stairway was gone, merged into the stonework between
this floor and the one above!

Alindyar:  Now we need not worry about any foes above.
Otto:  Nice, though Skektek would have sent a poisonous cloud of vapor
  upstairs, or something like that.
Alindyar:  Skektek is not here, and I am.
Belphanior:  (to the three summoned monsters)  You, you and you - down
  that staircase.  Again, kill anyone you find.

  As the trio of monsters hastened to obey the command, Belphanior took
the golem-rod from his belt and addressed the nine golems that the item
enabled him to control.

Belphanior:  (points to one iron and one stone golem)  You and you, stay
  up here.  Guard the doorway to the outside, and allow nobody to pass
  except our allies.
iron golem #1:  (moves into position to block the now-doorless entryway)
stone golem #1:  (likewise)
Belphanior:  (to the other seven golems)  The rest of you will follow me
  when I go down that stairway.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I wonder if these golems will understand
  such an explicit instruction.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Possibly not...but this is Belphanior's day.
  We agreed to assist him, and we have to trust his tactics.

  The rest of the party headed down the winding stairway.  Had the steps
been smaller and higher, the golems might have had problems, but whoever
had designed this staircase had apparently wanted a grand, open look and
feel.  Naturally, Otto had learned something of the vault's construction
through his spying, information-gathering efforts in recent days.  The
descending stairway was greater than ten feet wide, its ceiling a bit
higher than that, and the steps were broad.  It descended very gradually
for perhaps fifty feet, opening into a twenty-foot square hallway that
stretched out in one direction, as far as the eye could see.  More wall
sconces, placed every ten feet or so, contained torches that provided
plenty of light.

Otto:  (eyes the hallway suspiciously)
Razor Charlie:  Good place for a trap.
Belphanior:  Oh, I've got no doubt that some sort of trap lies in wait.
  There are souls...more than a dozen, in the hall ahead.
Lyra:  The question is, will the trap get sprung on your monsters...or
  will it wait for us, the real foes?
Belphanior:  I say it will get sprung on whoever thinks they've got the
  upper hand.  Can one of you shield us against incoming magic and its
Alindyar:  Aye, although that is something of a waste of magical power.
  (he furrows his brow for a moment)  For lesser magi, that is.
Belphanior:  Okay, then, be ready.  (he motions to the large corridor
  ahead, and addresses the three summoned monsters)  Go forth.
giant hornet:  (flies down the hallway)  BZZZZZZ!
manticore:  (soars after the insect)  Graargh!
roper:  (shuffles after the other two, though much more slowly)
Belphanior:  (to one of the two iron golems)  You go too.
iron golem #2:  (lumbers into the corridor, the floor shaking with every
Belphanior:  Now let's see how long it takes for something to happen.

  It didn't take long; the flying monsters were about a hundred feet
ahead, the roper half that, and the golem right behind it...when a hail
of arrows and magic missiles began bombarding the advance guard!  These
various attacks seemed to come from the very walls themselves, until the
sharp eye of Alindyar figured out the secret.

Alindyar:  There are small holes built into the walls, doubtless with
  archers behind...and more magi, apparently.
Belphanior:  (already spellcasting)  Let's turn the tables.
Alindyar:  (begins generating a protective barrier, as planned)

  Meanwhile, the various members of the advance guard were dealing with
the attack in different ways.  The giant hornet had been killed almost
immediately, shredded by the dense missile fire.  The manticore had also
died, but not before wildly attacking a wall, trying to get at the foes
on the other side.  The roper was badly wounded, its malformed body now a
virtual pincushion of arrows, but it had gotten several of its tentacles
through arrow-slits, and someone on the other side was screaming in pain.
As for the golem, it simply plodded onward, arrows and magic missiles
alike bouncing off of its body.

Belphanior:  Ready?
Alindyar:  Ready.

  Belphanior launched a massive fireball down the wide hallway; it flew
for more than a hundred feet before exploding, the mighty blast shaking
the floor and filling the passageway with fiery doom.  There was, as the
elf had expected, some backwash of flames in the party's direction, but
it stopped ten feet away thanks to Alindyar's protective barrier.  The
smoke didn't clear for quite some time, eventually forcing Lyra to summon
a gust of wind that blew all the smoke away from the group, allowing them
to see and advance.

Otto:  (surveying the hallway)  Wow, clean sweep.

  The passage was charred, completely black from where they stood to
as far as they could see (and undoubtedly beyond).  The arrow-slits
were now clearly visible, and as the invaders moved down the corridor
and got a good look at these openings, they saw the design:  the slits
were arranged so that they covered the entire width of the passage, yet
didn't ever aim directly at one another.  In this way, archers (or magi)
could man these openings and cover a significant length of the hall with
various attacks.
  Now, the sickening smell of burned flesh emanated from the arrow-slits.

Belphanior:  Outstanding.

  The giant hornet was gone, its body obliterated by the elf's fiery
blast.  The manticore and the roper had been reduced to large masses of
stinking char.  The iron golem sent with the advance guard was unharmed,
and in fact gleaming, as fire had only beneficial effects on constructs
of its kind.

wispy thing:  (hovering near the remains of the manticore)  pfsss.
Razor Charlie:  (grimacing at the charred lumps that used to be the two
  summoned monsters)  We need more cannon fodder.
Lyra:  I've already got it covered.  (she completes a spell, sending a
  new wizard eye down the passage)
Belphanior:  Let's get moving, before any surviving foes figure out what
  to do next.  (to the iron golem that had gone ahead with the summoned
  monsters)  Rejoin our ranks, for now.

  They followed the magical eye, soon passing beyond the charred stone
that represented the fireball's blast radius.  About fifty feet beyond
this point, the passage took a left turn, then ended thirty feet later
in a massive portal.

Razor Charlie:  Now that's a damn door.

  The door was ten feet wide and fifteen feet high, and appeared to be
fashioned of solid steel.  Thick rivets bound its plates together on
this outer side; no hinges or opening mechanism could be seen.

Alindyar:  Note the walls all around yonder portal.
Belphanior:  (scrutinizing the stone with his enchanted crystal eye)
  Yeah...that's the lead-filled wall we talked about while planning
  this mission.  The door's got just as much lead inside, too...could
  be more than a foot thick.
Lyra:  We won't be teleporting into or out of that place.
Belphanior:  Nope.  (he turns to Alindyar)  Well, we talked about this,
  and now that we're actually here looking at it, what do you think?
  Can you change all of this lead to some other material?
Alindyar:  Nay.  For one thing, my powers are not limitless - they can
  drain over time, with frequent use.  For another thing, the sheer
  volume of stone and lead before us means quite a bit of work.  This
  was my suspicion, and it has turned out to be true.  I think it best
  to simply use the door, and save our power for any combat we may find
  ourselves in.
Otto:  But how do we use the door?
Belphanior:  Simple.  (he turns to the golems, singling out both of the
  iron ones)  You and you...break that door down.
Otto:  What if there's a trap?
Belphanior:  Oh, I'm sure there's a trap - the door and the stone around
  it are giving off strong magical auras.  That's why the golems are on
  their way over there, instead of us.
Alindyar:  If any magic is cast, we shall still be protected - my globe
  of invulnerability is still in effect.
Belphanior:  But...such barriers are immobile.  (he frowns)  Aren't they?
Alindyar:  Normally, they are.  However, careful study into the nature of
  the magic, and its underpinnings, led me to discover how to avoid the
  need for the thing to be anchored to one physical spot.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)
Belphanior:  (frowns)  So in other words, you've invented a globe of
  invulnerability that moves with the caster?
Alindyar:  (matter-of-factly)  Of course.
Lyra:  (smirking)  He's lots of fun at parties, too.
Belphanior:  Well, I-  (he stops talking, as the first of the golems
  nears the great metal door)
Otto:  (frowning)  I could swear I just heard a "click" from up there.
Razor Charlie:  I heard it too.

  An instant later, the section of floor before the door - the section
where both golems were standing - exploded in flame!  It was undoubtedly
a fireball, and as strong as any that anyone present had ever witnessed.
The blast shook the underground complex, sending dust trickling down from
above, but that dust was immediately obscured by the searing flames that
gushed through the passage.  This was a trap inherently designed to fry
anyone and anything in the corridor, for the fire originated at one end
of a closed chamber, and only had one way to go:  back down the passage.

Otto:  Holy crap!
Alindyar:  Stand fast-

  The flames washed over them, but got no closer than a ten-foot radius
around Alindyar.  The five adventurers stood in a bubble, the only thing
in the entire passage that wasn't subjected to the intense heat of the
fiery blast.  The fire rushed back down the passage, filling it from top
to bottom, side to side.  There was no doubt in anybody's mind that the
flames had reached all the way back to the site of the last fireball,
the one Belphanior had cast recently.

Lyra:  Well, now this section of passage matches the other section...
  they're both charred black.
Otto:  The golems...
Belphanior:  They'll be fine.  Fire can't hurt them, as you know.  (he
  frowns)  Hmm, they should reach the metal door any moment now-

  There was another loud explosion that shook the passage, though none
of them could see its cause due to the smoke that still filled the
corridor from the fireball.  This haze was quickly obscured by something

Belphanior:  A cone of cold.
Alindyar:  Or similar magic, held in a glyph or other trap.
Otto:  What will _that_ do to the golems?
Belphanior:  Nothing, though normal iron would have been cracked or even
  shattered by extreme heat followed by sudden cold...
Razor Charlie:  Yeah, that would hurt.
Lyra:  It's probably a dual trap, designed to stop anyone.  After all,
  not many attackers would be unaffected by heat _and_ cold.
Belphanior:  As I'm becoming fond of's nice to have golems
  around.  We owe the lich for that...heh.
Otto:  We don't owe him anything - we fought, we won, he died, we got
  his stuff.

  Eventually, the icy flakes in the air settled down, revealing an odd
sight:  the passage was charred black, but that was covered in a frosty
white layer.  The golems in front of the steel door were thusly coated
with soot and ice...but not for long.

iron golem #1:  <CRACK>  (it flexes its mighty arms, breaking off the
  shell of ice that surrounds it)
iron golem #2:  <CRACK>  (similarly frees itself)
Belphanior:  (looks back at the stone golems, which were outside of the
  protective spell and are all covered with black char-dust from the
  walls and ceiling, but otherwise unaffected)
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces as he watches the iron golems reach the vault

  It was obvious, from the very first blow of iron fist on steel door,
that this barrier was going to prove a bit more formidable than those
encountered previously in this place.  One of the iron golems punched
the portal with a gigantic fist, but the only effect was a small dent
in the great door.

Otto:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  Nothing to worry about...because we have all day.  (to the
  iron golems)  Break that door down.

  It was like a siege, except that they had a front-row seat.  The two
golems began to pound on the door, a steady fusillade of powerful fists
upon the thick door.  The assault shook the passage, rattled the teeth
of those nearby, and contained enough sheer force to level a city block
one building at a time.

  On the other side of the thick, armored vault door, a small group of
people waited, listening to the resounding sounds of the door slowly
being beaten down.  They stood in an antechamber, one of two such rooms
between the main vault door and the actual treasure-containing areas.
The antechamber was not insignificant itself:  a hundred feet long,
almost that wide, and with a fifty-foot high arched ceiling, it was an
impressive place...even for a last stand.

Prince Creon:  (shaking his head)  I thought that this vault was supposed
  to be impenetrable!
Royal Advisor Spiros:  It is, Your is.  (he winces as a
  particularly loud impact hits the door's other side, causing a small
  cloud of dust to appear above the doorway)  Err...
Prince Creon:  That banging's driving me crazy!  (he looks
  around, wild-eyed)  This, it's impossible!
General Malthus:  With all due respect, Your Royal Highness, no, it's
  really not impossible.  With a little planning, a lot of power, and
  the element of surprise, someone is systematically toppling your city.
  In a way, I admire them.
Prince Creon:  It's your city too, or have you forgotten?
General Malthus:  (nods grimly, hefting his well-used broadsword)  It is
  my city too, and I will fight to the death to defend it.
Court Wizard Nurka:  We all will.  (he frowns)  Of course, it's not as if
  we have any choice now.  (he glances at Prince Creon)  I'm not so sure
  it was wise to make our last stand down here, in the city vault.
Prince Creon:  It's the safest place...everywhere else in Monmurg got
  attacked...we're lucky we got down here in time, that's for sure.
Royal Advisor Spiros:  Well-said, Your Highness.
Court Wizard Nurka:  (glares at the skinny, beak-nosed advisor)  Would
  you shut up, you sniveling yes-man?!?  (he looks around, waving his
  arms angrily)  We can't be sure that this place is any better than
  being above.  It's better-protected, of course, but that only matters
  against foes who can't break through the vault door.
Prince Creon:  (looks at the thick steel door, covering his ears in a
  futile attempt to avoid hearing the incessant banging sound)
Court Wizard Nurka:  ...and it appears that we've underestimated these
  particular foes.
General Malthus:  It doesn't matter - we're here now, and our enemies
  are on the other side of the only exit.  The time's come to fight like
  men, and if we're to die, to die like men.  (he checks his sword's

  In addition to Prince Creon, his advisor, the general, and the court
wizard, there were a few other defenders in this room.  Two more wizards,
a pair of priests, five elite archers, and a dozen royal palace guards
had accompanied Prince Creon and the others down here.  They had also
been joined by the secret keeper of the vault, the mysterious sorceror
Lumis.  That individual lived and worked down here, and had never been
seen to leave; he had done this job for decades, predating not only the
current ruler of Monmurg and the Sea Princes but also the previous two
rulers (Creon's murdered brother Jeon, and their father Leon).  Only a
handful of people in the city even knew of Lumis' existence.
  It wasn't as if these particular people had all planned to end up here
together, allied against their foes.  Rather, these were the ones who'd
survived the initial attacks (mostly by virtue of not being present for
any of them) and happened to find each other soon afterward.  They had
retreated to this place, hoping to wait out the chaos above, but that
didn't seem likely anymore.

Prince Creon:  (fuming)  We've got to do...something!
Lumis:  (whispering to Prince Creon)  Sire, I can awaken the Guardian,
  with your permission...?
Prince Creon:  The Guardian?!?  I thought that was just a wives' tale,
  meant to scare enemies away from our vault!
Lumis:  No, is real enough when it needs to be.

  The Guardian that they referred to was a whispered legend in this
region...a mythical beast said to guard the treasures of Monmurg from
all enemies...a monster so fearsome that no one had ever survived its
wrath, much less seen the thing.

Prince Creon:  It's real?!?  How can we get it to fight these foes for
Lumis:  You know the legend, Sire.
Prince Creon:  No I don't.  My brother Jeon never did tell me much about
  it, before he...met his end.
Lumis:  (cackling insanely to himself)  The blood of the ruler of this
  nation, given freely, is the only thing that can fuel the awakening of
  the Guardian.
General Malthus:  What is this nonsense?!?
Court Wizard Nurka:  No, could possibly be true...(he regards
Lumis:  (regards Creon)  Your blood, Sire.  Given freely.  (he suddenly
  brandishes a small, curved knife)  I'll need your hand, Sire.
Prince Creon:  You cut me?!?
Royal Advisor Spiros:  (looks positively mortified)  Aie!

  The steel door suddenly quivered in place, dust falling from all of
the seams around it...and a couple of blows later, it buckled slightly.

General Malthus:  Won't be long now.  (disregarding Lumis and his insane
  babbling, he turns to the imperial guards and the archers, and begins
  to organize them into an effective defensive force)
Lumis:  We haven't much time, Sire.  (he points to Creon's hand)  Blood.
Prince Creon:  (listening to the pounding that is clearly demolishing
  the outer side of the door)  Oh...all right!  (he extends his hand,
  which is shaking now)
Lumis:  (takes the prince's hand and raises the knife)
Prince Creon:  What-  AAARGH!!!  (he grabs his now-handless forearm
  with his good hand)  MY HAND!  AAARGH!
Royal Advisor Spiros:  Oh, my.  (he abruptly faints)
General Malthus:  (rushes over, his sword drawn)
Court Wizard Nurka:  (motions the general to hold)  Wait...let's see
  where this is going.
priest #1:  Here, Milord.  (he presses a wad of cloth to the prince's
  stump, while priest #2 begins casting a healing spell)

  Momentarily, the bleeding had been stopped - but the stump of the
severed hand remained!

priest #3:  Not to worry, Milord - a spell of regeneration will take
  care of that.
Lumis:  Actually, no, it won't.  This knife, the Guardian, and the
  legend regarding the blood of this nation's ruler are all bound old magic.  (he begins chanting in some dead tongue
  while holding the curved knife and the severed hand aloft)
Court Wizard Nurka:  (to General Malthus)  Perhaps you'd better move
  your men - along with all of us - to the rear antechamber.
General Malthus:  But why-
Court Wizard Nurka:  Our friend here is about to summon something.  I'm
  not sure what it will turn out to be, but I don't want to be here when
  it arrives.

next:       finale
released:   3/3/06
notes:      Originally I was just going to end this arc in this episode,
  with a big final battle in the vault, pitting the adventurers against
  the last survivors of Creon's ruling government.  Then I got the idea
  to have a mythical guardian that only got summoned every hundred years
  or so, in times of extreme need.  Hopefully it will turn out to be
  something worthy of the fear and legend I've associated with it here,
  though I have to confess that I've spent a lot of time researching
  ancient beasts of mythology and haven't found anything that suits me
  but that I haven't used in the last 900 stories.

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