Chapter #910

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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!                                          +
+   MAIN TEAM (deep within vault)                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   Belphanior     15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+     iron golems, 2                                                      +
+     stone golems, 5                                                     +
+   Alindyar       18th level drow wizard                                 +
+   Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   SECOND TEAM (elsewhere in the city)                                   +
+                                                                         +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   GUARD TEAM (on guard duty at main entrance to armory)                 +
+                                                                         +
+   iron golem                                                            +
+   stone golem                                                           +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   OTHERS (watching from afar)                                           +
+                                                                         +
+   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                                                   +
+   "Small talk's for small people.  You and me ain't small people."      +
+                         - Wolverine, from _Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk_  +

                   CMX.  The Guardian in the Vault

  The adventurers have reached the bottom level of Monmurg's armory,
and are about to gain entrance into the vault which contains the city's

iron golem #1:  (drives both fists into the badly-damaged vault door)
iron golem #2:  (grabs one protruding corner of the huge portal and
  begins to pull it)
Razor Charlie:  (readies his knives)  Won't be long now.
Alindyar:  Nay.
Lyra:  (readying a spell)
Belphanior:  (readies his sword, peering at the walls surrounding the
  vault door)
Otto:  What's on your mind?
Belphanior:  I'm wondering if there's anybody in there.  Blackrazor
  isn't sensing any souls, but that's not a conclusive answer.
Otto:  I think it's safe to say that some foes await us behind that
  door.  (he checks his crossbow)  We're about to find out, at any rate.

  The two iron golems tore the mangled metal door from its hinges and
tossed it aside - a remarkable feat in itself since the door was five
feet thick - and then lumbered into the next chamber, the adventurers
close behind them.  Everything was going according to plan:  the party
had broken into the vault, the golems were leading the way, and total
victory seemed inevitable.

Belphanior:  Let's go!  (at the front of the small group of adventurers,
  he charges into the area beyond the demolished vault door)  Now we-
  Whoa!  (he watches as one of the iron golems hurtles away to the left,
Otto:  (right behind the elf, he gapes in awe)  Holy shit...

  The monstrosity that loomed ahead was almost beyond words to describe,
though a few sprang to mind:  huge, terrible, fearsome, unbelievable.
Thirty feet tall, it was best described as an amalgam of several other
creatures.  Its basic form was humanoid, with a powerfully-built torso
covered in thick, dull gray scales.  The beast's feet and hands, while
slightly oversized, were similarly reptilian, ending in widely-splayed
claws.  It had a tail too - a thick, powerful-looking appendage ten feet
long and tipped with jagged chunks of a bone-like substance.  Perhaps
most horrific of all were the monster's gigantic heads, of which there
were three...three!  They were set atop an absurdly thick, wide neck and
shoulders, and each was different - yet all were fearsome, arrayed as
they were in a chaotic mix atop the creature's body.  One head was that
of a wild-eyed goat, its wickedly-curved horns ending in sharp tips.
The center head was ape-like and featured wild, beady black eyes above a
snarling, powerful maw the size of a large shield.  The third head was
that of a great snake, with slitted yellow eyes and a darting, blood-red
forked tongue.

giant three-headed monster:  (roars from its ape-like central head as it
  grabs the second iron golem by one arm, and hurls it aside like a rag
iron golem #2:  (smashes into the wall to the right, causing a large,
  cracked indention in the wall)
giant three-headed monster:  (regards the smaller intruders with all
  three of its heads)  GRRRRRRR...

  So it was that the adventurers met the Guardian...a mythical beast
whispered in many local legends, but seen by few...a beast so fearsome
that, for centuries, Monmurg's rulers had lived through crises without
seeing the need to summon it - and so dangerous that none who had faced
it had survived.

Belphanior:  Well, we've got our work cut out for us.
Alindyar:  Aye, that we do.  If some of you can go forth and distract
  the thing with physical attacks, Lyra and I shall remain here, behind
  our spell-deflecting globe, and assault it with magic.
Otto:  Sounds good to me.  (he moves out to the left, while Belphanior
  heads right, in an attempt to flank the thing)
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the monstrous foe, which stands thirty feet
  away, then moves leftward in a wide arc, intending to eventually get
  on the thing's far side)
wispy thing:  (nonchalantly flies up toward the ceiling)  sprrd.
Guardian:  (looks left, then right, then at the two drow, but doesn't
  move toward any of them)  GRRRR...
Alindyar:  (spellcasting)  Perhaps the beast is confused.
Lyra:  Well, someone has to attack sometime, and it might as well be a
  powerful one.  I've been wanting to test this enhanced lightning bolt
  on a foe for quite some time now.  (she completes her spell, pointing
  at the towering monster and launching a massive arc of white-hot,
  sizzling, crackling electricity directly toward it)

  This lightning bolt was larger, brighter, and more powerful than any
that Lyra had ever cast before.  It was a new spell, a more powerful
variant of the "standard" bolt of lightning, and she'd been waiting for
an opponent of sufficient size and power for a proper trial.  The masses
of city guards earlier this day had been dispatched by more conventional
means, not seeming worthy of such a powerful attack.  The colossus that
now menaced the adventurers, however, _did_ seem worthy of this spell.

Guardian:  (stands there as the great bolt of lightning strikes, scoring
  a direct hit)
Alindyar:  Aye, a most-

  The dark elf's congratulations were extremely short-lived, for the huge
bolt of lightning _bounced_ off of the Guardian, heading right back the
way it came!

wispy thing:  (frowns)  brrrn.
Lyra:  Oh shi-

  The magical globe that protected the pair of dark elves was proof
against magical attacks that came from without...but not from within.
Just as Lyra's spell had passed through the barrier on its way to the
gigantic foe, it now returned the same way, and with the same lack of
restrictions.  In short, the lightning bolt exploded right at Lyra and
Alindyar's feet, blasting them aside like rag dolls and shaking the
underground vault, causing dust to fell from its high ceiling.

Belphanior:  (looks back at the small, burned crater where the drow
  were just standing)  Oh, hell.
Razor Charlie:  (although a good distance away from the Guardian, he
  yet manages to hit it in the leg with a thrown knife, though the
  wound is barely a scratch)
Guardian:  GRAAARGH!  (it glares at Charlie, and takes a step toward
Razor Charlie:  Crap.  (he turns and flees)
Guardian:  (roaring, it lumbers toward Charlie)  GRAAAAAARGH!
Belphanior:  Let's see if its defenses apply to wands too...(he fires
  a volley of acidic spheres at the huge beast, only to watch them
  bounce off)  Shit.  well, at least they didn't reflect-
Guardian:  RRRRAAARGH!  (roaring, it charges toward the elf, who is now
  the closest opponent)
Belphanior:  (shouting to the five stone golems, who stand near the site
  of the lightning bolt blast)  You - all of you!  Attack this thing!
golems:  (begin lumbering toward the Guardian, who is lumbering toward
Belphanior:  (uses his jumping-spell to leap away, landing behind the
  four golems)  That'll buy me some time...maybe not much, though...
Guardian:  (turns and lurches toward Otto, who is now the nearest foe)
Otto:  Uh-oh.
Guardian:  GRAAAAARGH!

  Meanwhile, in the streets above, the other half of the attack team
arrived at the armory...

Mongo:  (looking around at the death and destruction)  I'd say the others
  came this way.
Skektek:  (points to the armory entrance)  And they went in there...
  without us!  Let's go!
Mongo:  Right.

  The five adventurers charged into the armory building, but then stopped
short as they almost ran into the iron golem and stone golem that had
been left behind to guard the way.

iron golem:  (raises its arm)
Skektek:  Hey, wait-  (he steps back with the others as the gigantic iron
  fist smashes into the floor in front of him)  What the hell?!?
Elgon:  I thought these things were supposed to be helping us?
Jenna:  Maybe they didn't get clear instructions.
Ys:  (raises his sword wearily)
Mongo:  We don't have time for this.  (he steps close to the iron golem,
  grabs its leg, and swings it around before letting it go, sending it
  hurtling toward the stone golem)
Jenna:  (just stands there, gaping)
Elgon:  You made that look easy, though I'm sure it wasn't.
Mongo:  I've fought giants, and learned close-quarters combat tricks for
  fighting them...learned from the best.  Golems are just about the same
  basic kind of opponent, except dumber.  (he looks at the golems, which
  are getting to their feet)  Of course, dumber means more relentless,
  too.  Let's go, before we _really_ have to fight them.  (he rushes
  toward the descending stairway, hammer ready)

  In the vault below, the battle raged on.  The stone golems had taken
the fight to the Guardian, which left Belphanior and Otto free to make
their own attacks.

Otto:  (fires his crossbow, sending a sharp bolt toward the Guardian)
Guardian:  (hit in the arm)  AAAARGH!  (it stares briefly at the wound,
  which is bleeding, before returning its attention to the golems and
  swatting one aside)
Otto:  Whoa!  It's hit - it's bleeding!
Belphanior:  If it bleeds, we can kill it.  (already hasted thanks to
  his sword, he sprints toward the Guardian, whose back is facing him)

  At this point, the small group of foes hiding in the vault beyond
this one finally made an appearance, or at least one of them did...

Court Wizard Nurka:  (steps out of the doorway between the two large
  chambers, his hands raised as he casts a spell)

  Fifty feet away, Belphanior's attempted backstab was foiled as a huge
web dropped from nowhere, tangling him up as he lost his footing!

Belphanior:  What?!?  (he falls, the sticky strands pinning him to the
  floor, helpless)
Guardian:  (turns, its fanged mouth drooling as it spies the food before
  it)  GRRRRRR...(it heads for the trapped elf)

  At the back of the antechamber...

Royal Advisor Spiros:  Very good, but why didn't you use some mighty
  spell?  Why not fry the elf where he stood, or blast him with bolts
  of lightning?
General Malthus:  Yeah, I was wondering that, too.
Court Wizard Nurka:  Because I don't need to, and because he might have
  unknown defenses against such spells, and because the Guardian - which
  we've seen repels magic - is right there next to him.  (he smiles to
  himself)  No, my method was better...for the elf is pinned in place,
  and the Guardian will destroy him within moments!
General Malthus:  What about the others...the dwarf there, and those dark
  elves, if they're still alive?
Court Wizard Nurka:  Ah, I do have some more direct, more powerful magic
  for them.  (he begins working a new spell)

  Suddenly, while the wizard was occupied with his spellcasting, and his
companions were occupied watching the battle, the handle of a throwing
knife suddenly appeared in the wizard's right eye.

Court Wizard Nurka:  Urk.  (he staggers, as his hands glow with wasted
  magical energy)
Razor Charlie:  (sprinting toward the small group, he throws another of
  his magical blades for good measure, even though the first inflicted
  a seemingly fatal wound)
Court Wizard Nurka:  (hit in the neck, he reels, even as blood gushes
  from his mangled throat)  Ghak.

  Razor Charlie was a whirlwind of blade-throwing, death-dealing terror.
Despite being hastened by his magical bracers, and possessing more than
a dozen magical knives, the warrior had quickly realized that his skill
with blades was next to useless against the gigantic Guardian, and while
escaping that confrontation he'd noticed the other foes in the back of
the room, hiding in the portal to the next chamber.  Of course, they
hadn't noticed him - after all, he wasn't a hulking golem, or a flying
red-caped elf, or a spell-casting drow.  He'd escaped notice by Creon's
human allies, and now he was making them pay.

Court Wizard Nurka:  (falls, dying)  Glk.
Royal Advisor Spiros:  (clasps his hands, horrified)  Aie!
Razor Charlie:  (hurls another blade, this one hitting the advisor in
  the forehead, right between the eyes)
Royal Advisor Spiros:  (falls, slain instantly)
General Malthus:  (regards the fallen politician for a moment)  Good
  riddance.  (he unsheathes his broadsword, grinning as he turns to face
  Razor Charlie)  I was tired of his whining anyway.
Razor Charlie:  (throws another knife)
General Malthus:  (deftly flips his sword up, deflecting the blade)
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the foe)
General Malthus:  What say you try fighting with real weapons-
Razor Charlie:  (whips out two more throwing knives)

  Just then, a volley of magical missiles shot past General Malthus and
struck Charlie in the torso and arms, knocking him from his feet before
he could attack again.

wizard #1:  Hah.
General Malthus:  (glares at the wizard)  How dare you interfere with
  my fight?
wizard #1:  What?  I thought you could use some help.  That guy was
  about to skewer you!
General Malthus:  Bah.  (he advances on the stunned Charlie, sword held
wizard #1:  (turns to wizard #2)  I ask you...where's the gratitude?
wizard #2:  (shrugs)  Just be glad you're not out there.  (he points to
  the Guardian, who has reached Belphanior in the center of the large

  Fifty feet away...

Guardian:  (reaches down to grab Belphanior, the clawed fingers of its
  oversized hand flexing)  GRRRR...
Belphanior:  (desperately trying to hack through the webbing pinning
  his feet)  So close...dammit.
wispy thing:  (buzzes around the Guardian's multiple heads, hissing
  loudly)  sssss!
Guardian:  (swatting at this new pest)  GRAAARGH!

  The tide of battle shifted then, as a gleaming warhammer flashed
through the big room, hitting the Guardian squarely in the back!

Guardian:  RRAAARGH!  (it staggers, almost falling on Belphanior)
Mongo:  (standing at the entrance to the antechamber)  Hey, you!  Ugly!
  You wanna fight someone...fight me!  (he catches his hammer and then
  charges toward the Guardian)
Guardian:  (forgets about Belphanior as it heads for Mongo)
Belphanior:  (tired of sawing at the webbing on his feet, and now free to
  concentrate, he uses a quick fire spell to ignite the webs, and soon
  kicks himself free)


Ys:  (behind the dwarf, he surveys the carnage)  Hmm.  Skektek, you and
  I shall help Mongo take the fight to the...(he regards the
  Guardian as it rages in the center of the room)...well, whatever it
  is, we'll fight it.  Jenna, it appears that our dark elven friends
  have been hurt - attend to them.  Elgon, she may need your help.
Skektek:  Uh, right.  (he wonders if he's ever seen Ys assert himself
  like this)
Jenna:  (dashes toward the unmoving form of Alindyar)
Elgon:  I'll check the other one.  (he darts toward Lyra)
Ys:  (to Skektek)  Mongo can't handle that thing all by himself.  Shall
Skektek:  Let's.  (he begins spellcasting)
Ys:  (heads toward the Guardian)

  Meanwhile, General Malthus had reached Razor Charlie...

General Malthus:  As much as I hate to take out a helpless foe, this
  is a serious situation, and we need every advantage we can get.  (he
  raises his broadsword)
Razor Charlie:  (suddenly lashes out with one leg, kicking the general
  in the crotch and knocking him back)  If you want to fight, fight...
  don't talk.  (he leaps to his feet)
wizard #1:  (still standing in the doorway with the other wizard, he
  points to Charlie)  Hey, look.
wizard #2:  (begins spellcasting)  I'll handle this.
Otto:  No, you won't.  (he runs his shortsword into the man's robed back)
wizard #2:  (looks down to see the sword-point protruding from his chest)
wizard #1:  (backs up, wiping blood from his face)  Oh, hell...
Otto:  That's about right.  (he lets go of his sword and produces his
  magical dagger, throwing it at the foe)
wizard #1:  (hit in the shoulder)  Eaaaaargh!  (he turns to flee)
Otto:  (calmly raises his crossbow, loads a bolt, and fires at the foe's
wizard #1:  (hit in the back of the head, he falls, dead)
Otto:  (removes his sword from the corpse of the other wizard, and turns
  to check on Razor Charlie)
Razor Charlie:  (now holding his whip)
General Malthus:  A whip?  What kind of weapon is that to face a sword-
Razor Charlie:  (lets the whip fly, its end wrapping around the sword's
  hilt, entangling the weapon)  Told you not to talk.
General Malthus:  Aaaaargh!  (he lets go of the sword and charges right
  at Charlie)
Otto:  (already moving in that direction, he takes a couple more steps
  toward the two combatants, lining up his crossbow sights...and then
  shoots the general in the back)
General Malthus:  Ghak!  (he turns)  What...?!?  Have you no...honor?
Otto:  (reloads, and aims again)  Sorry, friend, but this isn't the time
  for a fair fight.  (he fires, this bolt hitting the general in the
  chest)  Which is one reason I'm using poisoned bolts.
General Malthus:  (falls, dead)
Otto:  (nonchalantly)  Of course, I had to switch to my old crossbow so
  that I could actually poison my bolts, but war is hell.
Razor Charlie:  Yeah.  (he grimaces at the slain foe)  That's some good
Otto:  I made up a strong batch, especially for this mission.  (he eyes
  the magic missile-burns on Charlie's body)  You okay?
Razor Charlie:  Fine.  (he points at the doorway on this back side of
  the huge chamber)  More foes through there.  I think I saw some priest-
  types before.
Otto:  (nods)

  In the center of the antechamber, Mongo had gone to war...

Mongo:  (not even bothering to throw his hammer this time, he simply
  swings it, bashing the Guardian in the knee)  How do you like _that_?!
Guardian:  GRAAAARGH!  (it reaches down and grabs the dwarf with both
  clawed hands, raising him to its mouth)
Skektek:  (figuring that he can fire a spell at the monster without
  Mongo's armor automatically absorbing it, he launches a quick volley
  of magical missiles)

  Unfortunately, no one who knew of the Guardian's spell-reflecting
ability was conscious and near enough to warn Skektek, so he was quite
surprised when his own magic missiles came whizzing back toward him.

Skektek:  What-  (he falls, blasted severely by his own spell)
Ys:  (charging toward the fight)  Oh, no.  (he reaches the Guardian
  and swings his sword, slicing a gash in the beast's hip)
Guardian:  GRRAAAARGH!  (it whips its tail around, the jagged chunks
  of bony plate in the tip adding further danger to the pure power of
  the tail's motion)
Ys:  Argh!  (knocked back, cut and bruised, he falls, stunned)
Mongo:  You forgot about me.  (he leaps up, swinging his hammer with
  all his might at point-blank range, hitting the Guardian atop its
Guardian:  <CRACK>  GRAAARGH!  (that head lolls to the side, limp and
Mongo:  Hah!
Belphanior:  (having moved around behind the thing, he leaps up and
  delivers a perfect backstab, his blade sinking deep into the beast's
  heavily-muscled upper back)  Die!
Guardian:  (bellows in pain and rage)   AAAAARGH!  (it whirls, swinging
  one huge fist with surprising speed)
Belphanior:  (hit solidly, he sails about forty feet away before hitting
  a wall)
Mongo:  Dammit!  (he bashes the monster in its chest, cracking bones)
Guardian:  RRAAARGH!  (without any further ado, it puts the dwarf in its
  middle mouth, that of the ape)

  The gigantic beast was in for a surprise, though, for Mongo's armor
was an artifact, and virtually indestructible.  Powerful jaws closed,
sharp teeth grating against the unearthly metal of the armor...and then
some of those teeth _broke_, causing the Guardian to howl in pain and

Guardian:  RAAAARGH!
Mongo:  (swings Stormcrest, smacking the beast across its snake-head)
  I've been eaten by a dinosaur, pal, and-
Guardian:  GRRRARGH!  (it grabs Mongo's hammer-wielding arm in one claw,
  and his body in the other, and pulls)
Mongo:  What?!?

  The dwarf possessed incredible strength, but couldn't bring it to bear
in this situation.  The hammer was torn from his grasp, landing on the
floor nearby with a "clunk."

Mongo:  Back!  Come back to me!  (he reaches out with his hand)

  From previous experience, the dwarf had learned that he could make
Stormcrest return to his hand, even if he hadn't technically thrown it.
Right now, however, the weapon rested underneath one of the Guardian's
huge, clawed feet...trapped beneath more than a ton of beastly mass.

Mongo:  Argh!  Dammit!  (he grabs the Guardian's fingers with both of
  his hands, pulling with all his might)!
Guardian:  (surprised as its fingers are pulled loose, freeing the tiny
  foe)  GRRRRR?
Mongo:  (drops to the ground)  Oof!

  Meanwhile, at the rear of the chamber, Otto and Razor Charlie were
debating their next move.  Of course, with Charlie, there was never much
real discussion.

Razor Charlie:  There're enemies through there.  We should go kill them.
Otto:  (glancing back at the Guardian and those fighting it)  But they
  might need our help.
Razor Charlie:  Nothing we can do to help.  Mongo can level buildings.
  If he can't beat that thing, we sure can't.  (he points to the doorway
  to the next room)  And those foes might get us later.  Best to take
  them out now.
Otto:  Okay, okay...but how?  We've got no spells to just blast them to
  bits from afar.  (he thinks for a moment)  Well, we do have something.

  Beyond the doorway, in the next room...

Prince Creon:  (having finally accepted the pain of his lost hand, he
  paces around, barking orders)  You people need to protect me!
priest #1:  That may be difficult, your Highness, seeing as how there
  are only a handful of us left.
priest #2:  Three of us priests, five archers-
elite archer #1:  Hey, we're _elite_ archers.
priest #2:  Whatever.  Five elite archers, and a dozen palace guards.
priest #3:  (sticks a thumb in the direction of Lumis)  And him, if he

  Lumis was sitting cross-legged off to one side; the sorceror was in a
trance, his eyes rolled back in their sockets, a vague chanting coming
from his thin mouth.

Lumis:  Ommmmm...
palace guard #1:  What the hell's going on with that weirdo, anyway?
priest #1:  We think that he's somehow bound to the summoning spell for
  that monstrosity in the next room.
priest #2:  In other words, leave him be.
palace guard #2:  Hey, don't worry.
priest #3:  (to the elite archers, who are ready to fire on anyone who
  comes through the arched doorway to the first antechamber)  Are you
  people ready?
elite archer #1:  No need to sweat.  Anyone who shows up will be a
  pincushion before they hit the ground.
priest #3:  I hope so, because-

  Suddenly, something small and flaming flew through the doorway and
hit the floor right in front of the small band of defenders...and then
exploded!  It was one of Otto's fire-vials, a glass bottle filled with
oil, its wick set on fire before it had been thrown.  One moment, the
remaining defenders were standing there discussing their situation and
tactics...and the next, they were standing around a spreading pool of
flaming oil!

elite archer #5:  (hit by some of the splashed oil, his cloak ignites)
elite archer #3:  (covers his eyes against the flame and heat)
palace guard #12:  (backs away, his boot set ablaze by the oil)  Ouch!
priest #1:  What the hell...?

  Before the scattering defenders knew what hit them, Otto and Charlie
were through the doorway and in full attack mode.

elite archer #1:  (hit in the eye by one of Charlie's knives, he falls,
  screaming in agony)  Aaaaargh!
priest #1:  (hit in his open mouth by a crossbow bolt, he winces before
  he even feels the pain)  Ack-
priest #2:  (petrified by the sight of the bolt's tip protruding from
  the back of the other's head, he turns just as one of Charlie's knives
  buries itself in his neck)
priest #3:  (darts to the side, working a spell)
Otto:  (fires another bolt, hitting the man in the gut and ruining the
priest #3:  Aaaargh!  How dare you?!?
Otto:  Oh, I dare.  (he puts his crossbow down and gets the mithril
  horn obtained in the trade with Mongo, quickly putting it to his
  lips and winding it)

  Instantly, five tall, broadly-built warriors appeared, from thin air,
in front of the dwarf.

berserker #1:  Ho, small master!  Where is the battle?
Otto:  (points to the palace guards and archers)  Those are your foes-
berserker #2:  Say no more!
berserker #3:  To battle!
berserker #4:  Steel and blood and glory!
berserker #5:  Raaaaaargh!
Otto:  (remembers why he summoned these berserkers after using the
  firebomb, as doing so beforehand would have likely allowed them to
  interfere with the efficiency of the fiery projectile)

  As one, the berserkers set upon the defenders, who put up a valiant
fight but were simply overmatched.  Some of the archers were able to
get shots off, but the berserkers ignored the missiles as they proceeded
to cut the foes to bits, and then cut the bits to smaller bits.

Prince Creon:  (fleeing across the large chamber, toward its rear exit
  doorway and the next room)
Otto:  (hefts his crossbow again, takes careful aim, and shoots the
  prince in the leg)
Prince Creon:  (falls, a bolt transfixing his thigh)  Aaaaargh!
Otto:  (to Razor Charlie)  I'll get him.
Razor Charlie:  Right.

  As Otto darted after Creon, Charlie looked around.  There wasn't much
left to do here, as the berserkers summoned by Otto had pretty much
taken care of the guards and archers.  The wounded third priest had
tried to counterattack with some spell, and been cut down for his

Razor Charlie:  (spots the entranced Lumis, off to one side)  Hmm.  (he
  walks over there, standing beside the strange-looking fellow who sits
  there, chanting, oblivious to everything going on around him)
Lumis:  Ommmmm...
Razor Charlie:  Fuck this.  (he produces a knife, bends down, and slits
  the sorceror's throat from ear to ear)

  In the first huge antechamber, the battle stopped abruptly as the
Guardian vanished!

Mongo:  Hey!
Belphanior:  What in the world...?  It must have teleported, or gone
  invisible, or...(he glances around, his crystal eye scanning the area
  for any trace of the great monster)
Mongo:  Where'd he go?  I was beating him!
Belphanior:  Odd as it may sound...he's gone.  I can't find any trace
  of him, not with my eye and not with Blackrazor...and trust me, that
  was one soul we were planning on consuming.  (he frowns)  Damn, this
  worries me.  Big monsters like that don't just disappear.  I'll get
  Jenna to scry for the answer to this.  (he looks around)  And where
  the hell are Otto and Charlie?

  It didn't take long for those adventurers who were conscious to make
a complete accounting of everything.  The golems were all dented, their
mighty bodies having suffered at the hands of the Guardian, but they
were intact.  They could be repaired with the proper magic, though now
wasn't the time.  As for Otto and Charlie, they appeared momentarily,
dragging the comatose form of Prince Creon between them.

Belphanior:  What happened to him?  And where's his hand?
Otto:  He wouldn't shut up, so I knocked him out and tied him up.  His
  leg's bound, too, so he doesn't bleed to death.  I figured you'd want
  him alive.  As for the hand, we didn't find it.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Otto:  I think I have an idea of what was going on with that big fucker.

  Otto explained about Lumis, the missing hand, and how the sounds of
battle had ceased when Charlie slew the wizard.

Belphanior:  That makes sense...they must have summoned that thing, and
  the wizard was linked to it.  When Charlie killed him, the thing went
  back to wherever it came from.
Mongo:  Good for it, because I was kicking its ass!
Belphanior:  (quietly, to Razor Charlie)  Good work.
Razor Charlie:  Thanks, boss.
Belphanior:  I don't know what the connection with the missing hand was.
Otto:  (eyeing Mongo, who's got some cuts and bruises)  Are you guys
Mongo:  Yeah.  (he recovers his hammer)  Good thing Bosco's not here,
  or he'd be halfway to the exit with this, by now.
Otto:  I doubt that - he's not strong enough to lift the hammer.  (he
  gestures to the chamber's far exit)  Beyond that doorway is another
  big, empty room like this...and beyond that is a treasure room.  I
  saw it briefly when I chased this doofus down.  (he kicks Creon's
  unconscious form)
Skektek:  (limps over to join the others)
Belphanior:  Are you okay?
Skektek:  Only my pride is hurt, mostly.  I've never been blasted with
  my own magical missiles before.  (he frowns)  Good thing I didn't go
  for the heavy stuff right away.
Ys:  (stretches his massive, scaled form)  Ouch.
Belphanior:  Jenna can help you...damn, we need to check on the drow!
  (he runs to the chamber's entrance side, where Jenna and Elgon are
  caring for the dark elves)
Mongo:  (follows, also running)  Shit!  Are they-
Jenna:  They're fine.
Belphanior:  I wasn't sure, with that lightning bolt reflecting back,
  but we had a fight going on.
Elgon:  They both took a pretty good beating, and were unconscious, but
  they're fine.  I think they must have been partially behind one of the
  golems when the blast hit.  That's the only thing that would explain
Jenna:  Alindyar hit his head pretty badly, but I cast a healing spell
  on him.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Good work, and thanks.  (to Mongo)  I don't know
  what I'd have done if they got killed.
Mongo:  Yeah, I know.
Belphanior:  (to Jenna)  I need you to use your scrying magic to find
  out where that big monster went.  I can accept that it was summoned
  and got sent back, but I need to hear it from someone who knows.
Jenna:  (nods)  I'll get right on it.
Otto:  (regarding the unconscious drow)  We'll need some way to move
  them, and Creon too.
Belphanior:  (already working a spell)  I'll create a floating disc.
Skektek:  I didn't know you bothered with that kind of magic.
Belphanior:  Versatility is the key to magic, my friend.  (he points to
  the translucent platform he's just created)  Let's get these three
  loaded on there.
Otto:  (double-checks Prince Creon's bonds)  Right.

  By the time the unconscious ones had been loaded onto the floating
disc, Jenna had something to report.

Jenna:  (frowns)  That beast was not from another plane, but rather from
  this one.  (she frowns)  What I mean is that it was bound to this one
  by old magic used by past rulers of Monmurg.  It was from this place,
  and it was bound to this place.
Razor Charlie:  Huh?
Jenna:  And it's definitely gone.  The hand - and certain magic that
  must have been tied to the sorceror slain by Charlie - were the key
  to its presence here.  It got summoned, and then it basically got
Belphanior:  Good.
Jenna:  I wish I could tell you how it got here and left, given these
  shielded walls, but I just don't know.  The only thing that's certain
  is that the thing is gone and isn't coming back.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Thanks.

  They soon moved (or were moved) across this room, through the next
room, and into the treasure chamber of Monmurg.  Due to the special
shielding of this area, teleportation or the use of the magical cord-
gateway was impossible.  Instead, they loaded up the best treasure
(magic items, gems, jewelry, platinum, gold, and silver, in that order)
into portable holes, bags, pouches - whatever they had.  Belphanior had
planned for this, and had a hundred thick sacks in his portable hole,
plus plenty of stout rope.  This allowed the golems to be loaded up
with treasure, which really helped with the heavy stuff.  Otto even got
the berserkers to help, hauling several sacks of loot apiece.

berserker #1:  This is no sort of battle for us to fight-
Otto:  We have to take this treasure in order to cause more fighting.
berserker #1:  Oh, okay then.  (he hefts a bag of gold coins)  When we
  see our next foes, you can count on us to drop the loot and charge
  into battle!
Belphanior:  It's the anti-Bosco.
Mongo:  Hah.

  Presently, they had all the treasure they could carry, and retreated
out of the treasure chamber, through the twin antechambers, and through
the ruined vault door.

Belphanior:  Hold.  (he rummages through his pouches)  Now that we're
  outside the shielded walls, it's time to use our shortcut.  (he gets
  the portable magic cord that Parekh gave him, and sets it up, opening
  a magical portal to the skyship far above)
Otto:  (feeling the cool air on his face)  Ahhh.
Belphanior:  Everyone work on getting the treasure, and our sleeping
  companions, onto the ship.  I'm going up to retrieve the two golems
  we left there.  Skektek and Mongo, you're with me.
Skektek:  Gladly.
Mongo:  You think we'll run into trouble?
Belphanior:  Possibly.  I don't think anyone can get past the golems,
Mongo:  We did.
Belphanior:  True.

  As it turned out, the golems had amassed quite a body count - several
dozen soldiers had tried to get into the armory's main entrance after
Skektek, Mongo, and the others made it through.  The smashed, bloody
remains of the soldiers - and the various scorch-marks in and around
the building - testified to the constructs' successful defense of the
building entrance.

Belphanior:  (to the golems)  Follow me - we're leaving.

  As they descended, Belphanior turned to Mongo.

Belphanior:  Can you use your hammer to collapse that stairway behind
  us, after we're down on the lower floor?
Mongo:  Why do that?  You told me to make sure to bring my horn, and it
  can do an even better job...
Belphanior:  Save the horn for the very bottom, right outside the vault
  door.  This is all part of my plan.
Mongo:  (suddenly understands)  Ah-hah!

  A short while later, as a small, ragged force of Monmurg's guards
approached the armory, the building simply...imploded.  Though those
witnessing this event couldn't possibly know it, the building was now
collapsing on itself because the vault, deep below, had been the victim
of Mongo's powerful horn of siege.  In fact, the destruction was just
starting; in addition to burying the city's vaults (and all evidence
of what had happened within) the earthquake shook the entire city, its
sheer power toppling dozens of older, taller, or already-damaged towers
and buildings and twisting a proverbial knife through the heart of the
dying, once-proud capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes.

next:       wrap-up
released:   3/10/06
notes:      I am fully aware that there are loose ends and repercussions
  to this arc, which I haven't even mentioned, much less dealt with.  Not
  to worry, it will all be addressed after a break from this storyline.
    On another note, I tried to inject some humor into this episode, to
  offset all the power and the battle.

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