Chapter #920

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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        +
+   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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          9/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
+   "That's insane."                                                      +
+   "No, it's brilliant.  They'll never think we're crazy enough          +
+    to do it."                                                           +
+                    - Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, from _The A-Team_   +

                   CMXX.  Return to the Underdark

  The group has spent the last day in the Pelisso Swamp complex, making
preparations for a swift, decisive strike.

Belphanior:  (looks back at the others)  Everyone ready?
Mongo:  (hefts his hammer)  You bet.
Skektek:  You have to ask?
Otto:  (hefts his crossbow)  Let's do it.
Jenna:  Our fate is in Istus' hands.
Elgon:  That sounds like a "yes, I'm ready."
Razor Charlie:  (just grimaces)
wispy thing:  yrrrp!
Ys:  (casually checking the edge of his gigantic broadsword, he nods to
Belphanior:  Okay then.  (he activates the gateway)

  Oddly enough, nothing happened.  The stone within the magical archway
didn't transform into mist, ready to allow passage to a distant place.

Skektek:  That's never happened before.
Belphanior:  Actually, I expected this.
Mongo:  You did?  Why?
Belphanior:  Because this gateway - the "dust" setting on the dial here -
  leads to a place that suffered quite a bit of damage, due to a mighty
  fireball that we used to cover our exit, the last time we were there.
Mongo:  Well, that's no good.
Skektek:  Especially not for the people who got blasted by the fireball.
Belphanior:  (thinking of Al-arakara, he smiles thinly)
Otto:  You think the gateway on the far end got destroyed?
Belphanior:  Probably not destroyed - these things are sturdy, and also
  highly magical.  It's obvious that it's damaged, though, and I doubt
  that the mummy-king did that himself.
Skektek:  (frowns)  Maybe it would be smart to try and use that red-
  gemstone talisman to disable the gateway system, at least when we're
  not using it.  That would be a sure way to keep Al-arakara and other
  evildoers from using the gateway network and maybe sneaking up on us.
Belphanior:  Good idea.  That's the problem with something as useful and
  powerful as these portals - they're a double-edged sword.
Otto:  Few swords aren't.
Belphanior:  Yeah.
Mongo:  So what now?
Belphanior:  Now, plan "B"...same tactics, same basic plan, except we're
  not dealing with mummies and undead.  (he looks at the dial on this
  gateway, and begins turning it to a different runic setting)  The word
  of the day is _drow_.

  A very short time later, the group stepped out of the mists in a place
far beneath the surface of the world.  The dark purple stone of the arch
blended into the intricately-worked walls and ceiling of a small alcove,
which bordered a much larger chamber.

Otto:  (points to the floor)
Belphanior:  (nods)

  A large portion of the cavern floor was oddly pitted, misshapen as if
it had been eaten away by acid - which was, of course, exactly what had
happened.  Belphanior and company had arrived here previously, becoming
involved in a battle between dark elves and undead.  The latter had been
led by Al-arakara himself, though the mummy-king had fled the battle as
he left behind a gigantic ball of acid.  It was this acid, Belphanior
was sure, that had turned the cavern's level floor into a misshapen pit
of uneven stone.  Most of the larger cavern's floor was now at least ten
feet deeper, and irregular enough that walking on it would be rather
treacherous.  This damage extended into the alcove, right up to the
gateway arch; the adventurers were literally standing on the edge of a
ten-foot drop directly ahead of them.

Belphanior:  (peering past the alcove's length into the cavernous area
  beyond)  I sense no souls out there, at least not close by.
Otto:  That doesn't mean there's nothing there.
Skektek:  Want me to fly ahead and have a look?
Belphanior:  Yes, but not by yourself.  (he casts a quick spell upon
  himself, and takes to the air, sword in hand)  The rest of you, make
  your way as best as you can, and be careful - we don't need any twisted
  ankles today.
Elgon:  (eyeing the bottom of the misshapen pit ahead)  I don't see any
  pools of acid down there, anywhere.
Otto:  (puts his crossbow away and peers down into the acid-burned space
  below and ahead)  That's to be expected, since the acid that _was_ here
  consumed itself even as it consumed the stone.
Mongo:  That was some strong damn acid, if it ate that much stone.
Otto:  (remembering the flowing acid that put a quick end to that battle) should have seen it in action.
Razor Charlie:  (puts a knife between his teeth, turns around, and climbs
  down the slope into the pit)
Mongo:  Yeah.  (he simply leaps down, landing hard and then marching
  into the larger area by walking along the bottom of the pit)

  Belphanior and Skektek floated into the cavern, confirming the damage
caused by the acid-sphere:  almost the entire chamber had a deeper floor
than before.  This depression was deepest - about twenty feet - at the
point where Al-arakara had placed the sphere prior to its detonation.
The acid appeared to have gradually decreased in volume and effect as it
flowed outward into the cavern.

Skektek:  That was a good spell.  Whenever we find and kill that mummy,
  we need to make sure we find the spell.
Belphanior:  My thoughts exactly.

  They first heard the scuttling sound around the time Belphanior noticed
some webs near one edge of the cavern.  It was a very faint sound, one
that most people wouldn't have detected, but the elf's ears were finer
than average, and he held up a hand immediately.

Belphanior:  Whoa...something's out there.  Something without a soul.
Skektek:  Let's light this place up and see what we're dealing with.  (he
  takes his wand of fireballs out, scanning the shadowy edges of the room
  for a moment)  No.  (he stashes the wand and instead gets the Elemental
Belphanior:  Why?
Skektek:  We don't know the true size of this cavern, and the fireball-
  wand always shoots the same size of fireball:  a big one.  This rod is
  able to vary its effects, and I've been practicing.  (he points the
  artifact at the shadows, and a small ball of fire shoots out, arcing
  through the dark cavern until it hits the far wall, exploding into a
  burst of flame that lights that entire edge of the huge chamber)  See,
  that won't incinerate-
Belphanior:  Shit.

  The mini-fireball had exposed the monstrosity which lurked in the
shadows - and webs - near the ceiling at that edge of the cavern.  The
spider was insanely huge, at least thirty feet across.  Its body was
shiny and black, its legs impossibly long, its fangs the size of swords
and dripping with green venom.  Numerous red eyes the size of dinner
plates regarded the two flying intruders.

Belphanior:  That's one damn big spider.
Skektek:  Well, it could be worse.
gigantic spider:  (begins quivering, which causes its massive web to

  A moment later, smaller spiders began to issue forth from other parts
of the web, some scuttling across the ceiling and walls while others
dropped to the floor.  There were dozens of these, and they were all
miniature versions of the mammoth one above...although in this case,
the term "miniature" was relative, as the horde of smaller spiders had
an average width of ten feet.  They were incredibly fast and agile, too;
by the time either of the adventurers even thought about attacking, the
cavern was half-filled with the arachnids.

Belphanior:  Shit.

next:       Lolth's chosen ones
released:   5/19/06
notes:      The party first came to this Underdark gateway in episodes
  874-875.  Some of you may be wondering how Al-arakara got into the
  gateway system and got here to attack the drow and start the battle
  that Belphanior and friends stumbled into last time; that will all be
  explained in short order.  I figured there needed to be some fighting
  first, with explanations later, so get ready.

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