Chapter #927

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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:          9/14/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "I don't think I get it."                                             +
+   "You get it, all right - you just can't handle it."                   +
+                                              - from _The Fly_ (1986)    +

                 CMXXVII.  Mission to the Moon

  One day has passed since the group's assault on a slaver fort in the
Amedio Jungle.  Now, they are having breakfast and discussing possible
next steps...

Ys:  (shoves an entire plate of sausage links into his fanged mouth)
Jenna:  (watching with a mix of amazement and disgust)
Ys:  (shrugs)  I can't help it.  I'm a carnivore.
Razor Charlie:  Hmpm.  (he grimaces at no one in particular)
Skektek:  All in all, I'd say that was a rather successful mission...
  that one, and the one before it too.
Belphanior:  Yeah, though it was too bad we never found a way to get all
  of those Monmurg slaves returned to the jungle where they came from.

  The elf had another minor regret about the recent trip to the Amedio:
he had wanted to see if the dark green gateway (the one whose exterior
entrance was blocked by the massive boulder that Mongo had moved) was
located in that very same jungle.  There were only a couple of known
jungles in the Flanaess, and it stood to reason that the gateway in
question had been built within one of those.  The Amedio was a prime
candidate; it was huge, remote, and had at least one natural resource
that the lich might have been able to use:  loosely organized, magic-
lacking, relatively primitive natives.  Xusia's last known plans had
implicitly required large numbers of mindless undead, and it would have
been easier to get the raw material from a remote jungle than from any
civilized land.

Belphanior:  We may have saved the people of the Amedio from more than
  one kind of slavery.
Skektek:  So what now?  More attacks?
Belphanior:  No...not for a while, at least.  I've made my point, twice
  now.  Let's give them some time to consider the error of their ways.
Skektek:  Hmph.  And if they don't learn their lesson?
Belphanior:  Then...we'll attack someone high up in the Sea Princes...
  someone...anyone.  (he thinks for a moment, then frowns)  Except for
  the Governor of Isle Sybarate and Duke of Berghof.  Some time ago,
  they backed Prince Jeon's attempt to abolish slavery.
Otto:  Right.
Belphanior:  But anyway, we're done with all those clowns for the short
Elgon:  What's next, then?
Belphanior:  It's time to return to one of our mystery gateways.
Elgon:  Eh?
Belphanior:  We're going back to Luna, and the gateway on that moon.
Skektek:  (grins)  At last!
Mongo:  The moon, huh?  (he shakes his head)  Then I can't go.
Skektek:  What?  Why not?
Mongo:  I don't do well when I'm not on solid land...and that moon place
  was the worst - I mean the _worst_, ever!
Skektek:  But you've got to go...we need you!
Mongo:  Have you ever been poisoned?
Skektek:  Actually, I have-
Mongo:  Remember the sickness like you're constantly about to throw up,
  the dizzy feeling, the weakness?  That's about the best I can do to
  explain what it felt like for me when I was at that place last time.
  (he frowns)  I didn't like it.  And I'm not going back.
Belphanior:  But we need your power-
Mongo:  Hey, I can't go to the moon with Stormcrest, and I'm not leaving
  it behind, so I won't go.  (he cracks his knuckles)  Don't worry, I'll
  do my share of smashing, but not in that one place.  I'll wait here
  for you, and when you get back, we can go fight some giants or drow or
  whatever.  Until it's that time, you'll have to do without me.
Razor Charlie:  (just grimaces at no one in particular)
wispy thing:  (hovers near Charlie, trying to make its own grimace)
Belphanior:  I was afraid you'd say that..okay.  You can stay here, and
  we'll go do this thing ourselves.
Mongo:  (nods)  Good.

  With the discussion over, the others sprung into action.  Supplies were
checked, weapons sharpened, and plans made.  Before long, the group (with
the sole exception of Mongo) was heading through the gateway, its dial set
to the rune representing the moon.

Belphanior:  (steps out into the metallic gateway room)

  Everything was just as the elf remembered it:  the walls, ceiling, and
floor were a dull gray metal, with every seam linear and precise, every
surface clean.  The metal defied x-ray vision and other such methods, and
generally didn't seem to be something a lich would have fashioned.

Otto:  (arrives in the room)  I could swear that this teleport, to this
  place, takes longer than any of the others.
Belphanior:  Which makes sense, given that Luna is so much farther away
  than any of the other gateways.

  The others arrived in short order, and the group was ready to explore
this place more fully than they'd had time to do during their last visit.
This complex was laid out in a simple pattern:  a central chamber (which
had no gravity) and four sliding doors/corridors leading to four smaller

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

Belphanior:  There's really not much we need to do here today...just the
  hatch room and the force-bubble-prisoner room.
Ys:  That would be an intimidating agenda for most people, you know.
Belphanior:  (smirks)  Yeah, I guess so.
Elgon:  I wouldn't mind spending a few extra moments in the no-gravity
  room - that was neat.  (he looks around)  We don't often stop to just
  think about what wonders we're finding in these places, do we?
Razor Charlie:  No time to stop and think, with enemies around.
Elgon:  My point exactly.
Razor Charlie:  (somewhat confused, he simply stops participating in
  the conversation)
Otto:  So which do we go check out first, the hatch room or the one with
  the prisoner?
Ys:  How do we know if that fellow is actually a prisoner?
Belphanior:  Xusia wouldn't have put someone - something - that powerful
  here of its own free will.
Jenna:  Or something that...Good.  Remember, its aura was almost
Otto:  So was the smell coming from Xusia, but that didn't really mean
Skektek:  Was that a joke?
Otto:  Maybe a bad one, yeah.  My point is that we don't know exactly
  what the thing is until we free it, and awaken it.
Belphanior:  We'll do that first.  It might have knowledge of what lies
  beyond the hatch in that chamber.

  They made their way to the chamber with the strange being, again using
ropes to get through the weightless central area.  As before, nothing
stood in their way - no guardians, no traps - and soon they were inside
the south chamber, gazing upon the strange winged being.

Belphanior:  What sort of barrier do you think that is?
Skektek:  My guess would be a bubble of pure force, maybe just a wall but
  maybe something stronger.
Belphanior:  (studying the bubble with his enchanted crystal eye)  It's
  definitely powerful magic.  (he frowns)  Not quite as powerful as the
  being itself, but still noteworthy.
Ys:  Fascinating.
wispy thing:  (regards the being in the force-bubble)  pfsss?
Elgon:  White robes, wings...what is this guy?
Jenna:  He could be an angel.
Razor Charlie:  (smirks)
Jenna:  (glares at the warrior)  You know for a fact that demons exist,
  yet you scoff at the existence of angels?
Razor Charlie:  Angels and demons...bah.

  Just as before, the being in the force-bubble floated a few feet above
the metal floor, curled into a fetal position, its wings folded around
its body.  The feathers of those wings were purest white, just like the
robes the being wore.  Its long golden hair shone brightly, despite its
current state of imprisonment or stasis or whatever.

Belphanior:  Enough of this.  We need to find out.  (he produces an iron
  spike from his pocket, and tosses it underhand at the bubble)

  The piece of metal simply bounced off of the barrier, falling to the
floor with a metallic "clink."

Skektek:  So it's not a dangerous defensive screen.
Otto:  Well, it could be...what if it just repels metal and such, but
  fries living flesh?
Skektek:  That would be devious.
Belphanior:  And exactly the sort of thing Xusia would do.  (he considers
  summoning some small monster to test the barrier, then frowns and turns
  to Jenna instead)  We need your powers of divination here.
Jenna:  What do you want to know?
Belphanior:  Whether it's safe to try and dispel that barrier, plus any
  information you can glean about...(he gestures to the being within the
  shimmering bubble)...that.
Jenna:  I'll see what I can do.  (she begins casting a spell)

  The priestess of Istus chanted and gestured, and then her eyes began
to glow with a sorcerous light, as they had many times before when she
worked her scrying magic.  She walked around the force-bubble, circling
it completely while talking to herself.  After one and a half complete
revolutions, she stood still, her brow furrowed with concentration...
and then the glow faded, and she sagged in place, nearly falling.

Ys:  (catches her)  Are you well?
Jenna:  That strenuous.
Otto:  (looks dubious)
Jenna:  Istus places a high price on such scrying.  (she sighs)  This
  barrier is but normal magic, though powerful.  The majority of its
  strength lies in its power over anything _within_.
Belphanior:  So this is definitely an imprisoning field.
Jenna:  Yes, but you should be able to dispel it.
Belphanior:  And then what?
Jenna:  Then...we shall see.  This being is powerful, and quite aligned
  to the side of Good.  I can't predict its - his - reaction.
Skektek:  It's a him?
Jenna:  (gesturing in the general direction of the trapped being)  Isn't
  that obvious?
Skektek:  Well, I hadn't really given the matter much thought.
Belphanior:  (already spellcasting)  I'm going to try to dispel this
  barrier, and then we'll deal with any consequences.  (he nods to Otto)
Otto:  (checks his crossbow)
Skektek:  (glances at his thunder ring, ready to launch a lightning bolt
  at near-point-blank range if necessary)

  Belphanior completed his magic, and touched the glowing, translucent
barrier...and it vanished suddenly.  A sparkling mist spread from the
space within the bubble, and the being within...stirred.

being:  (quivers, ever so slightly)
Belphanior:  (takes a step back, his hand on his sword's pommel)

  The being slowly uncurled from its slumber, standing at its full height
(which was actually about twelve feet, rather than ten as they'd guessed
previously).  The massive, snowy white wings spread out behind the being,
claiming a wingspan of nearby twenty feet.  Powerful arms stretched up
over its head, and the being looked as if it might gasp for air; then its
gaze fell upon the adventurers.  The deep golden eyes regarded them for a
brief time...and then a frown crossed the winged being's strong face, and
it spoke in a deep, powerful voice that somehow induced awe and commanded

winged being:  FREE, AT LAST.

next:       an angel's wrath
released:   7/7/06
notes:      I originally planned to do this gateway re-visit as a single
  episode, but I found myself short on real-life time so I split it to
  gain myself a week (this is but one of the 1,001 tricks I've used to
  ensure that you get a new episode, without fail, each and every Friday
  for all these years).

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