Chapter #952

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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              +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   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:          11/8/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "You're a man haunted by those two most terrible words:  what if?"    +
+                                       - from _The Time Machine_ (2002)  +

                   CMLII.  Some Explanations

  Belphanior has just surprised the others with an announcement of the
next major endeavor...

Ys:  What, then?  What awaits us next?
Belphanior:  Kronos.
Otto:  (turns to Belphanior, his eyes wide)  What?!?
Skektek:  Kronos?
Elgon:  (somewhat confused)  Who's Kronos?
Belphanior:  He was an ancient wizard who had a tendency to construct
  very powerful, very useful things.
Skektek:  Like that skyship we use all the time?
Belphanior:  (nods)  And my time-stopping hourglass.
Otto:  I understand all of that, but there's just one thing...he's dead.
  Or should I say undead?
Belphanior:  Undead would appear to cover it.
Razor Charlie:  (shakes his head)  What the hell are you people talking
Jenna:  (nods to Belphanior)  Perhaps some background is in order, for
  those of us who might not have been around for whatever escapades were
  had with this Kronos, in times past...
Belphanior:  Yeah, I guess that would help.

  The elf spent the next few minutes explaining the incident in the
Cairn Hills, almost six years ago.  In that adventure, he and Otto had
been hunting for lost tombs; after hearing about a map to such a place,
they'd proceeded to steal that map.  Following its clues, they had then
journeyed to the Cairn Hills area, located the tomb in question, found
a hidden entrance into the place, and descended into passages untouched
for ages:  the final resting place of the Flan wizard Kronos.  After
dealing with some undead, and then a powerful guardian demon, the duo
had discovered the purported final resting place of Kronos, along with
the inert, withered husk of the wizard himself!  They'd barely had time
to secure the plethora of magic items in the tomb before being attacked
by Torin the Crusader and his squad of associates.  Using a mix of guile
and good old-fashioned ruthlessness, Belphanior and Otto had slain most
of that group, leaving a few trapped in the tomb with a horde of summoned
undead...and the reanimated Kronos as well.

Belphanior:  (remembering the screams of horror that came out of the
  tomb as he and Otto departed, he smiles)
Skektek:  And you just left them there?!?
Otto:  Well, you have to understand that Torin was a real
  of those people who invoked the names of the holiest gods, while
  doing bad things to achieve his own ends.  He deserved what he got.
Belphanior:  Absolutely.
Skektek:  Oh, you misunderstand me.  I meant why did you just leave him
  there, when you _could_ have shot a fireball down into the tomb, just
  to ensure his death?
Belphanior:  This was a while ago, and my mentality wasn't the same as
  it is now.  Plus, the look on Torin's face when Kronos sat up and
  looked at him...priceless.
Razor Charlie:  Maybe it was funny at the time, but you left an enemy
  behind.  So we're going to make sure he's dead?
Belphanior:  Uh, no.  Actually, we ran into him again a short time later,
  so we already know that he escaped.  It was pretty obvious that all of
  the others with him didn't make it, though - and Kronos' fate remains
  unknown, though we have to assume that he was beaten or driven away
  by Torin.
Skektek:  So did you deal with this Torin fool on that next encounter?
Belphanior:  Oh, yeah.  I turned his bones to jelly and then killed him
  with his own sword.
Skektek:  Works for me.
Jenna:  I'm assuming that the main goal of this upcoming trip is Kronos,
Belphanior:  (nods)  We're going to use any clues in the tomb, plus the
  rather unique magicks of you and Neera, to find out all we can about
  Kronos, and where he may be right now, and perhaps other places where
  he might have hidden treasures.
Elgon:  Don't take this the wrong way, but why?  I mean, why would we
  seek out a powerful undead wizard - who might even be a lich - and
  look for trouble?
Belphanior:  Because we know about two things he invented.  One is that
  wondrous skyship, which flies through the clouds the way a regular
  ship skims through water.  A thing like that is coveted, perhaps, by
  the gods themselves...but _we_ have it.  And then there's my hourglass
  which stops item I've used to defeat a number of powerful
  foes, or to save some of our lives.  That, too, is a magical item of
  immense power - and it, too, was fashioned by Kronos.
Skektek:  I'm starting to see the point here.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Nobody who builds things like these only builds one
  or two.  (he sweeps the others in the room with his gaze, which has now
  become very serious)  Whoever Kronos was, and wherever he is, he's an
  untapped source of powerful items, or magic, or both.  This is a thing
  well worth further investigation.
Neera:  And accordingly, I already have been, for a while now.
Belphanior:  We'll discuss this when we're on the way, in the skyship.
Mongo:  Ugh.  How far are we going this time?
Belphanior:  Not as far as some of the other times, and remember, you
  can remove the belt while we're airborne.  We don't ever run into any
  sky-bound foes anyway.
Mongo:  Hah - not since that time when the dragon took down Ged's sky
  balloon, with us in it.
Belphanior:  Oh yeah.
Skektek:  So we're headed back to the Cairn Hills, and this tomb?
Belphanior:  Yep.  The first order of business will be to gaze upon the
  bones of Torin's band of fools...and then we'll make a very thorough
  search of the tomb, and hopefully find some secret areas that we
  missed last time, due to battle and being rushed.  I expect to locate
  some clues that, combined with what we already know of Kronos, will
  enable us to track him down...or at least track down some more of his
  potent magical items.
Skektek:  Sounds good to me.
Otto:  There's a certain irony here...we're using the guy's own skyship
  to travel to his last known home.
Belphanior:  Heh.
Otto:  He might possibly be there, still - which brings up an important
Belphanior:  I'm way ahead of you.  Don't worry, I won't attempt to use
  his own hourglass on him, and thus I won't base my whole master plan
  of attack on that item, either.
Mongo:  What _is_ your plan?  A full frontal assault, with magic backing
  up my hammer's might?
Skektek:  Or maybe your hammer backing up our magic's might.
Mongo:  (smirks)  Whatever.
Belphanior:  Both are potent weapons, and both have their place...but I
  have a very special plan for dealing with Kronos.  I'll reveal it when
  the time is right, but trust me when I say you'll be surprised.
Skektek:  Undoubtedly.
Elgon:  (frowns) Whoa, I just thought of a potential issue here.
Belphanior:  What's that?
Elgon:  Well, we are all now protected from scrying...but what about the
  skyship?  Couldn't someone just scry for it, in order to find us?
Belphanior:  Conceivably, yes...but bear in mind that very, very few
  people - none of them active enemies, by the way - are aware of the
  skyship's existence.  Hell, when _we_ found it in the first place, it
  took a lot of work, plus certain secret information found in Kronos'
  spellbook.  Not to mention that we always fly far above the ground,
  and use magic to teleport down as needed.  I don't see this as a major
  risk, though when there's time we can look into somehow cloaking the
  skyship as well.
Elgon:  Ah.
Otto:  So when do we head out?
Belphanior:  Well, I don't like it when people give me short notice for
  things, especially major let's say first thing tomorrow
  morning.  We'll leave at dawn.

  That left the others a good half-day, at least, to prepare themselves
for the upcoming adventure.  The group was already fairly well-stocked
on provisions and supplies, which meant that they each passed the time
in their own way.  Belphanior and Neera studied everything they knew
about Kronos - she had extensive notes from her last few trips to major
cities' libraries, as Belphanior had mentioned this to her some time ago.
Of course, she hadn't known that they'd actually _use_ the information
so soon...

Neera:  This plan is somewhat...outrageous.
Belphanior:  That's why it has a good chance of actually working.  And
  if it doesn't, we have the usual reliable backup tactics.

  Elgon studied his spells, eager for a chance to better prove himself
in a major quest.  He knew that his illusions would likely be of little
use against a powerful wizard - especially if that wizard was undead
now - but he wanted to be ready to use all the tricks up his sleeve, in
the hope that one of them would prove useful.  The gnome enjoyed these
adventures with Belphanior, but was starting to think that his skills
and powers were second-rate compared to most of the others.
  Jenna communed with Istus, trying to learn some useful information for
the upcoming challenges.  Like Elgon, she sometimes felt like a lesser
member of the team; unlike Elgon, she didn't really let it bother her.
The priestess of Fate simply didn't care what people thought; she went
about her business as directed by a higher power, and let things take
their destined course.
  Otto, Skektek, and Razor Charlie sat around drinking and discussing
battle strategies, as well as swapping stories of past adventures.  They
also complained, semi-jokingly, about the fact that there were no women
in their current headquarters.

Skektek:  Well, I mean, Jenna doesn't count...not for the purposes I'm
  thinking of.  (to Otto)  We really need some downtime, in a big city,
  without any stress or work or sudden departures.  Know what I mean?
Otto:  I'll talk to Belphanior about it, after this mission.
Razor Charlie:  What's wrong with Jenna?  She looks fine to me.

  Ys kept to himself, simply relaxing and taking it easy, seemingly
unaffected by the promise of upcoming adventure and danger.  The wispy
thing floated about, here and there, according to its own nebulous
purposes.  As for Mongo, he was the opposite of Ys:  while the reptilian
appeared to be unconcerned about the impending journey, the dwarf paced
about restlessly, eager to go forth and do battle.

  While different people had different outlooks and different methods of
preparation, they were all professionals, and morning found them ready
for action.

Belphanior:  Very stop:  the Cairn Hills!

next:       the fate of Torin and company
released:   1/12/07
notes:      Episodes 273 and 274 contain the original Kronos tomb raid
  and encounter, if you want to go back in time and check that out.  I
  try to provide reference points when I dredge up something from long

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