Chapter #961

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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                                   +   +

+     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       +
+   1991-2007 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              +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   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                           +
+   Date:          12/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         the Black Crown, within the Corusk Mountains           +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "What are you going to do about him?"                                 +
+   "Something massive."                                                  +
+                                         - from _The Eiger Sanction_     +

                   CMLXI.  Plan of Attack

  Belphanior has successfully sought out the lich Kronos - creator of
some of the elf's most powerful magical items - and they have parleyed
and come to not only a truce, but an alliance.  With the talking out of
the way, the time has now come for action.

Belphanior:  (gazes around the huge hall, awestruck at the display of
  power he is witnessing)  Pretty impressive.
Otto:  Yeah.  This guy might actually have the power to defeat Al-arakara
  in his own lair.
Skektek:  It won't be a quiet battle, that's for sure.

  The elf and his companions stood in a cavernous inner chamber within
Kronos' mountain fortress deep within the Corusk Mountains.  The bulk of
the hall was filled with hundreds of armored, undead soldiers...but these
didn't _move_ like undead.  Rather, they were almost as limber and fast
as actual living soldiers - and every one of them wore plate mail armor
and carried a large shield, plus a heavy weapon such as a longsword or a

Jenna:  These are like no other undead I've ever seen.
Belphanior:  As I understand it, Kronos has developed ways to negate the
  effects of time on unliving flesh and bones - in other words, all of
  his undead troops.  So they're undead, but without some of the slowness
  you'd expect from undead.
Skektek:  That's pretty smart.  (chuckles)  I bet he didn't make them
  fireproof, though.
Belphanior:  That's an issue for Al-arakara to deal with, or hopefully
  not.  My understanding is that the mummy-king's typical allies/soldiers
  and methods of attack should be less effective against other undead, so
  that's one advantage.  The second advantage is us...a separate force of
  attackers who can stay clear of the general undead melee and focus on
  taking out Al-arakara and his lieutenants, whoever or whatever they may
  turn out to be.
Ys:  I sense a third advantage here...?
Belphanior:  Ah, yes.  The third advantage - and the big selling point of
  this whole plan to Kronos - is that of surprise.  We can just pop into
  the mummy-king's lair in the Sea of Dust, unannounced, and attack with
  the element of surprise on our side.
Elgon:  Whoa, there.  I thought we had concluded that the gateway in his
  home was broken, from his side, thanks to that big fireball last time?
Belphanior:  The gateway isn't working, but remember that we got a pretty
  good look at the place last time, and I have an exceptional memory for
  such things, especially for the purpose of magically teleporting back
  to locations I've visited previously.
Elgon:  Ah!
Skektek:  (shakes his head)  That still doesn't explain how we're going
  to get all of...(he gestures to the assembled legion of undead)...THEM
  from here to the Sea of Dust.
Belphanior:  Oh, that's simple.  Kronos is going to come with me to the
  target site, and as soon as we're in there, he'll open a large-scale
  teleportation portal between the two places, which will then allow his
  army of undead warriors to spew forth into Al-arakara's lair and wreak
Ys:  Not unlike the gateways we have been using.
Belphanior:  Nope.  I'm sure that Xusia and his crew weren't the first,
  or the only, ones to consider larger-scale teleportation and "tunnels"
  between one place and another.
Neera:  Many may consider it, but few can make it work.
Belphanior:  I trust that Kronos is capable of it.
Otto:  And it falls to us to hold the line until the lich can work his
  magic and get his forces into the battle.
Belphanior:  Right.
Otto:  I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking this, but can we trust
  Kronos?  I mean, really trust him to carry out his end of the deal?
Belphanior:  I think we can.  From all the research that Neera's done
  on this topic, plus what I learned and deduced from my brief talk with
  Kronos yesterday, it seems obvious that he wishes to see Al-arakara
  obliterated from the world.

  The group had spent an uneasy night in Kronos' fortress last night,
since nobody really wanted to start preparing for the assault on that
same day.  Someone had suggested that they sleep in the skyship, until
someone else pointed out that it was really no further removed from
Kronos' realm than his fortress.  Anyhow, they were somewhat well-rested
and prepared for the upcoming conflict...a conflict for which Kronos had
apparently spent all night raising an army.

Ys:  I have another point:  it is possible that we are so worried about
  whether we can trust Kronos...that we are neglecting another, equally
  important question.
Skektek:  (nodding)  Namely this:  why would he trust us?
Ys:  Exactly.
Belphanior:  I did think about that, and my suspicion is that Kronos is
  powerful enough that he really isn't concerned about us.
Otto:  That's somewhat disturbing.  We know he's not stupid, so if he's
  really not worried about us, our abilities and motives...that means he
  may be even more powerful than we thought.
Belphanior:  (nods grimly)  In this upcoming attack, we need to be wary
  of problems from all sides, not just Al-arakara.  Just because Kronos
  hasn't historically shown any tendency to double-cross allies doesn't
  mean he won't.
Skektek:  What about after this battle, assuming we win?  Will he just
  come back here, and leave us alone?
Belphanior:  The deal I negotiated involves us helping in the assault,
  and in return, we get to keep the skyship and the hourglass.  I've also
  left the door open, so to speak, for possible future exchange of certain
  powerful magic items...if Kronos agrees.
Mongo:  (frowns, his arms crossed)  That's mighty generous of him.

  The dwarf had remained silent throughout this conversation, and in fact
for much of the morning.  Belphanior had begun to worry about his old
friend's attitude and motivation for what was to come, especially since
Mongo's raw power would play an important part in the battle.

Belphanior:  (spreads his hands)  Nothing to worry about on that account.
  I got the impression that Kronos doesn't have a great need for those
  particular items, as he might have in ages past.  Not to mention that
  he could probably re-create them, or other items, if he really wanted
Mongo:  Still...this is a lich, an undead being.  I'm not sure about
  joining him - it - in a fight against another of its kind.
Belphanior:  Good point, but here's another one:  at face value, you're
  saying that such individuals are bad to have around.  We're simply
  thinning the herd from these just one.
Mongo:  Hmmm.
Belphanior:  Also, consider that Kronos has no history of evil deeds or
  exploits, while Al-arakara was a warlord in the Suel empire.
Mongo:  (surprised)  Warlord?
Neera:  It's true; I've been doing research on him.  Long before he was
  an undead lord, he instigated some of the largest, bloodiest campaigns
  in the history of the Sueloise people - and that's saying something.
Skektek:  (smirks)
Neera:  He was singlehandedly responsible for the execution of the entire
  populace of the city of Bargthozz, when they defied the Emperor's laws.
  He also inflicted disease on an entire region of Baklunish farmland,
  wilting the crops and infecting the livestock and people for leagues in
  all directions.  And all that was _before_ he became a mummy, or a mummy
Kronos:  (somehow suddenly standing right there)  Those are not even his
  worst misdeeds, either.  Trust me, I know.
Belphanior:  Well, then you also know that we're completely behind all
  efforts to rid the world of him.
Kronos:  Naturally.  I thought you might want to know a bit more about
  what you will soon face.
Belphanior:  We know quite a bit already.  He emanates a powerful aura
  of power, enough to drive lesser foes away in sheer awe and fear.  He
  is remarkably well-preserved, for a mummy, and doesn't even appear as
Skektek:  Don't forget the way he communicates with his minions by ESP.
Kronos:  That is but one of his many tricks.  You may know that he is
  highly resistant to magic, and practically immune to the powers of
  priests.  (to Jenna)  No disrespect meant to Istus.
Jenna:  (shrugs)  None taken.
Kronos:  You may also know of his potent rot-inflicting touch and his
  soul-stealing magicks.
Belphanior:  We've seen those, yes.  We also found out firsthand that he
  favors amplified stoneskin spells.
Kronos:  That would be steelskin.
Belphanior:  (nods)  I managed to neutralize him with your time-stopping
  hourglass, and then proceeded to hack at his exposed neck a dozen times
  with my sword here.  (he shakes his head)  I barely cut halfway through
  his neck, and he recovered from that almost instantly upon the ending
  of the time-stop.
Kronos:  He possesses clerical powers on par with the highest of high
  priests.  The only way to stop him is to gain the element of surprise
  and then attack continuously, never giving him time to recover.  I came
  very, very close to defeating him six hundred years ago, but a single
  crucial moment spelled the difference between victory and defeat.  He
  has undoubtedly grown more powerful since that last meeting.
Belphanior:  So have you, though.  (he frowns)  You have, haven't you?
Kronos:  I have had very little time to amass power, perform research,
  and that sort of thing.  However, I do possess certain...reserves that
  can be drawn upon now.  We will attack with more than just these fine
  undead warriors you see here.
Belphanior:  I, too, have something else to offer in this fight:  aboard
  the skyship are an iron golem and a stone golem.  Can you transport
  them to the Sea of Dust as well?
Kronos:  Once my portal is open, I can transport anything up to the size
  of a fully armored war elephant.
Razor Charlie:  What's an elephant?
Belphanior:  Never mind that right now.  (to Kronos)  I'll get the golems
  down here.
Kronos:  Very well.  (he looks around)  If all goes as planned, you will
  not have to worry about Al-arakara.  I can handle him.  I simply need
  his forces to be distracted, unable to assist him...and for that I need
  my forces on the scene, and to accomplish _that_, I need you to occupy
  his defenses until I can get my portal opened.
Belphanior:  That sounds like a plan.  When do we go?
Kronos:  Very soon now...within the hour.

next:       return to the lair of Al-arakara
released:   3/16/07
notes:      The upcoming battle just might be one of the largest, craziest
  ones I've ever plotted out.

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