Chapter #74

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                         THE ADVENTURERS

*  The 8 player characters contained in these writings are copyright
*  1992 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to persons or characters
*  either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  Copying and/or
*  distribution of these stories is permissible only under the one
*  condition that no part of them will be used or sold for profit.
*  In that case, I hope you enjoy them.


Alindyar      10th level drow elf mage                (N)
  Lyra         6th level female drow elf mage         (N)
Belphanior     7th/8th/8th level high elf w/m/t      (CN)
Ged            9th/8th level grey elf priest/mage    (NG)
  Arnold       6th level human warrior               (NG)
Mongo          8th level dwarf warrior               (CG)
Peldor        11th level human thief                  (N)
  Bosco        6th level soulless halfling thief     (CN)
Rillen         8th level human warrior                (N)
Rob            9th level human priest                (LG)
Date:   6/8/571 C.Y. (Common Year)
Time:   morning
Place:  a fortress high within the Yatil Mountains

                  LXXIV.  Into the Fortress


  The sextet of black-robed priests gathered around the
raised dais, intently watching the magical image which
hovered in the stale air above the dais.  Their leader,
a tall, gaunt man with a long goatee and red-rimmed eyes,
was the first to speak.  "So.  The old magicks are still
effective."  Another of the hooded fiends, a sub-priest,
replied.  "That is correct, O dread Delgath.  Someone
has opened the gates above."  Delgath glanced at the
others, then at the image, which depicted a cheerful-
looking band of adventurers, among them a dwarf and a
pair of dark elves.  "So it is.  We must prepare for
their arrival, for in opening the gates, they have in
their unwitting foolishness negated the spells that
have kept us imprisoned here, cut off from our lord
like a disembodied hand.  Ah.  The only thing which
stands between us and our freedom is - them."  He then
pointed to the explorers in the image, who were still
investigating the same room several levels above the
six priests, and laughed.  "At last!  It is TIME!"

(end of prologue)

  The party has just entered a great hall in the old
cult's fortress, and is in the process of exploring it.

Rob:  (casts Continual light on a lantern)  Ah, now I can
Peldor:  (pulls out the glowing torch stub that he picked
  up earlier, and lights it with flint & steel, producing
  a bright green light)
Alindyar:  (watching the thief and his strange green torch)
  Where in the world did you get _that_?
Peldor:  Found it laying around somewhere, I guess.
Mongo:  Well, that's that.  We've got light, and we're all
  pumped, so...let's see what those cultists left behind,
  shall we?
Belphanior:  (in a better mood now)  Let's.

  The chamber was a gargantuan hall, at least two hundred
feet in length; it grew wider at the far end, looking to
be about a hundred feet in breadth at that point.  A
massive throne rested against the wall opposite to the
double doors, and two smaller doors, one to either side
of the seat, provided exit from this room.  The ceiling
here was some forty feet in height.

Belphanior:  (examining the walls and floor)  This place
  is neat.
Ged:  I wonder what that throne is?  What great powers
  of times past used to sit in it?  (wanders toward the
Arnold:  (follows Ged)  Deh thrown.  You shoud sid in id.
Peldor:  I'll check the doors.  (moves toward one of the
  small doors near the throne)
Mongo:  (following Ged)  What are those strange carvings
  on the throne?
Rob:  (looking at the ceiling)
Rillen:  This place smells.
Alindyar:  (he and Lyra walk toward the throne as well,
  for it seems to be the most interesting thing in here)
  I wonder how many cultists used to inhabit this gods-
  forsaken place?
Lyra:  Great numbers, no doubt.
Ged:  (examining the throne)  Boccob!
Mongo:  Not here, buddy.  That throne looks bad - like
  it's made from parts of monster bodies.  I've never
  seen such fiendish stonework.
Ged:  Yea.  (casts Detect Evil and scrutinizes the chair
  further)  Hark!  Don't touch that thing!  It's _evil_!
Rillen:  Tell me something I do not know.
Peldor:  (done checking both doors)  The doors are clear.
  Hmm, you want me to check the throne for secret doors?
Ged:  Nope.  It's evil - and may be hazardous to your
Belphanior:  (eyeing the throne, fascinated)  I wonder
  what would happen if I sat in it...?

  Soon, they went through the northernmost of the two
doors, and entered a thirty-by-thirty square room.  The
new chamber smelled awful, for it contained a pile of
whole skeletons.

Rob:  Whole skeletons?!?  As opposed to...skim skeletons?
Alindyar:  What nonsense are you babbling, priest?  Can
  you not see that they are _entire_ skeletons?  Their
  bodies were intact when they died.
Rob:  Oh.  Like, not chopped up.  Okay.
Belphanior:  (examining some tattered bits of black cloth
  on the ground)  Maybe this is where they piled the
  bodies of the slain cultists when this place was laid
  low.  (begins spellcasting)
Mongo:  Now there's an idea!  Pile the fuckers up to rot!
Ged:  Boccob's bones.  No pun intended - but there must
  be _hundreds_ of them!
Rillen:  (pokes one of the corpses with his quarterstaff)
  Bah.  These bony ones have nothing to tell us.
Belphanior:  (scanning the skeletons)  You're right on
  that count.  These aren't undead.  Just normal dead
Alindyar:  That is a relief.  Considering that we are now
  outnumbered by them at least ten-to-one, and in a tiny
  room, as well.
Arnold:  Aaa.  Dhese scabeleduns are no madch for me,
  Ah-nold!  (waves his sword around)  I gould smash four
  of dem in one blow...
Mongo:  (bored)  Hrmph.
Peldor:  Hey, I've checked these two exits, and they're
  both clean.
Mongo:  (eyes alight)  Yeah!  There's something!  (moves
  to one of the doors, and opens it)  Let's go!

  The small chamber beyond had a rotted table and four
rotted chairs, but naught else.  The other door from the
piled-skeleton room led to a barracks-type place.  The
remains of several dozen beds and associated bedding
filled this chamber.  Three doors were visible, as well
as an open passage which led away to the east.

Mongo:  Huh?!?  (his helmet is pulsing)  What's this?
  (takes the helm off; its large diamond is glowing
  brightly)  What the fuck?

  Suddenly, there were moans, as four spectral shapes
appeared from nowhere.  They mumbled and moaned as they
floated rapidly in the party's direction.

Mongo:  Holy shit!  Spooks!  (he quickly puts his helm
  back on and prepares to hurl his hammer)
Belphanior:  (also warned by his spell)  Hey, guys,
  it's undead!
Rob:  Beware their terrifying countenances!
Alindyar:  (saves easily and is not aged)
Lyra:  (saves)
Belphanior:  (saves, barely)  Spooks, eh?  (draws his
  sword and deliberately approaches the ghosts)
Ged:  (being a priest above 6th level, he is immune
  to the undead's terror effect)  Boccob!  (presents
  his holy symbol)
Arnold:  (fails his save, ages ten years, drops his
  sword, and flees in panic)  Aaaaaaaa!
Ged:  Hey!  Get back here!
Mongo:  (his helm causes him to resist the ghost's
  evil effects)  Huh?
Peldor:  (saves, goes invisible)
Bosco:  (N/A)
Rillen:  (saves easily)  Where did Arnold run away
  to, I wonder?
Rob:  (like Ged, he cannot be scared away or aged by
  the undead spirits)  Turn them!  Turn them away!

Ged:  (raises his holy symbol of Boccob and chants)
  Out!  Out!  Get you gone, evil spooks!
ghosts:  (ignore the priest)  Booooooo...
Ged:  Yipes.  Time for plan B!  (backs up and digs
  through his pack)
Rob:  (tries himself to turn the foul ghosts)  Ah!
  Leave us alone, evildoers!
ghosts:  (ignore this priest as well)  Ooooooooo!
  (they begin attempts to _Magic Jar_ certain of
  the party)
Alindyar:  Eh?  (feels his life force being assaulted
  by one of the ghosts)  What?!?!?
Lyra:  What?  What is it?  (grabs Alindyar)
Alindyar:  (looks at her with blank eyes)
Ged:  Boccob!  (his life force, as well, is under
  ghostly attack)  Boccob grant me strength to defy
  this evil and perverse invasion!
Mongo:  Huh?  (one of the ghosts, sensing him to be
  a powerful warrior, tries to possess his body
  with a Magic Jar too)  Wha-?!?  (his helm is now
  glowing very brightly, or at least its diamond
  centerpiece is)
ghost#3:  OooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAA!  (it is
  hurled back into its ectoplasmic ghostly body
  with enough force to knock it down)
Mongo:  What the hell happened?!?  (hurls his magic
  hammer at ghost#3)  Ah, fuck it.
Rob:  (pipes up)  Maybe your helm is _holy_...!
ghost#4:  (goes for Bosco, the obvious choice...)
Bosco-ghost:  Oooooooooo!  Booooooooo!  (draws his
Alindyar:  (repels the efforts of ghost#1)  Away,
  vile undead spirit!  I am no one's host!
ghost#1:  (becomes semi-material and approaches the
Ged:  (repels ghost#2 by a narrow margin)  Agh!
  How _dare_ you try to magic jar me?!?  (begins
  chanting and waving his wand as the ghost becomes
  semi-material and stalks him)
ghost#3:  (hit by Mongo's attack, wounded)  Aaaa...
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  You bastard undead
  fucker!  I'll smash you into ghostly pulp!!
Belphanior:  (charges ghost#1, who is somewhat
  preoccupied, and slashes it)  Blackrazor, meet
  Mr. Ghost.  Ghost, meet your doom!
ghost#1:  Aaaaaa...(turns to face the elf now)
Bosco-ghost:  (stalking Peldor)  Ooooooooo...
Peldor:  Huh?
Rob:  Look out!  He's possessed!  And he seems to
  be able to see your invisible form!
Alindyar:  It must be capable of detecting _souls_.
Peldor:  Ah, why did I let him hold onto his sword
  and dagger?  (waves his green-burning torch in
  the halfling's face)  Back, savage Bosco!
Ged:  Hey, watch _this_.  (points his wand at the
  ghost)  Axui!
ghost#2:  Ooo?  (nothing happens)
Ged:  What?!?  Nothing happened?  Why?
Alindyar:  The thing is not wholly on this plane...
Ged:  I _know_ it's unholy, for Boccob's sake!  Shit.
  Time for...plan C!  (digs through his pack again)
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer at ghost#3, again, with
  sufficient force to imbed the weapon in the wall)
ghost#3:  (slain; dies surprised)
Mongo:  Gods, I feel STRONG!!!  (flexes his muscles)
Peldor:  (dodges Bosco's attack)  He's gone nuts!
  He's attacking his own faithful master!  (hurls
  his green torch to the floor and parries the blows
  of the possessed halfling)
Bosco-ghost:  Boooooooo...
ghost#1:  (gropes for Belphanior, but misses)
Belphanior:  Hah!  You'll not age me with your fell
  touch, spirit!  (slashes the ghost again, slicing
  a semi-material wound in it)  Hah!
Mongo:  Hah!  (catches his hammer, as it finally
  tears itself from the indentation in the wall and
  flies back into his hand)  Hah is right!
Rillen:  (rains blows upon ghost#2 with his magical
  quarterstaff)  Fall, groaning one.
ghost#2:  Ooooooooo.  (turns to face Rillen)
Rillen:  (retreating and dodging with his boots of
  speed, manages to avoid the ghost's attack)  Too
  fast for you.
ghost#2:  (confounded)  Uuuuuuuuuuuuu!
Rob:  Quick!  Someone stop Bosco!
Alindyar:  (approaches the halfling from behind as he
  casts a spell)
Bosco-ghost:  (fails to save against the drow's Dispel
  Magic; the ghost materializes nearby, while Bosco
  falls to the ground)
Peldor:  Well, at least he got some muscle movement
  in for the month...
Lyra:  (fires three Magic Missiles at ghost#2, but
  they pass through its form)  Damn!

Ged:  Obviously it's immune to spells, even if it can
  be hit by our weapons.  So...(uncorks the bottle he
  has in his hand, and splashes ghost#2 with it)  Hah!
  Taste holy water, spawn of Hell!
ghost#2:  (burned as if by acid)  Aaaaaaaaaa!
Belphanior:  (slashes ghost#1 again)  Ha ha ha!  Die,
ghost#1:  (perhaps sensing what the elf's sword can
  do to it, backs away)
Belphanior:  Oh, no you don't!  (chases the ghost)
Mongo:  (conveniently nearby ghost#2, swats it with
  his hammer, causing it to shimmer)  Get it!
Rillen:  (attacks ghost#2 again, while it shrieks
  from Ged's holy water attack and Mongo's hammer
  blow, and brains it)
ghost#2:  (ectoplasmic brain matter floats around
  as it dies)  ...
ghost#4:  (newly evicted from Bosco, looks around
  and then sails toward Rob)
Rob:  Wha?  Aaa!  (brings the magical mace he has in
  his hands to bear)  Stay back!
Belphanior:  (slays ghost#1)  Aaaaah.  (exults in
  the flow of life force through his sword and his
  own body)
Ged:  (has another bottle of holy water out now)
  Hey, you!  (splashes Rob's foe, ghost#4, with
  the water)  Take that!
ghost#4:  Aaaaaaa!
Ged:  Boccob!  I love this!  (looks for another of
  his holy water flasks)
Rob:  (chooses this moment to attack the ghost, and
  hits it, wounding it)  There!  At the most unlikely
  moment, retribution strikes!
Mongo:  What the hell are you talking about?  (bashes
  ghost#4 with his hammer, sending it into agony)
Peldor:  (tries to slash the last ghost, but is too
  far away)  Damn.  Peldor shall have to find other
  means of entertainment.  (begins searching the
  room now)
ghost#4:  (feebly attempts to touch someone, but it
  is outnumbered and surrounded, so it retreats to
  the Ethereal plane, and taunts the party briefly
  before entering a stone wall)
Ged:  Why, that...
Mongo:  (picks up Bosco with one arm)  Here, thief.
  Here's your henchling.
Peldor:  Not now.  I've found a parchment!
Alindyar:  What does it say?
Peldor:  Oh, come on.  Parchments don't talk.
parchment:  (suddenly speaks up in a hollow, eerie
Peldor:  (having dropped the parchment as soon as
  it became verbal)  Yah!  (prods it with his boot)
Ged:  I think the parchment's dead.  Cowardly fool.
Alindyar:  By the gods!  It _did_ speak!
Peldor:  Bah.  (collects Bosco and stands his body
  up)  We'll get you help soon, pal.
Ged:  Hey, that reminds me.  Where's Arnold?

  They checked the room, but found nothing of much
interest.  Arnold had fled through one of the exits
from here - which turned out, fortunately, to be a
single room with no exits.  Arnold crouched in fear
behind some rotten barrels.  In fact, this and one
of the other exits were storerooms, and the third
door from the barracks led to a square room which
contained a large pile of ashes.  This room led to
the main hall, via the exit on the south side of
the large evil throne.
  Thus, the only unexplored exit was the open one,
the passage on the eastern wall.

Ged:  (casting Remove Fear on Arnold)  Calm down.
Arnold:  Brr-brr-brr...
Ged:  Say, Arnold, you look older now.  Bigger, too.
Arnold:  (back to his normal self)  Ohl-der.  And
  bigger too!  (flexes his biceps)  Aaaaaaa.
Peldor:  (picks up his green torch, which has failed
  to burn down or go out, even when he dropped it
  during battle)  What's with this thing?  (shakes
  it, but it loses neither embers nor light)  Well,
  I'll be damned.

  Soon, they were ready to explore the passage.  It
was evenly cut, from the surrounding rock, and went
for a short while before yielding to descending
stairs.  Belphanior checked for traps on the steps
but found none.  The party went down, and emerged
in a small guardroom.  A smashed couch littered the
chamber's center, and a skeleton was pinned to one
wall by a spear.  A ring of rusty keys dangled from
its bony hand.  Two doors led out of here, one of
them smashed down.

Belphanior:  (regards the skeleton)  Give me that!
  (snatches the keyring from the dead hand)
Mongo:  Hey, someone must have come through here
  and kicked total ass!  (opens the intact door,
  revealing another, larger room)
Belphanior:  What's that?  (looks into this new
  area)  Hmm.  Looks like a torture chamber to me.
  (enters)  Hmmmmmmm.
Mongo:  Come on, let's follow him.  (they all do)
Rob:  torture?

  The torture chamber was obviously long unused,
but nevertheless held a wide assortment of devices
and tools.  An iron maiden held one skeleton, and
another was stretched out on a rack.  Hanging from
a chain above a long-dead flame pit was a third.

Alindyar:  Were Peyote here, he would have something
  to say about the iron maiden, no doubt.
Ged:  (drily)  No doubt.
Belphanior:  (examining the skeletons)  Hey!
skeleton above gutted flame pit:  (speaks in a very
  whiny, shrill voice)  You are doomed.  Doomed!
  (goes silent)
Ged:  Hmm.  A brief animation.
Alindyar:  A warning perhaps?
Belphanior:  Bah.  (chops through the thing's neck,
  sending its body to the floor)
Rob:  (examining the iron maiden)  Neat.
Peldor:  (checks the room for useful items or loot
  but finds none)

  The torture chamber held nothing interesting (to
the party - Belphanior thought it quite amusing and
talked for a few minutes about building his own),
and the group went back out into the guardroom and
through the smashed door.  The chamber beyond had
a stone pallet and some old, smashed shelves.  One
door led out, and they took it after determining
that this room was as empty as it looked.
  The door led to a large, oval room (shaped like
a football, though none of them could possibly know
that).  This new place had, at its center, a red
altar on a raised dais.  Various shriveled corpses
adorned the walls, and a square hatch with a big
iron ring was set in the floor.  A shattered iron
door led to another room.

Ged:  This was their sacrifice chamber, I'll bet.
Mongo:  Looks like _they_ got sacrificed.  (points
  to the dried-up corpses on the walls, who look a
  lot like dead priests)
Peldor:  (searching the room)
Alindyar:  (looking through the burst door into
  a small squarish room that is empty)  Hmm.
Lyra:  (she and Alindyar venture into this new
Rob:  (pulls at the hatch's ring, in vain)  Ungh.
  It's too heavy.  Help, Mongo.
Mongo:  Stand back, kid.  (grabs the ring and
  heaves, and the hatch is opened)  Wha...WHOA!
Rob:  PHEW!  That sure does stink!
Ged:  (covers his mouth and nose)  Gag!  (looks
  down into a pit)  Ugh.
Rillen:  (peers over their crouched forms, into
  the deep pit which smells worse than any sewer
  that any of them have ever encountered)  It must
  be the trash pit.
Mongo:  Or their freakin' sacrifice pit.
Arnold:  Tradsh piiiit!
Ged:  They probably dumped the bodies into the
  pit after their black deeds were done.  Close
  that hatch, before something comes up from
  down there.
Rob:  Or else a torch sets off the gas...
Mongo:  (closes the hatch)  Ah!  Fresh air...
Alindyar:  (he and Lyra are in the other room,
  where they have found a large pair of magically
  locked brass doors)  We had best wait for the
  others before thinking about opening this.
Lyra:  Yes.  (they return to the room that the
  rest of the party is in)
Belphanior:  (with Peldor)  What's that crack?
Peldor:  (finds a secret door)  Hey!  (opens it
  by sliding a panel aside)

  The two thieves rejoiced, for they had found a
small room, which held a large chest.  The place
had blood-red walls, and the hissing of air as
they opened the secret panel told them that no
one had found this niche until now.  The chest
was bolted to the floor, and was also locked, but
not trapped...

Peldor:  Well, what are you waiting for?  Open it!
Belphanior:  Uh...right.  (he does so)
black blob:  (a particularly large specimen, flows
  out and lashes out at the elf)
Belphanior:  AAAAA!  (his whole upper half is now
  engulfed by the pudding, and he thrashes about
  in agony, his sword dropped)
Mongo:  Fuck!
Peldor:  Oh crap!  Get it _off_ him!
Ged:  Boccob's shit!  No time for subtleties!  (he
  points his wand at the elf and the pudding and
  shouts)  Axui!  Axui!

  The pudding went up in white flame, which seemed
to have the desired effect on it, for it writhed
in agony, as did Belphanior.  The thing flowed off
of him, and onto a wall, but it was still burning
brightly, as if composed of oil.  The elf fell to
the ground, screaming.  Everyone backed away from
the pudding on the wall but Mongo; the dwarf took
hold of Belphanior by the cape and pulled him out
of harm's way.  However, the pudding was already
almost consumed by the eldritch sorcery of Ged's
ancient wand, and as the adventurers watched, it
melted into a grey puddle.

Peldor:  Damn!
Mongo:  That was one aggressive beast!
Belphanior:  Aaaaaaa...(alternately clutching his
  face, shoulders, and torso)  Agh!  That fucking
  shit HURT!  I need help.
Rob:  (heals the elf with a powerful spell)  There
  you go, friend.
Belphanior:  Ahh.  How badly am I fucked up this
Mongo:  Ah, don't worry about it.  You look a bit
  burned, but I've seen worse.
Belphanior:  Cool.  (realizes that he had a good
  bit of life force from the ghost, and that helped
  absorb the pudding's deadly damage)  Ah.
Peldor:  Look.  (takes a sealed glass tube from
  the pudding's chest)  A scroll or parchment.
Ged:  Well, open it.  (they do, and the grey elf
  reads it aloud)  "Beware the guardian of the lake,
  for the foolhardy did not and perished beneath
  the black waters."
Alindyar:  Hmm.
Peldor:  Foolhardy?
Mongo:  Obviously they're not talking about us.
  Let's go find that lake.
Ged:  (shakes his head as the party moves to the
  brass doors)

  The double doors were strong, but Rob's magical
flute was sufficient to open them.  Beyond was a
vast, dark underground cavern, which extended much
farther than any of them could see.  Water lapped
at a strip of dry land, which led to the party's
right and followed the cavern wall closely.  The
bit of land was about ten feet wide, and went for
as far as the party could see, and more.  It was
apparently the only way to continue, unless they
wanted to venture out onto the dark waters - an
idea that caused even Belphanior to shudder.
  So, they walked out onto the narrow strip of
land at the edge of the underground lake, and
followed it into the darkness.  After about three
hundred feet, a tunnel was visible ahead, and it
appeared to lead out of this cavern.  It was when
the party was about a hundred feet from the tunnel
that the lake began to churn, and small wavelets
lapped up at the adventurers' feet.
  And then, about a dozen huge tentacles rose from
the dark waters, all around the party.


next time:  double-size, 75th anniversary edition

FTP SITE: (in pub/adnd/fluff/adventurers)

NOTES:  Did you know that impaled people didn't get it through
the chest (as depicted in _Dracula_) ?  The impalers rather made
use of existing openings - to maximize the pain.  This comment
from Belphanior's player, who was with me at the movie this
past Saturday...

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