Chapter #135

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                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1993 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                        +
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Alindyar      15th level drow elf mage              (N)   +
+      Lyra       12th level female drow elf mage       (N)   +
+   Belphanior    12th/13th/13th level high elf w/m/t  (CN)   +
+   Ged           13th/13th level grey elf priest/mage (NG)   +
+      Arnold     11th level human warrior             (NG)   +
+        ?             grey cat (familiar)             (NG)   +
+   Mongo         15th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+      Flint      11th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                (N)   +
+   Rillen        15th level human warrior              (N)   +
+   Date:    n/a                                              +
+   Time:    n/a                                              +
+   Place:   some alternate dimension                         +
+   Climate: n/a                                              +
+   "I prefer rogues to imbeciles because they sometimes      +
+    take a rest."                                            +
+                                      Alexandre Dumas        +

               CXXXV.  The Fortress Is Found

  The adventurers, with the alternate world's Belphanior
and Rillen, have journeyed to the lair of this world's
Peldor, hoping to enlist his help for the upcoming trip
to the fortress of the evil Ged.

Peldor-2:  So let me get this straight.  You're going to
  waltz right into the place, defeat the evil one in
  passing, and then go back to your own world?  Just like
Peldor:  Just like that.
Ged:  No one ever said it would be easy.
Belphanior:  In fact, it should be downright _fun_!
Belphanior-2:  Well, I wouldn't go that far...
Sparky the wolf:  (bares his fangs)  Rrrr.
grey cat:  (cowers fearfully in Ged's pack)
Mongo:  Hey, the plan sounds good to me.  We just go in
  there and kick some ass!
Rillen:  This appears to be our only hope of getting home,
  and, that being the case, I vote for it too.
Rillen-2:  Agreed.  The time has come for the "Dread Lord"
  to depart this world...permanently.
Lyra:  Bloodthirsty today, are we?
Rillen-2:  Woman, speak not of things which you do not
  understand.  (storms away)
Flint:  What's gotten into him?
Belphanior-2:  Uh...I don't know.
Alindyar:  (ignoring that part of the conversation)  Still,
  an undertaking such as this demands superior planning.
Arnold:  Ah-nold stands ready to helb!  (raises his sword)
Ged:  Err...not that kind of planning, Arnold.
Peldor-2:  Still...this mission promises to be most risky.
Belphanior:  Yes, but think of the rewards!  Such as the
  riddance of the evil Ged!
Peldor:  I was thinking more of the rewards offered by the
  evil one's coffers and treasure chests...
Peldor-2:  Truly.  Think of it!  (his eyes light up)
Peldor:  True danger!  True treasure!  Truly this is one
  quest worthy of Peldor!
Peldor-2:  Or two Peldors...and how often will fate team
  up not one, but _two_ Peldors in one time and place?  I
  stand convinced.  When do we leave?
Ged:  (inwardly groans)
Peldor:  After all, two Peldors are better than one!
Mongo:  Cripes.

  They departed within the hour, Peldor-2 leaving his base
in the charge of his lieutenant, a nameless halfling.  The
extra pegasus was fitted with Peldor-2's saddlebags, and
before long, the group, now thirteen strong (including the
wolf but not the cat), was flying northwest, toward the
Black Lake and the fortress.

Belphanior-2:  We'll be there early tomorrow, if all goes
Lyra:  (to Peldor-2)  You know, you're the thirteenth
  member of our party now.
Peldor-2:  Peldors need not fear superstitions.
Peldor:  Such things tend to be beneath their divine nature
Lyra:  Hmph!
Peldor-2:  Of course, mere mortals still need to worry
  about issues like that...
Peldor:  Indeed they do.  No doubt the mortals wish they
  too could have the exalted status of a Peldor.
Peldor-2:  No doubt.
Rillen-2:  (scowls, and considers kicking one or both of
  the Peldors off of their mounts)
Alindyar:  Most interesting, this duality-
Lyra:  Oh, shut up.

  They camped at night, and Belphanior-2 set some traps to
protect the campground.  He seemed to have a knack for such
things, as did Rillen-2, and nothing bothered the party
during the night, although some of those on guard duty had
the idea that they were being watched.
  The next morning, travel resumed, but not for long.  The
group landed in an extremely rocky area, where huge, jagged
formations of stone jutted from the ground like spikes.

Mongo:  Why are we stopping here?  (examines the ground)
  Hmm, pretty defensible area.  If I lived in this land,
  I'd consider building a fortress hereabouts...
Belphanior-2:  Look there.  (climbs over and up some rocks
  and points)
Ged:  Boccob!

  In the distance to the north was a huge lake, its waters
as black as the darkest night.  The body of water looked
to be about two miles across, maybe more.  In the center
of the water loomed an ominous fortress, its shape that of
a gigantic, fanged skull.  Its pointed horns were actually
tall towers, and its gaping maw was an entrance.  The huge
mouth/gateway was partially filled with water, and was big
enough for even a galley to sail through with room aplenty
to spare.

Ged:  Ingenious!
Alindyar:  Fiendishly so.
Belphanior-2:  Needless to say, no one gets in except by
Flint:  There's no patrol boats on the water...
Peldor-2:  That's because he doesn't need any.
Peldor:  And why is that, O great Peldor?
Peldor-2:  Because the water is filled with all kinds of
  hostile aquatic life, O great Peldor.
Peldor:  (to Arnold)  We know we're bad.
Mongo:  Bad fish, eh?
Belphanior:  Yeah.  Aquatic life of the carnivorous kind.
Rillen:  Good thing we aren't going fishing.
Ged:  It would seem that this Ged, like me, has a love of
  water and things aquatic.
Belphanior-2:  (ignoring Ged)  Now, also, should someone
  think of approaching by air, they have catapults and
  ballistae at the ready.
Rillen-2:  Guards with night vision, to ward against night
Belphanior-2:  Magi with fireballs, cones of cold, magical
  missiles...and then there's the dragons...
Arnold:  Dragonds?
Belphanior-2:  Of course.  The evil one is most resourceful
  and clever.  Plus, he's been at it for years now...
Mongo:  How do you know all this stuff?
Belphanior-2:  Haven't I told you?  I know _everything_.
Rillen-2:  And I know more.
Peldor:  So where's the entrance to this secret passageway
  you were talking about?
Belphanior-2:  Hmm, let me remember...the two boulders...a
  small crevasse...(he noses around for several minutes
  before finding a large boulder that looks no different
  from any of the other boulders around)  This is the one!
  I think...
Mongo:  You want me to move that, I guess?
Belphanior:  It's in such a place that only a single person
  can get at it.
Belphanior-2:  Yes...a single person with great strength.
Ged:  Yea, sounds like Mongo.
Mongo:  Say no more.  (he gets a grip on the huge rock, and
  exerts his giant strength)  Ungh!  (the boulder moves a
  small bit)
Rillen:  You're getting there.
Mongo:  Urgh...heavy...
Ged:  Come on, Mongo!  You're not letting one measly little
  rock get the better of you, are you?
Mongo:  Grargh!  (he moves the boulder aside enough to let
  one person at a time through)  Hell, no!
Peldor:  Excellent.
Peldor-2:  Yup.
Belphanior-2:  Let's go for it.  (he leads the way into the
  dark opening)
Mongo:  Hey, that's my job.

  The pegasi had already been told what to do (wait for one
day, then fly back home if no one had returned), so that
left the adventurers free to go about their business.  They
found themselves in a dark, square-cut passage, ten feet on
either side and utterly dark.  Only two people could march
in each rank, at least if they wanted to be ready to fight.
Mongo and Rillen took the front rank, followed by the two
Belphaniors, then Arnold and Rillen-2, then Flint and Ged,
then the two drow, then the two Peldors.  The wolf Sparky
brought up the rear.  Before they set out, Mongo and some
of the stronger warrior-types did what they could to move
the huge boulder back to its original position, in case any
wandering people or monsters came across it.

  Arnold and Peldor held lanterns, lighting the way, and
the group moved into the tunnel.  Moisture covered the wall
of the tunnel, making it rather humid.

Belphanior-2:  That's because of the lake.  It's directly
  above us.
Flint:  Ulp.
Ged:  Wouldn't the water start pooling in this passage, as
  years went by?  Why is it mostly dry here?
Belphanior-2:  Hmm, I don't know.
Belphanior:  Seems kind of fishy, if you ask me.
grey cat:  (within Ged's backpack, wonders why it gets
  taken along on quests like this)
Rillen:  What's that ahead?
Mongo:  Looks like a gate...

  Ahead was a thick, rusty steel grate.  Its bars were over
an inch thick, arranged in a criss-cross pattern, and the
hinges were rusted together.

Ged:  Looks like no one's come this way in a long while.
Arnold:  Maybe never.
Belphanior:  (moves up to examine the lock)
Peldor:  Hey, let me up there!
Peldor-2:  Me too!
Rillen-2:  Stay put.
Belphanior:  This thing's unpickable - too much rust and
Mongo:  Let's kick it down!  (he rams the grate, jarring it
  and raising flakes of rust)
Belphanior-2:  You're making too much noise...
Ged:  (begins casting Knock as Mongo continues to pound the
  metal barrier)  Out of the way, I'll get it.  (he casts
  his spell, and the grate squeaks open slowly)

Mongo:  Huh?
Belphanior:  Enough said.  Let's go!

  They moved down the passage, slowly and cautiously.  An
hour or so later, they found another rusted grate, and then
the tunnel turned sharply to the left - and dead-ended at
a stone wall.  All hope was not lost, though.

Belphanior-2:  All hope is not lost.  Look for secret doors
  or loose stones or something.
Peldor:  (searching)  I found it!
Peldor-2:  No, I found it!

  Sure enough, there was a large, loose flagstone in the
wall.  They pulled it out, exposing a dimly lit passageway,
which appeared to be within a dungeon of some kind.

Mongo:  Let's hope this isn't an omen of some kind...

next time :  into the fortress!

notes     :  It's become obvious to me that the role-playing
           aspect of these stories, which I think has always
           been their special charm, has been eclipsed by
           the hack-and-slash aspect.  Therefore, starting
           with this episode, I've begun to set things right.
             Take heed.

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