Chapter #169

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

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1994 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:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Arnold        11th level human warrior               (NG) +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Ged           14th/14th level grey elven priest/mage (NG) +
+   Mongo         16th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+      Gorin       6th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       7th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+   Date:    10/9/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    afternoon                                        +
+   Place:   an ancient tomb within the Vast Swamp            +
+   Climate: slightly chilly, inside the tomb                 +
+   "When a woman behaves like a man, why doesn't she         +
+    behave like a nice man?"                                 +
+                                          - Edith Evans      +

            CLXIX.  The New, Improved Belphanior

  While the party carried out the routine exploration of a
temple-like area within the tomb, Belphanior wandered through
a strange magical archway, and emerged shortly afterwards,

she-Belphanior:  What are you all looking at me like that
Peldor:  Uhh...
Ged:  By Boccob!  He's a she!
Arnold:  Aaa.
Belphanior:  (looking around)  Who?
Rillen:  (mumbling to himself)  Serves him right.
Bosco:  Aie!  (he covers his eyes)  What are we going to do?!?
Gorin:  (pats Bosco on the shoulder)  Now, now, I'm sure that
  everything'll be all right.
Arnold:  Hobefully.
Ged:  (about to begin laughing despite himself)  This really
  is too much...
Belphanior:  (still highly confused)  Huh?  What's going on?
wispy thing:  (flies up and regards Belphanior oddly)  ssss!
Belphanior:  (looking at herself)  What happened to me?!?  I
  stepped through that arch, and...(feeling herself)  Aie!
Bosco:  Told ya.
Ged:  The arch must have reversed your gender.
Belphanior:  Brilliant.  Simply brilliant.  (wondering what
  she'll do about this situation)  You people had better quit
  laughing at me?
Bosco:  Who's laughing?
Peldor:  (always the astute one)  Hey, your eye isn't glowing
  red anymore!
Mongo:  Holy shit, he's right!
Peldor:  Of course.
Belphanior:  (rubbing her eyes)  Hmm, yeah, things are kinda
  blurry out of this eye...wonder why that is?
Ged:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  (grumbling to herself)
Rillen:  I don't know if I can get used to that female voice.
Belphanior:  (looks insulted)
Bosco:  (wandering around the chamber, whistling)
Ged:  (on a whim, casts Know Alignment on Belphanior)
Gorin:  (to Belphanior)  So, what's it like being a woman?
Belphanior:  Quiet.
Ged:  (scrutinizing Belphanior)
Bosco:  (also scrutinizing Belphanior, but in a different
Peldor:  (swats his henchman)  Hey!  Try to remember, that's
  Belphanior!  Not some elven lass.
Belphanior:  Damn straight.
Ged:  (his eyes widen)  By Boccob!
Bosco:  (looking around)  What?  Where?
Belphanior:  (feeling rather exasperated)  What now?
Ged:  According to Boccob, you're not evil anymore!
Belphanior:  (she looks shocked)  I was evil?
Ged:  Trust me, I've checked.
Mongo:  Aw, cripes.  (he sits down)  Somebody let me know
  when it's time to move on.
Gorin:  (joins his mentor)  Yeah, me too.
wispy thing:  (floating near the ceiling)  pff.
Belphanior:  (looking really confused)  This is all too
Ged:  Hmm...seems like more than just your gender changed
  when you walked through that arch...
Rillen:  A distinct improvement, if you ask me.
Ged:  Yea...
Peldor:  The question is, what are we going to _do_ about
  it?  We can't leave him like this!
Gorin:  Her.
Peldor:  Right, her.  We can't leave _her_ like this.
Ged:  Why not?
Peldor:  (looks shocked)
Belphanior:  What I need is a Remove Curse.  Why don't you
  cast one on me?
Ged:  Uh...err...I didn't pray for that spell today.
Peldor:  Aw, geez!  If that-
Belphanior:  (looking around, bored)  Say, shouldn't we be
  exploring or something?
Ged:  Eh?
Mongo:  Huh?
Peldor:  What?!?
Belphanior:  I said, let's get going. I don't want to sit
  here all day arguing.  If you can't reverse the curse
  today, fine, but let's do _something_.
Mongo:  Now you're talking.  (he stands up)
Rillen:  Sure.  Let's go.  (he starts marching)  Hmm.  We
  need an exit first, I suppose.
Peldor:  (puts a coin in the tiny wall slot the party found
  earlier, but nothing happens)  Hmm, maybe we need a ring
  after all.
Ged:  Where's that ring we found earlier?
Mongo:  I've got it.  (he fishes the thin golden band from
  a pouch and tosses it to Ged)
Ged:  Let's try this.  (he puts the ring in the slot, and a
  wedge-shaped section of wall, its narrow end comprising
  the sectionof wall near the party, begins sinking into
  the floor of the dungeon)
Bosco:  (his eyes light up)  Whoa!
Rillen:  A secret passage...
Ged:  Ah, just as I suspected!
Peldor:  You mean as _I_ suspected.
Ged:  Stop trying to hog all the glory, fool - my superior
  intellect simply has you outclassed.
Peldor:  You'd just like to think that-
Belphanior:  (she looks irritated)  Stop all your chaotic
  arguing, people!  We've got a mission to accomplish!
Ged:  (looks stunned)
Peldor:  (likewise)
Belphanior:  (not waiting for anyone, she strides through
  the new exit)  Let's go.
Ged:  (looks at Peldor)
Peldor:  (looks at Ged)
Rillen:  Excuse me.  (he steps between the two, following
Mongo:  Seems this "new" Belphanior really is more lawful,
  or less chaotic...
Arnold:  (wondering what these arcane, ambiguous terms could
  really mean)  Aaa.
wispy thing:  (follows Belphanior)  pffft.

  They turned right, as the corridor widened to ten feet,
and descended some steps, turning right again.  Thirty paces
ahead was an innocent-looking door.

Belphanior:  (looking back to the others)  Perhaps we should
  check this door for traps, eh?
Peldor:  Uh...right.
Ged:  He's - she's - totally different...actually cares about
  the rest of us...
Peldor:  Oh, come now, don't exaggerate.
Mongo:  Yeah...well, I hope she can still fight.
Arnold:  Yah.
Belphanior:  (checks the door for traps, finding none)  Hmm.
  (she opens the door, carefully)  Hmmmmm.  (she examines
  the floor ahead)  Friend Rillen, your staff?
Rillen:  (steps up)  What's this?
Belphanior:  Check the floor ahead, if you would.
Rillen:  Okay.  (he prods the floor with his quarterstaff,
  and the floor flips over, allowing a brief glimpse of a
  ten-foot deep pit with spikes)  Ah, your intuition serves
  us well.
Belphanior:  Yes.  (she leaps effortlessly across the pit)
  Hmm, seems I've lost a bit of weight...
Rillen:  (follows the elf across the pit)  It would appear
wispy thing:  (sails over the pit, then turns to look back,
  grinning, at the others who are burdened with heavy armor
  and equipment)  pssss.
Mongo:  Hrmph.
Peldor:  (also jumps across the pit)  Look, another door
  ahead.  (he points to the door, some twenty feet away)
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (she concentrates, attempting to use her
  magical eye to detect traps and secret doors, as before
  her transformation)  Ah.  (she strides forth, while the
  last few party members are busy crossing the pit)
Rillen:  Aren't we going to wait for the others?
Belphanior:  Of course we are.  I'm just taking care of the
  inevitable.  (she opens the door, and examines the floor
  ahead, carefully)  If you please...
Rillen:  Let me guess.  (he taps the floor, hard, with his
  staff, and another trap door pivots open)
Belphanior:  (pleased with herself)

  Ahead was a third door, and before too long, the entire
group was past this, as well as the pit directly after it.
The corridor continued for a short distance, then turned
sharply to the right, where it went on for well over a
hundred feet.

Peldor:  (squinting)  Looks like a door at the end.
Belphanior:  We had best be careful, then - it might be some
  terrible trap.
Rillen:  Truly.
Mongo:  (to Ged)  This Belphanior seems a lot more careful.
Ged:  Yea, as we said earlier, a distinct improvement over
  the original.
Gorin:  Even I agree with that, and I haven't known him that
Peldor:  (somewhat disgusted)  Her.
Ged:  Right, her.
Peldor:  You know, we're obligated to restore his/her real
  personality and gender...
Ged:  (ignores the thief)
Rillen:  Hmm.
Bosco:  (watching the wispy thing, which is lingering in the
  area of the third pit, behind the party)  Hmm is right.

  The party reached the door at the end of the long hallway,
and saw that it was heavily bound with iron bands.  Several
locks augmented the mighty portal.

Belphanior:  (checking for traps)  Seems okay.  (she listens
  at the door)  Hmm, that's odd.
Ged:  What?
Belphanior:  Sounds like...singing.  Music.  From somewhere
  far beyond this door.  (she begins picking the various
Peldor:  Let me help you with that.  (he joins the elf, and
  together, they quickly open all the locks)  Okay, that
  ought to do it.  (he tugs on the door)  Unf.
Mongo:  Need some help?  (he sets his hammer down, and gets
  a grip on the door's handle)  Time for some giant strength.
  NrrrGGGG!  (he stares at the door in shock)  Well, I'll be
Ged:  Obviously, magic is required here.  (he begins casting
  a Knock spell)
Rillen:  (examining the door's hinges)
Gorin:  (looking around nervously)  I've got a bad feeling
  about this...
Ged:  Not to worry, lad, Boccob's power triumphs over all.
  (he casts his spell...and the door holds)  Aie!
Mongo:  Hah.
Peldor:  It would seem that even Boccob's power has its
Ged:  Cease your heresy, fool.  (he pulls at the door with
  disbelief)  Damn.
Mongo:  Enough!  Stand back!  (he raises his hammer)  I'll
  get it open!  (he hurls his hammer at the door, cracking
  it)  Aha!
Bosco:  Wow.
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)
Rillen:  Shouldn't be long now...
Arnold:  Yah.

  Shortly, the door was sundered into fragments, and the
adventurers could hear the sounds of confusion and running
from somewhere ahead.  The passage continued, though its
walls and floor were now smooth, polished stone; a faint
glow of some kind was visible to the north, perhaps fifty
feet distant.

Belphanior:  Well...(she starts walking toward the glow)
Rillen:  Aye.  (he follows)
Mongo:  (ambles along after those two)
Arnold:  Aaa.
Ged:  I wonder what that light is...?
Gorin:  Hopefully nothing bad.
Bosco:  Really.  (he looks back, trying to spot the wispy
wispy thing:  (nowhere to be found)
Peldor:  (hanging back, at the shattered door)  Hold up,
  Bosco.  (he examines the door, then the floor near it)

  About the time that Belphanior, and Rillen crossed the
halfway point, between the door and the strange glow, an
unusual thing happened.  The end of the corridor ahead of
the party began sinking - the passageway was becoming a

Belphanior:  Aie!  (she turns and sprints back toward the
  broken door)  It's a trap!  Run!
Rillen:  Right behind you...
Peldor:  (with Bosco at the doorway)  Now why in the world
  are they all running back this way for?
Bosco:  Got me, boss.
Mongo:  (he turns and runs too, but falls behind the other,
  faster adventurers)  Dammit!
Arnold:  Aaa.  (he grabs Mongo and pulls him along)  Come
  on, Mondo!
Mongo:  (bouncing along the floor)  What the-
Ged:  (almost slips and falls as the passage's incline
  becomes steeper)  Faster!  By Boccob, run faster!
Gorin:  You don't have to tell me.

  A scant few moments later, almost everyone was across the
shattered door's threshold.

Mongo:  (still ten feet away, with Arnold)  Wha-  (he slips
  and falls, as the smooth floor is now tilted at an angle
  of more than forty degrees)
Arnold:  (still holding onto Mongo)  Aaa!  (both warriors
  begin sliding back toward the glowing end of the passage)

  Actually, the far end of the passageway was no longer
merely glowing - it was now a blazing wall of flames, so
intense that the party could feel its heat, even at fifty
feet away!

Ged:  Boccob!  They're sliding backwards!
Belphanior:  Quick, some rope!
Ged:  Rope...
Peldor:  (leaps to the doorway)  Aside, priestly fool!  (he
  whips out his rope of climbing and tosses an end at his
  sliding companions)  Get them!
rope of climbing:  (snakes out, lightning-fast, and coils
  around Arnold's waist)
Arnold:  Aaa.  (now Peldor holds him, and he holds Mongo,
  whose feet are beginning to singe)
Peldor:  (holding all this weight, he begins sliding through
  the doorway, onto the descending ramp)  Whoa!  Somebody
Rillen:  (grabs the rope, adding his strength to that of the
  thief)  Got it!  (he, too, begins sliding)  Uh-oh.
Ged:  (also grabs the rope, adding his giant-class strength
  to theirs)  Ungh!  (everyone stops sliding)  Thank Boccob
  for my belt...

  Presently, everyone was pulled back, behind the doorway,
and all were safe.

Belphanior:  (she looks at the splintered remains of the
  door)  Well, I'd like to be able to close the door, but...
Mongo:  Ah, I did what I had to do.

  They backed up, to the third pit and door from before.

Mongo:  Well, where do we go now?
Ged:  There might have been a doorway, albeit a secret one,
  that we missed somewhere back there...
Belphanior:  I don't think so.
Rillen:  There must be more here than this.  No one would
  built a tomb like this one, without something within to
  be kept safe.
Peldor:  I agree.
wispy thing:  (rises from the floor, sailing about excitedly
  amongst the party)  pffft!
Belphanior:  What?
wispy thing:  (zips back into the floor, through a crack)
Arnold:  I think he's trying to tell us somethink.
Rillen:  Yes.  (he taps the floor with his staff, bringing
  the pit cover swinging up, at which point he catches it)
wispy thing:  (down in the pit, it hovers near one of the
  pit walls)
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (she scrutinizes the pit)  I'm going down.
  (she grabs the floor-pit edge and lowers herself down)
Mongo:  Hey-
Belphanior:  I'll be alright.  (she steps around the large
  poisoned spikes and begins examining the pit wall)  Ah...
  (the panel slides away, revealing a dark, narrow tunnel)
Rillen:  What revelations...(he carefully drops down into
  the pit)
Ged:  (sighs)  I suppose we'll be following...
Bosco:  All right!  (he climbs down, and Rillen grabs him
  and sets him down among the spikes, which are higher than
  he is)  Nifty.
wispy thing:  (grins, obviously pleased with itself)

  Shortly, they were all down in the pit, and Belphanior
led the way into the tunnel, followed by Mongo, Rillen, and

  After the ten-foot tunnel, there was a short stairway
going down, which opened into a standard ten foot wide
corridor.  This passage turned left after ten more feet,
but the corridor ahead was somewhat cloudy.

Belphanior:  Looks like some kind of gas.
Ged:  At least it's not expanding, moving toward us.
Peldor:  Shh, don't tempt the fates.
Mongo:  Well, folks, since I have this magical necklace,
  not to mention the biggest lungs-
Rillen:  I wouldn't-
Mongo:  -I'll volunteer to hold my breath and venture into
  the gas.
Bosco:  Sounds good to me.
Belphanior:  Hmm...your plan is sound, and noble as well.
Rillen:  I could go too.
Mongo:  Nah, just hold your horses.  I'll be back in a few
  seconds.  (he takes a few deep breaths and walks into the
  gas-filled section of passageway)

Ged:  Boccob be with you...
Gorin:  I don't think he can hear you.  Mongo, that is.
Arnold:  Aaa.

  After a tense minute, there was a slight "whooshing" sound
from ahead, and the gas began to dissipate.

Mongo:  (becomes visible, as the gas disperses; he stands
  next to an open door about twenty feet ahead)  Hi!  (he
  waves)  Come on, it's okay now.
Belphanior:  Excellent.

  The party followed Mongo (who had sort of taken the lead
from Belphanior) through the door.  They descended a set of
stairs, but stopped abruptly as they noticed that the bottom
of the stairway was filled with webs.

Arnold:  Nod a problem.  (he steps forth and thrusts his
  blazing torch into the webs)
Peldor:  I'd try my torch, but I already know that it burns
  with no flame or heat.
Ged:  Boccob!
Rillen:  The webs don't burn!
Mongo:  Not a good sign...
Ged:  Hmm, perhaps it's time for a little Suel magic...(he
  gets his fire wand out)
Bosco:  Yippee, fireworks!
Ged:  Don't take this power lightly, imp.  (he points the
  wand at the webs)  Axui.

  The webs ignited, blazing with a bright red flame, and in
a moment, they were gone.

Peldor:  Eh, what's that?
Mongo:  (walks forth and picks up a silver-inlaid mace)  I
  got it.  (the thing begins glowing brightly, with a bright
  golden light)  Whoa!
Ged:  Hmm.
Lightbringer:  Don't get any bright ideas.
Ged:  Bad pun.
Rillen:  Heh.

  They were now in some kind of crypt, furnished with all
kinds of rotting draperies, carpets, and furniture.  The
stuff was almost certainly expensive, once, but had long
since decayed beyond any hope of repair.  Upon a couch made
from solid gold (!) was a skeletal figure, which was rising
into a sitting position even now.  An emerald-studded crown
adorned its rotted head, and various rings and bracelets
decorated its skinny arms.

thing:  (throwing its hands up in fear, as Mongo approaches
  with the golden mace)  WHO DARES TO DISTURB THE REST OF
Mongo:  Bullshit!  (he charges the thing, swinging the mace)
Ged:  I wouldn't-
Mongo:  (wallops the thing with the mace)  Chew on that!
thing:  AIEEEE!  (it staggers)
Belphanior:  To the attack!  (she leaps forth, swinging
thing:  (sliced on its arm)  ARGH!  (it reels back)
Arnold:  Ah-nold!  (he charges)
Rillen:  (trying to get around at a diferent angle)
Ged:  (spellcasting)
Lightbringer:  (screaming about attacking the cursed undead)
Peldor:  (now invisible)
Gorin:  (looking for an opening through which he, too, can
Bosco:  Hmm, this is boring.  (he looks around for treasure
  of the portable kind)
thing:  (its spell apparently interrupted by the previous
  attacks, it gropes at Belphanior)  DIE, ELF!
Belphanior:  (knocked back a bit, she wipes blood from a
  minor wound)  You'll pay for that, lich!
Arnold:  (swings, but misses by a hair)
lich:  YOU'LL NOT STOP ME, MORTALS!  (it backs up a bit,
  and begins spellcasting once more)
Rillen:  (bashes it with his staff)
lich:  (ignores the blow)  BAH.
Rillen:  Whoa.
Belphanior:  (slashes at the foe again, but misses)  Damn.
Mongo:  (grabs the thing's robes with one hand, and bashes
  it in the head with the other)  Die!
lich:  ARGH!  (it reels once more)
Bosco:  (grabs a fine leather bag that lies behind the gold
Arnold:  (finds that Rillen blocks his next attack, simply
  by being in the way)  Aaa.
Rillen:  Sorry - it's getting crowded in here.
Ged:  (speaks a Power Word, Stun at the thing)
lich:  (ignores the spell)  BAH.  IS THAT THE EXTENT OF
  YOUR POWER?  (it points at Mongo)  PREPARE TO DIE.
Lightbringer:  (to Ged)  I think you should-
Ged:  Quiet, not now!

lich:  (waving its hands in arcane gestures)  It IS TIME,
Mongo:  I don't think so, you walking corpse!  (he bashes
  the thing again)
lich:  AIEEEE!  (it instantly withers and disappears in a
  puff of dust)
Mongo:  Holy shit!
Bosco:  (covertly snatches the lich's emerald crowd from
  the floor, where it fell)
Ged:  By Boccob, Mongo!  You killed it!
Lightbringer:  It-

  Suddenly, the room began shaking, and stones fell from the
ceiling - the place was collapsing!

Mongo:  (listening to grinding noises from above)  This is
  _not_ good.
Rillen:  Not at all.
Peldor:  (becomes visible as he grabs a jade coffer and runs
  for the stairs)  C'mon, let's get out of here!
Mongo:  (stares wistfully at the solid gold couch)
Bosco:  (likewise)  Well, you have the strength to try and
  pull it out of here...
Mongo:  (a stone bounces off his helm)  Nah.  (they flee,
  as have all the others)

  They ran back up the stairs, then up the other stairs,
and were followed by clouds of billowing dust.  Shortly,
they all stood by the tunnel from the third pit.

Ged:  Hmm, the cave-in doesn't seem as bad here.
Mongo:  That's 'cause it's not.  (he examines the walls)
  This place is pretty sturdy - I think that only that
  one room back there really caved in.
Belphanior:  (she looks around)  Could that have been the
  mighty ruler of this tomb?  That pathetic thing?
Peldor:  One would hope not.
Rillen:  Easily said, for one who didn't fight. Still, the
  rotting husk _did_ die rather easily...
Lightbringer:  (fuming)  If you would-
Ged:  Oh, you're just mad because _you_ didn't get to kill
  the lich.  Settle down.
Bosco:  (looking in the fine leather sack, he digs out a
  number of platinum coins, small gems - and a scroll)
Ged:  Hey!
Peldor:  (reminds himself to remind Bosco, later, to keep
  his thiefly gains to himself)
Gorin:  Hey, Peldor, what's in that jade coffer?
Peldor:  Eh?  Oh...(he finds no traps, and opens the small
  container, revealing six identical potions)  Aha.
Rillen:  (picks up Bosco)  Enough with the puny items -
  where's that emerald-studded crown, thief?
Bosco:  Oh, you mean _this_ crown?  (he hands it over)
Belphanior:  (whistles)  By the gods, that's worth twenty
  thousand, easily.
Peldor:  Bah.  Twenty-five, minimum.
Ged:  (to Rillen and Belphanior)  This is fine treasure,
  really-  (he is reading the scroll)  -but still, things
  seem odd...
wispy thing:  (reappears from wherever it was, and grins)
Mongo:  (storing all the treasure in his portable hole)
  Yeah, that thing died much too easily.
Lightbringer:  (pipes up, loudly)  That's because it WASN'T
  A LICH, you idiots!!!
Ged:  It wasn't?!?
Rillen:  Ah...
Lightbringer:  Right!  That's what I've been _trying_ to
  tell all of you!  That thing was a zombie, at best, and
  while perhaps augmented by sorcery, it _wasn't_ a lich!
Rillen:  A decoy...
Belphanior:  (she looks around as she binds her wound from
  the battle)  Then there's still more to this tomb...

next time :  the tomb's inner sanctum is found at last

ftp site  : in /pub/frp/stories/adventurers

notes     :  Honestly, despite all my plans for the party,
           I never thought I'd see a lawful neutral (not to
           mention female) Belphanior.  Ah, well, we'll see
           how long it lasts.

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