Chapter #411

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

+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1991-6 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                    +
+                           +
+  Unwanted guests, The Company of Nine:                            +
+                                                                   +
+  Abner          5th level human magic-user                   (LN) +
+  Aggro the Axe  4th level human fighter                      (CG) +
+  Arkayn         4th level human cleric                       (LG) +
+  Arlanni        2nd level human female thief                  (N) +
+  Balto          1st level human monk                         (LN) +
+  Barjin         4th/5th level half-elven fighter/magic-user   (N) +
+  Gutboy Barrelhouse  5th level dwarven fighter               (CN) +
+  Blastum        4th level human magic-user                   (CN) +
+  Sarnath        5th level human magic-user                   (NE) +
+  Date:        4/9/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        afternoon                                           +
+  Place:       Belphanior's castle, above Helgate                  +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+  "Chance favors the prepared mind."                               +
+                                                - _Under Siege 2_  +

                    CDXI.  The Warlock's Castle

  The Company of Nine has finally made it into the dark, foreboding
castle of that evil warlock, Belphanior.  After slaying some spiders,
they are climbing a broad staircase...

Arlanni:  (having moved right behind Gutboy and Aggro, who lead the
  party, she strains to listen for any sound)  Nothing.
Balto:  That doesn't mean there isn't anything there.
Gutboy:  (readies his warhammer)  We'll soon find out.

  The staircase wound around to the left, then the right, then the
left.  After climbing about forty feet, it ended in a small room.
From here, a pair of smaller, narrower stairways continued upward.
Choosing one, they forged on, and soon entered a spacious, arched
hall.  The chamber was massive, its ceiling a good thirty feet from
the floor.  The ceiling was also arched, adding yet more height to
the gargantuan chamber.  Massive ten-foot-thick columns, spaced
around the perimeter of the hall, joined its floor and ceiling.
Counting the northern end which they had emerged from, the length
of the hall approached a hundred feet, and it was at least half
that wide.

     |=|    |=|                N
     |        |              W + E
     |        |                S
    [         |
    [         :              :   double door
    [         |              [   large window
     |        |              =   stairs down
     |   ##   |              ##  throne

  As it turned out, both of the smaller sets of stairs led up to the
hall, opening on either side of the northern wall.  This room seemed
to be an audience hall, for three huge windows, side-by-side, afforded
an excellent view of the courtyard to the west.  The castle's outer
wall, of course, prevented viewers from seeing outside the courtyard,
though a similar window on some higher floor would surely offer a
spectacular view of the mountains.

Balto:  (examining the nearest pillar, he finds that it is also an
  intricately-carved depiction of intertwined beings)  Hmm.

  Indeed, all the columns were like this; they featured a mix of
figures good and evil, divine and mortal, noble and fearsome.  The
adventurers could make out warriors, humanoids, wizards, monsters,
dwarves, rogues, priests, elves, noblemen, and all other sorts of

Gutboy:  Well, that's real pretty.  (he hefts his warhammer)  What
  say I give some of these artworks new faces?
Blastum:  Careful, you fool!  The pillar could contain a warning for
  the warlock...or a trap!
Gutboy:  Bah.  (he begins wandering around the hall, swinging his
  hammer in idle arcs)

  A pair of iron-banded doors stood in the center of the eastern wall,
and another double door was visible near the stairway they had come
from, in the northern wall.  Across the great hall, a large throne of
dark-stained wood faced them, although it was empty.

Arkayn:  We probably ought to check that throne.
Arlanni:  I'm on it.
Aggro:  (follows Arlanni)
Gutboy:  (goes over to the windows)  Bah.  Too low, can't see anything
  from here.
Blastum:  Hell, I could've told you that.
Balto:  (checks the door to the east, carefully, finding it locked)
Barjin:  (he and Sarnath follow Arkayn)
Abner:  (follows Aggro and Arlanni)

  The windows were old and somewhat dusty, but otherwise basically
intact.  There was nothing unusual about the large wooden chair,
although it wouldn't budge from its position on the floor.  The
wood of the chair was an unusual shade, rather dark and rich.

Arlanni:  You don't suppose that's blood, do you?
Aggro:  Doubt it.  Bloodstains're a lot darker than that.

  Given two double doors to choose from, they picked the nearest - the
one in the eastern wall.

Arlanni:  (listening at the large, hardwood, iron-banded door)  Not
  a sound.
Balto:  That doesn't mean-
Aggro:  Yeah, yeah.
Gutboy:  (readies his warhammer)  Open it...

  The door was a heavy one, probably reinforced by the looks of it.
Arlanni plied her trade on the lock, and although it wasn't a simple
mechanism, she was able to get it open.  The doors opened into a high,
arched hallway, narrower than the great hall behind them.  The walls
of the widest part of this hall were decorated with huge, intricate
tapestries and murals, and the nine companions couldn't help but gape
in awe at the sheer size and vast complexity of these scenes.  One
depicted a mass battle between a legion of fiends and a small band of
mortals.  Another showed a titanic beast approaching the walls of some
great city, while regiments of soldiers tried in vain to stop it.  A
third portrayed an army of undead creatures assaulting a small keep,
within which valiant defenders fought with desperate fury.  Yet another
revealed a fierce battle in which an elf and dwarf fought on against
more than a dozen foes, bandits of some type, within a dark tomb.  The
murals were eerily lifelike, such was their degree of detail and color.

Abner:  These murals are fascinating.
Aggro:  You think so, do you?
Arkayn:  (eyeing one of the portraits)  Whoever these heroes were,
  they must have been valiant indeed.
Arkayn:  Yeah.  Looks like a hell of a battle.
Sarnath:  (nods)  A _hell_ of a battle.
Blastum:  So this warlock has a taste for art.  So what?  Art doesn't
  conquer kingdoms!
Barjin:  You're right.  Power does.  It also conquers towns.
Abner:  This castle seems to be more for show than for defensibility.
  What do you warriors think?
Aggro:  (nods)  You're right.  Two towers - unmanned?  No arrow slits
  or murder holes or other castle-fortifications?  Hell, they're not
  expecting a siege here.
Gutboy:  No shit.  Maybe nobody's ever attacked this place.  Or maybe
  they're stupid.
Arlanni:  Or maybe it's abandoned.
Arkayn:  Or maybe it's haunted.
Sarnath:  Or maybe its inhabitants do not fear armies or sieges.

  That shut everyone up for a moment.

Gutboy:  Bah.
Blastum:  They'll learn to fear _me_...

  At the end of this hall were more double doors, and these opened
onto a balcony.  The balcony overlooked a chapel of some kind, whose
floor was fifty feet below.  Rows of pews were oriented around a dais
and altar on the eastern wall below.  The entire chapel was bordered
by colored panes of glass, set into the walls of the chamber.  The
view, especially from up here, was breathtaking.

        _.._                  _
     |=|    |=|              | ]                  N
     |        |              | ]                W + E
     |        |              | ]                  S
    [         |-----------|--|  \
    [         :           :      |       :   double door
    [         |-----------|--|  /        [   large window
     |        |              | ]         =   stairs down
     |   ##   |              | ]         ##  throne
      \______/               |_]         ]   balcony over chapel

Barjin:  This warlock is a strange one indeed.
Sarnath:  (mumbles something)
Arkayn:  A nice chapel...and it doesn't exude any apparent evil.
Aggro:  I wonder why it's even here, then?
Abner:  All castles have a chapel.
Arlanni:  Even evildoers have to pray sometime.
Barjin:  What deity is this chapel dedicated to?
Arkayn:  I'm not sure...can't really tell from here.
Gutboy:  Bah.

  Since the chapel below was obviously connected to the floor they
had entered on, the companions opted to continue exploring this
level instead.  That meant the double doors back in the northern
end of the throne room, and shortly, they had returned there.  For
the first time, they noticed a scowling face engraved into the wall
above that door.  The carving had been done so that its unmoving
stony eyes glared balefully down upon whoever stood before the door.

Aggro:  Hey, quit looking at me!
Abner:  Whatever are you on about?
Aggro:  That damn statue-thing's looking at me!
Gutboy:  The great Aggro...Aggro the axe, scared away by a little
  stone carving!  Hah hah hah!
Aggro:  (seems to calm down)  Not me.
Balto:  (unnerved by something he can't quite place his finger on)
  No, he's right.  Something's wrong here.
Arlanni:  (looks up at the ceiling)  Maybe...

  The floor quivered then, ever so slightly, and a tiny bit of dust
trickled down from above.

Arlanni:  (seized by a sudden notion)  There's a trap!  Everyone MOVE!
  (she leaps deftly to one side)

  Everyone scattered, some faster than others, those in the middle
of the party sometimes tripping over their companions.  Almost
simultaneously, a huge block of stone dropped straight down, from
the ceiling, slamming onto the area right in front of the door with
ground-shaking force!  There was silence, then a few mumblings and
groans.  When the dust had finally cleared...

Abner:  Is everyone okay?
Aggro:  I am.  Damn, what a nasty trick!
Gutboy:  Bah.  The dwarves have better ones.
Arkayn:  A close call.  Thanks, Arlanni.
Arlanni:  (still trembling)  Whew.
Balto:  (having skillfully leaped more than twenty feet, he is far
  from harm's way)  Ah.
Blastum:  I'm going to get whoever did that!  A lightning bolt, right
  up the-
Abner:  Sarnath?  Where's Sarnath?  And Barjin?
Sarnath:  (stands shakily, brushing dust from his robes)  I live.
Arkayn:  Where's Barjin?
Gutboy:  (gets on his hands and knees and examines the huge, fallen
  block of stone)  Uh, I think I found him.

next:      the dark journey continues
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Baseball.  The Braves are only 5-5 on their Olympic road
  trip, but of more interest to me right now is waiting to see Eddie
  Murray hit his 500th home run (at this time he's looking for #493.)
  It's nice to see some legends still going strong.

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