Chapter #413

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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 (now Eight):                +
+                                                                   +
+  Abner          5th level human magic-user                   (LN) +
+  Aggro the Axe  4th level human fighter                      (CG) +
+  Arkayn         4th level human cleric of Trithereon         (LG) +
+  Arlanni        2nd level human female thief                  (N) +
+  Balto          1st level human monk                         (LN) +
+  Gutboy Barrelhouse  5th level dwarven fighter               (CN) +
+  Blastum        4th level human magic-user                   (CN) +
+  Sarnath        5th level human magic-user                   (NE) +
+                                                                   +
+                                                                   +
+  Freshly deceased:                                                +
+                                                                   +
+  Barjin         4th/5th level half-elven fighter/magic-user   (N) +
+  Date:        4/9/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       Belphanior's castle, above Helgate                  +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+  "You okay, man?"                                                 +
+  "I...I can't run any farther..."                                 +
+  "Good, 'cause I'm tired of running from these p@$$ies!"          +
+                                           - from _The Warriors_   +

                   CDXIII.  Fatal Explorations

  After some explorations, the Company of Nine has discovered a pack
of ghouls within a grand dining hall.  Unfortunately, the ghouls have
their own idea of dinner...

ghouls:  (eight in number, they leap to the attack, snarling and

Abner:  Oh, hell...
Aggro:  (swinging his axe)  Yeah!  It's about damn time!

  As Aggro and Gutboy Barrelhouse charged to intercept the front rank
of foul undead, Balto and Arlanni moved around to flank the pair of
warriors.  In the party's rear, the three wizards began working their
magic, and Arkayn brandished his holy symbol and began chanting.

ghoul#1:  Sss!  (it claws at Aggro, but misses)
Aggro:  (doesn't miss, his battleaxe sinking into the thing's face)
  Hah!  They don't call me Aggro the Axe for nothing!
ghoul#2:  (claws at Gutboy Barrelhouse, scoring several hits)
Gutboy Barrelhouse:  (ignores the scratches and the ghoul's paralyzing
  touch)  Bah!  (he buries his warhammer into the monster's chest,
  bones smashing as he tears the weapon's steel head out)
Blastum:  (fires a volley of magical missiles, knocking back two
  other charging ghouls)  Got 'em!
Abner:  (reading from a scroll)
Balto:  (dodging another ghoul's attacks, he wallops the creature
  across the head with his quarterstaff)  Yai!
Arlanni:  (fires her crossbow, nicking yet another ghoul, but then
  goes down as the thing leaps atop her)  Aieee!
Sarnath:  (waving his hands)

  Suddenly, a great, shining light sprung from Arkayn's general
direction.  All the ghouls stopped what they were doing and recoiled
in pain.  The priest was striding forward brandishing his holy symbol,
chanting as he walked toward the creatures.

Arkayn:  In the name of Trithereon, the Avenger, I command you back,
  foul abominations!
Aggro:  Well, would you look at that...

  Seven of the eight ghouls turned and fled, either running or (in
two cases) crawling away.  The last ghoul, while unaffected by the
holy turning, quickly fell victim to the axe of Aggro and the hammer
of Gutboy Barrelhouse.

Gutboy:  (critically eyeing the gore on his hammer's head)  And good
Aggro:  Shouldn't we chase 'em?
Arkayn:  No.  If we do, we'll have to confront them, for my turning
  will be nullified if we attack.  Better to be on our way, and not
  be around when the ghouls regain their senses.
Aggro:  Oh.
Balto:  (resting against a wall, he isn't even breathing hard)
Sarnath:  (folds his robed arms and looks around)
  ghouls...what next?
Blastum:  Who knows?  Whatever it is, we'll pound it into oblivion
  with our mighty magicks.
Abner:  Arkayn, quickly!  Arlanni is down!

  The priest rushed over to join his friend, who was kneeling over
the prone body of the girl.  They bound her wounds - no more than
scratches, really, after Arkayn cast a spell of healing - but she
was still paralyzed, shivering as a result of the undead thing's
chill touch.

Arkayn:  She'll make a full recovery, eventually.  But until then
  she's helpless.
Arlanni:  D- don't leave me...
Abner:  Fear not, we won't.
Aggro:  Well, what the hell are we supposed to do while we wait for
  her to get better?
Gutboy:  Quit bitching and I'm sure you'll think of something.  (he
  wanders to the west end of the room, toward the organ, in case
  more foes are hiding in that area)
Balto:  (already searching the hall)
Sarnath:  (goes to the double entry door, peers out into the eastern
  hall, then returns)  Nothing approaches from _that_ direction.
Abner:  (props Arlanni up against a wall)  There, there.
Arlanni:  (moves her arm, weakly)  R- recovering...
Arkayn:  Good.

  Eventually, Arlanni got better, and was able to walk.  Even so,
the others put her in the center of the party, for it was obvious
that her reflexes were still a little off.

Arlanni:  (grinning weakly)  Don't make me walk under that stone
  block again anytime soon...

  From the dining hall (which contained no further monsters) they went
eastward again, returning to the domed, octagonal entry hall.  Only
the double doors on the east wall promised something new here, so
Arlanni checked them for traps before the party went through.
  These doors led to a long hall, its walls decorated with more murals
and tapestries similar to those in the hall above.  These, however,
depicted a wider, more general variety of people and events.  The hall
was almost a hundred feet long, and ended in another set of double
doors.  These in turn led into a chapel - the same chapel that they
had overlooked from the balcony above.  Indeed, they could crane their
necks upward and see the stone railing, some fifty feet above.  The
chapel's ceiling was arched on the east and west ends, these arches
merging with the higher domed ceiling over the chapel's center.


                TOP VIEW OF INNER KEEP:
                         /   \
                    ____|     |_____                E
                   /                \             N + S
                  |      chapel      |              W
                   \._   _ .. _   __/
               _______|=| |  | | |_______
              |           |  | / \       |     ||||   broad stairway
              |           |  || * |      |      ..    double doors
              |__         |  | \_/     __|       .    single door
                 |        |  |        |         ~     old organ
                 |        |  |        |          =    narrow stairway
            ____/         |  |         \____    *     center of spiral
           |              |  |              |           stairway
           |____          |..|          ____|
                \    ____/    \_____   /
                 |   ||||           | |
                 |   ||||      __.._| |
                 |       \    /|    | |
                 |       |    ||    | |
                 |       |_.._||    | |
                 |       /    \|__~_| |
                 |      |      |      |
                /    __/        \__    \
               |    |              |    |
                \__/                \__/


  A small door in the northwest area of the chapel provided one exit,
and a narrow stairway next to that door led upward.  A passage in the
southwest area of the chapel led to a torus-shaped room, actually a
spiral stairway that wound away, both upward and downward.

Aggro:  What the hell's a torus?
Blastum:  An "O", you dolt.
Aggro:  I've had about enough of your insults, you-
Balto:  The cylinder in the center of that room may have a hollow wall.
Abner:  Oh, really?
Blastum:  Hmm.  A secret passage...or a shaft.
Arkayn:  It would seem so.  Let's have a look.
Balto:  (examining the inner wall of that chamber)

  The spiral staircase was a thirty-foot diameter shaft whose inner
ten-foot diameter section was solid, forming the axis of the stairway.
To the right (counterclockwise) stony steps led up, while to the left
(clockwise) steps led down.  They tapped and rapped upon the center of
the stairway, quickly concluding that it was indeed hollow, although
thick.  However, no amount of searching or hammering exposed any kind
of door, concealed or otherwise.

Abner:  A continuous vertical shaft of some kind...?
Balto:  It would seem so.
Gutboy:  If we could just find a way to break in, we'd be set.
Aggro:  What about a spell?  Can't you wizards use your magic to
  open up the stone?
Abner:  I haven't learned that particular spell yet.
Blastum:  Don't look at me.  My magic is all destructive in nature.
Gutboy:  Wouldn't a lightning bolt punch through this stone?
Blastum:  Don't be a fool.
Abner:  What of you, Sarnath?
Sarnath:  I do not possess such powers.
Abner:  It's settled, then.  We'll have to either go up or down...or
  else check that other, straight stairway, or the door.
Arkayn:  (nods)  If I have my bearings right, that door probably
  leads to the courtyard, outside.
Aggro:  (looking around)  I'm just ready for another fight!

  They decided to try the door in the northwest wall.  As they headed
that way, Gutboy spotted something on the floor.

Gutboy:  What's this, now?
Arlanni:  What've you got there?

  The dour dwarf proudly displayed a large, gleaming topaz, the fading
daylight in the chapel scintillating through the gem.

Arlanni:  Nice.
Abner:  That's party treasure, of course.
Gutboy:  Yeah, yeah.

  The small door, locked an barred from this side, led out into the
courtyard, as Arkayn had surmised...


                         TOP VIEW:
X   party's current
      location             O~~~O            E
                          ||   ||         N + S
                        __||   ||__         W
  _______              /   |   |   \               _______
 |       |____________|    /   \    |_____________|       |
 |                        |     |                         |
 |      ______________   _|     |_   _______________      |
 |_    |   |          |_|         |_|           |   |    _|
   |   |   /           _    ___    _            /___|   |
   |   |   \          | |  /   \  | |               |   |
   |   |___|          | |_|     |_| |_              |   |
   |   |             /                \             |   |
  _|   |            |                  |            |   |_
 |     |          X  \._            __/             |     |
 |_    |         _______|          |_______         |    _|
   |   |        |                          |        |   |
   |   |        |                          |        |   |
   |   |        |__                      __|        |   |
   |   |           |                    |           |   |
   |   |           |                    |           |   |
  /    |__    ____/                      \____    __|    \
 |        |..|                                |..|        |
 |      __|  |____                        ____|  |__      |
  \    |          \                      /          |    /
   |   |           |                    |           |   |
   |   |           |                    |           |   |
   |   |           |                    |           |   |
   |   |           |                    |           |   |
  _|   |           |        _.._        |           |   |_
 |     |           |       /    \       |           |     |
 |_    |           |      |      |      |           |    _|
   |   |          /    __/        \__    \          |   |
   |   |         |    |              |    |         |   |
   |   |          \__/                \__/          |   |
   |   |                                            |   |
   |   |                                            |   |
  _|   |                 ___     ___                |   |_
 |     |________________|   |   |   |_______________|     |
 |                          |   |                         |
 |        ______________    |   |    _____________        |
 |_______|              |___|...|___|             |_______|


  Barely fifty paces to the northeast was a large shed of some kind,
its thatched roof sloping upward until it merged with the outer wall.
A large pair of wooden doors, in slight disrepair but still sturdy-
looking, offered entrance to the outdoor chamber.

Arlanni:  Looks like a padlock...I'll check it.
Gutboy:  (scanning the courtyard, thinking about ambushes)  Don't like
  bein' cooped up in here...
Aggro:  I hear you.
Abner:  Just be patient.
Arkayn:  There might be important clues to be found in this area.
Blastum:  (checking his spellbook)  Most of my spells work better in
  big areas.
Gutboy:  Oh, I feel _so_ much safer now.
Sarnath:  (shaking his head)  We'll never find the warlock out here.

  Arlanni was able to pick the padlock (it was a simple one) and the
party tugged open the large outer doors, revealing a large, shining
black carriage.  To one side, four horses were stabled; they regarded
the intruders with curiosity.

Sarnath:  Where are the horsemen?
Arlanni:  Never mind that!  Don't you recognize that carriage?!?
Balto:  (nods)
Arkayn:  It's the very carriage driven by that gaunt fellow, Incus.
Abner:  Uh-oh.
Aggro:  He's in cahoots with the warlock!
Gutboy:  (hefts his warhammer)  Good thing we didn't pay him for a
  ride up here.

  The carriage was empty, and there was nothing of interest here.

Arlanni:  (finds a platinum coin beneath one hay-bale, and pockets it

  They returned to the courtyard and did some more exploring.  To the
west, a thick gate of iron bars blocked entry to the castle's front
courtyard.  To the south, they could see the exterior of the chapel,
its colored windows catching what little of the late-afternoon sun they
could (considering that the orb set in the west and the chapel was on
the eastern end of the castle.)  Since daylight seemed to be getting
short, they opted to go back inside and check the stairways.  However,
before they got back to the door, a horrific monster crept from the
direction of the chapel.  It was a gigantic scorpion, as long as a
large man was tall!  The thing scuttled toward them with surprising
speed, its sharp-tipped stinger darting to and fro.

adventurers:  (running for the door back into the castle)
Arlanni:  Hell, it's too fast!  We're not all going to make it!
Gutboy:  Good, 'cause I'm sick of running from this thing!  (he stops
  suddenly and faces the charging monster, warhammer ready)
Aggro:  Yeah!  (to the others)  Stay back, we'll handle this!  (he
  charges, axe swinging)
Gutboy:  Hey!  (he also charges, his warhammer whistling as he swings
  it)  Watch out for its stinger...!
Aggro:  (nicked by the stinger as he delivers a blow)  Agh!
Arlanni:  Aggro!  It stung him!
Gutboy:  (bashes the stinger aside as it comes at him)  Help us out,
  you damn wizards!
Abner:  (spellcasting)  Stand fast...
Blastum:  (also spellcasting)  Plenty of firepower, coming up!
Arlanni:  (fires a crossbow bolt, but misses)  Damn!
Balto:  (dances around the scorpion, swatting it with his staff at
  every opportunity)  Whoa!
Gutboy:  (smashes one of the creature's legs with his warhammer)  Hah!
  Got 'im!
giant scorpion:  (suddenly charges, driving Gutboy back)
Gutboy:  Hey...(he barely manages to avoid the lethal stinger)
Aggro:  (staggers to his feet)  Ungh.
Sarnath:  So the stinger missed his vitals after all...
Abner:  (launches a magical web, but the scurrying scorpion darts
  out from beneath it as it falls, only getting one leg snagged)
Balto:  (seeing a good opportunity, he hits the foe atop the head,
  then leaps back as its stinger darts forward)  Yai!
Gutboy:  (scores yet another hit)  Die, beast!
Aggro:  (lops off the scorpion's webbed leg with his axe)  Yeah!
Gutboy:  Oh, good move...
giant scorpion:  (badly wounded now, it flees the hurtful weapons,
  limping slightly as it heads straight for the party's spellcasters)
Blastum:  (still in mid-spellcasting)  Uh-oh.

  The scorpion charged right through their ranks, knocking Blastum
and Sarnath aside.  Arkayn, acting faster than he seemed capable of,
whipped out a mace and bashed the creature in the hindquarters as it
darted past him.  Abner, who was directly ahead of the thing, tried
to move aside, but was knocked down by the scorpion - and then stung
as it passed by him!

Abner:  Eyagh!  (he falls, twitching)
Arkayn:  Abner!
Arlanni:  Oh, damn...
giant scorpion:  (scurrying along the courtyard as fast as it is
Gutboy:  (chasing the scorpion)  On, no you don't!  (leaping to the
  attack, he smashes another leg with his warhammer)
giant scorpion:  (staggering along now, slowed considerably)
Aggro:  (charging, he severs the poisonous stinger with one swipe
  of his axe)  Yeah!

  With its primary weapon disabled, the scorpion lasted only moments
against the fury of the adventurers.  Even so, when it was dead and
no longer twitching, it had still claimed the life of poor Abner...

Arlanni:  (shaking the wizard, tears running down her face)  He's
  dead!  It killed him!
Arkayn:  (comforts her)  There's nothing we can do, my girl.
Aggro:  You can't stop the poison?
Arkayn:  (sadly)  Not venom this powerful...he's gone.
Gutboy:  (unimpressed by the cleric)  Bah.
Aggro:  Shit.

  To be sure, some of the companions were more upset than others,
for Aggro, Arkayn, and Arlanni had known Abner well before their
band had joined with the others.  The mage had been their longtime
friend and leader, and even Aggro was moved by his death.

Aggro:  (looks up at the setting sun, shaking his axe)  That damned
  warlock will _pay_ for this!

next:      more troubles ensue
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Someday I'll scan the castle maps in and post them on
  the web page.  They're actually pretty detailed - it took me a
  total of about five hours to design the castle.  It's based on
  Castle Ravenloft, but mostly on the outside.

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