Chapter #415

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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 Seven):                +
+                                                                   +
+  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  6th level dwarven fighter               (CN) +
+  Blastum             4th level human magic-user              (CN) +
+  Sarnath             5th level human magic-user              (NE) +
+                                                                   +
+                                                                   +
+  Freshly deceased:                                                +
+                                                                   +
+  Abner          5th level human magic-user                   (LN) +
+  Barjin         4th/5th level half-elven fighter/magic-user   (N) +
+  Date:        4/9/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        evening                                             +
+  Place:       Belphanior's castle, above Helgate                  +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+  "Some people die before their time so that other people can      +
+   live.  It's the cornerstone of civilization."                   +
+                                       - from _Mulholland Falls_   +

                   CDXV.  Stairway To Hell

  After a lot of exploring (and two casualties) the seven adventurers
now ascend a great, hollow, spiral stairway within the dark castle.
As they climbed, they not only had to beware of traps, they also had
to be careful not to fall off the inner edge of the stairway.  This
twenty-foot wide shaft dropped off into inky blackness, presumably as
deep as the stairway itself.

Arlanni:  I sure wouldn't want to fall down there.
Arkayn:  Perhaps it's a bottomless shaft.
Gutboy:  Maybe deeper...
Balto:  One does wonder.
Aggro:  Hell, if we wanna know what's down there so bad, why didn't
  we just go down, instead of up like we're doing now?
Blastum:  Because we're trying to find this miserable warlock-
Sarnath:  -and put him out of our misery once and for all.

  The stairway wound ever-upward, its black depths only partially
penetrated by their light.  Balto held a lantern, and Blastum's
staff still shone with the magical light he'd cast upon it.  After
about fifty feet, there was an opening in the outer wall of the

Blastum:  (huffing and puffing)  Good.
Aggro:  Hurry it up, wizard, or you'll be left behind.
Arkayn:  We're not leaving anyone behind.
Gutboy:  (sarcastically)  It's a little too late for that.

  The doorless arch which they now stood in opened into a passage that
immediately forked.  One segment extended thirty feet before ending in
a door.  The other fork continued away to the south, then the east,
curving out of sight.  The hollow, spiral stairway also continued
upward; the explorers had three choices now.

Arlanni:  We also have a fourth choice:  we could leave now.
Gutboy:  Bah!  We've got deaths to avenge!
Aggro:  (nods)
Balto:  Who'll avenge _our_ deaths, I wonder?
Sarnath:  (mumbles something)
Gutboy:  You've got something to share, wizard?
Sarnath:  Nothing.
Blastum:  Let's see what this floor holds.  Judging from the distance
  we've climbed, we should be at about the same height as the balcony
  we discovered before.
Arkayn:  (nods)  This floor might somehow connect to the area we found

  They went through the door (after Arlanni verified that it held no
traps) and immediately realized that Blastum was right.  This area,
a cross-connected maze of narrow passages, stairways down, and archer
slits, was the outer portion of the front end of the castle.  The
rooms they'd already found on this floor (such as the audience hall
and the hall of murals) were interior to these access hallways.


             __________________stairway down
to turrets   __   _.._      __ \  __    _                N
            |  |=|    |=|| |__\/_/  \  | ]             W + E
               |        || ;____  *  | | ]               S
               |        ||v|    \\__/  | ]
              [   aud.  |-----------|--|  \
              [    hall :  murals   :      | <-- balcony
              [         |-----------|--|  /
               |        ||^|           | ]
               |   ##   || |           | ]
            |___\______/ | |__/\       |_]
to turrets   __________________/
                               stairway down

;   single door
:   double door
[   large window
=   stairs down
##  throne
]   balcony over chapel
*   hollow spiral stairway
v   stairs up to chaseway over mural hall
^   stairs up to chaseway over mural hall


  There was actually an elevated passageway _over_ the western end
of the hall of murals.  Also, twin stairways from the turret access-
ways led down, probably to the ground floor and further defensive
positions.  The side passage from the main stairway wound around,
ending in a narrow flight of steps down; these led to the chapel,
fifty feet below.

Aggro:  I hate to say it, but this part of the place is not only
  boring, it's deserted.
Gutboy:  (nods)  We'll need to keep going up to find that warlock
  an' chop off his little pointy head.
Balto:  Pointed?
Gutboy:  (shrugs)
Blastum:  (to Sarnath)  You know, I'd have my doubts about any warlock
  whose head was pointed.
Sarnath:  (nods)
Arlanni:  (looking back into the stairway)  They're right.
Arkayn:  (frowns)  Very well...upward we continue.

  And so they did, re-entering the spiral stairway with the open shaft
at its center.  Choosing their steps slowly and carefully, they climbed
the wide steps, edging closer to the upper levels, where the warlock
Belphanior would surely lie.
  Unfortunately, all the patience and caution in the world couldn't
help them when the enormous troll on the stairway suddenly leaped from
the darkness above them, lumbering down the stairs as it swung its long,
powerful arms.

Gutboy:  Where the hell-
Arlanni:  (knocked back by a glancing blow)  Argh!  (she falls atop
Arkayn:  Oof!  (they both tumble down the steps, away from the others)
Aggro:  Arlanni!  Shit!  (he swings his axe, opening a great gash
  across the monster's chest)
Gutboy:  Right with ya!  (he bashes the troll in its kneecap, and is
  rewarded with the crunch of breaking bone)
troll:  Aaargh!

  These mighty attacks stopped the thing's barreling advance, breaking
its momentum with hurtful blade and smashing hammerhead.  As the troll
recoiled, preparing to lunge again, Blastum sallied forth, surprising
everyone:  the troll, Aggro, and Gutboy.

Blastum:  Taste Blastum's power!  (he taps the monster on its leg,
  delivering a jolt of electricity that burns the very air itself)
troll:  Urrrgh...(it staggers)
Aggro:  (leaps forward, and lops off the thing's arm at the elbow
  with a sweeping axe-stroke)  Got him!
Gutboy:  Way ta go!  (he smashes the troll's other kneecap)

  The huge green monster was hurt, but far from slain; a backhanded
swipe of one long arm knocked Gutboy from his feet.  However, Balto was
there to back the dwarf up, his quarterstaff swinging, and the troll
suffered several broken fingers.  Sarnath chipped in, too, launching a
pair of magical missiles from a thin wand he now brandished.

troll:  (driven backward by these attacks, it trips as it backs up the
  stairway, and then begins to fall forward)  Graaar?!?
Aggro:  (buries his axe in the foe's face)  Gotcha!
troll:  Glurk...(it rakes the warrior with its claws)
Aggro:  Argh!  (he falls back a few steps, letting go of his axe)
Balto:  (finds himself in the front line, now, as the troll regains
  its footing)  Hai-ya!  (he hits it squarely across the nose, driving
  Aggro's axe deeper into its face)
troll:  (spewing black blood everywhere)  RAAARGH!  (it grabs at the
  monk with spindly fingers)
Balto:  (dodges one claw)  Whoa-
troll:  (snags him with a backhanded swing, pulling him to its mouth)
  Grar, glur, glum!
Balto:  Aaaaargh!  (chewed nearly in half, his guts decorate the floor)
troll:  (tosses the body off the stairway, into the vertical shaft at
  its center)
Balto:  (falling)  YAAAaaaa...(he bounces off of various lower landings
  on the way down)  <whump><crunch><thump><crack>  (his body finally
  breaks in half)  <splat>
Gutboy:  Aw, hell!  (he darts between the troll's legs, then whirls
  around and smashes its knee from behind)
troll:  RRRGH...(it staggers)
Aggro:  (now standing again)  My axe!
Gutboy:  Sorry, can't get it for ya-
Aggro:  No matter!  (he whips out a hand axe and lets it fly, burying
  its keen blade in the troll's chest)
troll:  Aaargh!  (it doubles over in pain)
Gutboy:  (brains the monster with his warhammer, finally bringing it
  down)  Whew!

  Arkayn and Arlanni, who had missed the entire battle, now came back
up the steps, their eyes widening at the scene before them.  Both Aggro
and Gutboy were wounded, the former more seriously.  Blood, both red
and black, was everywhere.  Balto's body was gone, and even now, Gutboy
rolled the troll's carcass over the inner edge of the stairway.

Gutboy:  (sets Aggro's axes aside)  Unf!  (he pushes the troll off)

  The body fell for several moments before a muffled, distant "thump"
was heard.

Arkayn:  Why did you do that?!?  The thing will regenerate-
Gutboy:  But not here.  (he looks over the edge)  Rest in peace, Balto.
Aggro:  (binding his wounds)
Arlanni:  Here, let me help you with that.
Aggro:  Thanks.
Arkayn:  We have to go find Balto...he may still be alive.
Sarnath:  (scoffs)  Not a chance.
Blastum:  We shouldn't leave his body down there, though.
Gutboy:  He's dead fer sure, but if you're wanting his body back, I'll
  go along with that.
Arkayn:  We must.  We owe it to him.
Arlanni:  (retrieves Balto's dropped lantern from the stairs, and re-
  lights it)
Aggro:  This is foolishness.
Arkayn:  (to Aggro)  Hold still, I'm going to cast a spell of healing
  on you.  (he does so)
Aggro:  Ahh...many thanks.
Arkayn:  If you'd rather not help get Balto, you can always stay up
Gutboy:  By yerself.
Aggro:  Err...
Sarnath:  We have no time to go corpse-hunting.
Arlanni:  Then stay here with Aggro.  Or better yet, go up these stairs
  and find that warlock for us.
Aggro:  Hmph.

  After Aggro and Gutboy's wounds were bound, the party set out, going
back down the stairs.  However, there was one problem.

iron statue:  (standing in the stairway, at the landing onto the second
  floor, it blocks the way)
Arlanni:  Hey, isn't that the statue we saw before?
Gutboy:  (nods)  Ugly mother...
Sarnath:  That is no statue-
Aggro:  Bullshit.  (he continues downward)
Arkayn:  Aggro, no!
Aggro:  Now we'll see who's r-
iron statue:  (sends the brash young warrior sailing back up toward
  his companions, with a single punch)
Aggro:  (lands at their feet, groaning as blood drips from his mouth)
Gutboy:  Well, shit.

next:      all hell breaks loose
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     I have incorrectly been listing Gutboy Barrelhouse as
  a 5th level fighter, when in fact he's actually a _6th_ level
  fighter.  Please consider this a retroactive change...

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