Chapter #714

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                                   +   +
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                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2001 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+     Zhao           8th level human swordsman                            +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Boltar          high priest of Pholtus                                +
+   Drak            barbarian warrior                                     +
+   Parekh          dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+                                                                         +
+   Neera           female human sage/astrologer                          +
+   Date:           3/28/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           early evening                                         +
+   Place:          an isle amidst the Solnor Ocean                       +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "There's no greater morale builder than superior firepower."          +
+                                                            - unknown    +

                    DCCXIV.  The Power of Pholtus

  The battle with the serpent-men rages on, as a knot of fresh (and much
larger) warrior-types slithers forth, while some apparent serpentine
spellcasters hide in the distance, plying their evil incantations...

Gorgo:  Away!  (he splatters a snake with his spiked mace)
Mongo:  (steps on a small snake that tries to bite him)  Shit!
Drak:  (steps on a larger snake that tries to bite _him_)  Damn things
  are everywhere!

  The enemies' tactic of summoning dozens of writhing serpents into the
midst of their foes had been a very effective one.  This was especially
true in the case of the party's spellcasters, who found their castings
interrupted as the serpents slithered and bit...

Boltar:  (bitten about the legs by several snakes)  Argh!  Ow!  Agh!
Parekh:  (protected by a stoneskin, she quickly works a new spell in an
  attempt to destroy these attackers before they wear down her shield)
Neera:  (unarmed and unarmored, she is bitten by a couple of snakes)
Skektek:  (floating above, he quickly launches some magical missiles,
  blasting five snakes into pulp)
Razor Charlie:  (throws a knife, impaling a snake by the head)
Jutokai:  Damn good shot.
Parekh:  (completes her casting, dispelling all of the small snakes in
  the vicinity of the spellcasters)  Very good.
Jutokai:  Yeah, now I'm free to do this.  (he fires an arrow at one of
  the distant spellcasting foes, but can't tell if he actually hit
  anything or not due to the increasing shadows)  Damn, we need some
  better light.
Boltar:  That, I can handle.

  The high priest of Pholtus had thrown off the effects of the snakes'
venom, thanks to an enchanted amulet he wore.  He was now glowing,
causing those serpents that had bitten him to recoil in searing pain.
As the others watched, the priest became brighter and brighter...and
then, the entire battlefield was bathed in a gigantic cone of light,
as bright as daylight!

Belphanior:  Holy shit...
Zhao:  (gapes in wonder)
Drak:  Being an exalted cleric of the god of light has its perks.
Otto:  (shielding his eyes)  I'll say.
Jutokai:  (eyeing the foes, who are now easy targets, he nocks one of
  his magical arrows)

  If the adventurers were merely inconvenienced by the magical light,
the serpent-men were all but blinded.  Used to hunting and stalking
in the murky forest night, their slitted eyes were dazzled by Boltar's
display.  Everywhere, foes stopped where they were, covering their

Belphanior:  (to his allies)  Now!  ATTACK!

  It was a bloodbath, all over again.  The warriors - Belphanior, Otto,
Drak, Ys, Gorgo, and Zhao - charged forth, wreaking havoc amongst the
ranks of the blinded serpent-men.  Mongo stood in place, hurling his
hammer at more distant targets.  Jutokai used his longbow to pepper the
foes' rear ranks, wounding or killing the spellcasters.  Skektek and
Parekh concentrated their spells in this region as well.  Razor Charlie,
smart enough to know when his skills weren't needed, got to work killing
off all of the smaller snakes that still slithered around by the party's
rear ranks.

Bosco:  (flying around, he decides to take a stab - literally - at the
  gigantic two-headed serpent-man)

  The halfling swooped down, his sword ready and poised to strike at the
monstrous foe's back.  The creature, however, sensed the flying attacker
and swatted at Bosco as he neared.

Bosco:  (recoils, but is still raked across the side by the sharp talons,
  his shirt ripping)  AAARGH!  (knocked back and down, he falls to the
huge two-headed serpent-man:  (looms over the fallen halfling)  RAAAARGH!
Mongo:  Hey!
huge two-headed serpent-man:  (turns)  RRRGH?!
Mongo:  Pick on someone your own size.  (he hurls Stormcrest, the hammer
  smashing into one of the thing's fearsome heads)
huge two-headed serpent-man:  (one of its heads nearly pulverized, it
  bellows in pain and rage)  ARRRRRRGH!  (with a thrust of its long,
  powerful tail, it surges forward suddenly)
Mongo:  (clawed by those talons, he suffers gashes across his arms)
  Dammit!  (he catches Stormcrest as it returns to his hand)
huge two-headed serpent-man:  (backhands the dwarf, knocking him aside
  before he can attack again)
Mongo:  (suddenly finds himself wrapped in the thing's coiled tail)  Hey!

  Without the leverage to move his arms freely, Mongo was unable to bring
his hammer to bear, much less exert his strength to break free.

Mongo:  Let go, you fucker!
huge two-headed serpent-man:  RRRR!  (it turns around, preparing to rip
  the captured prey to shreds with its claws)
Drak:  Hey, ugly.
huge two-headed serpent-man:  (whirls)  RRRRR?!?
Drak:  When _I_ say pick on someone your own size, I mean it.  (he raises
  his mallet)

  The barbarian warrior stood twenty feet in height, with the strength to
match.  The monstrous foe slithered toward him, ready for a fight...

huge two-headed serpent-man:  RRAAAAAARGH!
Drak:  (swings the mallet, catching the thing square in the chest)
huge two-headed serpent-man:  RRRRK!  (it recoils as bones snap and flesh
  is pulped)  RAAAAAAR!
Drak:  (lumbers forth, wielding the huge mallet as if it weighed nothing)

  Blow after blow rained down on the weakened beast, until finally it was
little more than a pile of green gore.

Mongo:  (rolls a section of tail aside as he stands)  Ugh...thanks.
Drak:  Don't mention it.
Mongo:  (helps Bosco to his feet)  You okay, Bosco?
Bosco:  (weakly)  Yeah...just cut.

  It was true - the raking wounds in the halfling's side were prominent
and deep, more serious than any damage that Mongo had ever seen Bosco

Mongo:  We'll have to get you some healing magic.
Bosco:  Sounds good...but what about the battle?
Drak:  It is over.

  The foes were mincemeat, beaten by sword and spell.  Boltar, of course,
had been instrumental in this victory, and both he and the others knew it.

Belphanior:  Damn fine bit of work, there.
Boltar:  (shrugs)  Pholtus is a generous deity.  (he turns his attention to
  Neera, who has been poisoned)  Be still, child.  I will burn the venom
  from your body.  (he commences a curative spell)
Belphanior:  (turns to Zhao)  And too.  That was some exceptional
  swordplay...err, acrobatics...or whatever it's properly called.
Zhao:  (bows slightly)
Otto:  Where'd you learn to do that?
Zhao:  I have been trained since birth.
Skektek:  I hate to interrupt the chitchat, but shouldn't we be readying
  ourselves for another attack from that village?  Or at least retreating
  for the night?
Belphanior:  Yeah...somehow I get the feeling that they won't try another
  assault for a while.
Ys:  What we should really be worried about is how they can help us find
  the Tomb.
Parekh:  That shouldn't be a problem.
Belphanior:  Why's that?
Parekh:  Because I took the liberty of securing a prisoner.  (she gestures
  to a struggling shape that is encased, from the neck down, in a tangled
  mess of webbing)

next:      morning, and some answers
released:  2/15/01
notes:     I'd intended the serpent-men to be something akin to those
  found in some of Robert E. Howard's "pre-human evil" stories and ideas,
  but the fact is, such foes just aren't as fearsome when your ranks
  include multiple skilled spellcasters.  Realizing this, I altered the
  game plan a bit.

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