Chapter #716

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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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   captive serpent-man                                                   +
+   Date:           the week between 3/579 and 4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)   +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          an isle amidst the Solnor Ocean                       +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "If you don't go over the top, you'll never know what's on            +
+    the other side."                                                     +
+                                                         -Jim Steinman   +

                           DCCXVI.  Panagaea

  After a day of exploration and battle, the party has gotten a good, safe
night's rest within a magical barrier.  Now, morning finds them refreshed
and ready for action...

Bosco:  I'm ready to crack some safes!
Belphanior:  We have to find them first.
Mongo:  Won't be too hard, now that we have a good lead.
Belphanior:  We'll see...we'll see.
Ys:  (yawns, exposing his forked tongue for all the world to see)
Zhao:  (regards the big reptilian)
Ys:  What?

  Ys was pleased, though for other reasons.  Last night, after the first
and primary line of questioning done by Parekh's magic, Ys had persuaded
the slim, dark-skinned sorceress to ask the captive serpent-man a few
more questions.  These had nothing to do with the lost tomb, but more to
do with Ys' curiosity about certain matters.  Parekh and Ys had kept it
low-key, and nobody had asked what else Parekh was talking to the foe
about.  Whatever knowledge that Ys had gleaned from this, however, he
was keeping to himself...for it was time to set out!

Belphanior:  Today, we find the lost tomb of Panagaea!
Mongo:  Let's do it.

  Parekh's force-field had already been taken down, and the party had
made sure that no foes lurked in the surrounding forest.  Of course,
they still had to decide whether to skirt the serpent-people's village
or not...

Belphanior:  How to proceed, how to proceed?
Otto:  Simple:  over, under, around, or through.
Razor Charlie:  Good advice.
Otto:  Thanks.  An old friend of mine used to say that.
Skektek:  I vote for "through."
Parekh:  Not necessarily the best option.  Think how much spellpower or
  swordplay we might end up wasting, and for what?  To kill a bunch of
  primitives who we can just as easily avoid?
Jutokai:  Or who might, just as easily, follow and ambush us.
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  I don't think so.  If they're scared of
  the site we're headed to, they'll keep their distance.  And we do need
  to save our power.
Ys:  So we skirt their dwellings?
Belphanior:  (nods)  I figure we're already halfway around their area,
  given this place we just spent the night.  (he gestures with his arms)
  We'll just head that way, then move back in and head for the mountain's
Mongo:  And what if they attack again?
Belphanior:  Well, then, we incinerate them.
Skektek:  Good.
Jutokai:  Can't argue with that.
Gorgo:  I hope they try something.  I really do.
Zhao:  (nods slightly)  I could use some more practice.
Gorgo:  That's the spirit!
Boltar:  (sighs)
Drak:  (jerks a thumb at the still-bound serpent-man)  What about him?
Belphanior:  We'll take him with us, as a guide.
Parekh:  I don't want to keep wasting magic power on the spell needed
  to communicate with that scaly moron.
Belphanior:  Don't worry about it.  If we really need to talk to him,
  we can; until then, we'll just make him come along.
Neera:  (makes a face)  Do we have to?
serpent-man:  (gnawing at a tree)
Gorgo:  What the hell?
Bosco:  (looks confused)  I figured him for a meat-eater.
Gorgo:  Maybe he's trying to trick us.
Otto:  Maybe, but just the same, he's got teeth.  (he spears the remains
  of a small furred animal that he slew at dawn, to augment his breakfast)
  And he'll need to keep his strength up.  (he flips the partially-eaten
  thing at the serpent-man)
serpent-man:  (deftly catches the meat in his mouth, nearly devouring it
  whole)  <crunch crunch>
Neera:  Disgusting.
Gorgo:  Guess we were all hungry.
serpent-man:  (blood and juice dripping from its jaws, it regards the
  adventurers)  Sssss...
Parekh:  (to Belphanior)  Do we have to bring this thing along?  I know
  you want a native guide, but...
Belphanior:  It comes with us.
Parekh:  Very well.
Belphanior:  We'll fashion a harness for it around the waist
  and tie its arms behind its back.
Ys:  I doubt that will stop it in the least, should it choose to flee.
Skektek:  (holds up his index finger, its tip glowing with a tiny flame)
  This will.
Belphanior:  (to Parekh)  I think we'll need you to talk to it, after
Parekh:  What shall I say?
Belphanior:  Explain that if it tries to run...err, slither, then we'll
  blast it to a cinder.  It was in the battle last night, so it'll know
  that we're serious.
Parekh:  Why not just _charm_ it instead?
Belphanior:  Hey, damn good idea.  (he frowns)  Err, because I don't have
  that spell?
Parekh:  No problem - I do.
Belphanior:  Is there a spell that we need that you _don't_ have?
Parekh:  I lack a number of spells.  It's all in how you choose them.
  Death and destruction magic isn't everything, you know.
Skektek:  But it's the best thing.
Parekh:  At times, yes.  (she works a spell to charm the serpent-man)
Neera:  The things we do in the name of knowledge.
Mongo:  And treasure.
Bosco:  Especially treasure.

  Parekh completed her spell, and then cast a second spell, as she had to
be able to talk to the creature before bending it to her will.  Shortly,
the deed was done, and one glassy-eyed, docile serpent-man accompanied
the group.

Parekh:  Good enough?
Belphanior:  (smirks)  You bet.  Let's get going.

  They set out, making better time than yesterday thanks to the earlier
start, better light, and the night's rest they'd gotten.  No serpent-men
were encountered, which was actually a surprise.

Belphanior:  Not really - after all, we did thrash them pretty soundly.
Mongo:  Kicked their asses.

  After circumventing the beginnings of the ruins and the vicinity of
the serpent-peoples' settlement, they neared the mountain's foothills.
Here, the very nature of the ruins changed.  Before, they had been large
pieces, like fragments of some great wall, and they'd been scattered
fairly widely.  Now, as the ground began to angle up and the peak loomed
overhead, the ruins gradually became more dense, the stonework showing
more intricate designs and shapes.

Neera:  I'd say that we found some outlying areas before, but this is
  the beginning of a city proper.
Parekh:  A large city, at that.
Mongo:  (looking around)  This city was built right up against the peak
  there...probably so it would overlook the isle.
Otto:  (nods)  This forest wasn't even here, I betcha, back in the glory
  days of the city.
Belphanior:  For all we know, this wasn't even an island then.
Neera:  Maybe we'll solve some of these mysteries when we get to the
  tomb itself.
Ys:  We cannot be far, then...look.

  Ahead were the remains of a city's outer wall.  The stone was old,
tremendously old, with numerous cracks and worn areas, overgrown with
moss and weeds...but it was undoubtedly the edge of a city.  Their
captive, who had been utterly complacent up to now, began to hiss and
gnash its teeth nervously as Parekh spoke to it in its native tongue,
trying to calm it down.

Belphanior:  What's the problem?
Parekh:  He doesn't like this's cursed, as we discussed
Belphanior:  Whatever.

  The wall before them, despite its age and poor condition, was finely
worked, with carven designs and depictions of fantastic creatures and

Belphanior:  Look, a demon.
Parekh:  And there's a cloud dragon.  And this one looks like a couatl.
Mongo:  (nodding in admiration)  Nice stonework...and it's solid, too.
  (to Gorgo, helpfully)  In its day, I bet this wall could've have held
  back any battering ram around.
Gorgo:  Mm-hmm.

  More than ten feet high in its intact sections, the wall had hidden
from view that which lay beyond...

Otto:  I'll be damned...
Mongo:  It's a lost city!

  And it was, though its age was clear given the way the trees had risen
up, all through the place, their canopies weaving together hundreds of
feet above to hide the ruins from view.

Parekh:  I'm no druid, but this doesn't seem natural at all.
Belphanior:  No shit...can trees just sprout up throughout a city, like
  we're seeing here?
Bosco:  These trees sure did.
Neera:  Maybe it's true...maybe the gods did curse this place.
Jutokai:  One thing's for sure:  nobody's lived here in a long, long time.

  Not a single tower or building remained fully intact.  It appeared that
the taller structures had fallen, or perhaps been forcibly damaged.  Once-
proud towers were sheared off after two or three stories, if not collapsed
outright.  Buildings were caved in, roofs sagging or rotted away entirely,
walls decayed.  In some places, only parts of the wall remained.  Streets
that had once been intricate and grand were now uneven and cracked, weeds
jutting through in clumps.
  Aside from the sheer age and disrepair of the city, it also stood out
due to its size.  It was huge, perhaps rivaling Greyhawk, and there was
no doubt that its buildings had risen higher and gleamed prouder than even
those in the Free City.  The effect that such a sprawling yet decrepit
locale had on the viewer was disconcerting...and then, of course, there
were other mysteries...

Bosco:  (looking around)  Hmm, that's odd.
Belphanior:  An obvious statement, Bosco...but what exact aspect of this
  place are you talking about when you say that?
Bosco:  The people.  This city was big...huge!  One of the biggest we've
  ever seen.  So...(he gestures at the ruins)  Where are the people?  Or
  at least the remains...bones, dust, something.  What happened to these

next:      a break from this, as we look in on those who are following
released:  2/22/01
notes:     As much fun as this might be, I promise you that NEXT episode
  will be even more fun.  I truly enjoy introducing and fleshing out foes
  for the heroes.

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