Chapter #719

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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:           the week between 3/579 and 4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)   +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          an isle amidst the Solnor Ocean                       +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "It is simple to be a good friend when you're in the company          +
+    of good friends."                                                    +
+                           - the Trader, from _Deathlands:  Mars Arena_  +

              DCCXIX.  Making the Most of a Bad Situation

  The party has gotten itself into a touchy situation with a group of
bird-people.  While most of the potential foes hide in the tree canopy
above, one - either their leader or emissary - is now the prisoner of
Belphanior, his dark blade at its throat...

bird-man:  (senses its imminent death, and somehow, also senses that
  Blackrazor _wants_ to kill it)  Scree...
Belphanior:  Don't move a muscle, pal, or it's all over.
Mongo:  What's the use?  He can't hear you.
Belphanior:  My blade's at his neck.  He knows what I'm talking about.
Otto:  This isn't our fault.  They're the ones who started it...took
  our prisoner and guide, and made ready to take Ys.
Ys:  (shaking his head)  Can they not see the difference between the
  tailed serpent-people and me, a biped who can actually articulate
Bosco:  Maybe you all look the same to them.  (he pauses)  I mean, they
  all look the same to me.
Ys:  (hefts his sword)  I grow angry.  This situation, I fear, cannot
  and will not end without a fight.
Razor Charlie:  Good.

  Belphanior, as was his habit, was already thinking up a plan to get
them out of this...

Belphanior:  Parekh, speak to the ones above, the ones we can't see.
  Tell them not to make a move, at all, or this one is history.
Parekh:  Okay...(she addresses the treetops and the unknown foes who
  hide there, speaking the warning in the bird-man's language)
Belphanior:  Skektek, I want to you generate a thunderclap, aimed up
  above us, as widely-spread as possible.
Skektek:  (grins)  Piece of cake, with my thunder ring.  Just say when.
Belphanior:  In about a ten-count.  The rest of you, get ready to run,
  as fast as you can manage.  We're heading toward the mountain's base,
  along this main road, same direction and bearing as we were when
  these creatures showed up.
Mongo:  But we don't know just where the tomb is-
Belphanior:  We'll chance it.  Anything, even some ruins, will afford
  us more cover than where we are right now.  Now, everyone...get ready
  to move.  Skektek, a ten-count, if you please.
Skektek: we go.

  Mentally counting down from ten, Skektek unleashed the force of his
enchanted ring.  The great peal of the thunderclap was deafening, but
also far worse for those in its path:  the bird-people.  As the trees
shook and the sky echoed the boom, the feathered foes fell, spiralling
down from their perches above, stunned and weakened.

Belphanior:  (raises Blackrazor...and hits his captive in the back of
  the head, hard, with the sword's pommel)
bird-man:  (collapses in a daze)
Blackrazor:  (murmurs to itself, angrily)
Belphanior:  (turns and dashes after his companions)

  The adventurers fled at full tilt, some of them using other means of

Bosco:  (flying along, the only way he can possibly keep up with the
  faster and more nimble members of the group)
Parekh:  (gliding through the air as if she was born to fly)

  Of the others, Razor Charlie and Jutokai led the pack, being the
fleetest of foot.  Zhao was right behind them, seemingly tireless; Drak
and Ys lumbered along a short distance back, their huge strides making
up for their slower speed.  Boltar and Skektek were next, barely keeping
ahead of the dwarves in the party.  Neera, unaccustomed to physical
exertion, was seriously lagging behind.

Ys:  (falls back a bit, until Neera is running next to him)  I'll carry
  you - it will be faster.
Neera:  (swept off the ground suddenly)  Aie!

  Belphanior kept up the rear, ready to cast a spell at any pursuers who
came after the party...but none did.  He wondered if Skektek's thunderclap
had actually hurt the bird-men - it was definitely a possibility.  He'd
only meant to stun them, and perhaps let them know not to bother his group
any more.  However, if they got hurt a little in the process, so be it.
And if the foes came after the adventurers again, well, blood would be

  Meanwhile, those in the lead had reached the end of the road, so to
speak:  a huge archway, carved into the mountain's base!  Gigantic twin
doors, fifty feet high and closed tight, loomed before the outlanders.
They were metallic, slightly pitted and covered with dirt and vegetation,
but yet they stood.

Jutokai:  Wow.
Razor Charlie:  Now that's a door.

  Each door had a ring built into it, toward the center point where they
met each other.  The rings were for pulling the portals open, and they
were several feet in diameter as well as almost a foot thick.  They were
also thirty feet high.

Drak:  (comes to a stop, somewhat winded, and regards the huge doors and
  their opening mechanisms)  Looks like a job for me.
Bosco:  Well, _I'm_ sure as heck not going to be able to do it.

  While the others in the party caught up, looking back the way they'd
come for signs of pursuit, Drak reached up, taking hold of one of the
door's rings.

Drak:  Ungh...
Mongo:  (wishing there was some way for him to bring his immense strength
  to bear, that he might help out)
Drak:  Unf!

  The door that the giant-sized barbarian was pulling on opened...just a
crack!  A blast of stale air, dead and dry as a thousand graves, greeted
the adventurers.

Drak:  Phew...
Bosco:  (nonchalantly)  Old.
Belphanior:  We need a little more room...Drak?
Drak:  Ungh!  (he pushes on the door again, opening it another foot)

  Of course, that was more than enough space for a person to get through.

Zhao:  Do we go in, or wait for Belphanior?
Otto:  We're not under attack, so we wait.
Bosco:  I'll fly above the treetops and take a look.
Otto:  Parekh, could you go with him...just in case?
Parekh: Sure.  (she follows Bosco upward)
Boltar:  (working some magic)  I'll see if these doors, or the area beyond,
  hold any kind of magic or evil.
Jutokai:  (wondering if he should ready an arrow)  Why aren't those bird-
  men following us?


Bosco:  (moves through the treetop canopy, emerging above the forest's top)
  Wow!  It's a whole different world up here.
Parekh:  What did you expect?

  From this vantage point, they could see the entire island...and all of
it was green, the treetops that shielded the ground from everything above.
In this case, "everything" included about a hundred bird-men, all flying
around in a flurry to the southeast, the direction from which the party
had fled.  Behind Parekh and Bosco, the mountain rose, dwarfing all else
on the island.  They hadn't realized how big the peak was, shielded from
fully viewing it from the forest floor.

Parekh:  Impressive.
Bosco:  (pointing at the bird-men in the distance)  I bet they think so
Parekh:  I wonder if they can see us.
Bosco:  (using his magical telescope)  Yep, they do.  But they're not
  doing anything about it.
Parekh:  (looking around, she wonders if the roc is apt to come down and
Bosco:  I'd say they're afraid to come over here.
Parekh:  Just like the snake-man talked about.
Bosco:  Maybe this is holy ground for them...both races.
Parekh:  Or unholy ground.  (she regards the foes in the distance)  Well,
  we don't have to worry about them, for the time being.  Let's get back
  down there to the others.
Bosco:  Okay.

  Shortly, they rejoined the party...

Belphanior:  These doors lead to the tomb...they must.
Mongo:  Agreed.  (he turns to Boltar questioningly)
Boltar:  These portals are non-magical.
Belphanior:  Hell, I knew that.
Boltar:  Nor are they evil.
Neera:  But they are old...(she touches one of the huge doors)  This is
Drak:  (shrinks back down to human size, that he too can fit through the
  small opening he made by pulling one of the doors slightly open)  Whew.
Neera:  Do you realize that we're going into a place where no one's been
  for thousands of years?  It's so...grand.
Mongo:  (to Gorgo)  Our treasure will be grand, too.
Gorgo:  Yeah!
Bosco:  Now you're talking!  (to Belphanior)  We're going in, aren't we?
Belphanior:  Yep.  Everyone through, then we'll close it.  Boltar, we'll
  need some more of your magical light.
Boltar:  Of course.  My pleasure.

  With that, the adventurers began to file through the opened door, ready
to explore whatever lay beyond, facing unknown dangers and unearthing great
lost treasures!

next:      the guardian of the gate
released:  3/5/01
notes:     Nah.

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