Chapter #721

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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                                                  +
+   "I never gamble with my money...only with my life."                   +
+                             - Rick O'Connell, from _The Mummy_ (1999)   +

                     DCCXXI.  Dark Sentinel

  The party stands in a large cylindrical chamber whose most prominent
feature is the huge statue in its center.

  They had converged on the cylindrical chamber's center, where the black
stone statue rested, in a pose that suggested its readiness to attack as
well as its savagery.

Otto:  I'll tell you one thing:  whoever put this monstrosity here sure
  wasn't aiming to fool anybody.
Bosco:  (spies something)  Look!

  The halfling was pointing to a niche of some sort, beneath the statue.

Otto:  I'll be damned...that's a stairway!
Neera:  We'll have to move the statue somehow.
Belphanior:  I don't think that'll be a problem.

  The statue was moving!  No longer cold stone, it was now a thing of
flesh...a colossal three-headed hound, ten feet at the shoulder, each
of its heads snarling as it moved independently of the others, sizing
up foes.

hound:  GRRRRRR...
Mongo:  (raises his hammer to throw it)  No way can that thing get to me
  before I let 'im have it-
hound's head #1:  (belches forth a great gout of noxious green vapor)

  The adventurers had assumed they were safe since they were a fair
distance from the beast.  Now, they were proven wrong, as those caught
by the green fumes - Mongo, Gorgo, Boltar, Razor Charlie, and Ys - found
themselves choking, their eyes burning and chests heaving.

Gorgo:  Ghak!
Boltar: dragon breath...
Razor Charlie:  (flailing about, barely able to see, trying to hold his
  breath, but too late)
Ys:  (reels, staggering)  Caughkkkk.
Mongo:  (actually immune to this choking effect thanks to his enchanted
  necklace, he still finds that he can't see his target through the
  thick fumes)  Dammit!  (he grabs Gorgo with one hand and Boltar with
  the other and starts dragging them back, away from where the monster
  was before its breath obscured things)

  Meanwhile, the others had watched in horror as a third of their party
fell victim to the monster's gas-breath.  Now, counterattacks were made!

Skektek:  (blasts the foe with a fireball from his wand)  Take that!

  Normally, Skektek wouldn't have let such a spell rip in an area this
small, but the cylindrical chamber had a high ceiling, and the fireballs
generated by the wand were much weaker than those Skektek could launch
himself, given time to prepare them.  Apparently, it didn't matter one
way or the other, for the flames fizzled and died upon touching the foe.

Skektek:  Uh-oh.  That's not good.
Parekh:  You're just not trying hard enough.  (she completes her own
  spell, intending to turn the rock beneath the hound's feet into mud
  and trap it in place)
hound:  (bares three sets of teeth, growling, as a bit of mud appears
  around it, but not beneath it)
Parekh:  Okay, I concede the point.  This is _not_ good.
Zhao:  (leaps forth, swords flashing)  I shall slice and dice this-
hound's head #3:  (emits a cloud of dark, almost black vapor)
Zhao:  (falls to the floor, shivering, his swords dropped)  Aie!
Skektek:  (also caught at the edge of this blast, he falls as well)  So
Jutokai:  (fires an arrow, which grazes the thing's shoulder but does
  little else)  Its skin must be hard as steel...or else enchanted!
Otto:  (takes careful aim with his crossbow)  Enchant this.  (he lets
  a bolt fly right for the center of the middle head)

  This missile, too, hit with far less force than it should have, ending
up on the ground rather than lodged in the beast's middle face where it

Otto:  What the hell is this thing?
Drak:  Bah.  It is a beast, of flesh and blood, and it can die like one.

  Changing to his full height of twenty feet, the barbarian charged the
monster, his mallet ready to inflict some pain.

hound:  (snarling, it bounds forward, a greenish slime dripping fron its
  slavering jaws)
Drak:  (doesn't even hesitate in his charge)  DIE!

  Drak had to raise his mallet in order to bring it to bear, such was
its size and heft.  The three-headed hound proved to be faster than it
looked, lunging in to attack before Drak could...

hound's head #2:   (the middle one, it clamps steely jaws around Drak's
  shoulder)  GRAAR!
Drak:  AAARGH!  (his mallet finishes its arc, slamming into the thing's
  flank and actually lifting it from the floor)
hound:  RRRRG...(it lands, its third head latching onto Drak's leg)
Drak:  Argh!  Get it off!
Bosco:  (forgotten until now in the greater action, he swoops down from
  above, his shortsword sinking into the back of the beast's third head)
hound:  YELP!  (a froth of blood comes from the wounded head, which lets
  go of Drak's leg)
Parekh:  (fires a volley of small, fiery meteors at the hound's body)

  This attack didn't affect the thing in the least, the meteors bouncing
from its hide as if they were rubber balls.

Mongo:  (having just dragged Boltar and Gorgo from the green gas, he
  narrowly avoids a stray meteor as it whizzes by his head)  Hey!

  The dwarf was angry, both that the party was being hurt and that he
hadn't had a chance to contribute to the battle yet.

Mongo:  Time for Stormcrest!  (charging forth, he hurls the hammer at
  the gigantic hound)
hound:  (hit in the same side that was smashed by Drak's mallet, it howls
  in pain, its central head relinquishing its grip on the barbarian)
Drak:  (backs away, bleeding, barely remembering to grab his weapon as
  he retreats)  Argh...

  The gigantic hound was hurt, but far from defeated.  As it stood there
and pawed the ground, growling and gnashing its terrible teeth, it was
fairly obvious that its wounds were slowly but surely closing up.  Time
was of the essence!

Mongo:  (catches his hammer as it returns)  All right, then!  Let's get
  this thing!  (he looks around)  Uh...

  Joining Mongo in the second assault were the injured Drak and the
flying Bosco, plus Parekh, Otto, and Jutokai, their value dubious since
the monster had so far proven impervious to magic and missile weapons.
Everyone else but Neera was out of the fray, and she wasn't the fighting
sort anyway.

Otto:  (looking around)  Hey, where's Belphanior?

next:      resounding victory...or crushing defeat
released:  3/12/01
notes:     The classical mythology references, begun back when they were
  searching for the Oracle, continue here.  I've always thought Cerberus
  was pretty cool.  Of course, I had to beef it up a little for this
  party of adventuring foes...

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