Chapter #724

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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:           early afternoon                                       +
+   Place:          a cavern within an isle amidst the Solnor Ocean       +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "He can be terrible, he can be mean, and he can be right."            +
+                                               - from _Apocalypse Now_   +

                  DCCXXIV.  Just Getting Started

  The party has come upon a large hemispherical chamber with various
alcoves and exits, including a strange tunnel burrowed in from one side
and an assortment of bones in its center.

Belphanior:  Something's fishy here.
Otto:  We should fan out..check everything.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Zhao, Otto - to the alcove on the left.  Jutokai,
  Ys - to the one on the right.  Bosco, Razor Charlie - the tunnel there.
  Mongo, Gorgo - you're with me.  (he heads for the assorted bones)  The
  rest of you, stay put and watch all of us, in case something happens.

  To the left...

Otto:  The alcove's about ten feet high and wide, but it looks a little
  deeper than that, maybe fifteen feet.
Zhao:  (readies both swords)

  To the right...

Ys:  An odd place, this - nothing like the ruins above.
Jutokai:  (readies an arrow, eyeing the alcove they now approach)  Right.
Ys:  It's almost as if some other person or people designed and built this
Jutokai:  Right.

  Near the tunnel...

Bosco:  Must've been a big worm or something.
Razor Charlie:  (eyes the rubble from the tunnel's digging, rubble which
  has obviously been there for quite some time, undisturbed)
Bosco:  (peers into the tunnel)  Wonder where this you think he
  wants us to follow it and see?
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at the halfling)

  At the bones in the chamber's center...

Belphanior:  Looks like three or four humanoids, plus that bigger one.
Mongo:  It's an umber hulk, or at least it was.  Look at those mandibles.
Gorgo:  Big sucker, it was.  Hey, what's that?

  A small pedestal rose from the floor in the exact center of the chamber,
a dusty object resting atop it.

Gorgo:  It's a gold nugget!  (he eyes the thing greedily)
Belphanior:  We've seen bigger.
Gorgo:  I haven't.
Mongo:  Easy there, cousin.  Nobody leaves something like this sitting
  around for no reason.
Belphanior:  Oh, there's a reason, all right.  Stay back.  (he walks over
  toward the tunnel, picking up a large chunk of rock and returning to the
  room's center)
Mongo:  A trap?
Belphanior:  (raises the rock above his head, then hurls it at the nugget
  atop the pedestal)

  The nugget didn't move, but there was a loud "click" from somewhere far
above their heads, and suddenly, the ceiling above opened and a heavy
metallic grate dropped down.

Belphanior:  Shit!  (he leaps back desperately)

  The grate was tipped with sharp metal spikes, and it slammed into the
floor with earthshaking force.  Belphanior had escaped impalement by only
a scant few feet.  Gorgo had been standing back a bit, and was merely
knocked from his feet.  Mongo, however, had been under the grate as it

Mongo:  Argh...

  The dwarf was pinned beneath two of the spikes that had hit his armor
but hadn't punched through it.  Still, they weren't bent - a testament
to their strength and thickness - and the grate was slightly awry, not
resting evenly on the ground.  A third spike had grazed the dwarf's leg
but done no real damage.

Mongo:  Next time you set off a trap, maybe tell us?
Belphanior:  Sorry...

  Two things were certain:  Mongo would have been skewered if his armor
hadn't been a powerful artifact, and Belphanior had made a potentially
lethal mistake.

Drak:  (having walked over, he lifts the grate, freeing Mongo)
Mongo:  Damn!  That was close!
Drak:  What is that armor made of, anyway?
Mongo:  I'm not really sure.  (he gives Belphanior a nasty look)  What
  the hell were you thinking?
Belphanior:  I didn't know what-
Mongo:  I thought you could see traps?  And what if it'd been something
  that hit the whole room?  What then?
Belphanior:  (finding his head aching with pain, he takes a few steps
  away, muttering angrily to himself)
Mongo:  Dammit!
Drak:  Hmm.

  Before Belphanior or the others had further time to ponder the elf's
mistake, there was a loud ratcheting sound from above...and the grate
began to rise, the chains that held it retracting into the ceiling.

Neera:  What a trap!  They had winches...must be a counterweight up
  there as well...amazing.
Parekh:  Amazing in its lethality, too.  And that was an easy one.
Boltar:  We had best be on the lookout - no telling what else we'll
  find down here.

  Closer to the trap...

Mongo:  (watching the spiked grate vanish into the shadows above, worn
  frescoed panels closing up in its wake)  Tricky bastards.
Gorgo:  (looking at the bones)  Now we know what happened to them.
Mongo:  And that monster.
Belphanior:  (returns from his pacing, his jaw set)  The umber hulk must
  have burrowed in here that way- (he points to the tunnel which Bosco
  and Razor Charlie are investigating) -and then come here to get the
  nugget...and died.
Mongo:  And these others?
Belphanior:  Since umber hulks aren't known to lead gangs, I'm guessing
  that these others came in after it...maybe a long time after.  They
  must have found its tunnel and used it to get in here.
Mongo:  They didn't get too far.  (he eyes the tunnel)  We should go
  help Bosco out.
Gorgo:  What about that golden nugget?  (he points to the pedestal and
  the prize atop it)
Mongo:  Hmm...there's got to be a way to get that thing.
Belphanior:  I'm guessing it's fused to the pedestal itself.  I bet that
  even telekinesis won't pry it loose.
Mongo:  We should try-
Belphanior:  That gold is nothing...the cheese in a trap.  We're headed
  for a thousand times that much!  (he claps Mongo on the shoulder)  Let
  it go.
Mongo:  (grumbling)  Okay.
Gorgo:  (shaking his head)  Where I come from, we don't leave perfectly
  good loot sitting around for someone else to get.
Mongo:  If nothing else, we'll get it on the way back.

  The other searches, interrupted by the dropping of the grate-trap,
were wrapping up.  Both alcoves were found to contain nothing, though
in each case it did appear that something, perhaps a large statue, had
once rested in each niche.  The tunnel wound away, up and around, for
several hundred feet before emerging at the base of the mountain.  This
entrance was completely overgrown with bushes and weeds, which combined
with the natural rocky terrain to completely obscure it from outside
sight.  Those sent to scout the tunnel - Bosco, Mongo, and Skektek -
realized that the hidden entrance hadn't been used in many, many years.

Skektek:  Unless you count rats, bugs, and such.
Mongo:  C'mon, let's get back to the main area.
Bosco:  Are you mad at Belphanior?
Mongo:  He should have known better.  It's been a long time since he's
  fucked up, so I guess I can grant him one every once in a while, but
  he needs to get his act together.
Skektek:  (remains silent)

  Upon returning to the hemispherical chamber, they found that Belphanior
had been far from idle.  He had his large black tome open and was just
finishing the summoning of some allies...

orc:  (looking around, confused)
giant frog:  (looking at the orc, hungrily)
Gorgo:  (complaining loudly)  We don't need a damn orc!  Better to just
  kill it and be done with-
Belphanior:  Silence.

  Something in the tone of the elf's voice quieted the angry dwarf.

Parekh:  Surely you can come up with allies better than these?
Belphanior:  I'm using the book's weaker summoning powers first...I'll
  bring more, stronger allies as needed.
Boltar:  Allies?  How can you be sure that they won't turn on us?
Belphanior:  The book's powers make sure of it for me.  (he turns to
  the orc and the giant frog)  You will will be our front
  scouts, and you will like it.
orc:  (salutes, its stare glassy)
giant frog:  Ribbit!
Parekh:  Perhaps a smart plan after all.
Belphanior:  (nods, curtly)
Drak:  (to Parekh, rather quietly)  A good plan.
Parekh:  Yes.  Now we have someone else - someone expendable - to take
  the lead and find our traps for us.

next:      more challenges
released:  3/24/01
notes:     It's about time Belphanior started summoning allies again.

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