Chapter #725

previous chapter (#724)                                                                  next chapter (#726)

                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   allies summoned by Belphanior:                                        +
+     orc                                                                 +
+     giant frog                                                          +
+   Date:           the week between 3/579 and 4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)   +
+   Time:           indeterminate                                         +
+   Place:          a cavern within an isle amidst the Solnor Ocean       +
+   Climate:        mild                                                  +
+   "Governments change...the lies stay the same."                        +
+                                        - James Bond, from _Goldeneye_   +

                      DCCXXV.  Writing on the Wall

  After exploring a hemispherical chamber that held various interesting
things, the party prepares to take the one unexplored exit from the area:
an exit hall directly opposite the one through which they'd entered.

Gorgo:  (warily eyeing the monsters that Belphanior conjured)
Belphanior:  We're not taking any more risks.  That's why I've summoned
  these monsters to help us.
Mongo:  You mean walk into all the traps.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)
Bosco:  That's great, but what happens when we run out of monsters?
Belphanior:  I don't know.  I'll lead the party, if I have to.  We can
  cross that bridge when we come to it.
Bosco:  Sure thing, whatever you say.
Belphanior:  Damn right.

  The exit hall was smaller than the previous area, and contained no
wall-to-wall-to-ceiling frescoes, faded and chipped away due to the
passage of a great many years.  No, this hallway was merely fifteen
feet high and arched, its walls covered in elaborate carvings.  There
was a difference, though...

Neera:  Writing!  Some of this is writing!
Bosco:  It looks like carvings to or designs, nothing
Neera:  (regards the halfling with a sidelong look)  That's because you
  haven't spent years studying ancient civilizations.
Bosco:  Nope, I just rob them.
Neera:  (turns to one wall again, disregarding the halfling)  See here?
  This is a carven image, but these marks _here_ are obviously characters
  of some sort.  If only we could understand them...
Parekh:  (working a spell)  We will shortly.

  The slender wizardess finished her magical incantation, her hand now
glowing with a pale blue light.  She touched the writings on the wall...

Parekh:  Eh?
Belphanior:  What?
Parekh:  I can't read this.  (she frowns, glancing to Drak as if for
  some moral support)  That's never happened before.
Boltar:  But why?  These writings aren't magical...are they?  I'm not
  seeing them as anything other than normal stone.
Belphanior:  (scanning the glyphs)  Nope.
Neera:  Incredible.  I need to get some of this for further study.
Mongo:  Oh, sure.  We'll just rip loose a chunk of wall and carry it
  with us.
Neera:  (smirks, digging in her pack)
Gorgo:  (whispering to Mongo)  Are you serious?
Mongo:  Not really, but I guess it might work.
Neera:  (comes up with some parchment and a chunk of charcoal)
Otto:  What are you up to?
Neera:  Tracing.  (she lays the parchment over some of the glyphs and
  begins rubbing it with the coal)
Jutokai:  (yawns)
Parekh:  (raises an eyebrow)
Boltar:  What?
Parekh:  Sometimes we're so tied up with magic and raw power that we
  forget about the simple ways.
Skektek:  Not me - I still think about that magic and raw power.
Zhao:  (to Belphanior)  Must we sit around and wait for this?  I would
  like to keep scouting ahead...
Belphanior:  (nods)  Skektek, Jutokai, Razor Charlie, and Zhao - you
  four go on ahead and see what's there.  (he turns to the orc and the
  giant frog)  You will precede these four, as you are the bravest of
orc:  (salutes dumbly)
giant frog:  Ribbit!

  With that, the advance scouting party went ahead, while the others
watched Neera trace out her letterings...

Neera:  That should do it.
Parekh:  Did you get enough?
Neera:  More than enough, I think, to enable me to study this language
  and eventually decode it.
Belphanior:  Glad to hear that.
Gorgo:  (having turned his attention to some of the carven images on
  these same walls)  Hey, look at this.
Mongo:  What?
Gorgo:  These things here look kinda like those snake-people we fought
Mongo:  What the hell are you...hey!  (to no one in particular)  He's
Drak:  No shit...(he examines the carvings)
Parekh:  (joins the barbarian)  Interesting.
Belphanior:  What?
Parekh:  These carvings make it look like the snake-people were servants
  of this empire...or slaves.
Belphanior:  I think you're right.  Neera, what do we know about any of
Neera:  Well, the Panagaean Empire wasn't known for its benevolence at
  all.  Its rulers tended to destroy or enslave whoever they conquered.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Including, then, these snake-people?
Neera:  It's entirely possible...even probable.  And that would explain
  why the same snake-people - their descendants, at least - still live
  here on this isle.
Parekh:  The snake-people in these images seem...more advanced than the
  ones we've seen.
Ys:  Of course - think about it:  the empire takes a flourishing culture,
  enslaves it, then the empire and all of its lands are wiped out.  Now
  we've seen all that's left of the conquered people, and they are little
  more than barbarians.
Neera:  (nodding, excited)  Yes!  You've got it - that's got to be how it
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Good work, Gorgo.
Gorgo:  (beams happily, pleased to have made an important discovery)
Otto:  (examining an area of the other wall, a bit further along the hall)
  I think you should see this...
Bosco:  (already there)  Hey, the snake-people weren't the only ones.
Belphanior:  What are you talking about...?

  The opposite wall had the same sort of carvings, both images and glyphs,
except that a different race was depicted on its face...

Neera:  The bird-men!
Parekh:  These Panagaeans enslaved _two_ races?
Bosco:  Those rotten bastards.
Belphanior:  This is no laughing matter, Bosco.
Bosco:  I'm not laughing.
Neera:  So, like the descendants of the snake-people, those of the bird-
  people also live on this isle.
Parekh:  And maybe nowhere else.
Belphanior:  If they do live in other areas of the world, they might not
  even be the same as the ones here, exactly - this is like a pocket of
  civilization, completely isolated from everything.
Neera:  For thousands of years...(she gets a fresh piece of parchment and
  begins taking new tracings)
Ys:  This really is fascinating...but also somewhat sickening.
Belphanior:  How's that?
Ys:  I...cannot really explain it.  Not right now.  Some other time,
Belphanior:  What kind of an answer is that?
Ys:  The only one you're going to get, for now.

  Belphanior was about to retort when a ruckus from further down the hall
caused all of them to turn and look that way.

Otto:  Shit, something's going on - they must have run into trouble!
Belphanior:  (takes off at a sprint, Otto on his heels)
Mongo:  (hefts his hammer, breaking into as much of a run as his short
  legs will allow)  C'mon, Gorgo - it's clobbering time!

next:      the TRUE entrance to the Tomb proper!
released:  3/26/01
notes:     This one was the last story I wrote in 2000 - on 12/31 to be

previous chapter (#724)                                                                  next chapter (#726)