Chapter #728

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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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   allies summoned by Belphanior:                                        +
+     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                                                  +
+   "That was a brave thing you did."                                     +
+   "Did it work?"                                                        +
+                                                       - from _X-Men_    +

                    DCCXXVIII.  A Gaggle of Golems

  The lead members of the party have entered a vast pillared hall, only
to encounter a force of varied, unique, and dangerous golems...

red stone golem:  (lumbers toward the adventurers, shaking the floor
  with every step)
bronze golem:  (moving almost side-by-side with the other one, its steps
  resound with a metallic echo)
black, oily golem:  (glides along the floor, leaving a black trail on
  the smooth stone)
glass golem:  (glitters and sparkles as it, too, approaches)
Otto:  (raising his crossbow)  Damn, but they're coming fast.
Mongo:  (stands, hefting his hammer)  Easy fix to that problem.

  Stormcrest hurtled through the air, striking the first golem - the one
made of reddish stone - with the force of a thunderclap.  Chunks of red
rock were broken loose, whizzing off in every direction, as the heavy
construct was knocked back and down.

red stone golem:  (lands behind the other golems, a huge crater blasted
  in its chest)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer as it returns)  Hah-

  Experienced though they were, none of the adventurers could have
expected or anticipated what happened next.  The oily golem pointed
its arms at Mongo, and twin streams of black tar shot forth, hitting
the dwarf and instantly coating him in the goo.

Mongo:  Aaah!  Can't see!
Gorgo:  (raising his spiked mace, he charges at the bronze golem)  Die!

  While those two went head-to-head, Skektek launched a gout of flame
at the oil (tar?) golem, with a predictable effect...

oil golem:  (ignites, blazing madly)
Skektek:  Now that's more like it.
oil golem:  (sends forth streams of burning liquid, right at the party)
Skektek:  Shit.
Mongo:  (hit by two of these, and already coated with oil, he simply
  ignites)  Hey!
Belphanior:  (never missing a beat, he switches wands, abandoning his
  plan to launch acidic spheres as he sprays a sheet of foam all over
  the burning oil-golem)

  As that foe began to cool down, its flames sputtering and dying,
Belphanior doused Mongo with foam as well, for good measure.  Though
the dwarf was virtually immune to fire and heat, thanks to items he
wore or carried, it still wouldn't do to have him ambling about while
on fire.

Mongo:  (sputtering and coughing)  Ptui!
Belphanior:  (eyes the oil golem, which is smoking and smelling rather
  unpleasant)   Hmm.
Otto:  Jutokai - let's focus on the glassy golem.  I think we stand the
  best chance of damaging that one.  (he shoulders his crossbow, firing
  a bolt at the glass golem)
Jutokai:  (almost immediately after that, he fires an arrow at the same
Razor Charlie:  (contributes a thrown knife)
glass golem:  (nicked by all of these missiles, it slows its approach
  a bit, looking from one foe to another as if unable to make up its
  mind...and then points its glassy hands at the adventurers)
Otto:  Oh, shit.

  The construct fired several jagged shards of glass from each hand,
giving the foes pause...rather painful pause.

Otto:  (nicked and sliced as two of the missiles shatter on his armor
  and a third misses his head by inches)  Whoa!  Damn!
Razor Charlie:  (dodges one shard, then reels as another pierces his
  thigh)  Arg.
Jutokai:  Damn crafty enemy, this.

  Just then, the remainder of the party burst onto the scene...

Ys:  (sword ready, he charges in to help Gorgo against the bronze golem)
Bosco:  (flies up into the air, considering the four targets below him)
Drak:  I like large rooms like this one.  (hefting his mallet, he heads
  for the glass golem)
Parekh:  (spellcasting)
Boltar:  (brings his light-sphere fully into the chamber)

  Suddenly, the glass golem began to glow brightly!

Belphanior:  What?!?
Parekh:  It's feeding off of the light!  Boltar-

  The glass construct, now scintillating in its brightness and impossible
to look directly at, emitted a thick beam of pure light from its eyes!

Drak:  (caught in the torso by this, he is knocked back, a huge burning
  hole in his chest)  AAARGH!
Boltar:  Damn!

  Bosco had seen enough.  He wasn't sure if his granite dagger would
work on the glass golem - he'd originally been planning to swoop down
and backstab the red stone golem - but this glassy one that absorbed
and redirected light seemed to be the greater threat at the moment, so
the halfling flew at it from straight above.  The construct didn't see
him coming, and was an easy target.

Bosco:  (lands on the thing's head, driving his blade into one of its
  eyes)  Take that!

  Whether the enchanted blade actually had any special effect against
glass or not, it did bite deep into the golem's glowing crystal eye,
causing a huge crack to appear in the thing's face as rays of light
shot forth in all directions.

Bosco:  Whoa!  (he is knocked loose, landing on the floor with a bump)
glass golem:  (staggering about, apparently having problems seeing)
Zhao:  (charges in, twin swords flashing)
Otto:  Zhao, wait!  Swords can't stop that thing-
Zhao:  My blades are far finer than any ancient glass.

  The warrior leaped up, his swords coming together at the golem's neck.
The construct wasn't a big, bulky tank like the stone and bronze ones,
instead possessing a taller, more slender form.  Zhao's twin blades rang
against each other as the golem's shattered head was cut from its body,
whirling through the air until it shattered to bits on the stone floor.

Ys:  (watching the head explode as it hits)  Hmm.
Gorgo:  (bombarding the bronze golem with a flurry of powerful blows)
  You're goin' down!

  The bronze golem was sturdy and resilient, but it was no iron golem.
The dwarf's spiked mace had knocked great dents in its metallic body,
and the sheer ferocity of his attack had overwhelmed least so

bronze golem:  (opens its bronze mouth, belching forth a cloud of yellow
Gorgo:  Ghak!  (he staggers backward, coughing)
bronze golem:  (lurches forward, intent on ripping the small foe limb
  from limb)
Ys:  (brings his huge sword around in a crushing arc, battering the
  golem to its knees)  Leave the dwarf alone.

  Meanwhile, the red stone golem had regained its footing and was coming
for more combat...

red stone golem:  (lumbering toward Ys and Gorgo)
Ys:  Uh-oh.

  Suddenly, the stone flagstones directly beneath the huge golem melted,
becoming a swirling mix of black, white, and green mud.

red stone golem:  (sinks instantly)
Ys:  What?!?  (he looks around, bewildered)
Parekh:  (smiles thinly)
Ys:  (nods to her)

  Gorgo, too, had seen the mud-pit, which was perfectly positioned for
one willing to undertake a daring maneuver.  Gorgo, being too brash and
dumb to know fear, was such a one.  As the bronze golem rose shakily,
the dwarf charged it, head-butting the foe with a great deal of force.
It backed up, staggering...and then fell backwards, having tripped over
something on the floor behind it.

Bosco:  Yeah!  (he stands, watching as the golem sinks into the mud)
  My plan worked perfectly!
Gorgo:  Huh?

  Boltar, in the meantime, had brought into existence a spiritual hammer
which he was using to pummel the damaged glass golem.  The fourth foe -
the oil-golem - had been moving sluggishly ever since being lit aflame
and then extinguished.  Belphanior was taking advantage of its current
state to launch a volley of acidic spheres at the thing.  Even as the
others watched, its body was being consumed by the powerful acid.

Belphanior:  (looking around)  Is everyone okay?
Otto:  Everyone but that orc you summoned.  And the frog split.
Belphanior:  Dammit.  It's so hard to find good help these days.

  Mongo was still rubbing black oil and white foam from his face and
eyes, but liberal doses of clean water seemed to help...

Mongo:  Ow!  That stings!

  Drak had a rather large scorch mark on his chest, but the beam of
light hadn't burned clean through him as Belphanior had feared at the
time it happened.  Most of the others were scraped up a bit, but fine

Neera:  (finally enters the hall)
Bosco:  (retrieving his dagger, he eyes her)  Don't fight much, do you?
Neera:  I've never had to.
Mongo:  Don't sweat it.  That's why we're here.
Parekh:  (almost as an afterthought, she turns the mud-pit back into
  stone, trapping the two sunken golems in a weird, warped section of
  floor)  So much for that.
Belphanior:  (fully taking in the grand hall, now that he's not worried
  about his life)  Wow...impressive place.
Neera:  The most impressive yet.  This hall has stood for millennia.
  Why, if it weren't empty, I'd think it glorious enough to actually
  _be_ the tomb.
Parekh:  No such luck.  (she points to the door at the hall's far end)

  This portal turned out to be not only locked, but trapped as well:
a huge block of stone, twenty feet on each side, was set to drop from
the ceiling above when the door's handle was turned.  In fact, it _did_
drop, pulverizing two of the four ghouls that Belphanior had summoned
to replace the orc and the frog as front-line scouts.

Bosco:  Why'd they even bother to lock it?  That's
Jutokai:  Tell that to the ghouls.
Mongo:  Who can know the ways of thieves, Bosco?
Bosco:  (shrugs)  Beats me.

  On top of everything else, the door was false, for only the stone
wall waited behind it.  The true exit, they soon learned, was not
possible to get to physically...

Bosco:  (using his x-ray vision to scan a particular section of the
  wall, about fifty feet to the left of the false door with its trap)
  Yeah, there's an open space...maybe ten feet or so of rock between
  here and there.
Belphanior:  Good work, Bosco.  Even my eye couldn't have spotted that.
Parekh:  (eyeing the stone)  Passwall?
Belphanior:  Or another rock to mud.
Parekh:  Let's go with passwall.  It's so much...cleaner.

  The wizardess worked her magic, opening a small, arched passage from
the big hall to the unknown area beyond.  Belphanior's newest scouts
went first, their rotten stench lingering in the air behind them and
upsetting Boltar.

Boltar:  I can't believe that you're using those...things!
Razor Charlie:  (points to the red smear where the other two ghouls
  met their end thanks to the falling-block trap)  Better them than
Belphanior:  (nods to Boltar)  Just remember that it's all for a good
Boltar:  Ugh.
Otto:  They do reek, though.

  The next area, hidden and inaccessible for those without some degree
of magical ability, was a narrow passage, merely ten feet wide though
a hundred in length.  A number of the party members were worried about
the hallway being a trap, but Belphanior couldn't sense anything out
of the ordinary.  Still, he sent the ghouls far ahead, by themselves,
as much to rid the area of the smell as to test the unknown passage
for dangerous traps.
  The narrow hallway opened into a much larger area, shaped like two
pyramids joined at their bases.  Stairs on all four sides led down
about twenty feet, into a sunken central floor.  Above, the four walls
tapered up to a point.  The chamber was about forty feet across, this
fact being fully noted once Boltar's light-sphere had entered the
area.  The entire area's walls were fashioned of polished grey rock,
shot through with streaks of white or black.  It was simple, and yet
magnificent at the same time.

      /  \
_____/    \
____       \
    \      /

    | ____ |
    ||    ||

  Straight ahead of them at the end of the sunken floor, set into the
grey stone, was a portal...a simple door, twice the height of a man and
almost as wide, with no visible hinges, handles, or knobs.  The material
from which it was fashioned resembled wood, but was covered in carvings,
runes, and glyphs similar to those which Neera had traced in the other
area.  Three thick bars of dull grey metal crossed the door horizontally,
one at about four feet above the floor, the second at about seven feet,
and the third at about ten feet.  All three bars seemed to vanish _into_
the stone on either side of the portal, and it didn't look like there
was even a hairsbreadth of space between any of them and the door itself
to get a prybar into.

Belphanior:  (sensing both magic and danger of incredible proportions,
  he whistles)  Now that is a door.

next:      a lot of trouble for a single little door
released:  4/5/01
notes:     Useful & pertinent links now up:

  Parekh, Drak, Boltar's original group
  Crimson Blades

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