Chapter #729

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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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   allies summoned by Belphanior:                                        +
+     ghouls (2)                                                          +
+   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                                                  +
+   "I can't lift that."                                                  +
+   "Grow stronger."                           - from _The 13th Warrior_  +

                     DCCXXIX.  Triple Protection

  After using magic to access a hidden area, the adventurers have come
upon a small chamber with a strange triple-barred door...

Bosco:  (eyeing the door)  That's not way is that wood.  (he
  slowly wanders toward the portal)
Belphanior:  Don't touch it!
Bosco:  I'm not going to touch it.  What, do you think I'm crazy?
Otto:  (looks at Belphanior)
Belphanior:  (looks at Otto)
Otto:  (shakes his head)
Belphanior:  Just don't touch it, Bosco.

  The portal, twice the height of a man and nearly that wide, had no
hinges or handles.  Its wood-like surface was completely covered in
bizarre, cryptic sigils.  The triple bars of dull grey metal that
secured the door completed the mystery.

Parekh:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  (to one of the ghouls)  Go lift that bottom bar, there.
ghoul:  (moves to obey)

  There was a moment or two of dead silence - and anticipation - as the
undead creature shuffled toward the portal...closer...closer...finally
putting its rotting hands on the lowest of the three bars.

ghoul:  (snorts, pushing up on the bar with all its strength)  Grngh.

  The undead thing's efforts brought its flesh in contact with both
the metal bar and the door itself, but there was no adverse effect.

Mongo:  Maybe something's supposed to happen, but didn't 'cause that
  thing's not really alive.
Boltar:  Hmm, a good idea.
Belphanior:  I'm not so sure.  (to the ghoul)  Try the second bar.
ghoul:  (grunts, giving up on the first bar and reaching for the one
  above it)

  There was a bright flash, accompanying the brief, intense burst of
flame...and the ghoul had been reduced to a pile of ashes!

Otto:  Whoa.
Parekh:  So...the different bars have different effects.
Mongo:  Or else the bottom one's broken.
Belphanior:  For all that, the ghoul didn't budge the bar.  Either of
Drak:  You know, I wouldn't mind putting my strength into that lower
  bar, but not until the second one is out of the way.
Mongo:  I was just thinking the same thing.
Belphanior:  Right.
Skektek:  We'll have to blast it...blast it with spells until we find
  one that works.
Neera:  (examining the markings on the door, she is careful not to
  touch them)  Perhaps I can offer a clue about this.
Belphanior:  How's that?
Neera:  I can't quite make out the full meaning of these runes, but
  I think it says something about three seals...three ways to break
  three seals.
Parekh:  Are you sure?  Exact details can be important when it comes to
  things such as this.
Neera:  Like I said, that's the basic message.  I'd need more time - a
  lot more time - to have a chance at cracking the rest of it.  There's
  something about guardians, too...four guardians, I think.  Like the
  rest of it, though, I just need more time.
Belphanior:  Let's try some spells first.
Skektek:  Now you're talking.

  They started with the subtle approach:  spells of knocking, entering,
and such.  None of these served to move the bar, so then they tried
magic that reshaped or melted stone and metal - both on the bars and
door, and the grey rock surrounding it.  Success yet eluded them,
which meant it was time for the heavy-duty methods.  They backed away
to a safe distance and let it rip:  fire, ice, and lightning were
plied, with enough raw power to level a building...but none of them
did a thing to affect the door, the three bars, or the stone around

Belphanior:  Dammit.
Parekh:  We could try to dispel magic...
Belphanior:  Sure.
Parekh:  (working that spell)
Skektek:  Think it'll work?
Belphanior:  It's worth a try.
Neera:  (amazed but thankful that the runes on the door are completely
  intact and undamaged, she continues to frantically copy the ancient

  Parekh completed her spell, laying a powerful disruptive enchantment
on the second bar.  The metal glowed...but only briefly, before it
returned to its normal state.

Parekh:  Damn.
Skektek:  Dispelling magic didn't work...
Belphanior:  We'll have to try something else.
Parekh:  (sighs, cracking her knuckles)
Skektek:  Going to try something else, eh?  Don't see what-
Parekh:  Quiet.  Please.

  The slight woman began working another spell, one even more powerful
than the last.  As she concentrated, gritting her teeth, the bar began
to glow once more - and this time it remained that way.

Belphanior:  (nods to himself)
Skektek:  (watching beads of sweat appear on Parekh's brow, he turns
  to Belphanior)  Is that spell...what I think it is?
Belphanior:  I think so - she's casting a disjunction.
Parekh:  This was...powerful...warding magic...

  The middle bar was now glowing, red-hot...then white-hot!  The
watchers had to avert their eyes, and they could feel the heat, even
those standing farthest away.

Parekh:  Argh!

  Suddenly, there was a hissing sound, and the middle bar melted into
a puddle on the floor!  As they looked on, this puddle bubbled and
sizzled, the metal boiling away through some strange means...until it
was gone entirely.

Belphanior:  Wow.
Drak:  What was that all about?
Parekh:  (weakly)  I'm not...sure I've...ever dispelled magic that
Skektek:  Well, now you have.
Parekh:  I need to rest for a moment...
Belphanior:  No problem.  (to Drak and Mongo)  Before you have at that
  lower bar, let's see about the topmost one.  (to the remaining ghoul)
  That top bar...go move it out of our way.
ghoul:  (heeds this command, but finds itself unable to reach the bar
  since the thing's a good ten feet off the floor)  Rrrr?  (it turns
  to Belphanior helplessly)
Belphanior:  (sighs)  Climb on top of the lowest one and use it as a
  stepping-stone to reach higher.
ghoul:  (suddenly feeling enlightened, it obeys these instructions,
  finally succeeding after several tries)

  The highest bar, like the lowest, had no apparent effect on one who
touched it, judging by the fact that the ghoul survived contact with
it.  This heralded the efforts of Mongo, who nearly batted the ghoul
out of his way as he went to the bottom bar and applied his prodigious
strength to the moving of it.

Mongo:  Ungh...(the bar doesn't budge)
Drak:  (trying the same thing on the top bar, also without success)
  I think I felt it give, just a tiny bit...not sure.
Mongo:  Hey, maybe we should team up on one of them.
Drak:  (nods, getting a grip on the lower bar)

  Together, the two warriors - both possessed of the strength of
giants - tugged at the lowest bar.

Mongo:  Urgh!
Drak:  Argh!

  The metallic barricade didn't budge, not a fraction of an inch.

Mongo:  Dammit.
Drak:  Let's try the top one.
Mongo:  I'm sure it won't work either.
Drak:  We have to do this in some organized fashion.
Mongo:  (shrugs)  How am I going to reach the top bar?  The ghoul
  barely could, and I'm shorter than him.
Drak:  We need something to brace you on.
Gorgo:  He can stand on my shoulders.
Parekh:  Won't work.
Gorgo:  Huh?  Why not?
Parekh:  Because it would be the same as if a giant pushed down on
  your shoulders.  You'd be crushed.
Gorgo:  No I wouldn't!  I'm tougher than that.
Parekh:  (sighs, realizing that she won't be able to make the dwarf
Bosco:  Why not just cast a spell on him to make him bigger?
Belphanior:  Because that relic he wears as armor will likely be
  completely immune to such a spell, and won't grow with him.
Bosco:  Oh.  I never thought of that.
Parekh:  Don't worry, that's what we're here for.
Belphanior:  I hate to waste a wall of force, but one of those under
  Mongo would brace him just fine.
Parekh:  I'd hate to waste one too.  (to Drak)  Are you sure you felt
  the upper bar give?
Drak:  Not entirely...let me _make_ sure.  (he braces himself, then
  has another go at the topmost bar)  Ungh!
Parekh:  (looks on, questioningly)
Drak:  Whew...yeah, it definitely gave, just a tiny bit.  With more
  muscle, I think we could move it.
Parekh:  Very well, then.

  Shortly, a horizontal plane of force was in place, seven feet up,
allowing Mongo to be braced as he pushed on the bar, adding his own
strength to that of Drak.  Both warriors grunted and heaved, muscles
standing out on their arms and shoulders...

Mongo:  UNGH!
Drak:  URGH!  It's...moving...
Mongo:  Yeah...!  (they both redouble their efforts)

  The bar slid up, an inch, then another...until finally, suddenly,
it broke free, sliding up and over before falling from Drak's grip.

Drak:  (shaking with the effort of the lifting, he leans against the
  wall next to the door)  Whew.
Mongo:  (likewise resting, he points to the fallen bar)  Hey!

  The metal bar was evaporating!

Parekh:  Now that certainly is odd.
Jutokai:  It's almost like these bars are one-time things.
Neera:  I'm sure they _are_ one-time things.  This tomb wasn't designed
  or intended to be the subject of frequent visits.
Bosco:  One visit is all that counts.
Ys:  True...true.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at the lowest bar, which is still in place and
  has thus far proven resistant to brute strength as well as magic)
Boltar:  Two down, one to go.

next:      can they find the remaining bar's secret and get through?
released:  4/9/01
notes:     Nah.

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