Chapter #731

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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:                                        +
+     ghoul                                                               +
+   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                                                  +
+   "He chose...poorly."                                                  +
+          - the Grailkeeper, from _Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade_   +

                    DCCXXXI.  Within the Tomb

  After solving the mystery of the third and final bar blocking the
mysterious door, the adventurers are confident that they now stand
on the threshold of the final entrance into the Lost Tomb's inner

Belphanior:  (watching as the last bar melts away into vapor)  Wow.
Neera:  (smiles triumphantly)
Mongo:  Well, worked!
Parekh:  Of course it worked.
Otto:  (eyeing the door, devoid of hinges or handles)  But what do
  we do now?
Drak:  (pointing)  I don't think that'll be an issue...

  The door was silently swinging outward, prompting everyone present to
train their weapons on it.

Mongo:  Nothing's coming out...
Boltar:  We mustn't dash in, either.  (he causes his light-sphere to
  descend and then move into the opening)

  No horrible beasts beyond all description lay in wait within the new,
unknown chamber.  There was a smell, though...a smell MUCH stronger than
that revealed previously by the opening of the larger doors.  The air
from the tomb ahead was old, yes, but moreso than was older,
staler, deader.

Otto:  Phew!
Gorgo:  Smells like zombie farts in there!
Razor Charlie:  (regards the dwarf quizzically)
Parekh:  (to Neera)  Good work.
Neera:  (smiles)  Thanks.
Belphanior:  Second that - damn good work.  Both of you.  (to Neera)
  And to make sure that you get the chance to show us more good work,
  I'm going to do something I should have done when we entered this
Neera:  Eh?
Belphanior:  (to Razor Charlie)  Charlie, I want you to stick with Neera
  and keep her out of harm's way.  There are too many dangers lurking
  around these parts, and the last thing we need is to lose our sage
  because we're treating her like a warrior or a wizard.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)  Right.
Neera:  But-
Belphanior:  No arguments - it's for your own good.
Razor Charlie:  (to Neera)  Right.
Parekh:  (works a spell upon Neera)  Best to protect you with some
  Stoneskin as well...just in case.
Neera:  Err...okay.
Belphanior:  (having already moved on to his next order of business, he
  has the Book of Beasts opened)  Time for some more shock troops...

  Shortly, an ogre and a bugbear had appeared to join the party.

Boltar:  (grimaces in disgust)
Drak:  Hey, at least they don't smell like the ghoul.

  With this detail attended to, they moved through the doorway, led by
the summoned allies:  the sole remaining ghoul, the bugbear, and the
ogre.  Next, keeping a fair distance back from the expendables, marched
Belphanior and Mongo, and behind them the others, just as before.  The
party was in a long, narrow hallway of considerable height, thirty feet
or more.  Its ceiling was arched, but no other features decorated its
length.  The hall sloped downward at a constant rate, enough so that a
ball or similar object would roll downhill and pick up speed.  The hall
continued on for several hundred feet, ending in an elaborate door of
wood reinforced with wrought-iron bands.

Otto:  No rot.
Parekh:  Simple enough to preserve wood and metal, with the right spells.
  What's _not_ so simple is the power to make it last for thousands of
Bosco:  What are those symbols on the door, there?

  The halfling was referring to a horizontal row of perhaps a dozen
engraved characters, of the same sort encountered on the last portal.
Though Belphanior and the others couldn't understand these symbols,
they could see the resemblance in the ones here and elsewhere.  A foot
below the row of symbols was a large ring of iron, mounted into the

Belphanior:  (to his three summoned minions)  Aside.

  The elf used his magical eye to get a good, long look at the door,
all aspects of it, from the runes near its top to the ring in its
center to the stonework around the portal.

Belphanior:  The runes aren't trapped...they're not even magical.  No
  part of this door is.
Parekh:  (scanning with her own means of detection)  Right you are.
Neera:  (studying the runes, she has to bob and weave to see around
  the heads and shoulders of those in the ranks ahead of her)  Dammit.
Ys:  (moves others aside with his huge gray arms, allowing the sage
  to advance to the front)  Methinks Neera here wants a closer look.
Neera:  (nods to the reptilian gratefully)
Belphanior:  Good idea.  Can you make heads or tails of this?
Neera:  (eyeing the engravings)  It's just a series of characters...
  I've seen them all before.  Something about them, though...I can't
  quite put my finger on it.  (she begins looking through her notes
  and coal tracings)  I'd have to study and compare for a while-
Mongo:  Bah.  (to Belphanior)  You said that the door didn't have any
  traps, or the runes...what about that ring?
Belphanior:  Anxious to advance, are we?
Mongo:  If this door's not trapped...yeah, I am.  I think we all are.
  I can smell that treasure, and we're getting damn close.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  To answer your question, no, the ring's not a trap
Mongo:  Well, I'll pull it then.  (he steps forward and does so)

  Something behind the door moved, and then clicked, and a deep rumble
came from the passage behind and above them.

Mongo:  I thought you said it wasn't a trap!
Belphanior:  It wasn't- isn't- must be some elaborate mechanical deal.
Otto:  (at the rear of the party with Razor Charlie)  Oh shit...hey
  up there in the front...I think it'd be a good idea if you got that
  door open!
Mongo:  (holding the iron ring, which came off when he pulled on it)

next:      Neera proves her worth yet again
released:  4/16/01
notes:     About the time you read this episode, major league baseball
  will have just gotten started.  I find my interest level waning, at
  least on a team and championship basis.  This is probably due to the
  increased level of BS present in the game.  I mean, who would have
  thought that a player could someday demand, as part of his contract,
  that the outfield fences in his team's home park be shortened?
    On top of all that, there's likely to be another strike this year,
  which would turn me and millions of others off to the game for quite
  some time.  It would also put a dent in the only thing really worth
  watching anymore:  individual players' career milestones.  Given even
  an average degree of health, Barry Bonds will top 500 homers in 2001.
  Mark McGwire could top 600.  Rickey Henderson, despite being bitchy,
  will become the all-time leader in runs and walks.  Tony Gwynn and
  Cal Ripken, already above 3000 career hits, will climb the all-time
  list.  And so on.
    This stuff, to me, is far more interesting than what team wins the
  World Series.  Call me jaded if you will.

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