Chapter #732

previous chapter (#731)                                                                  next chapter (#733)

                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      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                                                               +
+     bugbear                                                             +
+     ogre                                                                +
+   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                                                  +
+   "Someone's sticking a red-hot poker up our asses and I wanna know     +
+    whose name's on the handle."                                         +
+                                                - from _Reservoir Dogs_  +

                      DCCXXXII.  Red Herring

  It appears that the party is on the downhill side of some sort of

Otto:  Someone get that door open!
Mongo:  (holding the iron pull-ring that used to be on the door)  Uh...

  There was no doubt about it - something was rolling down the narrow
passage from the way they'd come, heading right for them...

bugbear:  Aaaaaie!
orc:  (hides behind the bugbear)
Parekh:  (frantically working a quick spell)  Damndamndamn.
Mongo:  Everyone DOWN!  (he hefts his hammer)

  Three things then happened, at about the same time.  A thin, round
blade came into view, whizzing down the length of the hall right at
them as it rode a groove in the floor.  Mongo's hammer, hurled with
all his might and over the heads of the ducking adventurers, flew
toward the metallic sawblade.  And Parekh completed her spellcasting,
bringing up a shimmering wall of force about ten feet behind the rear
of the party, between them and the descending blade.

Otto:  Well, shit.

  The hammer, having escaped the area of the party just before Parekh's
wall of force went up, hit the sawblade head-on with a terrible sound
of metal on metal.  The hall's floor shook as the giant round sawblade
was unseated and in fact shattered into fragments.  These pieces then
flew on, toward the party - and bounced off of Parekh's force-field.
The shards of torn metal were huge, heavy, and sharp, and there was no
doubt in anyone's mind that had the wall of force not been in place,
numerous people would have been cut down.

Razor Charlie:  (removes the hand he instinctively put over his face)

  Mongo's hammer, having done its job, sailed back to its master's
hand...only to bounce off of the wall of force, falling to the floor
outside the protective field.

Mongo:  Damn.  Been a while since _that_ happened.
Skektek:  It's gone inert.
Mongo:  (to Parekh)  When does that force-wall come down?  I want
  Stormcrest back.
Parekh:  It comes down whenever I say, but I suggest that we work on
  getting the door open first, and then drop the wall.  Who knows what
  else is waiting to fall on us?
Otto:  A big round boulder, maybe...I feel like I've seen such a trap
  somewhere before...
Bosco:  Or oil...burning oil.
Belphanior:  Okay, let's get that damned door open.  (since there are
  no handles or such on the portal, he casts a spell of knocking)

  Nothing happened.

Belphanior:  Not again.
Neera:  Let me have a look.  I'm thinking it's another puzzle-door.

  While the sage examined the row of runes near the door's top, Otto
and Bosco tried to figure out the nature of the trap...

Otto:  Looks like it rode down the sloped hallway in that groove,
Bosco:  (takes a dagger and begins prying at the floor)  Aha.

  The groove ran the entire length of the hall, right down its center,
a good half-inch wide.  It had been filled with loose dust that hid
it well from casual inspection by those walking over it - but would
not at all impede the downward progress of, say, a huge rolling saw-

Bosco:  (holding clumps of dusty lint in his hand)  Clever.
Otto:  Fuckin' blade must have dropped from the ceiling...right into
  that groove...right into us, if not for the hammer and the magic.
Bosco:  In this narrow hallway, we'd have lost half the party.
Otto:  Question is, why didn't Belphanior detect the trap?
Bosco:  Not all traps are detectable...sometimes they've got cables
  and pulleys and stuff, hidden away, so you - or your spells or
  magic devices - can't sniff them out.
Otto:  True...true.

  Meanwhile, Neera had figured out something about the runes on the

Neera:  This isn't a puzzle to's another warning.
Belphanior:  What does it say?
Neera:  It mentions these "eyes" again...something about how this
  sacred tomb must be kept sealed in order to not unleash the eyes
  upon the world.
Belphanior:  (sighs)  Beholders...I'm sure of it.
Parekh:  They have been known to congregate in large numbers, mostly
  in deep, dark, forgotten places.
Boltar:  It really wouldn't be that impossible for someone to have
  set up a nest, long ago...then sealed it up and let it thrive on
  its own.
Skektek:  Good gods.  There's no telling what such a place would be
  like...or what the things would have evolved into over all that
Mongo:  Well, it's pretty simple:  we've come this far, and we don't
  want to turn back I right?
Belphanior:  You're right.  We just need to be careful.
Mongo:  And we will...when the time comes.  For now, how do we get
  this door open?
Belphanior:  It resisted a knocking spell...hmm.  Bosco, get over
  here and check this door out.
Bosco:  (trots over and scans the portal with his x-ray vision)  Hmm.
Belphanior:  What?
Bosco:  It's not a door at all - not even a false one.  It's just a
  stone wall.
Mongo:  What's on the other side?
Drak:  _Is_ there an other side?
Bosco:  Yep.  This is a false door, though...a metal plate set on top
  of a solid stone slab.  It's about a foot thick, looks like...heck,
  I don't think it opens up at all - it's part of the wall.  (he turns
  to Belphanior)  I'd guess that it was built this way on purpose, to
  be unopenable.  That's why your spell didn't work.  We'll probably
  have to smash through.
Mongo:  That, we can do.
Parekh:  I could melt it with a spell, too.
Mongo:  (nods)  Probably be quicker.
Bosco:  (peering more closely at this stone wall that is mocked up to
  resemble a door)  Wait, now that's odd.
Otto:  What's odd?
Bosco:  There's something inside the wall here.
Belphanior:  Something?  What?
Bosco:  Looks like...pockets.
Mongo:  Pockets?  Like the ones you pick?
Bosco:  Quit acting like such a thief.  No, I mean pockets like empty
  spaces...hollow bubbles _inside_ this door.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Could be a trap.
Parekh:  It's almost certainly a trap...maybe some kind of gas...
Belphanior:  How about this, then:  we'll smash the door down, then
  Skektek torches the passageway - and whatever's in those bubbles -
  with a blast of fire.
Skektek:  Sounds good to me.
Parekh:  (shrugs)
Drak:  (about to volunteer to break the door down, he is interrupted
  by Mongo)
Mongo:  I can handle the smashing-through-the-door part.  (to Parekh)
  Wouldn't want you to waste another spell.
Parekh:  Thanks for your concern.
Mongo:  Of course, you'll need to take down your force-wall so I can
  get my hammer back.
Parekh:  Naturally.  (she looks to Belphanior)  Do you think this is
Belphanior:  (ponders for a moment)  Yep.  If anything else was coming
  down the passage at us, it would have shown up by now.
Parekh:  Very well.  (she goes about cancelling her barrier)
Mongo:  (eyes Stormcrest as it lies there on the floor)  Ahhhh...
Bosco:  (wondering if the hammer will leap back into Mongo's hand)

  After the dwarf had retrieved his weapon, the group prepared to
knock the door down:  Mongo stood about thirty feet back from the
portal, hammer in hand, while Skektek was right next to the dwarf,
preparing to work his magic.  The rest waited behind these two.

Mongo:  Ready?
Skektek:  Let's do it.

  With that, Mongo drew his arm back, then let Stormcrest fly.  The
enchanted hammer hit the false door squarely, smashing through the metal
plate and cracking the stone wall beyond.

Skektek:  (tenses)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  Not more hit should do it.
Skektek:  Right.
Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest again)

  This time, the stone wall broke, revealing a dark area beyond...and
several pockets of black gas that began drifting toward the party!

Mongo:  Whoa.

next:      onward and downward
released:  4/19/01
notes:     As you read this, I'm actually away from work and normal life,
  immersed in Cisco CCNA certification class:  a week of 12-hour days
  followed by the most challenging test I've ever taken.


previous chapter (#731)                                                                  next chapter (#733)