Chapter #734

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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                                                               +
+     bugbear                                                             +
+   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                                                  +
+   "Faith is that faculty in men that enables us to believe things       +
+    that we know are untrue."                                            +
+                                              - from _Nosferatu_ (1979)  +

                      DCCXXXIV.  Final Warning

  After passing through a crypt and then an antechamber, the adventurers
have entered a colossal hall fashioned entirely of precious metals and
other materials!

Belphanior:  Damn...
Bosco:  (his eyes rolled back, he mumbles in ecstasy)
Mongo:  Don't need any piles of treasure...we could just take this place
Gorgo:  Us and an army...
Otto:  You realize it's more than we could ever carry out of here...
Gorgo:  Doesn't mean we can't try.
Parekh:  It's almost too good to be true.
Neera:  And it doesn't make any it could be this clean, with
  all of those years having passed...not that I'd know anything about
Boltar:  Anything that seems too good to be true...probably is.  (he
  works a spell known only to the highest-ranking of Pholtus' priests)

  A pale light began to emanate from the high priest's fingers. It
quickly grew, bathing the surrounding area in its glow.

Boltar:  Let Pholtus' all-seeing eyes guide us...

  A most incredible thing happened then. Wherever the priest's light
touched, a change was wrought!  The floor of gold became flat, dusty
stone under that intricate ivory column was dull grey rock...
and so on.

Mongo:  What the hell?!?
Gorgo:  He's making the treasure go away!  Stop!
Belphanior:  (shaking his head) It's not real.
Parekh:  Indeed.
Otto:  An illusion?
Belphanior:  It would seem...and a powerful one at that.  Very powerful.
  My eye didn't detect it at all.
Parekh:  Nor my senses...
Belphanior:  (wondering if Alindyar would have spotted the deception)

  The great vast hall, at first appearing as a wondrous sight of epic
proportions, was now revealed for what it truly was: a huge, grey,
empty chamber.  The size, layout and structure were still the same -
columns, sunken floor, and all - but there was no gold, no precious
stone, no intricate carvings.

Bosco:  Wah!
Mongo:  I'm sad.
Jutokai:  I think we're all sad.
Bosco:  Especially me.
Drak:  Just what's going on here?
Neera:  I'd say that someone preserved the grandeur of the lost empire,
  with an illusion.
Parekh:  Why go to all that trouble? Unless...
Otto:  Unless they wanted to fool people.
Belphanior:  Or mislead them.
Mongo:  But what would have happened if we'd started smashing up the
  floor and walls and taking the loot - the fake loot?
Parekh:  That depends on the illusion.
Otto:  I'd suspect a trap.
Belphanior:  And if my eye couldn't see through the illusion, it won't
  spot the trap, I'm guessing.
Neera:  (regarding the room ahead, nervously)
Otto:  Only one way to find out...
Belphanior:  Yep. (he turns to the ghoul and the bugbear)  Fan out and
  explore this area.

  The amazing thing was that they did - and lived.  No traps sprung on
the summoned minions as they moved through the great hall, directed so
that they followed the most likely courses from the entry end to the
far end.

Belphanior:  Hmm.
Mongo:  Do we go on ahead?
Belphanior:  Yeah, but first...I want to summon some more help.

  While the elf opened the Book of Beasts and began his incantations,
and the two existing summoned monsters waited at the far end of the
chamber, some of the others got to idle chatter...

Zhao:  ...boring.
Ys:  What did you expect?  This is no live dungeon, inhabited and oft-
  patrolled, but rather a long-dead tomb with a few traps, some long-
  dead guardians, and little more.  Whatever grandeur this tomb once long-gone now.
Skektek:  Agreed, but you've still got to wonder what's at its end.
Jutokai:  If there is an end.
Ys:  I think the end is near.  This illusory hall is not a trick to
  be placed lightly...something of value or power must be close.
Zhao:  I hope so.
Razor Charlie:  (just grunts)

  As there were no traps or foes in this place - only a nagging feeling
of loss after the illusion was revealed - the adventurers had nothing to
do but bide their time until Belphanior was ready...

Belphanior:  (surveying the newly-summoned reinforcements, he nods, not
  displeased)  Ah.

  The party's ranks were now stronger by four...

minotaur:  (looks around, snorting, a gigantic axe held easily on one
  hairy hand)  Grrrr.
ogre mage:  (looks warily at the party)
giant horned beetle:  (wondering in its all-but-nonexistent mind where
  it is and why)  Clk.
big black pudding:  (just sits there)

Parekh:  Well, now, that's quite a crew.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  We're going to need them.
Drak:  You think so?
Belphanior:  I just have a hunch.

  With the party thus bolstered, the elf felt ready to head across the
vast hall and ponder its huge exit doors.  The new monsters were forced
to obey Belphanior's orders, thanks to the power of the Book of Beasts,
but there was no guarantee that they would get along with each other.
It was necessary to command them repeatedly, to keep them in line, and
even so, the ghoul nearly got eaten by the black pudding after failing
to get out of its way.

Otto:  This is one fucked-up crew.
Zhao:  (clearly disgusted at having to ally with such monsters)  Let
  there be battle ahead.
Gorgo:  Now yer talking...

  The group went through its usual procedure to check the doors, finding
no obvious traps - but there were some more runes that Neera didn't like
the look of...

Neera:  Do you remember those other runes I deciphered earlier, the ones
  that spoke of "eyes" that would be unleashed upon the world by entering
  this tomb?
Belphanior:  Yeah...
Neera:  Well, it looks like this door is the final barrier between these
  eyes and us...and the final warning.
Otto:  What exactly does it say there?
Neera:  (studying the markings on the doors)  The gist of it is that none
  were meant to advance further.
Mongo:  Hah.  Like that's gonna stop us.
Belphanior:  We're adventurers...explorers.  That's what we do.  (he looks
  at the bugbear and the minotaur)  Get that door open, now.  We're going

next:      a look back to see how the Crimson Blades are faring
released:  4/26/01
notes:     Nah.

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