Chapter #735

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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   +
+   the Crimson Blades, a powerful and evil adventuring group:            +
+                                                                         +
+   Chargrim                 archmage                                     +
+     huge invisible demon                                                +
+   Lord Rammstein           warrior                                      +
+     8 fanatical followers                                               +
+   Kalenon                  high priest of Hextor                        +
+     acolyte                                                             +
+   "the elf"                wizard                                       +
+   Sydaar                   master thief                                 +
+   Orgthrok                 dwarven warrior                              +
+   Yorgi                    halfling thief                               +
+   Krom                     hunter                                       +
+   Snake                    assassin                                     +
+   Date:           the week between 3/579 and 4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)   +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          a lost isle amidst the Solnor Ocean                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "You learn a lot about a person when you hunt him."                   +
+                                               - from _Coogan's Bluff_   +

                       DCCXXXV.  Massacre

  Across a large portion of the island, fires still burned, remnants
of the battle and destruction that had just concluded...

Lord Rammstein:  (standing there, his massive gauntleted arms crossed)
  A fine day's work.
Chargrim:  (nods)

  Implanted in the ground before them was a thick, sharpened stake that
had until recently been a tree trunk.  Mounted atop this makeshift pole
was the severed head of an unbelievably massive snake, no less than ten
feet wide.  In life, those jaws could have (and had, in fact) swallowed
people whole.  Now, they were slack, slimy gore still dripping from the
ragged edges where the head had been separated from its body.

Lord Rammstein:  So much for their god.
Orgthrok:  (strolls up, his axe still dripping green blood)  Wonder if
  the damned thing really was a god.
Kalenon:  Just because some primitives can summon forth a giant snake
  does _not_ make it a true god.
Chargrim:  God or not, it no longer matters.

  Nearby, other members of the Crimson Blades took an accounting of the
carnage.  The battlefield - or more properly, the area in which this
battle had taken place - was a scene of utter carnage.  A blackened
crater...a pile of shattered tree remnants...a patch of ice...a gaping
crack in the ground...all of this and more marked the site.  Bodies of
snake-people were everywhere...hacked, crushed, torn, shorn, burnt, and
twisted.  Bodies, pieces of bodies, blood, and gore were strewn about
the landscape as if placed there at the whim of some insane god.  For
the most part, it had been a slaughter.

Yorgi:  Must've been a hundred of these things.  Besides the big one, I
Krom:  Not anymore.  (he sniffs his clawed hands, which are covered in
  green gore)  Ugh.
Yorgi:  What, you don't like snake meat?
Krom:  (growls to himself)
elf:  (descends from above, landing gently on the ground)  None of the
  foes live.
Krom:  Hell, I could've told you that.
elf:  These primitives never stood a chance.
Yorgi:  Too bad about Laryn, eh?
Krom:  Snakes have to eat too.
elf:  (shrugs)  Methinks the power to steal mens' souls with song proved
  useless against giant serpents.
Yorgi:  I for one won't miss her.  Weird bitch.
Sydaar:  (having cleaned her sword, she sheathes it)  Better not let
  Rammstein hear you say that.  He lost four of his followers in this
Yorgi:  I don't see why Kalenon doesn't just raise them all from the
  dead, if it's such a big deal.
Snake:  (regards the halfling, eyes hidden within his cloak's hood)
Yorgi:  Aie!  I didn't even see you walk up.
Snake:  (regards the halfling)
Yorgi:  (mumbling to himself)
Sydaar:  The answer is that Kalenon's magic, worked on wounded or dead,
  requires their fealty to him and his god.
elf:  The dark muse would have never settled for that.
Sydaar:  Eh?
elf:  As for Rammstein's soldiers...he can always find more, and he
  knows it.  Perhaps Hextor chooses not to return those departed souls,
  or perhaps Kalenon chooses not to waste the magic.
Yorgi:  The two of them are in it together...servants of Hextor and all
Sydaar:  That's their business.  Ours - mine anyway - is tracking down
  these clowns and getting this treasure they're after, whatever it may
Yorgi:  (his beady little eyes gleaming)  Treasure!
Krom:  (nods)  And we need to get to it.  The trail grows colder by
  the moment.

  Shortly, the Crimson Blades had regrouped, counted their losses, and
moved on.  The question of bringing any of the dead - warriors or dark
muse - back to life was never raised; it was implicitly understood that
the high priest Kalenon did as his grim god wished, and no more.  The
end result was one less major party member, and nobody had much to say
about it.

  Leaving the carnage behind, the group began following the path that
their quarry had recently taken.  Between the obvious signs, Krom's
tracking ability, and the magical tracking of the coin-token held by
one of the pursued, it was a simple matter for the Blades to find the
entrance to the lost tomb.

Yorgi:  (looking up...and up, and up)  Wow, now that's a door.
Krom:  (kneeling down, he examines the ground)  Someone else thought
  that too.  Tracks are still fresh.
Lord Rammstein:  A big group?
Krom:  Big enough...maybe a dozen.  Some in armor, at least one giant-
  sized.  Typical adventuring party.
Chargrim:  (smirks)  There is no typical adventuring party.
Lord Rammstein:  Wouldn't matter anyway.
Yorgi:  Heh.
Krom:  (eyes the doors, then the ground again)  They opened these
  and went in.
Sydaar:  Then so shall we.

  The huge twin doors of metal, fifty feet high, loomed before the
group.  Their vast surface was covered in dirt, grime, and mold, and
untold years had certainly taken its toll, but yet the portals were

Lord Rammstein:  (eyes the massive pull-rings, set into the doors
  thirty feet above)  Hmm.
Chargrim:  Bah.  We'll be inside in no time.

  Thus it was that the Crimson Blades found and entered the lost tomb
of Panagaea.  And thus it was that the last remnants of a lost race
faded into oblivion, their passing marked not by fanfare but by blood.

  From their hidden perches, above and distant, the bird-people watched
all of this - but didn't dare to interfere.  The demise of the snake-
people was, of course, in the bird-peoples' best interests, but aside
from that, there was the issue of these outlanders with their strange
and terrible magic, their weapons and bloodlust.  The tribe's shaman
had decreed that these new visitors were to be left alone, especially
since it seemed that they were headed for the same forbidden ruins that
the others had vanished into not long ago.

  It was certain that very soon, one way or another, some of these
fearsome outlanders wouldn't be around anymore.  And no matter how it
all turned out, it could only benefit the surviving inhabitants of
the lost isle.

next:      back to the Adventurers, as they open a door they shouldn't
released:  4/30/01
notes:     I PROMISE you that next episode, you will see why the main
  party should not have opened the doors that were covered in warnings
  and sealed by powerful wards.  And I also promise you that what comes
  after will be even better.  This will be one of those story arcs that
  ends and you go "Whoa!"

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