Chapter #764

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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   +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Deryck          11th level half-elven ranger                          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+     Zephyr        large tiger                                           +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+   Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard           +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+                                                                         +
+   Boltar                     human priest of Pholtus                    +
+   Derider Fanshaen           female human priestess of Pelor            +
+   Sir Drexel                 human paladin of Heironeous                +
+     Limbor                   elven wizard/priest                        +
+   Eyer                       wood elven fighter/acrobat                 +
+     Baltek                   elven archer                               +
+   Jerome Kasinskaia          human priest of Rao                        +
+     Reptar                   lizardman fighter                          +
+   Pallin                     grey elven wizard                          +
+     Socrates                 large albino hound                         +
+   St. Wilhelm                human fighter/priest of St. Cuthbert       +
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          the Fortress of the Nine                              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "I hold it to be the inalienable right of anybody to go to hell       +
+    in his own way."                                                     +
+                                                           Robert Frost  +

                      DCCLXIV.  Incursion

  With the powerful magic of the elven wizard Pallin, the champions now
make ready to enter the fortress...

Pallin:  Prepare yourselves.

  Again, they experienced the strange sensation of one of Celestian's
transport spells.  This time, however, the outcome was different...

Mongo:  (looking around)  We didn't go anywhere.
Pallin:  (looking fairly confused)  What...?
Alindyar:  Perhaps the fortress' protections are not so trivial after
Pallin:  (speaking in a hushed tone)  This cannot destination
  can elude mighty Celestian...
Peyote:  One just did, dude.
Sir Drexel:  Sorry, friend, but we'll have to find another way in.
Nenya:  We already have.  The scouts that Deryck and I employed spoke
  of a possible open cavern entrance, high up on the face of the mountain,
  well above the fortress' main gate.
Halbarad:  (hefting his battleaxe)  Sounds good to me.
Rob:  (to Pallin)  Can you transport us all up there - by air, not through
  solid rock - or do we have to all fly on our own?
Pallin:  (still in some state of shock that his god's spell failed)  I...
  can take us all up there.  Yes.  (he begins working another spell)

  Shortly, just like that, the entire party was whisked into the air at
a rapid rate of speed.

Mongo:  Ulp.
Boltar:  Won't everyone spot us up here?
Alindyar:  Nay.  I have masked us with an illusion.
Sir Drexel:  Good work.
Alindyar:  (casts a sidelong glance at the paladin)  I always do good
Peyote:  (looking around as they move higher and higher)  Are we there

  Soon, after rising above all of the carnage below - carnage that they
couldn't get involved with due to the importance of their mission - the
champions saw a large cavern mouth ahead.  It was sloped and set back in
the mountainside such that those on the ground below couldn't spot it.
This opening was a good hundred feet high and at least twice that wide,
and a huge cavern could be seen beyond.

  As they neared this opening, moving upward from beneath its lip, there
was a tremendous WHOOSH of hot air, as a gigantic red form shot out from
the cavern above!  Great leathery wings flapped, driving the monstrous
beast up and away.  Those with the better eyesight could make out a rider
astride the thing's back, tied tightly in a black saddle.

Sir Drexel:  By Heironeous - a dragon!
Peyote:  It sure was, dude...and a damn big one at that.
Mongo:  (to Halbarad)  It didn't even notice us.
Halbarad:  (points to the battle below)  It probably has other concerns.
Boltar:  We should go down there and help them.
Jerome:  Impossible.  They have their problems, and we have ours - which
  is to get into this place and seek out the evil ones.
Rob:  (nods)  True.  Those below will have to deal with the dragon.  Our
  mission lies...up there.
Pallin:  With the dragon gone...let us resume our ascent.  (he gestures,
  making that very action take place once more)

  Just as they neared this opening, mere moments from landing within, the
unthinkable happened:  the flying spell that ferried them along through
the air simply failed.  Suddenly and without warning, all twenty of them
(Halbarad had not yet summoned Zephyr) were plunging down toward the
steeply-angled side of the mountain, below the cavern entrance!

  These, however, were no novice adventurers.  Less than half of them
fell at all, such were the automatic activations of feather falling or
flying spells or items.  As for the rest, the ever-silent Limbor had
that under control...

Limbor:  (almost instantly, he brings into being a gigantic purple net
  beneath everyone, catching those who are falling)
Sir Drexel:  (caught in the net)  How humiliating.  Someone will pay for
Alindyar:  (concentrating)  That would be us, had I not masked this
  entire incident with my illusions.

  Soon, they had regrouped on a now-crowded ledge about fifty feet under
the cavern mouth.

Pallin:  I do not understand...this spell failed as well...
Deryck:  I guess this just isn't your day.
Jerome Kasinskaia:  A more plausible explanation would be that some
  strong magic bars the way above.
Peyote:  That's not good, dude.
Jerome Kasinskaia:  No, it isn't.  (he begins working a spell)

  As the patriarch of Rao continued his magic, a light blue glow appeared
before the cavern mouth above.  The elderly priest set his jaw, but never
relented in his spellcasting.  The blue aura became brighter, and a low
humming started as well.  The very side of the mountain shook, slightly
but ominously, and small chunks of rock fell from above.
  And then, with a loud CRACK and a bright flash of blue light, the unseen
barrier was gone.

Jerome Kasinskaia:  (visibly weary)  Whew.  That was a tough one.
Deryck:  We must proceed, but with caution.
Halbarad:  We need to hurry, and seize whatever's left of the element
  of surprise.  Especially before that dragon returns.
Boltar:  Say no more.  (he flies upward and over the cavern's lip)
Derider:  Somewhat impudent, that one.

  Flying or being flown, the others rose to join Boltar in the cavern...
and it was a big one.

Mongo:  (whistles)  This place must be a thousand feet across...
Eyer:  (peering upward)  And almost that high.

  Wicked stalactites, many of them fifty feet long, hung from the roof
far above.  The floor, by contrast, was smooth and level, free of any for the vast quantities of treasure that had been made
into piles, here and there.  There were a half-dozen such piles, each
the size of a house; each held countless coins, with other sorts of
valuables scattered within.
  It was uncomfortably hot in the entire cavern despite no apparent
source of heat, and already they were sweating profusely.

Eyer:  Well, this is definitely the red dragon's lair.
Baltek:  That could be bad.
Halbarad:  Only if we stand around here talking about it until it comes
Sir Drexel:  But then I would sense its presence-
Halbarad:  That's not the point.
Rob:  He's right.  We should get moving...find out if this cavern holds
  any pathway down into the fortress proper.
Eyer:  (eyeing the huge piles of treasure)
Sir Drexel:  Time enough for that later, old friend.
Eyer:  (looking around innocently)  What do you take me for, a Bosco?
Sir Drexel:  I have never met this Bosco, but the tales of him seemingly
  have no end.
Halbarad:  (having little patience for delay, he summons Zephyr using
  his magical figurine)  Find us an exit, and quickly.
Zephyr:  Rrrrr.  (he bounds away)

  Due to the size of the cavern, it took them a good while to find the
exit (besides the huge one they'd come in through.)  Nestled back on
the opposite side of the chamber from the large opening was a small iron
door whose face bore a great crimson sigil...

Derider Fanshaen:  Now _that_ is one nasty glyph of warding.
Sir Drexel:  We can erase it, right?
Derider:  Let's find out.
Mongo:  (to Eyer)  Why not just use my hammer to smash the door in?
Eyer:  The glyph might very well have a backlash that would come back
  at the one who disturbed it - in this case, you.
Mongo:  Oh.  (he looks around)  I knew there was a reason to have all
  these priests and wizards around.
Eyer:  They do come in handy.

  Derider's attempt to do away with the magical protection didn't prove

Derider:  (struck suddenly by an arc of black fire, she sails backward
  twenty feet and lands hard on the floor)  Aie!
Boltar:  (quickly rushes to her aid)
Mongo:  (eyeing the door, which glows with the same black fire)  Somebody
  isn't fucking around here.
Sir Drexel:  Well and truly.  (he turns to Jerome Kasinskaia)  Perhaps
  the magic of a patriarch...?
Jerome:  I can give it a crack-
Mongo:  Why not just smash the door down by force, from afar?
Sir Drexel:  With all due respect, that door bears magical traps - I
  suggest that we allow the priests to work their magic-
Mongo:  (draws his arm back, then hurls Stormcrest in the direction of
  the door)

  The mighty hammer struck the rock a few feet to the left of the portal,
shattering a large part of the wall and opening a gap that exposed a
smaller room beyond.

Sir Drexel:  (wide-eyed)  Well, I guess that settles that.
Mongo:  (to Halbarad)  Let's go.
Halbarad:  (nods)

  By default, Halbarad and Eyer were the party's front rank, but Mongo
joined them, ready to provide some heavy fighting power if - when - that
became necessary.  The trio led the way through the shattered section of
wall, followed by the others.

next:      the first real opposition
released:  11/8/01
notes:     As I prepare this one for release, more than five-sixths of
  the "Fortress of the Nine" accessory is completed.  It's a toss-up
  between releasing stories featuring the fortress before you have its
  specs in your hands, versus making you wait for new episodes until I
  finally finish the fortress.  See, I really have your best interests
  at heart.

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