Chapter #766

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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      15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Otto          10th/12th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie 10th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       13th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            14th level reptilian fighter                          +
+   Date:           4/26/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the plains a half-day's ride outside Greyhawk         +
+   Climate:        cool                                                  +
+   "You understand that this mission does not exist, nor will it         +
+    ever exist."                                                         +
+                                - Colonel Lucas, from _Apocalypse Now_   +

                      DCCLXVI.  Second Front

  Belphanior and the remains of his crew have made a hasty departure
from Greyhawk...

Skektek:  (fiddling with his horse's reins)  Mind telling us why we had
  to leave like that?  It's not every day that you're told to get what-
  ever supplies you need for a long trip, gather all your stuff, and be
  ready to leave town within the hour.
Belphanior:  Two reasons.  One, someone was nosing around looking for me.
  Two, the demon lord contacted me this morning and told me what I need
  to know.
Skektek:  Hmm.  Those are pretty good reasons.
Otto:  So what's up?  What's the story?
Belphanior:  We're invading the fortress, but not in any conventional
Skektek:  Sounds good so far.
Otto:  What's the angle here?
Belphanior:  We're going in via an entrance they'd never suspect anyone
  to try entrance that our opposing demon lord "ally" knows
  about and will send us to.  Or, should I say, has given me a scroll
  which I will use to send us to.
Ys:  The demon lord appeared and handed you a scroll?  When did this
Belphanior:  This morning.  He was quiet as a mouse - actually used a
  messenger, or should I say, a minor demon.  I don't think that demon
  lords can show up on this plane without attracting a lot of attention.
Razor Charlie:  (thinking of the chaos that would result if a demon lord
  walked the streets of Greyhawk, he smirks)
Skektek:  So that's it?  We use this scroll, go there, and break in the
  back door?
Belphanior:  Yep.
Otto:  Just the five of us?
Belphanior:  Not quite.  There will have to be allies.  I've gone through
  the spellbooks of Vybool and Klark, which provided some new spells as
  well as some unique ones.  One of those can summon a score or so of
  animated fighting statues.  On top of that, I've still got the Book of
  Beasts to get us more help.
Otto:  We need Angus.
Belphanior:  Impossible, at least right now.
Skektek:  Isn't Rob's group already on their way to attack, too?
Belphanior:  They are, and I figure they'll do it in the next day or
  two...hard to say for sure.  I'm thinking we should get to the area
  of the fortress and then just watch and wait for the right time to
  make our move.  In fact, the scroll's magic comes in two parts, the
  first to get us near the place, and the second to use this secret
  way in.
Skektek:  Someone was thinking ahead.
Otto:  Sounds good...we scout, wait, then at the right time...act!
Ys:  But are we ready for such a task?
Belphanior:  I think so.

  To be sure, the elf had gained some powerful items from the recent
foray into the Tomb of Panagaea.  Belphanior now carried a ruby skull
that doubled the number of spells he could cast each day - a mighty
asset indeed.  Another item gained from that ancient place, the small
teardrop-shaped crystal, had vanished, its magic worked on the elf,
his power bolstered.  As a last-ditch escape route, Belphanior had
ventured into a secret, safe location in Greyhawk and set up one of
the pair of magical silver strings.  The other one was still on his
person, and if the group needed a fast escape, he could make a loop
of the second string, opening a gateway to the first through which
they could retreat.
  The elf also had his usual fantastic arsenal:  the soul-sucking
sword Blackrazor, bracers of defense, a belt of strength, gemstones
to ward against poison and wounds, an amulet to ward against undead
attacks, and a couple of wands.  There were also the unusual but
potentially useful items such as Kronos' hourglass, the cube of
force, the crystal eye, and the iron flask.
  Otto wore magical leather armor and had rings of protection and
regeneration.  He had a necklace that allowed him to adapt and
survive underwater or in poisonous gases, and his boots gave him
the ability to make great leaps.  Otto fought with a speedy short-
sword and a barbed knife, or else from a distance with an enchanted
crossbow.  He carried a tiny but powerful lesser artifact that could
magically lock all nearby doors, and marbles that turned into great
volumes of water if thrown at a hard surface.
  Razor Charlie had always worn magical leather armor, but his new
chain mail offered more protection while weighing the same - highly
useful no matter what the adventure.  In addition to his various
magical throwing knives and amulet that warded away vampires, he
now wore the Panagaean amulet that conferred wondrous regenerative
magic.  In order to ensure his safety in a melee, Razor Charlie
had borrowed one of Belphanior's spare swords, the broadsword that
had been carried by Omak until his death.  Charlie liked the heft
of this weapon and had been grateful for its use.  He also stocked
up on flasks of oil, rags, candles, and tinder - clearly with some
fiery plan in mind.
  Skektek wore, as always, his magical robes.  He'd opted to swap
his old protective ring for the new one gained in Panagaea, which
granted him the power to fly.  The logic was that he'd be safer
in the air, and anyway, his boots of levitating had been ruined in
the final battle within the tomb.  Besides his great destructive
magic, he also had the power of the thunder ring.  His wand of fire
was now augmented by a new defensive one, the wand of walls.
  Ys had gained, or at least was now using, the fewest number of
new weapons and items.  He still wore his dark red, magical leather
armor; the gigantic greatsword was still sheathed on his back.  He
did have a simple but powerful wooden spoon, but its purifying
effects were of dubious use where the party was headed.

Ys:  (holds up the old spoon in one hand, and his huge sword in the
  other)  I pronounce myself ready for battle.
Skektek:  Heh.
Otto:  Where...what exactly is this other entrance to the fortress?
  I'm asking because such things aren't always what they seem...
Belphanior:  (nods)  Especially when presented by a demon.  I know.
  We'll take extra precautions.
Skektek:  There'll be a lot of undead.  We could use a priest.
Belphanior:  Tried that, didn't work.  We'll make do with fire and
Skektek: of fire.
Otto:  (wondering what sort of alternate entrance such a fortress
  would have)  Sewer?  Secret escape passage?  Traitor in their midst?
Belphanior:  We'll soon know.
Razor Charlie:  But not yet.  (he nods toward the east)  Riders.
Belphanior:  Yeah, I see them.

  As the unknown riders neared, the adventurers were the perfect
image of calm and collected:  they simply sat on their horses,
making small preparations to be ready, just in case.  The group
that approached was a dozen in number, with one who was clearly
the leader.

man:  (nudges his horse forward, as the others stay back about
  forty feet)  It has been a long time, Belphanior.
Belphanior:  Who the hell are you?

  The man was tall and thin, with dark skin and hawklike features.
He didn't look like the sort who rode around a lot, much less in
the outdoors.

man:  I am Sarlak.
Belphanior:  Never heard of you.
Sarlak:  Perhaps you heard of Sarnath...and then Sarquay?
Belphanior:  (puzzled)  Hmm, those names sound vaguely familiar...
Sarlak:  (shakes a fist in the air)  They should...because you
  killed them!  My brothers are dead, and I've spent years and
  all my life's savings looking for you!  And now you'll pay!

next:      Sarlak takes his chances
released:  11/21/01
notes:     None, really.  This episode will kick off the _other_ attack
  on the fortress, that of Belphanior.  I'll stick with this til they're
  inside, then probably rotate 2-episode arcs between the two invading

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