Chapter #767

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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                                                  +
+   "A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect        +
+    plan next week."                                                     +
+                                                    - George S. Patton   +

                 DCCLXVII.  From Light Into Darkness

  Belphanior and company rode away from the scene of the confrontation,
a steady stream of curses following them but growing fainter with each
passing moment...

Sarlak:  (sitting in the middle of the road, tied up in a gigantic
  bundle along with his dozen companions)  You'll pay for this!  I
  mean it!  I- I'll find you someday!

  Almost out of earshot...

Belphanior:  (sighs)  It never ends, does it?
Otto:  Was that wise?
Belphanior:  Leaving him alive?  The man's no warrior.  I don't think
  he's even _seen_ a battle before.  Did you notice how he crapped his
  pants when I pointed the wand at him?
Otto:  Well, there is that.
Belphanior:  I don't want to rob some mother of all her children.  That
  man has no business being out in the world, hunting for revenge.  And
  even if he breaks free sometime soon and pursues us, he won't find
  us.  I'm about to use the scroll to take us far from here.
Ys:  (eyeing the trail behind them)  That poor, misguided man.  He
  seemed like a nice enough fellow.
Razor Charlie:  In over his head, if you ask me.
Belphanior:  I consider the whole affair to be a joke, and you should
  too.  (eyeing a nearby copse of low trees, he points)  There.

  As they spurred their horses toward the trees, the elf glanced once
again at the mysterious scroll, a gift from the demon lord.  The item
had the power to transport the five of them to some faraway, dangerous
place.  Belphanior didn't like it, but he had no choice.  Besides, he
still had a bone to pick with the lich Xusia.

Otto:  (watching the just-freed horses as they gallop back in the
  direction of Greyhawk)  That always seems to happen.
Ys:  Surely we have been responsible for the freeing of more horses
  than anyone else around.
Belphanior:  Everyone ready?
Skektek:  As long as we don't have to hold hands.
Belphanior:  That won't be necessary.  (he begins reading the scroll,
  voicing the strange, arcane syllables laid down within)

  A vertical black line, ten feet in height, appeared next to the elf.
In the blink of an eye, it had widened into a square-shaped portal to
some other place.  The fading light of late afternoon could be seen
through the gateway, suggesting that the place on the other side lay
far to the north.

Belphanior:  Probably the mountains or plains near the fortress...let's

  They made haste, for the portal shimmered and shook as if it would
collapse at any time.  In fact, mere moments after they'd gone through
it, emerging into a mountainous pass, the portal folded up on itself
and vanished.

Belphanior:  (looking around)  Well, I'd say we've found the fortress.

  They stood in a small niche within a neighboring mountain, easily able
to look down upon the northern tip of the swampland far below - as well
as the small city that lay at the foot of an ominous-looking fortress
carved from the very mountain itself.

Otto:  So that's the place.
Skektek:  What now?
Belphanior:  We wait.  The second part of this scroll should complete
  our journey...but I'd prefer to wait until there's some sign of an
  attack by others.  After all, distractions can only aid our own cause
Ys:  You are using other parties to further your own plans of attack.
Belphanior:  Bet on it.  These things aren't won by honesty and fair
Razor Charlie:  Night'll fall soon.  We should make camp.

  They did, and although it was cold, they were in an out-of-the-way
place, safe from roaming beasts native to these parts.  One of them
stayed up to keep watch at any given time, but nothing happened over
the course of the night.  In the morning, they ate, stretched, and
then began a final check of their weapons, armor, spells, magical
items, or whatever.

Belphanior:  Something's going to happen soon...I just know it.

  The elf was right, though it was almost midday when the activity
began below:  huge numbers of soldiers appeared as if from nowhere,
clearly there to attack the fortress.  It didn't take long for a
horde of defenders to emerge from that place, as well as the city,
and battle was soon joined.

Belphanior:  That's our cue.  Let's go.  (he begins reading the words
  of power on the scroll)

  Another vertical black line appeared, widening into a square portal.
this time, whatever lay beyond was a dark and gloomy place, probably
a large cavern.  The effect of seeing a ten-foot square swath of this,
amidst the backdrop of a sunny spring day, was unsettling.

Skektek:  Whoa.
Belphanior:  Go!  Quickly!  The portal won't stay open for long!
Ys:  Say no more.  (drawing his sword, he heads through the portal)

  The others quickly followed, Belphanior going last and leaping through
only moments before the gateway folded in on itself.  A passing bird,
distracted by the presence and then disappearance of the portal, flew
headfirst into a tree, fluttering to the ground in a daze.


Ys:  (looking around)  We need light.
Belphanior:  (casts a spell of light on a torch, holding it up)  Well,
  I'll be damned.  It's the Underdark.

  The elf was right: they now stood within a long, cavernous passage that
resembled a fissure, except upside-down with the open end at ground level.
It stretched away to either side, much farther than their eyes could see.

Belphanior:  Okay, then.  Now what?
Otto:  I'd say a certain demon is having a good laugh at our expense right
  about now.
Belphanior:  (sighs)
Ys:  (to Belphanior)  Your scroll is glowing.
Belphanior:  Eh?

  It was true.  Even as the elf regarded the parchment, it began to fume
and smolder, right there in his hands.  He dropped it just as it ignited,
forming an arrow of pale green flame that pointed to their left, in one
of the two unknown directions.

Skektek:  Interesting.

  The fire-arrow only hovered there for a moment or two...and then it
broke up into bits of green mist.

Belphanior:  Well, there's our answer.
Otto:  I wonder how far it'll be?
Belphanior:  Hopefully not far at all.  My guess is that our ally prefers
  that we get there and attack as soon as possible.
Skektek:  Yeah, I'll just bet.
Belphanior:  (working a spell, he takes to the air)  We're going to try
  something different this time.  I'll fly ahead and scout, without light,
  using my magical glass eye and my sword's power of sniffing out souls.
  The rest of you proceed on foot.  If I find anything of note, I'll come
  back and warn you.
Skektek:  I can fly now, too - let me go.  My magical power-
Belphanior:  -is best used here, with the others, in case someone or
  something comes from the other direction.  Besides, I need darkness for
  cover, and you can't see in darkness.
Skektek:  (realizes that his focus on destructive magic has robbed him of
  the ability to learn other useful spells)  Hmm.
Otto:  We'll be fine.
Skektek:  But there are only five of us - four, once Belphanior goes.
  Maybe we should have recruited more allies...real ones, I mean, not
  summoned ones.
Belphanior:  Our lives will be on the line; I don't trust strangers any
  more than summoned monsters in such situations.
Ys:  This debate is irrelevant now, in any case.
Belphanior:  Agreed.

  Without another word, the elf took to the air, quickly vanishing into
the darkness ahead.  Soon, he had moved far enough and turned enough
corners to leave the party's light behind him, and his ultravision took
over, the cool stone showing up as dark tones.  Actually, he only needed
the night-vision to avoid flying into the cavern's walls or ceilings;
the true thing he sought, his sword would alert him to.
  However, it was not to be, not this time.  After only a couple minutes
of flight, he came to a narrowed section of the cavern which ended in a
pair of massive iron doors.  These were 30' wide and 15' high, and even
from afar, the elf's crystalline eye detected several protective spells
placed upon the portal.  Whatever the best action might have been, this
clearly wasn't the right time for it, so Belphanior turned back and flew
away to rejoin his team.
  A short time later, the elf was alarmed to find no sign of the others!
Before he could ponder this mystery, he heard the sounds of someone
approaching from the other direction.  Belphanior knew that it couldn't
be his own allies - they'd never make this much noise - so he readied his
wand of acidic spheres and took cover behind a stalactite, fifty feet
above the cavern floor.

  Eventually, the source of the noise lumbered around a bend and into
view:  a small two-wagon caravan.  It was pulled by a team of four giant
spiders, harnessed together in front of the wagons.  A total of four
dark elves were present, two on each wagon; the wagons were uncovered
and appeared to be loaded with supplies.
  The drow did not seem to be aware of Belphanior's presence.  He was
in the process of planning the best course of action when one of the
drow below convulsed, clutching his neck, in which a bolt was buried.
A moment later, another dark elf fell from that same wagon, scurrying
for cover, a throwing knife in his shoulder and another in his leg.
The lead wagon then exploded in a blast of flame, throwing the other
two drow to the ground as wagon and harnessed spiders burned fiercely,
the latter quickly withering and dying.

Ys:  (hurls a huge rock at the drow, clipping one and knocking him to
  the ground)
drow #4:  (frantically working a spell)

  This seemed as good a time as any to act, so Belphanior swooped down,
launching a globe of acid at the sole unharmed dark elf.  The falling
missile scored a direct hit, ruining the other's spell and causing him
to claw at his dissolving face and hair.

drow #2:  (launches a volley of flaming arrows at Belphanior)
Belphanior:  (pelted in midair)  Argh!  Ungh!
Otto:  (fires another bolt, hitting the foe in the back of the head)
drow #2:  (falls, the potent poison seeping directly into his brain)
drow #3:  (staggers to his feet, one shoulder broken from the hurled
  rock, and launches a web at Ys)

  The huge reptilian barely had to sidestep, for the dark elf's aim was
off, and the web fell wide.

Ys:  Hah.
drow #3:  (trying to work another spell)
Belphanior:  (lands behind the foe and stabs him in the back, a clean
  killing blow)  Ahhhhhhhh.  (he feels the wounds from the flame-arrows
  heal and close)  Yesss.
Skektek:  Is that all of them?
Razor Charlie:  (checking drow #2)  Dead for sure.
Otto:  They all are.
Belphanior:  Good work.  How'd you know I was headed back?  Or did you?
Otto:  We didn't.  I heard some noise- (he jerks a thumb in the
  direction that the wagons came from) -and decided that we should
  make a quick ambush plan and then take cover.
Belphanior:  (looks around)  Good job.
Otto:  (smirks)  I do have some experience with such things.
Belphanior:  What kind of poison are you using, anyway?  It worked
  damn fast.
Otto:  It's good stuff - the deadliest.  Cost a pretty penny, too.
Skektek:  How come the big spiders there, the ones they're using as
  horses, aren't attacking us?
Belphanior:  Probably well-trained.  I've heard of such things.
Ys:  (gathering bodies, as Razor Charlie collects the knives he threw)
  What now?
Belphanior:  First, I'll put out that burning wagon.  Then we can stash
  the bodies...or...hmm.  Yeah...
Otto:  What?
Belphanior:  (eyeing the other, intact wagon)  I think we can turn this
  to our advantage.

next:      hell comes a-knocking
released:  11/21/01
notes:     Nah.

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