Chapter #768

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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:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          somewhere in the Underdark                            +
+   Climate:        cool and dry                                          +
+   "Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake."      +
+                       - Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower, chessmaster  +

               DCCLXVIII.  Incursion from the Underdark

  After destroying a drow caravan, Belphanior and company have come up
with a way to turn things to their advantage.

Belphanior:  (stands back, admiring the group's quick work)  Excellent.

  The one wagon that was intact, as well as its team of spiders, now
carried two drow corpses in the drivers' bench.  These had been wiped
of blood and propped up in lifelike positions.  Behind them, covered
by a tarp, was the place where Belphanior would hide and ply his magic
of ventriloquism.

Otto:  Won't they sense your presence there, or at least the magic
  you'll use to project the voice?
Belphanior:  Drow _are_ magic.  This won't arouse any suspicions.  The
  key will be to attack swiftly and decisively once they open that door.
  By the time we're close enough for them to see that something is amiss,
  it'll be over for them.

  Ys would walk alongside the wagon, shackled in some chains and manacles
that they'd found while searching the caravan's cargo.  His posing as a
captive would add realism to the deception.  Otto would hide beneath the
wagon, holding onto the bottom of its frame, concealed from casual view.
Skektek's role would be that of the nasty surprise; he would fly high
above, in the shadows at the passage's ceiling, ready to attack with
spells when the moment was right.  This left Razor Charlie, who would
be invisible thanks to a borrowed potion, to sneak along the cavern
wall toward the doors.  Once there he would hide, off to one side, and
wait for Belphanior and the others to make their move.

  The second wagon - as well as its spiders - had been burned beyond
recognition.  Time was of the essence; the adventurers had to get their
ploy moving and reach the doors before someone - guards, scouts, other
underworld merchants - came along and found the evidence of battle.

Belphanior:  Let's roll.

  The spiders were slow but steady wagon-pullers, and Belphanior guided
them with an extra rein he'd run under the others, right to the place
where he hid, behind the false wagon-drivers.  In less than half an hour,
the wagon drew within sight of the double doors.  They had been wondering
whether they would need to knock, but apparently they were expected.  One
of the doors opened slightly, and two dark elves emerged, eyeing the
small caravan.

drow #1:  (speaking in the dark elf tongue, which Belphanior currently
  understands thanks to a spell cast a short while ago)  A minuscule
Belphanior:  (speaking from concealment, using a spell of ventriloquism)
  Aye.  It's been a slow week.
drow #2:  (eyeing the captive reptilian, who is slouched and staggering
  along as if badly fatigued)  Eh?  No lizard man, this.
Belphanior:  A new slave.  We seek to sell him.
drow #1:  He looks like a hardy one, friend.

  The two drow seemed amused at this, and walked a bit further toward
the wagon.

drow #2:  (eyeing the dark elves who sit in the wagon, the reins in their
Belphanior:  (nonchalantly)  It's been a long day.

  This phrase was the agreed-on signal for attack, the others having been
told to listen for the dark elven words.  Now that those words had been
spoken, things happened quickly and efficiently.  Otto, hiding beneath
the wagon, fired a bolt from his crossbow, hitting one of the dark elves
in the knee and taking him down.  From the other direction, the invisible
Razor Charlie threw two knives; he was unable to miss at this range, and
the other dark elf fell, writhing in pain.  This tactic had not only
surprised the foes but also avoided risk of their magical resistance
preventing successful attacks.

drow #2:  (dying from Otto's poisoned bolt)
Ys:  (stands straight, lurching forward)
drow #1:  (trying to work a spell, he looks up in time to see the massive
  scaled fist descend)  Aie!  <CRACK>
Ys:  (stands back, regarding the slain foe)  I _am_ a hardy one...friend.
Belphanior:  (silently points to the double doors)
Skektek:  (descends from above, his wand trained on the portal)
Razor Charlie:  (counting on Otto to collect the two knives he threw, he
  takes another sip of invisibility potion and moves through the doors)

  The sizable cavern beyond contained several empty wagons and harnesses
like those of the giant spiders, as well as some crates and ropes.  At
the far end was another pair of huge doors.  Scattered about the cavern,
amidst the supplies, were more than a dozen large, tubular fungi.

Razor Charlie:  Hmph.

  Already, the fungi had begun to wobble back and forth, quite obviously
agitated.  Razor Charlie didn't know how they could detect him, as he was
invisible, so he waited.

Skektek:  (slowly, cautiously flies through the door)
Belphanior:  (swoops in, around Skektek, spellcasting in a hurry)  Burn
  them - burn them all, now!

  The elf completed whatever spell he was working, just as Skektek began
cutting loose with his wand of fire.  It was too late, though - the fungi
were now wailing, loud and piercing shrieks that hurt the ears and would
surely alert those beyond this chamber.

Belphanior:  Damned shriekers!  (he lands near one of the things, slicing
  it in two with his sword)
Skektek:  (spraying the things with streams of fire, he works quickly)
Ys:  (enters the cavern, assessing the situation)  There is fungus among
  us.  (he charges the nearest of the fungi, his huge sword slicing first
  one and then another apart)

  It didn't take long to destroy all of the shriekers, but their wailing
had gone on for far too long.

Skektek:  Damn.  I should have fireballed the lot of 'em right away.
Ys:  The other foes surely know of our presence now.
Belphanior:  Maybe, maybe not.  I dropped a silence spell over those
  doors on the far end.  We may be safe...though it's time to summon some
Otto:  Can you kill your silence spell first?  It might come in handy to
  be able to listen at those doors.
Belphanior:  Right.  (he works a quick spell to accomplish this)  Done.
Otto:  (dashes over to listen at the double doors)
Skektek:  What will you summon?
Belphanior:  Hard to say...we'll soon know.

  As the others prepared to open the door and charge through, or perhaps
fight whoever was on the other side, Belphanior went to work.  The Book
of Beasts had always done the trick, and this time was no exception.  In
the blink of an eye, four huge spiders, each of them ten feet across,
stood before the elf, ready to obey his commands.  As well, three drider
(half-spider, half-drow hybrids) had appeared thanks to the powerful
magic of the tome.

Belphanior:  (muttering to himself)  Hmm.  It seems that the area we're
  in has influenced the summoning to some extent.
Ys:  (regards the spiders with disdain)
Belphanior:  (to Otto, who is checking the doors)  Anything?
Otto:  No traps, though it's locked from the other side.  I don't hear
Belphanior:  (to the summoned allies)  Flank those double doors; when we
  go through them, attack anyone who's not in this room right now.  (he
  turns to Skektek)  Skektek, get ready to knock those doors open, please.
  (he heads toward the portals himself)
Skektek:  What are you up to?
Belphanior:  I'm going to use Blackrazor to try and figure out what's on
  the other side of these doors.

next:      things get crazy
released:  11/26/01
notes:     As I write this, it's the end of October and the last week of of the things I've been quietly doing, along with every-
  thing else, but not talking much about.  I've had one of my best years
  despite a limited number of games (35, as opposed to 50+ in past years.)
  We'll see how these last couple of games go, now that it's colder and
  gets darker earlier.

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