Chapter #770

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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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   summoned monstrous allies:                                            +
+     purple worm                                                         +
+     drider (3)                                                          +
+     giant spiders (4)                                                   +
+                                                                         +
+   others along for the ride:                                            +
+     drider ex-prisoner                                                  +
+     human ex-prisoners (4)                                              +
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          the depths of the Fortress of the Nine                +
+   Climate:        cool and dry                                          +
+   "If you are going through hell, keep going."                          +
+                                              - Sir Winston Churchill    +

                      DCCLXX.  Chasing the Worm

  After unleashing a gigantic purple worm on an encampment of drow, the
adventurers are moving behind, clearing up loose ends.  Now, they have a
supposed guide...

Belphanior:  Start talking.
drider:  Uh...

  The elf had reorganized everyone.  The purple worm was, of course, out
of sight if not out of mind, somewhere far ahead in the wide passage or
some chamber it fed.  The spiders and drider he'd summoned were a good
hundred feet ahead of the main party, whose front rank consisted of Otto
and Skektek.  Right behind those two were Belphanior and the captive
drider, the latter under guard by the four freed humans, now armed with
drow weapons.  Ys and Razor Charlie brought up the rear.  They all moved
along the main passage, heading toward a larger open area visible in the

Belphanior:  (raises his sword)  I mean it.  You'd better start talking,
  and telling me things I want to hear, or you're dead.
drider:  Uh...
Belphanior:  Who rules this area?  A drow?
drider:  A priestess-queen...Selene.
Belphanior:  Better.  How many drow, total?
drider:  That depends on how many you killed already-
Belphanior:  (glares at the half-spider, half-drow creature)  I'm not
  warning you again.
drider: About two score, total, less any killed today.
Belphanior:  How many are spellcasters-  no, wait, stupid question.  How
  many of the drow here are wizards or priests?
drider:  I'm not sure...most of them.  All the females, definitely.
Belphanior:  How many females?
drider:  A dozen or so.  I've never seen them all in one place at the
  same time!
Belphanior:  Are there any other forces here?
drider:  Just the spider.
Belphanior:  What spider?
Otto:  (pointing with his sword)  That spider.

  They had reached the larger, open area; it was a 40' square room with
a 20' ceiling.  To the left, a wide set of steps led up and around, out
of sight.  Ahead, the 20' wide passage continued, forking off a short
way ahead into several smaller passages.  To the right, the entire border
of this area was a massive portcullis, its inch-thick bars spaced less
than a foot apart.  The thing was nearly 40' wide and 20' high and was
probably controlled by the massive flywheel set into the wall just to
the right of the gate.
  Behind the portcullis, within a hemispherical chamber of at least 50'
radius, was the largest spider any of them had ever seen.  It was the
size of a small cottage, with hairy legs as thick as a man's waist and
fangs the size of scimitars.

Skektek:  Holy shit.
Razor Charlie:  (looks at the throwing knives in his hands, realizing
  their uselessness in certain kinds of battles)
drider:  That's Selene's pet.  I'd stay back from the gate if I were you.
  That monster is as fast as it is vicious.
Otto:  Good advice.  (he silently wonders what sort of mighty poison
  could be gained from the poison sacs of such a beast)
Belphanior:  The spider's no harm to us right now.  (he glances around)
  From the look of things, I'd say our worm came through here, killed a
  bunch more drow in the passage ahead, then went right.
Razor Charlie:  (nods)
Belphanior:  (to the summoned drider and spiders)  Guard that stairway
  and attack anyone who comes down it.  (to the freed drider)  Where do
  those passages ahead lead?
drider:  To the living-quarters of all the higher-ranking drow.  The
  right fork goes to the temple of Lolth.  If your worm went there, it's
  not coming back.

  Just then, a tremendous explosion shook the dungeon!  A bestial bellow
of pain followed...

Otto:  Getting louder.
Belphanior:  (shouting and gesturing wildly)  Everyone, back the way we
  came!  (to Skektek)  Use that wand to put up a wall of force between
  this big area and the passage we came here by.
Skektek:  Gotcha.  (he quickly begins plying the magic of the wand)

  The wizard wasn't a moment too soon; only moments after the shimmering
force-wall appeared, the purple worm came careening out of the passage
identified as leading to the temple.  It barreled down the main corridor,
appearing to the party as a huge, purple, onrushing ring of teeth that
filled the entire passage.  Despite the wall of force, everyone - even
Skektek, even Ys - backed away from the magical barrier as the enraged
monster rapidly neared.

Belphanior:  (shouting commands to the worm)  Stop!  Turn!
purple worm:  (ignores the commands, despite the controlling power of the
  Book of Beasts, as it rockets toward the force-wall and the adventurers)
Skektek:  (to Razor Charlie)  I figure this is why he had me put up the
Razor Charlie:  (nods)  Good plan.

  The purple worm hit the wall at a high rate of speed and with a force
that shook the dungeon yet again.  It didn't pulverize itself or even
stop, though, instead ricocheting to its right (the party's left) and
then shooting up the stairs into parts unknown.  Its gigantic body scraped
the walls, floor, and ceiling as it went, tearing loose rock and leaving
a trail of rubble.
  Just like that, it was gone, though its bellowing roars could still be
heard echoing through the dungeon.

Ys:  Well, that was different.
Skektek:  Did you see the blast marks on its head?  Someone must have hit
  it with a fireball or lightning bolt.  That thing was _pissed_.
Belphanior:  Good.  We can use that to our advantage.  (he holds up a
  small idol of black stone, whose ruby eyes glow more brightly depending
  on what direction the idol is pointed)  Our...benefactor gave me this
  for tracking our quarry, and the quarry lies up those stairs - not on
  this dungeon level.
Otto:  So we're not gonna go find out who blasted the worm and kill them
Belphanior:  Of course not.
Otto:  Good.
Skektek:  Huh?
Otto:  It was a rhetorical question, and we have business with the
  ringleader, not the clowns.  (he points up the stairs with his loaded

next:      onward and upward
released:  11/28/01
notes:     Well, you got 5 episodes with the Rob party and now 5 with the
  Belphanior party, and both groups ended up doing the same thing with
  the same cliffhanger:  invading, storming through one level, and then
  pointing themselves at long stairways leading to a more central level.
    Originally I was going to go back to the "good" party at this point,
  but I've reworked the structure of the arc and now you're going to
  get five more episodes of Belphanior's people.  Both of the parties
  will get the job done, but their tactics are vastly different.  In a
  sense, the "good" party is too big, but I'll find a way to split it
  into two parts.  After all, it's a big fortress and time is of the
    At some point I should do a couple of episodes showing the big battle
  outside, too.  That could be neat.

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