Chapter #772

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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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   others along for the ride:                                            +
+     human ex-prisoners (3)                                              +
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the depths of the Fortress of the Nine                +
+   Climate:        cool and dry                                          +
+   "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."             +
+                                                 - Napoleon Bonaparte    +

                 DCCLXXII.  Defenders of the Faith

  The adventurers have paused in their explorations of the fortress to
face off against some particularly capable defenders...

dwarves and warriors:  (charging toward the party, which has been weakened
  by the barrage of small boulders just moments ago)
Belphanior:  Stand fast!  Ys, take point!  (to the three surviving men who
  the adventurers recently freed)  Stay back!

  As it turned out, one of the supposed dwarves was actually a gnome, but
that hadn't been apparent until now.  The demi-humans stayed back anyway,
for the armored warriors formed the front of the attack, advancing in the
classic wedge formation...

Ys:  (stands his ground, sword in hand)  Come on, then.

  The warriors were well-trained, exceptional in every way, but it was
physically impossible for them to get inside the reach of the gigantic
reptilian's eight-foot sword when that weapon was swung in a mighty,
sweeping horizontal arc.

warrior #1:  (falls back, nearly cut in half)  Aieeee!
warrior #2:  (knocked away, now missing one arm at the shoulder)  Aaargh!
warrior #3:  (his sword broken in two)  Whoa!
warrior #4:  (moves around, heading for Otto, who is in the process of
  picking up his crossbow and reloading it)
Otto:  Dammit-
Razor Charlie:  (throws a knife, hitting the warrior in the neck)
warrior #4:  Aaargh!
Razor Charlie:  (throws another knife, the blade sinking into the man's
warrior #4:  Arg!  (drops his sword)
Otto:  (loads his crossbow, whirling in time to shoot another of the foes)
warrior #5:  (hit in the shoulder by the poisoned bolt, he stops his
   charge, staggering)  Ghak!
Belphanior:  Skektek!  We need some spells!
Skektek:  Urgh...

  As Skektek staggered to his feet, bruised and bleeding from the barrage
of boulders, the dwarf who seemed to be the leader hurled his hammer...

Belphanior:  (hit in the chest, he is knocked back, slamming into the wall
  behind)  Argh!

  Although the blow wasn't quite as hard as certain other dwarves with
warhammers, it both hurt and stunned the elf - and then the hammer flew
back to its owner's hand!

Belphanior:  (realizes that this foe must have enhanced strength, on top
  of a returning hammer)  Far from original, let me tell you.
dwarven warrior:  Bah.  (he hurls his axe at Belphanior)
Belphanior:  Yie!  (he leaps aside as the thrown weapon whizzes by, only
  missing him by inches as it hits the wall, spraying him with tiny chips
  of stone)  Hey!  (he turns and looks at the weapon, which is stuck in the
  wall, quivering)  What the-
dwarven warrior:  (advances as the axe, too, returns to him)  Heh, heh, heh.
Skektek:  (launches a thunderbolt at the dwarf, scoring a direct hit and
  knocking the dwarf to the floor)  Chew on that.
other dwarf:  (summons into being a gigantic force-mace, which sails forth
  toward Skektek)
Skektek:  Shit!

  Belphanior, recovered somewhat and back on his feet, realized that this
dwarf was a priest, the same priest responsible for the wall of fire and
probably the barrage of boulders as well.  That was the foe to eliminate
first, so the elf called upon a spell contained within one ring he wore.
Its magic allowed him to make a mighty leap, launching himself across the
hall and over other foes to land directly before the startled dwarven foe.

dwarven priest:  What the hell?!?
Belphanior:  (leaps at the other)

  The dwarf recovered quickly enough, meeting the elf's black blade with
a mace, the latter bursting into flame as the two weapons clashed.

Belphanior:  Whoa!
dwarven priest:  Heh.

  With the priest unable to cast a spell while fighting, Belphanior had
the clear advantage, being faster and more experienced in melee.  Within
moments, the other was knocked to the floor, bleeding from a bad gash in
one shoulder.

dwarven priest:  Feh!  (he points his mace at Belphanior, and it emits a
  sudden, bright burst of flame)
Belphanior:  Aie!  (he covers his face in time to avoid the searing heat,
  but staggers back, blinking and rubbing his eyes)
dwarven priest:  (standing and charging in one motion, he moves in for
  the kill, mace swinging high)  Now you die!
Belphanior:  (suddenly removes his hand from his eyes and stabs with his
  sword, a perfect killing strike)
dwarven priest:  (finds the elf's sword-tip buried in his throat)  Glurg.
Belphanior:  (smirking, he silently thanks the deep gnomes who gave him
  the crystal eye, which is of course unaffected by sudden bright lights
  that would blind other people)

  The elf was supercharged by the considerable life-force of the slain
dwarf, and he made another great leap that put him toe-to-toe with the
double-weapon-throwing dwarven foe.

dwarf:  (finding the elf too close for effective hurling of hammer or
  axe)  So be it.  (he advances, hefting both weapons)  You'll pay for
  killing my priest.
Belphanior:  Have you a name?
dwarf:  I am Orzo, lieutenant of General Ka-
Belphanior:  Enough.  (he swings his sword, but the dwarf blocks it with
  his axe, showing surprising deftness)  All you have to do now is die.
Orzo:  Not gonna happen.  (he counters with a swing of his hammer, which
  Belphanior barely blocks in time)
Belphanior:  Ungh!

  The elf had the power of an ogre, due to his magical belt, but his foe
was stronger - far stronger, easily matching a giant.  The hammer-blow
had almost numbed Belphanior's arm, and repeated attacks of that force
would surely do so.

Belphanior:  (tries a feint, but the other doesn't fall for it)
Orzo:  (lashes out with his axe, opening a gash on Belphanior's arm)
Belphanior:  Dammit.

  Belphanior was fast, maybe even faster, but the dwarf had the strength
advantage - and two weapons.  He pressed his attacks without seeming to
tire...but then again, Belphanior was empowered from his earlier slaying
of the dwarven priest.

Belphanior:  (blocks a blow, sidesteps, then swings Blackrazor around in
  a quick motion)
Orzo:  (sliced across the chest, he laughs as sparks fly from whatever
  armor he wears)
Belphanior:  (kicks out at the foe's knee)
Orzo:  (stands his ground as the elf's heel hits metal)  I'm a little
  stouter than that, friend.  (he lashes out with his hammer)
Belphanior:  Argh!  (caught in the side, he sails back twenty feet)
Orzo:  (raises his axe, to throw it again)
Belphanior:  (uses his spell-storing ring to launch a web at the dwarf)
Orzo:  (instantly tangled, and quite thoroughly, in the sticky strands)
Belphanior:  I have my own tricks, too.
Orzo:  This won't hold me for long.
Belphanior:  It won't have to.  (he works a quick spell, and a small
  flame appears in his hand)
Orzo:  Huh?
Belphanior:  Goodbye.  (he fires a sheet of flame at the webbed foe, the
  fire instantly igniting dwarf and webs in a blazing conflagration)
other dwarf:  (charging, a massive two-handed warhammer raised)  You'll
  die for that!
Belphanior:  (sidesteps the blow, slashing with his sword)
dwarf with hammer:  (gutted)  Ulp.  (he falls to his knees)
Belphanior:  (whirls, decapitating the foe)  Ahhhhhh.

  He absorbed the life-force of the dwarf, his cuts closing up and his
torn muscles knitting themselves together.

Belphanior:  Yessss...

  Just then, a hammer erupted from the mass of burning webs, trailing
flaming strands of webbing as it sailed forth...

Belphanior:  (hit in the back, hard)  ARGH!  (he falls face-first to the
  floor, dropping his sword)  Urgh...
Orzo:  (emerges from the pile of flaming webs, only mildly burned)  The
  webs might've held me long enough, but being stupid, you burned them
  away and freed me.  (he catches his hammer as it returns)
Belphanior:  (trying to push himself off the floor, he coughs up blood)
Orzo:  (grabbing the elf's cloak in hand, he raises his axe)  Time to die.
  (with a mighty swing, he brings the blade down)

next:      could this be the end for Belphanior?
released:  12/3/01
notes:     Not really.  I finished up this one on 11/12/01, the day that
  an American Airlines Airbus-300 crashed in Queens, New York.  The fact
  that everyone immediately assumed that it was another terrorist attack
  just proves that the world's changed forever in the last two months.
  Can you honestly say that every time you look up and see an airplane
  in the sky above, you don't think about it crashing into something?

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