Chapter #775

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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 (2)                                              +
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          the depths of the Fortress of the Nine                +
+   Climate:        cool and dry                                          +
+   "You're part of the problem, part of the solution, or part of         +
+    the landscape."                                                      +
+                                                   - Sam, from _Ronin_   +

                  DCCLXXV.  Forewarned and Fourarmed

  The adventurers' battle with a small knot of humanoids has just been
interrupted in dramatic fashion...

four-armed iron golem:  (lumbers toward the group, each of its arms
  holding a huge, deadly weapon)

  The thing was armed with a hammer, a sword, a battleaxe, and a pick.
Each of the four appeared perfectly capable of pulverizing a fully-
armored man.  Fortunately, Belphanior had other, less vulnerable
forces to send against the huge foe.

Belphanior:  (to the stone warriors)  Go fight that thing!
stone warriors:  (break off their melee with the knot of surviving
  humanoids, moving to intercept the golem)

  It was a good idea - the most sensible idea, from the adventurers'
point of view - but the golem was undeterred.  One stony foe tried to
attack head-on, and was met by the golem's great warhammer, sailing
back with a shattered head and shoulders.  Another tried to move in
from the side, and was repulsed by an iron battleaxe, its rocky torso
cracked nearly in two.  A third was simply too slow, and the golem's
pick impaled it through the chest; a backhanded fling sent the rocky
warrior hurtling into a wall.

Otto:  Holy shit.  The damn thing's mowing them down like they weren't
  even there!
Belphanior:  Golems of this sort are susceptible to lightning-
Skektek:  Barely.  But I get the point.  (he begins working a spell)

  Meanwhile, the humanoids on the stairway behind the adventurers had
a very limited time to decide what to do next.

gnoll:  (looking around)
other gnoll:  (raises its sword)  Let's get 'em!
orc:  Screw that.  That big metal guy's just as likely to smash us as
second gnoll:  Oh.
bugbear:  (looking up the stairway)
goblin:  We could run for it...head up there...
ogre:  I is still in charge here!  (he looks around, carefully taking
  stock of the overall situation)  Ok, I says we go up.

  That was all that the others needed to hear.  The ogre was, after all,
their sergeant; if he gave the order to flee, then they had to obey.
Without further ado, the small band of humanoids promptly vanished into
the stairway.

Ys:  (turns just in time to spot the retreating feet of the last ones)
Razor Charlie:  (grimacing in the direction of the fled foes)  Smarter
  than they look.
Ys:  Unlike us, who will probably have to fight this thing.
Razor Charlie:  Uh-huh.

  A hasty plan was being implemented, however.  The golem hadn't really
advanced far into the chamber, due to the handful of stony warriors that
still stood in its way.  They surrounded the larger foe, hacking and
stabbing at it from all sides, but their weapons could barely scratch its
metal skin.  The golem, on the other hand, was fully capable of shattering
the summoned allies with a single blow.  Indeed, it was dealing with them
quite effectively, but even that took time - and as far as Skektek was
concerned, time had run out for the iron foe.

Skektek:  (launches a tremendous bolt of lightning, hitting the golem
  dead-on, right in the center of its chest)

  The electricity arced through the construct, melting the stone of the
floor around its feet.  Great sparks danced across the thing's body and
into the floor.  The remainder of the lightning bolt itself continued
on, into the passage past the golem, from which the adventurers had first
entered this room.  Smoke rose from the great iron body, and the room was
filled with an acrid smell.

Skektek:  (pumps his fist in the air)  Direct hit!
Belphanior:  (working his own spell)
Ys:  (eyeing the golem, which appears to be glowing almost white)  Hmm.
Otto:  Good deal...but why didn't you use the wand?  Wouldn't that have
  been quicker?
Skektek:  The ones I can generate myself are more powerful than anything
  from any wand.
Razor Charlie:  Hmph.
Otto:  (points at the golem with his crossbow)  It's dying down.

  Indeed it was...and there stood the iron golem, charred and smoking,
small arcs of electricity still arcing across its metallic body.

four-armed iron golem:  (takes a ponderous step forward, raising its axe-
  wielding arm slowly)

Belphanior:  Yup.  (he completes his spell)  Good-bye.

  The floor in a twenty-foot radius around the golem instantly changed
from solid rock into soft mud, with predictable effects...

four-armed iron golem:  (sinks up to its neck in the mud)
Skektek:  Worked like a charm.
Otto:  Yep.  (he regards the wizard)  Don't you ever get tired of just
  using the same old spells every time?
Skektek:  When I was a kid, my father always used to tell me..."do one
  thing and do it well."  (he shrugs)  It's worked for me.
Otto:  Good enough.  (he regards the golem)  What now?
Belphanior:  No point wasting time and energy trying to kill that thing,
  since it's harmless to us now.  We could follow those humanoids up, or
  we could circumvent that golem and get back on track.  (he produces
  the magical idol again, holding it up)  We need to go the other way to
  find the lich...and I think he's close now, real close.
Otto:  (loads his crossbow)
Razor Charlie:  (cracks his knuckles)
Skektek:  Decisions, decisions.

  The debate was interrupted by a great explosion from somewhere beyond
the passage they'd come here by, the one that had the stairway going down,
the one in which they'd opted to go left instead of right, where all the
troops had gone.  The floor shook slightly, and from the sound of things,
walls or ceilings were falling somewhere close by.  A series of smaller
impacts followed, as well as shouts and the unmistakable sound of steel
meeting steel.

Belphanior:  No matter what all this means...that's where we need to be.
  (he strides off in that direction, followed by his companions and the
  seven stony warriors who remain, as well as the two men freed in the
  dungeons several floors below)

next:      a different take on the day's fighting
released:  12/6/01
notes:     Ok, you've had 5 episodes with the Rob party and 10 with the
  Belphanior party.  Here's what's left.  776 will show the battle outside
  the fortress, from the perspective of those actually out there. After
  that, it's back to Rob et al for 777-780.  Around that time, we'll
  finally see Xusia and some of the other Nine...and this arc will wrap
  up in a great, violent, earth-shaking battle to end all battles.
    When that is over, I'll fill you in on what's left til episode 800.
  I'm actually on a pretty good track at the moment - on 11/10, I hadn't
  even made it to episode 770.  Now it's 11/20 as I write this and I'll
  be writing in the 780s by the Monday after Thanksgiving.  My bragging
  here should not, however, fool you into thinking that I can maintain
  such a pace all the time.  This is a one-time effort of truly insane
  intensity, and I'm doing it for the sole reason of reaching 800 before
  2001 ends.

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