Chapter #780

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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   +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Deryck          11th level half-elven ranger                          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+   Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard           +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+                                                                         +
+   Derider Fanshaen           female human priestess of Pelor            +
+   Sir Drexel                 human paladin of Heironeous                +
+     Limbor                   elven wizard/priest                        +
+   Baltek                     elven archer                               +
+   Pallin                     grey elven wizard                          +
+   St. Wilhelm                human fighter/priest of St. Cuthbert       +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   CASUALTIES:                                                           +
+     Boltar, human priest of Pholtus (slain by death ray)                +
+     Eyer, wood elven fighter/acrobat (turned to stone)                  +
+     Jerome Kasinskaia, human priest of Rao (turned to stone)            +
+     Reptar, lizardman fighter (disintegrated)                           +
+     Socrates, large albino hound (fallen in battle)                     +
+     Zephyr, large tiger (forced back into figurine form)                +
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          the Fortress of the Nine                              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies."            +
+                                                         - Oscar Wilde   +

                     DCCLXXX.  Clash of Champions

  During a great battle with a band of beholders, the floor has been
sundered, dropping the surviving champions into the vast hall below,
where the lich Xusia has marshaled his forces.

Mongo:  (lands on his head, but is back up on his feet within moments)
  What the hell?!?
Halbarad:  (lands on his feet, catlike, facing the foes)  At last!

  The others - Alindyar and Lyra, Deryck and Nenya, Peyote and Daffodil,
Derider, Sir Drexel, Limbor, Eyer, Pallin, and St. Wilhelm - really had
nothing much in the way of injury, as they'd been far enough back when
the floor fell.  They just slid or floated or flew down to back up the
first ones through.

Xusia:  (sitting in a throne at the far end of the room, along with a
  number of allies, servants, and undead forces)  How fortuitous.  This
  saves us the trouble of hunting you down.

  A small group of individuals surrounded Xusia.  Aside from another
lich, dressed in the rotting garb of a high priest (complete with a
ridiculously large golden crown) there were five others.  One was quite
familiar to those who had fought with Nenya in the false tomb of Kyuss,
this being the wizard in the red robes.  The second person was a rather
normal-looking (though well-dressed) man, not even a warrior; close to
this fellow stood a wiry monk in plain white robes, and what looked like
a large silver dog.  The fifth ally was definitely not human; it stood
seven feet tall and wore a violet cloak.  Its large orange eyes, without
pupils, were the only feature on its face.  What little skin was exposed
was dark gray.  This being held a ten-foot poleaxe with three blades.
  In front of this core group were a dozen demons of various shapes and
sizes, some recognizable, some alien - and all dangerous.
  Between all of these foes and the champions stood at least a hundred
undead, everything from skeletons to vampires.

Xusia:  What are you waiting for?  Get them!
undead horde:  (surges forward)

  What was needed here was a distraction that also held great power.
Mongo, of all people, had such an ace up his sleeve.  Knowing that he
was heading into a place where he'd come up against undead of great
numbers and power, sooner or later, he'd had some of his magical items
analyzed recently.  As it turned out, one of them - the feeble-looking
old torch he'd gained from the lost tomb of Panagaea - was far, far more
than it seemed.

Mongo:  (retrieves the torch from its place in a belt pouch and holds
  it up)  I sure hope they were right about...this...whoa.

  The torch had ignited of its own accord, a white light purer than any
made by nature or priest.  Every single undead being in the chamber was
forced to look away; those within fifty feet or so (all but Xusia and
the other lich) were burned; those within twenty feet were vaporized.

Xusia:  What?!?
Mongo:  Yeah!  (without hesitation, he charges toward Xusia)  Let's get
Halbarad:  (ceases his amazed gaping and runs after the dwarf)  Come on,

  The action was fast, furious, and deadly from here on out.  No minor
spells were cast, no great powers wasted, no small knives brought into
play when big swords were available, so to speak.  There was little talk
and less delay, as things just happened...

Baltek:  (fires a glowing silver arrow at Xusia, but it bounces away,
  repelled by some unseen field)  Figures.
Fenris:  (the well-dressed man near Xusia, he draws his sword and turns
  invisible, also hasting himself in the process)
monk in white robes:  (produces twin metal rods from somewhere and
  practically glides toward the champions)
Deryck:  (winds his horn of valhalla, summoning five warriors in bronze
  mail)  Protect my allies and myself against all foes.
five warriors:  (fan out in front of the champions who haven't already
  charged forth)
Limbor:  (casts a globe of invulnerability around himself)
Peyote:  (hurls a javelin of lightning at Cespedes)
Cespedes:  (simply smiles as one of his patented metallic orbs flies
  forth from behind him, shielding him from the missile at the cost of
  its own existence)
metallic orb:  (explodes, raining shards of metal all about)
Cespedes:  (completes his spell, bringing up a globe of invulnerability
  around himself even as he snickers at Limbor)
silver dog:  (slinking around, apparently aimlessly)
Mongo:  (heading right for Xusia as undead crumble at his approach)
skeleton:  (dies)
zombie:  (dies)
ghoul:  (dies)
wight:  (dies)
wight's twin brother:  (dies)
wraith:  (dies)
vampire:  (dies even as it's turning into mist)  Aieeeeee!
Mongo:  Too cool.
Halbarad:  (finds himself facing the silver dog)  Silver?
silver dog:  Grrrrr...(it leaps at him)
Halbarad:  (dodges to the side, meeting the hound with a short chop of
  his axe)
silver dog:  <CLANG>
Halbarad:  Argh!  (feeling pain all the way up his arm)  Not silver...
Sir Drexel:  (charging after Mongo and Halbarad, he finds his way blocked
  by a mummy that survived Mongo's torchlight and is staggering around,
  smoking)  Out of my way, peon of evil!  (he drops the rotting foe with
  one blow)
mummy:  (burning into ash)
Lyra:  (bounces a chain fireball into the midst of the farthest of the
  undead masses, mainly because the spell needs something to bounce off
  of in order to hit Xusia and those near him)
wight:  (incinerated)
zombie:  (roasted)
skeleton:  (vaporized)
Ythuus:  (the weird 7' being with yellow eyes and a three-bladed poleaxe,
  it simply stands there as the fireball dies out before hitting it)
Lyra:  Damn!
Pallin:  (busy working a spell of his own)  A daemon, that one is - most
  magic will not affect it.
Baltek:  Maybe this will, then.  (he fires a magical arrow at the daemon,
  striking it in the shoulder)
Ythuus:  (takes immediate notice, turning to face that group of foes)
Nenya:  (having intended this spell for someone else but having seen the
  globe Cespedes cast around himself, she drops a hemispherical wall of
  force around the foe's own barrier, surrounding it and him)  Heh.
Cespedes:  (raises an eyebrow)
Bodok:  (the huge beholder who fell through with the invaders)  Urgggh.
  (it steadies itself, floating up into the air)
Daffodil:  (having seen what this foe can do, she wastes no time with
  words, pummeling the eye tyrant with the spiritual hammer she just
  summoned)  Die, damn you!
Bodok:  (knocked back a few feet and kept off-balance)  Aaaargh!
Alindyar:  (aiming to finish the job and rid them of this dangerous foe,
  he blasts the beholder with a prismatic spray, also catching the monk
  and a couple of undead who happened to be within the 70' cone of the
Bodok:  (struck by a yellow and an indigo beam, he is knocked back yet
  again)  AAARGH!  (he suddenly turns and flies away, badly wounded and
  also enraged, and smashes through a double door, vanishing into parts
white-robed monk:  (staggers under an orange beam, but does not fall)
zombie:  (smashed into paste)
ghoul:  Blurk?  (it vanishes)
Derider:  (conjures a flame strike, which falls upon both liches and
  the double-barriered Cespedes, not to mention most of the demons
  near the liches)
Xusia:  (ignores the flames as they veer to all sides of him)
Skorvus:  (burned, but not hurt too badly)  Aaargh!
Cespedes:  (oblivious within his dual barriers)
demons:  (burned to varying degrees, they howl in pain and rage)
Xusia:  (spellcasting)  Hold your ground, wretches!  You are here for
  the sole purpose of defending me.
demons:  (grumbling and grousing angrily)
Skorvus:  (the lich-priest, he points at St. Wilhelm, who has quietly
  gotten very close, and a black beam of crackling energy issues forth)
St. Wilhelm:  (surrounded by a glowing aura, he buckles...but keeps on
Skorvus:  Inconceivable!
Xusia:  (working his spell)  Fear not.  Within moments, they shall all
  be dust...
Rob:  (having sunken into the floor while fighting on the level above,
  and then watched and readied himself, he finally reappears, rising
  up from the floor behind Xusia)  No.

  The high priest of Trithereon uttered the most powerful single word
that anyone in his profession could.

Rob:  (glowing brightly with holy power, he speaks a Holy Word whose very
  syllables resound with great magical power)

  Every evil being in earshot was at least stunned; the demons were
banished outright, vanishing as they were forced back to their native
plane, the Abyss.  Those few undead who hadn't been vaporized by Mongo's
torch fell, dead or further wounded.  Even Xusia himself took note, and
whatever horrific spell he had been about to cast was disrupted.  Rob
never hesitated, charging forth with mace held high.

Ythuus:  (wavering on its feet as a result of Rob's Holy Word, its own
  spell - a fire storm centered on the champions' spellcasters - goes
  awry, landing a hundred feet to the side of the intended touchdown
  point and incinerating three ghouls who had been fleeing the battle)
Pallin:  (notes this, wondering why the daemon wasn't dispelled back to
  Gehenna by Rob's Holy Word, as it should have been)  Hmm.

  The wizard of Celestian completed his own spell, creating a bubble in
time around himself and those closest to him.  Nenya, Alindyar, and Lyra
fell under the influence of this mighty enchantment, as did Baltek and
also Limbor, despite his globe of invulnerability.  Not only would all
of them now think and act faster than before, but anyone or anything
that entered the radius of the spell would be slowed down by a great
degree.  In one stroke, Pallin had just amplified the power of all of
his group's major wizards, and also doubled Baltek's archery capability.

  That was a good thing, too, because the evil ones got reinforcements
from two fronts.  One of the large, wide stairways that opened into this
hall admitted a dozen angry-looking drow.  That force's entire front rank
consisted of a certain gigantic spider, 30' across.

  Perhaps even more significant was the fact that Cespedes had completed
the process of dispelling both barriers around himself, having to negate
his own in order to bring down Nenya's.  Rather than assaulting the foes,
he simply brought forth others to do the work for him.  A green portal
appeared to one side of the great hall, admitting two beings; one was
huge, one was small.  Both were extremely powerful and dangerous, and both
were familiar to at least some of the adventurers.

Talos:  (also known as the adamantine golem, it stands up straight at
  its full 20' height, brandishing its gigantic shortsword as it sizes
  up the party)
iron dwarf:  (raises its axe, roaring in fury)  RRRAAAAARGH!
Alindyar:  My word.

next:      round two...fight!
released:  12/14/01
notes:     I tried really, really hard to make this big battle fast and
  simple.  I don't see it lasting longer than five minutes.  The power
  levels involved are just too great.

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