Chapter #829

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                                   +   +
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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2004 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!                                          +
+   Belphanior     15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Otto           10th/12th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  10th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   Date:          5/23/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         a small dungeon within some unknown mountain range     +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so."       +
+                                                    - Bertrand Russell   +

                    DCCCXXIX.  Remote Retreats

  After using another gateway and exploring a small complex within a
mountain, the party has finally camped, slept, and rested.

Belphanior:  Okay, it's time to do some exploring outside.  We've got a
  long day, and probably a lot of work, ahead of us.
Ys:  Yes, now that we have eaten breakfast.  (he stifles a belch)
Razor Charlie:  (thinking about how Ys ate as much food as everyone else
  combined, he decides not to remark on that fact)
Elgon:  A fine breakfast indeed.  Many thanks, Otto.  I never suspected
  that the stuff found in generic rations could taste good.
Otto:  (shrugs)  I've spent enough nights on the road or in the wild to
  be able to scratch together a decent meal.  Besides, I'm no Mongo - all
  I did was touch it up a little.
Skektek:  (glances at Jenna)  I'm glad _someone_ can cook.
Jenna:  (casts an annoyed glance at the wizard)  You assume that just
  because I'm a woman, I should know how to cook?  (she shakes her head)
  I'm afraid not.  My calling is divination, and magic.  Leave cooking
  to those who sit around all day, leading simple, easy lives.  (she nods
  to Otto)  No offense, of course.
Otto:  (grins)  None taken.
Ys:  (chortles)
Skektek:  (wisely giving in and changing the subject, he frowns and turns
  to Belphanior)  What do you think we'll find outside?
Belphanior:  That's hard to say, but we know we're in some mountains,
  somewhere, and it's cold but not dangerously cold.
Otto:  I, for one, want to know just where on Oerik we are.  It might
  help us figure out what Xusia was up to here.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Which might in turn lead us to more things he left
Skektek:  I think we're finding the things he left behind, right here in
  these gateway complexes.  But, we do need to do some exploring.
Belphanior:  Everyone finish eating and get ready.  We're heading out

  Soon, they had passed through the various doors that led outside, and
the final doorway slid upward and out of sight, revealing the same view
as last night, except now they could actually see it.  The door opened
onto a ten-foot-wide ledge of stone which was part of the side of a huge,
steeply-sloped mountain.  Above, the slope continued upward, out of sight,
eventually becoming masked by foggy mists.  Below, it extended downward as
far as they could see.

Otto:  No way we're walking down that.  We could make it, maybe, if we
  were tied off with rope, but who has that much rope?
Ys:  Or patience.
Belphanior:  You're right.  (he looks around)  That's why we're going to

  The wind was brisk, probably due to their altitude, but overall, the
cold wasn't nearly as bad as the previous gateway destination.  Those who
had the ability to magically fly - Belphanior and Skektek - had no trouble
doing a quick reconnaissance of the area.  However, the news wasn't exactly

Belphanior:  (lands on the rocky ledge)  This makes no sense...again.
Otto:  How's that?
Skektek:  We're a long damn way from nowhere.
Belphanior:  As far as we can tell, we're in the middle of a mountainside.
  There's nothing up here, and no way to go down - or up - on foot.  It's
  the same thing as the last one:  Xusia built a gateway in the middle of
Elgon:  Sometimes, what we don't see is just as meaningful as what we do
Belphanior:  Meaning?
Elgon:  I think the theory someone put forth yesterday, about these bases
  being for future plans that this lich had...that makes the most sense.
Belphanior:  I know, and it's obvious, but why would he build a base out
  here, in the middle of nowhere?
Otto:  Nowhere can become somewhere pretty quickly...remember Helgate?
Belphanior:  Mmm.

  Even with nowhere to go, the outpost had some contents that were worth
having:  the maps, some of the barrels, and perhaps the dozens of suits of
plate mail armor.

Belphanior:  No.  We're not taking those.  Unless you wear plate mail and
  can benefit from an upgrade to magical plate mail...(he looks around,
  then shakes his head)  Okay then.
Otto:  Well, we can use this "sticky fire" stuff, for sure.  I need to do
  some testing, but it sounds promising.
Skektek:  And these maps may help us, after they've been studied.
Ys:  We shall use the gateway again, then, and appear in yet another place
  according to the whims of fate?
Belphanior:  (nods)  We'll keep going until given a reason to stop.

  They gathered what they wanted to take, and returned to the gateway
chamber.  After considering what Skektek knew of the runic destination
settings, they opted for one that they thought translated to "leaf" or
"grass" or something like that...

Skektek:  I should have spent more time working on translations, and
Belphanior:  No need to worry about it now.  Even if some of these runes
  ended up standing for really bad things, we'd still have to explore
  those places at some point too.  (he activates the gateway, and they
  step through the swirling mists, one by one)

  They emerged into a large, strangely shaped chamber.  It was shaped
like an upside-down "V" in cross-section, with a flat bottom measuring
about a hundred feet long and fifty wide.  The neatly tapered ceiling
peaked a little over fifty feet above their heads.  The gateway was set
into one end of this room, and the stones around it were golden in color.

            /\       |         |
           /  \      |         #   <--- gateway arch
          /____\     |_________|

          __50'_     |---100'--|

Ys:  The golden arch.  Hmm.
Skektek:  It might actually _be_ gold.
Elgon:  (running his hand along the metal, he nods)  It is...and there's
  probably enough of it in this archway to fund a kingdom.
Belphanior:  Before anybody thinks about prying some of it out, remember
  that if the arch is damaged, we won't be able to use it to leave here.
  Besides, we have plenty of gold.
Elgon:  We can always use more.
Belphanior:  (glares at the gnome)
Elgon:  (quickly removes his hand from the golden arch)  Just joking!
Otto:  The arch is untouched - pristine - but check out the rest of this

  The dwarf was referring to the floor, walls, and ceiling...all of which
were completely overgrown with weeds, plants, and other foliage.  Aside
from the space right in front of the gateway, the only other part of the
large chamber that wasn't covered in plant life was the top seam of the
ceiling above.  A bright light, almost like sunlight, shone in from that
thin line, almost as if it was open to a bright sun above.

Belphanior:  (scanning the room)  Plants everywhere, but I can't see any
  traps, treasure, or magic.
Jenna:  Or evil.
Belphanior:  ...right.  Everyone fan out, and let's see if that's indeed
  a door at the far end of this place.
Skektek:  If it is, it's covered with weeds.

  They moved out, keeping a loose formation about twenty feet wide and
two ranks deep.  Old, dried-up leaves and vines crunched beneath their
feet as they walked.

Razor Charlie:  (thinking that the middle of the room looks suspiciously
  like a well-worn path)  Hmm.  (he sees something out of the corner of
  his eye, and whirls around, only to face...nothing)
Ys:  What are you about?
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at a nearby plant, a knife held tightly in one
Otto:  No way anything could be hiding behind any of this plant life -
  there's not enough cover.
Razor Charlie:  I saw something.
Belphanior:  (holds up a hand, and the group halts, halfway across the
  chamber)  We're all seasoned at this sort of thing.  If one of us gets
  an idea, we all act on it.  (he looks around the room)  I don't sense
  any souls, though...
Jenna:  Undead, maybe.
Belphanior:  Maybe.  (he eyes the foliage)  Why is it that we always seem
  to have a druid around, except the one time we actually _need_ him?
Razor Charlie:  (cocks one ear)  Something's in here with us.
wispy thing:  (sails ahead on its own)  pfsss?
Otto:  What's that rustling sound?  (he looks down, just as a thin vine
  creeps around his ankle)  Huh?  What the f-

  The vine suddenly sprang taut, yanking the dwarf painfully off his feet
and onto the floor...which was now a seething mass of thin, whipcord-like
green vines!

next:      ferocious foliage
released:  7/16/04
notes:     This episode contains one of my not-so-subtle attempts to break
  through the fourth wall, if you know what that means.  I'm sure you can
  find the instance of this.
    Reminder:  gateway map is at

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