Chapter #873

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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       +
+   1991-2005 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/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   Date:          7/2/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       cold and increasingly wet                              +
+   "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence."                  +
+                                                         - David Hume    +

                   DCCCLXXIII.  Downtime

  The adventurers have taken some treasure, but perhaps at great cost,
as the huge domed chamber has begun flooding at an alarming rate.

Belphanior:  (regarding the water, which has risen to ankle height in a
  matter of moments)  Shit.  (he points to the inner gateway chamber)
  Let's go!

  It was fortunate that the inner dome wasn't a great distance away,
because the water was rising steadily, and this made movement difficult.
There was no huge spray of water, no cascade from overhead, no visible
torrent.  The domed complex was, simply, flooding.

Otto:  (helping Jenna into the smaller domed chamber)  Must be hidden
  valves or something...set off by us taking that stuff.
Belphanior:  The reasons don't matter.  Getting out of here does.  (he
  pulls Elgon through, then tries to pull the door shut)  Ungh!

  The water pressure from outside was making this difficult until Ys
strode over and lent his strength to the task.

Ys:  There.
Belphanior:  Thanks.  (he looks around the small, domed chamber, which
  is ankle-deep in water thanks to the outer area flooding)  I think
  this room's sealed off from the other, but let's not take any chances.
  (he nods to the gateway)  We're leaving.

  Fortunately, the teleportation device didn't seem to be affected by
the water or the state of things in the outer chamber.  Rather than opt
to explore a new destination, they went with a known reliable one.

Belphanior:  (steps out of the light green archway into the small, buried
  complex in the Pelisso Swamp)  Ahh.

  As the others began to appear, the elf mused about how useful it would
be to have a gateway in a place that was not only known and safe, but also
controlled, even fortified.  It was possible that Parekh and Pallin could
help with this, but that meant sharing all of the gateways' secrets with
them, as opposed to only some secrets the way things were right now.

Belphanior:  Okay, everyone, listen up.  We're taking the rest of the
  day off, so rest up.  We'll camp here until tomorrow, and then we're
  going to explore a new gateway.
Skektek:  (about to object and ask for more downtime, he begins thinking
  about the potential magic/power they might find, and smiles thinly)
Jenna:  (yawns)  Fine by me.
wispy thing:  (hovers nearby, looking rather listless)  nrrrf.

  The announced rest period was met with no complaints.  Everyone was
tired at the very least, and some were wounded or mentally exhausted as
well.  A day off would do them all some good.

Ys:  Unfortunate, that we must spend the night underground, in this...
Belphanior:  I know.  I'd like to see the sky too, and breathe some fresh
  air...but of all the gateways we've explored, this is the safest.  We
  know it's abandoned and we know it's sealed from outside access.
Ys:  (nods)  I understand.  Perhaps the next destination will be a more
  pleasant one.

  Camp was made, meals were eaten, and rest was had.  The most eventful
part of the evening, aside from various snoring, was Belphanior's brief
but careful examination of the items found in the cylindrical safe within
the underwater gateway complex they'd just left.

Belphanior:  Any ideas?
Jenna:  The trident has an elemental aura about it; the easy guess would
  be that it's got something to do with water and aquatic life.  The
  armor's powers lie along the same general lines, I think, though the
  auras aren't identical.  Perhaps I could commune with Istus tomorrow,
  and learn more answers.
Belphanior:  No hurry, since we're not planning on going near water
  again anytime soon.  We'll do more research and testing when we're
  home, and have more people and resources.
Otto:  Home?  We don't really have a home...not since Helgate.
Belphanior:  Helgate...hmm, I wonder where Victoria is now?
Jenna:  Who's Victoria?
Otto:  (unsure what to say or if it's even his place, he glances at
Belphanior:  Victoria was...well, she's nobody now.
Jenna:  Everybody's somebody-
Belphanior:  Drop it.

  With that, the elf retired for the night.  His dreams were troubled,
chaotic and unpleasant, and they raised many questions.

  Morning found the group well-rested, with scars and aches where there
had once been wounds and broken bones.  A brief discussion was held, in
front of the runic gateway dial, because the next destination needed to
be chosen.  Eventually they decided on the rune that they thought meant
"cut" or "wound."

Belphanior:  That sounds more promising than some of these others...
  particularly the ones we haven't yet translated.  (he turns the metal
  dial and activates the gateway)

  The rock within the archway changed into mist, and the party stepped
through, one by one.  There was the usual mix of sensations:  nausea,
weightlessness, movement, a lack of any definite sound or smell, time
passing at an undeterminable rate..and then the first of the adventurers
arrived at the unknown destination.

Belphanior:  (steps out of the mists, sword in hand, quickly getting his
  bearings)  Hmm.

  The gateway here was fashioned of medium brown rock, crudely cut into
a rough arch.  This arch stood all by itself in the center of a natural
cavern, vaguely circular in shape and about thirty feet across.

Skektek:  (having stepped out of the archway, he looks around)  Huh.  We
  were wrong about the rune - we thought it translated to "cut" or "wound"
  but obviously that's not accurate.
Belphanior:  Let's hope not.

  Shortly, everyone else had arrived, and explorations began.  Compared
to other gateways/complexes they'd found and explored, however, this one
was sparse.  Aside from the gateway arch and a single door of thick metal,
the cavern was empty.

Otto:  It may not have always been this way.  (he gestures to an area of
  the cavern floor)  There are marks here, like something heavy was put
  here and then later dragged away.  (he bends down, examining the ground)
Belphanior:  (looking around)  I sense no magic here, and no souls.  Just
  an empty cavern.
Skektek:  That door must lead somewhere.
Belphanior:  Let's find out where.  (to everyone)  You know the drill.

  The metal door held no traps and no magic, though Jenna had a vaguely
uneasy feeling about whatever was on the other side.

Jenna:  I said, the primary danger there is one we cause for ourselves.
Belphanior:  That's not something we've had to worry about since the days
  of Rob and Peyote being idiots.
Elgon:  Eh?
Belphanior:  Nothing, just some old...friends of mine.
Jenna:  You seem to have a lot of old friends.
Belphanior:  But few old enemies.  (he opens the door)

next:       a surprise, and another gateway trip
released:   5/20/05
notes:      Back to sharks:  if you like sharks and shark attacks of the
  fictional sort, I highly recommend the _MEG_ series by Steve Alten.
  The third book just came out in paperback, meaning that new readers
  can get/read all three books in sequence.
    A word on the gateways and that URL there...I'm trying to make this
  an ongoing, interactive experience where readers can see the mysteries
  as they unfold.  To accomplish this, the URL can't remain the same for
  each new gateway discovered, because them people who first read any
  given episode years later will go there and see the complete list of
  gateways.  To fix this, I'm going to start having episode numbers in
  the URL, so that (for example) gateways_873.html will point to a list
  that's current only to episode 873.  And so on.  This convention will
  be used from now on.

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