Chapter #905

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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       +
+   1991-2006 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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level drow wizard                                 +
+   Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Parekh         18th level human female wizard                         +
+   Drak           14th level human barbarian warrior                     +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Pallin         17th level grey elven wizard of Celestian              +
+   Date:          8/20/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes        +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "When there is no peril in the fight, there is no glory in            +
+    the triumph."                                                        +
+                                                         - A. Alvarez    +

                   CMV.  Course of Destruction

  Belphanior's attack on the Sea Princes' capital of Monmurg is in full
swing.  The assassin Whisper has previously eliminated the city's High
Wizard, while Belphanior and Otto have destroyed the Slavers' Council
before unleashing golems on the city's temples and main guardhouse.  The
pair have just arrived at the city's slave pens, where Alindyar and Lyra
have already begun dismantling the upper levels.  Skektek and Ys have
reduced the city government building to a burning shell.  Mongo, Elgon,
and Jenna are at the docks, where the dwarf is systematically sinking
the city's fleet of warships and slave galleys, one by one.

Parekh:  (along with Neera, Pallin, and Drak, she watches the events
  through a large crystal ball, from the safety of her distant home)
  They're doing well.
Pallin:  True, but we have yet to see the city's defenders.  The element
  of surprise is just about over, and there is bound to be some major
  resistance now.
Drak:  (to Parekh)  Can't we go and help-
Parekh:  (gently but firmly)  No.  I desire no involvement in this war.
Neera:  But you helped them...
Parekh:  No _direct_ involvement.

  Meanwhile, in Monmurg...

Ys:  (cuts down two city guardsmen with a single blow)  Will these fools
  never learn?
Skektek:  Doubtful.  (he works a spell, free to do so because the big
  reptilian stands between him and a small mob of charging attackers)

  A moment later, most of the foes found themselves running into a cloud
of noxious green gas, which made their stomachs heave and their eyes

Skektek:  Perfect!  (to Ys)  We need to get moving toward the armory.
  We can stay here and fight hordes of guards all day, but eventually
  my magic would run out and your sword-arm would tire.
Ys:  (brings his sword down on a guardsman's shield, cleaving it in two
  and breaking the man's arm)  Agreed.

  The reptilian disposed of three more foes who had been on the close
side of the stinking cloud, and Skektek then turned a large swath of
city street into watery mud, effectively blocking further pursuers.

Skektek:  (looking back at the shouting guards on the other side of the
  mud-trench)  This magical rod - this Elemental Conduit - sure does
  come in handy at times.
Ys:  Obviously.  (he ushers the wizard around a corner, just as arrows
  begin flying their way from the blocked guards)  They seem upset.
Skektek:  Can you blame them?  (he watches smugly as a couple of arrows
  bounce off of the invisible barrier that surrounds him)  Good thing I
  thought to get that spell before we started this little adventure...

  On the other side of the city, at the docks, Mongo had inflicted a
considerable amount of damage on the fleet.  Two warships had already
sunk, while three more were taking on water.

Elgon:  (hits the farthest ship, a slave galley, with a fireball that
  sets it ablaze)  Mongo, be careful and don't hit that one.
Mongo:  Why?
Elgon:  Because it's blocking the others, which keeps them from just
  escaping...and now it's burning, so they can't move it and won't want
  to risk ramming it to push it out of the way.  (he frowns)  Well, they
  may eventually ram it, but in the meantime, it buys you more time to
  destroy more ships.
Mongo:  (catches his hammer as it returns)  Oh.  Well...damn good work!
Elgon:  Thanks.
Mongo:  Building on that idea...(he hefts Stormcrest, then hurls the
  hammer at the second-farthest ship out on the water, smashing a large
  hold in its hull)  Damn, my aim is a little off for a target that far
Elgon:  (looks puzzled)
Mongo:  If I sink enough ships on the far side of the fleet, they ought
  to sink and maybe block the others from escaping.  (he catches his
  hammer as it returns)  Not that I plan to let any escape.
Jenna:  (points to a dozen guards who are running down toward the docks,
  as well as another dozen coming from one of the nearer ships)  Sorry
  to interrupt, but we're about to be surrounded.
Mongo:  Nonsense.  (he hurls Stormcrest at the group on land, bowling
  most of them over with a single blow)
Jenna:  Wow.
Elgon:  We need to hurry - we can't spend hours here when all the others
  will be meeting at the armory.
Mongo:  It takes time to sink an entire navy, you know.  (he catches the
  hammer as it returns)
Jenna:  Maybe you should focus on holing those ships, while Elgon and I
  worry about the attackers.
Elgon:  (working on casting an illusion to distract whoever heads their
  way next)

  In the temple district, the golems (three stone and two iron) were
doing a brutally efficient job of demolishing every building in sight.
Indeed, the constructs had begun their attack before most defenders
realized what was going on; several buildings had fallen, burying those
within, before the first spell bounced off of a golem's body.  Other
priests got into the act, but quickly learned that their magic had no
impact on these lumbering foes.  Certain attacks inflicted slight damage
or slowed a golem down, but never for long - and almost every blow each
golem struck either damaged or toppled a building.  One opposing priest
used a rock-to-mud spell strategically, but then he fell as the rooftop
he stood on came crashing down along with the rest of the building, and
the golem pulled its way out of the mud.
  The trio of stone golems attacking the city guardhouse was faring even
better, as they faced no spell-wielding foes.  Swords and arrows broke
uselessly against stony bodies, and the golems were taking the building
apart the hard way - one chunk at a time.  A number of city guards tried
to stop the golems...and the same number of city guards ended up strewn
about with broken, bleeding bodies.

  At the slave pens, Belphanior, Otto, and Razor Charlie prepared to
descend into the lower level that had just been exposed by Alindyar's
magic; they were accompanied by Alindyar, Lyra, and the last iron golem.

iron golem:  (hits its head on the ceiling above the stairway leading
Belphanior:  (turns to the golem)  You...wait here.  Allow no one past
  you into this stairway, and destroy anyone who attacks you.

  With that, the five adventurers walked down the stairway, descending
about twenty feet before the steps ended in a wide hallway which led
into the depths of the slave pens.  Resistance was, as expected, not
long in coming...

guard #1:  (standing in the hallway with a crossbow aimed at the four
  intruders)  Hold it right there!
guard #2:  (brandishes a sword)
guard #3:  (holding a pike)
Razor Charlie:  (eyes the guards, considering distances, angles, and
  armor as he decides who to kill first)
guard #1:  Nobody gets in here without authorization!
Alindyar:  Ah, yes...authorization.

  A moment later, the guards were astonished to find that the weapons
in their hands had changed into serpents, which writhed and coiled with
wild abandon.  All three men immediately panicked, screaming and waving
their arms as they tried to rid themselves of the coiled green snakes.

Otto:  (drawing a bead with his crossbow, he shoots the nearest guard in
  the neck, felling him instantly)
Belphanior:  (calmly walks forth and slays the second guard with a sword-
  thrust through the heart, absorbing the slain man's life force through
  his dark blade)  Ahhhhh.
Otto:  (aiming his crossbow, which magically reloaded itself in a mere
  fraction of the time it would have taken to do it manually)  And this
  dumbass makes three.  (he shoots the third guard, planting a bolt in
  his forehead and slaying him)
Lyra:  Did you have to do that?  They were helpless.
Otto:  Damn right we had to.  Just because they were helpless and had no
  weapons doesn't mean they'd stay that way.  The last thing we need is
  for someone to get shot or stabbed by a foe who'd been spared before.
Belphanior:  (nods)  War is hell, and we've declared war on this city
Alindyar:  (shrugs)  So be it.
Lyra:  (mumbles to herself as she works a spell)
Razor Charlie:  (still holding a knife in each hand, he looks a little
Belphanior:  You did the right thing, Charlie.  With your accuracy, it
  was best that you hold your attack until we knew which foes were dead,
  and which still lived, so that you could then finish them off.
Otto:  (glances at the corpses, who all lie dead next to their dropped
  weapons), just out of curiosity...were those actually snakes?
  I mean, we saw the illusion too, but if I understand how illusions are
  supposed to work, that doesn't make sense...(he frowns)  Understand,
  of course, that this is just a tactical question.  Belphanior and I
  need to know what's real and what's illusion.
Alindyar:  The illusion was real enough to those three men.
Otto:  But was it _real_?
Alindyar:  As real to you as it was to them.  Let me put it this way...
  imagine a circle.  Hmm.  (he makes a hand gesture, and a small blue
  circle appears in the air)  This is a circle, as you might draw on a
  wall.  Now, consider...(he waves his hand again, and the circle expands
  out into a three-dimensional sphere)  This is a sphere.  'Tis the same
  object, but with an added dimension.
Otto:  Okay...
Alindyar:  So, conventional illusions are the circle, and mine are the
Otto:  Uh...right.
Belphanior:  We really don't have time for this - there are slaves to
Lyra:  That's why I just sent a wizard eye down the passage, while this
  conversation was taking place.  I've found the main slave pens; let's
Belphanior:  (nods, and leads the others past the corpses, deeper into
  the complex)

  Elsewhere, Skektek and Ys had run into a bit of trouble...

Ys:  (cuts down two foes with one sweep of his great sword)  There are
  too many of them!  Do something!
Skektek:  (furiously working a spell)  I am!

  The two adventurers were backed into a corner, thanks to a concerted
effort by about fifty city guards, plus two wizards.  Of course, half of
those guards and one of the wizards now lay dead, either from huge sword
wounds or from Skektek's magic.  Unfortunately, the other wizard had hit
Ys with a barrage of magical missiles, wounding his sword arm and forcing
the pair from their intended path to the armory.  Now, they were in a bit
of trouble, moreso because some of the guards had readied their bows and
were about to launch a volley of arrows at the pair of invaders, which
would undoubtedly be followed up by a melee charge.  This was, of course,
quite bad.  If Ys was overrun, Skektek would have nobody to protect him
while he cast his spells, and could potentially be overwhelmed...and if
Skektek went down, it would be Ys' wounded sword-arm against a score of
  Naturally, Skektek had no intention of letting either scenario happen.

Skektek:  (hits the massed guardsmen with a sheet of flame, roasting the
  closest foes and driving the further ones back with burning clothes
  and hair)  That'll teach you fools.
wizard #2:  (hovering in the air, he cackles triumphantly as he sees
  Skektek launch that spell)  Hah!  (pleased with his strategy and the
  perfect timing of his own spell, he points his finger at the foe)
Skektek:  (aims his wand of fireballs at the other)  Oh, no you don't.

  The other wizard's bolts of fire arced toward Skektek...and were
promptly engulfed in the growing fireball he'd just launched from his

wizard #2:  Nooooo-
Skektek:  (to Ys)  Cover your eyes.

  The fireball fully exploded as it hit the foe, bathing much of the
city street in a rain of fire and stunning those foes who still lived.
Even Ys and Skektek felt the barrage of heat, despite their distance
from the blast.

Ys:  (moves his arm from his face)  If I had eyebrows, they'd be singed
  right now.
Skektek:  Sorry...that went off a little too close to us, but I had no
  choice.  (he uses his ring of flying to take to the air)  I don't know
  why I didn't do this earlier.
guard #33:  (staggering about, rubbing his eyes)
Ys:  (swats the man aside with a fist, then walks out into the street
  once more)  We need to hurry to the armory.
Skektek:  One moment.  (he uses the Elemental Conduit to topple the
  building they were just backed up against, bringing it crashing down
  on top of most of the guards who they were just fighting)  Sorry guys,
  but we can't have you recovering and chasing us down again.
Ys:  True enough.
Skektek:  For every city guard or wizard we get rid of, that's one less
  person who can come back later to kill us.

  They got moving again, but before long, they were distracted by a loud
explosion from the docks, to the south.

Ys:  That would be Mongo, Elgon, and the battle's still going
  on there.  What do you think?
Skektek:  We ought to go see if we can help, though Belphanior may be
  counting on us at the armory.  Then again, we can't leave this city
  until we're all at the really, we should help Mongo and the
  others finish what they've started.  Plus, Jenna may be able to tend
  to your arm.
Ys:  (nods)

  With that, they made haste toward the south, and the great battle that
was taking place there, judging from the sounds and the smoke rising into
the air from that direction.

next:       the battle at the docks
released:   2/3/06
notes:      I'm going to try a new approach to fanmail:  if you read one
  of my stories and want to send fanmail and see it answered before the
  very next story, then send your fanmail right away, before the end of
  the weekend after the story is released.  If you do this, I will get
  the fanmail by that Monday, which will allow me to answer it and post
  that on before the next story comes out the following Friday.
    Just an idea.  I've become tired of answering fan mail about events
  that happened a dozen (or a hundred) stories ago.  With a little bit of
  extra effort on your part and my part, we can make the process better.

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