Chapter #962

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

+     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       +
+   1991-2007 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              +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   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:          12/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         somewhere deep within the Sea of Dust                  +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
+   "Call it what you want...wetwork, termination,          +
+    all adds up to the same thing...killing."                            +
+                                          - from _The Eiger Sanction_    +

                   CMLXII.  First Line of Defense

  All was quiet in the dark, subterranean chamber that had once held one
of Xusia's highly magical teleportation gateways.  Actually, the large
pyramidial area still contained the gateway, but the wondrous invention
was far from functional.  Its stonework, once pale yellow, was now a dull
black, the metal dial that operated the device fused in place, immobile.
The short, four-sided platform on which the gateway arch rested was also
damaged, though this rock was melted since it wasn't quite as strongly-
protected as the gateway itself.  As a result of its base being mangled,
the archway leaned slightly to one side.  It still radiated a powerful
magical aura, but it hadn't worked at all since the day Skektek's delayed
fireball exploded in this area.  Aside from the arch and the dais upon
which it rested, the remainder of the large room was also charred black,
its stonework fused in many spots by the incredible heat of that long-ago
fireball.  The chamber, a hundred feet on each side and pointed at the
top, had a single exit:  a large double door in the center of one wall.
This door was barred from the other side, as it had been for quite some
  The large pyramidial room was empty and least until now.

Belphanior:  (appears from nowhere, along with his entire group as well
  as Kronos)  Ah.  (he looks around)  Here we are.
Kronos:  While you secure the area, I shall open the portal to my
  fortress, and admit the troops.
Belphanior:  Fair enough.  (to his people)  Ys, Otto, Charlie - check
  those double doors, then guard them.  Skektek, Jenna, Elgon - prepare
  whatever battle-oriented spells you prefer, to help us deal with the
  forces of the mummy-king.  Mongo, you and Neera and I will scout this
  chamber real quick.
Mongo:  I'm not a scout-
Belphanior:  There might be powerful enemies hiding in here, so powerful
  that only you can deal with them.
Mongo:  Oh.  (he hefts Stormcrest)  Why didn't you just say so?
wispy thing:  (hovers near Belphanior)  brrrd?
Belphanior:  Okay, you can help us scout too.
wispy thing:  (grins in its odd, intangible way)  yrrrp.

  By the time the half-melted chamber and its sole exit were secured and
everyone was ready for battle, Kronos was creating his portal - a yawning
half-disc, fifteen feet in radius, that stood on its own near one wall of
this chamber.  It was only semi-solid at this point, obviously not quite
complete yet.  The lich seemed completely focused on casting his spell,
and his back was to Belphanior.

Belphanior:  (reflects briefly upon the fact that in his inexperienced,
  unseasoned youth, he would have just backstabbed his new ally)  Hmm.
  (something catches his eye, and he turns to the double doors)  What's

  Near those portals, Ys and Otto were gesturing wildly.  Nobody wanted
to just shout, since that might ruin the element of surprise, but there
was definitely something happening just on the other side of the dual
doors.  With a single magical leap, Belphanior was at the exit, sword

Otto:  Someone's coming - someone big and heavy.  The footsteps are
  shaking the floor.
Belphanior:  Yeah, I can feel it.  Skektek, hit whatever comes through
  the door with some spell, but be sure not to fill the whole room with
  any kind of collateral destruction.  Ys, you charge in after Skektek's
  spell, and use your sword.  Otto, see what your bolts can do.
Mongo:  What about-  (he feels the floor shaking)  Whoa, now that feels
  like a giant.  (he hefts his hammer, grinning)  Bring it on!
Belphanior:  Too bad we couldn't bring the golems with the teleport, but
  that would have been too much weight.  (looks back at Kronos, who is
  still working on his portal) I don't think he's ready yet.  Everyone,
  stand fast and give them hell-

  A final series of brief, heavy impacts was followed by the shattering
of the two heavy metal doors.  A gigantic form burst into the room; it
was humanoid and stood about ten feet tall, yet was almost that wide
since its compact body was squat and powerfully-muscled.  It was also
fashioned entirely of dull gray iron.

Belphanior:  (knocked down by one of the smashed metal doors)  Argh!
Otto:  Iron golem...shit!  (he fires a bolt, and then a second, but they
  bounce off of the golem's body.
Ys:  (charges the automaton)

  Something was different about this golem, as the reptilian quickly
learned.  Though it bore no actual weapons, its massive iron fists were
weapons in their own right.  Also, this golem moved quite a bit faster
than others of its kind...

iron golem:  (brings one thick arm up, blocking Ys' swinging sword, then
  connects with the other fist, hitting the big reptilian in the stomach)
Ys:  Ungh!  (knocked back twenty feet, he crashes into a wall and slumps
  to the floor, dazed)
iron golem:  (ignoring Otto and his consistent barrage of crossbow bolts,
  it heads right for Skektek)
Skektek:  (recovers from his surprise, launching a volley of magical

  These arcane projectiles had no more effect than Otto's missiles, and
the golem bore down on the now-hapless wizard.  However, it had made the
mistake of exposing its back to Belphanior, who had recovered and now
dropped a thick pile of webbing onto the construct, anchoring it to the

iron golem:  (struggles against the webs, slowly but surely ripping them
Belphanior:  Note to self...invent a more powerful web spell that can hold
  golems, giants, and such.
Neera:  We can do that, no problem.  (she summons a Bigby's Interposing
  Hand and readies it to help stall the golem once it breaks free of the
Elgon:  We've got to stop this golem, right now.
Mongo:  No sweat.  (he charges toward the golem)  This thing's history-
golem:  rrrrRRRRUUUURGH!

  Now it was the adventurers who made the mistake, for the golem opened
its iron jaws and belched forth a great gout of gray gas.  Several of the
companions - Belphanior, Neera, Skektek, Elgon, and Mongo - were caught
in this cloud, and they found it to be quite harmful...

Skektek:  What the hell-  (instantly turned to stone, he stands there, a
  shocked look on his now-rocky face)
Neera:  (also becomes a statue)
Elgon:  (tries to leap back, but doesn't quite make it, and joins the
  other two as a freshly-minted, rather lifelike statue)
Mongo:  (slower than the rest, he is completely surrounded by the vapors)
Belphanior:  (possessed of somewhat better reflexes than the others, he
  dives to the side and rolls free of the deadly gases)  Neera!  Dammit!
Otto:  (to Razor Charlie)  That's not good.
Razor Charlie:  Neither is that.  (he points to the passageway beyond the
  demolished double doors)
Otto:  Oh, fuck.

  A horde of mummies was approaching, and the two friends could smell the
rot from where they stood.  These were not the bald, human-like mummies
previously encountered in this underground city...but rather the horrid,
bandaged sort more commonly known and feared by adventurers everywhere.

Otto:  (thinking quickly, he grabs a flask of oil and hurls it ten feet
  into the passage, where it shatters and covers the floor and walls with
  the highly-flammable oil)
Razor Charlie:  (one step ahead of the dwarf, he quickly produces flint
  and steel, lighting a torch which Otto produces)
Otto:  Thanks.  (he hurls the flaming brand into the hallway, where it
  instantly ignites the spilled oil and creates a wall of flames)
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the mummies beyond the makeshift flaming
  barrier)  Won't hold them long.
Otto:  No, it won't.  We have to figure something else out.  Go check
  Ys and see if he's in any condition to fight.  I'm going to see what
  I have in my bag of tricks.
Jenna:  (dashes over, having made her way around the edge of the room)
  Mummies, eh?  Perhaps I can be of some assistance.
Otto:  (nods)  You bet.

  Meanwhile, Belphanior was watching the iron golem rip away the last of
the webs that held it in place.  The elf was debating whether to use his
time-stopping hourglass or simply avoid the golem.  His main goal was to
lead the highly-destructive construct away from the petrified forms of
his companions, since they might easily be damaged beyond any hope of

iron golem:  (turns toward Belphanior)
Belphanior:  Come and get me.  (he backs away)
iron golem:  (lumbers toward the elf, who turns and runs)

  The problem was, the thing was faster than Belphanior had expected,
and it soon had him backed against a wall.  He could outrun it, but not
by enough to continue the chase forever - and he would tire eventually,
while the golem never would.

iron golem:  (raises its fists, slowly stalking the elusive elf)
Belphanior:  (wonders just what the hell is taking Kronos so long to
  summon his portal and bring in some reinforcements)

next:       the battle really gets going
released:   3/23/07
notes:      It's been a while since a big battle.  This is fun.

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