Chapter #1096

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                                   +   +
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                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic VI     +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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       +
+   1991-2021 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'S TEAM                                                     +
+                                                                         +
+   Belphanior     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+     Poulos        8th level human warrior                               +
+   Irina          14th/7th level female human priestess/warrior          +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Paige          13th level human female warrior                        +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   OTHER ALLIES                                                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level dark elven wizard                           +
+     Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                        +
+   Cespedes       19th level human wizard, elementalist                  +
+     iron dwarf   insane, armored berserker                              +
+     Talos        adamantine golem                                       +
+   Dexitheseus    17th level human wizard, jack of all trades            +
+   Kronos         extremely powerful lich                                +
+     Frigaar      white dragon                                           +
+     Glacius      white dragon                                           +
+   Parekh         18th level female human wizard, innovator              +
+     Drak           15th level human barbarian                           +
+   Pallin         18th level grey elven wizard of Celestian, teleporter  +
+     Socrates     large albino hound                                     +
+   Wu             18th level human wizard, transmuter                    +
+   Date:          7/19/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         the Black Crown, within the Corusk Mountains           +
+   Climate:       extremely cold                                         +
+   "Are you sure you want to find it?  Some things are better left       +
+    unfound."                                                            +
+                                        - from _Abominable_ (2006)       +

                   MXCVI.  A Sojourn Through Time

  After gathering an array of powerful wizards and other companions, the
lich Kronos has begun the process of opening a gate in the very fabric of
time itself...

Kronos:  (chanting quietly as arcane glyphs appear all around the group)

  The lich had further bolstered the party's ranks with a pair of last-
minute additions.  Frigaar and Glacius were immense white dragon siblings
whose allegiance to Kronos was as firm as it was unexplained.  Each of the
beasts was massive - well over a hundred feet in length - and despite some
of the party's misgivings about (or fear of) dragons, there was no doubt
that the wyrms would be powerful allies.  Their size did not appear to be
an issue with whatever spell Kronos was working, though, as the glowing
symbols surrounded the dragons along with the smaller members of the group.

Kronos:  Brace yourselves!  (he chants more loudly, as the very air around
  the party begins to ripple and flow like liquid)
Pallin:  (frowning)  This is...more than just a spatial reloc-

  The surrounding environment abruptly vanished, replaced with a swirling
mix of colors and sounds that assaulted their senses.  The rocky ground of
Kronos' abode had simply ceased to exist, and they were floating now...or
more accurately, drifting through nothingness.  It was impossible to get
a sense of time or space as they traveled, but the general impression was
that they were moving through a large tube-like structure - which was yet
minuscule in comparison to the vast void without.  However, that emptiness
was surrounded by roaring silence and fleeting glimpses of other places
and times.  In the space of a few heartbeats, they witnessed the birth of
a distant star...a barren, misty world devoid of animal life...another,
vastly different world whose surface was inhabited by huge, lumbering undersea volcano surrounded by a dozen unique species of
marine life...the building of some ancient unnamed empire...a brutal war
between two only-vaguely-humanoid races...a dying world breaking apart in
a massive display of destruction...and several other scenes that were more
difficult to make sense of.
  Between these alternate worlds - or alternate times, or perhaps both -
were moments filled with points of light whizzing amidst a pitch-black
space.  This, combined with the constant roaring sound that varied in its
volume but could be felt within every fiber of one's being, was powerfully
disorienting.  It seemed likely that, had they not been protected within
whatever conduit surrounded them, they would have been cast off into that
dizzying maelstrom to be lost forever in the spaces between worlds.  And
then - just as the utter chaos all around them threatened to overwhelm
their senses - the band of travelers found themselves standing still on
the solid ground of a rocky plain which stretched away in all directions,
as far as the eye could see.  No matter which way they turned, the land
ended at a dim violet glow on the distant horizon.  Above them loomed a
similarly-hued sky of purple, with bright points that surely signified
distant stars.

Pallin:  The...Center of Time?
Paige:  (looking around)  It doesn't look like the center of anything,
  except a gigantic, flat piece of land.
Kronos:  The term is figurative, not literal.  Time and space have little
  real structure here.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  The lich speaks truth.  While this area may
  appear to us as a level expanse, it is actually a folded and compressed
  section of space, around which the laws of reality can bend...or break.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I don't like the sound of that.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  If you could perceive it as I do, you would
  like it even less.
Irina:  (muttering)  I like it less anyway.
Hope:  Why's that?
Irina:  I have a strong feeling - which in my particular profession is a
  pretty damn good sign - that a lot of death lies ahead today.
Hope:  I hope not.
Irina:  (shakes her head)
Cespedes:  (studying the surroundings in ways the others aren't, or can't)
Wu:  What?  What is interesting?
Cespedes:  The surrounding area is devoid of air...and warmth.  We should
  be dead.  (he frowns)  Theoretically.
Kronos:  It is the magic, the power of this place.  It...adapts.
Belphanior:  That's great.  What do we need to do before it adapts in some
  way that we won't like?  Is there a center in this Center of Time?
Kronos:  (brandishes the Loom of Ages, which the elf had handed over just
  before they left Oerth)  I've already brought us fairly near where we
  need to be.  (he speaks a command word that Belphanior hadn't known
  existed, and the Loom glows purple)  Behold.

  Suddenly, the ground about five hundred feet distant - the direction
mattered not, as all of them were equally vague and indiscernible here -
shifted and churned, collapsing in upon itself to form a hole.  This pit
was surrounded by a whirling vortex of matter, which was being drawn into
the thing - yet somehow, the surrounding area remained intact.

Kronos: the actual Center of Time.
Otto:  (squinting)  It hurts, just to look at.
Kronos:  I did not want to bring us any closer to the thing, for it is
  as unpredictable as it is perilous.
Dexitheseus:  So we just need to get Chargrim's key into that...whatever
  it is?
Kronos:  Yes.
Belphanior:  (nods)  As far as I'm concerned, we can feed the wizard to
  the vortex as well.  (he smirks)  That would save us time and effort
  down the road.
Pallin:  We can certainly try, whenever the evildoers appear.
Parekh:  (looks around)  A good point.  What now?  Do we wait in ambush
  like some common assassins?
Kronos:  I suppose...although there's nothing common about us.

next:       the Crimson Blades
released:   10/15/2021
notes:      There was a HUGE gap between the writing of 1093-4-5 (February
  2021) and this one (June 2021).  The reasons were mostly centered around
  chaos in my personal life...we're building a house, but the person I've
  been renting from suddenly decided to sell his house, and did so really
  fast, so we have to move twice now.  Plus I've been dealing with a minor
  surgery that had some complications; it was my first-ever surgery as an
  adult and it kind of knocked me for a loop.
    But as I type this, it's late June, and I've got this one wrapped up,
  and so I need to write four more to reach episode 1100.  Its natural
  release date would have been 11/12/21 but I want that one to go out on
  11/4/21 to match the THIRTY-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of these stories, which in
  all likelihood means 1098 will release on 10/29/21 as intended, 1099 may
  also go out that same day, and then 1100 will come on Thursday 11/4 so
  that the date lines up.

    I suppose I'll have more to say about that 30-year milestone when the
  day actually arrives.
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