Chapter #1098

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                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic VI     +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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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       +
+   1991-2021 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!                                          +
+   ADVENTURERS AND ALLIES                                                +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level dark elven wizard                           +
+     Lyra         14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   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                           +
+   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                    +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   CRIMSON BLADES AND ALLIES                                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Babuk           lean, wiry monk                                       +
+   Chargrim        archmage                                              +
+     huge invisible demon                                                +
+   Clavius         tall, skinny psionicist                               +
+   Lord Rammstein  unholy warrior                                        +
+     6 devout warriors of Hextor                                         +
+   Kalenon         high priest of Hextor                                 +
+     water elemental                                                     +
+      9 wights                                                           +
+     13 ghouls                                                           +
+     27 skeletal warriors                                                +
+   Galil-Gildur    elven wizard                                          +
+   Orgthrok        dwarven warrior                                       +
+   Krom            hunter                                                +
+   Snake           assassin                                              +
+   Date:          unknown                                                +
+   Time:          unknown                                                +
+   Place:         the Center of Time, between known realities            +
+   Climate:       moderate                                               +
+   "I don't fight for honor.  I fight to win."                           +
+                  - Kinjo, from _The Hunted_ (1995)                      +

                   MXCVIII.  Battle at the Center of Time

  The adventurers and allies had split themselves into five smaller teams
surrounding the vortex at the Center of Time.  Now that the Crimson Blades
had arrived (and weathered the first attack) they now moved to engage the

Chargrim:  (emerges from the smoke, airborne and spellcasting)
Skektek:  Oh, hell-

  The ground beneath Skektek's group suddenly split open, a gaping crack
appearing and widening under their feet.

Skektek:  Whoa.  (already wearing his ring of flying, he recovers rather
  quickly, and manages to snag Otto before the dwarf falls into the large
  rent in the ground)  Ungh!  Hang on...I'll get you away from this thing.
Otto:  Right.  (just thankful that he didn't drop his crossbow)
Paige:  (falls about ten feet down into the crack, but then uses her
  enchanted boots to leap out of it and back onto solid ground)
Razor Charlie:  (sliding down into the gap, he arrests his fall thirty
  feet down, hanging onto a narrow ledge of rock by his fingertips)  Shit.
Chargrim:  (watching the foes)  Someone please go deal with those fools.
Krom:  On it.  (he dashes in the direction of Skektek's team)
Galil-Gildur:  I shall assist.  (also airborne, he heads that way as well,
  becoming invisible)

  However, someone else had other ideas...

Parekh:  Not so fast.  (she completes a spell, dropping a web of unusual
  breadth and thickness over a large area, including that occupied by the
  invisible elf)

  The dark-skinned wizard and her team - Drak, Pallin, the hound Socrates,
and the ancient wizard Wu - emerged from their hiding place and entered
the fray.

Parekh:  (watches as the web descends, trapping the foe within)  We have
  unfinished business, you and I, from the last time we met.
Galil-Gildur:  (lashes out with an arc of eldritch blue flame, burning
  himself free of the webbing in an instant)  So be it, mortal fool.  (he
  soars toward her and the others)  My magic will be more than-

  A gaping portal appeared right in front of the elf, who couldn't slow
his motion in time to avoid going through it...and emerging from its twin
right above the ground nearby!

Galil-Gildur:  (hits the ground, hard)  Ungh.
Pallin:  (smiles at the success of his portal spell)
Kalenon:  (seeing this, he turns to one of the groups of undead that he
  brought along)  Go forth...and kill!

  The force of skeletons, more than two dozen strong and wielding swords
of various types, instantly turned and charged in the direction of Parekh
and her team, fanning out to avoid presenting a single grouped target.

Drak:  (grows to eight, then ten, then twenty feet in height, hefting
  his gigantic mallet)  Oh, yes.  (he wades in the direction of the mob
  of skeletons)
Socrates:  (eyes the undead, but remains with its master)
Pallin:  Good boy.
Babuk the monk:  (silently but purposefully heads that way as well, using
  the skeletons as a distraction)
Wu:  (waves an arm, deflecting a bolt of lightning that Chargrim just
  launched at a third group of adventurers)


Belphanior:  (watches the electricity arc away into the sky harmlessly)
  Good save.
Hope:  It's far from over.  (she nods toward the armored form of Lord
  Rammstein, who is charging their way, sword held high, followed by his
  half-dozen warriors)
Poulos:  (readies his scimitar)  Let them come.
Irina:  (notes that the warriors have backup, in the form of a pack of
  ghouls directed their way by Kalenon)  We've got to take out that high
Belphanior:  I'll work on that.  Can you stop those undead?
Irina:  (raises her holy symbol in one hand, and hefts her mace in the
  other)  I should be able to.
Ys:  (readies his gigantic greatsword)  You won't have to do it alone.

  Meanwhile, another of the groups of allies was moving with a specific
purpose in mind...

Kronos:  (to Dexitheseus)  I'm going to deal with the wizard.
Dexitheseus:  (nods)  I've got your back.

  Both wizards were airborne, flanked by the pair of white dragons, and
were bearing down on Chargrim...when two simultaneous attacks came, from
two different sources.

huge, invisible demon:  (airborne, it slams into the nearer of the white
Frigaar:  (falls toward the ground, grappling and clawing at its unseen
  opponent)  GRAAARGH!
Dexitheseus:  (suddenly finds his mind under assault by a psychic blast
  from Clavius, who stands quite a distance away but whose psionic attacks
  have considerable range)  Argh!  (he struggles to remain aloft as all
  of his senses are overloaded at once)

  Just like that, the four attackers were now two...and Chargrim, fully
aware of his foes' approach, launched an immense cone of fire right at
the dragon Glacius.  In a desperate aerial maneuver that seemed impossible
for its massive body, the dragon rolled and avoided the brunt of the fiery
blast...but one wing was still badly singed, causing the wyrm to descend
to the ground in an awkward fluttering motion.

Chargrim:  Hah-
Kronos:  (hits the wizard with a barrage of blazing meteorites, knocking
  him around in the air and also obliterating multiple layers of magical

  By this time, the fifth and final group of adventurers and allies were
already in motion, moving to deal with Kalenon, his water elemental, the
band of wights, and the dwarven warrior Orgthrok.

Lyra:  The water elemental's the most powerful of the muscle.  Maybe we
Cespedes:  (sailing through the air along with her and Alindyar, he
  completes a spell as they close to about a hundred feet...and the huge
  water elemental abruptly vanishes)
Lyra:  Or, that.
Alindyar:  Banished or destroyed?
Cespedes:  Returned to its home plane.
Alindyar:  Just as I suspected.
Cespedes:  Although there is no way to know for sure.  This place is odd,
  and space is warped around it.
Kalenon:  (does a double-take after his elemental disappears)  What?
Orgthrok:  Sometimes the old ways are the best.  (he hefts his battleaxe,
  eyeing the approaching iron dwarf, then charges in that direction)
Talos:  (lumbers along behind the iron dwarf)

  Elsewhere, Skektek and Otto landed safely on the ground away from the
massive fissure that had opened beneath them.

Skektek:  (lets the dwarf go)  Whew.  I'm not used to carrying much of
  anything, much less other people.
Otto:  I'm glad you did.  If you can go back and get Charlie, I'll- (he
  recoils)  LOOK OUT-

  The warning came too late, as Krom backhanded the wizard, sending him
sailing through the air to land in a heap twenty feet away, broken and

Krom:  (turns on Otto)  And now...(he pauses, as a crossbow bolt appears
  in his chest)  Eh?
Otto:  (hastily working to reload)
Krom:  You're not going to get a chance to reload.  I'll gut you- (he
  doubles over in sudden pain)  Urgh!
Otto:  (smirks)
Krom:  Poison...
Otto:  Damn right.  I don't leave home without it.
Krom:  (painfully rises to his full, nearly seven-foot height)  Good plan,
  but poison doesn't work on me like it does on regular people.  (with a
  sudden leap, he tackles the dwarf, knocking the crossbow from his hands)
Otto:  (feels some ribs crack with the impact)
Krom:  (hurls the dwarf away, then changes his mind and closes in again,
  one huge fist raised)  And now-
Paige:  (steps between the two)  And now, you fight someone who's ready
  and able.
Krom:  What's this?  (he leers menacingly)  Dessert?
Paige:  (her sword bursts into flames)  Hardly.

  Nearby, Razor Charlie had finally made his way out of the gaping crack
in the ground.

Razor Charlie:  (climbs out, getting to his feet, and looks back at the
  fissure, grimacing)

  The warrior sensed, before he saw, a nearby presence; he whirled about
suddenly, a throwing knife now ready in each hand.

Snake:  (standing there, perhaps twenty feet away, he regards the lean,
  scarred warrior silently)

  Some distance away, Parekh's team was dealing with the elf Galil-Gildur,
the monk Babuk, and a couple dozen skeletons...

Drak:  (wades into the midst of the skeletons, swinging wildly with his
  gigantic mallet)

  At twenty feet in height, and with proportionate strength, the warrior
pulverized every undead warrior he hit.  The skeletons had no fear, and
so they kept on coming...and getting smashed, for the most part.  A few
of the things instead closed on Pallin and his pale hound, which quickly
moved to protect its master.

Socrates:  (barrels into a skeleton, knocking it down, then leaps away
  before it can strike back)
Pallin:  (launches an array of magical bolts from his fingertips, the
  enchanted missiles streaking forth and blasting away entire sections
  of skeletons' bony bodies)
Parekh:  (targets the stunned elf Galil-Gildur with another spell, which
  he resists, his eyes glowing as he stands)
Galil-Gildur:  (conjures a huge purple claw, which extends its taloned
  fingers before closing into a fist and hurtling toward the foe)
Parekh:  (unable to complete her next spell in time, she is saved by a
  force-shield that appears between her and the floating claw)  What?
Wu:  (standing nearby, he smiles thinly)
Parekh:  Not sure I needed the help, but thanks.
Wu:  (nods)  Of course.


Babuk:  (approaches Drak, who is surrounded by the skeletons with which
  he is fighting)

  The monk, moving silently and calmly amidst the chaos, drew closer to
the warrior's rear flank.  For whatever reason, the skeletons ignored
Babuk...and unbelievably, a few moments later he was within striking
distance of the much larger warrior.  Drak, however, had honed his senses
over decades of battle with men and beasts of all sorts; he was not one
to be taken unaware, even by a master combatant such as the monk.

Drak:  (whirls, then brings his giant hammer down, missing the foe by a
  foot as he deftly sidesteps)
Babuk:  (smiling grimly, he lashes out with a short staff, hitting the
  warrior in the side of one knee)
Drak:  (feels something crack, and falls to one knee)  Argh!
Babuk:  (swings the staff again, the blow barely deflected by the long
  handle of the huge barbarian's mallet)

  The monk was a lot faster, though, and Drak was crippled by his wounded
knee.  The monk's next blow hit him in the side, shattering bones and
knocking the barbarian to the ground, stunned and bleeding from the mouth

Drak:  (drops his gigantic mallet)

  Meanwhile, several hundred feet distant, a quartet of adventurers faced
Lord Rammstein, his warriors, and a baker's dozen of ghouls...

Poulos:  (in the front lines, along with Ys, he swings his scimitar with
  wild abandon, cutting into the nearest ghouls with devastating results)
ghoul #13:  (sails back, the top half of its head sliced off by the curved
  blade)  Ulk.
Poulos:  (steps back as another of the undead creatures nears, then
  brings his scimitar back around, severing one of the thing's arms)
ghoul #6:  (staggers back, gaping at the stump of its arm)  Gragh.
Ys:  (cleaves another ghoul in two, from shoulder to hip)
ghoul #1:  (falls, both halves still twitching and spurting dark blood)
Ys:  (whirls with surprising speed, catching another foe with a less-than-
  perfect slashing attack that nevertheless caves in its ribcage and sends
  it sailing away)
Irina:  (steps forth, brandishing her glowing holy symbol and chanting)

  The priestess' efforts bore great fruit indeed, as nine ghouls were
blasted out of existence, immediately freeing up the warriors for other

Ys:  (charges toward Lord Rammstein, who is flanked by his six warriors)
Poulos:  Wait for me!  (he follows, sidestepping the floundering remnant
  of one ghoul)
Hope:  (targeting Kalenon and the wights that surround him, she calls forth
  a fiery cloud which quickly envelops the foes)

  Kalenon wore armor that conferred near-total resistance to the deadly
effects of the fiery gases, but the wights had no such protection, and
their pallid flesh smoked and burned.

Kalenon:  Enough, by Hextor!  (he retaliates with a fiery spell of his
  own, which causes a great, burning storm of flames to appear, centered
  on Hope but of a wide enough area that others are caught in it too)

  In addition to Hope, the fringes of the fiery storm also reached Poulos,
Ys, Lord Rammstein, and his warrior followers.

Lord Rammstein:  (glares at the high priest, even as tongues of flame
  scatter across his armor)  Damn it.
Hope:  (severely burned, she falls unconscious)
Poulos:  (escapes the worst of the flames, but is still badly wounded and
  stunned, and falls)
six warriors:  (similarly burned, they stagger about in various states of
  shock, their armor steaming)
Ys:  (despite the flames at his back, he plows into Lord Rammstein, and
  the two huge combatants hit the ground)
Kalenon:  Hah.  (with the aid of magic, he senses something, and turns
Belphanior:  (having landed right behind the high priest, he invokes his
  powerful magical hourglass to stop time)
Kalenon:  (blinks, wondering what was supposed to happen just then...and
  reaches for the mace at his side)
Belphanior:  (raises the sword held ready in his other hand)

  The elf had been advised earlier, by Kronos, that any spells and items
having to do with time could have unpredictable effects in this dimension,
but he had needed to try.  Fortunately, he also had a backup plan...and it
was equally effective.

Belphanior:  (stabs Kalenon in his weapon-arm, the blade passing all the
  way through and causing the foe to drop his mace)
Kalenon:  Argh!  (he reaches out suddenly, clutching the elf's shoulder)
Belphanior:  (feels a surge of weakness from whatever the unknown magical
  attack is, and reels)
Kalenon:  (begins working a quick spell)
Belphanior:  (stands there, now unable to raise his sword-arm, from which
  his blade dangles uselessly)

  Most combatants would have retreated then, to try and heal or even to
escape.  However, Belphanior wasn't at all like most people.  His killer
instinct was as strong as it was quick to cause action, and he made his
decision in a heartbeat.

Belphanior:  (takes his sword in his other hand, then lunges forward,
  driving its point through the high priest's throat and out of the back
  of his neck)
Kalenon:  Urgggg...(he staggers, blood spurting from the ghastly wound)
Belphanior:  In case you're wondering, I've trained in swordplay with both
  hands.  (he kicks the wounded foe to the ground, then swings his dark
  blade once, twice...and severs the other's head)  Yessss...(he inhales
  as the incoming life energy gradually restores his strength)

next:       finale
released:   10/29/2021
notes:      We're getting there.  Not only did I write this one and the
  next (1099) on the same day - Labor Day 2021, to be exact - but I will
  release them on the same day later in 2021.
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