Chapter #1099

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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!                                          +
+   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 (slain)                         +
+     water elemental (banished)                                          +
+      9 wights (slain)                                                   +
+     13 ghouls (slain)                                                   +
+     27 skeletal warriors (some slain)                                   +
+   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                                               +
+   "Overkill is underrated, my friend."                                  +
+                  - from _The A-Team_ movie (2010)                       +

                   MXCIX.  The Fall of the Crimson Blades

  The battle at the Center of Time rages on, as a number of combatants
have been injured, incapacitated, or slain.  Belphanior has just taken
out the first major player among the enemies, killing the high priest
Kalenon and absorbing his life force.

Belphanior:  (kicks the 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 restores his strength)  Ahhhhh.  (he flexes
  his now-recovered sword arm)

  Nearby, the archmage Chargrim was locked in desperate battle with the
lich Kronos.  By now, the purple-robed wizard had fully realized the
predicament that he and his companions faced.  There was no telling how
their foes had one-upped them, arriving here first in greater numbers,
and remaining concealed until the moment they attacked.  It undoubtedly
had to do with magic from one or more of the opposing wizards.  An earlier
attempt to bring in more allies via summoning magic hadn't worked, which
made the situation worse.  But Chargrim didn't fret, because his mind
didn't work that way.  He was interested in solving problems first, and
getting answers second...and he was pretty good at solving problems.

Chargrim:  (blasts Kronos with a prismatic spray, driving the lich back
  and allowing the wizard time to find and ready a small sphere of iron,
  which he then hurls at the foe)

  The item grew in size as it soared through the air, quickly changing
itself into a series of thick metal bands...which magically encircled
their target!

Kronos:  (still recovering from multiple harmful effects of the spell,
  he finds himself entrapped, his arms pinned to his sides)  Ungh!
Chargrim:  So much for-
Cespedes:  (hovering nearby, he animates the ground beneath the wizard,
  causing it to rise ten feet into the air and grab the wizard's feet,
  then instantly re-solidify, trapping the foe)
Chargrim:  (scowls, his feet trapped in the hard stone)  Damn it!

  Meanwhile, there were a number of other battles afoot.  The gigantic,
invisible demon and the white dragon Frigaar were wrestling about on the
ground, both of them now suffering from a dozen bloody wounds.  The other
of the dragons, Glacius, had slammed into the ground, badly burned from
the earlier flame spell.  Dexitheseus was still disoriented, but had been
saved from his fall by a ring he wore, which caused him to float down to
the ground.  The adamantine golem ranged about, not yet having found a foe
with which to fight.  Of more interest to a casual observer might have
been the furious combat between the evil dwarven warrior Orgthrok and the
cursed berserker known as the iron dwarf.

iron dwarf:  RAAARGH!  (its double-bladed battleaxe swings wildly)
Orgthrok:  (reels from a blow that cracks his helmet, but nevertheless
  rebounds, his own axe smashing into the roaring foe's armored chest)

  For at least the fourth time in this fight, the evil dwarf's axe head
was chipped, such was the quality of the other's armor.  Worse, Orgthrok
was quickly tiring, while the armored dwarf showed no signs of fatigue

iron dwarf:  (lunges forward, shrugging off a direct axe-blow to its helm
  as it punches the other, knocking him back twenty feet)
Orgthrok:  (bounces along the ground, somehow holding onto his weapon,
  then stands up, spitting out teeth and wiping blood from his broken
  nose)  Bah!  (he charges forward, axe raised)
iron dwarf:  (also charges)  GRAAAAAAAARGH!

  The two collided, the tremendous impact of metal on metal shaking the
ground and resounding in the immediate area.

iron dwarf:  (pummeling the other with both axe and fist)  RARRGH!
  (it reaches out, grabbing the foe's helm with one armored hand...and
  then twists, ripping Orgthrok's head from his shoulders, shaking the
  bloody trophy and roaring)  GRAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!  (it then hurls the
  severed head away)
Alindyar:  (airborne nearby, he watches the gory missile sail past)
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  There's something you don't see every day.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Indeed.  (he surveys the various battles in
  progress)  We should join the conflict...but where? 
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I'd suggest the leader.  With that priest
  slain, the wizard is by far the most dangerous.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye.


Krom:  (lunges forth, swiping at Paige with huge hands that resemble the
  paws of an animal, claws and all)  Hold still!
Paige:  (ducks under the attack, her flaming sword slashing the foe's
  side and inflicting a shallow cut)

  This was a dangerous game of cat and mouse, and the warrior-woman was
definitely feeling like the mouse here.  The huge beast-man was bigger
and stronger, and surprisingly fast for his size and bulk...but she had
considerable speed and skill-at-arms herself, and her sword was not only
razor-sharp but also aflame.  This was not a battle that would last long,
as a single mistake would spell the end for one of the combatants.

Krom:  Ah, to hell with it.  (he leaps forward, leaving Paige only one
Paige:  (impales the snarling foe through the midsection, the point
  emerging from his broad back)
Krom:  Argh!  (rolls his eyes as blood gushes from his mouth...and then
  locks gazes with her, grinning)
Paige:  What?!?
Krom:  Surprised?  (he seizes her with both hands)  Don't worry, I'll
  heal.  And now that you can't swing that knife around anymore...I'm
  going to peel you like an onion.

  Nearby, Razor Charlie had just climbed his way out of the huge crack in
the ground...only to find himself twenty feet from the assassin Snake.

Razor Charlie:  (grimaces angrily)

  The warrior had faced this foe before, and had actually been able to
tag him with a few thrown knives.  For that reason, he felt confident that
he could do so again...and thereby keep this deadly assassin at bay.

Razor Charlie:  (begins throwing knives at the other, one after another,
  making his most focused offensive effort in a long while)

  The throws were perfect, and each blade would have found its target, had
that target been a normal enemy.  But the assassin had apparently gained
some measure of protection since their last encounter, for most of the
knives were deflected by an unseen barrier.

Snake:  (smiles thinly, and advances)
Razor Charlie:  (grasping his most powerful magical knife, he takes an
  extra moment to focus, then throws the blade)
Snake:  (hit in the thigh, he grunts in pain)

  This had been deliberate; the leather armor the assassin wore appeared
to adequately protect his torso, but not so much his legs.  Razor Charlie
had gambled on his knife having a greater chance to inflict harm if aimed
at a less obvious target.

Snake:  (limping slightly, he frowns, then heads for the scarred warrior)

  Razor Charlie had no illusions about his chances in a melee fight with
this foe, but nevertheless he readied himself, a knife in each hand.  If
the assassin was to triumph, that victory would not come easily.

Razor Charlie:  (grimaces and sets his feet, preparing to do his best to
  avoid the other's attack and utilize his knives at close range)
Snake:  (senses something, and looks up sharply, moving to one side...but
  is hampered by his wounded leg)

  A moment later, things were settled in a most surprising way, as a huge
metal foot slammed down on the assassin, ending his life with a tremendous
impact that shook the ground.

Razor Charlie:  (looks up into the impassive face of the adamantine golem,
  thirty feet above, and grimaces)
adamantine golem:  (lumbers away, continuing to obey Cespedes' earlier
  instructions to target and destroy anyone not from their group)
Razor Charlie:  (regards the large red smear on the ground nearby)  Huh.
  (he wonders if his knife survived the golem's stomp)

  Meanwhile, nearby, Parekh had taken advantage of Wu's help to conjure
a gigantic hammer of orange energy, with which she was dueling the purple
claw created by the elf Galil-Gildur.  The huge animated objects, both
comprised of magical energy, struck and parried, blocked and swiped, as
the wizards focused on their battle.

Pallin:  (his attention captured by this rather unusual duel, he fails to
  note the approach of the monk Babuk)
Socrates:  (well aware of the foe's proximity, it growls, then leaps to
  defend its master)
Babuk:  (sidesteps the bounding attack, swiping at the animal with his
Socrates:  (yelps, hitting the ground with a broken foreleg)
Pallin:  How dare you-  (his spell is interrupted by the slender monk's
  next attack, made with unbelievable speed)

  The foe threw his staff, its tip striking the wizard in the forehead.
Pallin had a protective spell in place, but it was overwhelmed by the
enchantments on the staff; the wizard was knocked from his feet.

Babuk:  (moves forward like the wind, regaining his staff before it can
  fall to the ground, and begins raining blows upon the wizard)

  In the space of a few heartbeats, Pallin was badly beaten and bruised,
and would have likely perished in short order if not for one of his allies
seeing what was happening and taking appropriate action.

Lyra:  (launches two magical, flaming arrows at the monk)
Babuk:  (despite this attack coming from behind him, he still manages to
  dodge one of the magical projectiles...but the other hits him full in
  the torso)  Ungh!  (he falls, a large smoking wound in his side)
Pallin:  (moaning weakly, in great pain)

  Elsewhere, Irina was tending to the wounded Hope.  Nearby, Ys and Lord
Rammstein had regained their feet and were engaged in a fierce battle,
their massive swords swinging and blocking time and again.  The natural
outcome of this particular pairing would never be known, however, for a
wounded but still-dangerous ally was up and walking again...walking, and

Otto:  (takes careful aim, and fires, putting a poisoned crossbow bolt
  through a seam in Rammstein's armor)
Lord Rammstein:  ARGH!  (he lurches back, gauntleted hands grasping at
  the bolt)
Ys:  Eh?
Otto:  (nods to the reptilian, then staggers from the pain of his wounds)

  While he generally fought a fair fight, Ys was no paladin, with a code
of honor or an obligation to his opponent.  When presented with the sudden
advantage, he capitalized on it, and fully.

Ys:  (lunges forward, his gigantic broadsword swinging in a deadly arc)

  Incredibly, the blow didn't cleave the wounded foe in half - a testament
to the quality and enchantment of his armor.  However, the resulting dent
in the front of his armor was several inches deep, and its impact surely
broke a number of Lord Rammstein's bones.  To his credit, the huge warrior
remained standing...despite the poisoned bolt, despite the mighty blow he
had just suffered.

Lord Rammstein:  (raises his sword weakly)
Ys:  (strikes again, shattering the foe's breastplate and knocking him
  away onto the ground, where he lands hard on his back)
Lord Rammstein:  (sits up, reaching about for his dropped sword, around
  whose handle his fingers once again close)
Otto:  (to Ys)  Can you believe this guy?  (having recovered somewhat,
  and reloaded, he fires another poisoned bolt into a rent in the foe's
Lord Rammstein:  Ungh!  (he looks about)  Felled by fleas...who could have
  known?  (he grasps a small red amulet that rests on a chain around his
  neck)  No matter.  (he begins laughing loudly and deeply)

  As the warrior's huge hand closed around the stone, it began to crack,
emitting blazing rays of reddish light.

Ys:  What madness-
Lord Rammstein:  (shouting very unlike one who's critically injured)  For
six warrior followers:  (all wounded but nearby, they raise their swords
  in unison, echoing the cry)  For Hextor!
Otto:  (suddenly realizes what's most likely about to happen, and shouts
  to Ys)  GET BACK!

  They both turned and ran, as fast as they could...but were still caught
in the blast radius as the powerful, evil amulet - fueled by the willing
sacrifice of a true believer - exploded in a furious inferno of red flame.
The adventurers were hurled a good fifty feet away, burned by the fire as
well as battered by the blast itself.  Both landed hard on the ground, and
did not move.  This still put them in better shape than Rammstein and his
warriors, of whom only ashes now remained.

  Several hundred feet away...

Belphanior:  Whoa.  (invisible, hasted, and airborne, he glides silently
  through the sky toward his next target)
Clavius:  (having incapacitated Dexitheseus, he appears poised to finish
  the old wizard off)
Belphanior:  (drops down from directly above)
Clavius:  (looks up suddenly, raising his arms)

  A large shield, much like one of metal and wood except fashioned of
strange translucent energy, appeared between the elf and his foe, its
appearance easily blocking Belphanior's sword.

Belphanior:  Hmm.  Interesting.
Clavius:  You have no idea.  (he waves one hand, and a sword of the same
  shimmering energy materializes near the shield)  Swordplay and magic are
  as nothing before the powers I command.  (he waves the other hand, and
  a third object appears, a battleaxe)
Belphanior:  (readies his sword, frowning)  Okay...
Clavius:  (gestures some more, and a spiked mace and a warhammer join the
  array of weapons floating in the air between him and the elf)
Belphanior:  Whoa.

  Elsewhere in the battle, Chargrim's invisible demon had gained the upper
hand (or perhaps claw) in its battle with the white dragon Frigaar.  With
a mighty throw, the unseen fiend sent the dragon hurtling into its wounded
brother Glacius; both dragons collapsed in a heap of limbs and tails.  The
demon then belched forth a great gout of flame, immolating the dragons in
the one thing that caused them the most harm.  Both roared as they writhed
in agony beneath the infernal fires.

invisible demon:  (snorts)

  The next instant, the thing was knocked back, as a gigantic form plowed
into it.  The attacker was a blue-skinned giant of some sort, twenty-five
feet in height with pointed ears, bushy eyebrows, and great curved fangs.
This exotic giant - a species not seen anywhere near the eastern Flanaess
of Oerth - was the form now assumed by the shapechanging Wu.

wind giant:  (slashes the invisible demon with its great curved claws,
  opening three long, bloody gashes that cause the demon to no longer be
  quite so invisible)
demon:  AAAARGH!

  Not too far away, Chargrim had freed himself from the rock that trapped
his feet, and lashed out with a mighty spell that requires but a single
word to be spoken.

Cespedes:  (suddenly struck blind)  Aie!  (he staggers about in shock)
iron dwarf:  (barreling toward the wizard, who simply happens to be the
  nearest foe)  GRAAAARGH!
Chargrim:  (waves one hand, and the dwarf is tossed away by some unseen
  force, hurtling head over heels into the air to fall and land a good
  two hundred feet away)

  Suddenly, the very ground around the wizard rose up, threatening to
envelop and then crush him in its stony embrace.

Alindyar:  (concentrates as he manipulates the particles making up the
  earth around the foe)
Chargrim:  Never!  (using the same power with which he repelled the iron
  dwarf, he pushes back against the animated rock, sending bits of it
  whizzing through the air toward Alindyar)
Alindyar:  (nicked in the head by one of the jagged bits of stone)  Argh!
  (he staggers back, wiping blood from the minor but distracting wound)
Chargrim:  (grinning maliciously)  And now-
Kronos:  (having escaped the iron bands, he points at the purple-garbed
  wizard, and a thin green beam connects his pale fingertip with the foe,
  but only for an instant)  Enough.
Chargrim:  (disintegrates, his robes and other possessions dropping to the
  ground amidst a pile of fine dust)
Kronos:  (to Alindyar)  Are you injured?
Alindyar:  Not seriously.  (he looks around at the other contests taking
  place within the overall battle)
Kronos:  We should assist the others.

  There were a number of individual fights still active.  Krom had the
advantage over Paige, having trapped her sword and pinned her arms; Parekh
Galil-Gildur did battle with fantastic animated weapons of magical energy,
hammer against giant claw; Lyra had taken flight to escape the attacks of
the monk Babuk; Wu, in giant form, was still grappling with Chargrim's
demon; and Belphanior was finding himself overmatched by the array of
animated psionic weapons controlled by the foe Clavius.

Belphanior:  (parries the sword, then almost gets hit by the battleaxe,
  barely leaping aside in time)  Damn!  (he backs away as the spiked mace
  and the warhammer float toward him)
Clavius:  (manipulates the weapons, a smug look on his face)

  Suddenly, a huge blue halberd of energy appeared, moving directly for
Clavius.  Alarmed, the psionicist brought all of his own weapons to bear,
attempting to block the gigantic energy-blade.

Kronos:  (concentrates harder, and his halberd pushes the other weapons
  aside, its tip gliding toward their master)
Clavius:  (abruptly vanishes, his five floating weapons also vanishing an
  instant later)
Kronos:  Eh?


Paige:  (held in Krom's grip, unable to retrieve her sword which rests
  in his thick torso)  Ungh!  (she lashes out, kneeing the foe in the
Krom:  ARGH!  (he spins about, hurling the warrior-woman into Otto, who,
  despite being badly wounded before, was trying to approach from the
  rear for a sneak attack)
Paige:  (her and Otto collide hard, going down in a painful heap)
Krom:  (grabs her sword, pulling it from his body, and tosses it aside)
  Urgh.  (ignoring the blood that flows from the wound, he stalks toward
  the pair of downed foes)  And now...(he bounds forward, snarling)

  Suddenly, a shimmering portal appeared directly in front of the huge

Krom:  Wh-  (unable to stop his leap, he vanishes into the hole in space,
  which then closes up and disappears)
Pallin:  (having fought to stay conscious and assist in the battle, he
  smiles thinly)  Got him.
Paige:  (gets to her feet, shaking her head)  You sure did.  But where did
  that portal lead?
Pallin:  Heh.  (he passes out from his wounds)

  Several hundred feet away, the corresponding portal spit the savage
hunter out, with the same forward momentum he'd had when he jumped into
the first portal.

Krom:  -at?!?  (he sails a short distance through the air, right into the
  Center of Time, and is immediately consumed by that pulsing nexus of
  eldritch energies)

  Nearby, Parekh had gained the upper hand, her force-hammer swinging and
crushing the violet claw conjured by Galil-Gildur.

Galil-Gildur:  Aie.  (he flies up and away, to get away and regroup)
Parekh:  Not so fast!  (she directs her force-hammer after him, but the
  elf's flight speed is faster)
Galil-Gildur:  (looks behind, at her)  Heh.  (he turns back, and his eyes

  The gigantic form of the adamantine golem loomed before the evil elf,
blocking his retreat.  He veered around the huge hand that groped for
him...and was intercepted by Belphanior, who'd seen the various players
and correctly predicted the foe's course.

Belphanior:  (launches a barrage of magical missiles at the other)
Galil-Gildur:  (continues fleeing as his last magical protections are
  eroded away by the bolts of energy)
Belphanior:  (not letting up at all, he pursues and catches up, his
  sword-point piercing the foe's upper arm)
Galil-Gildur:  Argh!
Belphanior:  (grabs the other elf with his free hand, spinning him around
  in the air...then drives his blade through the foe's heart)
Galil-Gildur:  Urrrrrgh...
Belphanior:  (absorbing the dying elf's life-force, his cuts and bruises
  healing in the process)  Ahhhh.

  Nearby, the monk Babuk - for all of his considerable abilities - was
unable to chase or attack the airborne Lyra.  As he considered his other
alternatives, he suddenly found that those alternatives had very quickly
dwindled to nothing.

Babuk:  (caught in the grip of some unseen but powerful force)  Eh?
Alindyar:  (hovering above, next to Lyra, he holds a tiny, gilded mithril
  cage in one hand as he speaks arcane phrases)
Babuk:  What in the-  (now completely immobilized, including his mouth,
  he wonders what is happening...and then vanishes)
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I didn't need saving.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I know.  But now we have a prisoner, who
  shall remain in stasis until we choose to deal with him.

  Elsewhere, the giant-form assumed by Wu was still locked in combat
against Chargrim's massive winged demon...a fight that Parekh settled
with the conjuring of a huge, curved wall of flashing blades behind the

Wu-giant:  (hurls the bloody, half-visible demon right into the whirling
  mass of metal)
invisible winged demon:  (instantly shredded into countless small bits of
  bloody flesh and bone)
Parekh:  (frowning)  Something still doesn't feel right.  (she mentally
  runs through the list of enemies to see who's unaccounted for)

  Meanwhile, the last remaining member of the Crimson Blades had blinked
back into existence next to the robes and other equipment that formerly
belonged to Chargrim.

Clavius:  (holds out his hand, and the Key of Fate rises from the pile
  and into his palm)

  It really was a key - albeit one fashioned of a metal not found anywhere
on Oerth, and possessing power enough to rend the very fabric of time and
space - and the strange psionicist could hardly believe his good fortune
in claiming the artifact.  With it, he could now escape this damned place
and plot his revenge, once safely away from these foes who had defeated
his group.  While he didn't know how to use the thing, Clavius had mental
talents that would enable him to quickly master the Key and its powers.

Clavius:  (stares at the thing, psychically analyzing its properties and

  Suddenly, a massive blast of energy knocked him to the ground, though
he managed to keep the key in his clutches.

Kronos:  (standing nearby)  That item is not for the likes of you to use
  or command.  Surrender it immediately.
Clavius:  (he frowns angrily, and his eyes suddenly glow red)

next:       the rending of time
released:   10/29/2021
notes:      As noted last time, this one was written in the same sitting
  as the last one, 1098.  I largely wrote them on Labor Day 2021, under
  the influence of Iron Maiden's new album which I discovered and bought
  this morning.  I was on the elliptical machine listening to Iron Maiden
  via Spotify, and a song I'd never heard started playing, which quickly
  led me to learn that they'd just released a new album.  Anyway, that's
  how I did that.
    As I said a few episodes ago, the very next story will be #1100, and
  thanks to the immense burst of writing I did during the pandemic years
  of 2020-2021, I've managed to position myself so that episode 1100 will
  be released on 11/4/21...the precise thirty-year anniversary of my very
  first Adventurers story back in 1991.  More on that next time!
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