Chapter #170

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                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1994 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                    +
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Arnold        11th level human warrior               (NG) +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Ged           14th/14th level grey elven priest/mage (NG) +
+   Mongo         16th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+      Gorin       6th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       7th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+   Date:    10/9/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    late afternoon                                   +
+   Place:   an ancient tomb within the Vast Swamp            +
+   Climate: slightly chilly, inside the tomb                 +
+   "Being a woman is a terribly difficult trade, since it    +
+    consists principally of dealing with men."               +
+                                          - Joseph Conrad    +

               CLXX.  Deadly Traps Galore

  Many things have happened recently.  Besides Belphanior
being turned female - and lawful neutral - by strange mists,
the party has just defeated a false lich, a decoy.  Even
now, they are searching for a hidden door, an illusion, or
anything that will reveal further chambers to be explored.

Lightbringer:  I knew it was no lich, but you were ignoring
Ged:  Bah.  Battle is a heated time for everybody.
Bosco:  Especially red dragons.
Ged:  Huh?!?
Belphanior:  (with Peldor and Mongo, she is busy searching
  the area near the tunnel from the third pit)  They argue
  too much.
Peldor:  Uhh...right.
Mongo:  (finds a hollow section of wall)  Hey, I think I've
  found something!
Belphanior:  (examines the hollow section of wall)  Yes...
  Hmm, that's odd.
Mongo:  What?
Peldor:  It won't open.
Belphanior:  (she squints, and her eye glows - slightly)
  Well, it radiates magic.
Peldor:  (looking at Ged, who continues to argue with his
  morningstar as he, Arnold, et al approach to see what
  was found)  Ged needs to cast a spell or something.
Belphanior:  Nonsense, we don't need him.  (she begins her
  own casting)
Ged:  Eh?
Mongo:  Just hold on.
Belphanior:  (casts Knock)  This ought to do it.
Peldor:  Don't take this the wrong way, but nothing's
Belphanior:  (she frowns)  I can see that.
Mongo:  Stand back, I'm on it.  (he wallops the stone panel
  with his hammer, and although the ground shakes with the
  force of the blow, not even a crack appears in the wall)
Peldor:  Wow.
Ged:  By Boccob, what's the problem here?
Mongo:  Damned door won't open.
Ged:  Hmm.  You've already cast Knock, I take it?
Belphanior:  Yup.
Ged:  I'll try a Dispel Magic.  (he begins spellcasting)
Belphanior:  Back, everyone.
Mongo:  Why?
Belphanior:  We don't want to be near this spell, lest our
  items risk being ruined.
Peldor:  Oh.  (he backs way off)
Ged:  (Casts his spell, and the wall panel glows, briefly)
  Okay, try it now.
Mongo:  (walks up and pushes the panel, which opens quietly)
  Hey, it worked.
Ged:  Did you doubt?  (he turns to collect the others)
Arnold:  (discussing politics with Bosco)
Gorin:  (having a snack)
wispy thing:  (sailing around further down the passage, by
  the collapsed section of hallway)  ssss.

  Within moments, they were ready to move on; the passage
turned to the right after about thirty paces.  After that,
it went on for forty more paces, ending in another door.

Belphanior:  (inspects the door)  Clear.
Mongo:  Good.  (opens the door and moves into the rather
  large chamber beyond)

  They were now in some sort of laboratory, which was dusty
beyond belief.  Obviously, no one had been in this place
for decades, perhaps centuries.  Shelves lines all the walls
here, and upon these rested jars, bowls, and pots of every
description.  There were also a desk, a chair, a pair of
old wooden workbenches, and two large tables.  A few rotten
strips of white cloth still littered these tables.

Belphanior:  Mummies.
Ged:  What's that?
Belphanior:  (she looks dazed)  Eh?  Did I say something?
Rillen:  (to Mongo)  Maybe it's wearing off.
Mongo:  Well, she doesn't look any different.
Gorin:  Maybe it's getting worse.
Ged:  You mean better.

  Clay pots and urns on the tables and floor contained
dried, crusty stuff that must have once been magical oils
and unguents.  Old, shriveled herbs also littered the two
tables, and various bones and skulls were strewn about.
Three large vats dominated the room, each of the identical
containers standing about four feet off the ground.  They
were well over a man's height, in diameter, and all were
filled with murky liquids.  An open passage to the south-
west led out of the chamber.

Belphanior:  (scanning the room, her eye glowing)  I feel
  that I see less than I used to, yet...most of this is
  simple, useless mummery now.
Ged:  Bah.  Clearly _I_ am the magical authority here.  (he
  begins inspecting various things in the laboratory)
Belphanior:  Why is he so hostile of late?
Peldor:  I think he's jealous.
Bosco:  (wanders over to a table and picks up a skull)  Gee,
  this guy had a big head.
Mongo:  (peering over the lip of the first vat)  Wonder
  what's in here?
Rillen:  Careful...
Arnold:  (examining the weird items on the shelves, he is
  reminded why wizardry is beyond him)  Aaa.
Gorin:  (peers into the second vat, and then grabs a large
  bone and thrusts it into the murky liquid)
Peldor:  (pokes at the dirty bandages on a table)  Hmm.
Mongo:  (pushes the first vat, trying to tip it over)
  Unnnngh!  Damn!  Even with my strength, it won't budge!
Rillen:  Maybe it's attached to the floor.
Mongo:  Bah.  (he hefts his hammer)  Time for Stormcrest
  to have a try.
Belphanior:  But-
Mongo:  No buts!  (he bashes the vat, once, twice, thrice
  near its bottom, with his hammer, and its contents slosh
  around violently with the force of the blows)  Ah!  (a
  leak springs from the huge dent the dwarf has made)
Gorin:  (pulls the bone out of the second vat, looks at
  it, sees no damage, and turns to Mongo)  Might as well
  bash this vat, too.
Mongo:  Yeah!  The first one'll take a while to drain...
  (he bashes the second vat a few times, the clanging
  sounds echoing loudly in the long-quiet room)
Ged:  (ignoring this activity, which he deems as foolish
  nonsense, he searches for scrolls or spellbooks)
Rillen:  (watching the second vat)  A leak is sprung!
Mongo:  Yeah.  (he backs away, as liquid spurts from a
  small tear within the big dent he made)
Gorin:  (absently holding the bone, he smells something
  burning)  Huh?  (he happens to look at the bone in his
  hand)  Aie!
Belphanior:  What now?
Gorin:  Look!  (he holds up the bone, which is mostly
  dissolved now)  That vat's full of acid!  (he drops the
  remains of the bone)
Mongo:  Whoa.  (he backs away as the second vat's contents
  begin eating a pit in the floor of the laboratory)
Peldor:  (drily)  You might as well bash in the third vat,
  you know.
Ged:  Yea.
Rillen:  (careful to step around the growing puddle of acid
  from the second vat, he looks in the first vat, which is
  almost empty of liquid now)  Empty.  And this wasn't acid
  either...(he regards the puddle from the first vat)  Just
  water, I think.
Mongo:  Whatever.  (he moves to the third vat, and bashes
  it)  C'mon, you!  (he bashes it again)
jelly:  (begins seeping over the lid of the vat)
Mongo:  (bashes the vat again)  Aha!  (the vat ruptures at
  last, near its bottom)
jelly:  (suddenly sloshes out of the vat, toward Mongo)
Mongo:  Shit!  (he swats at the thing, but it still half-
  envelops him, and he falls backward)  Argh!  Help!
Ged:  Boccob!  (he quickly begins casting a spell)
Belphanior:  (considering options)
Peldor:  Use a flame sphere!  Burn it off him!
Belphanior:  (she looks shocked)  I couldn't do that - he'd
  be roasted!
Peldor:  (vows to see that Belphanior is returned to his
  true, chaotic, careless self as soon as possible)
Rillen:  (like Arnold and Gorin, he hesitates to strike the
  jelly for fear of injuring Mongo)
Mongo:  (staggering around. he topples backwards, into the
  acid-filled pit created by the draining of the second vat)
jelly:  (begins to smoke)
Ged:  Everyone BACK, by Boccob!  (he blasts the jelly - and
  Mongo - with a Burning Hands)
jelly:  (much of it is boiled into dead crust)
Mongo:  (also burned somewhat)  Argh!  Hit it again!
Ged:  But the spell's done...
Gorin:  Use your wand, then!
Ged:  Boccob, that's some tough jelly.
Arnold:  Aaa.  (he jumps forth, and bashes the jelly with
  his blazing torch)
jelly:  (burned)
Mongo:  (also burned, slightly)  Argh!
Arnold:  (sheepishly)  Sorry, Mondo.
Mongo:  (running around now, he smashes into a worktable,
  breaking it into flinders)  Aargh!

Ged:  (reluctantly points his fire wand at the jelly-covered
  dwarf)  Axui!  (the jelly, and the dwarf, are engulfed in
  reddish flames)
jelly:  (burning away rapidly)
Mongo:  (aflame now)  AAARGH!
Ged:  By Boccob, what have I done?  (he points his wand at
  Mongo again)  Lbuzi!  (all the flames in the laboratory,
  including Arnold's torch, are instantly extinguished,
  plunging the room into darkness)
Arnold:  Aaa.
Mongo:  (groaning somewhere)
Rillen:  (unable to see at all, he relies on his instincts
  and training and gets himself clear of the battle area)
Bosco:  (looking around at the heat-images)  I don't see
  the slime-thing.
Belphanior:  It probably didn't give off any heat anyway.
Peldor:  Hey!  What gives?  (he takes his magical green
  torch back out, and the room is lit by a dim green glow)
Ged:  (regarding the thief's torch)  Hmm.  That thing must
  not really be on fire.
Peldor:  Tell me something I don't know.
Arnold:  (quickly finds his tinderbox, and re-lights his
  torch)  Ah-nold's dorch is back!
Mongo:  Argh...(rather singed, he stands up)
Belphanior:  Are you okay?
Mongo:  Yeah...I'll live...(he staggers to the chair and
  sits down, but the ancient thing breaks, dumping him on
  the ground)  Dammit!
Rillen:  He's okay.
Bosco:  (climbs into the now-empty third vat, and picks
  up a shining golden object)  Now what could _this_ be?
Gorin:  Eh?
Ged:  What have you there?

  The halfling had found what appeared to be half of a
golden key!  Shortly, the other half turned up, in the
bottom of the second vat, which by now was surrounded by
a scarred area of dissolved floor.

Belphanior:  (holding the two halves)  Hmm, this seems
  intuitive.  (she touches the parts together, and they
  join into a single piece, just like that)  Ah.
Peldor:  So now we have a golden key.
Mongo:  (already healing, thanks to his ring)  Hope it
  was worth it.

  They ventured through the exit, in the southwest corner,
and descended yet another short flight of stairs.  Turning
left, they were confronted with an open pit, which totally
blocked the corridor.  The hole was only ten feet or so in
depth, but it spanned the entire width of the passage, and
was rather long.  It was also filled with hundreds of small
but needle-sharp spikes, sticking straight up.  Beyond this
pit, the passage continued for perhaps a hundred feet before
ending in a blank wall.

Ged:  Obviously another secret door, or illusion.  We have
  to get by this pit, first - it must be twenty feet long!
Belphanior:  A simple spell will-
Peldor:  Never mind that.  I can jump this thing, easily.
  (he backs up)  Give me some room...(he sprints forth,
  and leaps, clearing the pit easily)  See?  Told you!
Rillen:  (wondering if he could do that too)
Mongo:  (wearily tosses the thief an iron spike and a small
  hammer)  I'd toss Stormcrest at you, but it might brain
  you...crap, I'm tired.  It must be nighttime outside.
Ged:  Quite possibly.
Peldor:  (catches the implements, and hammers the spike
  securely into the floor, whistling; he then tosses one
  end of his magical rope of climbing over the pit, along
  with the hammer)
Mongo:  (hammers a second spike into the floor, and ties
  the rope to it)  Okay, let's go...
Bosco:  (grabs the rope, and quickly shimmies across the
  pit)  Ha!
Arnold:  Those with no armbor can do things like that.
Mongo:  Yeah...

  After a time, everyone had crossed the long pit, and
Peldor commanded his rope to untie its far end, pulling
it back in.  The party explored the end of the passage,
and eventually found a secret door, not at the end of the
corridor, but fifty feet before the end, on the left side.
This portal led to a normal door, which opened into a big
room filled with broken furniture, pottery, and tables.
Two large tapestries hung on the west and east walls, but
only these seemed relatively intact - all else appeared to
have been looted long ago.  Still, there _were_ six large
trunks, and a couple dozen small coffers, to be explored.

Peldor:  Wow.
Bosco:  Wow.
Belphanior:  Oh, come now.  I sense danger from most of
  those...not quite traps, just danger.
Ged:  Hmm.  (he walks over and examines one of the large
  tapestries, which depicts an undersea scene)  Hmm, nice
  picture. (he looks behind the thing, imagining what an
  ideal place it would be for a secret door)  Boccob!  (he
  finds just such a door)  Look, a secret door!
Arnold:  Not secret any more.
Belphanior:  (she examines the door)  Aie!
Ged:  What, is it trapped?
Belphanior:  No, not the door - the tapestry!  (both of
  the elves back away)

  Just then, the entire room began shaking violently, as
if the floor rested upon a stormy sea.  Everyone slid and
fell, and furniture flew everywhere, some of it shattering
against the walls, other furniture, or the adventurers.

Rillen:  (strikes out at a coffer which sails toward his
  head, and shatters the thing, spilling platinum coins
  everywhere)  Hai!
Bosco:  (holding onto the doorknob, he manages to avoid
  serious injury)  Whee!  This is fun!
wispy thing:  (floating around, stable, heedless of the
  general chaos around it)  pffft.

  After about a minute of this, the room stabilized, and
the adventurers stood up shakily, bruised and cut, yet

Gorin:  Ow.
Ged:  That's putting it mildly.
Belphanior:  (looking around)  This whole room reeks of a
  trap!  The shaking could begin anew anytime - we have to
  get out of this place!  (she heads for the tapestry, and
  moves it aside carefully, like Ged did before)  Come on!
  Through this door!
Bosco:  (trying to scoop up platinum coins as he runs)
Peldor:  Come one, don't worry about that stuff, Bosco!
  We've got more valuable things than that already!  (he
  drags Bosco toward the secret door)
Belphanior:  (holding aside the tapestry)  Everyone out!

  Everybody dashed through the door, and just in time, too,
for the room began shaking again right as Belphanior, in
the rear, pulled the secret door shut.  Fortunately, the
curving passage beyond the secret door didn't share in the
room's shaking and bucking.  They moved along this tunnel,
and descended some more stairs, approaching a four-way
intersection of passages, from the west.

Belphanior:  Hold!  A trap, in the center of the four
Ged:  How did you-
Belphanior:  (she grins)  I see all things.
Rillen:  (bashes the ten-foot square section of floor at
  the center of the intersection, and the floor plate spins
  over)  Hmm, she was right.
Peldor:  (leaps across the pit)  Peldor is on the case!
Ged:  The question is, whose case?
Belphanior:  (carefully steps around to the right, and goes
  down the south passage)  Hmm.  (she examines the wall at
  the end of the fifty-foot passage)  Another false door?
  Trapped, perhaps?  (she ducks down, to floor level, and
  reaches up and opens the door)  Whoa!

  A spear shot out, sailing over the elf, and landed about
forty feet down the passage, almost in the pit, in fact.

Belphanior:  (examining the false door)  Nothing here.  (she
  heads back to the pit at the center of the intersection,
  kicking the spear aside)
Peldor:  (checks and opens a door)  Hey, everybody!  Come
  over here, I've found another passage!  (he is looking at
  a fifty-foot long passage that veers away to the right,
  leading somewhere out of sight)

  The other adventurers crossed the pit, and were soon
headed down the passage that Peldor found.  After it turned
right, it ended in a mist-filled cavern, only the very first
portion of which was visible from where the party stood.
The mists were basically silvery in color, and permeated
with golden streams here and there.

Ged:  Hmm.  (he casts Detect Evil, and scans the mist)  By
Rillen:  Evil, eh?
Ged:  Hardly - in fact, it radiates a dim, but true aura of
Belphanior:  It's also slightly magical.
Ged:  Hmph.
Bosco:  What now?
Mongo:  Well, obviously, someone has to go in and explore.
  I'll volunteer, again.
Rillen:  No need; I'll be happy to have a turn.
Arnold:  Aaa.
Mongo:  Nonsense.  (he walks into the mists, and vanishes
  from sight)
Ged:  Hey!

  They waited, and waited, and waited...but Mongo didn't
come back. Finally, after at least five minutes...

Rillen:  There's no telling what has happened.  (he draws a
  deep breath, hefts his quarterstaff, and heads into the
Belphanior:  This is _most_ chaotic.
Ged:  You don't say.

  Meanwhile, in the mists...

Rillen:  (holding his breath, he walks around the cavern at
  a brisk trot, discerning it to be about fifty feet in
  diameter, with no other entrances or exits)  Hmm.  (right
  as his breath is about to give out, he enters a small
  grotto in the center of the cavern, a grotto which is
  free of the strange mists)  Whew!  (he staggers, taking
  in deep breaths of clean air)  <cough>  Where am I?  (he
  looks around)

  Ignoring two sacks which lay on the ground, the warrior
saw a beautiful woman, standing in the center of the grotto
watching him.  She was almost...unearthly.

Rillen:  (approaches, staff raised)  Who are you?
woman:  I am Sylvie...who might you be?
Rillen:  I am called Rillen.  What are you doing here, in
  this misty cavern?
Sylvie:  I cannot say.
Rillen:  How long have you been here?
Sylvie:  That is unknown to me.
Rillen:  Hmm.  Say, have you seen a dwarf wandering around
  in here?
Sylvie:  No, I haven't.  Did you lose one?
Rillen:  In a manner of you know who or what
  "Acererak" might be?
Sylvie:  Possibly.
Rillen:  (thinking quickly)  Are you trapped here?
Sylvie:  (slightly excited, though Rillen can't notice it)
  I really cannot say...
Rillen:  Why don't you come along with me?
Sylvie:  Yes!  Thank the gods!  (she rushes over to Rillen's
  side and hugs him)
Rillen:  (having come close to taking evasive action)  I...
  What are you doing?  Why are you so happy?
Sylvie:  I was held here - trapped - and unable to answer
  any questions about the nature of my entrapment, until
  asked to come out!  After all these years...oh, I can't
  thank you enough!
Rillen:  Hmm.  (he notices that the sacks are gone)
Sylvie:  Oh, thank the gods again, that you didn't pick
  one of those up!  If you had, I would have been slain!
Rillen:  Hmm, seems like I did the right thing.  (looking
  around)  Shall we leave?
Sylvie:  My pleasure.  (they walk toward the misty outer
Rillen:  (hesitates)
Sylvie:  Oh, don't worry about that mist.  It's perfectly
  safe to breathe.
Rillen:  (trying to decide whether to trust the woman or
  not, he follows his instincts and walks with her into
  the mist, breathing deeply)  Ahhh.  Nothing happened.
Sylvie:  I told you, silly.  (they wander through the mist
  but are stopped by a dark form ahead)  Look!
Rillen:  (walks forth, staff raised)  Who are you?
Mongo:  (wanders into view, drooling)  Uhhhhh...
Rillen:  What has happened to _him_?  Hmm, I've seen this
  before...they called it a "feeblemind".
Sylvie:  Oh, not quite.  (she takes Mongo's hand and leads
  both him and Rillen out of the mist)

Ged:  Boccob!  (he points at the trio, as they emerge)
Belphanior:  (she looks irritated)  We were just formulating
  a rescue plan.
Ged:  (scans Sylvie, and sees that she is Good)  Who's this?
Rillen:  This is Sylvie, a...what _are_ you, anyway?
Sylvie:  Why, I'm a siren, of course.
Mongo:  (blubbering like an idiot)  Blablablee.
Gorin:  What happened to him?
Sylvie:  Oh, he must have failed to resist the effects of
  the cave gas.  (she touches the dwarf on the forehead)
Mongo:  (looks around, startled)  Whoa!  Where am I?!?
  What's-  (he spots Sylvie)  Holy shit!
Sylvie:  See, he's all better now.
Mongo:  Who the hell are _you_?

  Introductions were made, and the adventurers learned that
the siren was imprisoned by Acererak, a powerful lich, many
centuries ago.  Sylvie knew only that the lich was a very
dangerous and powerful foe; of the tomb itself, its rooms,
guardians, and traps, she knew nothing.
  The adventurers decided to let Sylvie come with them, as
the tomb was proven to be dangerous to roam alone.  After
a short break for rest and food, they prepared to venture
down the north passage of the intersection - the only one
that remained unexplored.

next time :  more devious tricks, traps, and puzzles

ftp site  : in /pub/frp/stories/adventurers

notes     :  I've slowly been reducing the painfulness of
           Arnold's accent, if you hadn't noticed.

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