Chapter #414

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

+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1991-6 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                    +
+                           +
+  Unwanted guests, The Company of Nine (now Seven):                +
+                                                                   +
+  Aggro the Axe       4th level human fighter                 (CG) +
+  Arkayn              4th level human cleric of Trithereon    (LG) +
+  Arlanni             2nd level human female thief             (N) +
+  Balto               1st level human monk                    (LN) +
+  Gutboy Barrelhouse  6th level dwarven fighter               (CN) +
+  Blastum             4th level human magic-user              (CN) +
+  Sarnath             5th level human magic-user              (NE) +
+                                                                   +
+                                                                   +
+  Freshly deceased:                                                +
+                                                                   +
+  Abner          5th level human magic-user                   (LN) +
+  Barjin         4th/5th level half-elven fighter/magic-user   (N) +
+  Date:        4/9/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        early evening                                       +
+  Place:       Belphanior's castle, above Helgate                  +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+  "Back, if you value your curs' lives!"                           +
+                                                         - Conan   +

                   CDXIV.  A Fateful Decision

  The seven surviving adventurers, their morale dropping, have gone
back inside the castle to chart their next course of action.

Arkayn:  I wish we didn't have to leave poor Abner's body back here.
Aggro:  Well, it's not like we can carry him around.
Gutboy:  At least he _has_ a body left, not like ol' Barjin.
Arlanni:  (still upset, she sniffles)
Balto:  (pats her shoulder)  It will be okay.
Sarnath:  (unseen of course, given his hooded robe, he sneers)
Blastum:  Damn.  We're losing too many people up here.

  They intended to deposit the wizard's body someplace where it was
likely to be left alone, at least for a while.  The dining hall with
the old organ seemed the logical choice, but ghouls had been there,
and would probably be back.

Aggro:  Maybe we could wrap him in a sack and put him outside with
  the horses.
Blastum:  What?!?
Gutboy:  If the horses are still there...
Arkayn:  (frowns)  Good point.  Maybe we should check on them.
Balto:  I could run and do that.
Arlanni:  I'll go with you.
Gutboy:  We're wasting time.
Arlanni:  It was your idea!
Gutboy:  Nope.  I just said that the animals might not be there any-
Arkayn:  Arlanni, you and Balto go check it out.  We'll wait here
  with Abner's body.
Arlanni:  (she and Balto dash off)
Blastum:  (growing more irritated with each passing moment)
Sarnath:  (looks on impassively)

  The thief and the monk weren't gone long, and judging from the looks
on their faces when they returned, the news wasn't good.

Arlanni:  Gone!
Arkayn:  What?!?
Aggro:  How much is gone?
Balto:  The horses, the supplies - everything!
Arlanni:  No blood, no footprints.  They're just...gone.
Blastum:  Oh, hell.
Sarnath:  This is most disturbing.
Aggro:  You're damn right it's "most disturbing"!  Dammit!  (he chops
  at the wall in frustration, but only succeeds in chipping his axe-
Gutboy:  (suddenly glad that he carries a lot of food and drink on his
  back)  Bah.
Sarnath:  (realizes that the organ music, which started mysteriously
  back when they fought the ghouls in the dining room, has stopped)
Arkayn:  (frowning as he looks around)
Balto:  At this juncture, it might be wise to reconsider this entire
Aggro:  What's this you're babbling?
Arlanni:  I think what he means is maybe we should cut our losses now,
  call it even, and return to the town.
Balto:  (nods)
Arkayn:  A good point.
Aggro:  No!  Abner's dead, and we've got to get the bastard that did
Blastum:  Agreed.  This castle can't be that big, and we've already
  explored a large part of it.  The warlock can't hide from us forever.
Gutboy:  (nods)  My hammer cries out for battle!
Balto:  I don't hear any-
Gutboy:  Never you mind, skinny.
Arkayn:  (shaking his head)
Sarnath:  If we left right now, we'd never make it back to town by dark.
Arlanni:  (cracking her knuckles nervously)  So what do we do?

  A vote was taken...

Aggro:  Stay and fight.
Arkayn:  Go back to town.
Arlanni:  Uh...leave.
Gutboy:  Stay.
Balto:  Leave.
Blastum:  Stay and blast away, like the-
Sarnath:  I vote to remain.
Arkayn:  (grimaces, clearly not pleased with the result, yet unwilling
  to split the party)  It's settled, then.  We go on.

  And go on they did, choosing the narrow stairway to the northwest
of the chapel since it was probably less-traveled than the larger
one to the southwest.


                TOP VIEW OF INNER KEEP:
                         /   \
                    ____|     |_____                E
                   /                \             N + S
                  |      chapel      |              W
                   \._   _ .. _   __/
               _______|=| |  | | |_______
              |           |  | / \       |     ||||   broad stairway
              |           |  || * |      |      ..    double doors
              |__         |  | \_/     __|       .    single door
                 |        |  |        |         ~     old organ
                 |        |  |        |          =    narrow stairway
            ____/         |  |         \____    *     center of spiral
           |              |  |              |           stairway
           |____          |..|          ____|
                \    ____/    \_____   /
                 |   ||||           | |
                 |   ||||      __.._| |
                 |       \    /|    | |
                 |       |    ||    | |
                 |       |_.._||    | |
                 |       /    \|__~_| |
                 |      |      |      |
                /    __/        \__    \
               |    |              |    |
                \__/                \__/


  The stairway went up for about ten feet, took a right-angle turn to
the left, continued upward, took another right-angle turn to the left,
continued, and so on.  Arlanni joined the front rank now, checking
carefully for traps; they couldn't afford any more casualties.  She
even found a trap - a large, heavy swinging axe-blade that arced down
from the stairwell's ceiling.

Arlanni:  (eyeing the blade, which she purposely freed after everyone
  had safely walked by according to her instructions)  That would've
  taken out one of us for sure.
Gutboy:  Maybe two.  How was it sprung?
Arlanni:  Pressure plate in the floor.  Tricky - people going up a
  stairwell are naturally off-balance.
Balto:  (perfectly balanced as he trods the rising steps, he smirks)
Arkayn:  Good work, Arlanni.

  They ascended some forty to fifty feet, then emerged into a narrow
passageway.  This took an immediate right, continuing on for another
forty feet.  The passage had a lower roof (ten feet, though it was
arched) than most of the chambers thus far discovered in this castle.
It angled away to the right, then immediately forked.  To the right
was a wide spiral stair like the one previously found save that it was
wider - forty feet wide, in fact - and its twenty-foot wide center was
a hollow shaft.  No railings or bannisters were in place to keep any
stair-climbers from falling off.
  To the left was a short passage that ended in a small, stout-looking
door.  Naturally, however, the wide, breezy stairway attracted their

Arlanni:  (looks to the left - up/clockwise - and then to the right -
  down/counterclockwise)  Goes both ways...
Balto:  (peers out over the lip of the stair, looking up and down the
  interior shaft)  I can't see either top or bottom.
Gutboy:  That's 'cause it's dark in there.
Arkayn:  Shall we go up, or down?  (he realizes that this is probably
  a rhetorical question)
Aggro:  Up!  The warlock'll be hiding atop his castle - all that
  remains is for us to go get him!
Blastum:  He's finally making sense.
Sarnath:  (nods in agreement)
Balto:  (to Arlanni)  They're right.
Arlanni:  Yeah...

  They re-assumed their marching order, Arlanni again scouting for
traps, and began ascending the wide, open stairway.

next:      pitched battle in the stairway to hell
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     I'm enjoying this story arc, and I'll have you know that
  some of the Company of Nine are kinda growing on me...

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