Chapter #624

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                                   +   +
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                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2000 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons or     +
+   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!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Angus          an iron golem                                        +
+     Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas                 +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     the wispy thing                                                     +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo         dwarven berserker                                     +
+   Otto             8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+   Date:           1/10/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           dawn                                                  +
+   Place:          Baron Albert's domain, in Blackmoor                   +
+   Climate:        chilly                                                +
+   "What's plan B, kid?"                                                 +
+   "There is no plan B."                                                 +
+                                                    - from _Daylight_    +

                   DCXXIV.  Beneath the Sunken Plain

  After watching Angus level the mansion, the party now descends into the

Otto:  So that scroll you just used will help us against illusions?  How?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  It just increases perceptions of such magic.  I'm
  not certain how much use it'll be against Baron Albert.
Bosco:  (looking around)  It's working for me - I don't see any illusions.

  With Angus and Ys in the lead, they marched down the stairs and into a
larger, gloomy room that appeared to have once been a wine cellar.  Now,
after the recent devastation, its floor and wall-racks were covered with
shattered bottles.  The smell of spilt wine was overpowering.

Aja:  Hmm, he had lots of wine.
Gorgo:  (helpfully)  Lots of broken glass.
Otto:  At least wine isn't flammable, or this would be a deathtrap.
Belphanior:  Be that as it may...(he uses his wand of foam to coat the
  wet floor with a thin layer of white foam)  Now nobody can get drunk
  from the fumes.  (he eyes Gorgo)
Bosco:  (spies a closed door)  Hey, look there...
Belphanior:  (nods to the halfling)
Bosco:  (trots over and begins checking the door for traps)

  The sunlight still penetrated into this cellar, but visibility would be
a problem in adjoining areas, such as beyond the door Bosco was examining.

Belphanior:  (having already prepared for this, he produces a tube with
  some cords attached)  Angus, this is for you.

  Within moments, the tube was strapped securely to the golem's head, and
Belphanior removed the cap at one of its ends.  Instantly, a beam of bright
light shone out, narrow and focused.

Belphanior:  Continual light on a small stone, then fasten the stone within
  a tube...the harness came later.
Mongo:  Good idea...where'd you get it?
Belphanior:  From some weird devices I once studied.  This way, Angus can
  still lead the way, light the path, and have both hands free to fight.
Bosco:  This door's safe, and unlocked too.  (he prepares to open it)
Belphanior:  Not until we're all ready, Bosco.  And let Angus open it.
Bosco:  (looks hurt)  I thought you needed a scout.
Belphanior:  Some of the time, not all of the time.  Not when they know
  we're coming.  No more talk, now.  Let's go.

  Angus moved into position, opening the door to reveal a hallway that
stretched about twenty feet, then took a sharp turn to the right.  Since
the passage was narrow, Angus went first and Ys second, followed by the
others.  One thing was for sure:  if the rest of this underground floor
was this cramped, the party wouldn't be able to move and fight in any
sort of advantageous formation.  Fortunately, the passage opened into a
larger chamber, some sort of chapel.

Jutokai:  High ceiling.
Mongo:  I think that passage sloped down along its length...we're at
  least ten feet below the floor level of the wine cellar.
Belphanior:  No souls here...
Aja:  (having cast a detection spell recently)  There are those without
  souls...undead!  And close!

  Around the same time, Gorgo had discovered a skulking shape hiding
in one of the many niches of stonework in the chapel.

Gorgo:  Hey!  Hey, you!  (he hefts his weapon, a thick-handled mace with
  many sharp spikes, and charges)

  With a hiss, the ghoul emerged from the shadows, thinking of nothing
else than killing its attacker.  Gorgo, however, had other ideas...

Gorgo:  (smacks the thing across the face with his mace, tearing its jaw
  and nose off)
ghoul:  Eyaaaaah!
Gorgo:  (spinning with his own momentum, his second blow crushes the
  ghoul's chest cavity and sends it into the nearest wall with a wet
  "smack")  Look out - there're more!

  And so there were:  from the dark recesses of the chapel, more ghouls
now shambled forth, filthy talons quivering in anticipation of an early
lunch.  As the party took defensive positions, Belphanior expressed his
desire for a show of priestly power.

Belphanior:  We don't have time for this.  Aja, if you please?
Aja:  Right.  (she brandishes her holy symbol of Wee Jas, which is now
  glowing with a blue light, and chants some words of power)
ghouls:  (about a dozen of them)  Ssss!  (they all disintegrate)
Gorgo:  Whoa!  (to Aja)  You did that?!?
Aja:  Of course.
Gorgo:  Wow.  (he scratches his beard)

  The chapel's far end was an open archway, leading down some wide steps
to a stretched, almost hall-like antechamber.  This, in turn, ended in a
large metallic door.

Bosco:  (saunters forth, examining the portal carefully)  This one looks
  a little more important than the last one.
Otto:  (checking the door out as well)  Yeah.
Belphanior:  Everyone get ready.  Here's the plan:  you two open the door,
  and Angus goes through.
Angus:  (stands there, impassive)
wispy thing:  (floating above Angus' head)  Yrrrp!
Skektek:  I'll have a spell ready.
Aja:  I'll be prepared to repel undead.
Jutokai:  (considers saying "I'll have my bow ready" but opts not to)
Ys:  Good enough.  (he turns to the door)  Shall we?
Belphanior:  Let's.  (he nods to the two thieves)
Bosco:  (he and Otto tug on the door, but it is heavy and only budges a
  small bit)
Belphanior:  Hmm. the door, please.
Angus:  (walks forth)
Otto:  (backs away, pulling the ever-curious Bosco with him)
Angus:  (grabs the door and flings it open, then charges into the dark
  space beyond, his unusual head-lantern lighting the way)

  Those close behind the golem were able to see a large, arched hallway...
for a couple of moments, before a shroud of darkness descended on the
huge golem!

Ys:  (also blanketed by the darkness)  Eh?
Mongo:  What the hell?!?
Gorgo:  (rather than backing up and possibly into someone else, he steps
Aja:  Magical darkness!  (she begins working a spell)  I'll handle it.
Jutokai:  I sure as hell can't shoot in this.
Otto:  Fuck...must be this Albert's work.
Belphanior:  Fear not, we can deal with this.  (he lets Aja continue to
  work on dispelling the immediate darkness as he moves forward)

  As he stepped just into the next room, and into the edge of the darkness,
the elf reached into a thick pouch of black leather and removed a handful
of small steel spheres.  He'd prepared these in advance for just such an
occasion; he drew his arm back and then hurled the handful of spheres with
all his might.
  The spheres, coated in a thin layer of clay, each bore an enchantment
of bright light.  As they spread out from the force of the throw and the
depth of the room, they struck walls, floors, and sometimes the ceiling.
Each one's outer layer broke upon impact, and in moments, the huge hall
was illuminated by dozens of bright lights!

Belphanior:  Hah.
Aja:  (completes her spell, dispelling the darkness around Angus as well)
Belphanior:  Hah!

  The tall, noble figure of Baron Albert stood at the far end of the big
room.  He was still garbed in the dark robes he'd been wearing many years
ago, when Belphanior, Mongo, and others had encountered him after leaving
the Underdark.  Arrayed between the vampire and the adventurers was a mob
of undead - enough to present a serious challenge while Albert fired away
spell after spell.

Baron Albert:  Destroy my home...attack me and mine...why?
Belphanior:  Because you're here.
Baron Albert:  Do I know you?
Mongo:  Sure you do!
Baron Albert:  (thinking)  Ah...the dinner guests from so long ago.
Belphanior:  You have a long memory.
Baron Albert:  And you are a fool.
Belphanior:  We'll see.
Baron Albert:  Had you simply waited until nighttime to launch this most
  foolish attack, you likely would have found most of us upstairs, and
  possibly even destroyed some of us.  As it stands, however...(he waves
  his hands, chanting)
Belphanior:  Look out-

  Albert's illusion was already materializing, however:  a mazelike series
of walls and passages, surrounding all of the adventurers, shimmered into
existence...shimmered, and then began to fade!

Belphanior:  (shouting to everyone)  It's an illusion!  We know this, and
  we have the magic to counter it!
Otto:  (muttering to himself as he targets the Baron with his crossbow)
  Guess that scroll really did work.
Baron Albert:  (watching as the targets refuse to be affected by his
  mighty spell)  What?!?
Otto:  Just stand right there, sucker...

  The range was long, but the dwarf's aim was true:  the bolt struck the
Baron right in his heart!

Baron Albert:  Eh?  (he looks down, grabs the bolt...and pulls it from
  his chest, flinging it aside)  Nice try.
Otto:  That was an enchanted bolt...
Mongo:  Not enchanted enough.
Baron Albert:  (waves a hand, and the horde of undead begins advancing)
Belphanior:  Okay, we prepared for this.  Everyone knows what to do.  (he
  watches, pleased, as everyone moves into position, begins spellcasting,
  or whatever)

  Two things happened then, simultaneously.  First, a thick wall of stone
slammed down behind the party, blocking the way the had come.  Secondly,
and infinitely worse, a huge floating orb dropped from the dark reaches
of the high ceiling.  Its huge central eye watched them from above its
toothy maw, and smaller eyes on stalks swiveled about, some of them also
coming to bear on the invaders.

Bosco:  (stares, gaping)
Otto:  Fuck.
Belphanior:  This, we didn't prepare for.

next:      battle
released:  3/23/00
notes:     Oddly enough, no one in my stories has ever really fought a
  beholder.  In fact, I never really even took the damn things seriously.
  A reference to one appeared in episode #090, on a signpost within the
  Underdark.  The one shown above in the story was disguised as a block
  of cheese in episode #091, but all it did was fire one bolt (which
  Belphanior dodged) before the party fled.  Later, in episode #125, the
  adventurers found an entire barrel of beholder eyes, and in fact Ged
  took a dozen.  The most graphic encounter with a beholder was in lost
  tales #4, where Otto lost four of his six-man team to one before he
  and Weasel fled.

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