Chapter #696

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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 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   +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Deryck          11th level half-elven ranger                          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+      Zephyr          rather large tiger                                 +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard           +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+   Date:           4/3/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           night                                                 +
+   Place:          just south of the Riftcanyon                          +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Where you headed?"                                                   +
+   "Same place you are...hell, in the end."                              +
+                     --- _Jeremiah Johnson_                              +

                      DCXCVI.  The Crypt Discovered

  Having learned what they needed to know, the adventurers have departed
the walled town of Karnaj...

Alindyar:  Surely preferable to having to destroy the entire town and all
Rob:  (bats a wary eye at the dark elf)
Peyote:  Those dudes were definitely unfriendly.
Nenya:  We did the right thing.  Hell, even if we'd had to cut loose back
  there, we'd have done the right thing.  You can't just go through life
  letting people push you around.
Deryck:  We push back.
Halbarad:  We damn well do.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Is it just me, or do they have a harder edge
  since the old days?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Some of them, yes.  This crypt we seek will
  doubtless test their mettle...and ours.

  It didn't take long for them to reach the Riftcanyon, though spotting
it and reaching it were two different things, as the rip in the world's
crust was gargantuan in size.  As far as the eye could see, the depths of
the canyon stretched out, their lower regions obscured by foul-smelling
mist.  Whether natural or not (the legends varied) the Riftcanyon was an
impressive and breathtaking place.

Deryck:  (takes a deep breath)  Well, here we are.
Halbarad:  (grips the haft of his battleaxe)  Dangerous, no doubt about
Nenya:  Now, about that map...

  The map Halbarad was using was crude, but it got the job done.  From
all appearances, the Crypt was hard to miss, from the right angle.  Since
the party had multiple spellcasters capable of flight, aerial scouting
directly into the canyon was a snap.

Nenya:  (floats out of the canyon, landing on the ground near the others)
Peyote:  I could have turned into a bird, too, y'know.
Lyra:  Our way's better.
Peyote:  But mine's more fun!
Lyra:  For you, maybe.
Halbarad:  (to Nenya)  What of the place we seek?
Nenya:  (smiles thinly)  I found it.
Peyote:  Whoa!
Nenya:  It wasn't that difficult, really - from the right angle, it's
  fairly obvious.

  The others got a better idea of what she meant after being shown:  not
far from where they stood looking over the canyon's edge, a steep and
narrow flight of worn steps led down into the depths.  The stone was old
and cracked, the stairway utterly out of place at the edge of a gigantic
canyon.  Unless one was airborne over the canyon, and at the right angle,
there was no way of knowing that the steps even existed.
  In some places, the steps had been broken by the shifting of the rock
behind, such that a conventional descent was impossible to all but those
skilled in the arts of mountaineering.  Fortunately for the party, they
had other options at their disposal, and before long, the adventurers
stood on the small ledge where the steps ended.  This area was flat and
rocky, but horizontal, and afforded entrance into the canyon's side via
an archway of chalk-white stone.

Rob:  That's not's bone.
Peyote:  Not the only one, either...

  Scattered about the ledge were bones and pieces of bones; most of them
were human or humanoid, though a horse's cracked skull and the tailbones
of something else were also in evidence.

Halbarad:  This is something's lair...(grasping his stone figurine, he
  calls upon Zephyr)
Zephyr:  (appears)  Rrrrrr...
Halbarad:  He senses the danger too.
Rob:  (working a spell)  I would guess that the danger comes from within
  that arch.

  Mounted prominently atop the pale archway was a skull with a snake in
one eye-socket.

snake:  (emerges fully from the socket, dropping to the ground and then
  slithering away)  Ssss.
Daffodil:  Ugh.
Deryck:  (looking around suspiciously)  Something's not right...but I
  can't quite put my finger on it.
Halbarad:  (nods)  Agreed.  (his gaze falls back upon something that
  doesn't quite look right)  Wait-

  Without any warning, the attack was sprung!  Thick dark tentacles
shot out, snaring several adventurers in rough, crushing grips...

Peyote:  Huh?  (he finds his sword-arm held fast)
Daffodil:  (barely avoids a second tentacle)
Rob:  (snagged around one ankle, he goes down)  Oof!
Deryck:  (caught around his waist)  What?!?
Nenya:  (nimbly leaps aside as a tentacle thrashes at her, then begins
  working a spell)
Halbarad:  (also avoids an attack, axe already swinging at a rubbery
  arm, taking a chunk out of it)  Beware!
Lyra:  A little late for that...(unaccosted by any of the tentacles,
  she begins spellcasting)
Alindyar:  (held fast, his arms pinned to his sides)  Argh!
Zephyr:  (snagged by _two_ tentacles)  GRAAAAR!

  The assailants were huge, roughly cylindrical beings that appeared
to be made of dark, rubbery material, roughly the same color as the
stone.  Aside from the tentacles, their only other pronounced features
were dull black eyes and toothy maws.  There were two of the things,
and they'd been hiding amidst the dark grey rock of the canyon until
unleashing their attack.

Nenya:  Ropers!
Alindyar:  Not storopers, though.  How odd.
Daffodil:  Let's fight them now and analyze them later, okay?
monster #1:  GG-GG-GGGGR!
Zephyr:  (roars in answer)  GRRAAAAAARGH!

  While the others were resisting the tentacles' pull as they were
dragged toward the things' main bodies, the big tiger was having
none of it.  With a powerful leap, he launched his massive bulk
right at his attacker, surprising monsters and adventurers alike.

monster #2:  G-G-GGG?!?
Zephyr:  (slams into the thing's heavy body, knocking it back and
  causing it to release Alindyar and Nenya)

  Unfortunately, the angle and force of the collision also took
both combatants to the edge of the cliff, where they tottered for
a moment as if frozen in time.

monster #2:  G-GG-GGGRRR!  (its own immense weight carries it
  over the edge, two tentacles still clutching Zephyr)
Zephyr:  RRRRR!  (he is pulled over as well)
Halbarad:  Zephyr!

  The ranger dashed over to the edge, peering into the mists
below, and saw the roper vanish into the depths, tantacles still
flailing.  Zephyr had caught the cliff edge with his claws, and
was pulling himself back up.  There was no time to waste, however,
for the other monster was still very much alive, and dangerous.
Peyote, Rob, and Deryck were all being dragged toward the thing's
gaping maw of sharp, serrated teeth...

Nenya:  (figuring the monster to be somehow earth-based, she
  hits it with a well-aimed burning hands spell)
monster #1:  G-G-G-GGGGGAK!  (it lets Peyote go)
Peyote:  Whew!  Thanks, sister!
monster #1:  (smacks the half-elf with a flailing tentacle)
Peyote:  (knocked away)  Ungh!
Halbarad:  (leaps into action, his axe hacking at the arm that
  holds Rob)  Stand fast, friend!  You shall be free in a bit!
Rob:  (unable to cast any spells, he bashes the tentacle with his
  morningstar)  Hurry!

  Lyra's approach was different, but effective:  she launched a
volley of magical missiles right down the thing's maw.

Lyra:  Eat _that_!

  By now, Daffodil and Peyote had recovered and moved to flank
the thing, and their weapons joined Halbarad's to occupy the
tentacles and work toward the central body.  Daffodil was a bit
frustrated at their inability to attack the central body, so
she launched a bolt of lightning from her staff, right at the
area where the monster's eyes were.

Thornbolt:  Maybe this will stop the thing.
monster #1:  GGG-RRR-G-G-G...(it thrashes wildly, huge cracks
  opening up in its hide)
Halbarad:  (quick to act, he charges in, burying his axe in one
  such crack)
Deryck:  (bruised and somewhat shocked, he is finally let go,
  and rolls away)
Nenya:  (moves to help her husband, pulling him further from the

  The foe was big, ugly, and strong, but they had weakened it to
the point where it couldn't defend itself against all the attacks
that came at it.  First one tentacle, then another were severed,
black fluid oozing like syrup from the stumps.  Peyote's sword
joined Halbarad's axe in assaulting the main body, and before long,
the battle was over, the monster reduced to bleeding chunks of
dark, blubbery flesh.

Peyote:  (kicks one of the larger pieces over the cliff's edge)
Zephyr:  (bats one of the chunks aside)  Rrrr.

  Wounds were bound and healing spells used, as they recovered from
the battle...

Nenya:  Everyone okay?
Peyote:  Looks like it.  (he looks over the cliff's edge)  Freaks...
Alindyar:  (he turns to the archway leading into the Crypt proper)
  Now we know that something must lie within, else there would have
  been no guardians.
Halbarad:  Aye.
Rob:  There it is.  I sense _much_ evil lurking within.
Nenya:  And hopefully some answers, too.
Deryck:  Are we ready?
Peyote:  Full speed ahead, dude!

next:      what lurks within the Crypt
released:  11/30/00
notes:     Nope.

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