Chapter #723

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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       +
+   1991-2001 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   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+     Zhao           8th level human swordsman                            +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Boltar          high priest of Pholtus                                +
+   Drak            barbarian warrior                                     +
+   Parekh          dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+                                                                         +
+   Neera           female human sage/astrologer                          +
+   Date:           the week between 3/579 and 4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)   +
+   Time:           early afternoon                                       +
+   Place:          a cavern within an isle amidst the Solnor Ocean       +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "People become critics when they don't have what it takes to become   +
+    artists."                                                            +
+                       - from the _Highlander_ episode _Star Crossed_   +

                     DCCXXIII.  Long-Lost Glories

  After defeating a gigantic hound of dubious origin and nature, the
adventurers descend into the mountain...

Mongo:  Now we're cookin'...

  The marching order was simple, efficient:  Belphanior and Mongo led the
way, the former's magical eye and variety of abilities to sniff out traps
and unseen dangers, the latter's strength and weaponry to deal with any
live ones.  Next came a solid second line, Drak and Gorgo, to ensure that
no foes would reach the spellcasters before they could ply their trade.
Next came Skektek and Jutokai, for longer-range missile support with
magic and bow.  After that it was Boltar and Parekh, Zhao and Ys, Bosco
and Neera, with Otto and Razor Charlie bringing up the rear.  Belphanior
had explained that with this many people and this many skills available,
it was possible to put good warriors throughout the ranks.  Another plus
of the long, thin marching order was that any traps would most likely
only affect the lead adventurers.

Mongo:  I thought that eye of yours spotted all traps.
Belphanior:  It can, but that sort of thing isn't just automatic.  I have
  to _look_ at things to discern their true requires effort,
Mongo:  Oh.
Belphanior:  You could say that I have to keep an eye out.
Mongo:  Aha.

  Boltar's floating light-sphere moved above them and a bit ahead, its
glow shining forth and allowing no shadows in which foes could lurk.
This light wasn't like normal torchlight or even magical light, for it
almost seemed _alive_, seemingly searching for dark niches and pockets
of shadow.  Then again, it might have been a trick of the light.  If
Boltar knew, he wasn't telling.

  The steps led down about fifty feet vertically, by the dwarves'
reckoning, then opened into a massive pillared hall.  The chamber was
huge - a hundred feet long, thirty feet wide, and fifty feet high.  Its
ceiling was vaulted, fashioned of ornately-worked white stone that looked
a lot like marble; the walls were made from the same stone.  The floor
was black marble, coated in a fairly thick layer of dust.  As for the
columns...they were the true centerpiece of this hall, for each was cut
from a different color of marble - some of which none of them had ever
seen before!  Aside from their unique composition, the pillars were even
more ornate than the arched ceiling.  Each depicted some mighty figure,
in flowing robes or glorious armor, armed with great weapons.  Each and
every one was almost certainly supposed to be a god or goddess.  These
works of art spoke volumes about the glory of the ancient empire whose
halls the adventurers now walked.

Neera:  (mystified)
Jutokai:  (to Razor Charlie)  I'm not much one for arts and crafts, but
  these...these are impressive.
Razor Charlie:  (just nods slightly)
Bosco:  I hope they don't come to life and attack us.
Mongo:  Every single statue in this place can't be alive...can it?
Gorgo:  (shrugs)  Never seen walking, fighting stonework before today.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at one of the columns as he passes)
Belphanior:  (holds out an arm, stopping Mongo as he walks)  Whoa.
Mongo:  Huh?
Belphanior:  Look...there, in the dust.

  The dust that coated the black marble floor was thick, and that had
been the key to Belphanior's discovery.

Drak:  Footprints!
Gorgo:  (trying to peek around Mongo and get a good look)
Mongo:  But...if we defeated that three-headed beast above, and nobody
  else ever had, then shouldn't we be the first ones who've ever walked
  around down here?
Belphanior:  (nods)  We should be, but obviously we aren't.  (he kneels
  down to inspect his findings)  The prints are fairly well-covered in
  dust, not as much as the rest of the floor, but too much to mean they
  were made recently.
Jutokai:  Looks like they lead off into the area ahead of us...
Mongo:  What do we do?
Belphanior:  Keep going, and keep alert.  Something's not right here,
  and whatever it may be, we have to be ready for it.

  The hall ended by opening into a wider area, a hemispherical chamber
of fifty-foot radius.  This entire place, except for the floor, was one
big work of art, its walls and ceiling one continuous fresco.  The only
thing marring its beauty and craftsmanship was the fact that the colors
of the painting had long ago dried up, fading and in many places flaking
off.  This had only increased the amount of dust on the floor...dust that,
like that in the pillared hall before, also bore the marks of someone's

Belphanior:  What the hell is going on here...?

  The frescoed hall contained two alcoves, one to the right and one to
the left, plus another exit hall straight ahead.  The alcoves were about
ten feet wide and high, their depth uncertain.  There was also another

Mongo:  Damned if _that_ was part of the builder's plan.

  To their left, barely ten feet around the chamber's circumference from
where they'd entered, a roughly-hewn tunnel had broken into this area.
The rubble around it confirmed that it had been done after the tomb's
original construction.  The tunnel was a good ten feet wide, and as they
got a good look at it, they realized that it had probably been burrowed,
not dug by intelligent creatures.

  The mystery was further deepened by the presence of several skeletons,
one of them far larger than human, in the exact center of the domed

Belphanior:  (looking around critically)  Hmmmmmm.

next:      some answers
released:  3/19/01
notes:     As I wrote this one, I watched _Desperado_, which I still
  recommend highly after all these years and all these viewings.  What
  other movie has a gunfight before the opening credits, and another
  even bigger one 31 minutes into the movie?  And then there's Salma
  Hayek, who walks across the street smiling as one car hits another.
  Even more impressive than the protagonist's much-touted guitarcase
  full of guns is the scene when his two buddies arrive in town, each
  with their _own_ instrument case full of guns.  One guy had _two_!
  And then there's one of the best parts of this movie, the character
  upon which Razor Charlie was based.  In this movie, he's called
  "Trejo" (the actor being Danny Trejo) and it was actually the movie
  _From Dusk Til Dawn_ that had the character called "Razor Charlie"
  (also played, of course, by Danny Trejo.)  Anyway, it's this role,
  the sneering master knife-thrower, that the Razor Charlie you know
  and love is based on.  Once you see his signature scene (at about 54
  minutes into the movie) you will understand.  If you've already seen
  it, you know what I'm talking about.  He kills five people for sure
  (and maybe as many as seven or eight) in less than two minutes, even
  though they are armed with guns and all he has is his knives.  This
  is the kind of role that defines a career - and it worked for Danny.
    So watch _Desperado_.  And revel in its sheer glory.

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