Chapter #733

previous chapter (#732)                                                                  next chapter (#734)

                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   allies summoned by Belphanior:                                        +
+     ghoul                                                               +
+     bugbear                                                             +
+     ogre                                                                +
+   Date:           the week between 3/579 and 4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)   +
+   Time:           indeterminate                                         +
+   Place:          a cavern within an isle amidst the Solnor Ocean       +
+   Climate:        mild                                                  +
+   "In these turbulent times, it's better to be a ghost than a man."     +
+                                         - from _A Chinese Ghost Story_  +

                     DCCXXXIII.  Nearly There

  The adventurers have smashed their way through a false door, only to
find that it contained pockets of black vapor, sealed no longer...

Mongo:  (watches as several miniature clouds begin drifting toward him)

  Fortunately, thanks to Bosco, they had known of the spaces within
the door, and the likelihood of them containing something harmful;
precautions had been taken.

Skektek:  Down.
Mongo:  (ducks and steps aside)

  Skektek launched a sheet of flame, enveloping the gas-clouds in a
fiery conflagration.  There were several small, muffled explosions as
the pockets of gas, whatever they were, ignited and burnt out.

Skektek:  Heh.  Wonder what that stuff was?
Mongo:  Who cares?  It's gone, and that's all I need to know.

  The dark area ahead beckoned, but Belphanior had his own ideas...

Belphanior:  (to the summoned monsters)  Time for you to earn your
ogre:  Pay?  (compelled by the elf's magic and that of the book that
  summoned him, he grasps his sword and heads into the newly-exposed
  area of the tomb)
bugbear: follows the ogre, babbling all the
Boltar:  I do believe that one's daft.
ghoul:  (follows the bugbear, wondering what's for lunch later)

  Boltar sent his light-sphere into the chamber ahead, just before the
adventurers themselves entered it.  They found themselves in a huge
crypt - there was no doubt about that.  A hundred feet wide and twice
that long, the expansive room had a fifty-foot ceiling.  Its walls,
floor, and ceiling were fashioned of high-quality, uniform greyish
stone, perhaps some kind of slate.  All of its walls, from the floor
level up to about ten feet, contained spaces just the right size for
coffins.  Some of them had the stone seals still intact over the
niches, but an alarming number of them were open...

Boltar:  (looking around suspiciously)
Belphanior:  Let me guess:  undead?
Boltar:  Yes, but...
Mongo:  What?
Boltar:  Very faint...weak...
Otto:  As in, they're not close at hand?
Boltar:  No, as in they're barely there.  (he looks around)  Further
  investigation required.

  It didn't take long to find the undead Boltar's powers had sensed.
They were scattered about, all over this chamber - perhaps twenty in
all, a number which appeared to match the number of broken burial

Boltar:  I must admit, I've never seen undead such as these.
Belphanior:  Maybe nobody has.

  The things looked like ghouls, but they were paler than any living
or unliving thing that any of the party had ever encountered.  They
were also emaciated and extremely frail-looking.

Skektek:  Maybe they're dead.
Gorgo:  (eyeing one of the things, he steps back)  Hey!  It's moving!
pale emaciated ghoul:  (quivers, one of its arms twitching feebly)
Gorgo:  Dammit!  (he bashes the thing with his spiked mace, smashing
  its head into a dry, flaky puddle of grayish-white dust)
Parekh:  Phew, what a stench!
Zhao:  (gazing around at the other monsters as they begin to quiver
  and claw weakly at the ground)  What are these things about?
Jutokai:  Can't be too much - I think we could take them all, without
  any fight at all.
Boltar:  Hmm, this is just a theory, but...this seems like what would
  happen to ghouls - or any undead creatures - if they were starved
  for, say, a few thousand years.
Ys:  But should they not have died, the lot of them?
Boltar:  That, I don't know.  Normal ghouls - if there can be such a
  thing - will eventually starve to death if deprived of food to eat.
Bosco:  I didn't know that.
Boltar:  Why do you think they run around so ravenously hunting for
Bosco:  (nods)  Good point.
summoned ghoul:  (kneels down, examining its ancient brethren)  Ssss.
Belphanior:  (ignoring the ghoul, he turns to the ogre and bugbear)
  Go scout the chamber for doors or other exits.
ogre:  (heads to the right)
bugbear:  (follows the ogre)
Belphanior:  (shaking his head)  No, you go _that_ way.
bugbear:  (heads to the left, despondently)
Skektek:  (chuckles)
Drak:  So what do we do with these things?  Are they any threat?
Boltar:  I doubt it, but...
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at nobody in particular)
Boltar: might be prudent to destroy them just the same.  There's
  no telling what dark magic might get triggered, restoring them to
  full strength.
Otto:  Good thinking, and I'm glad you agree.
Bosco:  Just because something doesn't look or act like a trap doesn't
  mean it's not a trap.
Otto:  Truer words were never spoken, Bosco.
Bosco:  (nods happily)
Belphanior:  Okay, everyone get to work - destroy these things.  Make
  sure you cut their heads off.
Gorgo:  How about smashing the heads to paste?
Belphanior:  Fine, fine.
Neera:  (examining the markings on some of the unopened tombs)  Hmm.
Belphanior:  What?
Neera:  I'm just trying to get an idea of who these...people were, in
  their day.
Parekh:  Servants or retainers of some sort would be my guess.
Neera:  Agreed.  It wasn't uncommon, in many ancient cultures, for the
  servants and henchpeople of royalty to be buried along with them.
Mongo:  Did they kill 'em first, too?
Neera:  Sometimes...other times they were buried alive.
Gorgo:  (shaking his head)  Ancient people were stupid.
Parekh:  Not entirely.  They did, after all, build this place.

  As the others set out to destroy, once and for all, the weakened
ghouls, Razor Charlie stuck close to Neera as the sage made her own
explorations.  Meanwhile, the ogre and bugbear had converged on the far
side of the vast burial chamber.  The center of that wall contained a
double door set into a fifteen-foot high arch of stone.

bugbear:  (thinking of loot, it prepares to grab the handles on the double
ogre:  (bumps the smaller humanoid aside)  Mine!  (it seizes the handles
  and tugs)

  The doors opened, emitting a small puff of grey dust as they did so...

ogre:  Ghak!  (it starts to cough, then begins to scream in agony)  AAAA!
bugbear:  (takes a few steps back, terrified)

  The ogre's flesh was dissolving, being eaten away by the strange dust!
In a matter of moments, nothing remained of the ogre but its clothes and
broadsword, which fell to the floor noisily.

bugbear:  (stands there, wide-eyed)

  The good news was that there wasn't much of the dust, and it quickly
dissipated, leaving no trace.  The adventurers quickly gathered, albeit
cautiously, near the double doors which were now slightly ajar.

Belphanior:  (to the bugbear)  Next time I say "scout", I mean "scout" -
  not "open doors and get yourself killed."  Got it?
bugbear:  Yup.
Mongo:  How come these ghouls didn't ever open this door and set off the
Belphanior:  Who knows?  Maybe they were too weak when they first got
Gorgo:  Maybe the door was too strong for them.
Parekh:  Maybe they knew about the dust-trap.
bugbear:  (shrugs)
summoned ghoul:  (makes its way over to join the others, looking sad)
Belphanior:  You and you - go in there first.
bugbear:  (looks at the opened doors skeptically)
Belphanior:  Don't worry, that was a one-time trap, and I don't sense
  any more.
bugbear:  (looks at the ghoul and points to the doors)
ghoul:  (mindlessly enters the next area)
bugbear:  (follows reluctantly, glad to have Boltar's light-sphere there
  as it moves through the portals)

  As it turned out, the next room was small and empty of anything - a
mere antechamber.  It opened into a larger hall which was more glorious,
more awe-inspiring than any of the previous areas of the tomb.  Mongo
and Belphanior, the first adventurers to step into this next area, were
thus the first to see what wonders it contained.

Belphanior:  (just stands there, gaping)
Mongo:  Wow...

  The great hall was enormous, and would have been to a giant.  It was a
hundred feet wide and high, at least five hundred feet long, and had a
twenty-foot sunken center which was reached by a continuous rectangle of
steps that led down from all four sides of the hall.  At the top tier,
beyond the highest of the steps to the sunken center, were massive stone
columns, greater than ten feet in diameter.  Each of these huge columns
was carved from solid ivory, onyx, or a similarly precious stone; each
one depicted some mighty god, goddess, or other legendary figure.  The
great hall's floor, including the stairs, was fashioned of what could
only be solid gold!  The sunken area's floor might have been platinum,
while the ceiling overhead looked like silver.  The walls all around the
hall had carven scenes of various sorts, presumably depicting important
events of that forgotten age.  Many of these carvings were inset with
huge gemstones that twinkled from the light.  At the far end of this
area, a pair of fifty-foot high doors stood, their impressive presence
somehwat overshadowed by the rest of the place.
  There was not a speck of dust or dirt in the entire colossal hall.

Neera:  (whistles)  Now _this_ is the kind of place that an emperor
  would build.
Mongo:  This is the kind of place that emperors build to impress other

next:      final warning
released:  4/23/01
notes:     Almost there.  In other news, I did in fact pass the CCNA
  exam and got the certification.  It was probably the toughest test
  I've ever taken.  If you want to know exactly what it was all about,
  you can look here:

previous chapter (#732)                                                                  next chapter (#734)