Chapter #737

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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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   allies summoned by Belphanior:                                        +
+     giant horned beetle                                                 +
+     black pudding                                                       +
+   Date:           the week between 3/579 and 4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)   +
+   Time:           indeterminate                                         +
+   Place:          the final chamber of the lost tomb of Panagaea        +
+   Climate:        grim                                                  +
+   "Do you think you can upset the order of the universe and not         +
+    pay the price?"                         - Honeythorn Gump, _Legend_  +

                        DCCXXXVII.  Four

  In the domed final chamber of the lost tomb, the adventurers have come
face-to-face with a quartet of ghastly, disturbingly powerful foes...

pale being with scythe:  (raises its black weapon as it strides toward
  the party)
red armored being:  (advances, its colossal sword dripping blood from
  the slain minotaur)
white diseased being:  (shuffles onward, dripping pus and other horrid
thin black being:  (walks on, its impossibly emaciated body moving with
  surprising speed and grace)

Belphanior:  Act, and act fast.  (he uses Blackrazor to haste himself)
  Mongo, see if you can knock that pale one away from the rest so we
  can wipe them out with spells.  Parekh, you work with him to that
  effect.  (he turns to the giant horned beetle)  You.  Attack the
  thin black one.  (he addresses the black pudding)  You.  Get that
  white diseased one.

  Before anyone could question his orders or ask for elaboration, the
elf vanished from sight, now invisible.

Mongo:  Hey!
Belphanior's voice:  I'll be around.

  With that, the others moved to attack...

giant horned beetle:  (scurries toward the thin black foe)
black pudding:  (oozes toward the white, diseased foe)
Boltar:  (spellcasting)
Drak:  (moves to meet the red-armored foe)
Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest at the pale, scythe-wielding foe)

  Any number of things could have happened then, but Mongo didn't
expect the one that did:  the hammer punched a hole clean through
the foe, exiting through the thing's back.

Mongo:  Whoa.
pale being with scythe:  (stares down at the gaping hole in its
  chest...a hole from which neither blood nor innards leak)

  The hole then began to close...and in moments, by the time Mongo
had caught the returning hammer, the wound had sealed completely.

Mongo:  Dammit.
Parekh:  (casting a spell nearby, she comments to Neera)  First order
  of business is to get you to safety.
Neera:  What?
Parekh:  This sort of battle is no place for you to be.

  A shimmering sphere of rippling air appeared around the sage.

Neera:  What's this?
Parekh:  A bubble of force.  For your own protection.
Neera:  (looking around)

  As Neera wondered whether this was such a good idea, and Boltar
worked his own spell, Parekh noted that the other adventurers had
heard the commotion and entered the domed tomb-chamber.

Gorgo:  (hefts his spiked mace)  All riiiiiight.
Bosco:  (frowns, then takes to the air)
Skektek:  Damn, everyone's in the way.  Not that I could cast a wide-
  area blast of any kind, since this room's too small.  We'd all be
Jutokai:  (nocking an arrow)  My way's better - put an arrow right
  through someone's eye.
Zhao:  At last!  (twin swords in hand, he dashes toward the battle)
Razor Charlie:  (draws two throwing knives from his belt)
Otto:  (surveying the strange foes)  Hmm.  (he readies his crossbow)
Ys:  These could be trouble.  (he hefts his great sword)  Then again,
  so can I.

  Things got moving pretty quickly then...

Drak:  (hefts his gigantic mallet)
red armored being:  (just stands there, sword in hand)
Drak:  Alrighty then.  (swings his weapon)

  The oversized, enchanted hammer struck the foe squarely across the
chest - and bounced off!  The resounding "gong" was the only effect
Drak's attack had at all.

Drak:  Er-
red armored being:  (swings its sword)
Drak:  (moves to one side, just in time to avoid being cut in two)
  Whoa, dammit!
Ys:  (running in, he brings his sword around in a mighty arc)
red armored being:  (impossibly fast and skilled, it whirls and meets
  the reptilian's blade with its own)
Ys:  (staggers, his arms almost numb)
red armored being:  (kicks Ys in the midsection)
Ys:  (sails backward a good twenty feet)  Ug.
Drak:  (charges in again, hammer swinging)
red-armored foe:  (sidesteps the blow, the hammer cracking the stone
  floor next to it)
Drak:  Crap!

  The barbarian's increased size - he was now twenty feet in height -
proved to be an impediment, but that wasn't the real problem.  Even
the foe's apparent total immunity to physical attacks wasn't the real
problem...for it was obviously skilled in the art of battle, moving
and attacking and dodging as if it knew all there was to know about
fighting.  Even as its first attack missed by inches, the thing swept
Drak's feet from under him, easily bringing that huge sword around
for another blow.  However, the barbarian managed to hold back the
sword using his own weapon, as both combatants came crashing to the
floor.  The red-armored being wasted no time, tenaciously driving a
knee right into Drak's stomach, then raising its sword for a killing

Drak:  No!  (he grabs the foe's arm at the wrist, holding the sword
  at bay)

  This was no easy contest of strength, Drak found, for the armored
foe was possessed of great might, on the level of giants.  In fact,
the barbarian found that he was actually losing, inch by inch, the
other's weapon descending inexorably.  It was clearly time for a new

Drak:  (brings a leg up, hooking it around the foe's neck and then
  pulling its head back)

  This move allowed Drak to escape and roll free, but even as he
got back to his feet, the armored thing had done the same, and was
heading for him again.

red armored being:  (an arrow bounces from its helm, missing the
  eye-slit by an inch)
Drak:  (glances at the distant Jutokai, who is cursing to himself
  as he readies another arrow)
red-armored being:  (hefts its sword again, then charges at Drak)


black pudding:  (finally reaches the white, diseased foe, its pooled
  form completely surrounding the victim's feet and ankles)
white diseased being:  (looks down)
Boltar:  Perfect.  (he completes his spell, bringing a massive column
  of flame down upon the foe)
white diseased being:  (engulfed in a blazing inferno)
Boltar:  And good riddance.

  Meanwhile, Gorgo had charged the thin, black foe...

Gorgo:  (immersed in a berserker rage)  Dieeeeee!  (he swings his mace,
  the weapon's spiked head tearing through the dark flesh of the foe)
thin black being:  (finds an arm, shoulder, and a piece of chest torn
Gorgo:  Yeah!
thin black being:  (grabs the dwarf's arm)
Gorgo:  Aaaaaargh!  (with a noisy clatter of armor, he falls to the
  ground, twitching)
Mongo:  GORGO!  NO!  (he hurls Stormcrest at the floor right at the
  black foe, hitting it squarely in the chest and driving it back a
  good distance, staggering)
Parekh:  (completes another spell, causing the stone of the floor to
  flow and then surge up like water, engulfing the foe in a shell of
Mongo:  (catches Stormcrest)  Huh?
Parekh:  Reshaping of stone.  You should know all about that.
Mongo:  We need to smash him-
Parekh:  Best to leave the thing where it is, out of our way.
Mongo:  But-
Parekh:  Attend to your cousin, that's my advice.
Mongo:  (eyeing Gorgo, who appears thin and emaciated from the thing's
  touch)  Damn.


Bosco:  (swoops down toward the red-armored being, which is about to
  attack Drak again)
red-armored being:  (apparently with no idea whatsoever of the impending
  attack, it bears down on Drak)

  Bosco's speed, momentum, and sheer skill should have made the back-
stabbing attack a rousing success.  However, his blade didn't sink into
the crack between the foe's helm and backplate as he'd intended, instead
bouncing off as if the sword had struck a solid rock.

Bosco:  Whoa!
red-armored being:  (whirls, striking the halfling with the hilt of his
Bosco:  (saved by his reflexes, he recoils with the blow before sailing
  away, half-conscious)  Aaaaaaa...
Drak:  Saved by a humiliating.
red-armored being:  (turns back to Drak)

  The huge barbarian's mallet met the foe's helmeted face in what had
to be a perfect blow.  There was a great clamoring ring, as if a huge
bell had been struck...but the armored enemy didn't move an inch, nor
did it show any effect from the mighty impact.

Drak:  (recoils)  Damn, the first time really _wasn't_ a fluke...
red-armored being:  (draws its sword back, and charges the barbarian)

  Nearby, the giant horned beetle had finally reached the vicinity of
the thin black being, only to find that target encased in the shell of
rock raised by Parekh.

giant horned beetle:  (turns to the nearest foe)
pale being with scythe:  (intent on other foes, it doesn't notice the
  oncoming, oversized insect right away)

  The beetle scuttled toward the pale foe with the black metal scythe -
an unlikely matchup if ever there was one.  The huge insect took the
only approach it knew, its six-foot-long horn spearing the other and
lifting it from its feet.

pale being with scythe:  (lifted from the floor, impaled without any
  sign of blood, just like when Mongo hit it)
giant horned beetle:  (keeps moving along, carrying its victim)
pale being with scythe:  (blinks out of existence for a moment)
giant horned beetle:  (just keeps moving along)
pale being with scythe:  (reappears, weapon ready, and heads back toward
  the battle, the gory hole in its chest already closing up)
Skektek:  (from afar, he sends a volley of fiery bolts at the pale foe)
  Next best thing to a fireball...huh?
pale being with scythe:  (advancing, it ignores the fiery missiles as
  they fizzle out twenty feet from its body)
Skektek:  Fuck.
Jutokai:  (fires another arrow, hitting the thing in the head but failing
  to slow it down in the least)
Zhao:  (running, he somersaults in the air, landing before the foe, twin
  swords held high)  Now you face Zhao!

  The swordsman leaped into the air again, blades flashing a pattern of
bloody carnage.  The pale being was slashed in the head and neck with
what should have been a pattern of fatal blows...but much to Zhao's
surprise and shock, the wounds he inflicted drew no blood, and began
sealing themselves instantly.
  Unfortunately, this left Zhao somewhat exposed, and the pale being
brought its scythe around in a great, sweeping arc.

Zhao:  Ack.  (impaled by that curved, black blade, he ceases to exist)
Otto:  (watching from afar)  Holy shit.
Ys:  (advancing toward the pale foe, he stops cold)  Hm.
Razor Charlie:  (flanking Ys, knives ready, he also stops)  Killed him.
Ys:  Indeed.

  Just then, the column of flame around the diseased, white-skinned
being died out, revealing a blistered, burned foe (and no trace of the
black pudding.)

white diseased being:  (lurches toward Boltar)

  Incredibly, the burned flesh was cracking and peeling away, revealing
new diseased flesh beneath!  This effect was a warped mockery of true
healing, and was sickening to witness.

Boltar:  By Pholtus!  (without time to cast a spell, he readies his
  morningstar)  Come on, then.

  A strange thing happened as the diseased foe neared the high priest.
Boltar found himself suddenly nauseated, the stench (or perhaps aura)
of the thing terrible and overpowering.

Boltar:  <ghak>
white diseased being:  (takes advantage of this little surprise to lunge
  forward, grabbing the priest around the neck)
Boltar:  Aie!  (his flesh begins to fester and boil)  Aaaaargh!
Otto:  Let him go!  (he fires at the diseased being, piercing its side)
white diseased being:  (lets Boltar go, more because its work is done
  than because of the missile)
Boltar:  (still suffering the ill effects, as a hundred sicknesses
  ravage his body all at once)  Ghak...

  As if things couldn't get any worse, a band of people burst into the
domed room from the last treasure chamber...

Chargrim:  (surveying the scene of battle as he works a spell)  I'd say
  we got here just in time.
Lord Rammstein:  (draws his giant sword)  Agreed.
Otto:  (whirls, regarding the new arrivals)  What is this, a fucking

next:      showdown
released:  5/7/01
notes:     Nah.

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