Chapter #739

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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       +
+   1991-2001 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   +
+   THE GOOD:                                                             +
+     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                        +
+     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                        +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   THE BAD:                                                              +
+     Chargrim                 archmage                                   +
+       huge invisible demon                                              +
+     Lord Rammstein           warrior                                    +
+     Kalenon                  high priest of Hextor                      +
+       acolyte                priest of Hextor                           +
+     ancient elf              wizard                                     +
+     Sydaar                   master thief                               +
+     Orgthrok                 dwarven warrior                            +
+     Krom                     hunter                                     +
+     Snake                    assassin                                   +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   THE UGLY:                                                             +
+     red armored being with gigantic sword                               +
+     white diseased being                                                +
+     black emaciated being                                               +
+     pale being with black scythe                                        +
+   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                                                  +
+   "I've got a message for you, and you're not going to like it.  Pray   +
+    for death."                                                          +
+                                            - -from _Prince of Darkness_ +

                    DCCXXXIX.  Turning the Tables

  After the Crimson Blades' arrival and bold attack, a number of them
now face the four guardians of the tomb's final chamber.

Chargrim:  The time has come for a new tactic.
Krom:  That's for damn sure.
Lord Rammstein:  (hefting his bastard sword, he steps toward the big,
  red-armored being)

  Rammstein had seen how easily the foe dispatched his followers, but
the man was a veteran of hundreds of battles and lacked neither skill,
strength, nor courage.  He had conquered kingdoms and beaten back demons,
and he was not about to stand down from any single foe, no matter how

red-armored being:  (swings its huge sword in a great arc)
Lord Rammstein:  (meets the other's blade with his own)

  There was a resounding CLANG, accompanied by a shower of sparks.  The
warrior-lord's blade had been forged from the finest and rarest metal,
its enchantments laid down by wizards long-dead.  The foe's sword was
eons old, though, and had its own strange and terrible properties.  As
the combatants fought, struck and parried, dodged and spun, the blades
met again and yet again, their wielders giving a dazzling display of
sheer power as well as skill.

Krom:  (eyeing the other three beings, who move around their fellow as
  it duels with Rammstein)  Here they come...(he tenses, then springs)

  The hunter leapt higher and farther then than any man (or almost any
animal) could ever hope to, whirling about even as he landed behind one
of the foes...

pale being with scythe:  (turns, its weapon raised)
Krom:  (grabs the scythe by its handle, right below the blade, intending
  to wrest it from the creature's hands)  Now-

  An otherworldy chill ran down the hunter's arms, causing him to let
go immediately.

Krom:  (staggers back)  Urk.
pale being with scythe:  (raises its weapon for the killing strike)
Chargrim:  Away!  (he brings the force-sword he just conjured around in
  a great swinging arc)
pale being with scythe:  (turns, regarding the magical blade as it
  comes around...and vanishes)
Chargrim:  What?!?

  The archmage's attack, though unsuccessful, had delayed the pale foe
enough to allow Krom to recover and get the hell away.

Krom:  ...thanks.
Chargrim:  Uh...right.

  As if on cue, the dwarf Orgthrok charged back into the battle, a mighty
leap carrying him to the pale foe.  He landed behind it, his battleaxe
swinging in a wide and deadly arc and catching the pale being (not to
mention Chargrim and Krom) completely by surprise.  The thick axe-blade
cut the foe entirely in two; its top half dropping away to the right
while its bottom fell off to the left.

Orgthrok:  Hah!  (he dashes over to Chargrim)  Got him!
Chargrim:  Welcome back to the fight.  We thought you were a smear on
  the wall.
Orgthrok:  (wipes blood from his forehead)  Bah.

  Meanwhile, the white diseased being and the thin black one faced the
spellcasting Kalenon.  The high priest of Hextor was aided by his acolyte,
the other's power augmenting his own.

Kalenon:  (waving his arms, his eyes glow red)

  The tomb's floor split open, right before the priest, widening almost
instantly right beneath the feet of the two foes, both of whom fell into
the rift!

Orgthrok:  Heh.
Chargrim:  Well done.
Kalenon:  I figured that might do the trick.  (he frowns)  Do you think
  that Yorgi's dead?
Chargrim:  Probably.  He did, after all, get eaten by a being that looks
  and acts like death incarnate.
Krom:  (weakly)  Close that crack before those other bastards climb out.
Kalenon:  Uh...

  Elsewhere in the battle...

Belphanior:  (in the air, being crushed in the ancient elf's magical claw)

  Belphanior's arms were pinned to his sides, and he was trapped, and both
he and the other knew it.

ancient elf:  (hovers nearby)  Fools, all of you.
Belphanior:  What talking about...?  We don't...even...know you
ancient elf:  Nor shall you.

  The foe willed his force-claw to tighten, crushing the red-cloaked elf
slowly but surely.

Belphanior:  AAARGH!

  Nearby, Mongo was having a tough time with the invisible demon that had
hit him and then carried him up into the air.

Mongo:  Let go, dammit!  (he rains a series of blows that don't really

  The dwarf could feel the claws, smell the huge body of the demon, hear
its wings flap - but he couldn't _see_ it, and thus he couldn't strike a
solid blow with his hammer.  The unseen foe seemed intent on ramming the
dwarf into the arched roof-strut they were headed toward.

Mongo:  Shiiiiiiiit-  <BAM>

  The monster was swooping around for another strike, the battered dwarf
still clutched tightly in its claws.

Mongo:  Urgh...

  As for Parekh, she had her hands full with the female thief who was
raining blows down upon her.

Parekh:  (feels her steelskin weakening)  Argh!

  Then, just like that, the archmage pulled victory from the hands of
defeat.  It had been so long since Parekh had been physically attacked
in a battle, she was panicking now.  No matter how fearsome the blows,
they could _not_ injure her while the steelskin was in effect - it was
a kind of leap-of-faith situation.  Ignoring the attacks, Parekh called
upon one of her own spells, stored in a ring on one finger to make for
fast, easy casting in situations just like this.

Parekh:  Hands off!
Sydaar:  (suddenly knocked back a good twenty feet)  Ungh!
Parekh:  Better.  (she stands, already working another spell)
Sydaar:  Bah.  (she spits blood, then leaps the chamber's
  ceiling, where she sticks like a spider as she reaches into a pouch)


Razor Charlie:  (facing off against the sinister, silent assassin, he
  pushes Neera back behind him)  Stay behind me.
Neera:  You bet.
Snake:  (thin sword held easily, he approaches)
Razor Charlie:  (aware of the likelihood of poison on the foe's blade,
  he works to keep some distance between them, throwing one knife, then
Snake:  (parries one blade with his sword, and dodges the other by mere
Razor Charlie:  (already throwing two more knives)
Snake:  (dodges one and gets hit by the other, but bears down on the
Razor Charlie:  Fuck.  (he turns and runs)
Snake:  (pauses, not expecting that...and then gives chase, gliding
  after Charlie)

  It was Mongo who got things turned around.  As he was carried toward
another wall, it occurred to him that maybe he was going about this all

Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest, from the air, at the nearest foe he _can_ see)
ancient elf:  (protected from most magic and all nonmagical weapons, he
  has no defense against this attack, nor a chance to avoid it since it
  hits him from behind)  ARGH!  (he "staggers" in his flying)
Belphanior:  (feeling the purple claw's grip loosen, he slips out)

  With his hands free, Mongo did what he should have done in the first
place:  closed his eyes, relied on touch alone to figure out what his
invisible assailant was shaped like...and then used his tremendous giant-
strength to seize one of the thing's arms and apply some force.

Mongo:  Take...THIS!  (with a tremendous effort, he snaps the demon's
  left arm at the elbow)
invisible demon:  GRAAAAAARGH!  (it lets its prey go)
Mongo:  (feather falling thanks to his armor, he catches his hammer as
  it returns)  Cool.

  Belphanior, recovered but wounded, did something useful without even
thinking about it.

Belphanior:  (flies directly to Sydaar, who is crouched upside-down
  sticking to the ceiling, and plunges his black blade into her back,
  a blow as perfect as any he's ever struck)
Sydaar:  Ack.
Belphanior:  (regaining his strength)  Yesss...
Parekh:  (needing a target for her spell, she quickly turns to the
  nearest available target)
Snake:  (his pursuit of Razor Charlie is interrupted by the beam of
  freezing cold that hits him in the side)

  As the assassin went down, Razor Charlie abruptly stopped, turned,
and charged the foe he'd just been fleeing, knives up and flashing.
This time, they both hit Snake in the chest, and dark blood spurted
from each wound.

Razor Charlie:  Fuck _you_.

  Near the chamber's entrance, Chargrim and those allies with him had
a rude awakening...

pale being with scythe:  (stands, mysteriously whole once more though
  nobody _saw_ it happen)
Chargrim:  Well, there's something you don't see every day.
Kalenon's acolyte:  (a little too close, as neither he nor anyone else
  knew that the pale foe wasn't really dead)  Ghak.  (he looks down at
  the black scythe-blade protruding from his chest...and vanishes)
Kalenon:  By Hextor, you will pay for that!  (he works a new and more
  terrible spell)

  Meanwhile, Lord Rammstein and the red-armored being were going at it
toe-to-toe.  It had been years since Rammstein had fought one of this
caliber, and even longer since he'd been seriously worried about the
possibility of defeat.  Today, however, he had met one who was his
equal in battle, and quite possibly more.  The red-armored foe never
seemed to tire and never seemed to be injured by the warrior's blows.

Lord Rammstein:  (with a mighty slashing attack, he hits the foe in its
  helm)  Fall, damn you!
red-armored being:  (strikes back, denting Rammstein's great armor and
  sending him staggering backward)
Lord Rammstein:  Aaaargh...
Orgthrok:  (mumbling to himself)  Yeah, that one's stronger than he
  looks...(he hefts his axe)
Krom:  (trying to figure out which foe to attack, he notices the white
  diseased one and the thin black one as both rise ominously from the
  great crack in the floor, floating)  You've _got_ to be shitting me.

next:      finale
released:  5/14/01
notes:     Next episode is it, I promise.

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