Chapter #740

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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                      +
+     ancient elf              wizard                                     +
+     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                                                  +
+   "But we didn't go so easy.  Maybe our number wasn't up yet.           +
+    Maybe we got lucky.  Maybe Hell wasn't ready for us."                +
+                                                      - from _Team 7_    +

                         DCCXL.  Deadly Exodus

  Beneath the waters of the Drawmij Ocean, within the ancient vaults of
the Lost Tomb of Panagaea, the three-sided battle rages on...

Chargrim:  (unleashes a barrage of magical fire-bolts at the two beings
  who have just risen from the great crack in the floor)
white diseased being:  (recoils, smoking craters burned in its flesh by
  each missile that hits)
thin black being:  (likewise)
pale being with scythe:  (strides toward Kalenon, its weapon raised)
Krom:  (unwilling to risk another direct attack - on this or any of
  these beings - he hefts a large chunk of stone, hurling it with enough
  force to crush a mortal foe)  Take THAT!
pale being with scythe:  (hit squarely by the piece of rock, it reels)
Krom:  (to Kalenon)  Okay, I set it up for you...
Kalenon:  Yes!  (completes his spell)  By Hextor, but that one shall pay!

  The high priest was infuriated over his acolyte's death at the
hands (or scythe) of the pale being, but he realized that magic wasn't
going to affect this foe.  Accordingly, he instead employed physical
means to try and stop it, turning the rock under its feet into mud.

pale scythe-wielding being:  (simply advances, walking on the surface
  of the mud)
Kalenon:  Aie!

  Meanwhile, the dwarf Orgthrok was again ready for action.  Bloody
and beaten, he was consumed in a battle-fury unlike any other...

Orgthrok:  GrrrrrrAAAARGH!  (he charges madly)

  The enraged dwarf slammed into the red-armored being, who had been
meleeing with Lord Rammstein.  Orgthrok completely ignored his battle-
axe, such was his fury; he instead barreled into the enemy with force
roughly equal to that of a charging rhinoceros.

red-armored being:  (crashes to the floor)
Orgthrok:  (standing atop the fallen foe, he hefts his battleaxe, then
  rains blows upon its head and back)
Lord Rammstein:  (backs up, taking this opportunity to catch his breath)

  Across the room...

Mongo:  (lands on the floor)  Yeah, about damn time.  (looking upward,
  he realizes that he'll never find the invisible demon, so he hurls
  Stormcrest at the ancient elf, a second time)
ancient elf:  (smiles thinly as the hammer rebounds from some invisible
  field)  That won't work a second time.
Mongo:  Dammit.
Belphanior:  (still standing over Sydaar's newly-soulless corpse, he
  looks around)

  Nearby, Razor Charlie backed off as the assassin Snake stood, despite
the knives sticking out of his chest.  Charlie had fought dangerous
foes before, but he was used to a man staying down if hit in the heart
with a throwing knife.

Snake:  (brandishing his sword, he stalks toward the knife-thrower)
Razor Charlie:  (backs up a few steps, two more knives ready)
Belphanior:  (having leapt across the room, he lands right behind
  Snake, his sword darting forth)
Snake:  (whirls, parrying the blow, but is still knocked back and down
  from the raw strength of the elf's attack)
Belphanior:  (moves toward the assassin)  Charlie, gather the others,
  fallen and standing alike.  (he bears down on Snake)  Leave this one
  to me.
Razor Charlie:  ...right.
Boltar:  (nearby, having finally recovered his strength)  Let me help
  you.  (together they endeavor to move Ys away)
Neera:  (just watches)

  Nearby, Drak had finally gotten to his feet.  Burned and blistered,
he was at his normal size (though that was still bigger than any of
his allies, save Ys) and was greatly weakened.  He'd tossed the limp
form of Bosco over one shoulder like a sack of potatoes and was making
his way over toward Parekh, limping and weary but alive.

  Parekh, in the meantime, had cast an enchantment that showed her
exactly where - and what - Chargrim's demon was.

Parekh:  Damn, that's a big one.

  She could see the thing flying downward, right toward Mongo, with the
intent of attacking him again.  That, of course, could not be allowed
to happen.  As an added bonus, the ancient elf was hovering around right
above and behind the swooping invisible demon.

Parekh:  Oh, perfect.  (she launches a blazing spray of colors at both

  The effects were immediate and dire.  The demon was battered and
beaten by magical forces, losing control of its swooping descent;
the elf was saved from magical harm by his unseen defenses, but was
stunned and kept from concentrating yet again.
  The demon, still invisible, fell hard, cracking the floor when it

Mongo:  Bastard.  (he hurls Stormcrest at the cracked spot)
invisible demon:  (hit again, it is knocked back...right into the
  enraged Orgthrok, who is still chopping at the fallen red-armored
  foe with his axe even as it begins to rise)

  Demon, dwarf, and armored warrior went down in a noisy, violent heap
which caught the attention of all other combatants.

Chargrim:  This is getting out of hand.  (using telekinesis, he "grabs"
  Snake and the ancient elf - as well as Sydaar's corpse - and pulls
  them back toward him)  Time to incinerate all foes.
Kalenon:  A good idea.  (he throws up a whirling barrier of sharp metal
  between the Crimson Blades and everyone else)  That'll buy us some
  time to get things cooking.

  Across the chamber, Belphanior saw all of this, as did Mongo.

Belphanior:  Fuck, they're about to cast another high-power spell!
Mongo:  Can't you throw up a field-
Belphanior:  Not enough time, and not to cover all of us!
Mongo:  (suddenly inspired, he hurls his hammer at the ceiling right
  above the spellcasting Chargrim)

  The ceiling cracked, raining chunks of rock down on the wizard and
botching his magical efforts.  A huge crack appeared, too, crossing
the length of the domed chamber's ceiling in moments.

Mongo:  Uh-oh.
Belphanior:  Not good...

  As if things couldn't get any worse, there was a strange rumbling
nearby, the sound of stone grating on stone:  the lids of the other
three coffins on the pedestal were slowly opening!

Belphanior:  Oh, fuck.
Mongo:  We need to get out of here, and I mean now.
Belphanior:  Dammit, I'm out of teleports.  Parekh?
Parekh:  Not a prob-  (she reels, struck by a spell from the ancient
  elf)  Gak.  (she just stands there)
Belphanior:  Hey!
Parekh:  Brb.
Mongo:  She's had it.
Belphanior:  (spots Chargrim and Kalenon working new spells)  Fuck!
  (siezed by a desperate idea)  Can you use that earthquake-horn of
Mongo:  Yeah, but why-
Belphanior:  Do it, now!  (he looks over to Drak, who is sort of
  moving in their general direction)  Drak, hurry up!  We're getting
  the hell out of here!
Drak:  Right!  (he grabs the prone Otto as he passes by)

  While the others regrouped, and Mongo found the powerful horn and
prepared to wind it, Belphanior unfolded a certain highly magical
piece of cloth he'd carried for years now.  It looked just like a
portable hole, but was actually a portable portal, a hole to other
places...a well of many worlds!

Belphanior:  (opens the thing fully, inhaling the air from within/
  beyond)  Seems brimstone or anything.  (he begins
  shepherding his people in)  Go, go, go!
Boltar:  (pulls the bulky form of Ys after him into the well, as
  Mongo pushes)
Neera:  Eep.  (she all but trips as she goes in)
Razor Charlie:  (gingerly nudges the armored form of Gorgo into the
Drak:  (after handing off the unconscious Bosco, he gently picks up
  Parekh and carries her into the portal)

  The able carried the wounded or unconscious to the well, and then
into its unknown depths - a tremendous risk, but it had to be taken.
It was a hectic process, as rock and dust were falling everywhere,
the floor was shaking, water was now flooding into the chamber, and
foes were everywhere.  Yet, one by one, running or limping or being
dragged, each and every member of the party made it to the well.

  Mongo sounded his horn, initiating a tremendous earthquake which,
in this underground and undersea dungeon, had dire repercussions.
The entire chamber - no, the entire ISLAND - shook violently, and
huge cracks opened in the domed chamber's walls, floor, and ceiling.
Falling rock pelted everyone; Belphanior was sure that he saw one or
two of Chargrim's party go down beneath big chunks of broken stone.
He was also sure that he saw one or two of the unstoppable beings
slowly approaching his people, affected by neither the huge chunks
of stone nor the raging torrents of water shooting into the chamber.

Mongo:  (pushes Ys' prone form the rest of the way into the well, and
  gets ready to grab Jutokai and toss him in)  Okay, let's go!
Belphanior:  You first - I've got to stay and close the portal!
Mongo:  But how will you follow us?
Belphanior:  Wasn't planning on it - once it's closed, the way to
  wherever it was opened to is lost...gone forever!  And someone's
  got to make sure we're not followed.
Mongo:  Fuck that!  (he whirls about angrily)  There's got to be a
  better way-
Belphanior:  (as Mongo's back is turned, he reaches out and pushes
  the dwarf hard, knocking him into the well)
Mongo:  What-  (he vanishes from sight)
Belphanior:  No more sacrifices for my sake-
Jutokai:  (still lying on the floor, he suddenly kicks out with both
  feet, pushing Belphanior into the well)
Belphanior:  Hey-  (he also vanishes from sight)
Jutokai:  Two can play that game, and I learned from the best.

  The archer was gravely wounded, badly burned by Chargrim's fireball.
He could barely see, as one of his eyes had burst and the other was
hazy at best.  His right arm had been reduced to little more than a
burnt stick, his blackened skin split open in numerous places.  Though
unconscious for the entire battle to this point, he had been revived -
barely - while being dragged over to the well.  He'd heard enough of
Belphanior and Mongo's conversation to know what was going on...and
to act.

  He lifted his head as high as he could and looked around.  It was
impossible to make out much of either the Crimson Blades or the
occupants of the fifth, sixth, and seventh coffins, though one dark
form was vaguely visible near the pedestal, as was something else that
defied description.  The latter, whatever it was, was moving toward
Jutokai and the well, a palpable aura of menace preceding it.

Jutokai:  (summoning the last of his fading strength, he desperately
  reaches out with his good arm and grabs the well's edge, pulling it
  and closing the portal, in the process raking his open wounds over
  the rough stone)  AAARGH!

  The item was now just a piece of cloth, and the exact destination
of Belphanior and the rest was lost forever, eliminating any chance
of pursuit - or escape.

Jutokai:  (coughing blood and gasping for breath)  Ugh...

  The archer's last thought as the horrifying apparition approached
was that he'd really done all that he wanted to do in his life, and
had ended it in the best possible way for any warrior:  on his own

Jutokai:  (nearly blind, in terrible pain, and dying)  I win.

  And then, the entire tomb came crashing down, burying everyone and
everything within.

next:      a return to Peyote, Halbarad, Rob, Deryck, Nenya, et al.
released:  5/17/01
notes:     It is possible that I had too many high-powered combatants
  here, but I like to think the battle was entertaining, with a few
  surprises and a few open-ended things.
    I'll come back to this crew, but first I want to revisit the other
  characters.  We all know that a well of many worlds can lead anywhere,
  so keep your fingers crossed for our heroes.

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