Chapter #765

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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   +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Deryck          11th level half-elven ranger                          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+     Zephyr        large tiger                                           +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+   Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard           +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+                                                                         +
+   Boltar                     human priest of Pholtus                    +
+   Derider Fanshaen           female human priestess of Pelor            +
+   Sir Drexel                 human paladin of Heironeous                +
+     Limbor                   elven wizard/priest                        +
+   Eyer                       wood elven fighter/acrobat                 +
+     Baltek                   elven archer                               +
+   Jerome Kasinskaia          human priest of Rao                        +
+     Reptar                   lizardman fighter                          +
+   Pallin                     grey elven wizard                          +
+     Socrates                 large albino hound                         +
+   St. Wilhelm                human fighter/priest of St. Cuthbert       +
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          the Fortress of the Nine                              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "What do you think?"                                                  +
+   "I think a plan is just a list of things that don't happen."          +
+                                           - from _The Way of the Gun_   +

                      DCCLXV.  Intruders

  After smashing their way around a trapped door, thanks to Mongo, the
heroes now find themselves in a square room, about forty feet to a side.

Halbarad:  Stirrups...bridle...and one hell of a saddle.
Eyer:  Big saddle.  Someone must use that to ride the dragon.
Halbarad:  Or they're using another one right now, to ride the dragon.
Eyer:  You know what I mean.  (he looks around)

  There wasn't much else here, just what looked like spare riding gear,
the sort used when the main riding gear wasn't available.  A door in
the far corner of the chamber led to another room of the same size and
shape.  This area was empty, save for a few scraps of iron strewn about
the floor.

Eyer:  Now that's weird.  Any idea what these could be used for?
Mongo:  Nope.  They sort of look like tailings, the kind you'd find in
  a mine, but...hell, who knows?

  A double door ahead proved untrapped, after being checked (as they
all were) by magical means.  One handy thing was that Eyer could do
this himself, thanks to a tiny bell he carried; if it chimed when held
before a portal or chest, that item was trapped.  The tone of the chime
varied based on the type and lethality of the trap.

Eyer:  I think we're past all the "outer" doors now...not many more
  will have any traps, maybe not even locks, I'd wager.
Halbarad:  We'll still be cautious.
Mongo:  But also fast.  (he strides into the long, wide hallway beyond
  the double doors)

  The hall was about a hundred feet long and fifty wide, with five
exits visible (two of them double doors like those the group had just
come through.)  A wide stairway ahead and to the left descended into
darkness.  The walls of this hall were covered in tapestries and oil
paintings, all of them depicting scenes of battle and carnage.

  Directly ahead of them was an eight-foot statue of a black-cloaked
warrior, its eyes glowing crimson.

Mongo:  Whoa-
stone golem:  (wastes no time, advancing on the party's front rank)
Sir Drexel: battle!
Mongo:  It's a good thing you were here to tell us that, or I might
  not have known what to do.  (he charges forth to meet the golem,
  hammer raised high)

  Even as the dwarf made ready to fight the stone guardian, another
foe skulked in the shadows at the far end of the room.

cloaked figure:  (launches bolts of black energy from his hands)

  These ebon bolts sailed over the golem and the front rank, striking
those further back...

Boltar:  (recoils, trembling)  Argh...
Reptar:  (staggers, dropping his weapon)  Sssss.
Baltek:  (deftly sidesteps one of the missiles, which splatters into
  wisps of nothingness on the wall beside him)  Whoa.
Sir Drexel:  (hit squarely in the breastplate by a fourth bolt, he
  just ignores it)  Such foul attacks cannot stop one such as I.

  In the distance, the shadowy figure bolted for the nearest door,
but a whizzing ball of flame arced past the fleeing foe, impacting
between him and the exit.  In the flash of fire, they could see
that they were dealing with a scythe-wielding priest of some sort.
His skin was chalky, and he looked angry.

  Meanwhile, Mongo had engaged the stone golem.  Stormcrest struck
even as the construct's massive fist swung down; the two collided
with bone-jarring force, and Mongo's knees buckled as the floor
around his feet cracked.

stone golem:  (raises its handless arm up, regarding it carefully)
Halbarad:  (swings his battleaxe at the thing's knee, attempting to
  topple it)
stone golem:  (backhands the ranger with its good arm)
Halbarad:  (rolls with the blow, but is still stunned)  Ungh.
Eyer:  (darts around the other side of the golem, sprinting with
  remarkable speed toward the scythe-wielding foe beyond)

  That foe was not, however, standing still.  He held a small
black skull...and then he threw it in the approaching elf's

Eyer:  (stops as the skull lands a good thirty feet from him)
  You'll have to throw harder than...that...

  The skull had broken apart on impact, and rising from its
remains were a half-dozen skeletal warriors of large size and
dark hue, their hands ending in long, bony talons.  These things
didn't resemble any skeletons that Eyer had ever encountered

Eyer:  Shit.

  The elf was agile, and a good warrior, but he couldn't possibly
get by all of these foes before the priestly foe either launched
another attack or fled.

  Fortunately, he didn't have to.

Boltar:  (floats over and around the golem, landing behind Eyer)
  Aside, my friend.  (he raises his holy symbol, which is already
  shining brightly)  By the might of Pholtus...BEGONE!

  The skeletons raised their hands...cowered...staggered...and
fell, their bony bodies crumbling and dissolving into dust.

Eyer:  (already dashing toward the scythe-wielding priest again,
  he looks up as a massive, furred form streaks past him)
Zephyr:  (bounding along, he makes one final leap)
priestly foe:  (starts to raise its scythe)

  The huge tiger slammed into the priest with enough force to
send the scythe skittering across the stone floor.  The victim
raised his skinny arms in a useless attempt to defend himself.

Zephyr:  (with one clawed leg, he rips the foe's head from his
  shoulders)  GRAAAAARGH!
Halbarad:  (watching with admiration)  Good boy.

  The ranger didn't have to worry about the golem because Mongo
was pummeling it into rubble.  He'd been joined in this endeavor
by Sir Drexel, Peyote, and Deryck.  The golem was a hardy being,
but Mongo's enhanced strength and the might of Stormcrest had
weakened it greatly, and the party's warriors now finished it

Mongo:  (delivers the final blow, smashing the golem's torso
  apart and causing rubble and dust to fly)  Hah.
Rob:  (heads over to examine the headless corpse that Zephyr is
  sitting on)
Zephyr:  Rrrrr.
Nenya:  Who do you think this person was?
Rob:  An evil priest...a follower of Nerull, perhaps?
Jerome:  (having also wandered over to the body, he nods)  The
  color of his robes and his scythe mark him as one of Nerull's.
Boltar:  Good riddance, then.
Derider:  And good job against that golem, too.
Mongo:  I take pride in my work.
Pallin:  (walks around the hall, eyeing its walls)
Socrates:  (silently follows its master)
Sir Drexel:  We should keep moving - no time to explore.  Every
  moment we waste on the little rats gives the bigger ones more
  time to prepare.
Boltar:  (eyeing the slain priest's scythe)
Sir Drexel:  (to Limbor)  See what I mean?
Limbor:  (shrugs impassively)
Boltar:  We cannot leave this weapon lying around - it is too
  fraught with evil.
Sir Drexel:  There is no time for such-
Boltar:  But we must.
Mongo:  (pushes Boltar aside, raises his hammer, then brings it
  down, hard, on the scythe)

  The weapon's curved metal blade snapped in two, ending the

Mongo:  Happy now?  Good.  Let's go.

  They did a fast but cautious search of the hall's various exits.
One, to the northwest, was a small workroom with tables, clay, and
tools.  The northeast door led to a small storeroom.  A large open
exit to the north, between the other two, had a wide set of steps
leading down; a cursory look revealed that they went down quite a
ways, five floors' worth at least.  The southern exit led to an
evil temple with a statue of Nerull.  This, as well as the other
exits, would normally bear further investigation, but time was of
the essence.

Rob:  (clearly using some sort of divining magic, as his eyes are
  glowing, he points to the steps)  The main part of the fortress
  lies below - down that stairway.  That is where our foes will
  be...and that is where we must go.

  This was true.  Although there were doubtless riches (and perhaps
even more foes and other things that needed destroying) up here,
the fight would be on the levels far below.  There was no time to
explore or dawdle.

Mongo:  (heads for the stairway down)  Let's do it.

next:      we take a look at a second invading force
released:  11/15/01
notes:     What I said above is true:  though this place is full of cool
  things to explore, they'll generally need to ignore such distractions
  and hurry to keep focused on their main goal.

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