Chapter #771

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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   +
+   Belphanior      15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Otto          10th/12th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie 10th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       13th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            14th level reptilian fighter                          +
+                                                                         +
+   summoned monstrous allies:                                            +
+     purple worm                                                         +
+     drider (3)                                                          +
+     giant spiders (4)                                                   +
+                                                                         +
+   others along for the ride:                                            +
+     drider ex-prisoner                                                  +
+     human ex-prisoners (4)                                              +
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the depths of the Fortress of the Nine                +
+   Climate:        cool and dry                                          +
+   "We are not retreating - we are advancing in another direction."      +
+                                            - General Douglas MacArthur  +

                   DCCLXXI.  As the Worm Turns

  The party prepares to ascend a wide stairway in the wake of the rampant
purple worm...

Otto:  That thing sure did a job on the stonework here - it's all cracked
  and torn up.
Belphanior:  Hopefully it'll also do a job on more defenders.  I think we
  gave the drow back there the one thing they couldn't handle:  a big foe
  that their magic couldn't really stop in time.
Skektek:  Speaking of those drow, would anyone mind terribly if I sealed
  this stairway behind us?  I really don't want a handful of powerful and
  angry dark elves following us.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Otto:  We shouldn't need an escape route...there should be plenty, where
  we're headed, plus your magic if we have to resort to that.
Belphanior:  Agreed.  (to Skektek)  Get ready to do it.  I'm going to set
  up a little surprise for anyone from this area who comes this way.
Skektek:  (nods, turning back to face the bottom of the stairway)  Time
  for some collapse.

  As Skektek prepared to do this thing, Belphanior flew down to the big
lever on the wall, just to the right of the gate that held the spider in
place.  Glancing at Skektek, Belphanior then pulled the lever, immediately
flying back to the stairway as a deep grinding sound commenced.  The heavy
gate began to rise, receding into the ceiling, and the spider, obviously
excited by this, crept toward the opening barrier.

Belphanior:  Now, Skektek!  Seal the stairway!

  The wizard used his thunder ring to blast the dungeon roof, just above
the lowest steps.  The stone was weakened from the purple worm's passage,
and it only took two such thunderbolts to break loose a large portion of
the ceiling and block the stairway.

Belphanior:  Well done.
Skektek:  (coughing from the billowing dust he just caused)  Yeah...that
  ought to keep hostiles off our backs for a while.
Ys:  Not to mention that king of all spiders back there.
Otto:  Onward, then.
Belphanior:  (to the freed drider)  Get up there with the other three.
drider:  But-
Belphanior:  Your usefulness ended when Skektek sealed this stairway.  Be
  thankful that you're still alive now.

  The group now had an all-monster front rank - four drider and four giant
spiders - followed by Otto and Ys, then Skektek and Belphanior, then Razor
Charlie, then the four freed men with their drow weapons.  It was quite a
contingent, though privately Belphanior knew that as soon as the purple
worm's rampage was put to a stop, the weaker members of his party would
surely perish in some upcoming battle.

  However, as they left the stairway after about a hundred feet of
climbing, it was apparent that the worm had wreaked havoc on this new
level as well.  The steps ended, the stairway opening into one end of
a large passage, about fifty feet wide and at least two hundred long.
Numerous doors and open side passages led away from this hallway, but
none of them were as interesting as what was happening in the far end
of the hall...

Otto:  The worm's turned.

  The purple worm was locked in battle, flanked on all sides by armored
warriors.  In addition to these foes, who numbered several dozen, the
worm had to contend with a small band of dwarves at the very far end of
the main hall.

dwarven fighter:  (sinks a pick into the worm's head)  Take that!
purple worm:  RAAARGH!  (it lunges forward, swallowing the dwarf in one
dwarven priest:  (launches a stream of fire at the worm, burning it all
  about the head and body)
purple worm:  RRRRRRRAAARGH!  (it thrashes, crushing several of the
  warriors who are hacking away at its main body)

  The warriors closest to the invading adventurers had just noticed them
and turned, weapons raised.

sergeant:  More intruders!  We are being invaded!  Men...attack!
warriors:  (a half-dozen of them, they charge)
Belphanior:  (to the drider and giant spiders)  Get them!
drider and spiders:  (scurry forth to meet the charging warriors)
Skektek:  Want me to fireball the far end of the hall?  It'd hurt the worm
  but it would also clear out all these others.
Belphanior:  Not yet.
Otto:  Those dwarves probably aren't our allies, and these other warriors
  definitely aren't!
Belphanior:  I know, but I want the purple worm to do as much of the work
  as possible.

  Meanwhile, the worm had just eaten another of the dwarves, this one
armed with a hammer in one hand and an axe in the other.  However, this
meal was more difficult to digest than the last...

purple worm:  (quivers)  RRRRR?

  A gash appeared in the thing's hide, right before its head, then widened
suddenly, spraying green blood everywhere.

dwarf:  (rips his way out of the worm's throat, hammer and axe sundering
  and tearing wormy flesh with every swing)  ENOUGH!
purple worm:  RRAAAARGH!  (it begins flagellating, but more and more
  weakly with each passing moment)
dwarf with hammer and axe:  Pile it on, you rascals!  Kill the fuckin'
other dwarves:  (redouble their efforts)
purple worm:  (dying, it all but ceases its thrashing) RRRrrrr....

  As for the warriors who were charging the adventurers, they and the
summoned allies were basically cancelling each other out, falling in
roughly equal numbers and at roughly equal rates.  The spiders were
aggressive and venomous, the drider simply aggressive, but these were
obviously no common soldier riffraff.  The warriors had training and
experience, as well as fine armor and weapons.  By the time they had
slain all of the spidery allies summoned by Belphanior, three of their
number well as a dozen others who had been fighting the
purple worm.  Also moving to join these survivors were four dwarves,
including the one with axe and hammer who had been key to the slaying
of the worm.

dwarf with axe and hammer:  (stands there, brandishing both weapons
  as green gore drips from them)  Hmph.  (he eyes the adventurers,
  then talks to his people)  Five gets you ten those're the bastards
  who sent that worm our way.
other dwarf:  You know what we have to do, then.


Skektek:  (working a spell)  I'm not going to wait on those clowns to
  attack us.
Belphanior:  No, surely not.

  Skektek launched a streak of flame that blossomed and grew as it
shot toward the foes...but then a wall of fire blazed into existence
between the two parties!  The fireball hit this barrier and was seen
no more.

Skektek:  Huh?  Did it punch through?
Otto:  Hard to say.  We can't see through the flames.
Belphanior:  Let's find out.  (he raises a wand, launching a series
  of acid-globes through the top portion of the wall of fire)

  There were no cries of pain, but moments later, a barrage of small
boulders - meaning ones about half a foot across - sprayed out from
behind the fiery barrier, wreaking great havoc amidst the adventurers'

Skektek:  (hit squarely in the chest by one rock, he staggers and falls,
  howling in pain)  Aaaargh!
freed captive:  (hit in the head, he falls, dead with a crushed skull)
other freed captive:  (hit in the leg, he also falls)  Yaargh!
Belphanior:  (grazed on one shoulder by a rock)  What the hell?!?
Razor Charlie:  (having already been moving to the side, he avoids harm)
Otto:  (hit in the arm with a rock, he drops his crossbow, sending its
  bolt whizzing into a wall where it shatters)  Argh!
Ys:  (hit in the head by a rock, he just stands there, puzzled)  Hm.

  Just like that, the wall of fire vanished, and the warriors and dwarves
came charging through, intent on a pitched melee battle!

next:      the real battle takes place
released:  11/30/01
notes:     They avoided it on the level below, but now they are finally
  facing off against a major player of this fortress.
    For all who noted that Ys mysteriously knew the spoken drow language
  in episode 768:  yup, a logic typo.  Oops.  If it makes you feel any
  better, just assume that he knows 17 languages and never told anybody.

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