Chapter #777

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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                                                  +
+   "Never mistake motion for action."                                    +
+                                                 - Ernest Hemingway      +

                    DCCLXXVII.  The Tide Turns

  After moving through a dragon's cavern and defeating a high priest of
Nerull, the champions are descending a long stairway, heading into the
heart of the evil fortress...

Mongo:  These steps go on forever.
Halbarad:  You seem to be doing a fine job of keeping up.
Mongo:  (shrugs)
Eyer:  (peering into the darkness ahead)  I think we're almost there.

  Indeed, the stairwell opened into the end of a broad passage, perhaps
thirty feet further.  Eyer and Halbarad peered cautiously around the edge
of the wall, not wishing to be spotted by anyone.  However, the hall was

Eyer:  (to Mongo)  Halbarad and I will scout ahead just a bit; the rest
  of you stay here.
Mongo:  But-
Eyer:  Stealth is needed right now, not might.  Rest assured, your hammer
  will see more action before the day is done.
Mongo:  Yeah, it better.

  The two scouts moved into the hallway, quickly assessing the situation.
Less than a hundred feet away, another stairway led down again, and from
this direction could be heard all sorts of noise.  Directly across the
hall from this second stairway was a double door, opening into a large
barracks of some sort.  Fifty feet further along, the broad passage was
met on the right by an intersecting branch of the same dimensions.  The
main passage also continued onward, and a few more double doors could be
seen before it turned sharply to the left.

Halbarad:  I think this whole area is deserted.
Eyer:  The soldiers in those barracks probably went downstairs...but what
  could be down there, causing all that racket?
Halbarad:  We'll soon know.  Let's gather the others.

  Shortly, the entire party stood in the main passage, pondering its next
course of action.

Nenya:  Where is everyone?  If the barracks are empty...
Deryck:  They have gone to join the battle outside, no doubt.
Sir Drexel:  Or perhaps to aid in the defense of this fortress.  If the
  gods are with us, our allies outside are pounding at the main gates by
Jerome Kasinskaia:  If so, they will have done their part - and we must
  do ours.
Reptar:  (raises his sword, nodding)  Sssss!
Boltar:  (to Rob)  Are you still using your god's power to track the
  masters of this place?
Rob:  I am.  (he gazes around, concentrating, before finally nodding to
  himself)  The evil ones we seek lie downstairs, I am certain...but
  there is something else nearby...(he looks confused)
Sir Drexel:  What?  What is it?
Rob:  Something else...multiple evils.  (he sighs)  I fear that our foes
  have split up...split forces.
Peyote:  What exactly are you saying, dude?
Rob:  Some of them are here...on this floor.  (he points to the south,
  where the main passageway goes several hundred feet before taking a
  turn to the left, out of sight)  That way.
Mongo:  Good enough.  That's all I need to know.
Sir Drexel:  Aye.  Our course is clear.

  They headed in that direction, the front rank consisting of the scouts
(Halbarad and Eyer) plus Mongo, Sir Drexel, and Rob.  The twenty-foot
width of the passage made such a marching order possible, and the other
champions formed three more ranks, with mixed types (spellcasters and
warriors.)  The two animal followers - Pallin's pale hound Socrates and
Halbarad's tiger Zephyr - ended up as the rearguard, more by coincidence
than planning.

Zephyr:  (annoyed, as he prefers a far more active role in things of
  this sort)  Grrrrr...
Socrates:  (paying no attention to the huge tiger)

  Once on the move, the party of champions advanced quickly, passing the
other doors and side passages before eventually reaching the sharp left
turn sighted earlier.  The main passage continued for another hundred
feet and then veered away to the right at an angle.  Following it, the
explorers noted a mess hall and an armory, before the passage angled to
the left, ending at a wide pair of double doors about eighty feet beyond.

Rob:  There.
Mongo:  There?
Jerome Kasinskaia:  (to Rob)  I sense it too...mighty evil.
Boltar:  (nods)  I, too, feel it.
Rob:  Prepare yourselves, my friends.  Something awaits us beyond that
  door...something of great power and foulness...
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  The logical course of action here would
  involve a lightning bolt.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Or a meteor swarm.
Pallin:  (working a spell)  Perhaps an introductory blast will announce
  our presence in the proper manner.

  Just then, both of the great animals at the rear of the party turned,
their keen senses detecting the approach of someone or something beyond
the last visible section of the winding corridor.

Zephyr:  Grrrrrrr...
Limbor:  Hmm.  (he readies his staff)
Nenya:  I don't hear any footsteps.
Deryck:  Or clanking armor and weapons, or voices.
Daffodil:  What's coming our way, then?
Baltek:  (nocking an arrow)  I know not, but I have a greeting for it,
  whatever it may be.

  Suddenly, two spherical monsters floated around the distant bend in
the passage, coming into view.  Their bodies were as wide as a man stood
high, with great gaping mouths and numerous tiny eyestalks writhing atop
their heads.

Derider Fanshaen:  Beholders!
Deryck:  Crap.

  A moment later (and with far too dramatic timing) the double door faced
by the party's front rank burst open, admitting three more of the things.
One of them was enormous, surely ten feet across - far larger than normal
for its kind.

gigantic beholder:  Heh, heh, heh.

next:      oops
released:  12/10/01
notes:     Hmm, it seems that this group is too big and complicated, with
  so many people to keep track of and try to personalize.  I bet I know a
  good way to remedy that particular problem.

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