Chapter #784

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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+     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       +
+   Deryck          11th level half-elven ranger                          +
+   Pallin          grey elven wizard                                     +
+   Rob             14th (formerly 16th) level human priest               +
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           dusk                                                  +
+   Place:          outside the Fortress of the Nine                      +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Life is anything that dies when you stomp on it."                    +
+                                                         -Dave Barry     +

                   DCCLXXXIV.  Last Men Standing

  Only Belphanior and three of the champions are still up and fit for
combat.  On the flip side, none of their foes are up at all.

Belphanior:  (looking around at all the casualties)  Wow.  (he looks back
  at Rob)  So they're all dead or gone?
Rob:  Close enough.  At any rate, no one is about to attack us.
Pallin:  (scans the huge hall, which is filled with bodies and signs of
  the battle)  Hmm.
Belphanior:  Hey, where's the iron dwarf?
Pallin:  He was trapped within a hemisphere of force one of us created,
  but vanished almost the same moment as the red-robed wizard did, just
  before you reached him.
Belphanior:  Gods be damned.  I am sick and tired of that iron dwarf and
  the way he turns up to fight us every few years.
Pallin:  The wizard wasn't exactly chopped liver himself.
Rob:  (sighs)  It's the same old story...the spellcaster escapes, taking
  his weapons with him as he flees to parts unknown.  But, while I cannot
  tell you where that one is, I can assure you where he is not, and that
  is here.
Belphanior:  Right.  (opens his portable hole and begins fishing around)
  We have work to do, and fast.
Rob:  What of the battle outside this place?
Belphanior:  What of our dead and dying allies here - who need our help -
  and our dead or dying foes here - who need to be put out of our misery?
Rob:  Good point.
Belphanior:  I'm gonna go around and make sure they're all dead, and then
  fly up to the ceiling and cover you two invisibly while you take care
  of our side.  (he finally pulls out a large knapsack and sets it on the
  ground)  There are about a dozen or so healing potions in there; use
  them on whoever needs them the most.
Pallin:  (somewhat annoyed)  Who are you, to talk like this and order us
Rob:  He's the leader of that other group we talked about.
Pallin:  The one who deals with demonlords?  And you just let him-
Belphanior:  (already striding off toward the center of the hall)
Rob:  (assertively)  This is not the time.  We have work to do, as he
  said.  It doesn't matter who does the talking.  Besides, though that
  one has done many grim things, he has never broken his word or left a
  comrade in distress.  We need him on our side right now - so let's get
  to work.
Pallin:  (nods)  Aye.

  They followed Belphanior, who was tending to Deryck.

Deryck:  (sitting on the floor, he looks up morosely)
Belphanior:  Are you okay?
Deryck:  (shrugs)
Rob:  Deryck?
Deryck:  (staring into space)
Belphanior:  What's with him?
Rob:  (quietly)  We lost Nenya.
Belphanior:  Ah.
St. Wilhelm:  (still blinded, he follows the sound of voices)  Hello?
  Rob, is that you?
Belphanior:  (whirls)  Who the hell is that?  (he frowns)  And why is
  he glowing?
Rob:  He's one of us.  What's wrong, Wilhelm?
St. Wilhelm:  (a little testily)  He blinded me, and I can't do anything
  about it.  You said they're all dead?
Pallin:  (walks over to help guide the saint through the debris)  Yes,
  we're safe for the moment.  Rob?
Rob:  (shaking his head)  Sorry, I'm not prepared for this.  Tomorrow,
  or if we're lucky, someone outside might be able to help you.
Belphanior:  (looking around)  Where's Boltar?  He can-
Rob:  He didn't make it either.  One of the beholders dropped him up
  there.  (he points to the huge breech in the wall and ceiling opposite
  the dais)
Belphanior:  Beholders?  As in more than one?  Damn.  I'll go check up
  there too; Boltar said once that his rod could cure blindness.  Let's
  do it - I'm getting nervous just standing here talking.

  The elf flew off, using his sword's ability to detect souls not only
to determine who was still alive and in need of healing, but also to find
those foes who hadn't completely left this mortal coil.

drow #8:  (scalded beyond recognition and sightless, thanks to the boiling
  mud, she pleads weakly)  Help me...
Belphanior:  Not a chance.  (he runs her through cleanly with Blackrazor)
drider #2:  (he tries an attack, but is too feeble to succeed)  Curse you!
Belphanior:  All the same to me.  (he kills the drider as well, basking in
  the flow of life-force from the foe)  Thanks, I needed that.

  The elf showed neither hesitation nor regret as he carefully circled the
hall, ensuring that all of the living were limited to friendly forces.
Meanwhile, Rob and Pallin had been helping those who had fallen...

Rob:  Here, drink this.
Mongo:  (bruised, bleeding, and dazed)  Glugglugglug.
Rob:  (smiles, actually thankful that the dwarf isn't fully conscious, as
  he would be insisting he was fine and that the priest should be helping
  someone else)

  Others, however, were beyond help.  Drexel's body lay next to that of
his headless opponent, his chest and heart sliced open; Rob could only
arrange the corpse into a more dignified position, bless it, and move
on.  Halbarad was curled up on the floor next to the gory remains of the
enormous beholder, literally soaking in the grotesque goo oozing from
the monster's carcass, but otherwise unhurt.  Rob wiped him off with a
cloth as best as he could, fed him a potion of healing, and looked for
another victim to tend to.

  By this time, Belphanior had satisfied himself that all of the foes
present were completely dead, and was checking his band.  Ys seemed
unhurt physically but did not, or could not, respond to any queries;
the elf decided to give him some more time.  Otto and Razor Charlie
had been sliced and blasted fairly badly, but these were relatively
normal wounds compared to energy draining or death rays - nothing that
a couple potions and some rest couldn't fix.

  A moving sphere of darkness marked the location of Skektek, who had
last been seen throwing lightning at his allies thanks to the mental
control of the foe Cespedes.  Belphanior decided that a measure of
caution was called for, flying directly over the sphere's center and
readying a wand before dispelling the darkness with a spell.

Skektek:  (appears, looking his normal self)  What's going on?  (he
  glances around but doesn't see any enemies)  Hmm.
Belphanior:  (aiming his wand right at the wizard)  Don't move.
Skektek:  (loudly)  Okay...I know what you're thinking, but that
  goon's spell on me is done.  I'm my normal self now.  Happy?
Belphanior:  Maybe.  Say something else, prove that you're you.  Tell
  me the names of the servant girls we used to have in the town of
Skektek:  Daphne and Phoebe.  And it was _Helgate_.
Belphanior:  Good enough.  What kind of shape are you in?
Skektek:  Didn't get hurt, still have plenty of spells, and I'm more
  than a little pissed off.  How's everyone else?  I'm guessing we
  won the fight.
Belphanior:  They survived.  The other group, Rob and those, got mowed
  down, though...only a few left alive.
Skektek:  Let me guess:  you're still around, so Xusia isn't?
Belphanior:  Damn straight.  You can move around now, by the way.
Skektek:  Thanks.  (he stretches his muscles and checks his items)
  Now what?
Belphanior:  If you can fly, come up here with me to that big hole in
  the ceiling.  We have some scouting to do.  You keep to the left,
  and go as far as you can to it without actually going through - I'll
  be on the right.
Skektek:  Gotcha.  (he rises rapidly into the air)

  The two carefully approached the break in this room's ceiling, the
fissure extending all the way to the wall.  They were ready for both
magical and physical attacks, but didn't encounter any.  The elf
floated up and spun around, hastily checking for hostile action, but
seeing nothing.

Belphanior:  (nods to Skektek)

  Knowing that he was in turn covered by the elf, the wizard moved in
closer so that he could examine what was lying in the damaged hallway.
All he could see, though, was rubble and debris, along with a variety
of scorch marks on the walls and floor.  He moved on, backtracking the
obvious path of the combat that led to the break in the floor here.
  Two doorways later, he found the first carcass:  a beholder, not only
slashed almost in two but deeply wounded by a bolt of lightning.

Skektek:  (thinking of the same type of monster he himself blew up in
  Baron Albert's mansion just three months ago, he smirks to himself)

  Not far away, however, was a casuality whom he assumed was an ally:
an elf, in the middle of firing an arrow, had been turned to stone.
There was nothing he could do, and all of the elf's items had been
caught in the magic as well.  Flying further along and rounding a bend
in the hallway, he saw another figure in the same condition.  Skektek
didn't recognize this one either - it would be difficult anyway, since
the man had flung his hands in front of his face when he had seen his
doom coming.  Lying on the ground nearby, however, was someone who the
wizard _did_ know.

Skektek:  Boltar.  (he looks around cautiously)
Belphanior:  I've still got your back.
Skektek:  (slowly moves in toward Boltar's body)

  The priest was dripping wet, and his exposed skin was bruised and
covered in tiny slices, but far from a lethal amount.  Skektek could
find no mark of a killing blow, even after carefully turning the body
over.  Boltar's items - a staff, a rod, a small shield, a pack and
two small pouches - were all intact, yet the man was clearly quite
dead.  In fact, the only other object in the hall was a pale dog
which had apparently bled to death; after that, the floor curved up
to meet the ceiling in a manner clearly different from the original

Belphanior:  (looking around, he scans everything with his crystal eye)
  We're clear.  Grab the dog and the rest of the stuff, and head back.

  As Skektek used a floating disc to ferry those things from above to
below, Belphanior loaded Boltar's body and the petrified person whose
hands were held up onto a disc of his own, using his recently-gained
giant strength to move the latter item.  Soon, they had rejoined the
four others down in the grand hall.

Pallin:  Socrates!  (he takes the body of his hound from Skektek and
  examines it, grief-stricken)
Belphanior:  (places the statue and the priest's body on the floor)
  He's dead, all right, but his stuff is okay.  (to Rob)  We need to
  use that healing-rod of his.
Skektek:  (places the items alongside Boltar's body)
Rob:  (picks up the staff, considers it, then exchanges it for the
  rod)  The staff is obviously powerful but not known to me, and this
  is not a good time to be experimenting.  The rod, however...ah, yes.
  Wilhelm, stand still.  (concentrating, he touches the saint's head
  with the item)
St. Wilhelm:  (suddenly able to see again)  Ah!  My thanks.  (he looks
  around)  Who's left to be cured?
Rob:  Sadly, not many.  Most are either dead or hurt so badly that
  they need rest, not more magical healing.
St. Wilhelm:  Well, I can at least help one creature.  (he caresses
  the albino hound, who opens his eyes and begins breathing, albeit
  rather weakly)
Pallin:  (too overcome to speak, he simply nods to the saint in
  gratitude as he holds Socrates in his arms)
Belphanior:  (floats back down from the ceiling, carrying the stony
  form of Eyer and placing it next to that of Jerome)  That's it for
  up there, right?
Rob:  (counting mentally)  I think so.
Pallin:  (looking up)  Yes.  We're all here except for Reptar, and
  I saw a beholder disintegrate him.  I'm not speaking for those who
  came with your group, of course.
Belphanior:  Yeah, we're intact.  I could tell that a lot of you are
  dead.  What's going to happen with them?
Rob:  (looking at the various remains which he, Pallin, and Deryck
  have carefully gathered)  Very bad news, I'm afraid.  Boltar is
  gone and cannot be brought back, ever.  Our friends Alindyar, Lyra,
  Baltek, Limbor, and- (he glances over at Deryck, who is standing
  by stoically) -even Nenya were all too badly hurt in that massive
  explosion of fire to be healed, or even raised; their only hope
  lies in being resurrected.  Such demanding magic will have to be
  performed back in Greyhawk - certainly requiring much time and
  effort, and definitely without any guarantee of success.  Sir
  Drexel is in the same condition, though by blade rather than fire.
  I, myself, have lost some life energy, but I can deal with it for
Belphanior:  (silently takes all of this in)
Rob:  (in consideration of Deryck, he does not mention that Nenya
  is even less likely to return to life than the others, as she had
  just been killed and raised less than a month ago)
Belphanior:  They were all good people.  I hope it goes well.  How
  about Mongo?
Rob:  He suffered a brutal beating; you saw that wizard hit him with
  that volley of iron cannonballs?  Fortunately, that mighty armor he
  wears brought him through the attack alive, though most of his ribs
  are broken or cracked.  He'll be in fighting shape again soon, given
  his magic items of regeneration.
Belphanior:  Who else?
Rob:  Of the other four, Daffodil and Derider will recover;  they
  suffered only lesser wounds and temporary conditions, cuts, bruises,
  and so on.  Your potions and plenty of rest will be all that they'll
  need.  Halbarad used magic to heal his earlier wounds, and suffered
  very little against the beholder.
Belphanior:  That leaves one more... who?  I've lost track.
Pallin:  Well, it seems that the druid Peyote is now a rabbit.
Belphanior:  (unable to stop himself, he chuckles)
Pallin:  (staring at him in reproach)
Belphanior:  Sorry.  But...(he shrugs)  It's somehow fitting.
Rob:  (smiles grimly)  I know.  Unfortunately, Pallin believes that
  he wasn't just shape-changed; his mind has become that of a rabbit
  as well as his body.  That rings true to me, as otherwise he would
  use his own druidic abilities to change back to a half-elf.
Belphanior:  That makes sense.  Well, reversing a polymorph is not
  something I've studied.
Pallin:  Oh, it can be done.  Really, it's not much more difficult
  than restoring those two stoned people will be - it's just a
  matter of time and preparation.  Of course, it helps if you know
  the right wizards.
Belphanior:  You mean Circle of Eight wizards?
Rob:  Yes, we're going to be asking them to help us out.  Anyway,
  now that we've gotten all this straightened out, are you still
  set on sweeping through this entire fortress immediately?
Belphanior:  Actually, it would be a lot smarter to check on the
  battle outside first.
Pallin:  (smugly)  Then you won't mind that I was doing just that
  while you two were talking.
Belphanior:  (patiently stares at him)  No, I won't.  What _is_
  happening out there?  Are the good guys winning?
Pallin:  Actually, the battle is over and the combined armies of
  Furyondy, Greyspire, the Flinty Hills, and Ratik are mopping up
  both the swamp and the city itself.  All at a great loss of life
  on both sides, I assure you.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  If not, it wouldn't be a battle.
Pallin:  How pithy.  Regardless, at least one of the leaders is
  making his way through the courtyard to the inner doors, which
  are just on the other side of those doors.  (points to the south
  end of the great hall)  It would behoove us to open for him.
Rob:  If your wizard could stay here with Wilhelm and Deryck, they
  could guard the bodies and valuables while you and Pallin and I
  meet this general.
Belphanior:  Fine with me.  Skektek...
Skektek:  Got it.
Belphanior:  (to Rob and Pallin)  Let's make this quick.  Keep an eye
  out for hostiles, all of you.

  They headed for the great double doors, bolted from this side, that
barred the way to the outside.

next:      the status outside
released:  12/29/01
notes:     Ain't that a bitch?  War _is_ hell.

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