Chapter #868

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2005 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!                                          +
+   Belphanior     15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   Date:          7/2/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
+   "You think of everything, don't you?"                                 +
+   "I have to.  It's part of my job."                                    +
+                                             - from _Avenging Angelo_    +

                   DCCCLXVIII.  Mission Renewed

  After a final night of rest, recuperation, and preparation, the group
has returned to the buried lair of the vampiress Drusilla.  Within this
place is the first of the teleportation gateways they found previously,
and Belphanior is ready to use it...

Belphanior:  (staring at the arch of light green stone)  Ah.

  The magical gateway was just as he remembered it:  a stone arch that
formed the terminus of a short passage cut into the rock.  The wall to
the right of the arch contained a red stone, surrounded by a metal disc
that was inlaid with nineteen different Sueloise runes.  Each of these
ancient, archaic symbols marked a different possible destination of the
teleporter.  When the disc was rotated so that one of the runes lined
up with the stone mark at the disc's apex, the destination was locked in.
A simple push on the red stone would then trigger the teleportation
process, the stone wall within the arch changing into mists for a short
time.  Any who walked through the mists would find themselves in another

Skektek:  (carefully examining the dial and the red stone)  I think it's
  still active, from last time.
Elgon:  Does this mean we don't need the talisman anymore?
Belphanior:  Probably, but we'll hang onto it anyway.

  Belphanior was invigorated by a fresh and rather strong determination,
which mostly stemmed from his recent misfortunes in the Hold of the Sea
Princes.  He'd gotten over the stolen magic items, and his resultant
anger.  Indeed, he'd suffered some losses, but it could have been a lot
worse.  The elf would have to change the way he did some things, and the
way he prepared for adventuring and combat, but all in all, this was quite
survivable.  After all, he'd survived.  But now, surviving was not enough
for Belphanior - he didn't want to just survive, he wanted to thrive, and
indeed, to conquer.  He'd learned from his recent hardships, and now, it
was time to get aggressive and take some action.

Belphanior:  (grimly)  Let's get to it.

  As stated, eight destinations had been accounted for, which left a
goodly amount - eleven - unaccounted for.  They'd already discussed the
choices they knew something about, and had decided on the "water" rune

Belphanior:  (looks around)  Everyone ready?
Skektek:  Yeah, but we were ready last time and look what happened.
Otto:  Enough of that.
Belphanior:  Last time was hopefully an anomaly, one that won't happen
  again.  In any case, you can't explore anything in this world without
  taking some risks.  (he pushes the crimson stone inward)

  The arch began to glow, emitting a low humming that made their teeth
feel funny.  The air crackled with power, and the stone of the archway
transformed into thick mist of no particular color.  Always one to lead
from the front and by example, Belphanior stepped into the mists.

Belphanior:  (feels a mix of sensations, including weightlessness, a
  mild electrical charge, and nausea)

  Time and space were distorted within these teleportation gateways,
and the magic had strange effects on the body.  As with every other
time that he'd used one of the devices, Belphanior sensed that he was
moving forward, even though his legs weren't taking the steps.  He used
his magical eye to try and pierce the mists, but even its significant
powers were unable to detect anything.  Just as he began to wonder how
much time had passed, the elf found himself standing on the far side of
another stone arch.  This second archway was identical to the one he'd
just left behind, except that it was dark blue in color.  Belphanior
instinctively stepped forward, to avoid being run into by the others
when they walked through and arrived here.  Only then did he realize
what was wrong:  the chamber was dark, and would have been pitch-black
except for the glowing stones of the arch.  Their deep blue light was
feeble in the otherwise lightless room, and more light - real light -
was called for.

Belphanior:  (reaches in a vest pocket and retrieves a half-dozen small
  stones, quickly tossing them in various directions)

  Created in the day before the group's departure to the Pelisso, these
were a variation on the old adventurers' trick of casting a permanent
continual-light spell on common pebbles.  Rather than using rounded
stones, which could bounce and roll farther than desired, these had
been fashioned of cut cubes of stone.  When thrown, they could almost
always be counted on to land exactly where intended.  Belphanior had
made sure that all of the party had some of these, even the ones with
demi-human infravision, like himself.  Such racial vision didn't work
in all circumstances, and he had wanted everyone to be ready.
  This was but one of several new tricks and tactics that Belphanior
and Otto had thought up for this second round of gateway exploration.
Another was the tightly-stoppered metal vials of liquid, virtually
impervious to breakage through normal wear and tear, that would burst
into flames exactly five seconds after being opened.  In addition to
several of these, each adventurer also carried two powerful potions of
healing.  Belphanior wanted each and every member of his team to have
the capability to make light, cause fire, and heal the wounded.
  The light-cubes, scattered around the archway, instantly bathed the
gateway chamber in clear, bright light.

Otto:  (emerges from the mists)  Well, then.

  The archway was recessed into one wall of a small, hemispherical
chamber.  The dome had a radius of about fifteen feet, and the stone
of this room was seamless and smooth, unlike any of the other gateway
chambers they'd see thus far.  The place was completely empty except
for the stone arch and a single exit door, set in the curved wall
directly opposite the teleporter.  It was also quite cold here - not
freezing, but definitely uncomfortable for those in short sleeves.
  As others arrived, there grew an impending sense of something being

Skektek:  (grabs the sides of his head)  My ears hurt.
Otto:  (eyes the wizard unpleasantly)
Belphanior:  I'd noticed that, myself.
Elgon:  It could mean that we're pretty far underground.
Ys:  (frowns, but says nothing)
Jenna:  (tries a quick healing spell, which doesn't make the mild but
  persistent pain go away)  Hmm.
Razor Charlie:  (the last to step through the mists of the gateway, he
  immediately grimaces)  Something's funny, here.
wispy thing:  (appears just after Charlie)  pffft.
Otto:  You can say that again.
wispy thing:  pffft.

  Belphanior was already headed to the exit door, which was quickly
determined to be free of traps...and quite thick.  It was fashioned of
metal, cold to the touch; it had no handle or knob, but rather a metal
wheel, built into the door.

Belphanior:  (frowns, trying to recall where he's seen something like
  this before)  Hmm.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the door as if it were some enemy waiting
  to attack him)
wispy thing:  (hovers near the door)  pfsss?
Otto:  We've found no traps of any conventional kind here - could some
  magic help tell us more about what's on the other side?  (he turns to
Jenna:  I'll see what I can scry.  (she begins examining the door while
  working some spell)
Elgon:  (occupying himself with a cursory search of the empty room, he
  runs a hand along the domed wall)  It's perfectly odd.
Ys:  (watches as the gateway's mists vanish, leaving behind a solid
  stone wall, the same dark blue as the stones of the magical arch)
Skektek:  (sits down, massaging his temples)  Owww.
wispy thing:  sprrd.
Belphanior:  (patiently waits for Jenna to complete her magic)
Jenna:  (finishes her examination of the metal door)  This holds no
  traps, nor is anything directly dangerous on the other side.
Otto:  What does "directly dangerous" mean?
Jenna:  This _place_ is dangerous - not because of monsters or traps,
  but rather in an overall sense.
Skektek:  (rolls his eyes)
Belphanior:  (to Jenna)  I'm not sure I really understand what you're
  saying, except that it's safe to open that door?
Jenna:  (nods)  Let me try an analogy:  standing atop a tall building
  poses no direct threat, yet it's dangerous.  Does that make better
Belphanior:  Yep.  (to everyone)  We'll go through, but nobody touch
  anything.  (to Otto)  I'm sure glad Bosco's not with us.

  They all made ready, not really sure what to think of Jenna's strange
premonition.  The wheel, it turned out, was turned as far as it could
go, clockwise.  When they spun it the other way, it moved freely, and
faint "clink" sounds came from several places where the door met the
stone wall.  Then, the portal opened outward, with a slight hiss.

Otto:  (peers through the opened portal)  Whoa.

next:       wonders
released:   4/15/05
notes:      It's good to be back on this arc again.  I'll remain on it
  through at least episode #875, i.e. midsummer.

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