Chapter #870

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

+     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:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       cold and dry                                           +
+   "There is nothing to fear here."                                      +
+   "That's what scares me."                                              +
+                                    - from _Raiders of the Lost Ark_     +

                   DCCCLXX.  Iris of the Deep

  The latest gateway trip has taken the party to a large, metal-walled
dome with several strange and varied chambers.  After exploring these,
the adventurers now turn their attention to the single unexplored exit...

Belphanior:  We'll get back to all of this.  (he looks up toward the
  ceiling)  Right now, I want to see what's above us, through that hatch
  in the center of the ceiling.

  The hatch was fairly easy to reach, thanks to the ladder on the inner
dome and then the second ladder leading from its top up to the hatch in
the ceiling of the larger main room.  However, Belphanior simply flew up
there, floating through the air while the others were forced to use the
series of ladders.

wispy thing:  (sails along behind Belphanior)  fssss.
Belphanior:  (arrives at the hatch, hovering in the air beneath it)  Hmm.

  The elf eyeballed the door, literally, his magical crystal eye scanning
it for magic, traps, and the like.  All he learned was that it was thick,
like the other hatches in this place.

Otto:  (climbing up the ladder toward the hatch)  Jenna wants to use some
  spell and make an "augury"...whatever that is.
Belphanior:  That's fine, but she'll need to hurry.  I get the feeling
  that there's something important above this door.
Jenna:  (climbing up the ladder beneath Otto)
Otto:  (moves to one side, silently thankful that the ladder is sturdy)
Belphanior:  (to Jenna)  Can you work spells while hanging on a ladder?
Jenna:  (nods)  I've cast spells from more precarious places than this.

  Shortly, the priestess of Istus had worked whatever magic she needed to,
and declared the hatch safe, more or less...

Jenna:  This portal holds no danger, but beyond it is an immense power...
  more like a force.
Belphanior:  Whatever it is, I want it.  (he grabs the wheel set into the
  hatch, trying to turn it)

  Since the elf was floating in the air and had no means of anchoring
himself, he simply rotated in place as he tried to turn the wheel and open
the hatch.

Belphanior:  Hah.  (he braces his feet on the ladder and tries again)

  As the others watched below, the elf spun the wheel, causing metallic
clicking sounds from within.  It took significant effort to get the hatch
open - its hinges and design caused it to open upward into the unknown
area beyond, and it was heavy.  Eventually, though, it was pushed upward
until it was vertical.

Belphanior:  (pushing)  Ungh.  It won't go any farther.  (he climbs up a
  few rungs, peering into the room above)
Otto:  Is it safe?
Belphanior:  Nobody's up here, if that's what you mean...but safe?  Right
  now, that's a relative term.

  The elf ascended the rest of the way into the unknown chamber above,
with Otto and then Jenna close on his heels.

wispy thing:  (squirts between Otto and the circular hatch, flying up into
  the new area)  spaaa!

  They were in the topmost portion of the overall domed structure; this
chamber sheared off from the main dome by the horizontal slab of metal
that formed the ceiling of the area below, and the floor upon which they
now stood.

Otto:  It's like the outer edge of some gigantic eye...

  This topmost level was only thirty feet across, with a ten-foot ceiling.
Support beams were built into the curved ceiling (which, being the top of
a domed structure, blended smoothly into the walls on all sides.)

Skektek:  (grumbling about his ears hurting, he looks around)  What the
  hell is this place?
Belphanior:  (points to a small podium just to one side of the hatch they
  used to get in here)  Otto, Jenna - help me check that thing out.  The
  rest of you, look around this room...but don't touch anything.  I have
  a funny feeling about this place.
Jenna:  You and me both.

  The explorations didn't take long.  The chamber was completely empty,
save for the hatch and the nearby podium.  The latter contained a pair
of vertically-aligned metal levers, which were both in the "up" position
at the moment.  One lever was fashioned of bluish metal, while the other
was reddish.

Otto:  Tempting, eh?
Belphanior:  Indeed they are.  Or at least the one that isn't red.
Otto:  Unless the whole thing's a trap.
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  Possible, but I don't really think so.
  We have to remember that Xusia built - or helped build - all of this
  for his own purposes, not as something for others to explore after his
  demise.  Building traps would have taken time and resources, not to
  mention made his own use of these places most cumbersome.
Jenna:  (scrying the podium and its levers)  Agreed.  I sense no direct
  danger here, though as always, what we do _after_ we tamper with these
  unknown things will determine our fate.
Skektek:  (frowns, about to go into a tirade about the uselessness of
  indirect logic)
Otto:  (looking around)  Seems like we're at the end of the line here.
Belphanior:  (concentrating on the podium and its levers, as well as the
  metal walls all around)  Yeah, I know.
Skektek:  Huh?
Otto:  We're out of open areas to explore.
Skektek:  Oh, that.  Well, we could go back down there and check out all
  of that magical weaponry in the armory area.
Elgon:  And try that red lever we saw.
Jenna:  (shaking her head)  no, we shouldn't.
Elgon:  We shouldn't?  Why not?
Jenna:  I got a really bad feeling about that one.
Belphanior:  No.
Elgon:  Eh?
Jenna:  What?
Belphanior:  I'll pull the blue lever.  I want all of you ready to get
  back down that hatch, in case something happens, some unknown trap goes
  off, some monster appears, or whatever.  (he frowns)  But I don't think
  that will happen.
Otto:  Why not?
Belphanior:  My instincts, plus a bit of magic.  You'll see, trust me.

  The others arrayed themselves around the hatch, and then Belphanior let
out a breath...and pulled the lever.

Belphanior:  (frowns)  Nothing happened.
Skektek:  Maybe it's broken, whatever it is-

  The floor began to tremble, ever so slightly...and then grinding
noises could be heard from behind the surrounding walls.

Belphanior:  Shit.
wispy thing:  (flies up to the ceiling)  pffft.
Belphanior:  What are you-
Ys:  (points upward)  Look!

  The ceiling was moving - sliding aside!  They quickly realized that
it wasn't the entire ceiling, but rather the inner metal shell.  Behind
(above) that layer was another ceiling, made of some transparent material.

Belphanior:  (reaches up and raps on the newly-revealed layer of ceiling)
  It's kind of like glasteel.

  The metal skin of the ceiling had fully retracted now, revealing odd
colors and patterns from whatever was on the other side of the transparent

wispy thing:  aaarp?  (it floats just below the ceiling, watching a tiny,
  glowing fish nip at the outer side of the barrier)
Belphanior:  Whoa.

  Other fish began to appear, staring at the adventurers just as the
adventurers stared at them.

Skektek:  I wonder where we are, exactly?
Elgon:  We're deep, I can tell you that...deep beneath the surface of
  the world.
Ys:  And obviously underwater.  (he shrugs, an odd gesture for an eight-
  foot tall humanoid reptile)  Perhaps we've descended to the bottom of
  some sea or ocean.
Otto:  Deep underwater...that would explain why our ears hurt.
Jenna:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  It's possible.  (he thinks about how useful it would be to
  have Pallin along for these trips, as the gray elf could probably
  pinpoint each new site on the overall world map, saving much guesswork
  and speculation)

  Now that their eyes had gotten used to the low light level, they could
see that the water outside was dark, but not pitch-black.

Skektek:  But is that due to us not being terribly far underwater, or is
  it some effect of this room or complex?  Maybe it's making its own light
  so that we can see.
Elgon:  There's quite a bit of magic built into this place.
Skektek:  (nods)  This transparent barrier, or maybe I should call it a
  window, has to be at least two feet thick - yet we can see through it
  as if it wasn't there.

  Other aquatic life had begun to appear now - not just fish, but other
things both familiar and unknown.  An eel - or was it a snake? - moved
past the overhead window with a serpentine motion.  A large slug made its
way along the outside of the dome.  A miniature shark moved past, chasing
a bloated, spined fish that emitted dull light.  An octopus floated by,
watching the group with rheumy eyes.

Belphanior:  It all makes sense now, or at least more sense.
Razor Charlie:  (sneering through the "glass" at a horn-headed fish with
  sharp teeth)  It does?
Belphanior:  Of course.  Think about the various rooms we found below:  a
  laboratory, holding tanks, living quarters, an armory...I bet the fifth
  area, the one with the wide flat floor, was some kind of dock.
Ys:  Maybe they had a way to send people out into the ocean.
Belphanior:  (frowning)  This doesn't seem like the sort of thing Xusia
  would have been interested in.

voice:  That's because he wasn't.
Belphanior:  (turning, sword in hand)  I know that voice-

  Standing in the center of the room, near the hatch, was a tall, thin
man wearing a silver skull-cap and bright red robes.  Those of the party
who had fought against him remembered instantly.

Belphanior:  Cespedes!
wispy thing:  braaaaft.

next:       unpleasantness
released:   4/29/05
notes:      I don't know if everyone's realized it, but the wispy thing
  does speak consistently.  If you were to reference all of the words he
  ever used, you might see some patterns of words vs situations.  I do
  not recommend that you perform this analysis, especially since someday
  I'll probably post a copy of his dictionary.

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