Chapter #883

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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:          7/5/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
+   "Be ready when opportunity comes; luck is the time when               +
+    preparation and opportunity meet."                                   +
+                                                 - Roy D. Chapin, Jr.    +

                   DCCCLXXXIII.  King-Sized Secrets

  After a brief but much-deserved break, the group is at it again...

Belphanior:  (looking around the empty chambers of the Pelisso Swamp
  hideout)  This place is starting to feel like home.
Otto:  Or home away from home.
Skektek:  It definitely has its uses.  (he eyes the arch that contains
  the teleportation gateway)  Speaking of which, where are we headed this
Belphanior:  I thought about this at length last night, and I've decided
  on the "king" rune/destination.
Ys:  (emits a chuckle, which sounds like a deep croaking)  Delusions of
Belphanior:  I wish.  (he shakes his head)  No, my choice is completely
  practical, I'm well as dangerous.  I think that the rune
  for "king" probably symbolizes some really powerful foe, in which case
  we're better off encountering and beating it now, as opposed to later.
Razor Charlie:  Fight the toughest enemy first.  (he grimaces)  Nothing
  wrong with that.
Skektek:  Works for me.
wispy thing:  snrrd.
Belphanior:  Before we go, let's review the strategy we discussed, just
  for clarity's sake.  I'm first through the gateway; I'll immediately
  assess the new destination, and signal the rest of you as you appear.
Otto:  And that's the simplest of all signals:  if your sword is still
  sheathed, then no enemy is present, there's no immediate threat, and
  each of us stands down in turn, as we arrive.
Belphanior:  Right...and if my sword's in my hand, we're either about to
  fight or there's a good chance of it, in which case we proceed with the
  rest of the battle plan.
Razor Charlie:  I'm second through, with the light-stones.  (he pats a
  pouch at his belt)

  These clever inventions (truthfully, probably invented by dozens of
adventurers over centuries of adventuring) were nothing more than small,
round stones upon which a spell of light had been cast.  Since this magic
was permanent, the stone then became a blazing source of bright light.
When dipped in wet, black plaster and allowed to dry, such a stone then
became a quick, easy way to light up a dark room.  Charlie possessed an
above-average aim and a powerful throwing arm, and had been practicing
with non-enchanted stones as he had spare time.  Consequently, and not
surprisingly, he was now a crack shot with the hurled stones.

Otto:  You should be able to light up any room and expose targets.
Razor Charlie:  (grunts in agreement)
Skektek:  And then I blast the nearest foe or foes with a lightning bolt,
  using lightning because it's fast, harmful to most creatures, doesn't
  have as big a blast radius as a fireball, and it tends to knock targets
  further away from us.
Ys:  And that is where I come in, plying my sword with great boldness
  and terrible might.
Otto:  And me, with my crossbow.
Elgon:  Jenna and I will bring up the rear, ready to spot invisible foes,
  ward off illusions, turn undead, heal any wounded...basically cover any
  number of possibilities that exist after the initial attack.
Jenna:  (nods)  This is a sound plan.
Otto:  One question:  what if we run into Al-arakara again, or something
  else equally as powerful?
Belphanior:  Good question, but I've been thinking about that situation
  too.  I can't use the hourglass again for quite a while, so a different
  strategy is called for.  You can even break this scenario up into two
  possibilities:  Al-arakara, or something else.  The mummy-king knows
  our capabilities, and some of our tricks.  Other powerful foes won't.
  However, it'll be the same exact strategy since the hourglass isn't an
  option right now:  after Skektek's lightning blast, I'll have turned
  invisible, and I'll be attacking whatever foe's nearest to where the
  lightning hit, yet still active.  Every other enemy is fair game, but
  avoid area-effect spells after the lightning bolt.
Skektek:  Got it.
Belphanior:  We'll fine-tune it was we go - this is just preliminary.
  I don't want to be coming up with attack strategies and barking orders
  if we teleport into somewhere dangerous again.
Otto:  (nods)

  In short order, everyone was ready, and the teleportation gateway was
activated.  The rock within the archway became the now-familiar mass of
vapors that represented a pathway to somewhere unknown.  One by one, the
adventurers entered the mists, immediately experiencing the sense of
nausea and spatial distortion that came along with the use of these
arcane devices.
  Belphanior was the first to emerge from the mists, stepping through an
archway of light blue stone.  It didn't take him long to ascertain that
there was no danger; the gateway was built into one wall of a small,
square room.  The chamber was about thirty feet across, with a ten-foot
ceiling; a small table with a chair rested in one corner.  Atop this
table were dozens of scroll tubes.  The room had no exit doors.

Belphanior:  (scanning the room, his crystal eye glowing mildly)  No
  souls, no magic.
Otto:  (appears from the gateway, almost instantly relaxing as he sees
  no sign of danger)  What is this place?
Belphanior:  I'm not sure yet, but whatever it is, it seems deserted.
Skektek:  (appears, tensed up and ready for action)  Huh?  No enemies?
Belphanior:  Nope.
Skektek:  (eyes the scroll tubes atop the desk)  Whoa.
Belphanior:  Don't get your hopes up - they aren't magical.
Otto:  Maybe they're even better...if they contain useful information.

  As the others showed up, a thorough examination of the chamber and its
contents was carried out...

Belphanior:  (checking the outer wall of the room, he stops near one
  corner, scrutinizing the stonework)  Hmm.
Elgon:  (wanders over)  Yeah, I saw it too.  It's not magic, nor any sort
  of illusion.
Belphanior:  It's not even concealed - just damn thick.
Elgon:  And almost perfectly seamless.
Belphanior:  (turns)  Ys, we may need a hand here.
Ys:  Certainly.  (he lumbers over to the corner)  What is it?
Belphanior:  We've got a false wall here, only it's solid stone and a
  couple of feet thick.
Ys:  (checking the hairline seam that Elgon's pointing out)  If we can
  pry this open a bit, I can get a firm grip.

  Belphanior kept several prybars of various sizes in his portable hole,
for exactly this sort of task.  However, try as they might, the explorers
couldn't get any tools into the crack, much less pry the door open.

Belphanior:  Ungh...not even an inch.  Damn!
Elgon:  There's got to be some mechanism that opens the thing.
Ys:  (scratches his scaly head)  Hmm...(he puts both hands on the stone,
  then pushes with all his might)

  The heavy section of wall slowly opened outward, revealing a small
rectangular chamber, the far end containing a set of spiral stone steps
that wound upward into darkness.

Belphanior:  What?!?
Ys:  We were trying to pull, when we should have been pushing.
Elgon:  Dammit.
Ys:  No harm done.  Besides, this slab was exceedingly heavy; I doubt
  that you could have budged it even if you had tried.

  Meanwhile, Otto and Skektek had taken stock of the deskful of scrolls.

Otto:  (hands one of the tubes to Belphanior)  They're not spell scrolls,
  obviously...but they might even be better.
Belphanior:  (opens the tube and unfurls the parchment within)  Maps.
Skektek:  Lots of maps, and they have one thing in common:  they detail
  the city of Greyhawk, or the surrounding areas.
Belphanior:  Most curious.  Is that it?
Otto:  (nods)  That's it, but "it" is a lot in this case:  city maps,
  some of them decades old...maps of the sewers beneath the city...maps
  of the outlying lands, including the locations of crypts and treasure
  caches.  If I had to guess, I'd peg all of this as a prelude to an
  invasion of the city.
Belphanior:  Mmm.  Interesting.
Skektek:  (points to the spiral stairway)  And it makes me wonder where
  that leads.

next:       ascent of kings
released:   7/29/05
notes:      The gateway URL listed above is the same one as in the last
  episode; this is because I'll only update it when a new piece of the
  puzzle is discovered.

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