Chapter #885

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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:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         a small chamber in an unknown location                 +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "I'm just trying to do the right thing."                              +
+   "Nobody does the right thing."                                        +
+                                   - from _The Bourne Identity_ movie    +

                   DCCCLXXXV.  The Key To Power

  After following a stairway that led into the sewers beneath Greyhawk,
the group opted to cease further explorations there.  Instead, they have
used the gateway system to arrive at a new destination, one whose runic
symbol translates to "sleep"...

Belphanior:  (steps forth from the mists, noting that the surrounding
  stone arch is fashioned of dull orange stone)  Hmm.

  The elf stepped forward, sword ready, scanning the new chamber for any
notable features:  magic, souls, traps, concealed things.  His magical
crystal eye, a gift from the deep gnomes, was able to discern such
things.  In this case, the elf was amazed at what he saw.

Otto:  (appears from the mists, as Belphanior sheathes his sword)  No
  trouble this time?
Belphanior:  I'm not quite sure yet.

  The gateway arch was recessed into one wall of a square chamber, about
thirty feet across.  The ceiling was ten feet high, and like the floor
and walls, was a perfectly flat surface of polished stone.  In the room's
center was a pedestal, four feet high.

Belphanior:  Can you feel it?
Otto:  Feel what?
Belphanior:  This whole place flows with magic...great magic.
Skektek:  (walks out of the vaporous portal)  Great magic?  Where?
Belphanior:  (looking around)  Everywhere.

  As soon as everyone had arrived, the adventurers began a thorough
search of the chamber.  Elgon created light, revealing the surrounding
stone to be bluish-black.  Jenna scried the place and told Belphanior
what he already knew:  there was a great deal of powerful magic about.
She also identified the pedestal as something important.

Jenna:  It can be a pathway to great power...or the key to your doom.
Belphanior:  Hmm.

  There was nothing else of note here.  The strong magic that they
detected was all around, seemingly within the very stone of the room.
This radiation dwarfed the aura given off by the gateway arch itself,
which they had considered to be powerful magic in its own right.

Skektek:  (eyeing the pedestal)  A riddle, perhaps.  (he points)  There
  are runes on its top.
Belphanior:  Let's go have a look...but be careful, and nobody touch it.
Otto:  Those runes look a lot like the ones on the gateway's control
Skektek:  (nodding)  That's ancient Sueloise, no doubt about it.
Belphanior:  Too bad Neera's not here...
Skektek:  We won't need her.  (he pulls out a scroll-tube, and moments
  later is busy consulting his notes on the Suel alphabet)  Neera may
  be the expert, but I paid good attention to everything she figured
Otto:  (smiles thinly)  You can read these runes?
Skektek:  I can, but they don't say much...just something about "the key
  to power" for "those who are worthy."
wispy thing:  (hovering overhead)  pfsss.
Elgon:  Key?  What key?
Belphanior:  (eyeing a shallow depression in the top surface of the
  pedestal, he knits his brow)  Key...key...hmm.  Hah.  (he retrieves
  his folded-up portable hole, opens it right there on the floor, and
  begins rummaging through it)
Otto:  What in the hell are you doing?
Belphanior:  This pedestal needs a key for something, and I can't imagine
  any key more appropriate than...this!  (he holds up the talisman that
  they found in Drusilla's lair)
Skektek:  (shakes his head, confused)  But that thing was for the initial
  unlocking of the whole gateway system.
Elgon:  (smirks)  No, he's got a point.  Look at its shape...and then the
  shape of the depression atop the pedestal.

  The gnome was right; it appeared to be a perfect fit.

Belphanior:  I knew that outline looked familiar.
wispy thing:  (flits back and forth, excited)  spaaa!
Otto:  The question is, what happens when the talisman is put into the
Belphanior:  Yeah, that is a good question.  (he turns to Jenna)  And
  this would be a good time for some answers, if you can discern anything
  from all this.
Jenna:  I'll try, but it will take a short while.  (she begins working
  some sort of divination magic)
Belphanior:  Everyone else, take a break, stretch your legs.  (he turns
  back to Jenna, but she is now chanting to Istus in some weird dialect)

  One good thing about the priestess' divinations - at least thus far
in her time with the group - was that they didn't take long.

Jenna:  (her face flushed with effort)  Whew.
Belphanior:  What is it?
Jenna:  Istus was kind to us this day.  (she points at the pedestal)
  That thing is a terrible trap...for any who lack the proper key.  It
  seems that the lich built fail-safes into some of his lairs.
Belphanior:  Yes, we knew that.  But you're saying this one's safe?
Jenna:  Once you use that talisman, yes.  And if you fail to use it,
  a mere contact with the pedestal will result in a fate worse than
Belphanior:  I see.  (he eyes the pedestal, and then the talisman in his
  hand)  Is there any special ritual, or anything else?
Jenna:  No.  (she gestures to the talisman, which is now glowing slightly
  along with the pedestal)  Simply possessing the actual talisman is
  enough - Istus tells me that the lich didn't plan on anyone else ever
  getting the item.
Belphanior:  Simple enough.  (to the others, who are all standing again
  and ready for action)  I'm going to do this now, before anything has
  a chance to go wrong.  Stand back, just in case; whatever happens, be
  ready to deal with it.
Otto:  (wondering if it's wise to entrust one's life to a priestess
  that one only met weeks ago)

  Belphanior was confident, though - confident in Jenna's divinations,
as well as what his own senses and experience told him.  Without further
hesitation, he walked up to the pedestal and placed Xusia's talisman
into the depression which fit it perfectly.

Belphanior:  (steps back as a bright orange glow emanates from the small
  pedestal, and a deep vibration comes from the stone surrounding this

  Rock was shifting, by some combination of physical and magical means.
The adventurers watched as walls moved, passages opened, and entirely
new chambers were exposed.  It didn't take long, and when the grinding
and rumbling had stopped, two new passages led out of the room...

                     | |
                   __| |__                 _| = 10'
                __|       |                $  = gateway arch
               $__    *   |                *  = pedestal
                  |__   __|
                     | |
                     | |

  They noticed now that all of the walls, whether in the chamber or the
passages, were straight and angular, intersecting the other walls at
perfect right angles.  There was no sign that the new passages had once
been closed, completely sealed behind solid rock.

Belphanior:  Well...that was interesting.
wispy thing:  yrrrp.
Skektek:  (glancing in turn at the pair of passages)  Door number one...
  door number two...which one will we take?
Belphanior:  There are no doors involved - my use of the talisman just
  took care of that.  We should be good to go.  (he eyes the northern
  exit)  I'm just going to pick one, since they both radiate powerful
wispy thing:  (darts toward the passage)  spaaa!

  There wasn't far to go; the passage was only thirty feet long, after
which it opened into a long rectangular room...

           | | | | | | | | | | | |
           |                     |
           |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_|
                     | |
                     | |
                   __| |__                 _| = 10'
                __|       |                $  = gateway arch
               $__    *   |                *  = pedestal
                  |__   __|
                     | |
                     | |

  Far more interesting than this chamber's shape, however, were its

Skektek:  (gapes in awe)  Holy shit!
Belphanior:  (his eyes alight)  Oh, yes.

next:       paydirt
released:   8/12/05
notes:      Sometimes when I design these gateway destinations, I find
  myself realizing how hard it is to try and second-guess a slain lich
  and his plans.

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