Chapter #953

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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       +
+   1991-2007 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              +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          11/11/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         the skies, somewhere over Ahlissa                      +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "You only know his reputation...but I know his work."                 +
+                                            - from _Invasion U.S.A._     +

                   CMLIII.  A Scene From the Past

  After deciding to seek out the tomb of Kronos, in the Cairn Hills,
Belphanior and his group have been underway for a little more than three
full days.  Already, they have flown over the western end of the Oljatt
Sea, as well as the realms of the Lords of the Isles and then the Vast

Belphanior:  (remembering the time he and the original group ventured
  into the Vast Swamp and explored the tomb of a demi-lich, he smiles
  to himself)
Skektek:  (to no one in particular)  So how long will this trip take?
Belphanior:  (checking some maps)  Based on our average cruising speed,
  about eight days overall.  If we pushed this ship to its limits, as
  we did that time we traveled to the Isle of Woe, maybe four or five
  days.  But I don't want to push it if we don't need to - there's no
  point in risking some sort of damage, and I don't know if I have the
  magic to fix such damage.
Otto:  Parekh certainly does, seeing as how she once raised this thing
  from the ocean where it had sunk.
Belphanior:  (frowns)  True.
Neera:  For what it's worth, that wasn't an easy task for her.
Belphanior:  I bet.
Razor Charlie:  (gazing down over the rail)
Otto:  Just think, we could drop small rocks from this height and they'd
  become lethal missiles by the time they neared any people below.
Belphanior:  We're over Ahlissa, in the South Kingdom of Aerdy.  Such
  attacks might do the world some good.
Skektek:  Hey, I'm from Aerdy.
Belphanior:  Everyone's from somewhere.
Skektek:  It's not a bad kingdom, it's just got bad rulers.  People
  can't always be held accountable for the decisions of their leaders.
Otto:  What about the people in the Hold of the Sea Princes?
Skektek:  (unable to think of a suitable retort, he says nothing)
Belphanior:  Hmm.

  The entire trip progressed this way...hours and hours of travel, its
monotony broken up with sporadic discussions and preparations.  Though it
was always exciting to stand out on the rail and gaze at the ground, far
below, it tended to get old when done for hours at a time.  Also, when
night fell and there was nothing to see beyond the skyship's rail, those
aboard really had nothing to do.  Fortunately, the ship was just large
and spacious enough for people to not feel cramped, and as always, the
adventurers made do without any serious issues.
  They passed over the kingdom of Ahlissa, then flew over Relmor Bay and
the Sea of Gearnat.  Next were the Abbor-Alz hills and the Bright Desert,
both of these dangerous places that were less so from the air.  After a
brief time over western Urnst - and at the end of the eight days that
Belphanior had estimated - they finally saw the Cairn Hills below.  Many
leagues across, this region lay just a few days' ride east of the City of
Greyhawk, and had been the site of numerous expeditions over the years.

Belphanior:  I'd venture to say that none of those expeditions bore as
  much fruit as our last one, eh?
Otto:  I doubt it.  Not many treasure hunts end up netting you a skyship
  and a time-stopping device.
Belphanior:  (smirks)
Skektek:  I suppose we'll fly down there?
Belphanior:  Maybe not.  I can use a spell of teleportation...
Skektek:  (surprised)  So you remember this tomb site that well?
Belphanior:  Well, it's a little hazy, but I have a good memory for the
  places I've been.
Skektek:  I hope so, or we might end up in the middle of a hillside.
Belphanior:  Trust me.
Mongo:  Hey, a hillside doesn't sound too bad right about now.  I'm sick
  of all this flying.
Elgon:  (idly wondering why a flying ship doesn't have flying longboats
  for smaller excursions)

  Before long, they had finalized their preparations, and the elf moved
the entire group down to the ground level.  As always, they found that
they were unable to see the skyship from below...

Mongo:  Even though we could see this ground from up there?  Wow.
Belphanior:  I'm not sure if it's a trick of the light, or if the ship
  is actually enchanted to cloak itself.  Whatever - I'm not complaining.

  Thanks to the elf's keen memory, they were standing directly beside
the hill that contained the tomb of Kronos.  Belphanior and Otto quickly
led the others to the hill's western face, which was heavily overgrown
with the tough, ugly plant life that tended to thrive in this region.

Otto:  (moves some thorny bushes aside, revealing a charred slab of
  stone)  Ah, right where we left it last time.
Belphanior:  These scorch marks resulted from a fireball I launched out
  from within the tomb.  I guess its victims' bones were taken away by
  wild animals.
Razor Charlie:  That's why they're wild.
Otto:  (pushes on the concealed stone slab)  It's locked, again.
Belphanior:  (casts a Knock spell, causing the stone door to slide open)
  And it's opened, again.

  The pair of them had a weird sense that they'd been here before, which
was of course because they _had_ been here before, about six years ago.
The violent events of that winter day were immediately evident as they
made their way down the ten-foot-wide stairway.  They used both torches
and a spell of light to show the way, and these sources of illumination
showed grim remnants from that battle long past.  The stairway ended in
a 20' wide, 50' long chamber, with a door at the far end.  Random bones
littered the steps, crunching under the boots of the explorers.  Parts
of the walls were missing chunks, where blades had missed their targets
and chipped the stonework.

Otto:  (points to the spot at the base of the stairs)  That's where you
  left the well of many worlds, open and waiting for those clowns.
Belphanior:  Ah, those were good times.
Elgon:  Is that _half_ a skeleton, there at the bottom of these steps?
Belphanior:  Yep.  Something ripped that wizard in half, and his friends
  managed to get the good half back.
Otto:  Still, he was but half a man when all was said and done.
Razor Charlie:  (chuckles at this bad joke)

  They also found the remains of the monk, Korrid, whose head Belphanior
had hacked almost in half...and the elven archer Kobay, who had died from
a poisoned bolt fired by Otto...and Roland the warrior, whose ideals and
loyalty had only caused him to be slain...and Redfoot the ranger, who had
crossed swords with Belphanior before being decapitated.

Belphanior:  Some people...I tell you, the best trick in the world is to
  let a foe stab you in the arm or leg or somewhere non-critical, then
  they think they've won, but you gain an extra moment in which to kill
  them with the weapon in your _other_ hand, or perhaps one they didn't
  know about.
Skektek:  Yeah, easy to say, but not all of us can heal such wounds after
  killing the foe.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  I'm just trying to offer helpful advice.  You
  wouldn't believe how well that tactic works.

  The large chamber at the base of the stairway also contained the badly-
damaged remains of several armed skeletons - the undead which Belphanior
and Otto had fought upon first entering this place.  The door at the far
end of the large chamber led to a small room, which was vacant except for
a charred spot in one corner.

Belphanior:  That's where we finally burned the guardian demon to death,
  after it had ignored many weapon-blows.
Otto:  (shakes his head)  Tough fight, that was.
Belphanior:  Yeah.  And this next chamber was the site of the _real_
  battle that day...between Torin's group and all those undead, and the
  awakened Kronos himself.

  They used the small, secret door in one wall, which led to the ancient
workroom presumably used by Kronos when he was alive.  The laboratory was
primitive, and in a much more damaged state than the last time Belphanior
and Otto had been here.  The rotten tables and chairs were broken into
pieces; the dusty beakers were shattered; the tools and tubes and other
such arcane items were almost all destroyed.  Even the small bedchamber
that adjoined the workroom was trashed, about half of it badly burned by
acid.  It was fairly obvious that a fierce battle had been fought here;
the walls held the marks of spells as well as weapons.

Otto:  That's odd...
Elgon:  Yeah.  No bodies.

  It was true; for all the obvious battle that had happened in this area,
there wasn't a single smashed skeleton or charred corpse.

Otto:  This doesn't make any sense.  When we left, there were seven
  living foes in here, plus a whole mob of undead summoned by that
  hellish trumpet you used to have.  There's no way that _everyone_ in
  that fight lived, and left this place.
Ys:  Not to mention that someone would have had to close the door into
  this tomb.
Belphanior:  Valid points, all.  (to Jenna)  This is where you come in,
  and also you, Neera.  We need to use your special magicks - those of
  scrying and divining - to figure out what happened here, and where we
  might find more of Kronos' treasures.  Go ahead and get started with
  that, and the rest of us will check this entire area for physical
  clues or any kind.
Jenna:  Right.
Neera:  (nods)
wispy thing:  (flies into the small cavity that used to be the secret
  treasure area in the bedchamber)  fssss.

  The next hour was spent as planned:  the majority of the team did a
thorough exploration of the entire tomb, using every skill they had to
seek out anything of importance.  Belphanior had assumed that they'd
find either a secret chamber, or some hidden treasure, or some clue as
to Kronos' true nature or perhaps other lairs.  For all of these high
hopes and expectations, they found nothing...

Belphanior:  Not a blasted thing!  (he stalks around the larger chamber)
Elgon:  (returns from the bedchamber, where he'd gone to check on the
  progress of the two females)  You'd better come see this.
Belphanior:  What is it?
Elgon:  Just come on.  (he heads back that way)
Belphanior:  This ought to be good.

  The elf led the others into the smaller room, where Jenna was busily
chanting away.  A light, transparent mist had begun to form in this
chamber, swirling in random patterns throughout the room.  Neera simply
stood there, watching with some interest.

wispy thing:  (hovers hear a strand of mist, looking annoyed)  brrrf!
Belphanior:  (to Neera)  What's this-
Neera:  Shh...just watch.

  The mist began to take the form of, people!  Before
the eyes of Belphanior and the others, a ghostly image image
of the bedchamber exactly as it appeared the last time Belphanior had
been here!  It was absolutely uncanny - all of the various furniture
was in its place, still undamaged by any battle.  A perfect likeness of
Torin stood next to the intangible forms of the six companions who had
survived to this point in the past.  Other vapors from Jenna's spell
quickly wove together, becoming the various undead that Belphanior had
summoned to deal with Torin and his people.

Razor Charlie:  (prepares a knife in each hand, ready to throw them)
Neera:  No.  (to all of the others from Belphanior's group)  Jenna's
  using her magic to re-create the past...specifically, that day when
  this battle took place.  These images are intangible and can't touch
  or harm us...but they will re-create the entire series of events, for
  us to witness now.
Belphanior:  You mean...
Neera:  Yes.  At long last, you shall learn exactly what happened here
  that fateful day, six years ago, when Torin and company made their
  last stand against Kronos and the horde of summoned undead!

next:       a blast from the past
released:   1/19/07
notes:      Just think, Jenna's spell could be named "Istus' Instant
  Replay".  Or maybe "Istus' Instant Archive" would be more appropriate.
  But I think you get the point.  And this helps to illustrate some uses
  of a powerful priestess of the goddess of fate:  to show things that
  came before.

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