Chapter #954

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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!                                          +
+   Torin the Crusader   human warrior and destroyer of Evil              +
+   Lorax                elderly elven wizard                             +
+   Sprague              human high priest of Trithereon                  +
+   Skell                half-elven bard                                  +
+   Warrax               human fighter/mage                               +
+   Yorbil               human warrior                                    +
+   Zerpid               human warrior                                    +
+   Date:          1/27/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late afternoon                                         +
+   Place:         the Cairn Hills                                        +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "Sometimes the living aren't ready to hear what the dead              +
+    have to say."                                                        +
+                               - from _Desperadoes:  Banners of Gold_    +

                   CMLIV.  Kronos Redux

  After quite a bit of time and effort - not to mention no small amount
of fighting and bloodshed - the remains of Torin's Crusaders have finally
found their quarry...

Torin:  You!  Belphanior!

  The tall, red-cloaked elf stood in the doorway of the lost tomb's
bedchamber, his arms folded across his chest.  He was directly between
the seven surviving Crusaders and the exit to the surface.

Belphanior:  And you must be Torin.  (his eye glows, very brightly)
  I'm _so_ pleased to finally make your acquaintance.
Torin:  Do not mock me, villain!  You have much to account for!
Belphanior:  Well, then, start accounting.  (he pats his sheathed
  sword's pommel)
Torin:  (holding his sword before him; the weapon glows brightly
  with harnessed power)  You...will...die!
Belphanior:  Not today.  (he grabs a black metal trumpet which
  hangs from his belt, bringing it to his mouth in a single fluid
Torin:  Eh?  What are you doing?
Belphanior:  (winds the horn)

  An amazing thing happened then:  from the dust of the stony floor
there appeared a number of shadowy figures.  They reeked of the grave,
the rot of the unliving permeating the room and causing an involuntary
shudder of fear among some of the Crusaders' ranks.  They were brave
people, for the most part, but the sudden, magical appearance of these
foul undead was unnerving - especially in this small, now-crowded room.
The four skeletons were unarmed, but their bony hands flexed as their
white, fleshless faces grinned at their new victims.  Also numbering
four were the zombies:  walking heaps of worm-ridden, decayed flesh
whose very presence made mortal foes ill.  These moved slowly but were
still dangerous opponents - but not as dangerous as the trio of ghouls,
the reek of old graveyard dirt still fresh on their pale bodies.  From
there, things just got worse and worse:  three wights and a wraith were
also part of this undead horde, their very touch able to drain the life
force from a living victim.  In addition, a mummy had also been brought
here by the horn, its tattered bandages exuding the stench of pure rot.
A transparent apparition - a spectre, existing in both this plane and
another - had also appeared, hungry for mortal life energies.

Sprague:  Holy...(he shakes his head)  We are in serious trouble.

  As if all this wasn't enough, the withered body on the old bed had
just raised itself into a sitting position!

mummified body on bed:  (looks around, its vacant eye sockets slowly
  scanning the chamber)
Belphanior:  (raises an eyebrow)
Torin:  (yelling at Belphanior)  You don't think you're going to get
  away with this?!?
Belphanior:  I _am_ getting away with it.

  With that, the elf turned and walked right past one of the wights,
who didn't even seem to notice the elf.  Belphanior promptly headed up
the steps, leaving Torin and his group trapped in the tomb with all of
the summoned undead...

Torin:  How dare he-  He'll pay for-  Aargh!  (frustrated, he waves his
  sword uselessly)
Lorax:  (working a spell, he remarks cynically)  That isn't doing us any
  good, you know.
Torin:  Of course not.  We need a spell or something to wipe out all of
  these abominations, and then we can go after that elf.
Sprague:  Already working on it.  (he raises his holy symbol, which is
  now glowing brightly, and confronts the undead who have moved out to
  block the exit, and surround the group)

  The portly priest of Tritheron had stood up to many undead in his
time, usually with much success.  This time was no different, as all of
the skeltons and zombies instantly crumbled into dust.  The ghouls, too,
perished, melting into puddles of putrid slime.

Warrax:  Not bad - you cut their numbers in half.
Lorax:  Actually, better than half.  (he launches a sheet of flame that
  catches two of the wights and the mummy head-on)
wight #1:  (flails about, its entire body ablaze)  Aaaargh!
wight #2:  (likewise, though it staggers away in a different direction,
  away from the fight)  Uuurrrgh!
mummy:  (violently aflame)  Rrrr.
Torin:  Outstanding.
Sprague:  (nods, pleased with himself)  Now we can-

  The priest suddenly stopped speaking - and moving.  He appeared to be
stunned, or perhaps magically held, although he wasn't even blinking.

mummified body on bed:  (staring right at Sprague, it then stands up
  and walks somewhat unsteadily toward the main battle, croaking in some
  unknown language)

  The thing's words might have been meaningless to Torin's group, but
the various surviving undead heard them - heard, and understood...and

wight #3:  (leaps at Lorax, knocking the old elf to the floor)
wraith:  (stalks the bard Skell, who backs away, terrified)
spectre:  (grabs one of the two soldiers, Yorbil, around the throat,
  draining away life energy)
Yorbil:  Aaargh!  Someone, help!
Zerpid:  (the other soldier, he swings his sword at the attacking spectre
  but scores no hit, as the steel passes through the undead creature's
  incorporeal body)  I...can't!
Yorbil:  (weakening fast, he sags in the spectre's icy grip)
Zerpid:  (stabs at the foe again, without any success)
Torin:  My mighty blade can cut that thing's ghostly flesh!  (he slices
  the spectre with his enchanted sword, opening a wound across its
  transparent back)
spectre:  Wraaaaa...
Torin:  Go back to hell, foul one!  (he slashes at the spectre again,
  driving it back)  Yes!  (to Zerpid)  How's Yorbil?
Zerpid:  (examining the other soldier)  He's...dead.
Torin:  Alas, Yorbil, we barely knew you.  (he charges after the wounded
  spectre)  You'll pay for that!
Lorax:  (beset by the wight, and unable to work a spell, he is clawed
  and bitten repeatedly, and loses some life force to the wight)  No-
wight #3:  (gnashing its teeth, it continues to attack the elf)  Ssss...
Warrax:  (puts a wand up to the wight's head)  Die.
wight #3:  Sss?

  The undead being's head simply evaporated, as a thin focused cone of
fire came from the wand's tip.

wight #3:  (its headless body falls to the floor, still twitching)
Lorax:  My thanks.
Warrax:  Don't mention it.  We need to help Skell now.
Skell:  (trying to play some magical tune on his harp, to fend off the
  wraith that floats toward him)
wraith:  (ignores the magical music, which is off-note anyway)  Prepare
  to die, mortal...

  Every single conflict currently in progress was halted suddenly, as a
wave of pure negative power swept through the underground chamber.  The
re-animated, mummified figure was the source of this mysterious energy.
Since first sitting up and then standing, it had seemingly grown stronger
with every passing moment.  While it had staggered at first, the thing
was now walking gracefully and steadily, moving its arms in weird, arcane
gesticulations and speaking steadily in some unknown language.  All of
this, Torin was able to discern before the wave of black energy swept
over all present.
  Its effects varied depending on the nature of the being touched.  All
of the undead were bolstered, their wounds healing and their strength
growing.  The members of Torin's band were impacted the opposite way,
the cold energy seeming to suck out their strength and resolve to fight.
In fact, all of them except Torin and Warrax collapsed - and those who
fell were pale and gaunt-looking all of a sudden.  Even the two still on
their feet felt very weak and listless.

Torin:  What...was that...?
Warrax:  Some kind of negative energy undead thing.  (he wastes no time
  pulling a small stone rune from a pouch)  We need to get out of here,
Torin:  But-
Warrax:  I'm not going to debate this.  (he hurls the rune to the floor
  between the two of them and the horde of now-rejuvenated undead)

  Instantly, a powerful wall of iron sprung up, cutting them off from
everything else in the room.

Warrax:  (hobbling toward the exit stairs)  Let's get out of here while
  we still can!
Torin:  (banging on the metal wall in frustration)  But the others-
Warrax:  -are lost, or soon will be.  Whatever the hell that thing on
  the bed was, it clearly commands more powerful magic than us.  (he
  starts up the steps)
Torin:  (hears a loud banging sound from the other end of the iron wall,
  and decides that maybe it is time to retreat)  Very well.  (he charges
  after Warrax)  Wait for me-

  There was a loud humming sound, as a disc-shaped section of the iron
barrier, about eight feet across and perfectly round, simply ceased to

Warrax:  Damn, they cut through!  (he gets a wand out, preparing to use
  it on the foes at their heels)  They'll not catch us-

  Fate intervened then in a most cruel manner, as the warrior/mage
slipped on some half-dried blood and fell back down the stairs.

Warrax:  Whoa-  (he lands at the base of the steps, about ten feet behind
  the fleeing Torin)
Torin:  Warrax!
Warrax:  (beset by the various undead before he can get back to his feet)
Torin:  (looks back, then looks up - and flees without a word)
Warrax:  No!  No, you bastard!

  The man's last act was to aim his wand at his fleeing leader and launch
a blast of cold.  This hadn't been an accident in his preparations; Warrax
knew that cold wouldn't harm undead, but he figured that it might create
another physical barrier within the stairway, allowing them precious time
to escape into the sunlit world above, where the undead might not be able
to follow.  It was Warrax' last possible barrier defense, and it might
have worked as he'd intended - except that his aim was awry due to the
undead tearing away at his flesh.  Rather than nail the treacherous Torin
and seal the tomb, the cone of cold hit the ceiling of the stairway and
never reached Torin.  It did, however, form an icy "plug" that sealed
the exit to the tomb, at least for now.

Torin:  (bursts into the sunlight, pausing for a moment to look around)
  Whew!  (realizing that there are no people or horses here anymore, he
  simply sprints away to the west, toward Greyhawk)

next:       back to the present, as Belphanior et al discuss this
released:   1/26/07
notes:      I always wanted to show the exact fate of Torin's group and
  the outcome of the earlier arc from years ago, but I never had a good
  chance until now.

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