Chapter #955

previous chapter (#954)                                                                  next chapter (#956)

                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      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              +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   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                           +
+   Date:          11/19/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:          late afternoon                                         +
+   Place:         the Cairn Hills                                        +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "Everybody keeps records...even ones they never want found."          +
+                   - Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, from _The A-Team_    +

                   CMLV.  The Legend of Kronos

  Belphanior and the others have just witnessed a magical re-creation of
the battle in the tomb from six years ago...

Belphanior:  What?  That's it?!?  What about Kronos?  What happened to
  him?  Where did he go next?
Jenna:  (slumps, almost falling to the ground as Ys catches her)  Those
  things...are not known to me...the spell...can only do so much...
Belphanior:  Damn.
Razor Charlie:  (sighs, his mind reeling from the battle scene he just
  watched)  What the hell was that all about?
Elgon:  Beats me, but that Torin fellow sure was a bastard.
Skektek:  Hell of a fight.  (he turns to Ys)  How's Jenna?
Ys:  Weakened, fatigued.  These spells she casts sometimes have that
  effect on her.
Belphanior:  Only the really useful ones, I've noticed.  (to Neera)  We
  need to study everything we saw about Kronos.
Neera:  I'm already ahead of you.  (she shows him the notes she's been

  Actually, the quill and parchment floated in the air next to the sage/
sorceress, writing down her thoughts without any need for her to actually
touch the items.

Razor Charlie:  (shakes his head, and grimaces)
wispy thing:  (floating around the animated quill, curious)  pfsss?

  With their search concluded, the past re-created, and Jenna exhausted,
there was little choice but to return to the skyship.  It was clear that
the tomb held no further secrets or clues, an oddity which they debated
shortly on the deck of the wondrous ship, far above the Cairn Hills...

Elgon:  Where were the bodies?  There should have been bodies.  (he
  shrugs)  I'm just saying.
Otto:  Maybe the undead ate them.  They've been known to do that.
Belphanior:  I think that when we find Kronos, we'll find the answer to
  the question of the bodies.
Skektek:  Find Kronos?  (he shakes his head)  I'm as ready to seek out
  magical power as the next guy, but did you see some of the magic that
  lich brought to bear?  (he counts them off on his fingers)  He somehow
  immobilized that priest-
Belphanior:  Localized Time Stop, or a Temporal Stasis on one person,
  would be my guess.
Skektek:  Then he commanded the undead to attack Torin's people-
Belphanior:  Verifying the fact that he's undead, probably a lich.
Skektek:  And then he summoned some kind of wave of negative energy,
  which was powerful enough to knock out all but two of the living while
  boosting the strength of the undead-
Belphanior:  So he has powers we don't fully understand - no surprise
Skektek:  Not to mention what looked like a cone of disintegration -
  a damn _cone_, mind you, not the normal thin beam that you have to
  carefully aim!  He can casually vaporize a bunch of us at once!
Belphanior:  Mmm.
Neera:  (nods, as if Skektek had just recited a grocery list)  Yes, all
  of that just about matches what I wrote down.
Belphanior:  And many of those would be useful spells to acquire.
Skektek:  Are you people crazy?  You're missing my point!  Those spells
  are great, sure...but they're useless to us if we're dead...dead or
  worse, maybe turned into undead by that freaky lich guy!
Ys:  (idly wondering whether that was the fate of Torin's group after
  the battle)
Skektek:  And all of that crazy shit that the lich did, he did _right
  after_ waking up from some untold period of sleep or dormancy.  And
  to top _that_ off, he was obviously getting stronger, and fast!  (he
  shakes his head)  If we go after him - which I'm not saying is the
  greatest idea - we need to be damn well ready for the ultimate battle.
Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)  And who says we won't be?
Otto:  I know that look.  (he paces about)  You've got something, don't
Skektek:  You're right.  He does.  Crafty, as always.  (he frowns)  But
  it'll have to be something insanely powerful, to counter all of the
  powers Kronos can bring to bear.
Ys:  And, to be frank, it would be nice if this secret weapon or tactic
  was shared with the rest of us, ahead of time, so that we know exactly
  what is afoot.
Belphanior:  Fair enough.  Perhaps I'd better let Neera explain some of
  the background of all this.  (he walks over to the ship's helm)
Skektek:  Eh?
Belphanior:  (he takes the wheel and brings the skyship around)  In the
  meantime, I'll get us underway.
Skektek:  No, I meant "Eh?" as in "what's this Neera's going to tell us?"
Belphanior:  Right before that last big adventure we had - the one where
  I didn't let Neera come along due to safety concerns - I asked her to
  do some research on our friend Kronos.  He, and his endlessly useful
  magical inventions, have been on my mind for quite some time, so it was
  only prudent to have a sage do some research.
Neera:  (clears her throat)  Let's just say I didn't spend that time
  idly.  While all of you were out there demolishing the Sea Princes'
  outpost at Ganarec, I was nose-deep in old tomes, and scrying for all
  sorts of information.
Skektek:  And?
Neera:  Few people know of Kronos...fewer know more than a little of his
Belphanior:  Which is where you come in, as you've demonstrated a certain
  tenacity when it comes to unearthing secrets of the past.
Neera:  A good sage uses tenacity, coupled with logic and deduction and
  usually more than a little magic.  Luck often plays a part, too.  In
  any event, our friend Kronos has actually been around for quite some
  time.  I don't have the entire story, but I do have enough now to fill
  in the gaps, connect the dots, and paint a fairly accurate picture of
  him and his history.  He first turns up in recorded accounts a little
  less than two thousand years ago.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces, wondering what it's like to live that long)
Neera:  He was a wizard of Oeridian descent, and a fairly powerful one
  even in his "normal" lifetime.  It seems that he did a lot for his
  people and their king, including the unmasking of the Hooded Ones and
  their plot to assassinate all the rulers of the realm.  He also drove
  back the Faceless Horde when the great chasm opened in the world's
  surface and spewed forth abomination after abomination.
Otto:  Sounds dangerous.
Neera:  Those were dark times.
Ys:  (apparently genuinely fascinated by this)  Go on.
Neera:  Anyhow, Kronos had a particular fascination with the nature of
  time itself, and eventually became a master of such sciences and the
  associated magicks.  He found ways to extend his lifespan, and he did
  so even as he continued to serve the general good of those around him.
Skektek:  I sense a major "but" coming up soon here...
Neera:  Heh.  Let's just say he didn't simply die one day and become a, what happened was that, over time, the nature of the magic
  he dealt with - powerful magic, with unknown side effects and risks -
  changed Kronos' body.
Jenna:  Changed it?  How?
Neera:  Nobody really knows-
Skektek:  (impatiently)  Well, is he a lich, or isn't he?
Neera:  He is, but not by the same methods as others who have become
  liches.  This is one of the parts that isn't exactly canonical in any
  history book or account.  No one knows exactly how he achieved lichdom
  or what different powers and weaknesses he might have as a result.
Otto:  Well, damn.
Neera:  At this point, any records of him and his activities are scarce
  to the point of nonexistence.  He _might_ have been the lich-like being
  who went toe-to-toe with the vampire king Von Kuryen, eight hundred
  years ago.  He _might_ have been the architect of the City in the
  Clouds, a wondrous mythical place that apparently vanished one day.
  He might have even been the same Kronos who was rumored to have held
  the army of old Aerdy at bay at Gorgon's Gorge while-
Skektek:  Hey, I never heard of that!
Neera:  Exactly my point...after this apparent descent into lichdom, any
  accounts of Kronos are vague and sporadic.
Belphanior:  As if he no longer _wanted_ to play a prominent role in the
  affairs of the world around him.  (he straightens the ship's wheel and
  turns to face the others)  Yet, quietly, he still did - as will always
  be the case with very powerful beings.
Skektek:  This is all great stuff, but it doesn't really explain what the
  lich, or whatever he is, was doing sleeping in a tomb deep in the Cairn
  Hills.  Can we get to that part?
Neera:  Surely.  The last recorded Kronos event - and this took quite a
  bit of searching to learn about - was an epic conflict between him and
  another very powerful undead being, a lord among its kind.
Skektek:  To be sure, we have several of _those_ to choose from.
Otto:  (frowns)
Neera:  For reasons lost to history and the sages who study it, Kronos
  found himself at odds with a certain individual in the ancient cities
  buried beneath the Sea of Dust...a paragon among its kind, and ruler
  of countless unknown forces from that past civilization.
Otto:  Al-arakara.
Neera:  (nods)  And all records and tales stop before that confrontation
  actually took place.
Elgon: they must have fought, and Kronos lost.
Belphanior:  Which is hard to believe, but surprising things happen in
  battles between really powerful beings.  Hell, we've proven that.  In
  any case, we know for a fact that Al-arakara's alive and well, so we
  can assume that the battle was a draw, at best, for Kronos.
Otto:  And worst case, he got beaten and somehow got away.
Skektek:  Maybe to rest and heal from the fight.  Who's to say?
Neera:  Who indeed?  Of course, bear in mind that all this happened six
  hundred years ago.
Ys:  So we are now chasing Kronos...
Belphanior:  (nods)  And we know where we'll likely find him, thanks to
Neera:  (shrugs)  It was simply a matter of putting together the clues,
  correlating the various places where he's appeared throughout history,
  scrying and researching them, and looking for a pattern.  (she smiles
  triumphantly)  And I finally found it.
Skektek:  Where?
Neera:  The evidence points to the Corusk Mountains.
Otto:  Whew, that's a long hike.
Belphanior:  Or even a long flight.  I've studied the maps and charts,
  and I'm guessing eleven or twelve days.  We'll need some cold-weather
  gear, too - it's going to get pretty chilly up here.  (he frowns)  And
  that brings up another point:  we've never really taken this skyship
  into excessively cold weather, much less the frozen northeast during
  the winter season.  (he looks around)  There's no doubt about it, my
  friends:  this one'll be risky.  Anyone who doesn't want to go should
  speak up now, and we can drop you off somewhere along the way.
Razor Charlie:  Why's everyone looking at me?
Mongo:  (having apparently woken up from his nap)  Mountains...suits me
  just fine, thanks.  This ought to be fun.
Elgon:  Heh.
Otto:  (to Neera)  Those are some wide mountain ranges.  I'm curious...
  how have you pinpointed the lich's supposed location?
Neera:  There was a brief mention in one of the tales of old, about how
  Kronos preferred very high places, like the city in the clouds which
  he apparently had something to do with.
Belphanior:  Not to mention this ship we're riding in.
Neera:  So I matched that with some old wives' tales and other accounts
  from that region - and then used magic, including Parekh's, to really
  scrutinize the area, with a focus on any high concentration of unusual
  magical power.  We believe that Kronos has a lair high in a mountain
  peak, somewhere in the Corusk range...and we've got the perfect means
  of finding it from the only vantage point we possibly can:  the sky.
Ys:  And when - if - we find this Kronos plan on making
  some sort of truce with him?
Belphanior:  Better.  I plan on telling him everything I know about his
  old adversary, Al-arakara...and then joining forces so that we can
  mount an attack on the mummy-king and eliminate him once and for all.

  The elf didn't mention the possible opportunities that such an alliance
might present, such as new spells or magical items.  It might even turn
out that a weakened Kronos would be easy prey for Belphanior; while the
elf wasn't planning for that, he certainly wouldn't ignore it, either.
Everything would depend on how the lich reacted once confronted with the
plan...assuming, of course, that Belphanior's group could determine his
current whereabouts and track him down.

next:       some COLD weather adventure
released:   2/2/07
notes:      It's come to my attention that the last few stories have been
  perceived (probably accurately) as filler, containing setup material
  but a shortage of actual events.  This is my fault, as time to write
  has been exceedingly short.  When I can, I will do better by writing
  longer, more meaningful episodes.  This one might not have been such
  an episode, but at least the plot is out there now.  Battle will follow
  in the next episode, I promise.

previous chapter (#954)                                                                  next chapter (#956)