Chapter #963

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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                                   +   +

+     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:          12/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         somewhere deep within the Sea of Dust                  +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
+   "What is good?  Everything that heightens the feeling of power        +
+    in man, the will to power, power itself."                            +
+                                                - Friedrich Nietzsche    +

                   CMLXIII.  Second Wave

  Belphanior and his companions - as well as the lich Kronos - have
ventured deep into the Sea of Dust with the intention of confronting
and defeating the mummy-king Al-arakara.  However, their assault has
been complicated by a powerful, fast-moving iron golem that breathed
forth petrification gas, turning several of the party to stone.  Now,
Belphanior is leading the golem on a merry chase around the large
pyramidal chamber, keeping it far away from the unprotected, petrified
forms of Neera, Skektek, Elgon, and Mongo.

iron golem:  (raises its fists, slowly stalking the elusive elf)
Belphanior:  (wonders just what the hell is taking Kronos so long to
  summon his portal and bring in some reinforcements)
wispy thing:  (flits around the golem's head, hissing noisily)  sssss!
iron golem:  (pauses in its pursuit of Belphanior, regarding the wisp
  for just a moment)
wispy thing:  sprrp!
Belphanior:  (running through several possible tactics in his mind, he
  hears something odd, and cocks an ear)  Eh?

  Suddenly, something whistled through the air, striking the golem in
its broad metal back and knocking it forward and down!

Belphanior:  (leaps aside as the golem falls, nearly crushing him)
  What the hell-
Mongo:  (strides forth, out of the now-dissipating cloud of gray vapor
  in the center of the chamber, and catches his hammer as it returns to
  his hand)  No damned gas is going to stop me, especially not when we
  have a battle to win!
Belphanior:  Glad to hear it.  (he glances at the golem as it staggers
  to its feet)
Mongo:  I'll handle him - you go get those stoned friends of ours out
  of harm's way.  Things are about to get messy.
Belphanior:  Uh...right.
iron golem:  (charges at Mongo)

  Due to the cloud of gas from before, the dwarf hadn't really gotten
a chance to witness this golem's unusual speed, and thus he was taken
by surprise as the thing bore down on him...

iron golem:  (swings a huge metal fist)
Mongo:  (gets his shield up, stopping the blow)  Ungh!

  Given the strength of the golem and the dwarf, something else had to
give.  The shield was dented in its center, a large impression in the
shape of a fist.  The stone floor around Mongo's feet was also cracked,
but the dwarf hadn't budged an inch while taking the mighty blow.

Mongo:  You dented my shield!  DAMMIT!  (he lashes out, striking the
  golem a glancing blow and knocking it back about ten feet)
iron golem:  (raises both arms and charges in again)
Mongo:  (sets his jaw and readies his hammer)

  The dwarf, accustomed to fighting much larger foes, waited and timed
his swing.  The golem was fast - much faster than golems were supposed
to be - but it didn't have the fighting reflexes and tactics of a real
live opponent, and Mongo had figured that.  The golem attacked, and it
attacked in a hurry, but it didn't make any effort to get out of the way
of Mongo's own counterattack.

Mongo:  (swings Stormcrest in a mighty arc, catching the golem in the
  lower stomach and knocking it away to one side, where it smashes into
  a wall, shaking the entire chamber) He's outta here!  (pleased with
  himself for outsmarting an opponent as well as using brute force, he
  heads for the badly-dented golem, which is getting back to its feet)
  Bah.  (he hurls his hammer again, hitting the construct in the head)

  There was a wrenching sound, like metal being torn apart, and the
golem's head now hung to one side at an odd angle.  This wasn't enough
to stop the thing, but Mongo then caught his hammer and hit the golem
a fourth time, cracking the iron shell of its chest.  Wisps of gray gas
seeped out, and the huge construct twitched where it sat imbedded in
the wall...twitched once, and then again...and then it ceased to move.

Mongo:  (wipes sweat from his brow)  Whew...
Belphanior:  (near the petrified forms of Neera, Skektek, and Elgon, he
  witnesses the end of this battle, realizing that his friend has just
  singlehandedly defeated an iron golem)  Wow.

  Meanwhile, near the sole exit from the room, Otto and Razor Charlie
faced a horde of mummies.  Between the two parties, a hastily-created
wall of burning oil held the undead at bay...

Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the mummies beyond the makeshift flaming
  barrier)  Won't hold them long.
Otto:  No, it won't.  We have to figure something else out.  Go check
  Ys and see if he's in any condition to fight.  I'm going to see what
  I have in my bag of tricks.
Jenna:  (dashes over, having made her way around the edge of the room)
  Mummies, eh?  Perhaps I can be of some assistance.
Otto:  (nods)  You bet.  You can help Ys-
Jenna:  I already did.  (she points to the big reptilian, who is now
  walking toward them)  He really just got the wind knocked out of him,
  plus maybe some cracked ribs, but I used a healing spell anyway.  Now
  it's time for Istus' true power to repel those mummies.  (she begins
  chanting and waving with her holy symbol)

  Unfortunately, the high priestess' efforts didn't have any effect on
the dozen mummies who crowded the passage ahead...

Jenna:  Damn!
Razor Charlie:  (readies some knives, grimacing at the undead who now
  threaten to advance beyond the dying flames and reach the party)
Otto:  (gets another flask of oil and hurls it at the foes, with much
  success as it smashes all over several of them, torching them as the
  fresh oil ignites)
Ys:  Nice work.  (he prepares to enter the passage with the intention
  of hacking the mummies to bits while they're on fire or distracted)
Kronos:  (somehow, suddenly, he appears right there)  I have a better
Jenna:  (recoils at the sheer power radiating from the lich)
Otto:  (stares at Kronos, who is floating about a foot above the floor)
Kronos:  What?
Otto:  Nothing.
Kronos:  (to Ys)  Excuse me.

  As the reptilian stepped aside, Kronos moved to face the mummies and
their fiery obstacle.  The lich raised one hand, and a small red flame
appeared in his palm...and then danced outward, filling the passage with
a bright flash of crimson fire.  The backwash of heat caused the others
to avert their eyes and step back, but Kronos didn't budge, apparently
unaffected by his spell.  Just as quickly as it had been born, the red
flame was gone...and so were the mummies.  A dozen large piles of ash
marked the spots where they had just stood.

Kronos:  Intense flame, but no massive explosion that could bring this
  entire place down around our heads.  (he glances at the multiple piles
  of ash)  My way is better.
Otto:  Hey, no arguments here, pal.
Jenna:  Does this mean that your portal is...?
Kronos:  (nods, turning and gesturing)

  Belphanior had taken the petrified forms of his three companions and
carefully stashed them in his portable hole...and just in time, for the
very air in the approximate center of the large chamber had rippled and
distorted, opening a thirty-foot-wide, roughly hemispherical gateway to
elsewhere (in this case, Kronos' fortress far across the continent in
the Corusk Mountains).  Belphanior's two golems - one iron, one stone -
had already stepped through as previously directed, and now moved to
join the elf.  Next came a column, five wide shoulder-to-shoulder, of
Kronos' undead soldiers.  Every one of these individuals wore plate mail
armor and carried a large shield in addition to a sword, battleaxe, or
other heavy weapon.  As noted during the preparation phase of this
assault, these undead warriors moved just as fast as living ones, and
obviously had military training.  In addition, they were all possessed
of superhuman strength and stamina, and would fight until destroyed.
  The battalion of undead soldiers marched out of the portal, quickly
forming up in neat rows; there were several hundred of these warriors,
and they were truly a formidable sight.

Belphanior:  (nods)  Not a bad little army.
Kronos:  We need to move out of this area and take the fight to our foe's
  actual lair, before he uses some kind of mass-area attack to vaporize
  us all.  However, I refuse to simply send my forces through that small
  passage to be obliterated or picked off one by one.  Therefore, we need
  another shock tactic...but one that will not collapse this chamber or
  complex and bury us here.
Belphanior:  I'll send my golems-
Mongo:  No need for that.  (he hefts his hammer and strides into the
  passage, toward the unseen area from which the dozen mummies emerged)
Belphanior:  Mongo!
Mongo:  I'm not gonna wait around here - it's time to take the fight to
  the enemy.

next:       Al-arakara
released:   3/30/07
notes:      I'm sure you'd all like to see this battle play out in one
  big, jumbo episode...but that's not the way to write a serial adventure
  with weekly installments.      :)

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