Chapter #967

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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        +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   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                           +
+   iron golem     one of Belphanior's golems captured from Xusia         +
+   stone golem    one of Belphanior's golems captured from Xusia         +
+                                                                         +
+   Kronos         extremely powerful lich                                +
+   ~300 zombies   battalion of unusually powerful zombie warriors        +
+   various other undead minions, many of whom are wounded or destroyed   +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Date:          12/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         somewhere deep within the Sea of Dust                  +
+   Climate:       cool and dry                                           +
+   "It ain't how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose."       +
+               - Jesse Ventura, WWF commentator, WrestleMania 4 (1986)   +

                   CMLXVII.  Final Showdown

  After several different skirmishes across different areas of the
subterranean complex, a wounded Al-arakara has retreated to another

Al-arakara:  (staggers through a long hallway and into a small room)
  Hold that door.
warrior-mummy #2:  (mutely obeys, moving to close and then block the
Al-arakara:  (begins working a healing spell on himself)

  The mummy-king only needed a scant few moments to regenerate his
wounds - wounds suffered at the hand of some unknown but immensely
powerful foe, one capable of launching a meteor storm.  However, his
spell was ruined as the door burst from its hinges, exploding into
dozens of jagged wooden shards.

Al-arakara:  Argh!  (he reaches down and pulls a fragment of wood from
  his midsection)  I am not amused.
Belphanior:  (steps into the room, sword ready)  Nor should you be.
Al-arakara:  You.
Belphanior:  (heads directly for the undead lord)

  The elf was at his peak:  unhurt and hasted, with a grim purpose and
the willingness to win today, at any cost.  In one smooth motion, he
produced one of his wands and launched a volley of acidic spheres at
Al-arakara, figuring (correctly) that this would impair the mummy-king
and allow Belphanior to move in for the kill.

Al-arakara:  (writhes and reels from the burning acid, frantically trying
  to wipe it from his skin)  AAAAAARGH!
Belphanior:  And now-
warrior-mummy #2:  (grabs the elf's ankle and pulls hard, causing him
  to drop his wand and lose his balance)
Belphanior:  What?!?

  The elf slashed at the foe, whose iron grip was crushing his ankle.
Blackrazor bit into the mummy's head, at about the same time as the
bones in Belphanior's ankle cracked most painfully.

Belphanior:  AARGH!

  Several more blows finally loosened the mummy's grip - by severing
the offending arm - but now the elf was crippled, unable to stand up
without excruciating pain.

Al-arakara:  (already beginning to heal again)  And so the tables have
Mongo:  Damn right they have.

  The dwarf's hammer slammed into the mummy-king's chest, knocking the
foe back into one wall of the small room with enough force to crack
the stone.  As the weapon returned to Mongo's hand, he marched toward
the undead lord.

Mongo:  That's for trying to imprison me back there.  (he swings his
  hammer, shattering the foe's left shoulder)  And that's for whatever
  else you've done today.
Al-arakara:  (unable to recover long enough to cast a spell, he resorts
  to an alternate measure, summoning the powers of a ring that he wears)

  And just like that, the mummy-king vanished.

Mongo:  What?!?  No fair!  (he looks around)  Dammit!
Belphanior:  Shit.  Now he's going to go heal himself, and everything
  we just fought for will be for nothing.
Kronos:  I think not.

  The lich was floating along, just above the floor; as he neared the
wall into which Al-arakara had smashed, he raised his hands...and the
stone parted as if it were water.  In moments, a tunnel opened before
Kronos...a smoothly-rounded passage that led directly ahead.

Kronos:  He hasn't gone far - just a few rooms away.  We need to catch
  him, though, before he has a chance to recover his strength.  (without
  another word, he floats into the tunnel, which continues to open up
  before him)
Mongo:  (glances at Belphanior, who is trying to find a healing potion
  so he can repair his injured ankle and rejoin the battle)  Don't worry
  about it - we'll get him.  (he turns and heads into the passage after
Belphanior:  Wait!  (he shakes his head)  Damn.
wispy thing:  (appears from somewhere, orbits the elf's head a couple
  of times, then heads after Kronos and Mongo)  spaaa!
Belphanior:  (sighs)

  The elf wasn't used to being anywhere but the forefront of the fight,
but for now he had little choice...

Otto:  (bursts into the room, crossbow ready)  What the hell's going on
  here?  Where is everybody?  (he looks at Belphanior)  What happened
  to you?
Jenna:  (along with Ys, Skektek, and Razor Charlie, she also enters the
Belphanior:  Outstanding...Jenna, I have a hurt ankle, and this is no
  time for such a thing.  Can you fix it?
Jenna:  Sure thing.  (she begins working a spell)

  Meanwhile, Kronos continued his progress toward Al-arakara, as the
tunnel he was forcefully (and magically) digging through the underground
complex suddenly opened up into a large, well-appointed hall of some
kind.  Al-arakara stood, not thirty feet away, working a spell as if he
had sensed the approach of his ancient enemy.

Al-arakara:  I should have known.  The elf didn't have the raw power to
  challenge me, and you are too much a coward to handle things yourself.
Kronos:  (also spellcasting)  Whatever you say, but this will be our
  final battle, old enemy.

  Al-arakara struck first, launching a wave of white-hot flame that
rolled over Kronos...but the lich stood there, impervious, as the fire
had no apparent effect.

Al-arakara:  What?!
Kronos:  I have had much plan this battle.  (he points
  at the foe, and a hundred iron spikes appear, hurtling through the air
  in a cloud of metallic death)
Al-arakara:  (summons a green force-shield that appears between himself
  and the deadly barrage, deflecting any of the spikes that might have
  hit him)  Bah.

  The mummy-king's counterattack was a bolt of pure concussive energy
that would have obliterated a small house; Kronos held his ground, but
the stone of the floor beneath him cracked with the power of the attack.

Kronos:  Not...enough!  (he summons a gigantic purple blade of force,
  sending it right at the mummy-king)
Al-arakara:  (summons a huge battle-axe of black energy, which meets
  the other magical weapon)

  And so began a mighty magical duel, between two of the oldest and most
powerful spellcasters on Oerth.  Like any great battle between skilled
opponents, it was fairly evenly-matched, with one or the other gaining
a slight advantage here or there, only to see it vanish an instant later.
Left to their own devices, the undead foes might have continued this
contest for much longer; however, Mongo entered the room, and it didn't
take him long to figure out what was happening and break the stalemate.

Mongo:  (looks to Kronos, then to Al-arakara, then to the pair of giant
  magical force-weapons that clash in the giant hall)

  Actually, the dwarf didn't really care what was happening.  He already
had a plan of action, which he now carried out.

Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest, hitting Al-arakara in the head)  Take that,

  The mummy-king staggered, his head dangling to one side at an odd and
unnatural angle.  The force-axe vanished immediately, which cleared the
way for Kronos to bring his force-sword to bear...

Kronos:  (guides the magical weapon to strike Al-arakara, repeatedly)

  The mummy-king, weakened by this nearly-constant barrage of attacks
and unable to find the time to bring more reinforcements, succumbed to
the blade of his old enemy.  Before Mongo even had time to throw his
hammer again, Al-arakara had been cut in two; within moments, he was
little more than a pile of gory, stinking paste.  By the time Belphanior
and the others arrived, Kronos had cast a spell to eliminate those bits
and pieces.

Belphanior:  What the hell...?!
Kronos:  Eh?
Belphanior:  I was going to-
Kronos:  Use your sword to take his soul?  There was no time to wait
  around for that - it wasn't worth the risk.
Belphanior:  What if I say it was?
Kronos:  (glances at the fumes that mark the spot where Al-arakara fell,
  then shrugs)  Say what you will, but it no longer matters, for he is
Belphanior:  Are you sure?
Mongo:  Hey, I watched it.  (he nods at Kronos)  He just turned Al-al-
  al-whatever into dust.
Skektek:  (eyeing the carnage wrought by the various spells brought into
  play in this large hall)  There was a great battle, and we missed it?
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at no one in particular)
Ys:  A great, but short battle, apparently.
Mongo:  Yeah.  (he points a thumb at Kronos)  He did most of the work,
  but I helped a bit.
Otto:  (to Mongo)  How did you pull that off?  I thought the mummy-king
  could read minds and anticipate an attacker's every move...
Mongo:  (taps his helm with one fist)  He couldn't read my mind.
Kronos:  (nods)  I was wondering.  You see, I had protections against
  Al-arakara's ESP tactics, but...hmm, your helm's aura must have been
  masked by the more powerful energies of your other items.
Mongo:  (shrugs)  Could be.
Jenna:  (looks around)  So, what now?
Belphanior:  Eh?
Jenna:  Well, we just defeated the ruler of a vast, hidden underground
  city.  What are we going to do with it?

next:       wrap-up
released:   4/27/07
notes:      It hit me during this arc:  the "hero" doesn't always have
  to be the one in the front of every fight.  Sometimes others get to
  do that, whether intentionally or otherwise.  This seemed like a good
  break from the norm.
    Al-arakara was loosely modeled after the mummy in the first two
  movies from that 1990s series.  I think he would have been a rather
  interesting character to develop, but things were complicated enough

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