Chapter #987

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
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                               +           +
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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       +
+   1991-2012 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!                                          +
+   Jenna          10th level female human priestess of Istus             +
+   Neera          11th level female human sage/astrologer                +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   Date:          4/17/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          evening                                                +
+   Place:         the sky castle, in the clouds above Oerth's surface    +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "Success is a fools smart people into thinking that       +
+    they can't lose."                                                    +
+                                - from _Pirates of Silicon Valley_       +

                   CMLXXXVII.  Terrible Truths

  Jenna knelt in her room on the second floor of the sky castle, praying
to her goddess Istus, the Lady of Fate.  This was a regular nighttime
ritual for the priestess, and since none of the other chambers on this
floor were currently occupied, this was proving to be an especially
solitary and peaceful evening.

Jenna:  (suddenly gets a vague sense that something's not quite right)

  The priestess wasn't sure what intangible thought or premonition had
jarred her from her studies, but she was experienced enough to know that
such feelings weren't to be ignored.  To tell the truth, she'd been rather
uneasy all day, ever since waking up in the morning.

Jenna:  (stands and picks up her mace)

  The young woman walked over to her door, opening it to peer into the
dim hallway beyond.

Jenna:  Neera?  Ys?  Is that you?

  Only silence greeted her...silence, and a light mist that wafted down
the hallway...

Jenna:  (protectively clutches the holy symbol around her neck)  What

  The vapors coalesced into a pair of individuals.  One was of average
height and build, and was garbed in dark purple, almost black robes...
obviously a wizard of some sort.  The other man dwarfed the first; well
over six feet tall, he was broadly built with short, cropped black hair
and a wide, prominent jaw and chin.  Although this fellow wore no armor
and carried no weapons, he had the unmistakable air of one familiar with
the business of war.
  Both men had glowing red eyes and prominent, pointed front teeth, and
despite all of her experience and faith, the priestess couldn't help but
feel terror in the presence of these two individuals.

Jenna:  (brandishes her holy symbol, breaking the cord that held it on
  her neck as she shouts at the top of her lungs)  Away!  Leave this
tall vampiric warrior:  (laughing, he steps forth and grabs the silver
  talisman in one huge hand)
Jenna:  (lets go of the symbol as the metal quickly becomes too hot to
  hold, and begins warping)
tall vampiric warrior:  (drops the smoking, melted lump of metal)

  Having retreated into her room in a panicked frenzy, Jenna raced to
a large basin in one corner of her living quarters.  She didn't waste
time wondering how these vampires had gotten into the castle uninvited,
or how they'd gotten past the golems that guarded the main door, or why
they seemed unaffected by holy symbols.  Her concern right now had to do
with surviving the next few moments.  Grabbing a small cup within the
basin, she turned and whipped the cup around, flinging its contents -
holy water - in a wide arc behind her.  It was a good improvised move,
and it actually caught the vampires by surprise.

tall vampiric warrior:  (deftly steps back, avoiding the holy water)
robed vampiric mage:  (covers his face as drops of the clear, pure
  liquid hit his body, hissing and smoking against any exposed flesh)
tall vampiric warrior:  You fool!  That can't hurt us, not permanently.
robed vampiric mage:  No, but it still stings like hell-
Jenna:  (hurls another cupful of holy water, this one right at the mage,
  dousing him)
robed vampiric mage:  (staggers as his flesh begins steaming)  AAAAARGH!

  A new presence filled the doorway to the room:  an eight-foot tall
mass of scaled gray muscle.

Ys:  Greetings, strangers.  (he swings his huge broadsword at the larger
  of the two vampires)

  The reptilian's blade smashed against the wall in a surprisingly swift
attack for someone of his size, and any normal foe would have been cut
in half.  However, the vampiric warrior was no common foe; when the huge
sword hit the wall, the vampire simply wasn't there.

tall vampiric warrior:  (suddenly behind Ys, he places a hand on the big
  reptilian's shoulder)
Ys:  (whirls, backhanding the vampire with his free hand)

  The vampiric warrior dodged with impossible speed; Ys' fist just grazed
his body, and then - just like that - he was ten feet away.

Ys:  (immediately begins advancing toward the other)  You are fast, even
  for a vampire.
tall vampiric warrior:  (wondering why he wasn't able to draw life energy
  from this opponent)  And you are more than you appear to be.
Ys:  (swings his sword again, but it hits the wall instead of the foe)

  Meanwhile, Jenna had recovered a bit, and had called upon the power of
her goddess to unleash a powerful incantation.

tall vampiric warrior:  (looks up as a column of fire descends)  What?!?
  (he vanishes from sight, completely engulfed in flames)
Jenna:  (runs out of the room, grabbing Ys)  Come on!
Ys:  But I could finish them off now-
Jenna:  No, you couldn't!  Those aren't regular vampires, and I doubt
  anything we've done will stop them for long!  We need to get upstairs
  and rally with the others!

  The two of them fled the room, Ys bringing up the rear in case the two
foes attacked while they were ascending.  This turned out to be a good
idea:  as Jenna dashed up the stairs, two shadowy forms made their way to
the bottom of the steps.  The taller vampire's flesh and clothes were
smoking, though the burn wounds across his body were regenerating at an
alarming rate.  The robed wizard-vampire had similar wounds (though his
were caused by holy water, not flames) which were healing at a similarly
rapid rate.

Ys:  (backing his way up the steps, sword held ready)  You shall not pass.
tall vampiric warrior:  (produces a pair of long knives)  You're wrong.
  (he leaps up the steps in a flash, the dual blades gleaming)

  On the third floor, Jenna heard the unmistakable sound of steel hitting
steel, as well as steel hitting stone.  Just then, Razor Charlie emerged
from his room, a throwing knife in each hand.

Jenna:  We're being attacked!  Vampires!
Razor Charlie:  (just nods, as if this was the most natural thing in the
  world)  Need silver knives then.  (he puts away the knives he had and
  produces other, silver ones)
Neera:  (appears in the hallway, having run down the stairs from the floor
Jenna:  It's-
Neera:  I heard you.  (she begins spellcasting)  Let's be ready when they
  ascend to this floor.

  Jenna was about to point out that Ys might need help, but then it became
apparent that he was out of the fight...for the two vampires walked out
of the stairway leading up from the second floor.

tall vampiric warrior:  (brandishes his twin daggers, both of which are
  covered with blue blood)  Your large, scaly friend won't be joining us
  for the remainder of this battle.
robed vampiric mage:  Now make it easy on yourselves - give us what we
  came here for.
Razor Charlie:  (smirks)

  One of Charlie's thrown knives hit the vampiric wizard in the eye,
while the other missed the warrior by an inch, imbedding itself in the
very stone of the wall!

robed vampiric mage:  ARGH!  (he reels)  How...the hell?!?

  Before the vampiric warrior could react, a volley of fiery bolts shot
forth from Neera's hands, blasting both undead foes.  Jenna followed that
up with a spell of transmutation, causing the entire ceiling above the
attackers to change into mud and drop, burying them.

Neera:  Are they...
Jenna:  No telling, but we'd best assume not.  (as they retreat into the
  nearest room - which just happens to be Razor Charlie's quarters - she
  produces a scroll case, opening it and unfurling the parchment within)
  As soon as I read this, we'll be protected from-

tall vampiric warrior:  (appears suddenly, his body re-forming from mist
  in the room's doorway)  Enough of this!  (he charges, the long knives

  The vampire was menacing, and his approach fearsome - until he got
within ten feet of Razor Charlie, at which point he bounced off of some
unseen barrier.

tall vampiric warrior:  (lands in a heap, cursing, but quickly gets back
  on his feet, snarling at the three adventurers)
Razor Charlie:  (touching his amulet, he grimaces at the foe)
Jenna:  (almost done invoking the power of her scroll of protection from
robed vampiric mage:  (tearing the bloody throwing knife from his eye, he
  launches a cone of cold at the defenders)
Jenna:  (staggers, covered in chilling frost and ice, her scroll knocked
  from her hands)  Argh!
Neera:  (driven to the ground by the frigid explosion)
Razor Charlie:  (bears the brunt of the blast, and is knocked back even
  further than the others)  Ungh!
tall vampiric warrior:  (moves with uncanny speed, and finds that he's
  able to reach Jenna now)
Jenna:  (grabbed around the throat by the undead attacker, she weakens
  as she's lifted clear off of the floor)  Urgh...
tall vampiric warrior:  Hah-

  Neera's volley of magic missiles bombarded the vampire in the head and
back, causing him to drop Jenna and shout in pain and rage.

tall vampiric warrior:  You people are more capable than I first thought.
Neera:  You have no idea.  (she starts her next spell)
Jenna:  (despite being weakened, she also begins casting another spell)
robed vampiric mage:  (completes his own incantation first, hitting the
  priestess with a feeblemind spell)
Jenna:  (her eyes roll back in her head, and she sinks to the floor)
tall vampiric warrior:  (reaches Neera before the sorceress can finish
  her spellcasting, and smacks her with the back of one hand)
Neera:  Argh!  (she sails back into a wall, unconscious)

  Just then, two throwing knives hit the vampire - one in the neck, one
in the back of his head.  Both would have been lethal blows against an
actual living man.

tall vampiric warrior:  (turns into mist as two more knives whiz by and
  hit the wall, clattering to the floor)
Razor Charlie:  (sprints toward Neera and Jenna, intending to protect
tall vampiric warrior:  (actually repelled, in mist-form, by the power
  of the amulet worn by the approaching Charlie, he is forced to change
  back into solid form)

  Just then, a heavy footfall announced the presence of another combatant
on this floor.  The tall, broad gray body was covered with bluish blood,
but despite numerous wounds...Ys was back!

Ys:  (charges into the room with a bellow, sword raised)

  With the vampire unable to assume gaseous form, and still dazed by the
effects of Razor Charlie's amulet, he was a target of opportunity - and
Ys didn't waste this chance.

tall vampiric warrior:  (hit across his back by the reptilian's gigantic
  broadsword, he is nearly cut in half, and sails into one wall, hitting
  with a wet THUMP and smearing the wall with blood)
Ys:  (makes a snap decision, and turns to face the other vampire)
robed vampiric mage:  (having completed his spell, he seizes the giant
  foe using telekinesis)
Ys:  (lifted off of the floor, he is smashed into the ceiling)  Argh!

  The vampiric wizard then hurled the reptilian foe _through_ the nearby
window, taking out the glass, the bars, the frame, and some stonework -
and catapulting Ys away from the keep and down to the courtyard sixty feet

robed vampiric mage:  (turns to Razor Charlie and Jenna)

  Charlie was in the process of picking up the priestess and carrying her
away.  He didn't know exactly where he would take her, and he didn't have
any real way to combat these vampires, but he did know that they couldn't
approach within ten feet of him - and that was something.

robed vampiric mage:  (reasoning that perhaps non-physical attacks will
  work, he uses the telekinesis magic to grab the warrior and forcibly
  slam him into a wall)
Razor Charlie:  (smashes into a dresser, shattering it)  Ungh!

  Despite suffering enough punishment to knock out a less hardy man, the
knife-thrower got to his feet again, drawing two knives and readying them
in hands that bled and ached.

robed vampiric mage:  (again uses his magic to hurl the foe back, this
  time into a corner)
Razor Charlie:  Argh!  (he lands in a battered, bloody heap)  Urgh...(he
  attempts to rise, yet again)
robed vampiric mage:  Remarkable.  I do believe you'll keep getting up,
  unless I make that impossible.  (he gestures to a nearby chest)

  The heavy chest slid across the floor, slamming into Razor Charlie.  It
was followed by the remains of the dresser, and then the bed, and then
every other piece of furniture in the room.  When the telekinetic assault
was over, there was no sign of Razor Charlie amidst the heap of mangled

robed vampiric mage:  Finally.

  He glided across the floor to aid his badly-injured companion; although
the regeneration was slowly closing the wound, the vampiric warrior had
nearly been chopped in two, and he wasn't going to be at fighting strength
for a while yet.

robed vampiric mage:  Fortunately for you, the fight is over.
tall vampiric warrior:  (shakes his head, trying to clear it)  Eh?
robed vampiric mage:  The big lizard-man is out there in the courtyard,
  and couldn't have survived that fall, on top of the way you sliced him
  up.  The ugly knife-thrower is buried under a room's worth of debris.
  And the annoying priestess has been robbed of her faculties.
tall vampiric warrior:  (turns to regard the feebleminded Jenna, who is
  just standing there with a glazed look in her eyes, and glares at her
  hatefully)  She made this much more difficult than it needed to be.
robed vampiric mage:  We don't have time for games - we need to find the
  thing we came here for and get out.  This was supposed to be a quick
  and easy mission, remember?  (he regards the helpless Jenna)  If you're
  going to kill her, just kill her.
tall vampiric warrior:  (nods toward the unconscious Neera)  What about
  that one?
robed vampiric mage:  (shrugs)  She'd make a welcome change from the
  quality of our usual food.  Let's take her back with us...but we must
  make haste.

Belphanior:  So that's how it happened?
Razor Charlie:  (nods)  Sorry.  I tried-
Belphanior:  (holds up a hand)  I know.  I know you tried, and this
  wasn't your fault.  It was mine.  (his head sinks on his chest)  My

  The elf stood there for a moment that seemed to last much longer than
it actually did, and nobody dared to say a word.  Finally, he raised his
head, slowly, and fixed all of them with a gaze unlike any they had ever
seen from him before.

Belphanior:  Someone is going to pay for this.

next:       a somewhat different point of view
released:   7/13/2012
notes:      Okay.  So in my original draft of this story, the vampires
  broke in, did their business, and left everyone alive (albeit badly
  wounded.)  It quickly became apparent to me that this wasn't realistic
  from a logical sense - the vampires would have killed or taken anyone
  they could.  Charlie wears an amulet that repels them, so they did they
  best they could against him.  Ys ended up thrown through a window, and
  since they were in a hurry, they left him for dead.  And then it hit me
  that poor Jenna was suddenly the most expendable, especially after I
  re-worked the fight to have her really pissing off the vampires.
    Incidentally, this all became clear to me (and I began rewriting it
  in my head) while I was doing an hour-long run aboard a cruise ship
  during my vacation.  The date was June 19 2012 and you might as well
  put it on Jenna's tombstone.
    Anyway, I solved the dilemma with some rewriting, the major change
  being that one of the characters was actually slain by the vampires.
  I also decided to use 987 to re-create the events as they happened, to
  give a better sense of realism to everything.  As an added bonus, I've
  released 986 and 987 on the same day!

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