Chapter #1003

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                                   +   +
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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       +
+   1991-2016 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     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+   Irina          7th/14th level female human warrior/priestess          +
+   Neera          12th level female human wizard (sage/astrologer)       +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Date:          6/1/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         deep within the Griff Mountains, in northeastern Oerik +
+   Climate:       chilly                                                 +
+   "A life, some would argue, is a series of problems.  There's no       +
+    denying the truth in that - but why get lost in it?  Why not rise    +
+    above the truth...and lead a good life?  Shouldn't we all look at    +
+    problems as a chance for us to"                    +
+                                                                         +
+                                - Lex Luthor, Man of Steel #1  (2005)    +

                   MIII.  A Lich's Request

  After finding that, not unsurprisingly, almost nothing from the sky
castle survived the crash intact, the adventurers have descended from the
mountainside to discover a visitor...

Kronos:  (standing there regarding his grounded skyship)  I sincerely
  hope someone can explain this.
Belphanior:  (nonchalantly)  The purple dragon we thought we'd killed
  wasn't dead, and knocked our castle from the sky.  (he points to the
  peak-less mountain above)  Your skyship got damaged in the battle.

  The strange lich's pale white face, framed within the hood of the grey
cloak he wore, was unreadable for long moments, the red eyes gleaming as
the powerful undead archmage considered his reply.

Kronos:  Did you say...purple dragon?

  As it turned out, the lich was very much interested in hearing every
detail about the dragon, its powers, its lair, and its treasure.  While
Belphanior recounted all of that, the others went to the skyship and
cleared out their things.

Otto:  I just think this is the smart move.  That one is liable to take
  back his ship, especially now that we broke it.
Skektek:  Technically, we didn't break it.
Otto:  You want to try telling him that?
Skektek:  Point taken.


Kronos:  And that is all?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  That's it.  We got the Seeking Scroll, but not
  too much else of excessive power.
Kronos:  It is likely that the wyrm has another lair, one with much more
  treasure than that which you found already.
Belphanior:  Yeah...we were kind of thinking that ourselves.  What is it
  you know?
Kronos:  I was acquainted with another purple dragon, once...(he thinks
  for a moment)...about seventeen centuries ago.  It was not, of course,
  your Mesoloth who has caused so much trouble; the purple dragon I knew
  was elderly at the time.  They are an extremely rare breed, moreso now
  than then...almost extinct.  It is quite possible that Mesoloth was the
  last of its kind.
Belphanior:  I can't afford to feel bad.  It betrayed and then tried to
  kill us.  Twice!  (he shakes his head)  Ancient, last of its
  had to die, plain and simple.
Kronos:  Be that as it may...something valuable of mine was taken while
  I slumbered beneath the Cairn Hills for six centuries.  One of the many
  possible trails that I have pursued while looking for this item led
  to a reclusive dragon of a sort not seen in the world for ages.  That
  was the last information I was able to unearth on the matter, and to
  be sure, I had forgotten about it...until now.
Belphanior:  And that's why you're so eager to see us find the dragon's
  other lair.
Kronos:  (nods grimly)  Its true lair, I would wager.  (he pauses)  If I
  were the sort to wager.  Purple dragons favor magical items, the rarer
  and stranger, the better.  They do not collect armor and weapons, if
  you take my meaning.  And this wyrm was old indeed.  (he stares right
  at Belphanior)  In Mesoloth's lair - its actual lair, not the decoy it
  used to dupe you - you may well find items and spells unlike anything
  the world has seen in a thousand years.  I would suggest you locate
  this place, defeat whatever wards the dragon left, and unearth untold
  wonders...wonders almost beyond comprehension.
Belphanior:  Well, that's definitely on our short list of things to do.
  That is, after we find a new home base, take stock of our possessions
  to figure out what we lost here, and figure out how to secure and then
  repair the skyship.
Kronos:  I will resolve one of those issues for you.  (he turns to the
  skyship)  And your companions have had the foresight to remove their
  possessions and such, while we have been discussing things.
Belphanior:  (watching as the others now exit the vessel) 
Kronos:  This may take some time; the damage is greater than you may
  suspect, and I do you say...several other irons in the fire

  The lich strode gracefully over to his ship, and raised both hands,
chanting in some tongue that none of them had ever heard before.  A few
moments later, a large vortex opened next to the skyship, black motes
of light dancing within its unknown depths.  The ship slowly, steadily
moved toward the magical portal and gradually disappeared into it.  The
chalk-white lich drifted a few feet into the air, then floated toward
the vortex himself.

Kronos:  (turns back toward the adventurers)  Find the treasure, so that
  I may reclaim my lost possession.  In the meantime, I will repair the
  skyship for you.  (without another word, and without waiting for a
  reply, he floats into the vortex, which then disappears with a soft
  popping sound)
wispy thing:  pfsss?  (it flies around the area where the skyship had
  been resting until vanishing into the vortex)

  Only after Kronos was gone did the adventurers realize that the lich's
suggestion wasn't really a request, but more of a directive.

Skektek:  That guy creeps me out.
Hope:  He is definitely an unusual sort.  (to Belphanior)  Are we going
  to do as he said?
Belphanior:  We are.  I can't fix the skyship, and besides, it's gone
  now.  If all Kronos wants is some item from another treasure hoard -
  a hoard that will apparently be much, much greater than what we first
  got from the dragon - I can live with that.
Irina:  He took the ship.  Just...took it.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)
Irina:  Where do you think he took it?
Razor Charlie:  (shrugs)  Damned if I know.
Otto:  He sure made it look easy.
Belphanior:  It probably had something to do with the fact that his
  fortress is elsewhere within these very mountains...deeper in, and
  much higher up, but still, it wasn't a great distance.  (to Irina)
  Strange as it may seem, this sort of thing is fairly normal for our
Irina:  (nods)  In the three weeks or so since joining you, I've walked
  on a castle in the clouds, fought an ancient two-headed dragon of a
  species no one knew existed, and listened to the wisdom of what appears
  to be a rather unique lich archmage.  (she frowns)  Yeah, it's kind of
  a lot to take in, but I can handle it.
Belphanior:  Good, because we're glad to have you...and it's bound to
  get even weirder.

next:       secure lodgings, soft beds, warm meals...and inventory
released:   3/11/2016
notes:      I'm not intentionally stalling the task of determining what
  items were lost in the sky castle's fall.  I'm just cruising along
  writing these events in the order, and at the pace, that makes the
  most sense to me.  But it's time now, and it will happen in the next
    So in recent years, I'd only published a few stories a year, but
  they were much larger.  If you can't tell by now, I'm reversing that
  approach, and moving back to what worked in the beginning:  frequent
  stories of smaller size.  In the spirit of trying to see which method
  causes me to write more, here are some pertinent numbers:
    - in 2015 I wrote 4 episodes (996-999) and they totaled about 139K
    - in 2016 I've written 3 (1000-1002) in January alone totaling 73K
    - this one (1003) was the first one written in February, adding 11K

    The other reason to release more stories, more often (even if they
  are smaller in size) has much more to do with you readers than me the
  author:  it keeps readers more interested.  Very few people will want
  to follow something that only had new material every few months.  It
  doesn't work.  So the change in my approach will, hopefully, re-engage
  old readers who were frustrated with the slow pace so far in the decade
  of the 2010s.
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