Chapter #1011

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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          +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Date:          unknown                                                +
+   Time:          unknown                                                +
+   Place:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       chilly                                                 +
+   "I've come to warn're in great danger."                     +
+   "I usually am."                                                       +
+            - Andrea and Bond, from _The Man With the Golden Gun_, 1974  +

                   MXI.  Dark Horizons

  Belphanior had surely experienced some strange dreams in his time, but
the recent assault on his subconscious was the strongest ever.  It hadn't
been one single dream, but rather several of them, ranging from bizarre
to downright horrific.  The worst part was that he couldn't remember much
about any of the interlaced dreams, just that they'd been as vivid as they
were unpleasant.
  The elf's next thought involved something cool on one side of his face.
For a few moments, he pondered this...and then he opened his eyes.

Belphanior:  (blinks his left eye repeatedly)

  The elf realized that the unusual cool feeling on his face was actually
a breeze blowing past his eye socket...his empty right eye socket.

Belphanior:  (runs his fingers across his face, confirming the missing
  crystal eye)  What?

  To be sure, he had been without that eye twice before in his life, but
never for very long.  Right now, there was a definite sense of something
missing...not just the empty socket, but also the sudden lack of all the
enhanced magical senses that the crystal eye had provided.  With a start,
Belphanior realized that his eye wasn't the only familiar thing missing.
Checking his hip, he found that Blackrazor was absent - along with the
constant, telepathic murmuring that often helped drive its master into
  Then, with an even greater start, he realized that _none_ of his items
were on his weapons, no armor, no belt, no boots, no cloak,
no pouches...nothing!

Belphanior:  (sits up suddenly)  What the hell is going on?

  It all came back to him now:  the great burst of magical energy, so
bright that it had bombarded his senses despite his eyes being closed.
He briefly wondered if he had perished and was about to enter some sort
of afterlife, devoid of all his former belongings as he faced whatever
higher power awaited him.  But then he realized that wherever he was, he
wasn't alone...and as far as he knew, groups of people didn't all meet
their maker together.

Otto:  (stands, shakily)  I someone beat the shit out of me
  with clubs.  (he quickly frowns)  And if that wasn't bad enough, I've
  been robbed!
Skektek:  You've been robbed?!?  I don't even have my robes, much less
  my items and spellbooks!  (garbed in little more than underclothes, he
  attempts to stand, but can't muster the strength)  Urgh.
Razor Charlie:  (already on his feet, he grabs the wizard, preventing
  him from face-planting on the grassy plain)  Hm.  (he looks around at
  the wilderness that surrounds them, grimacing)
Hope:  (like Skektek, she finds herself devoid of her robe, although her
  undergarments are of finer quality, and apparently cleaner)  Ack.
Irina:  (clad in a sleeveless undershirt, she flexes her lean, muscular
  arms and shoulders)  My damn chain mail is gone.  (more worried about
  the missing armor than her modesty, she stares up at the dark gray sky)
  Where are we?
Razor Charlie:  Not where we were, that's for damn sure.

  They were in the middle of a barren plain which stretched as far as the
eye could see, in all directions.  The thin grass was less than a foot
high and didn't appear very healthy, its pallid color more brown than
green.  Here and there, small gnarled bushes dotted the plain, and the
occasional tree was scattered across the landscape.  The nearest of these
was a short walk from the group's current location, and was short, squat,
and devoid of leaves.

Otto:  I'm sure the rest of you are aware of this, but Ys and Mongo and
  Neera aren't here.
Skektek:  Or that wispy thing.
Belphanior:  (confused and concerned, he shakes his head)  This reminds
  me of that one time we got zapped by weird magic and I ended up in a
  prisoner cart.  (he looks around, trying to get used to only having one
  eye's worth of vision)  Except this is worse.
Skektek:  What the hell happened?  I mean, obviously we got zapped by
  weird magic again, and ended up somewhere else again.
Hope:  (checking her possessions)  Well, I have a theory.
Belphanior:  Let's hear it.
Hope:  For me - I mean, as I take account of my possessions here - it's
  apparent that only the _magical_ items are missing.  The rest is still and drink, parchment, ink.  (she frowns)  No spellbook.
Belphanior:  (starts checking his own things)  Damn.

  Collectively, they quickly determined that the sorceress was correct.
Everything magical, even potions and spellbooks, was gone.  And it wasn't
like someone had searched each person and taken things...but rather that
those things simply hadn't made the journey with them, to wherever they
now stood.

Belphanior:  It stands to reason that the magical blast in the library
  somehow transported us here, while transporting our magical belongings
Hope:  Or simply keeping them there, in the library.
Belphanior:  Good point.  Anyway, I think that's _what_ happened, but I
  couldn't say _why_ it happened.
Otto:  Seems like right now, we need to focus on what we do have...and
  how to get back.

  The news wasn't good.  Belphanior hadn't carried any non-enchanted
weapons, and was now effectively unarmed.  Worse, his depth perception
was off due to the missing eye; although made of magical crystal, it had
simulated the functions of a normal eye, and the now-empty eye socket
would take some getting used to.

Irina:  I know what you're going through - I've been there.  And I can
  help you learn to fight with just one eye.  But for now, take this.
  (she hands him a hastily-improvised eyepatch) 
Belphanior:  Thanks.

  Otto was perhaps the best-equipped of them all, for he had numerous
vials of poison, a half-dozen silver crossbow bolts (not the ones that
had been blessed by a priest, which were gone) and several bottles of
holy water.  Razor Charlie was pleased to find that he still had the
dozen finely-crafted silver throwing knives that he carried; being
non-magical, these hadn't fallen victim to whatever effect stripped him
and the others of their enchanted items.
  Of course, no one wore armor now, and Skektek and Hope, in addition
to lacking spellbooks and weapons, were more or less in their underwear
at the moment.

Skektek:  (leers at her)  It's a little chilly out today...
Hope:  (smirks)  At least mine's clean.
Irina:  (silently produces a plain robe from her backpack and hands it
  to Hope)
Hope:  Much appreciated.
Skektek:  Hey!

  The banter was interrupted by the distant howl of a wolf...which was
immediately answered by the howls of other wolves, which weren't quite
so distant.

Otto:  Well, that's not good.

next:       fighting for their lives
released:   10/7/2016
notes:      After a damn strong start to 2016's writing (ten stories
  written between the start of January and the end of May) I slacked off
  big-time and now it's September.  That's right, no writing happened in
  the span between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  I've given an explanation
  in a previous post on the website, but I'll emphasize two elements of
  that again now:

    1)  In recent months, I've experienced a renewed passion for physical
        activity (exercise and softball.)  The former has been for me to
        add some muscle and lean up, and it worked, but it took a lot of
        work and focus, which were borrowed from other things like my
        writing.  The latter has been nothing more than a steady drive
        to reach 3000 career hits, which I did on Tuesday 8/30/16 with
        a booming triple over an outfielder.  A lot of people ask me if
        I'm going to retire now (not necessarily, though I'll cut back
        some) or if I plan to get to 4000 (highly doubtful.)  If there's
        one thing that getting 3000 hits (which also meant playing in
        over 1700 games, or stepping up to the plate over 5500 times,
        or scoring over 1700 runs) qualifies me to tell you, it's this:
        you can't play that much over twenty years without wearing down
        your body.  Besides, my focus is shifting to overall fitness as
        opposed to softball fitness.

    2)  Work has been draining my soul.  For the last few months (and I
        never do well in the hot humid weather anyway) I've literally
        gotten to work every day and thought "man, I really don't want
        to be here" and then when I got home I've thought "man, I really
        don't feel like doing anything because work wore me out."  The
        weekdays always seemed to drag on forever, while the weekends
        always seemed to go by far too fast.  It may sound like my job
        was absolute hell, which of course wasn't the case; it was just
        typically filled with copious amounts of useless or lazy people,
        politics, red tape, and other bullshit.  No need to get into it
        much more here, because you never know who's reading this, but I
        will say that it's possible that "change management" is really
        just a term people throw around when they want to cover up their
        bad decisions.  I'll also add that no matter how long you remain
        at a job, sooner or later you will realize that you're getting
        older, the workforce is getting younger, and less and less people
        actually care about doing the right thing for the right reasons.

    So #1 is a positive thing, one I've used as my primary means of coping
  with #2 (pun intended) which is most definitely an obstacle in my life.
  I've come through a rough summer and I think my work-life balance is
  finally back in proper order.  The fact that you're finally seeing this
  episode, four months later than it should have appeared, is evidence of

    There's also a #3.  The plot arc that begins with this episode needs
  to read a certain way, and have a certain tone.  Setting that tone from
  the beginning is critical, and so (in my eyes) this particular episode
  had to be perfect.  I actually had it finished last month, but then lost
  steam for a bit before cleaning it up and publishing it in October.
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