Chapter #1071

previous chapter (#1070)                                                                  next chapter (#1072)

                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      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       +
+   1991-2021 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                         +
+     Poulos        8th level human warrior (currently weakened)          +
+   Irina          14th/7th level female human priestess/warrior          +
+   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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Arusha          5th level human female wizard/alchemist               +
+   Judhon          7th level gnomish illusionist                         +
+   Paige          13th level human female warrior                        +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven fighter                             +
+   Pallin         18th level grey elven wizard of Celestian              +
+   Parekh         18th level female human wizard, innovator              +
+   Date:          7/1/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         Parekh's home (exact location unknown)                 +
+   Climate:       pleasant                                               +
+   "When's the last time anything went according to plan?"               +
+   "I don't think there was a last time."                                +
+                  - from _Legends of Tomorrow_ episode _Last Refuge_     +

                   MLXXI.  Wrapping Up

  After nearly a month in a strange otherworldly realm, Belphanior and his
companions - old and new - have finally returned to Oerth.  A couple of
hours later, after several necessities have been taken care of, the group
now sits in the large dining hall within Parekh's home.  Here, they enjoy
a great feast while catching up and sharing stories...

Neera:  -and I knew I needed as much expertise as I could get, thus my
  decision to enlist the aid of others.
Belphanior:  (nods to Pallin)  My thanks.  (he regards Neera, who not only
  appears exhausted but also has a newly-gray streak amidst her dark hair)
  And my thanks to you as well.  I can't even imagine the effort that was
  necessary for this.
Neera:  (just smiles)  At least it was successful.  I can rest now.
Belphanior:  You need to.  (he surveys the spacious chamber)

  Those gathered here were seated around three different tables; the first
held Belphanior, Neera, Parekh, Pallin, and Irina while Hope, Poulos, Ys,
Skektek, and Paige occupied the second.  Around the third table sat Otto,
Mongo, Judhon, Arusha, and Razor Charlie.  It occurred to Belphanior that
perhaps these groupings weren't the most ideal for encouraging engaging
conversations...but it wasn't like he was going to have assigned seating
for everyone.

Belphanior:  (sighs, turning back to those at his own table, specifically
  Parekh)  And thank you, also, for the accommodations here.  All of us
  needed baths and clean clothing.
Parekh:  It was no problem - attending to all of that was trivial, and
  done with what I call "luxury spells"...the kind of magic that enchants
  a tub to provide a hot bath, or conjures up clothing that fits perfectly
  every time...or creates fine food and drink, for that matter.
Belphanior:  I see.  (he frowns)  Where's Drak?
Parekh:  Busy in his new forge.  (she shrugs)  He's recently taken up the
  art of blacksmithing, and was making a shield, I think.  He may join us
Belphanior:  Ah.  (he gazes around the dining hall, and all of those now
  gathered here)

  The elf once more had his crystal eye in place, filling the previously-
empty socket.  Neera had specifically brought this item - along with the
Eye of Celestian and the Loom of Ages - because she knew which items were
most precious to the elf.  Of course, she'd specifically left Blackrazor
behind due to its current agitated state; a weapon that was hungry for
souls was best left behind during a gathering of friends and allies.  The
dark blade would have to be dealt with on the morrow, upon their return
to the underground vault.

Belphanior:  (to Pallin)  So what was the story with that other realm we
  were trapped in?  And how did you manage to find us just as we were
  attempting our escape?
Neera:  We'd been watching you for several days.  I tried to communicate
  at one point, when you first arrived in the vampire's land, but that
  effort backfired, in that it drew the attention of the powers that rule
  that entire realm.  That was when I sought Pallin's help.
Pallin:  By using the mirror that Neera brought, its powers both protected
  and bolstered by spells and other magic, we were able to continue to
  view events on your side with a greater measure of safety.  Neera was
  quite lucky that the other realm's dark powers didn't retaliate for her
  brief intrusion.
Neera:  (shudders at the thought)
Irina:  So you were watching us, and when we opened the portal from our
Pallin:  (nods)  We then opened a corresponding portal from our side,
  augmenting yours.
Belphanior:  Ah.
Parekh:  As has been said, think of it this way...the boundaries between
  worlds are a bit thinner in some places.  The vampire's tower was such
  a place.
Neera:  A good analogy might be fishing, if you could somehow make the
  water completely transparent for a brief time, increasing the chances
  of actually catching the fish.
Parekh:  Actually, there's a spell for that...
Belphanior:  I get it.  That comparison makes sense.
Neera:  It also helped that we generated a relatively small portal, and
  didn't keep it open for long.  Time really was short - for a moment or
  two, we thought not all of you would make it.
Belphanior:  (eyes the other tables, particularly the third one which has
  those not native to Oerth, and wonders what they might be talking about)

Mongo:  Werewolf, huh?
Otto:  (shrugs)  It is what it is.  Honestly, I was more concerned that
  I was naked and unarmed when I changed back, right after we got here.
  But overall, I don't much care.  Hell, if anything, it gives me more of
  an advantage in combat...once I learn to control it.  That's something
  I'll need to look into in the days ahead.
Mongo:  I heard one of them talking about how you might not even change
  anymore, since you got bit by a werewolf on a different world that had
  three moons.  (he frowns)  Is that true?
Otto:  Probably.  Guess we'll see.  I'm hoping that all the really smart
  minds around here can help me out with all this.  (he nods to Arusha)
Arusha:  (pokes at her food, saying nothing)
Mongo:  (pours a mug of ale, and pushes it over to her)  Are you okay?
Arusha:  (puts her fork down, and sighs)  No, not really.
Otto:  We made it out alive, and the vampire's destroyed.  Are you upset
  about your ancestor the high priest not making it?
Arusha:  (angrily)  Not at all.  I wasn't close to him, and he had nearly
  as much to answer for as Marek.  Some would say that he got exactly what
  he deserved in the end.  (she frowns)  No, I'm bothered that I'm now on
  a completely different world from my own, and probably can't go back.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)
Mongo:  Why would you want to go back?  Or be there in the first place?
  From what I've heard so far, since all of you came back, it was a grim
Arusha:  Was.  It _was_ a grim place.  Now, with the vampire gone, it may
  be a much better place.  (she sighs)  But I'll never know.
Otto:  The castle was falling down around us, and we had to leave in one
  hell of a hurry.  The choices were simple:  take you with us, in which
  case you'd live...or leave you behind, in which case you'd be buried in
  the rubble, little more than a mangled mess of blood and guts.  It's
  just that simple.
Arusha:  (considers this)  Hmm.
Otto:  And I'll tell you something else:  if that entire realm really is
  under the control of some kind of weird, dark, old gods like I keep
  hearing...then little or nothing is going to change there.  They'll see
  to it that someone else assumes power...someone just as bad, or maybe
Arusha:  Those in Holmburg are good people.  They deserve help.  And I've
  abandoned them.
Mongo:  No, you didn't.  It wasn't your choice.  Blame Belphanior, if you
  need to blame someone - but you shouldn't have any guilt over this.
Otto:  (nods)  Plus, had you stayed behind, you'd be dead, and whatever
  happens to the town in the future would still happen - without you.  I
  don't see how this is that complicated.
Razor Charlie:  (drains his mug, nodding)  Damn right.
Otto:  (to Judhon)  What about you?  Are you upset about leaving that
  world behind?
Judhon:  (shrugs)  I'm fine.  Unlike others, I was awake, and made my own
  choice.  Not to mention that I had no reason to want to stay there.  (to
  Arusha)  What they have said is true - there was no choice and nothing
  would have been different had you remained.
Arusha:  (holds up her hands)  Okay, okay.  I get it.  No use crying over
  spilt milk, as they say.  (she sighs, then turns to Otto)  I have some
  knowledge of lycanthropy, and-  (nods in the direction of Belphanior's
  table)  -I've a feeling that I can get a lot more.  I'll do some reading
  and research, and see what I can find that will help you.
Otto:  Thanks.
Arusha:  And I'll adapt to being on a new world.  Honestly, from what I've
  seen so far, it seems like a good place.  (to Mongo)  Thank you for your
  support and words.  (she pours herself a glass of wine, and raises it to
  her tablemates)  To new friends.
Judhon:  (raises his own glass)  Aye.

  Meanwhile, at the other table, the unusual mix of warriors and wizards
were having a merry time...

Hope:  -so then he bit me...and it hurt him.
Ys:  Hah!
Hope:  I know!
Paige:  It was a hell of a couple days.  (she frowns)  Hell of a week,
  now that I think about it.
Skektek:  Hell of a _month_ for some of us.
Paige:  Relax, it's not a contest.
Hope:  (to Poulos)  Fear not, my friend.  Tomorrow, when Irina has had
  time to recover her abilities, she will undo what Marek did, restoring
  your depleted life force.
Poulos:  (nods gratefully)  And yet again, you will have my thanks, and
  my gratitude.
Skektek:  (still musing to himself)  Werewolves, contagious flesh-eating
  zombies, vampires...who knows what else we'd have encountered, if we'd
  stayed there.
Ys:  All in all, it does sound like a true realm of horrors.
Hope:  I'm sure we've all seen stranger things.  I mean, look at us all.
  (she gestures with her hands, all around the room)  Among other things,
  we've got me, a former vampire...we've got a werewolf...a giant lizard- equally giant warrior who's proven brave, loyal, and fearsome
  in battle...a genius savant, and another who might be since she taught
  herself spellcraft with no formal training whatsoever...a priestess of
  the goddess of fate, who can also fight with the best of them...a gnome
  who survived two decades in the service of a wizard who's
  invented a spellbook's worth of new spells...another wizard who's damn
  near mastered spatial travel...a third who's made an art form out of
  destroying things with fire and lightning...a warrior who can thread a
  needle with a thrown knife...a warrior-woman from another world who
  fights with the skill and courage of any five typical men...a dwarf who
  can demolish a building with a single blow...and our leader, the single
  most ambitious and dangerous person I've ever known.  (she frowns)  Did
  I miss anyone?
Ys:  (impressed)  I think that just about covered it.
Paige:  Impressive speech.  (she drains her goblet, then refills it)  And
  an accurate one.  I think I'm going to like this land.
Ys:  One thing is is never boring with this group.  (he
  leans back, causing his oversized chair to creak)
Poulos:  (realizes that he's no longer the biggest, strongest individual
  in the room, but then recalls the debt he feels that he owes to Hope,
  and decides that he can only do his best to be worthy)

  Back at the first table, that group was discussing a potential loose
end from the earlier events...

Pallin:  I'd postulate that we must all be extra cautious now and in the
  future, with any planar travel.  We will only outwit that realm's lords
  once.  They could well be watching, and waiting, for another chance to
  ensnare you, or us.  (he makes a mental note to research this further,
  in order to find ways to better protect himself while traversing worlds)
Parekh:  Although, using the Eye of Celestian, you're probably safe, as it
  is a divine artifact.  The greater risk probably comes from spell use,
  particularly if the right precautions aren't taken.  Just be careful.
Belphanior:  I certainly will.
Irina:  I'll soon commune with Istus, and learn what more I can from her
  regarding all of this.
Neera:  (nods)  It's wise for us - all of us - to employ every means and
  measure at our disposal to educate and protect ourselves.
Parekh:  (to Belphanior)  What are you going to do about your eye?
Belphanior:  I'll be fine.  It's...complicated.
Parekh:  (having noticed that many of the group lack the magical weapons
  and other items that she's seen them with in the past, she has a pretty
  good general idea of what happened, but decides not to push the line of
  questioning any further)  Very well.  Just let us know if we can help
  further.  How long will you stay?
Belphanior:  I'd like to give everyone a chance to rest up, and restock
  some supplies.  Although it's midday here, it was nighttime in the other
  realm, and most of us didn't sleep much last night.
Parekh:  Excellent.  I've already taken the liberty of preparing chambers
  for each of you.
Irina:  (wondering when exactly Parekh had time to do that, since there
  has been no sign of servants...which leads to her wondering just how
  powerful the other woman is)
Neera:  (to Parekh)  As always, many thanks for your hospitality.
Belphanior:  Indeed.  It is much appreciated.  (he realizes that he needs
  to talk to Neera as soon as is reasonable, about the huge trove of magic
  treasure that presumably lies unguarded, right now, in Mesoloth's vault)
Irina:  (actually just thinking the same thing, she decides to let the elf
  handle it, as he surely will in due course)

  As the feast wound down, the adventurers who'd come from the other
world - who were all either exhausted, wounded to some extent, or had
recently experienced some sort of traumatically stressful event - found
themselves ready to turn in and get a long night's worth of safe, sound,
deep sleep.  And for the first time in weeks, that was actually possible
tonight.  And so they soon retired for the night, knowing that tomorrow
would bring more answers, and perhaps more questions.

next:       wrapping up the wrap-up
released:   4/23/2021
notes:      This was part one of the wrap-up, dealing with the various
  mechanics of their return, plus any outstanding personnel issues.  The
  next episode will be part two, which is strategic issues having to do
  with Mesoloth's lair, all the items within, plus the ones they brought
  back to Oerth.
previous chapter (#1070)                                                                  next chapter (#1072)