Chapter #1076

previous chapter (#1075)                                                                  next chapter (#1077)





                                     +
                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic VI     +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +
                                     +



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+     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!                                          +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Daffodil       11th level human druidess of Obad-Hai                  +
+   Dervan          9th level human ranger                                +
+   Halbarad       15th level human ranger of Ehlonna                     +
+   Peyote         12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid of Obad-Hai   +
+   Relmar         18th level human high priest of Pelor                  +
+   Rillen         18th level human warrior monk                          +
+   Songa          13th level human huntress                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:          11/7/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         an undiscovered continent far to the east              +
+   Climate:       warm and dry                                           +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "All of us are born weak.  We have to learn to be strong, or we       +
+    perish.  A simple fact of life and death."                           +
+                                          - from _the Wolf's Hour_       +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   MLXXVI.  The Lost Island, Revisited





  From his perch atop the mountain ledge, the ranger surveyed the vast
basin, ringed by mountains, that had been his and his companions' home
for three months now.  Even after all that time, he was still amazed at
the wide variety of terrain within this area, shielded from the lands
outside by formidable mountain peaks, which along with the surrounding
continent were in turn shielded from the world beyond by numerous things,
physical and otherwise.  There was the thick wall of rolling mist which
stretched from the ocean waves up to the clouds far above...there was the
very water of the ocean around the huge landmass, water which slowly but
steadily destroyed wood...and there was the sheer distance - four months
of peril-fraught sailing - between the lost continent and the rest of the
known world.
  Within the gigantic natural basin were a deep, wide valley whose south
end gradually led up into the center of the area...a large hilly area to
the west...a lake, both fed and drained by rivers, which roughly bisected
the basin...a swampland beyond that body of water...and a dense woodland
past the swamp.  Aside from these topographical features, the rest of the
area within the basin was flat grasslands...a plain teeming with wildlife.



                              ___.___               .  entry from outside
                            _/;;     \_
   __                     _/   ;;;     \_           ;; valley
  |   = 1 league         /      ;;;      \
                       _/^^^     ;;;      \_        ^^ hills
                      /^^^^^^     ;;        \
                     /  ^^^^              ~~~\      ~~ river
                    |         ~~~~~   ~~~~    |
                    |       ~~~~~~~~~~       /      ~~ lake
                     \   ~~~  ~~~~~~        |
                      \_~   .........      /        .. swamp
        N               \ .............   /
       W+E               \_.########...._/          ## forest
        S                  \###########/
                             \########/



  Actually, it wasn't just the plain that teemed with wildlife - animals
could be found throughout the sprawling natural bowl within the ring of
mountain peaks.  Some areas of the plains teemed with speedy four-legged
creatures that resembled deer, although none had horns.  The hills were
frequented by packs of aggressive canines that reminded him of larger,
more aggressive hyenas.  The swamp was home to various types of snakes,
as well as small stinging insects that had to be more than just cousins
of the more familiar mosquito.  The huge freshwater lake, and to a lesser
extent the rivers on either side of it, contained unusually-shaped and
-colored fish (and probably larger things in its deeper waters).  Birds
of strange and unfamiliar plumages made their nests in the treetops of
the forest that made up the southern end of the basin.  Other, smaller
animals - resembling rabbits, mice, and so on - had been seen at times
as well.
  While this wide abundance of wildlife had been great news - as it meant
that fresh meat could be had in both quantity and variety - that news was
tempered somewhat by the presence of the larger creatures in the mountain-
ringed bowl...especially the carnivorous ones.  The largest of these, of
which there were thankfully very few, were about forty feet long from nose
to tail, and towered over twenty feet tall when standing.  Another of the
meat-eating species were about half that size, but also faster and smarter
than the larger ones.  A third such variant stood only four feet high on
average, but these hunted in packs and could quickly outnumber and devour
prey - the ranger had personally witnessed this on more than one occasion
over the last three months.

Halbarad:  (frowns to himself)

  There were, of course, a number of other species of huge monsters; most
of these were plant-eaters, and weren't dangerous unless you got in their
way.  But even those could be fierce when agitated, such as when one or
more of the carnivorous variety attacked them in hopes of having a meal.
Sometimes, such efforts were successful, with violent struggles ending in
a gory feast.  Other times - whether due to numbers or, in one case, some
strong natural armor - the herbivores were able to escape death.  All in
all, the variety of the huge beasts here, as Rillen and Songa had noted,
was much like what they'd seen while in that otherworldly realm known as
the Isle of the Ape.  One particularly amazing story from that adventure
had involved Mongo being eaten whole by a particularly large specimen...
and then cutting his way out using a battleaxe.
  Of course, that story had involved a magical weapon, and magical armor,
and magically-enhanced strength...none of which were an option on this
continent, thanks to whatever unknown but omnipresent force negated all
enchantments throughout the entire landmass.  This had been the case in
the region outside the ring of mountain ridges, and it was the case within
as well.  Without magic, the ranger and his companions had been forced to
try and learn the island's secrets with only their wits and weapons.  The
most pressing such secret, of course, was the nature of the anti-magic
barrier...what exactly was it, how exactly did it function, and could it
be disabled?  Was it generated by something, or was it a more natural and
permanent aspect of this land?  Such mysteries needed solving...but first,
the companions had found it necessary to focus all their efforts on simply
surviving.
  Shortly after they'd come through the mountain pass, and gotten through
the huge metal door, two of their number had decided to leave.  The elven
warrior/maid Leila, driven by two different needs (to warn the others from
the _Odyssey_ and to get away from the island and its anti-magic field),
had opted to challenge the mountain range that encircled the huge natural
basin.  The elf Eyer, who didn't want Leila to make that perilous journey
alone (and may have also been motivated by his growing attraction to the
bold and competent elven woman) joined her.  Thus, only a few days after
the group had entered the basin, those two had departed and the party's
number had dropped to eight:  Halbarad, the warrior couple of Rillen and
Songa, the druid couple of Peyote and Daffodil, the stout middle-aged high
priest Relmar, and Dervan and Weaver (two rangers from the _Odyssey_ who
had accompanied the group for its inland exploration).
  Dervan had been gravely wounded during the running battle through the
mountain pass, and his life had only been saved thanks to the efforts of
Relmar.  Nevertheless, he had been out of commission for almost a month,
so the group had followed Halbarad's suggestion and used the long passage
through the mountain as their initial base of operations.  Situated high
above the valley at the north end of the huge natural basin, the passage
offered excellent protection from the huge and dangerous beasts roaming
far below.  The group had used loose rocks and dirt to build a short wall
on the ledge where the passage ended; this barrier afforded some measure
of privacy, in that their fires and movements couldn't be seen from below.
A crude but functional fire-pit had been excavated inside the wall and
lined with a ring of stones.  While some worked on that, others had ranged
about the ledge area to find and gather branches and tinder, storing those
things deeper within the passage to ensure that they stayed dry.  Since
the ledge was fairly shallow (the bulk of the group's camp was actually
inside the passage itself) no flying creatures had attempted to make their
nest there, which was fortunate.
  After planning these shelter-related things and giving some instructions
about how to construct them, the rangers had left the completion of their
construction to the others and made their first foray down into the basin.
About three hundred feet below the passage and ledge was the northern end
of a wide, lush valley; this area teemed with small game, which solved the
food problem.  The various wildlife were able to avoid or outrun the huge
predators if the latter ranged into the valley, but they could be brought
down by ranged missile weapons such as Halbarad's bow.  That very first
incursion down into the valley had yielded quite a bit of fresh meat for
that night's dinner, including one of the deer-like animals and several
large rabbits.  The meat that wasn't eaten right away was dried and cured
for future use, a skill that Peyote proved particularly skilled at.  Even
better, the pair of rangers had soon found a small stream just above the
northeastern edge of the grassland overlooking the valley; this provided
a relatively close source of fresh water.
  Since hauling fresh game and refilled waterskins up a three-hundred foot
rock face was quite a bit of work, they'd quickly found ways to make it
easier on themselves.  The provisions they'd brought included quite a bit
of rope, so a couple of long, knotted ropes had been fashioned and tied
securely to iron spikes driven into the rock near the ledge.  This pair
of ropes afforded an easier way to climb from the basin floor up to their
camp (at least for any who were strong enough to pull themselves up such
a length of knotted rope) and the ropes could simply be pulled up when not
in use.  Daffodil even wove a waterproof covering of thick leaves, which
was used to keep the coiled ropes dry when they weren't in use.
  With the short-term needs of shelter, food, and water solved, the group
had turned their attention toward longer-term survival.  Since several of
them used bows, the overall shortage of arrows had been a top priority.
Already, they had taken to collecting their fired arrows to salvage for
future use, whenever possible - but they needed more.  Fortunately, these
could be fashioned with the proper raw materials (straight pieces of wood,
the right kind of stone with which to fashion sharpened arrow heads, and
feathers from birds).  Peyote had made a side comment, using his uniquely
colorful language, about the irony of needing to shoot birds in order to
be able to shoot more animals.  As all of the party's archers were quite
skilled, bringing down the flying game was no problem (and had the double
purpose of providing meat for meals).  Finding and collecting suitable
sticks and branches had required a lot of effort and patience, but within
a week the party had been able to craft several dozen functional arrows.
They also continued to remain vigilant for suitable wood to make more.
  The rangers had expanded their ventures down into the basin, gradually
exploring the more distant areas like the hills, lake, rivers, streams,
and eventually the swamp and forest on the southern end.  As Rillen had
mentioned at the outset, these forays could and would be dangerous - which
was emphatically proven on the fourth such trip.  The ranger Weaver had
accompanied Halbarad and Songa; while the trio was scouting the western
edge of the valley, one of the twenty-foot carnivorous lizards had been
lying in wait beyond a rise in the plain, and it had attacked suddenly
and viciously.  The trio had chosen to stand and fight rather than run,
which resulted in Weaver being bitten in two by the giant, scaled beast.
It also resulted in the thing being slain by a combination of arrows, a
spear to the neck, and eventually Halbarad's axe to its face...but the
cost of the victory had been too high.  Of course, without any curative
magic, there was no way to even try to heal the slain ranger; knowing
this, Halbarad and Songa had simply buried him nearby, covering the grave
with rocks.
  An unexpected side-effect of this battle had been the group getting its
first taste of dinosaur meat...which as it turned out, wasn't actually so
bad.  Halbarad had commented that it reminded him of snake meat, and Songa
had agreed.  They'd carried a large quantity of the meat back to the camp,
and transporting it up the cliff face had been a simple matter thanks to
an apparatus that Relmar had recently constructed:  a rope lift, made up
of a large and sturdy net at the end of a thick rope.  This was lowered
from the ledge above using a crude pulley system, and enabled the group
to lift larger, heavier loads up using however much muscle was necessary
and available (Peyote's eyes had widened upon his first sight of the
gigantic dinosaur haunch as five of them had pulled it up and over the
ledge, into their campsite.)
  After that day and the loss of a party member, the others knew to take
extra precautions when exploring or foraging in the basin.  They never
ventured out alone, of course, but they now knew how clever some of the
dinosaurs could be, and all natural terrain was scrutinized even more
carefully now.  The very next expedition was the one that led them to the
huge central lake for the first time; while Songa stood watch (as the body
of water was a natural place for predators to converge) Halbarad had done
some fishing, which had resulted in another new type of food for everyone
to try at suppertime.
  Meat - whether from mammal, bird, or dinosaur - wasn't the companions'
only source or type of food, though.  Daffodil had been carrying a small
supply of fruit and vegetable seeds, and over several weeks' time she had
built a small garden plot on the ledge, then planted the seeds using soil
brought to her by the rangers, during one of their trips down into the
basin.  It had been frustrating, but after several weeks of her diligent
efforts, a couple of small plants had poked their way through the soil of
the garden, and eventually the group was enjoying fresh potatoes and beans
thanks to the druidess' persistent efforts.  She also had a couple of
apple and orange trees planted, but noted that those would take longer
to bear fruit.  She'd also requested that the rangers bring her any other
sources of seeds that they might find while exploring, in case she could
grow edible food native to this area.

Halbarad:  (inhales the warm but dry mountain air, deeply)

  The air within the mountain-ringed basin was somewhat cooler than on
the outside, and nowhere near as humid - a rather pleasant change from the
often-debilitating climate they'd dealt with on their journey here.  This
made sense, at least - the peaks provided a natural barrier from the ocean
and its moisture - but other things didn't make any sense at all...such as
the lack of accumulated water or marshy terrain on the valley's floor...or
the absence of any humans within the basin...not to mention the anti-magic
effect that shrouded this entire place.  At first they'd thought it linked
to the wall of mists, out in the ocean; however, given time and estimated
"measurements" as the former spellcasters moved about, they now believed
that the powerful aura was centered somewhere within the continent, and
simply blanketed the entire landmass.  Personally, the ranger believed
that such a phenomenon had to have a cause, which meant a source...which
in turn meant that it could be found with enough time and exploration.
This had been the focus of his efforts over the last couple weeks:  he'd
slowly and carefully been surveying the edge of the basin, looking for any
signs, anything unusual or out of the ordinary...some clue inadvertently
left by whatever unknown entities had created the magic-nullifying effect
on this continent.  Whether those entities had been men, or creatures, or
perhaps gods...he had no idea.  All he knew was that there had to be some
explanation, and he was determined to find it.  This had become a sort of
challenge in his mind - and the stoic ranger had never been one to back
down from a challenge.

Halbarad:  (realizes that he's been up here on the ledge, musing, for a
  significant amount of time, and that he should soon rejoin the others
  for the party's daily planning discussion)

  This was something they'd started fairly soon after arriving in the
basin:  each morning, they got together briefly to confer about relevant
matters, everything from initiatives to ideas, food and water supplies
to explorations.  Such regular efforts had been instrumental in keeping
the group aligned toward the greater good of all, and making sure that
everyone was working as efficiently as possible.
  Soon, the seven remaining adventurers sat in a rough circle, talking
about various items of importance.  The rock around them was sparsely
dotted with dull green stones, that had at first looked like emeralds,
but most definitely weren't.  Relmar, whose many interests included the
study and collection of gemstones, had noted that these weren't of high
enough quality to have any value.  At that point, the others had lost
interest in removing them from the stone of the mountain (it was noted
that, had any thieves been present, the crude green stones might have
provided hours of ultimately fruitless work).

Songa:  Our scouting of the basin's edge continues.  Still no sign of
  anything that doesn't belong, but we're still less than one-quarter
  done with this surveying.  It's slow, tedious, and dangerous work.

  This was true; a couple of days ago, they'd had to fend off attacks
from a pack of the smaller carnivores.  These things were almost comical
in their short, stunted appearance...until a dozen of them got together
and worked in tandem.  Lesser-skilled individuals might not have survived
the fight; as it was, both Halbarad and Songa had suffered some cuts and
bruises, and had not ventured out since then, as they needed to heal.

Halbarad:  And then, as you all know, we found out that the small ones'
  meat doesn't cook as well, or taste as good, as that from the larger
  species.
Peyote:  Ugh.  You said it, dude.  It was pretty gnarly.
Relmar:  I don't disagree.  So how are your arrows coming along?
Peyote:  Splendidly.  Thanks to all the good wood and bird feathers that
  the rangers have collected out there, I've been staying busy.  Or trying
  to, at least.
Halbarad:  Don't sell yourself short, old friend.  You've done your part
  in the forays, too.

  This was true.  While only the rangers (though never all of them) went
on the longer-range missions, sometimes they would take one of the others
for the more limited forays into the basin.  The only real qualification
was that anyone doing so needed to be able to get themselves up one of the
knotted ropes, and almost all of them could.  Anyhow, Peyote had a solid
combination of fighting ability, skill with a bow, and woodcraft; aside
from being able to take down game of both the four-legged and the winged
kinds, the half-elf knew about different plants and herbs.  He could make
good, educated guesses about which ones might help heal wounds, which ones
were edible, and so on.  The only real issue was keeping him from trying
some of them himself.

Daffodil:  The trees are coming along nicely, and I hope to have some
  fruit for us to eat before the cold weather comes.  If it even comes
  at all here, which it may not due to the unusual nature of this basin,
  the continent's location in the world, and such factors.

Dervan:  I've made some larger pots, using the little ones we crafted from
  mud and leaves, so that we can collect more rainwater.  I've also made
  progress on building crude defenses, just in case anyone ever shows up
  and tries to climb up here.  The edge of the ledge is lined with sharp
  sticks, and we've got small piles of rocks spaced throughout for quick,
  easy missile weapons in case we can't use our bows, or don't want to
  waste arrows.
Halbarad:  Good work.  (to Rillen)  How about you?
Rillen:  Honestly, I'm growing tired of collecting wood for fires, or
  shooting down birds for food and feathers, or clearing small boulders,
  or any other such thing.  (he frowns)  I'd like to join you for more of
  the explorations down there.  I'm a warrior, and so I fight.  That's my
  profession.

  To be sure, the big warrior was having the hardest time of any of the
group - because he wasn't a ranger, or a druid, nor did he have knowledge
of herbs, plants, or animals.  As he'd just said, he was a fighter, and
would be at his most useful when fighting.  Given the absence of regular
battle, he had grown bored and restless.  He'd channeled his energy into
regular practice to stay strong and fit, which included daily practice
with his quarterstaff, a thorough stretching regimen, and activities like
climbing the knotted ropes just for exercise - which he did several times
a day.  Rillen was undoubtedly in the best condition of his life right
now:  lean, powerful, and dangerously quick.

Halbarad:  Not a problem.  We can use your bow, and your staff, as we
  range farther and farther out.  You'll now accompany those groups more
  often.
Rillen:  (nods, pleased)
Halbarad:  Things have gone well.  I know that we lost Weaver, and that
  we also have no idea whether Leila and Eyer made it out or not, nor do
  we know how Kiel, Og, and the others are doing in their fort near the
  beach.  And we haven't solved the mystery of the magic-nullifying effect
  yet.  But all in all, we've done a damn good job of surviving and even
  thriving here.





next:       a new idea
www:        http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:   http://www.peldor.com/
email:      tmiller@peldor.com
released:   5/28/2021
notes:      For this one, I had to catch up, completely.  Since I did all
  the footwork on that, here's the Cliff's Notes version for anyone who
  needs it:

  episode   release date    Oerth date    recap
  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
  813       3/26/04         3/1/580 C.Y.  the _Odyssey_ is completed
  814       4/2/04          3/8/580       departure, two battles
  815       4/9/04          4/14/580      mega-shark
  838       9/17/04         5/9/580       into the unknown, threat
  839       9/24/04         5/9/580       magical battle at sea
  840       10/1/04         5/9/580       repelling boarders
  851       12/17/04        5/17/580      repairs, interrogation
  852       12/24/04        5/21/580      storm, recovery
  853       12/31/04        5/22/580      avoiding the maelstrom
  854       1/7/05          6/7/580       graveyard of ships
  855       1/14/05         6/7/580       fish-men attack
  856       1/21/05         6/7/580       battle, mop-up
  857       1/28/05         6/15/580      cartographical discussion
  858       2/4/05          6/15/580      island of walking plants
  859       2/11/05         6/15/580      battle, the island's secret
  876       6/10/05         7/2/580       heat and humidity suck
  877       6/17/05         7/4/580       wall of mists, anti-magic
  878       6/24/05         7/4/580       through the wall of mists
  879       7/1/05          7/4/580       land ho, major problem
  880       7/8/05          7/4/580       voyage's end
  914       4/7/06          7/5/580       reassessment, planning
  915       4/14/06         7/11/580      tasks, progress
  916       4/21/06         7/14/580      more progress, a mission
  917       4/28/06         7/15/580      expedition begins
  918       5/5/06          7/15/580      expedition in jungle
  935       9/1/06          7/18/580      chase
  936       9/8/06          7/18/580      capture of a native
  937       9/15/06         7/20/580      dialogue
  938       9/22/06         7/22/580      the native's problem
  939       9/29/06         7/25/580      ambush, battle
  948       12/1/06         7/26/580      seeking the enemy
  949       12/8/06         7/26/580      cannibal village battle
  950       12/15/06        7/26/580      mountain pass battle
  977       7/16/10         8/1/580       Eyer and Leila escape the isle
 1076       5/28/21         11/7/580      (HERE, NOW)
  975                       2/3/581       Eyer helps vs the 7 Sleepers
 1075                       7/3/581       (Belphanior's group, in future)

  So, yeah...it's been OVER TEN YEARS since I dealt with this group on
the island.  (I know it looks like almost 11, but I actually wrote this
episode on 1/3/2021.)  Any way you slice it, this is too long to forget
about an entire adventuring party...although it wasn't as much that I
forgot as that I just enjoy writing Belphanior's party more.  And also
in my defense...way back in episode 950, I was planning to stop writing
for good at 1000, and with that in mind, I'd written this:  "I really do
prefer to leave it open-ended like this - that way, there are numerous
possibilities (only limited by your imagination) about what lies ahead
on this continent for the explorers."  I actually never intended to
continue this arc, but now it must happen, so here we are.  This is
actually one of the cool things about writing...I have to work myself
out of dead-ends, logic mistakes, earlier decisions, and other such
challenges.  Usually it's pretty fun!
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



previous chapter (#1075)                                                                  next chapter (#1077)