Chapter #1092

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      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!                                          +
+   Belphanior     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+     Poulos        8th level human warrior                               +
+   Irina          14th/7th level female human priestess/warrior          +
+   Neera          12th level female human wizard (sage/astrologer)       +
+     Arusha        5th level human female wizard/alchemist               +
+     Judhon        7th level gnomish illusionist                         +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Paige          13th level human female warrior                        +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   Date:          7/17/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          afternoon                                              +
+   Place:         a vault within the northeastern Yatil Mountains        +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "How can you be doing all this...I don't understand."                 +
+   "Sometimes, neither do I."                                            +
+                  - from _The Equalizer_ episode 1.13, _Back Home_       +

                   MXCII.  Short-Term Decisions

  Two weeks have passed since the group reorganized their magical items
into a community hoard (or perhaps more accurately, a community armory).

Belphanior:  (rubbing his temples)

  The elf was stressed, but at the same time, a lot had been accomplished
after that first huge step.  First and foremost, the group had decided to
reside in the vault for the short term.  It had several major advantages
(its remote location, its natural and magical protections against scrying
and intrusion, and perhaps most importantly, the colossal amount of magic
already stored there).  On the flip side, although it had several useful
properties that made it easy to live in (enchanted measures against fires
being lit within, self-repair and -cleaning measures, the table that made
food and drink, the wardrobe that created garments, the basin that washed
them) most of those worked best if the place had a sole occupant, or at
most a few.  With twelve people living there, things got crowded fast.
  In addition to this, the place wasn't suited for laboratory work, and
those not used to living underground - which was pretty much everyone -
would never be comfortable for long within the subterranean chamber.  The
majority of the group did not wield sufficient magic to bypass the thick
mass of stone that sealed the place from the outside, which made them more
than a little uneasy, and often bored.  As Otto had noted, it was akin to
living inside a gigantic and very secure safe.
  However, there were things that could be done to make the vault better
for those within.  First and foremost, some detailed analysis and scrying
had revealed the fact that the dragon's magical wards didn't just extend
to the vault itself, but to some of the surrounding rock.  The overall
area covered by the protective enchantments was spherical in shape, and
centered in the middle of the vault's third floor.
This meant that the place could be expanded, a capability which would have
benefited its original draconian owner as new treasures were gained and
brought into the vault.  After the shape and extent of the protected area
were discerned, it was decided to add some chambers on the topmost level,
on the walls between the sitting room and the stairways up and down.

             ____//  \\____                  <--- sitting room
        ____|  __________  |____
       |____  |          |  ____|   <-
        ____| |          | |____.      \
       |____  |   open   |  ____|   <---\
        ____| |   space  | |____.        \
       |____  |          |  ____|   <----->  <--- NEW CHAMBERS (10)
        ____| |          | |____.        /
       |____  |          |  ____|   <---/
            | |_________@| |____       /     <--- spiral staircase down
           / _____ ______   ____|   <-
          / /    //      | |          |
          \ \    \\/\    | |        <-
           \ \    \_/    |_|

            ^      ^
             \      \_______________________ chamberpot room
               \____________________________ stairs up to entrance

  These ten new areas were excavated using disintegration magic for the
rough digging, followed by some more skilled stonework courtesy of Judhon.
Not only did the old gnome have experience with both magical and physical
labor of this sort, but he was tireless, often working long days so that
the project would be finished sooner.  And his work was quite marvelous.
Each of these additional chambers was about ten feet wide and thirty deep,
providing simple but private living quarters for each member of the group
save Belphanior and Neera, who chose to reside in the dragon's former
chambers.  The elf recalled his words to the others as this project had
been completed.

  Belphanior:  I know this isn't ideal, and I'm working on a plan for
    something better, but for now please bear with me.  Gods willing,
    this will only be our home for a short time.

  More than that, the elf had not said, leaving even Otto to wonder what
their leader was planning.  There were some other comforts and necessities
that had quickly been taken care of.  Light was provided by magical means,
which could simply be covered up when one wished to sleep.  As bathing was
impossible in this environment, another means of staying clean was needed;
Neera had solved this with a spell found while perusing the numerous old
tomes in the library.  The relatively benign incantation had the effect
of a long and thorough bath for its target; while this waterless cleansing
took some getting used to, no one could deny that it worked, or that they
felt a lot better afterward.
  The issue of chamberpots and waste was more difficult, so another new
area had been excavated, as far from the living quarters as possible.  A
community latrine, this chamber's odors were kept from entering the main
vault by means of a spell, while its contents were disposed of daily by
means of another spell.  These were simple but ingenious solutions to real
problems, and Belphanior silently thanked the gods that his team contained
a number of skilled and resourceful spellcasters.  They deserved better
than this, and if his gradually-developing plans worked out, they would
one day have it.
  They had also taken several initiatives pertaining to the vast hoard of
magical items that shared the vault with them.  First, all items with any
sort of healing or curative properties were identified and separated out
so that they were easily accessible by anyone who might suddenly need one.
Second, a list was made, containing all of the items that bore further
analysis and testing.  Neera had made a great start on identifying as much
as she could, but more work would be needed in that area.  Third, one of
the more powerful items that the group had been carrying around for years
(without ever actually using it) was finally employed to useful effect.
In the sky castle, they had found and taken a primitive totem of sculpted
wood which bore a potent enchantment indeed:  it would utterly destroy any
cursed item it came into contact with.  Given that there were a number of
such objects in the vault (both from Mesoloth's collecting habit and from
the adventurers' past acquisitions) it seemed prudent to destroy most of
these cursed magical things...and so they did.  A baker's dozen of such
items were dealt with in this manner:

     (third floor)
           (CURSED) book that compels the reader to continue reading,
              and drives them insane over time
           (CURSED) iron scroll tube, will shred any paper put inside)

     (first floor)
           (CURSED) plate mail -1
           (CURSED) Helm of Blindness
           (CURSED) Helm of Opposite Alignment
           (CURSED) spear, Cursed Backbiter
           (CURSED) Gauntlets of Fumbling
           (CURSED) Manacle Gauntlets (entrap anyone who puts both on)
           (CURSED) Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity
           (CURSED) Boots of Dancing
           (CURSED) Bag of Devouring
           (CURSED) human skull, sealed within a glasteel case

     (acquired via donations from the party)
           Skull of Trakos [from armory gateway] (cursed great horned
              helm; Feebleminds anyone who puts it on, no save)

  At first, several of the group questioned whether the weird totem would
actually function as Neera thought it would.  All such doubts were put to
rest during the first such test, on one of the smaller cursed items.  The
instant the totem was touched to the dancing boots, the latter shriveled
and decayed - the magical fabric first losing its suppleness, then growing
tough and leathery, then cracking and falling apart, and finally crumbling
into dust.  Other items experienced similar decay, the metal and wooden
items ending up as piles of fine powder.  All in all, it was impressive,
and Belphanior was glad to know that he had access to such a powerful item
with a useful purpose.  He had considered keeping a couple of the cursed
items - the bag of devouring came to mind - but ultimately decided to just
be rid of anything cursed.  It hadn't taken long, and after all of those
items were destroyed, the entire party found that they felt better for
having done so.

  The next order of business had been to determine which party members got
which magical items from the community armory.  Most of them were set for
any normal activities - although they could always take items as needed,
before a particular adventure or mission - with a couple of exceptions for
the party's wizards.  Skektek and Hope both wielded a variety of powerful
and useful spells, but it made sense for them to have backup options for
those times when spells were not possible or took too long.  Thus, Hope
was issued the wands of conjuration and illumination on a permanent basis,
and similarly Skektek was issued the wands of fire and frost.  These items
could only help the party in any combat (or other situations) it came up
against in the future.

  With all of that out of the way, the group could live and work in some
modicum of comfort.  The next order of business would be to determine what
tasks each of the adventurers needed to deal with - including Belphanior
and his as-yet-unrevealed master plan for the future of the group.  There
were also a number of loose ends to be tied up, first and foremost of which
involved a journey to the Corusk Mountains, in the frozen northeastern land
halfway across the continent.  Belphanior had matters to discuss with the
lich Kronos, and wanted to get that done with before starting his various
other initiatives.

next:       Belphanior and Neera sort out some things
released:   9/17/2021
notes:      The list of loose ends and unanswered questions has once again
  become incredibly long and complicated.  I sometimes discover that I've
  already addressed some things, even if I sit here in 2021 unaware of it.
  This is the problem with a huge, long-running, sprawling body of work.
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