Chapter #1102

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

+     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       +
+   1991-2022 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          +
+     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:          4/13/586 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          afternoon                                              +
+   Place:         Parekh's home (exact location unknown)                 +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "I think he might be in some kind of trouble...real trouble."         +
+   "Well, isn't he always?"                                              +
+                  - from _X-Men:  Apocalypse_                            +

                   MCII.  Mysteries and Solutions

  The party's misfortunes continue, as the return to their underground
home revealed the place completely empty, plundered by an unknown person
or persons.  After a cursory search of the vault, the elf and his team
had reached out to the most powerful allies they had...and as the others
bide their time in an adjacent chamber, Belphanior and Parekh discuss the
situation in the study of the latter.

Belphanior:  ...and that's it.  That's everything I know.  (he frowns)
  Which isn't much.
Parekh:  I see.  Fear not, I will do what I can to help with this.
Belphanior:  My thanks.  Normally I would have just used the items I had
  there to locate Neera and the others - and all of that treasure.  But
  that's the very problem...the things I need were part of that treasure,
  so they're missing.  (he slams one fist into a table, cracking the thick
Parekh:  (glares at him)  Destroying my antique furniture will not help.
Belphanior:  Err, sorry.  I'm just upset.  Aside from all that is missing,
  there's the frustration of a supposedly-secure location being somehow
  invaded, and completely emptied.  How the hell did it happen?  The damn
  place was supposed to be teleportation-proof and scry-proof.  (he looks
  around wildly)
Parekh:  From what you've told me, the enchantments in and around the
  vault were mighty indeed.  (she subtly works a minor incantation, and
  the crack in the table mends itself, closing up and vanishing)  Offhand,
  I would suggest that something was damaged...perhaps leaking magic and
  also losing potency at the same time.
Belphanior:  That's certainly possible...there was plenty of opportunity
  for such damage to happen there.  (he recalls the time that they almost
  destroyed the place while trying to leave with some of its contents)
Parekh:  (sets her jaw)  When we find Neera, we'll find the answer.
Belphanior:  But how will we-
Parekh:  Calm down.  You are not the only one with powerful magical items,
  or potent spells.  We will succeed at this.
Belphanior:  (takes a deep breath)
Parekh:  And now I must ask you to do something that will be difficult
  for you...I need you to go to the other room, with the others, and wait
  while I work.
Belphanior:  But-
Parekh:  (sternly)  I need to concentrate, to focus.  I can't do that with
  you here fussing and fretting.  Go to your companions and work out your
  plan for what to do once we find out what happened.  I need an hour or
  two here.

  It took every bit of willpower and restraint the elf possessed, but he
did as he was asked, rejoining the others in the next room.  It wasn't a
bad place to wait - there were thick couches (even one large and sturdy
enough to support the gigantic bulk of Ys) as well as a number of chairs.
Food and drink were laid out on a serving table, and the temperature was
pleasant, neither too warm or too cool.  Nevertheless, Belphanior went to
one corner of the room and took a seat, bowing his head and half-closing
his eyes.

Paige:  (frowns)  Is he okay?
Otto:  We've missed almost five years, the world's turned upside-down,
  his lair was invaded, his years' worth of treasures were taken, and his
  woman is missing.  I'd say he's pretty fucking far from okay.
Paige:  (shakes her head)  Stupid question.  Sorry.  Not sure what I was
Skektek:  I've seen him like this before...well, never quite like THIS
  before.  The best thing right now is to just leave him alone.  (he
  regards the elf, across the chamber)  And once he finds out who did
  these things, stay out of his way.  It's going to get bloody.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)  That's for damn sure.

  None of them could know exactly what was going through the elf's mind,
and no one really cared to guess.  For all they knew, he was asleep or
resting - although that seemed impossible given current circumstances.
Nevertheless, there he sat, in that chair in the corner, neither moving
nor speaking.  The others could do nothing but wait, as this was out of
their hands at the moment; they knew that when the time came, they would
be called upon to do their part.  The only sure thing was that whatever
was coming, it would be decisive...and violent.
  And so they waited, for almost three hours, although it felt like less.
Unbeknownst to all of them, part of the magic of this particular chamber
of Parekh's home was a subtle, low-level enchantment to ease worries and
calm stresses.  They each passed the time in their own ways - thinking,
reading, resting, sharpening weapons, whatever - until the sorceress
abruptly entered the room, quite obviously spent from her efforts.

Belphanior:  (on his feet in an instant)
Parekh:  (wearily)  Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
Belphanior:  Let's hear the bad news.
Parekh:  Neera and the others are nowhere on this world.
Belphanior:  (not expecting this answer)  What?
Parekh:  I've employed the most powerful scrying magic there is, which
  would have found her if she was still here.  But she's not.
Belphanior:  "She" or "they" ?
Parekh:  I will admit, I've only focused my efforts on Neera, since I
  knew - know - her.  That makes it much more accurate.  I'm operating
  under the assumption that wherever she is, the other two are as well.
  Regardless, they are apparently beyond my ability to locate...which is
  both surprising and frustrating.
Belphanior:  Right.  (he looks around grimly)  So what's the good news?
Parekh:  The good news is that we may have a way of finding her, a way
  more powerful than any magic I command.
Belphanior:  (wondering what that might be, given the power and expertise
  that he knows Parekh possesses)
Kronos:  (strides into the room, an impassive expression upon his pale
  face, and points to Belphanior)  Come with me.  (he then gestures to
  Parekh)  And you as well.
Belphanior:  (a bit surprised, he nevertheless heeds the call, turning to
  follow the lich out of the chamber)
Otto:  What the hell?  I hope this isn't a bad sign.
Belphanior:  Don't worry about that.  I'll be back shortly.  (he frowns
  to himself, muttering)  I hope.

  Kronos led the other two through the next room, and then into another,
until they were far from the which point he stopped, turning
to face Belphanior and Parekh.

Belphanior:  Why the need for secrecy?
Kronos:  I will not mince words here.  I can locate your companions, no
  matter what world or plane they are on, no matter what their condition.
Belphanior:  Okay, I'm stumped.  How?
Kronos:  There is a singular artifact, an ancient divine creation that
  predates men, elves, and everything else in this item that
  exists as a means of communication between this realm and others.  The
  number of myths and legends concerning this artifact have grown over
  time...some hold that the thing can slay the living and raise the dead,
  others claim that it can bolster the user's abilities over time.  Even
  after decades studying the thing, I cannot know all of its mysteries.
  But I do know that it can periodically seek and find anyone, at the
  behest of the one who commands it.  (he folds his robed arms)  And
  that one is me.
Parekh:  (frowns)
Belphanior:  I've seen far too many powerful magical items, and I'm no
  sage.  What exactly are you talking about here?
Kronos:  (stoically)  I speak of the Throne of the Gods.

next:       secrets of Kronos
released:   4/8/2022
notes:      I've always known, in the back of my head, that Kronos likely
  had the Throne of the Gods in his remote mountain fortress (the Black
  Crown).  I just never got a chance to point it out, or put it to use,
  until now.  The main thing I have to decide is whether it can be moved
  or not, in case something ever happens to his lair.  I imagine that the
  Throne chooses (or is assigned) a location in the world, and remains
  there until the location is destroyed, or perhaps the gods choose to
  move it.  But it wouldn't surprise me if, over the years, Kronos has
  gained enough working experience with the thing to make it move himself.
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