Chapter #1119

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                                   +   +
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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       +
+   1991-2022 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'S TEAM                                                     +
+                                                                         +
+   Belphanior     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Neera          12th level female human wizard (sage/astrologer)       +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   THE CABAL                                                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level dark elven wizard                           +
+     Lyra         14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Cespedes       19th level human wizard, elementalist                  +
+   Dexitheseus    17th level human wizard, jack of all trades            +
+   Kronos         ancient lich wizard                                    +
+   Pallin         18th level grey elven wizard of Celestian, teleporter  +
+   Parekh         18th level female human wizard, innovator              +
+   Wu             18th level human wizard, transmuter                    +
+   Date:          4/20/586 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late afternoon                                         +
+   Place:         Parekh's home (exact location unknown)                 +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "The anger is not enough."                                            +
+     "It's gotten the job done all this time."                           +
+       "It's nearly gotten you killed all this time."                    +
+                  - from _X-Men:  First Class_                           +

                   MCXIX.  Analysis and Strategy

  The events of this historic day have surpassed any expectations that
Belphanior had, for Parekh's secretive cabal of wizards has agreed with
the elf's idea of a new alliance working for the greater good of all the
Flanaess...and starting with a singular focused mission.

Belphanior:  So the immediate question at hand:  how do we find and stop
Kronos:  Finding him should be little problem.  Stopping him, on the other
  hand, will require a masterpiece of tactical planning and execution.
  That one is considered by many to be the most powerful wizard currently
  in the Flanaess.  His tactical skills, his attacks and defenses...will
  be formidable.
Belphanior:  I understand and agree, but that could be said of each one
  of us sitting here right now.  (he smiles thinly)  Plus, we outnumber
Parekh:  (nods)  Point.
Dexitheseus:  There is another question to be asked here.  (he strokes
  his long white beard)  Assuming we _can_ defeat him, even slay him...
  _should_ we?  What of the possibility that he was influenced or even
  possessed by some other entity, some unknown evil?  If that was - is -
  the case, then we'd be attacking and killing an innocent man, perhaps
  a friend to some of us.
Alindyar:  I can address this, as it was one of the first things I looked
  into after we returned.  Rary was indeed a friend, and the course of
  action we are discussing is not one I take lightly.  I have made some
  inquiries among the wizarding community of Greyhawk, as many of them
  wondered the same things two years ago.  Much scrying and investigation
  was done, by numerous powerful and competent wizards and priests.  Not
  a one of them found any evidence of any other cause for the aberrant
  behavior of Rary...other than a gradual and unseen shifting of his own
  priorities and goals.  (he frowns)  As much as I would like it to be
  otherwise, it truly seems that Rary's descent into evil was of his own
Wu:  (shakes his head sadly)
Belphanior:  He robbed my home and took a bunch of magical items _three
  years_ before his treachery on the Day of the Great Signing.  So he had
  broken bad quite a while before killing Otiluke.  (he crosses his arms)
  So let's figure out how to strike back at him.
Parekh:  What are your ideas?
Belphanior:  There was a time when I'd have suggested we simply fly over
  his home and drop something heavy and dangerous on top of it, from far destruction, or at least one hell of a surprise attack as
  a first move.  (he sighs, shaking his head)  But aside from any treasure
  we'd risk losing - including my own - and the possibility of him fleeing
  in the chaos, we also have to consider any innocents in the area.
Parekh:  Indeed, which is why we'll study this, extensively, ahead of any
  action.  First, we need to collect and review every bit of information
  we know about him...his history, his actions, his motivations.  We'll
  need all of that - plus a sound strategy, a hell of a lot of power, and
  more than a bit of luck - if we're to have any chance of taking him out.
Belphanior:  Maybe we should start with our own dealings with him, both
  individually and with the entire Circle of Eight.  (he regards Alindyar
  as he wonders which of them has the better memory of past events)
Alindyar:  My former adventuring group and I have some experience with
  Rary, so I will share what I know.  We first met him more than a decade
  ago, when he and Bigby showed up to assist against a renegade devil in
  the City of Greyhawk, and help me find Lyra after she was spirited away
  by the foul one, Zara.  Even during that initial encounter, the wizard
  was somewhat aggressive in battle...I recall him admonishing his fellow
  for not joining the battle more readily.  He also seemed to enjoy the
  adoration of others, particularly younger people...yet at the same time
  was bothered by the fact that Otiluke was unable to assist.
Dexitheseus:  As we all know now, Rary bore more than a little dislike for
Alindyar:  (sadly)  Aye.  Anyhow, he and Bigby also provided a significant
  vote of confidence on Lyra and my behalf, to the Guild of Wizardry.  My
  impression was that he liked our company and respected our abilities.
Lyra:  He also showed up at my one-hundredth birthday party, and had some
  pleasant conversation with both his peers in the Circle as well as other
Alindyar:  We next encountered him immediately prior to our journey to the
  other-dimensional isle of the ape.
Belphanior:  (nods)  He showed up on behalf of the Circle, to convince us
  all to go there and retrieve Orcus' wand.
Lyra:  He actually visited each person separately...brought us all back
Parekh:  This is typical of the Circle's machinations...they study others
  who they can use, or think they can use, and manipulate them into doing
  the dirty work for them.
Belphanior:  There's nothing wrong with dirty work.
Parekh:  As long as one does it for one's _own_ ends, not those of others.
Belphanior:  Hmm, true.
Alindyar:  Anyhow, Rary then arranged for Tenser to actually transport us
  to that other place, where jungle beasts and huge lizards roamed freely.
Belphanior:  (recalling how that past expedition ended with Ged's death at
  the hands of the demon lord, or an avatar thereof, he clenches his jaw
Lyra:  And then Rary was angry that we let Orcus recover his wand...I've
  never forgotten his comments that day.  Rary was worried that having the
  wand back would give the demon prince more leverage in his plots here on
Alindyar:  (frowns)  As it turned out, those plans were held in check by
  other divine powers.  And we heard little from the old wizard for more
  than a year, until he showed up for the birth of Peldor and Tanya's
  child.  (he frowns)  Odd, that.  At any rate, Rary and I did converse
  shortly afterward, and he seemed intrigued that the mansion Lyra and I
  owned might actually be haunted.
Wu:  (curious)  Was it?
Lyra:  (smiles thinly)  We may never know.
Belphanior:  Rary's next appearance, I think, was when the entire Circle
  showed up to discuss the fortress of Xusia and his allies.  I think he
  compared the whole thing to a chess game.
Alindyar:  Perhaps to was.
Belphanior:  I've never forgotten how he seemed to admire Xusia's choice
  of location for his fortress.  Or how he suggested that the Circle was
  a strong potential target for the lich.  He seemed to want to push for
  a fight, to attack the evil ones before they attacked first.
Lyra:  So to recap all of that...he's impatient and favors quick action,
  he knows some of us fairly well and respects our abilities, but also
  kept an eye on his foes and their capabilities.
Kronos:  Yet despite all of that, he does not know all of us, which will
  work to our advantage.  For my part, I have never met or interacted with
Parekh:  Nor have I, but Pallin has.  (she turns to the others)  What of
  the rest of you?
Dexitheseus:  I've never adventured or worked with Rary, but he knows who
  I am.
Wu:  (shrugs)  Same.
Cespedes:  As an ally of Xusia in that fortress, I was surely known and
  discussed by far more people than just Rary.
Belphanior:  So whatever part Kronos and Parekh play in this, we need to
  remember that they may have the advantage of surprise.
Parekh:  What we really need is the input of someone who knows Rary well.
Neera:  The Circle of Eight.
Belphanior:  (frowns)  Talking to them could be risky.  You'd think that
  they would have reached the same conclusion as us, and dealt with their
  former companion by now.  I mean, they've had two years.  (he frowns)
  But they haven't, which tells me that either they lack the collective
  power - which I seriously doubt - or they lack the desire.
Parekh:  This is the same as the broad problem with them.  They do what
  they want, but not always what they _should_.  Or in this case, they've
  done precisely nothing.
Neera:  Maybe some of them were close to Rary and don't want to make the
  hard decisions.
Parekh:  Or maybe they just don't care, since he's out of sight and thus
  out of mind.
Belphanior:  Regardless, I'm not sure we can trust them.
Dexitheseus:  So how do we find out what the Circle of Eight knows about
  Rary, without actually talking to them?
Belphanior:  (smiles grimly)  Simple.  We talk to a former member of their
  group...someone who quit them in anger...who's completely disenchanted
  with them right now...someone who absolutely hates Rary.

next:       Tenser
released:   8/5/2022
notes:      The "Rary recap" in this episode references events from the
  following past episodes:
    episodes 241-242-243 (11/574)
    episode 250 (12/574)
    episode 300 (4/575)
    episodes 476-477-478-479 (6/576)
    episode 505 (7/576)
    episode 600 (Needfest 578)
    episode 748 (4/579)

    It has occurred to me that this arc might be my first major split
  from TSR/Wizards/Greyhawk canon.  I've had minor deviations from it,
  in the past...but this is major.  This is me acknowledging published
  events but branching off in my own direction.  And that's natural and
  necessary - I can't just adhere to someone else's vision and ideas.
  At some point, I have to customize their world to my liking...and it
  starts here, now.
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