Chapter #1121

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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     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Neera          12th level female human wizard (sage/astrologer)       +
+                                                                         +
+   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:          4/21/586 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          evening                                                +
+   Place:         Parekh's home (exact location unknown)                 +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "The psychological niche where you'll find the man who can shoulder   +
+    aside these two behavioral opposites is very narrow.  The ideal is   +
+    a man who, from the safety of long range, can kill when it is        +
+    required but is immune to the impulse to continue killing when       +
+    the situation is resolved.  A man whose psyche is strong and so      +
+    fundamentally rooted in a personal philosophy or religion that he    +
+    doesn't suffer unduly from taking human life under appropriate       +
+    conditions."                                                         +
+                  - Eric Haney, from _Inside Delta Force_                +

                   MCXXI.  Wizards of War

  Following his visit with the archmage Tenser, Belphanior has returned
to share his findings with the other members of the new alliance...

Parekh:  So to summarize the state of things...Rary seems to be in the
  early stages of building an empire in the Bright Desert, he's subjugated
  some but not all of the people and monsters in the region, and he seeks
  the long-lost Scorpion Crown in an effort to gain control of the area
  and its denizens?
Belphanior:  (his arms crossed, he nods)  That's about everything.
Pallin:  And his former comrade Tenser wishes to help us find and destroy
Belphanior:  That too.  (he gestures with one arm)  Which is why we were
  careful not to reveal all of your identities when speaking with Tenser.
Alindyar:  Although truthfully, if Tenser does become involved - which
  seems a foregone conclusion - he will learn of the existence of this
  group.  (he frowns)  Sooner or later.
Dexitheseus:  He might even want to join our ranks.
Alindyar:  That, I doubt.  As we confirmed in the visit earlier today,
  Tenser is still firmly entrenched in law and goodness.  He is somewhat
  of an...extreme case.  Aside from perhaps doing whatever is necessary
  to deal with his treacherous former associate, Tenser is unlikely to
  effectively align with this group - or any group - in the longer term.
Parekh:  Well, that may save us the trouble of inviting him.
Belphanior:  We still need to figure out how to join his forces, whatever
  they may be, with ours.
Lyra:  Maybe if our attack consists of multiple groups, across multiple
  fronts - Tenser's team can simply be one of those.
Kronos:  (stands)  This is as much a military problem as it is a magical
  one...which means that the first thing we must do is take stock of all
  of our various minions, troops, and other allies.  Personally...I can
  bring the pair of white dragons to the fight, as well as a handful of
  golems and a small army of undead.
Belphanior:  You have undead forces?
Lyra:  Oh, Tenser won't like that.
Kronos:  I can...assemble such a force.  But aside from the golems, all
  of the others I mentioned will not do well in the heat of that desert.
  Nor will I, for that matter.
Belphanior:  We'll come back to that.  For my part, I have some golems-
  (he pauses, frowning as he turns to Neera)  Or do I?
Neera:  They're all gone.  We had the resources to construct more, but
  those were taken from us - by Rary, ironically.
Belphanior:  Right.  And we can't count on help from Mongo or any of the
  others; they're all embroiled in their own problems at the moment.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  What of Bosco, and his magical chessboard
  whose pieces can each summon an ally?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  The Host of Kaloth could be a powerful tool
  in this endeavor...but we would need to somehow convince the halfling
  to join our cause.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  That shouldn't be too difficult.
Belphanior:  -and I don't think I could employ Peyton Farquhar and that
  group, nor Bram and his team of vampire hunters.
Parekh:  (drily)  Good, since there are no vampires in Rary's employ.
Belphanior:  That we know of.
Parekh:  (scoffs)
Dexitheseus:  We'll need a priest or two for this adventure.  (he nods to
  Belphanior)  No offense to that eyepatch-wearing hellion in your team,
  but it'll take more than a single priestess of Istus to help us against
  one such as Rary the Traitor.
Belphanior:  Good point.
Dexitheseus:  I have no minions or servants, but I might be able to find
  us a priest or two.  I'll need a couple of days.
Kronos:  (nods)
Belphanior:  Anyway, in addition to my one priestess, the majority of my
  group will also be involved in whatever attack we plan and execute.
Parekh:  Drak will help, of course.  We don't tend to keep others around
  to help out here, nor do I maintain any sort of standing army or force.
  Hmm, I suppose I could try and summon some monsters to help, when the
  time comes...
Pallin:  It is much the same for me, I fear.  Aside from my loyal hound
  Socrates, I do not have retainers or henchpeople.  (he shrugs, turning
  to Cespedes)
Cespedes:  Aside from the adamant golem Talos, and the iron dwarf - both
  of whom all of you have seen in action recently - I can marshal several
  elementals to aid in this fight.  Or para-elementals.  (he ponders the
  options)  Or even quasi-elementals.  It is simply a matter of deciding
  which are best suited for the, water, earth, air...vapor,
  heat, dust, ice...lightning, steam, radiance, mineral.
Parekh:  Uh...right.  Wu, what have you got?
Wu:  My tower, while a simple place, is staffed by a small force of ogre
  magi...powerful warriors in battle, and they can also use magic.  That
  will surely help.
Parekh:  (nods)  Surely.  (she regards the pair of dark elves)  What of
Alindyar:  Like several of the rest of you here, we are solitary and have
  little need of guards, troops, and the like. illusionary
  powers are not insignificant.  For example, I can conjure forth a large
  fighting force that will look, sound, smell, and feel real to any normal
  adversary.  While this altered reality likely will not deceive Rary
  himself, it will offer us a strong advantage against the bulk of his
  forces...and these illusory troops will not be subject to attacks like
  fear, holding, gases, weather conditions, and the like.
Parekh:  That sounds good.
Alindyar:  (doesn't mention the paintbrush he possesses, which can alter
  the very reality around it, and with which he has been practicing over
  the last few months)
Belphanior:  So now we have an idea about what our forces will look like,
  whether all gathered in one army or split into multiple smaller groups.
  We know the "who" and the "what"...the question really revolves around
  the "how" do we attack?  What's the best way?
Parekh:  I have a few ideas - as I'm sure everyone else does - but magic
  isn't always the best, or only, method.
Belphanior:  Agreed.  And I've been thinking about how to approach this
  since the moment Tenser started sharing information about Rary and his
  new home in the desert.  There are, or course, multiple options.  One:
  we send a large force through the desert and on to his fortress.  This
  is a conventional military tactic, but the trip through that wasteland
  would be difficult, even with magic.  The sand dunes would mean slow
  going, the heat and blasting wind would wear down even the strongest
  warriors, and there would doubtless be hostile forces who know the
  terrain far better than we possibly could.
Parekh:  And Rary would surely be alerted to the presence of a hostile
  force in his vicinity.
Belphanior:  That he would.  We could mitigate some of these issues with
  the right types of soldiers, and magical protections.  And an overland
  assault would be an opportunity for us to recruit locals to our cause,
  ones who don't want Rary around.  But all of those things require work
  and might take time.  (he nods toward Cespedes)  I mean, your golem of
  adamant could survive the heat and the sand - and probably anyone dumb
  enough to try and stop it - but it would take weeks to reach the tower,
  which is no good.
Cespedes:  Indeed, not.
Belphanior:  And then there's a second option:  a small force makes its
  way through the desert and into the hills where Rary's tower awaits.
  If they could get there undetected - which is far from certain - then
  they could open up a teleportation portal and bring the main force
  through, close to the enemy...fresh and well-rested.
Pallin:  I like this plan.  But it will be difficult to approach anywhere
  close to the wizard without him knowing.  (he shakes his head)  And if
  we open a portal...forget it.  He will detect such magic immediately.
Belphanior:  I thought about that too.  Which brings us to option three:
  death from above.  We fly to Rary's lands, staying far up there in the
  sky until the moment of attack, and then descend upon his fortress with
  our full fury.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  He's still got it.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye.  The elf may have changed his overall
  outlook, but his tactical abilities remain as keen as ever.
Wu:  And _I_ like this plan.  (imagining himself shape-changed into a huge
  dragon, he smiles wistfully)
Dexitheseus:  It offers some surprise, but would be difficult to employ
  for anything but a small group.  (he regards Cespedes sadly)  No golems
  in this plan.
Belphanior:  Well, actually, it's possible to-
Kronos:  I offer a fourth option.  Why not drop something massive and
  heavy directly onto the foe's tower, from above?
Cespedes:  A golem?
Belphanior:  That's what-
Kronos:  Larger.  I was thinking a small hillock, or a tiny mountain.
Neera:  (gasps)  Is such a thing possible?
Kronos:  It should be.  We would need a combination of magic types...some
  involving portals, some of the elemental sort, perhaps others.  (his
  red eyes sweep the group)  I've little doubt that the necessary power
  is seated in this room.
Belphanior:  So that would likely destroy Rary's tower - and perhaps even
  Rary himself - but it has a strong chance of also destroying all of his
  magical and monetary treasure, not to mention any innocents or prisoners
  he might have.
Kronos:  Is that worth forgoing the greater chance of surprising and
  overcoming the wizard?  It is a balancing act...we must ask ourselves
  what the priority is.
Belphanior:  I say yes.  Our objectives are to kill Rary and recover what
  he stole - and his other treasures - with minimal collateral damage.  If
  we demolish his tower, it could take a lot of time and effort to sift
  through the ruins to figure out if we actually killed him or not.  I'd
  prefer to know for dealing with him directly.  (he rests his
  hand on the pommel of his dark sword)
Neera:  (wondering if a clone of someone would be fully-functional if the
  original person's soul was previously destroyed, she opts to discuss
  this with Belphanior once he comes up with a complete plan)
Parekh:  So that's at least four options...unless we think of more.  The
  question now is, which one do we use?
Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)

next:       a final party weighs in
released:   8/19/2022
notes:      I'm well and truly committed and underway now.  I suspect
  that the time between my writing this one, and the next one, will be
  substantial.  This sort of plotline (and battle) takes some planning.
    On another note, the Rogues' Gallery on the main page of
  has been reworked to add a ton of functionality and search parameters;
  you should check it out.
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