Chapter #152

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                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1994 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                    +
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Arnold        11th level human warrior               (NG) +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/13th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Ged           13th/14th level grey elven priest/mage (NG) +
+   Mongo         16th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+      Gorin       4th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       6th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+   Date:    7/22/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    midmorning                                       +
+   Place:   the Cairn Hills, east of Greyhawk                +
+   Climate: pleasantly warm                                  +
+   "You can pretend to be serious; you can't pretend to      +
+    be witty."                                               +
+                                           - Sacha Guitry    +

       CLII.  World Tour, part 2:  The Flinty Hills

  Two days ago, the adventurers rode from Greyhawk, their
mission decided upon.  Mongo had learned that all might
not be well in the Flinty Hills, and was determined to rid
his kinfolk of the prime instigator of their previous

Mongo:  So this guy, and his two cohorts, somehow raised a
  mob of giants and tried to take over the hills.  Damn
  near did it, too, except that I killed the two cohorts,
  not to mention a lot of the giants.  Only the cowardly
  elf got away that day!
Ged:  Impressive.  You know, anybody who can cause that
  kind of trouble isn't going to be easy to get rid of...
Belphanior:  True, but we know something he doesn't.
Arnold:  Whad's dhat?
Belphanior:  (holding his magical compass)  We know that
  we're coming, and that we know where he is, while he
  doesn't know either of these things.
Arnold:  (really confused now)  Oh.
Peldor:  Well, he'll find out eventually, in any case.
Bosco:  Yeah.  How long 'til we get there?
Mongo:  About three more weeks.
Rillen:  And you know the path well?
Mongo:  Trust me - I just made this trip, not too long ago.
Gorin:  Me too.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
wispy thing:  (sails around the elf's head, making a low
  whistling sound as it does so)  whsssss.
Belphanior:  Yeah, me too.
Ged:  (eyeing the other elf)

  As the party rode through the hills, they saw occasional
groups of demi-humans - dwarves and gnomes as well as the
occasional halfling - hard at work, mining or marching.

Ged:  These hills provided the foundations for Greyhawk's
  wealth, you know.
Arnold:  Really?
Ged:  Yea.  Centuries ago, before the great Zagyg-
Mongo:  -we remember him, oh yes we do-
Ged:  -before the great Zagyg came forth, these hills were
  the source of much of the silver and gems that were used
  to build the area up from nothing.
Peldor:  Wherever do you learn these things?
Ged:  Here and there.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Bosco:  Here, there, and everywhere?
Belphanior:  (thinking about exploring this area in more
  depth, later)  Sounds good.

  As they rode through the hill-trails, a group of riders
approached from the other direction.  Sighting the party,
these men whispered excitedly among themselves.

bandit:  Look at those guys!  They look rich!
other bandit:  Yeah!  Let's get 'em!
third bandit:  Urp.
other bandits:  (shifting with anticipation)  Yeah!  Heh!
goofy-looking bandit:  (holding a crossbow)  Fire!  Fire!
bandit leader:  (swats the first bandit with a riding-crop
  and scolds all present)  Dolts!
first bandit:  What?  What?!?
bandit leader:  Take a closer look, you fools!
first bandit:  (squints as he stares at the adventurers,
  some hundred yards distant)  So?  They look the same as
  before, just closer.
bandit leader:  Can't you tell a party of great heroes and
  wizards when you see it?  Doesn't the presence of two
  warriors taller than any of us tell you anything?  If
  not, how about those elves who look like magi?  Such
  things are uncommon in groups considered as prey.
second bandit:  Huh.
bandit leader:  Yep, boys, there's a good reason I'm your
  leader, and it probably has something to do with keeping
  your mangy hides alive.  Now I'm only going to tell you
  once - don't even give these guys so much as a mean look.
  They're the kind of trouble that enterprising bandits
  like us don't need.

  As the adventurers rode along the trail, they passed a
group of a dozen or so motley-looking men on horseback.
As the fellows moved out of earshot, several of the party
members turned to regard their backs.

Rillen:  Something troubles those men.
Belphanior:  Yeah.  Maybe they're headed into battle or
  something, and they're worried.
Gorin:  As they should be.  Battle can be a serious thing.
Mongo:  They kinda looked like farmers to me.

  The group continued to ride eastward, and after two more
days, they had skirted the Nyr Dyv and entered the Duchy of
Urnst.  After that, they rode through the County of Urnst,
and then through great Nyrond itself.  They spent most of
their nights camped on the open plain, and their greatest
challenges were brief encounters with lawful, wandering
knights of the land.  Such men were friendly, and often
asked of events in Greyhawk, sharing the party's campsite
for a time.  Such benevolence reminded the adventurers that
they were indeed in friendly lands, inhabited by friendly

Belphanior:  Wimps.

  Nyrond took slightly more than a week to cross, despite
the excellent time the adventurers made.  Further eastward
lay the Prelacy of Almor, with its fervently religious
farmers and herdsmen.

Mongo:  The Flinty Hills lie to the north of this land.
Peldor:  How far?
Gorin:  We ought to be there within the week.
Belphanior:  Good.  I'm getting bored.

  Several days later, as the party rode into the first low
foothills, an interesting discovery was made.

Mongo:  (holding the compass)  Hmm.
Ged:  What's that?
Mongo:  I was thinking we'd make for Helmgate...but this
  elf-wizard's not that way.
Arnold:  He's nod?
Mongo:  Nope.  (looking to the north)  This thing points
  due...north.  Hmm, that's strange.
Rillen:  How is that?
Gorin:  Well, nothing lies to the north but the Rakers.
Peldor:  Rakers?  What-
Mongo:  (irritated)  The southern branch of the Griff range
  far to the north.  Damn and double damn!
Belphanior:  So it's mountains.  What's the problem?
Mongo:  That little red elven bastard's hiding somewhere
  up there, and we're gonna have to look hard to find him!
  Fuck...ah well, fortunately I brought my mountaineering
Bosco:  Mountains?  Like, climbing them?
Mongo:  If we have to.
wispy thing:  (flits about excitedly)

  They rode north, their pace slowed a bit due to the new,
somewhat rougher terrain.  Still, it was only two days
later that they rested at the feet of the Rakers, looking
northward in awe.

Ged:  By Boccob, I'm impressed.  Those _are_ big mountains.
Mongo:  Yeah, I grew up roaming parts of them.  Actually,
  they're kind of small, compared to, say, the Corusks to
  the north.
Arnold:  Yah!  Ah-nold comes from the Corudsk Moundains!
Ged:  He does?  I mean, you do?
Arnold:  (beaming happily)  Yah.
Rillen:  Maybe a visit is in order, eh?
Arnold:  (pondering this possibility)  Aaa...
Peldor:  (chewing on a piece of redroot, he gazes at the
  skies)  Time for a nap...
Mongo:  Hey, you got any more of that stuff?
Peldor:  (absentmindedly reaches in a pocket and hands a
  bit of redroot to the dwarf)  Knock yourself out.
Mongo:  Thanks.  Ah, life's simple pleasures.  (he looks
  at the mountains again, and then holds out the magical
  compass)  Time to get moving.  (the compass needle is
  pointing to the northeast)
Belphanior:  I think the one we seek is close now.  The
  needle moved pretty quick there.

  They entered the mountains, following Mongo and Gorin,
who seemed to have no trouble finding trails and passes
among the rocky, upward-sloping terrain.  No signs of
life were seen until late that day, as the sun sunk on
the horizon.  In a gully where several trails crossed,
the party stopped for a moment.

Rillen:  (spots a track)  Look.
Mongo:  (crouches, and examines the big footprint)  Hmm.
  I'm no ranger, but this thing looks really fresh-
Belphanior:  Yie!  Souls!

  Without warning, four rather strange creatures swooped
down from some hidden ledge or cave, landing in front of
the bewildered adventurers.  The things had the bodies of
lions, with large wings sprouting from their backs.  Odd
indeed was the fact that their heads were those of human
females.  Though most of the adventurers tensed, ready
for a fight, the unusual creatures made no threatening
moves as they regarded the party.

Ged:  Sphinxes!
Rillen:  How odd.  They really should wear something to
  cover their-
gynosphinx#1:  Silence, good warrior.
Mongo:  What do you, um, ladies want?
gynosphinx#2:  We merely wish to exact tribute for your
  safe passage.
Belphanior:  (trembling with anger)
Arnold:  Aaa.  Sounds like a thread to me.
gynosphinx#3:  Not quite.  Our demands are as simple as
  they are challenging.
gynosphinx#4:  Indeed, we ask for neither money nor gems,
  like others of our kind would.
Belphanior:  Huh?
Gorin:  Well, what-
Ged:  What _is_ it you want, then?
Peldor:  Yeah, even I'd like to know.  And I don't usually
  ask questions of strange sphinxes.
gynosphinx#1:  We simply wish to exchange riddles.  If you
  can answer three of ours, you may pass without incident.
  If you can give us a new and challenging riddle, why, we
  might perhaps be indebted to _you_.
Bosco:  Riddles?
Belphanior:  Sounds like we can't lose.  (he is considering
  the myriad ways of demolishing the sphinxes)
Mongo:  What a stupid deal!  Couldn't you just ask for gems
  or something?!?
Gorin:  Yeah!  Why riddles?
gynosphinx#2:  (shrugs)  It is the way of sphinxes.
Peldor:  Hmm.
Ged:  Well, riddle away.  Time's a-wasting.
gynosphinx#3:  (thinking)  Try this:  You eat something you
  neither plant nor sow.  It is the son of water, but if
  water touches it, it dies.
Ged:  Hmm.
wispy thing:  (doing flips in the air, it ignores all that
  transpires around it)
Mongo:  (slaps his helm in frustration)  Well, I'm going
  to have a rest and a snack.  (grumbling)  I hate riddles
  and riddlers...
Gorin:  Don't worry, it'll be okay.
Peldor:  Fish?  Nah...
gynosphinx#3:  (looks on expectantly)
Belphanior:  Could it be slugs?  Uh, nope.
Rillen:  I have it!
Ged:  You do?
Rillen:  Yes.  It is...salt!
Ged:  (nods approvingly)  Mmm.
Mongo:  Salt?  I have some here somewhere.  Why?
gynosphinx#4:  Now for my riddle:  It has a golden head,
  it has a golden tail, but it hasn't got a body.
Ged:  (thinking instantly of gold dragons)  Oh.  (he goes
  through monsters in his head, trying to think of one to
  fit the riddle)
Rillen:  Golden head, golden tail...hmm...
Bosco:  Aha!  (tosses the gynosphinx a coin)
gynosphinx#4:  (catches the coin)  Most impressive, small
Peldor:  Huh?
gynosphinx#4:  (holds up the gold coin for all to see)
Ged:  Ingenious!
Bosco:  Thanks.  Riddles happen to be my hobby.
gynosphinx#1:  Now for mine, the last riddle:  The wise
  and knowledgeable man is sure of it.  Even the fool
  knows it.  The rich man wants it.  The greatest of
  heroes fears it.  Yet the lowliest of cowards would
  die for it.  What am I speaking of?
Peldor:  Aw, geez.
Arnold:  (joins Mongo in a snack, his sword set down in
  easy reach)  Aaa.
Rillen:  Not every fool knows gold.  (he looks
  in Peldor's direction)  Just some of them.
Ged:  Hmm.
Peldor:  (to Belphanior)  Sex?
Belphanior:  Hmm...don't see why not.
Bosco:  (stumped by this riddle)  Darn.
gynosphinx#1:  Any other ideas?
Ged:  Hmm.  (his eyes light up)  A wise man is sure of it,
  while a fool knows it, a rich man wants it, a hero fears
  it, and the basest coward would die for it...of course!
  Of course, by Boccob!
gynosphinx#1:  Yes?
Ged:  The answer is...nothing.
gynosphinx#1:  Right you are, elf.  (she and the others
  move aside)  Now, unless you have a good riddle for us...
Belphanior:  I'm fresh out, myself.
Ged:  Hmm...I'm not really into riddles.  Ancient history,
  perhaps, and mystic lore, but not riddles.
Bosco:  Well...
Mongo:  (sits up, suddenly interested in this odd game)
Peldor:  Hey, Bosco, dazzle us.
Bosco:  Right on.  (he addresses the sphinxes)
  goes:  Two legs sit upon three legs with one leg in his
  lap.  In comes four legs, grabs one leg, and runs off.
  Up jumps two legs, grabs up three legs, throws it after
  four legs, and makes him bring back one leg.
gynosphinx#2:  Hmm.
gynosphinx#3:  Simple.  A leg of mutton, a man, a stool,
  and a dog.
Bosco:  D'oh!
gynosphinx#1:  Try again, small one.
Bosco:  Hmm.  Okay, okay.  This thing is a most amazing
  thing, for it can be both as sharp as a knife, or as
  flat as a floor.  And yet, for all that it can be, it
  is as natural as a bee.
gynosphinx#2:  Hmm.
gynosphinx#4:  Well.
gynosphinx#3:  (knits her brows in frustration)
gynosphinx#1:  Could it be...a blade of grass?
Bosco:  Nope.  They're not sharp.  Not like a knife, in
  any case.
gynosphinx#1:  Hmm, you are right.
Bosco:  Does this mean we win?
gynosphinx#2:  Does it?  What is the answer?
Bosco:  Why, music, of course.
gynosphinx#1:  Ah...excellent!
Bosco:  Yeah!  (he jumps up and down)
gynosphinx#1:  Indeed, small one.  You are truly a riddler
  among riddlers.
Ged:  And to think, we never suspected.
Peldor:  (beams proudly)
gynosphinx#2:  What knowledge might you travelers seek,
  that we might provide?
Ged:  Well, we seek a red-robed elven mage of great power
  and evil.  Right, Mongo?
Mongo:  Yeah, I'd definitely say he had great power.
gynosphinx#1:  Hmm.  It so happens that we have glimpsed
  just such a one.  (she points at an obselete trail to
  one side)  Along that trail, the one you seek lurks.
Mongo:  Oh, he does, does he?  Well, it's time to head on
  up there and smash him! far is he, anyway?
gynosphinx#2:  Barely a half-day's march.
Rillen:  Hmm.  It would seem that we should wait until
  tomorrow to make our move.
Arnold:  Yah, dudsk is ubon us.
Ged:  (mumbling to himself)
Gorin:  (looks around)  Yawn.
gynosphinx#1:  You are certainly welcome to camp off the
  trails, there.  Little in the way of malicious monsters
  comes through here.
gynosphinx#3:  Yes.  We have seen to that.
Ged:  (having quietly cast Detect Evil, he sees that the
  gynosphinxes are devoid of chaos or evil)  Very well.
  (he produces a large emerald and hands it to the first
  gynosphinx)  A token of the mighty Boccob's gratitude,
  for your kind help.
Belphanior:  (frowns)
gynosphinx#1:  Why, thank you.  Truly this was a useful
  exchange, for all involved.  (she leads the others into
  the air, and they fly into the rocky slopes above and
  quickly vanish from sight)
Rillen:  Come, let us make camp.
Mongo:  Yeah, over there, among those rocks - that looks
  like a good spot.

  They set watches for the night, and prepared to bed down
in the small gully.  Nightfall was not long in coming.

next time :  the evil mage

ftp site  : in /pub/frp/stories/adventurers

notes     :  Credit for the riddles goes to an old copy of
           the net.riddle book, specifically to:
       (riddle #1)
               (riddle #2)
        (riddle #3)
          (Bosco's two)
           My copy of this book is almost two years old, so
           those addresses might not still be good, but yet
           I must give credit where credit is due.
             I'm trying to include non-combat situations
           where I can, to flesh out the saga.  I mean,
           sure the party could have killed the sphinxes,
           but violence isn't always the answer.  Even for
           one such as Belphanior.
             Boy, I'm a regular modern-day Aesop, aren't I?

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