Chapter #195

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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                    +
+                            tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Alindyar      15th level dark elven mage              (N) +
+   Arnold        11th level human warrior               (NG) +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Ged           14th/14th level grey elf priest/mage   (NG) +
+   Lyra          12th level female dark elven mage       (N) +
+   Mongo         16th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+      Gorin       7th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       8th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+                                                             +
+   SPECIAL GUEST STARS:                                      +
+                                                             +
+   Halbarad      13th level human ranger                (NG) +
+      Zephyr     large wild tiger                       (NG) +
+   Peyote        11th/12th level half-elf warrior/druid  (N) +
+      Blok       earth elemental                         (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    12/24/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                     +
+   Time:    morning                                          +
+   Place:   the Free City of Greyhawk                        +
+   Climate: cold                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "Too many cooks spoil the broth."                         +
+                  - variously attributed, and usually true   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                    CXCV.  The Runes





  After finally returning to Greyhawk, thanks to the drow,
the adventurers have been attending to personal matters for
more than two weeks.  A few of them have even had the chance
to train...

Bosco:  (in a bar somewhere)  I can't speak for the others,
  but I'm sure bored!
Gorin:  Huh?  What the hell are you talking about now?
Bosco:  I'm bored, I say!  (he stands up on top of a table)
  I'm BORED...
Gorin:  Drunk is more like it...

  As fate would have it, the luck of the halfling, not to
mention the others, was about to change, though for better
or for worse was open to speculation...

Ged:  (working diligently in his study)  Let's see here...
  two pinches of diamond powder...hmm...(he suddenly grows
  extremely tired, and drifts into a light sleep)

  As the elf dozed, a dream formed in his subconscious, a
dream like no other.  Ged was standing atop a plain made
entirely of grey clouds.  The only feature in this barren
place was a monstrous throne of some unknown material.
Atop this throne sat a titanic form, a twenty-foot tall
humanoid, of purple complexion and garbed in a robe of the
same royal purple.  The huge being's eyes glowed a bright
purple, and an aura of power emanated from his entire body.

Ged:  Who...what _are_ you?
figure:  I AM HE WHO GRANTS YOUR MAGIC...YOUR POWER...
Ged:  (he somehow simply _knows_ that this is the case)
  Boccob!  (he bows in humble supplication)
Boccob:  INDEED.
Ged:  But...how are you here?  In my dream?  I don't truly
  understand...
Boccob:  I DO NOT CARE.  THINK OF THIS FORM AS AN...AVATAR,
  IF YOU WILL.
Ged:  Uh...okay.  But where am I?  What's happening?
Boccob:  YOU ARE HAVING A VISION, BUT THAT IS NOT IMPORTANT
  AT THE MOMENT.  THERE IS NOT MUCH TIME, AND I HAVE A TASK
  FOR YOU, A TASK OF GREAT IMPORT.
Ged:  I...I'd be honored to perform it...whatever it is...
  But why _me_?  I'm surely not the most powerful of-
Boccob:  YOUR DEVOTION IS...EXTRAORDINARY.  YOU HAVE THE
  NECESSARY QUALITIES NEEDED FOR THIS QUEST, AS WELL AS A
  NUMBER OF POWERFUL ITEMS AND COMPANIONS TO ASSIST YOU.
Ged:  (still bowing, on one knee, he is almost afraid to
  look up)  Well, yes, that's true.
Boccob:  LISTEN CAREFULLY.  AGES PAST, WHEN THE FIRST, MOST
  PRIMAL FORCES CREATED THE WORLDS, THE PLANES, LIFE, AND
  ALL ELSE, THEY UNLEASHED MIGHTY FORCES, FORCES BEYOND ANY
  MORTAL COMPREHENSION.  THESE FORCES DREW UPON WHAT RAW,
  ELEMENTAL MATTER THERE WAS AT THAT TIME, AND SHAPED IT
  INTO EVERYTHING YOU KNOW OF TODAY...AND MUCH WHICH YOU
  DON'T.
Ged:  (gaping in awe at these legends)
Boccob:  WHEN ALL WAS DONE, RESIDUAL AMOUNTS OF THIS RAW
  MATTER REMAINED...REMNANTS, IF YOU WILL.  AS THESE FEW
  REMNANTS COULD NOT BE DESTROYED, THE PRIMAL GODS INSTEAD
  SHAPED THEM INTO FORMS TANGIBLE TO MORTALS, AND DEALT
  THEM TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE YOUNG OERTH, IN THE FORM
  OF RUNES.
Ged:  (rather confused, he speaks meekly)  Runes?
Boccob:  YES, RUNES.  OF THESE THERE WERE SEVEN - ONE FOR
  EACH OF THE PRIMAL ELEMENTS, PLUS THREE OTHERS.  THESE
  ITEMS EACH HAD MIGHTY POWERS, BUT WHEN COMBINED, THEY
  WERE CAPABLE OF OPENING GATES IN THE VERY FABRIC OF THE
  UNIVERSE.  INDEED, THEY SEEMED TO GRAVITATE TOWARD ONE
  ANOTHER, GIVEN THE SLIGHTEST OPPORTUNITY - FOR SUCH WAS
  THEIR VERY NATURE.
Ged:  (shocked)
Boccob:  PRECISELY - THE RUNES HAD TO BE BROKEN APART AND
  SCATTERED TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD.  HOWEVER, WE HAVE NOW
  LEARNED THAT CERTAIN...UNDESIRABLE ELEMENTS ON YOUR WORLD
  ARE WORKING TO GATHER THE RUNES, TO DO THE UNSPEAKABLE.
Ged:  You mean...
Boccob:  YES.  THEY INTEND TO UNITE THE RUNES AND OPEN RIFTS
  ONCE MORE...RIFTS BEST LEFT SEALED.  MORTALS WHO ASPIRE TO
  GODHOOD - THEY HAVE NO IDEA OF THE POWER THEY WOULD DEAL
  WITH.  HOWEVER, THEY ARE NOT FULLY MOBILIZED AS OF YET -
  THAT IS WHY _YOU_ MUST SEEK THOSE RUNES WHICH REMAIN LOST,
  AND REGAIN THEM BEFORE THE FORCES OF EVIL.
Ged:  I understand.  You can have complete faith in me, O
  Mighty One!
Boccob:  I KNOW.  NOW GO ABOUT YOUR QUEST - AND REMEMBER,
  MORE IS AT STAKE HERE THAN MERE RELICS AND A FEW LIVES...
  YOUR ENTIRE WORLD MAY BE AT STAKE...(he, and everything
  else but the clouds, fade from sight)
Ged:  ...

  Gradually, Ged awoke from his nap, feeling well-rested.

Ged:  Huh?  (he looks around)  Boccob, what a dream!  Eh?
  (his glance turns to his hand, in which is now grasped a
  mithril medallion with a purple eye in its center)
purple eye:  (opens, staring at Ged)
disembodied voice:  Make haste...go to Ravel Disander...
Ged:  Right!  (he stands up)  Calvin!
Calvin:  (appears)  Yeah?
Ged:  Ready my traveling spellbooks, and my packs!  And
  fetch Ansalon and Tirion to me, now.  I am preparing to
  embark upon a long journey!

  Shortly, Ged had packed the necessary items and made the
necessary arrangements, and without further ado, he cast a
spell and teleported himself to Greyhawk, gathering all of
the other adventurers before proceeding to Greyhawk's huge
temple of Boccob.

acolyte:  (looks alarmed)  They're here!  (to the party)
  Come in!  The High Priest has been expecting you!
Arnold:  Aaa.
other acolyte:  (recoils as Halbarad's giant tiger walks
  by)
Halbarad:  Have no fear, good fellow.

  They were ushered through numerous hallways and stairs,
and seemed to go deep into the foundations of the city.

Mongo:  Shit, I'd say we're at least a hundred feet below
  street level.
Bosco:  (looking around)  Phew, it sure smells down here!

  They were finally led into a metal-lined chamber, within
which Ravel Disander was already seated, at a large, round
table of ancient wood.

Alindyar:  (to Lyra)  The walls...
Lyra:  I see.
Peldor:  I don't.  What does it mean?
Alindyar:  They are lined with lead.
Belphanior:  (looks at the walls)  Ah, so they are.
Mongo:  So they are...so what?!?
Lyra:  Lead is proof against many forms of magical scrying
  and spying.
Bosco:  (trying to see through the walls with his x-ray
  vision, but he can't)  Hey!
Ravel:  Please, be seated.
Ged:  Okay, where do we begin?
Belphanior:  A better question would be, why do we begin?
  (he stifles a cough)
Rillen:  An answer I, too, would like to hear.

  Ravel stood, and gave a short speech about what was going
on - basically what Ged had already heard from the Boccob-
avatar.  He also added in a bit of knowledge about the runes
themselves.

Ravel:  Besides the four basic elemental remnants/runes -
  Earth, Water, Air, and Fire - there are three runes which
  represent more non-tangible forces.  First is the Magic
  Rune, a focus for all things enchanted.  The Star Rune is
  a fragment of the otherworldly, alien forces outside our
  world.  Finally, there is the Time Rune, which is the very
  crux of all the others.  Its exact powers are unknown,
  even to the most learned of scholars and sages...
all:  (listening in varying states of fascination)
Ravel:  The seven runes must not be rejoined, no matter what
  the cost!  The effects of such an event could be nothing
  short of devastating...we're dealing with power far beyond
  anything we can possibly comprehend.

  When he finished, reactions were varied, to say the least.

Arnold:  Aaa.
Alindyar:  By the gods!
Lyra:  That's what he said...
Peyote:  This is all so...deep.
Mongo:  Cripes!  Someone's gotta stop this crap!
Rillen:  It would seem so.
Halbarad:  Truly this is a great and noble quest.
Gorin:  Sounded like it.
Belphanior:  Hmph.  I was thinking of going to free more
  slaves.  (he lies blatantly, as his real interest now is
  to get one or more of the runes for himself)
Ged:  Don't you understand?!?  There won't _be_ any world
  for them to be enslaved in, if these runes get put back
  together!
Peldor:  That's not exactly what he said...
Bosco:  Yeah, why should we jump to do what _your_ god
  says?
Peyote:  Hold it, dudes.  _My_ god told me of similar
  things!
Ravel:  (smiling benevolently)
Mongo:  What?!?
Peyote:  You got it, man.  It's not just Boccob who's in
  on this one.  The great Obad-hai knows, too...
Alindyar:  Amazing...different dieties united in a common
  cause...
Ged:  On the contrary, this is an exceptional cause.
Halbarad:  True.
Mongo:  (to Peyote)  Why didn't you say anything sooner?!?
Peyote:  Relax, man.  I had a feeling that we would all
  unite in this common cause...patience is everything.  I
  knew that we'd be having this meeting soon enough.
Belphanior:  (glares at the half-elf, irritated)
Peyote:  Peace...
Peldor:  Hmph.
Ravel:  I would hope that we can count on your support.
  Besides, it's not as if you people are the only ones
  questing for these runes...
Belphanior:  Yeah, yeah.  We know - the bad guys are out
  there too.
Ravel:  Not just them - there are others on our side, as
  well...not just you...
Peldor:  Other great heroes?
Mongo:  Well, that's good to know.
Arnold:  Aaa.
Ravel:  With the help of the Eight-
Belphanior:  The Circle of Eight?
Ravel:  None other.  Anyhow, I have learned that those
  noted archmagi, on their own, have secured one of the
  runes already, as have a group of your fellow heroes.
Bosco:  (looking around)  But all of us are here already,
  and we don't have any such rune!
Ravel:  _Other_ heroes, small one.
Bosco:  Others?  What others can compare to us?
Ged:  (kicks Bosco for interrupting)
Ravel:  Those two runes can be counted safe, at least for
  the time being.  Three more have been recovered by the
  undesirables - one by the Scarlet Brotherhood, one by
  Iuz, and the third by a party of evil adventurers, in
  the Horned Society, to the north.
Ged:  Aie.
Arnold:  (counting on his fingers)
Ravel:  Right.  That leaves two that have not, as yet,
  been found.
Rillen:  Where are these runes?
Ravel:  One of them lies far to the south, across the Gulf
  of Densac, between the Scarlet Brotherhood and the Amedio
  Jungle, further south even, across unknown seas.
Ged:  An ocean voyage of significant length...
Ravel:  Indeed.  The other rune lies far to the north, in
  the Land of Black Ice, north of Blackmoor.
Mongo:  Hmm.
Ravel:  You must decide which to go after first.  While the
  seabound rune is closer, it also lies near the Scarlet
  Brotherhood's peninsula.  The rune in Blackmoor is rather
  far away, but Iuz and the Horned Society are both closer
  to that area than we are.
Mongo:  Well, I don't care which one we look for.
Ged:  The one by sea would be the logical choice.
Rillen:  From the sound of things, we may already be too
  late no matter which way we go.
Halbarad:  Yet we must try.  And I also vote for the closest
  rune - that with the sea journey.
Peyote:  Right on, man.
Peldor:  (eyeing the two)  You're not thinking of...
Halbarad:  Nonsense, thief, of course we are!
Peyote:  Yeah.  This quest is too important for us to stay
  away from.
Ged:  Meaning that you're planning on coming with us...
Halbarad:  Naturally.
Ged:  (gazing at the purple-eyed medallion that he received
  earlier)  And what's this thing for?
Ravel:  (holds up an identical medallion)  They use Boccob's
  power to move those within a certain radius to the location
  of one another.
Ged:  Oh.
Peldor:  (wondering what use the eye-medallion would be for
  him)
Ravel:  Hark!  I have prepared a ritual which will take all
  of you south, to the coast of Onnwal.
Ged:  Eh?
Ravel:  More specifically, the capital city - Scant.
Peldor:  Scant was our hope in those dismal times...
Ravel:  (ignoring the thief)  We have agents there who will
  see to your needs, once you arrive.
Rillen:  These runes...what do they look like?  How will we
  recognize one if we see it?
Ravel:  A good question...but fortunately one that we know
  the answer to.  Each rune takes on a form representative
  of its "element"...thus, the Earth Rune might be a very
  special gemstone, or some rare metal...the Fire Rune might
  be a bit of strange magma, or perhaps a solid flame...
Peldor:  That doesn't sound like a definite answer to me.
Ravel:  Hmm, perhaps you're right.  This subject matter has
  never really been documented...I suppose you'll just have
  to know, when you see a Rune.
Ged:  Which one will we be seeking, then, in the seas to the
  south?
Ravel:  That would be the Water Rune...and in Blackmoor lies
  the Time Rune, perhaps the most powerful of them all.
Belphanior:  Maybe we should be going to Blackmoor, then.
Mongo:  Heck, maybe we'll have time to get _both_ of 'em!
Ravel:  If you survive...
Gorin:  (regards the high priest sourly)

  They took about an hour to prepare themselves, pack their
items, and take care of business.  Peldor left plenty of
money for his tavern to operate (not that it needed it, for
the place turned a nice profit) while Ged left both money
and explicit instructions.  This wasn't an ideal time for
the elf to leave his budding lands, since numbers of new
settlers were moving in daily, but the greater call of the
quest had his attention now.
  By lunchtime, the group was ready to depart.

Ravel:  Remember, once you get the rune, you can use the
  Boccob-medallion to return here, instantaneously.
Ged:  We'll remember.
Alindyar:  (wondering if this quest is really vital to the
  sanctity of the world)
Lyra:  (wondering if Boccob's power can be trusted to pull
  the party out of a jam)  Well, there's always our spells.
Ged:  Have no fear.
Belphanior:  (wondering why he should be helping with this
  since Ged just refused to help him in the Sea Princes
  adventure)  Hmm.  (he stifles another cough, and a tiny
  drop of blood appears from one nostril)  Uh-oh.
Peldor:  (eyes the elf, worried)
Rillen:  (wondering if he brought enough arrows)  Hmm, too
  late to worry about it now.
Arnold:  Aaa.
Halbarad:  I am sure none of us will regret this quest.
Peldor:  Baloney.
Bosco:  Ham!  (he produces a ham sandwich)
Gorin:  Bosco, this is no time to-
Peyote:  I say let the little guy chow down, if it makes
  him happy.
Zephyr:  (the huge tiger growls uneasily)
Blok:  (the earth elemental, it stares ahead silently)
Ravel:  Here you go...(he sprinkles some magical dust over
  the adventurers, and they vanish from sight)  May the gods
  be with you...





next time :  it begins

ftp site  :  ftp.cs.pdx.edu in /pub/frp/stories/adventurers

notes     :  Some of the credit for this idea should go to
           the following, whose various ideas and feedback
           shaped this adventure into the stuff that will
           become episodes 195-199:  Eric Boyd, Lance Dooly,
           Dave Pope.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


--
Thomas Miller                        tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu
Systems Support Specialist II          Georgia Tech Network Services

"What good is being a hammer when you can't find a deserving nail?"





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