Chapter #200

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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) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       8th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    unknown                                          +
+   Time:    nighttime                                        +
+   Place:   unknown                                          +
+   Climate: moderately cold                                  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "The more I know, the less I understand."                 +
+                                  - variously attributed     +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                CC.  A Brave New World





  After exploring a strange tower within the City of the
Gods, the adventurers were caught in a magical explosion
which catapulted them (well, most of them) through time
and space.  They have appeared in a darkened alley near
a busy street, in some unknown world; from where they lay
scattered, the adventurers could see numerous demon-like
figures, of every color and disposition, roaming the
streets freely.  From somewhere nearby emanated loud,
ominous music, and the ground trembled beneath the feet
of the bewildered party.  On the horizon could be seen
the barest outlines of unbelievably high towers, most of
them square, some of them made from glass!
  Fierce, oversized heads and strange plumages became
visible as the demons in the street peered into the dark
alleyway, apparently curious.

Peldor:  What the hell's going on?!?
Ged:  (looks around, then quickly casts a healing spell on
  Alindyar)  Quickly, we must heal the wounded!
Alindyar:  (stirs)  Uh...
Mongo:  Yeah!  (whips out his healing rod and taps Bosco on
  the forehead)  Live, Bosco!
Bosco:  (sits up)  But I wasn't dead!
Mongo:  (muttering something about why he even bothers)
Lyra:  (fed a potion of healing by Alindyar, she gets to her
  feet)  Argh...I need rest...
Belphanior:  As do we all.
Alindyar:  (looking around, he wonders what's going on)
  Methinks I-
strangely-garbed demon-thing:  (takes a tentative step into
  the alley, toward the party)
Rillen:  Look!  Demons!
Mongo:  (points his hammer at one of the strange demons)
  Here they come!
Alindyar:  (trying to initiate spellcasting)  Hmm, what
  spell would be best suited in this situation...?
Bosco:  (squinting)  Hey!  (he scuttles forth, barreling
  into the legs of the nearest demon)
Peldor:  Hey!
Lyra:  What bravery!
Rillen:  What foolishness...
Ged:  Wait!  Look there!

  As the costumed demon fell, its huge head cracked in half,
revealing...a terrified human face?

Alindyar:  Eh?
Mongo:  Huh?
Peldor:  Costume!  It's a costume!
Bosco:  (standing proudly, he bows)  All of 'em are.  I saw
  it with my x-ray vision.
costumed man:  (flees in panic, as do most of the other
  "demons")
Mongo:  Hey, he was just a peasant!
Belphanior:  (lowers his sword)  Yeah, I thought something
  was unusual about those...demons.
Arnold:  But...if they're not dembons, what are they?
Alindyar:  A good question...
Rillen:  (counting heads)  Where are Gorin and the others?
Bosco:  (shrugs)
Ged:  Another question:  Who or what was that demon, and
  what did it want with the Runes?
Lyra:  I don't know for sure, but we'd better find a place
  to take cover, while we figure it all out.  (she points
  to the street opening, where those who remain gape in
  shock, yelling wildly)  Those spectators don't seem too
  happy.
Alindyar:  (spellcasting)  Aye.
Bosco:  (searching for treasure inside the shattered head-
  mask)  Well, whaddya know?  It's plaster!
wispy thing:  (floats into the split head-shell)  Sss?
Bosco:  (waves his tiny arms defensively)  Hey, I found it
  first!
Arnold:  (looking around, confused)  Aaa.
Mongo:  (watching some kind of huge procession, complete
  with enormous wagons, go by behind the spectators)  This
  place is weird.
Alindyar:  Very little is not weird.  (he completes his
  Phantasmal Force, and an illusion of a blank alleyway
  appears before the spectators, as the adventurers head
  deeper into the alley)

spectator:  (rubbing his eyes)  Whoa!
other spectator:  Didja see that?
third spectator:  Yeah...(he looks at a bottle in his hand)





  Soon, the nine adventurers (plus the wispy thing, which
surely counted for something) had made their way deep into
a maze of dark alleys, which wound through and between old
buildings.  When they were sure that they had moved far
from their arrival site, they ducked into a huge, broken-
down building, and quickly disappeared into its depths.

Arnold:  It's dark in here.
Rillen:  Too dark.
Peldor:  (gets out his magical green torch, which lights
  the darkened hallways and roooms with a pale green light)
  Let there be light.
Bosco:  Neat-o!
Rillen:  That's one way to put it.
Mongo:  Bah.
Belphanior:  That's another.

  They explored the place carefully, wary of possible
monsters or other hostile beings, but the huge building
(or was it a series of adjoining buildings?) was devoid
of other life.  The adventurers entered a large, empty
chamber, where they pulled up old crates to use as chairs
while they rested for a time.

Belphanior:  I sense no souls here.  Nada.
Ged:  Whew.  We should rest, and recuperate, and get our
  bearings.
Rillen:  And take care of other matters.
Alindyar:  (looks around)  Aye.
Lyra:  I'd say the first order of business is healing...
  (she looks expectantly at Ged)
Ged:  Oh, yeah.  I guess we all have a few little nicks
  and bruises.
Mongo:  And burns...
Peldor:  (gets out his healing bell)  I'm ready.
Bosco:  Say, what's that bell for?
Peldor:  It augments any healing magic used while it's
  ringing.
Ged:  (casting a healing spell)  Yea.  A useful item.
  Unworthy of a thief, if you ask me.
Belphanior:  We didn't.
Alindyar:  Hmm, I suppose I _am_ still somewhat fatigued
  from the battle with the demon.

  Soon, all the wounded were back to prime health, and
the adventurers were able to get down to the important
business at hand.

Ged:  Time to find out just where we are...(he casts a
  Commune spell)  Hmm, that's odd.
Mongo:  What?
Ged:  The spirit of Boccob is faint...very faint...
Peldor:  (smirks)
Bosco:  Maybe-
Ged:  Quiet!  I must now ask Boccob questions, and get
  answers...Peldor, kindly put that torch out.
Peldor:  (covers his torch, cloaking its glow)  Gotcha.

  A faint purple glow limned the room, and everyone shut
up as Ged began asking questions.

Ged:  (to no one in particular)  Are we anywhere on Oerth?
disembodied voice:  NO.
Ged:  Are we on an Outer Plane?
disembodied voice:  NO.
Alindyar:  Is the Time Rune in the possession of those
  who wish to unite the Runes?
disembodied voice:  NO.
Lyra:  (feels the Water Rune's weight in her belt pouch)
Ged:  (to Alindyar)  Hey, you interrupted me!
Alindyar:  We simply must find out about the Runes.
Ged:  Hmph.  (addresses nobody again)  Is the Time Rune
  still on Oerth?
disembodied voice:  NO.
Ged:  Hmm.  Is it on the plane we're on now?
disembodied voice:  NO.
Ged:  I see.
Peldor:  Where the hell could it be...?
Ged:  Are our other companions alive and well?
disembodied voice:  YES.
Rillen:  Are they still on Oerth?
disembodied voice:  YES.
Ged:  Well, that's good.
Mongo:  Yeah.  Gorin...
Bosco:  (wondering why Gorin got to stay on Oerth while he
  was transported here with the others)  Are we ever gonna
  get home again?
disembodied voice:  (doesn't answer)
Ged:  You little fool!  You've just wasted a question!
Bosco:  (puts on an innocent face)  Not me.
Peldor:  Here, Bosco, why don't you have a look around?
  See what you can dig up.
Bosco:  Okay.  (cheerfully roams away to explore a nearby
  passage)
Ged:  Hmph.  (looks up again)  Is this place we're in a
  realm of demons?
disembodied voice:  NO.
Ged:  A realm of humans, then?
disembodied voice:  YES.
Ged:  Is it safe for us to walk the streets here?
disembodied voice:  YES.
Mongo:  Hmm, kinda thought so.
Lyra:  (to Ged)  Ask about getting home.
Ged:  Why?
Lyra:  Just a hunch.
Ged:  Hmm...(loudly)  Can we return to Oerth at will?
disembodied voice:  NO.
Ged:  Boccob!
Alindyar:  This may present...problems.
Rillen:  Agreed.
Ged:  Yea.  Hmm...can we return to Oerth at all?
disembodied voice:  YES.
Ged:  (knowing that, sometimes, he can get one answer a
  bit more useful than a simple "yes" or "no")  The final
  question, then:  when and how will we be able to return
  to Oerth?

  The disembodied voice didn't have an answer, and then
the purple glow vanished, leaving the adventurers in the
darkened room.

Lyra:  Hmm.
Peldor:  Bah.  (he holds up his green torch, which fills
  the room with a pale green glow)  Boccob can't even
  make a full sentence.  Why should we listen to him?
Arnold:  Aaa.
Ged:  I don't understand why we can't go back.  Maybe I
  should cast a Plane Shift...nah, there's too many of us.
Belphanior:  I've got it.  (he gets out his well of many
  worlds and begins to open it)
Alindyar:  Aie.
Ged:  Hey!  Where'd you get that?!?
Belphanior:  Never you mind.  (he opens the well)  This
  should give us a way out of this dimension...

  Strangely enough, instead of the normal (?) pattern of
swirling mists and such that the well usually contained,
there was nothing this time - the magical well appeared
to be a common cloth sack!

Arnold:  (drily)  Looks like id's broken.
Ged:  Way to go...
Belphanior:  Aie!  I don't understand!  It can't be broken!
Alindyar:  Perhaps it is an astrological phenomenon.
Belphanior:  (stares at Alindyar as if he was crazy)
Lyra:  Whatever...hmm, we know that a Teleport won't take
  us across planes.
Mongo:  Yeah.  (to Peldor)  I have no idea what they're
  talking about.
wispy thing:  (hovering near a strange, unmoving four-
  bladed fan that hangs from the ceiling)  Pfffs?
Ged:  Maybe an Astral Spell...?
Alindyar:  A worthy idea, to be sure.
Ged:  Yea, but I'm not sure it would work.  I suppose we
  should try, through.
Bosco:  Yeah!
Rillen:  (glares at the halfling)
Mongo:  (yawns)
Lyra:  I wonder just how far removed from Oerth our current
  plane is...?
Ged:  Hmm...the Time Rune...I don't know what the energy
  field was, but the Time Rune hit it, which knocked us
  here...
Alindyar:  I follow...perhaps everything that has happened
  derives from time-flows...this dimension, our coming here,
  everything.  Hmm, come to think of it, the others, those
  who were not transported here with us - they were all
  farther from the point of impact.
Belphanior:  Yeah, you're right!  Halbarad and Peyote, and
  that tiger, and the elemental-
Mongo:  And Gorin.
Belphanior:  Yeah!  They were all at the rear edge of the
  big spherical room.
Ged:  Out of range, in effect.
Alindyar:  'Twould seem so.
Lyra:  But what else has happened?
Belphanior:  No telling...at least not yet, anyway.
Ged:  Time to go astral.  (he begins spellcasting)  This'll
  take a while, guys.  You might as well make yourselves
  comfortable.
Mongo:  (lies down on the floor, despite its hardness, and
  dozes off)  Zzz...
Belphanior:  (gazes into a closet)  This place is _dead_.
Rillen:  At least we're not.
Peldor:  (as Ged is preoccupied, he begins searching for
  useful items, in nearby chambers and halls)
Bosco:  (follows his boss around)  Yeah!
Peldor:  Shh.
Rillen:  (eyeing the thieves suspiciously)
Ged:  (about the time he realizes that he can only take
  seven others with the spell, he realizes something else
  as well)  Boccob!  Aie!
Alindyar:  What is it?
Ged:  The gateway to the Astral Plane's not opening!
Lyra:  What do you mean, it's not opening?
Ged:  I mean just that!  I can't get through to the Astral
  Plane.  It's just...not working!
Alindyar:  Truly, this bodes ill.
Arnold:  Aaa.
Peldor:  What about items?
Ged:  (babbling to himself)  Items...hey!  (he grabs his
  amulet of the planes and begins muttering command words)
Lyra:  Hey, you can't go alone!  What about the rest of us?
Ged:  Boccob!  (he tosses the amulet away in disgust)  My
  amulet's not working, either!
Bosco:  (picks the item up)  Hey, if you don't want this-
Arnold:  (plucks the amulet from the halfling's hands)  He
  will...evendually.
Ged:  (slumps onto a crate)  Well, that does it.  None of
  our spells or items will get us back.
Alindyar:  Apparently.
Ged:  Well, yea, that's one way to look at it.
Mongo:  (wakes up from his short nap)  Huh?  We're stuck on
  this world?
Lyra:  Looks that way.
Arnold:  (looks around sadly)  Aaa.

  They spent the next half-hour figuring out which items
worked and which ones didn't.  Bags and pouches of holding
still functioned normally, as did mundane magical effects,
such as flying and healing magic.  Belphanior's magical
compass wouldn't function when asked to locate something
that was on Oerth (such as Greyhawk City, or Halbarad)
but it worked just fine when asked about things in this
dimension, such as Mongo.  None of the plane-shifting or
teleporting items worked at all, nor did spells with such
effects.  Ged's golden lions were still able to be called,
from their statuette form, and Lightbringer was still
sentient.

Lightbringer:  (almost sadly)  I sense _no_ undead here.
Ged:  Don't sweat it, that's probably a good sign.

  Mongo's girdle, hammer, et al still seemed to work, as
did his ring of regeneration; his orb of fate, however,
refused to function at all.  Peldor's and Rillen's items
all appeared to work fine as well.

Alindyar:  'Twould seem that only those spells and items
  pertaining to interdimensional travel have ceased to
  function.
Ged:  Yea, we figured that out too.
Arnold:  Aaa.
Lyra:  So, let's review what we know for sure.  One:  we
  have no apparent way of getting back to Oerth.
Ged:  Though there is some way.
Belphanior:  Two:  all of our other magic seems to work
  okay.
Peldor:  (TK-ing a crate across the room)  Yep.  (he sets
  the thing down behind him and takes a seat)
Alindyar:  Three:  the Water Rune, perhaps also the Time
  Rune, is not on Oerth; thus, the ill effects we were
  working to prevent never occurred.
Ged:  Four:  we know that the others are alive and well.
Rillen:  Although one must wonder what happened to them...
Lyra:  Hmm, if we combine three and four, we could conclude
  that we're not really pressed for time, as far as getting
  back to Oerth.
Alindyar:  A good thing - it may well take heavy research
  for us to find a way to return.
Ged:  Yea.
Bosco:  Five:  this place has a lot of neat stuff.
everyone else:  (turns to regard the halfling)

  They got to their feet again, and went deeper into the
building.

Mongo:  (examining the stones of the structure's floor and
  walls)  This is shitty architecture.  Whoever built this
  ought to be kicked in the head.  There's no harmony in
  this construction.  It's as if they had no respect for
  the earth and stone...(he looks at his hammer sadly)
Alindyar:  Whatever are you going on about?
Peldor:  Yeah, really.  It's just stone.
Mongo:  Hr-mph.
Rillen:  I don't mean to interrupt, but shouldn't we be
  looking for a way out of here?
Peldor:  Aren't we?
Belphanior:  (looks around)  I guess so.  (he snaps his head
  around suddenly)  Whoa!
Mongo:  What?
Belphanior:  Souls!  Quickly, follow me!  And be quiet about
  it!  (he dashes off)
Peldor:  (he and Bosco follow the elf)
Ged:  I guess the rest of us are just too slow...(he watches
  Rillen pass by)  Hmm.
Rillen:  Come along, people.

  They all followed Belphanior and the other thieves deeper
still into the mazelike building.  Before long, the lead
adventurers had found a room ahead, a room from which bright
light poured forth.  Inside this room, which was lit by some
kind of magical light-disk, were several strangely-garbed,
heavy-set men, who were busy ransacking the place.  One of
the fellows was busy slapping a young girl around; the
child, no more than a waif really, was dressed in rags, and
her face was covered in soot and grime.  The four men with
her seemed quite angry.

thug#1:  Come on, you little shit!  We know you stole the
  money...what, did you think you could get away and come
  here to hide?
thug#2:  (looks around)  Home sweet home...
thug#3:  Not for much longer.  Heh heh.
waif:  (screams shrilly as she kicks and struggles)
thug#4:  Come on, where'd you stash our money?
waif-girl:  (bites thug#1 in the hand, and breaks free)
thug#1:  (whips out a long knife)  No more games, honey.
  Now you tell us-  Huh?
waif-girl:  (stands to one side, surprised)
Belphanior:  (strides into the room, sword in hand, his eye
  glowing menacingly)  Why don't you pick on someone your
  own size?
thug#2:  Who the fuck are you?!?
Belphanior:  No one you want to know.  (he points Blackrazor
  at the nearest thug)  I'd tell you to get out of here, but
  you probably wouldn't listen, would you?
thug#3:  (brandishes two knives, one in each hand)  Gonna
  carve you up like a turkey, man...(he charges Belphanior)
Belphanior:  Didn't think so...(he sidesteps the attacks and
  neatly impales the thug on his sword)
thug#3:  (gurgles up blood)  Glug...
thug#4:  Hey!  He killed Johnny!
Belphanior:  (looks up, grinning)  Oops.
Peldor:  (bursts into the room)  What the-  Oh, no, we
  were supposed to stay out of trouble...
Belphanior:  What fun would _that_ be?  (he kicks the body
  of the thug away)  Okay, who's next?
Bosco:  (enters the room, sword ready)  Okay, everybody
  relax, I'm here.
thug#1:  Get 'em!  (they all charge, swinging knives or
  metal bars)
Bosco:  (darts forth, ducking a charging foe, and spins,
  stabbing the man in the rear)  Ha!
thug#4:  Argh!  (he falls, his crowbar sailing away)
Peldor:  (TKs the crowbar, holding it aloft in the air,
  spinning)  Whoa...better watch it with that, pal...some-
  body could get hurt...
thug#2:  (charges Peldor)
Rillen:  (leaps into the room, foot-first, and takes out
  thug#2)  Hai!
thug#2:  Whoooulf!  (he sails backward, teeth and blood
  flying everywhere, and falls to the floor, unmoving)
Rillen:  Chew on that.  (points at thug#1)  And you're next.
thug#4:  (gets to his feet, holding his bleeding butt)  Aie!
  (he turns to thug#1)  He stabbed me!  That little white
  dude stabbed me!
thug#1:  Get a grip on yourself, Ringo!
Ringo:  Yeah...yeah...(he pulls out a strange, dull metal
  object)  I'll get 'im!
Peldor:  Uh-oh.  (he TKs the spinning crowbar into Ringo's
  head)
Ringo:  <bonk>  Urgh...(he falls to the ground, dropping
  the strange metallic item he had brandished)
Peldor:  Hah.
Mongo:  (bursts into the room, knocking aside some crates,
  and ends up facing thug#1)  What the hell's going on?
  (he raises his hammer)
thug#1:  (now brandishing a short metal staff of some kind)
  kind)  Nice hammer...ha ha...
Mongo:  (raises his hammer, preparing to throw)  Hey, go-
thug#1:  Die!  (he points the strange staff at Mongo and
  yells)

  There was a rather loud, thunderous sound, and a blast of
flame and smoke, and Mongo was knocked back about ten feet,
where he crashed to the ground heavily.

Rillen:  Aie.
Bosco:  He killed Mongo!
thug#1:  Ha!  Let 'im have it with both barrels-
Belphanior:  (discreetly slices the man's throat)  Quiet,
  you.
thug#1:  (gurgles and falls)
Rillen:  And stay down.
Ged:  (enters the room, followed by the other)  We heard a
  thunderclap...Mongo!

  The dwarf was staggering to his feet, obviously dazed.
The front of his armor was now filled with dozens of tiny
dents, and a few drops of blood came from the dwarf's mouth.

Mongo:  Ugh...that _hurt_!
Belphanior:  I bet it did...(he holds up the smoking metal
  staff, examining it)  Smells good.
Rillen:  Watch where you point that thing.
Lyra:  A thunder stick...
Belphanior:  Yep.  (try as he might, the thief can't get the
  strange weapon to function again)  Hmm, maybe it's broken.
Rillen:  Doubtful.  If there's a way to make it work again,
  you'll find it.
Peldor:  This is true...(begins checking the punks to see
  what items they might have be carrying)  Hey-
thug#2:  (now crouching, drooling teeth and blood, and
  pointing an unusual metallic object in random directions)
  I'll get you!
Ged:  Boccob!  He's got some kind of magical weapon!
Belphanior:  Hmm, we must be getting old.  (he backhandedly
  stabs the thug in the throat)  Ah well, these problems
  are easily rectified.
Peldor:  Well, make that _no_ survivors...
waif-girl:  (watching from the sidelines)  You killed them.
Belphanior:  (looking around, he holds one finger up)  This
  is true.
waif-girl:  (looking rather distressed)  Look, I don't know
  who you guys are, but I wasn't with those others...heck,
  I didn't mean to steal the money...I didn't know how much
  there was...(she looks like she's about to bolt into a
  darkened passage)
Bosco:  Err...
Ged:  Relax, girl, we mean you no harm-
waif-girl:  Aie!  (she flees suddenly)
Bosco:  (nearby, he dives, tackling the girl)  Whouuulf!
girl:  (fighting desperately, she kicks and claws)
Bosco:  (punched in the face, he reels back)  Ow!  Heeeeelp!
Rillen:  (approaches, and pulls the girl off of Bosco)
girl:  (still fighting)  I hope you gang-people all kill
  each other!
Rillen:  (uses a nerve-pinch to silence the girl)
Lyra:  Gang?
Belphanior:  She was probably referring to those gentlemen
  whom we dispatched.
Mongo:  (regarding the limp form in Rillen's arms)  Surely
  you didn't...?
Rillen:  She's unconscious for now.
Peldor:  Hey, look!  These bozos had all kinds of stuff!

  Shortly, the adventurers had collected a number of useful
things.  In addition to a number of crude, cheap-looking
knives, they recovered one whose blade both appeared and
disappeared at the touch of a metal button.  Belphanior in
particular seemed duly fascinated by this weapon.  Besides
the "thunder-stick", they also found a pair of small metal
devices, that seemed fashioned to fit in one's hand...

Ged:  That's what those guys were aiming at us...
Mongo:  Bah.
Rillen:  (holding one of the metallic things)  Hmm-

  There was a loud crack, though not nearly as loud as the
booming sound made by the thunder-stick; and a metal can
that was leaning against a wall toppled over with a loud
"clang", a small smoking hole in its rusted side.

Rillen:  Whoa.
Lyra:  Another thunder weapon!
Belphanior:  Albeit a lesser one...
Alindyar:  Let me see that.  (he takes the thing from Rillen
  and carefully examines it)  Ouch!  The end here is hot...
  and smoke doth issue from this hole...hmm.  (he points the
  smoke-hole at a wall and begins manipulating buttons and
  levers on the item)
Rillen:  Be careful-
Alindyar:  I know what I'm doing-

  There was another loud cracking sound, and a chunk of old
plaster exploded from the wall.  For his part, Alindyar was
knocked back, falling to the ground.

Alindyar:  Ouch.
Rillen:  I warned you.  That item has a rather powerful...
  kick.
Lyra:  Not to mention a deafening effect.
Mongo:  Bah.  Sorcerous weapons, all.  I'll take my hammer
  any day of the week.
Belphanior:  (eyeing the thunder weapons, and the large
  dent in Mongo's armor)  I wouldn't...
Peldor:  (holding up other items found on the punks)  What
  about this stuff?

  Besides the mentioned weapons, the adventurers had also
found a number of other things:  some small, lightweight
coins, wrapped in illustrated green paper; a small, clear
vial of some kind, filled with translucent liquid; some
unusual-looking keys; a thin piece of metal, too oddly-
shaped to be a knife; and last, various small cylinders of
metal and, in some cases, a soft, lightweight substance.
These things were stashed away, and the adventurers next
pondered the little waif-girl, who rested on the ground
nearby.

Lyra:  Hmm, she seems so young...so innocent...
Peldor:  Yeah.  She also seems homeless.  I've seen enough
  urchins in the streets of Oerth.
Belphanior:  Hear, hear.
Bosco:  (suddenly feeling sorry for the waif-girl)  Aww.
Rillen:  I hated to have to knock her out, but she might
  have hurt Bosco.
Bosco:  (rubbing his jaw)  Yeah...but still...
Alindyar:  Perhaps the child can guide us about, in her
  world.
Mongo:  First we've got to get her to trust us.  Hell, she
  probably thinks we mean to kill her.
Belphanior:  (cleaning his blade)  Can't say I blame her...
Alindyar: A simple spell could-
Ged:  No.  We must do this honestly.
Peldor:  Hmm.
wispy thing:  (hovering nearby, it examines a wall)  Sss.
Arnold:  (digging about in a nearby crate, he finds some
  rotted clothes)  Aaa.  Guess we won't find a disbuise in
  here.
waif-girl:  (stirs)  Ohhh...
Ged:  (trying to think of something appropriate to say, so
  as not to scare the child)
Bosco:  (strolls forth)  Hi!
girl:  Eek!
Bosco:  Don't be afraid.  (he reaches behind the girl's ear
  and produces a silver coin)  Here, what's this I found?
girl:  Eh?
Bosco:  See there!  (he hands the shining coin to the girl)
  What's your name, kid?
girl:  (looking rather confused)  Y-you're not going to kill
  me?
Bosco:  Heavens, no!  We just wandered into this place when
  those turkeys were trying to get you.
girl:  Oh.
Bosco:  I'm Bosco!  What's your name?
girl:  Paula.
Lyra:  Is this your home, Paula?
Paula:  Yeah...kind of.  It's deserted, mostly.
Belphanior:  Except for the urchins.
Peldor:  And the starfish!
Rillen:  Clam up.
Paula:  And the bums...but I always avoid them, 'cause they
  never wander much in these back halls.  Even if they do,
  all my stuff is hidden.  (she jumps up, and pulls away a
  loose floorboard)
Peldor:  (looks at Belphanior, alarmed)
Belphanior:  (looks at Bosco)
Bosco:  (looks to his right, but no one's there)  Oh.
Paula:  (produces a black case, fashioned from some sort of
  hide)  Look, this's the money they were after.  I stole
  it.  (she beams, and begins opening the case)
Peldor:  Uh...shouldn't you check that for traps?
Paula:  Huh?
Ged:  So, who were those people, anyway?
Paula:  Moneyrunners, I guess...I don't know, really.  One
  of 'em was dozing off against a car, and I kinda snatched
  it and ran...
Alindyar:  (assumes that a "car" is some kind of building)
  I see.
Paula:  (pops open the case, revealing numerous stacks of
  green papers)  Whoa!
Belphanior:  That's the same stuff those punks had...but
  there's more here...
Bosco:  These green wrappers...they pass for money?
Paula:  Pass?  They _are_ money.  (she regards the party
  strangely)
Ged:  What about these?  (he holds up some of the thin,
  lightweight coins that the thugs were carrying in their
  pockets)  Surely these must have some value?
Mongo:  Yeah, though they're neither gold nor silver...
Lyra:  They're fairly puny, as coins go.
Paula:  Geez, you people aren't from around here, are you?
Rillen:  No.

  Within minutes, the waif Paula explained the concept of
paper money to the adventurers, who accepted it with varying
degrees of comprehension.

Mongo:  That's _ridiculous_!  Paper's good for burning, not
  money.
Peldor:  (busy counting the green papers, which seem to have
  denominations ranging from one to a hundred)  Ah, even on
  this new world, Peldor is rich...
Alindyar:  What prevents someone from simply inscribing more
  of this paper money...these "dollars"?
Paula:  Hey, I wouldn't know about that stuff.  I wasn't in
  school that long.  But someone takes care of all that.
Ged:  It's an economic issue...capital.  (he and Alindyar
  begin discussing economics)
Lyra:  Some people worry about too many things...(she looks
  at Paula)  You need a bath.
Paula:  Hah.  That's a joke.
Lyra:  Now that we have all this money, maybe we can find
  a real inn to stay in.
Arnold:  Inn?
Paula:  Inn?  Oh, you mean a hotel...hey!
Mongo:  (alarmed by the loudness in the tiny girl's voice)
  What?
Paula:  We can't stay here!  Those gang guys...more'll be
  on the way, to get their money...they've gotta know where
  I am.  We've got to get out of here!
Belphanior:  Why not lie in wait, and simply slay them when
  they show up?
Paula:  'Cause we just _can't_.  C'mon!  (she gathers up a
  few personal possessions)  Let's split!  (she heads into
  a passageway)
Bosco:  (immediately heads after the girl)  Hey, careful,
  it's dark in there.  Lemme make sure no harm befalls
  you...(he vanishes into the darkness)
Mongo:  Hmm.  (he follows, muttering something about a child
  leading the way)
Ged:  This is madness-
Lyra:  (grabs Alindyar and follows the young girl)  Come.
Alindyar:  (his economic debate interrupted)  But-
Lyra:  She's the only guide we have.  We should follow her.
Rillen:  Aye.  (he follows Paula as well)
Belphanior:  (perhaps seeking further thugs to slay, he goes
  after the others, whistling in a low tone)
Ged:  Boccob!  Insanity rules the day!

  For some time, they roamed the passages and rooms of the
huge old warehouse, following the girl Paula, who seemed to
know where she was going.  More than once, they passed winos
and bums, most of whom had passed out in the musty building.

Belphanior:  (looking around as they continue onward)  This
  place virtually teems with souls.
Ged:  Let's hope they're just harmless ones.  (he gestures
  to a drunken bum lying amidst some boxes)  Like him.
Bosco:  (considers picking the fellow's pockets, but then
  catches a whiff of the man)  Phew!
wispy thing:  (orbits the wino's head)  Pffft!
wino:  Eh?  (he looks carefully at his half-empty bottle)
Ged:  You there!  What are you doing in that condition?
  You ought to be ashamed-
Peldor:  Hey, I remember being in that condition...many a
  time...
Arnold:  Yah.
Bosco:  (kicks a can as the adventurers walk away)
wino:  (muttering drunkenly)  Hmph.  Weirdos...(he promptly
  falls asleep)

  As they continued, the darkness seemed to recede a bit,
as if they were approaching a well-lighted face of the huge
building.

Paula:  That'd be the main drag...
Ged:  Good.  I was beginning to think we were lost.
Belphanior:  Nonsense.  I'm never lost.
Ged:  Only misguided.
Belphanior:  Bah.
Bosco:  (whistling merrily)
Paula:  You people need to lighten up.
wispy thing:  (nods at the adventurers, grinning)
Belphanior:  Quiet, you.

  Shortly, the group approached a wall full of windows,
through which bright light poured in from the outside.

Paula:  Whoa.  What the heck's going on-

  Suddenly, there was a tremendous crash, and an entire
section of wall was knocked inward.  A huge, rounded head,
plated with iron or some other metal, smashed its way into
the building; beyond the head was a long neck, and a strange
body, also of metallic composition.  The thing was making
weird, loud grinding sounds as it tore its way into the old
warehouse.  Behind it was an intensely bright light, which
half-blinded the adventurers as they gaped in awe.

Ged:  Boccob!
Paula:  (screaming)
Mongo:  A dragon!  (he hefts his hammer)
Belphanior:  To arms!  (he charges to one side)
Arnold:  Ah-nold!  (he draws his huge sword and sallies
  forth)
Peldor:  C'mon, Bosco!  (they both charge, and then Peldor
  goes invisible)
Bosco:  Yeah!
Alindyar:  Er...
Paula:  (stops her screeching)  Where are _they_ going?
Ged:  Why, to slay the dragon!
Paula:  Dragon?
Lyra:  (regarding the dragon strangely)  Hmm.

  Meanwhile, the warriors pressed their attack bravely...

Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest at the thing's head, and a loud
  thunderclap is heard)  Die!

  There was a tremendous CLANG, and the dragon's head then
exploded, littering the ground with chunks of grey metal!

Belphanior:  Way to go!  You killed it!
Mongo:  Maybe not!  It's still moving toward us, and it's
  still roaring and stomping!  (he catches his hammer)
Arnold:  (finds himself facing a large black foot of some
  kind, and he hacks at it)

  A loud POP ensued, followed by a steady hissing sound.

Arnold:  Aaa?
Belphanior:  (leaps atop the dragon's neck, and begins
  climbing up toward the main body)  Hah!  (the neck tilts
  skyward)  Whoa...uh-oh...(he scrambles for a grip)
Peldor:  (backstabs the massive dragon, but his sword is
  deflected harmlessly by its thick hide)  <clang>
Bosco:  (realizes that he's too small to make any difference
  here, and backs up a bit)  Err...

  They waited for the monster to make its attack, but it
didn't.  In fact, all that really happened was that a crowd
of people, now visible behind the huge metallic form, turned
and fled in terror.

Peldor:  Hah!  We've freed the dragon's slaves!
Mongo:  Yeah!  (he hurls his hammer again, striking the
  thing with enough force to nearly topple it)  Yeah!
Belphanior:  (dangling from the neck above)  Uh-oh...

  Just then, several things happened.  Ged, the drow, and
the waif Paula began running toward the others, shouting.
Belphanior, lifted into the air by the dragon's neck, lost
his grip and fell a good forty feet to the ground, landing
squarely between the other warriors and a group of blue-
garbed men in hats, who were pointing thunder sticks and
other such devices at him and yelling.

Belphanior:  (wobbles to his feet)  Oh, I love stoneskins...
Paula:  (she and the magi reach the warriors and thieves,
  who are watching Belphanior, who is watching the blue-
  garbed ones)  Oh, no!  The cops!
Ged:  What's this?
Rillen:  Some kind of city guardsmen, perhaps?
Lyra:  How'd you know that?
Rillen:  Just a feeling...
Paula:  Belphanior...oh, please tell me he isn't going to
  smart off to them...(she looks pleadingly at the others)
Ged:  Well, I could say that, but I'd probably be lying...

blue-garbed one:  They said these guys blew up the crane.
  We'd better be careful...they're probably terrorists.
other blue-garbed one:  You!  In the red!  Put down that...
  sword and get on the ground!
Belphanior:  (looking around)  Me?
third blue-garbed one:  NOW!
Belphanior:  (waving his sword around)  Now hold on one-
fourth blue-garbed one:  Take him down!

  All of the guardsmen, or whatever they were, began firing
their thunder weapons at the elf.

Belphanior:  (his stoneskins being worn away rapidly)  Ow.
  Ouch!  Argh!  Uh-oh.

  With that, the elf began staggering as the weapons' fiery
discharges tore into him.  Blood and guts sprayed everywhere
as the elf was knocked backwards by the force of the arcane
weapons.

Ged:  Boccob!  They're killing him!
Paula:  (to Lyra)  Please listen!  We've got to get out of
  here.  Now!  Or we're all gonna get wasted.  PLEASE believe
  me.
Lyra:  (to Alindyar)  Hear that?
Alindyar:  Aye...(he begins spellcasting)
Mongo:  What's going on?
Ged:  Strategic withdrawal.
Peldor:  Surely you aren't going to leave him?  (he points
  to the shredded form of Belphanior, about fifty feet away
  where it fell to the ground, sword still in hand)
Bosco:  Ugh.  What a way to go.
Lyra:  We'll come back for him later.  Now, we must escape.
Alindyar:  (still spellcasting)  Aye.
Peldor:  (turns away angrily)
Ged:  Don't worry, I can bring him back to life later.  But
  I've got to be alive to do it, you see.
wispy thing:  (orbiting in the air above the carnage)  Sss?
Lyra:  Quickly!  Everyone link hands!
Ged:  Damn, I hate to do this, but we can't sit here and get
  torn to bits...
Mongo:  No!  I'm not leaving!  (he prepares to hurl his
  hammer at the blue-garbed ones)
Rillen:  (grabs the dwarf's shoulder)  You have to come with
  us.

  As the blue-garbed ones ran around Belphanior's body
toward the others, pointing their weapons and shouting, the
adventurers, and Paula with them, just vanished into thin
air.

cop:  Whoa!
other cop:  Huh?
third cop:  Where'd they go?!?
fourth cop:  (narrowly avoids stepping in what's left of
  Belphanior)  Ugh.
other official-looking fellow:  At least we got one of 'em.
  We've got this building surrounded - I want a sweep of
  the place, pronto!  We'll find those terrorists, wherever
  they've holed up.  They've got to be in there somewhere.
other cops:  (hasten to follow orders)
ambulance driver:  (having just arrived, he looks at the
  shredded body of Belphanior)  Think this one'll make it?
  (he slaps his thigh)  Ha ha!
random cop:  Man, you're sick.



  Elsewhere, the adventurers blinked into existence in the
midst of a dark alley, one much like the one they had first
appeared in.

Paula:  (looking around incredulously)  YIKES!!!
Lyra:  What is it, child?
Paula:  We were there...now we're not...whoa.
Alindyar:  (unable to stifle a grin)
Arnold:  Aaa.  I hope Belphandior's okay...
Rillen:  Doubtful.
Mongo:  We'll avenge him!  (he glares angrily at Rillen)
Paula:  He saved your life, Mongo.  Those cops would have
  shot ALL of us to bits, before we had time to run away.
Ged:  We'll go back and find him...
Bosco:  (looking around)  Hey, where's Peldor?
Lyra:  Yes, where IS Peldor?
Mongo:  Hmm...
Bosco:  He's not answering.  Do you suppose he got nailed
  by those "cops"?
Rillen:  I'd gamble that he stayed behind...
Ged:  (slaps his forehead)  Oh, wonderful.  This is all we
  need.
Paula:  No it's not.  They'll be looking for us - all of
  us.  We need to get you guys some real clothes.  You
  can't walk around in that...armor?  Hey!
Arnold:  (looking down upon the girl)  Whaaat?
Paula:  You're really NOT from around here, are you?
Ged:  Nope.
Paula:  Oh man...man oh man...
Bosco:  Lost your train of thought, kid?
Paula:  (looking dazed)
Lyra:  Clothes?
Paula:  Clothes...yeah, you'll be needing to blend in with
  the crowds...
Alindyar:  An illusion, perhaps...?
Lyra:  Let's see what she has in mind.

  The girl led them through a few other alleys, eventually
stopping across one alleyway from a run-down little store
nestled between two huge buildings.

Paula:  Stay here - we don't want any of you to be seen.
  (she takes a wad of the green paper money from the case
  she stole earlier, and dashes across the street)
Alindyar:  (regards the small niche that they're all
  crammed into)  Hmm.  (he begins spellcasting)

  About ten minutes later, Paula emerged from the store,
lugging a brown box behind her.  After crossing the alley,
she looked around in confusion, trying to find the small
niche where she had left her new friends.  As she looked
around, unsuccessfully, a muscled black arm appeared from
the air and grabbed her, pulling her...out of sight?

Paula:  (squeaks as she finds herself in the small niche)
Rillen:  (quickly drags the box in after her)
Paula:  (looking more than a little frightened)  What...?
Lyra:  Never fear, child.  We simply masked ourselves from
  the outside world.
Paula:  (finds that she is able to see the alley, and the
  used clothes store she just left)  You mean...
Alindyar:  Indeed.  They cannot see us in here.
Bosco:  Neat, huh?  (he begins rummaging through the box)
  Clothes?  You got clothes for us!
Paula:  Err...yeah.  I did the best I could.  (she holds up
  the wad of money she has left)  Well, for this part of
  town, anyway...I sure hope you can all find something
  that fits you.
Mongo:  (regarding his armor)  You want me to take my armor
  off?  (he looks rather upset at the notion)
Paula:  Look, you can't walk around here in that stuff.
  (she raps on the plate mail with her knuckles)  You'll get
  caught within hours.  Trust me - if you guys look normal
  like everyone else here, you'll be perfectly safe.
Ged:  I guess we just have to give it a try.  Here, we can
  put all the armor, shields, and weapons into the portable
  hole.
Bosco:  (fingering a dagger)  Only the BIG weapons...no
  one'll ever notice our smaller ones...
Rillen:  You sound like...Belphanior.  Hmm.
Mongo:  (grumbling)
Paula:  If you really think finding his remains will help
  you out, fine.  But you've gotta look normal, instead of
  like such dorks.
Arnold:  (eyes the waif evilly)

  About fifteen minutes later, the adventurers re-emerged
into the alley, rather drastically changed.  In fact, the
grizzled old man attending the portable beer stand thought
he was having some kind of hallucination.  Old Bill gaped
in awe as the group of strange people headed his way.  In
his more than two dozen years of Mardi Gras celebrations,
old Bill had seen a lot of weird people come and go, but
these ranked up there with the best of them.  The two big
guys, of course, stood out; they were two of the biggest
men old Bill had ever seen.  The big white guy was wearing
gym shorts and a tank top, which wasn't quite big enough
to accomodate his massive physique.  The big black guy was
dressed in some kind of spandex outfit, which was, not at
all surprisingly, also too small.  Old Bill found himself
wondering if the two were with the Saints.  All the others
were dwarfed by the pair; one was a skinny man, but this
one was a lot shorter than either of the other two, maybe
five-one.  More noticeably, he had gold hair - must have
been dyed or something.  This one was wearing some kind of
toga, and it didn't take old Bill long to decide that he
was one of those transvestites from Hollywood.  They always
seemed to show up for Mardi Gras, from all corners of the
earth, no doubt.  Next to the pale, goofy guy in the toga
was a short but quite stocky bearded man.  He kinda looked
like a cross between one of the members of ZZ Top and a
Hell's Angel, old Bill thought to himself.  The guy's old,
beaten biker jacket and tattered jeans were complemented
by the heavy riding boots he wore.
  Behind these four were a pair of odd-looking black folks
with long white hair.  The guy was dressed fairly nicely,
in black silk clothes; old Bill decided that he was some
kind of pimp.  His girlfriend, though, was hot - she had
on one of the shortest, tightest miniskirts that poor old
Bill had ever laid eyes upon, and she filled it well.
Walking alongside the chick was a young urchin girl, one
who old Bill thought he might actually have seen before.
She alone of this group seemed to belong here, and Bill
found himself wondering what she was doing mixed up with
these others.  Oh, well, you just never knew...
  As the group of weirdos approached, old Bill noticed a
young lad running along happily behind them.  The little
guy wasn't even three feet tall, and here he was running
around the streets and parades in pajamas!  Maybe he was
with the other ones...yep, old Bill decided as the imp
began shouting at them in a shrill voice.

Bosco:  Look!  Beeeeer!
old Bill:  (rubs his eyes as the adventurers approach)
  Geez, what is it this time?
Arnold:  (cheerfully)  Beer!
old Bill:  Huh?
Mongo:  You heard him.  A round of your finest beers.
old Bill:  Huh?  (he regards Bosco, thinks about carding
  him, looks at the others, and thinks better of it)  What
  kind?
Bosco:  What've you got?
old Bill:  Not much...lessee here...Bud, Bud Lite, Michelob,
  uh...Schaeffer's.
Mongo:  Bud?
old Bill:  You got it.  (he gets eight bottles from his cart
  and hands them to the strange people)  That'll be twenty
  bucks.
Bosco:  (regards the "Bud", confused)
Paula:  But I'm too young to-
Rillen:  (claps his hand over the girl's mouth)  Ahem.
old Bill:  You folks got any money?
Ged:  Pardon?
old Bill:  Twenty bucks, friend.  Beer ain't free, you know.
Ged:  Bucks?  (digs out a silver piece)  Will this do?
old Bill:  (gapes in wonder, takes the coin, and stares at
  it)  What's this?
Arnold:  Money?
old Bill:  Eh, hmm, I guess it is.  (he turns the coin over
  and over)  Hmm, this must be _really_ old.  Doesn't even
  have a date.
Lyra:  You wouldn't believe us if we told you...
old Bill:  Hmm...no, I've gotta have cash, fellas.
Paula:  (hands the old man a twenty)  Here you go, pal.
old Bill:  Gotcha.
Paula:  (hands her beer back to old Bill)  Here, I'm too
  young to drink.  Treat yourself to one.
old Bill:  (eyes Bosco)  Don't mind if I do.
Paula:  Good.
Arnold:  (beams at the girl)  Thandks.
Bosco:  (cheerfully, to old Bill)  Seeya!
old Bill:  Err...right.

  As the adventurers headed toward the busier streets,
trying to figure out how to open their bottles, they
discussed issues of importance.

Ged:  Well, now that we've got "bud", I think we'd better
  figure out how to get Belphanior back...
Mongo:  Or at least his body.
Paula:  (rather sarcastically)  Good plan.
Lyra:  You've never seen the dead raised, have you, child?
Paula:  Nope.  What the heck are you talking about?  Dead
  is dead, you know?
Lyra:  Err, nevermind.
Bosco:  (getting angry at his sealed beer bottle)  Grr.
Arnold:  (having torn the metal cap from his bottle, he
  takes a long swig)  Mmm...good.
Mongo:  (likewise)  Ahh...this hits the spot, even though
  it tastes like cheap beer to me...
Ged:  (figures out that it's a screw top, and presently
  follows Arnold in a drink)  Here's to a brave new world.
Bosco:  (holds up his bottle)  I can't-
Arnold:  (rips the cap from the halfling's bottle)  There
  you go, Bodsco.
Bosco:  (drinks)  Thanks!
Paula:  Good.  Now that you have decent clothes and are
  calmed down...we can see about checking the town for
  your friend...or what's left of him.
Alindyar:  Search?
Paula:  Yep.
Mongo:  What about the people...the parades?
Paula:  Ah...let me try and explain Mardi Gras to you...



  Meanwhile, in another part of the city entirely, an
invisible form glided amongst the unsuspecting mobs in
the streets.

Peldor:  (efficiently dodging passers-by as he follows
  the strange metal chariot which Belphanior's body was
  loaded into)  Hmm.
little boy:  (looking around as he hears the muttering)
  Huh?
Peldor:  (drops a gold coin into the lad's pocket, then
  continues about his way)

  Fortunately for the thief, the metal chariot's progress
through the streets was delayed by numbers of other,
similar chariots.  Peldor found himself able to keep up
with, and indeed catch up to, the thing.

Peldor:  (walks up to the ambulance, which is stuck in
  traffic, and peers through the back window, where the
  body bag rests, along with a bored-looking attendant)
  Hmm...(he eyes the vehicle's door handle and reaches
  out)

  Suddenly, there was a wildly flashing red light, and a
loud wailing noise, and the strange metal chariot rolled
away!  The other chariots were apparently affected by its
magic, for they made way, allowing it to pass by.  Peldor
was quickly left behind, for even he couldn't run that fast.

Peldor:  (out of breath, he stops running, and recites
  the words that he read from the back of the ambulance)
  "Memorial Hospital"...guess I'll have to go there...(he
  eyes the various metallic chariots around him, realizing
  that they are in fact operated by people)  Hmm...



  Thus it was that the adventurers' first day on Earth
came to an end; as some of the party rested and planned
their next move, others were on their own, or out of it
entirely.





next time :  more of the same!

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

notes     :  I don't know what to say...I guess first and
  foremost, you should know that this episode has taken
  FAR too long to write, maybe seven weeks.  That's a new
  record, and not the good kind.  During this time, I've
  switched roommates, run the Peachtree road race, gotten
  my first raise, dealt with an air conditioner that stayed
  broken for 6 days, watched 20 days go by during which rain
  fell (!)...but chiefly, I've been occupied chasing this
  woman I'm after.  It was a close thing, but I triumphed
  in the end, and now I've got the girlfriend (maybe more,
  at the rate things are going!) I really want(ed)...

    Needless to say, during the past weeks, I haven't
  been in much of a mood to do any writing.  Apathy ruled
  for most of June and part of July.  I finally broke out
  of it, once I was happy, and what you're reading is the
  result.  It was once 39K long and unfinished, during the
  worst depths of my apathy; I actually demolished that
  work, and started fresh from scratch!  I was actually
  that unhappy with what I had written to that point...
  A story set on our Earth is a difficult undertaking,
  one which I vastly underestimated.  I hope you like the
  result of my efforts...of course, since you're reading
  this, you know that I opted to make the Earth-story a
  multi-parter.  This was 50K when I got to a logical
  breaking point, and I didn't believe I was even half-
  done.  I think posting a 100K episode 200 is a bit much.
  Thus, I've split it.  Heck, as I write these words, I
  don't even know what the exact outcome of this plotline
  will be...and 201+ haven't even been written.  I'm taking
  the first week in August off, to go to the beach; I wanted
  to post this before I left.  Just to let the world know I
  hadn't died, you understand...

    On a side note, you may be interested to know that I've
  gotten rid of my roommate of 1.5 years, making way for
  none other than Peldor himself to be my roommate until
  December.  Guess I have an extra proofreader now...
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