Chapter #211

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells,    +
+  and other terms used in these stories are the property of  +
+  TSR, Inc.  However, this does not mean that TSR in any     +
+  way endorses or authorizes their use, and any such items   +
+  contained within these stories should not be considered    +
+  representative of TSR in any way, shape, or form.          +
+    Due to the nature of the Internet, these stories have    +
+  been widely available since 1991.  I have given them to    +
+  the world freely, and have never intended to market them   +
+  or in any way make money.  However, due to TSR, Inc.'s     +
+  copyright restrictions, old episodes of the Adventurers    +
+  are no longer being archived on any ftp site anywhere.     +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The player 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 (1.5 days after arrival)                 +
+   Time:    late morning                                     +
+   Place:   an alien city called "New Orleans"               +
+   Climate: cold                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "The shortest distance between two points is usually      +
+    under repair."                                           +
+                                                  - unknown  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                  CCXI.  Homeward Bound





  After a night of complete and total drunken carousing, the
adventurers (at least those who made it back to the hotel
room) have begun to wake up...

Mongo:  (on the floor, he sits up)  Ugh.
Rillen:  (already drinking water)  That was some night.
Mongo:  Yeah...(he looks around)  Geez.

  On one couch sprawled Arnold, along with his lady-friend
of the previous night; a thick blanket covered them both.
The other couch had been folded out, and one of Belphanior's
arms protruded from beneath a sheet.  It appeared that he
wasn't alone, either.  Then there was Bosco, curled up
around a pillow in one corner of the den.

Mongo:  Where's Ged, and the drow?
Rillen:  In the bedrooms, I'd assume.
Mongo:  Not the same one, I hope...

  Slowly but surely, the others began to wake up.

Ged:  (having emerged from a bedroom, he is conferring with
  the others at the breakfast table)  ...and we'll go to the
  museum and find this relic.
Paula:  (wanders into the kitchen area, gets a whiff of the
  adventurers' odors, and covers her nose)  Ugh!  Not before
  you all get showers first!
Mongo:  Showers?
Paula:  Uh...it's like a bath, but easier.  And shorter.
Belphanior:  That's certainly encouraging.  (he looks around
  at the random women in the hotel room, and considers using
  the line "Bitches, leave.")  Hmm.
Ged:  How does this "shower" work?
Paula:  Err...I guess I'll have to show you.  (she cocks an
  ear)  What a minute...someone's already using one!
Rillen:  Must be the drow.
Ged:  They're smart old birds, all right.  Well!  If _they_
  can figure it out, so can I!  (he marches off to the bath-
  room)

  A shrt time later, there was a scream of pain from the
nearer bathroom, and upon investigating, Mongo came back to
inform the others that Ged had "experienced a problem with
the hot water" for a brief instant.
  About this time, Peldor staggered in through the suite's
doors.

Peldor:  Aaaa...(he collapses on the couch where Belphanior
  slept, and instantly begins snoring)  ZZZzzzzz...
Ged:  (looks at Rillen)  Didn't we have that door locked?
Rillen:  We sure did.
Belphanior:  Heh heh.



  Hours had passed before everyone had woken up, showered,
and eaten.

Paula:  (looking the group over)  Maybe we should have
  bought some more sets of clothes...

  The young ladies that some of the warriors had brought
to the room eventually left, and it was time to clean up
and get out.

Paula:  So you're just going to stroll into the museum and
  blink out of existence?
Belphanior:  Don't phrase it like that.
Alindyar:  Actually-
Ged:  Yea.  We'll find whatever relic it is that we need;
  I'll know it when I see it.
Mongo:  (cancels his unasked question)
wispy thing:  (flies out of a cupboard)  Brffff?
Bosco:  So, what are we waiting for?
Paula:  Nothing, I guess...
Lyra:  Don't we have to check out of this hotel too?
Paula:  Yeah...
Rillen:  What about that corpse in the corner?
Arnold:  (like everyone else, he turns to look)  Aaa!

  The body, as well as the bloodstains, was gone!

Alindyar:  By the gods!
Belphanior:  (grinning slyly)  Not quite...
Ged:  What?!?  You got rid of it?  How?  Where?  When?
Belphanior:  I'll never tell.  Let's just say that no one
  will ever find it.
Paula:  (kind of worried about the elf's sanity)  Uh...
Peldor:  Oh well, easy come, easy go.
Ged:  (stares at the thief with a mixture of disbelief and
  disgust)
Belphanior:  (thinking fast)  Now, of course, if someone
  sent an assassin to get us, they might very well know
  where we are...though typically, assassins don't report
  back on the little details of their contracts-
Mongo:  (interrupts angrily)  So what are you saying?
Ged:  What he means is that, after we leave this place,
  Paula here is probably in extreme danger.
Paula:  Aie.
Bosco:  (holds Paula's hand fearfully)
Belphanior:  Way I look at it, we have a couple of options.
  One, we could find the people who hired that guy...and
  kill them.  All of them.
Alindyar:  I can see the merits of that approach.
Belphanior:  Two, Paula could relocate herself, somewhere
  far away...
Rillen:  (wondering if the elf means bringing Paula home
  with them)
Paula:  Not _that_ far away.
Mongo:  Couldn't she change her identity?
Peldor:  That kinda goes hand-in-hand with option two.
Ged:  Why don't you give her your hat of disguise?
Peldor:  Uh...err...
Bosco:  What about just giving the money back?
Peldor:  (stares at Bosco in disbelief)
Belphanior:  Nope, they'd probably still want her dead.
  It's the way these people think.
Rillen:  Well, I vote for option one.
Mongo:  Me too!  Let's smash the bastards to bits!
Alindyar:  (quietly)  There is option three.
Ged:  Option _three_?
Belphanior:  Three?
Alindyar:  Indeed, option three:  trick those who are
  after her into thinking she is already dead.
Mongo:  How the hell do you propose to do that?
Alindyar:  Careful planning...and a little illusion.
Ged:  Ah...
Belphanior:  (to Ged and Alindyar)  Would it help if I
  were to tell you that I did a "speak with dead" on the
  assassin, and learned all kinds of useful information
  from him?
Ged:  (stares in shock)
Alindyar:  (stares in admiration)
wispy thing:  (closes its immaterial little eyes)

  Within the hour, Belphanior  was a changed elf.  Wearing
Peldor's hat of disguise, and carrying a black briefcase,
he entered a large office building and proceeded to the
twenty-sixth floor.  Of course, he didn't appear as a tall
elf; rather, he looked exactly like the fellow he had
dispatched in the hotel suite the other night.  Right down
to the black fedora, the pin-striped suit, the expression-
less face, a mask of death...to be sure, the elf had
assumed more than just the man's appearance; he had studied
the way he walked, talked, acted...subtle mannerisms and
the like.  He had in effect _become_ the assassin.
  Going by the careful instructions he'd pried from the
dead man's soul, Belphanior entered an office, in which a
secretary was busy doing paperwork of some sort.

secretary:  Oh!
Belphanior/assassin:  I need to speak with Mr. Castiglione.
secretary:  Of course...I'm sure he'll be glad to see you.
  (she picks up a phone)  Sir?  (she whispers something
  into the phone, listens, then hangs it up)  Go right in.
  (she buzzes a door open)
assassin/Belphanior:  (saying nothing, he enters a darkened
  room, within which several shadowy men sit around a large
  black table)
old man at head of table:  So!  There you are!  You have
  good news for us, yes?
assassin:  (opens the briefcase and presents its contents
  to the man)  She appears to have spent almost six thousand
  dollars.  The rest is still there.
old man:  Ah!  What's six grand, anyway?  (to his fellows)
  Hell, what's five million?  Hah, hah, heh...(he breaks
  into a fit of coughing)
Belphanior:  (stares impassively)
old man:  Excellent work, as usual.  (he hands the black
  briefcase to a subordinate, who begins counting and
  stacking the money)  Excellent.  (he pulls out a packet)
  Here's the rest of your fee.
assassin:  (takes the packet, peeks inside, and stashes it
  in a breast pocket)  Very well.  (he tips his hat, and
  turns to leave)
old man:  Wait a minute!
assassin:  Hmm?
old man:  What'd you do with the body?  We're just _dying_
  to know!  Hah heh...(he begins coughing again)
assassin:  You might check the steel mill downtown.  Their
  hydroflouric acid vats are fairly potent...there might be
  a few bits of bone left, but I doubt it.  Even so, you'd
  never be able to identify them.  It could be anybody...

  With that, he made his exit, saying nothing else to anyone
on the way out.  As soon as he had left the office building,
he went to a fast-food restaurant, entered the bathroom, and
upon seeing that no one else was inside, he re-disguised
himself.  Now he resembled someone who would never be seen
in this universe - a minor city official from Greyhawk, whom
he knew well and could easily picture in his mind.  Under
this identity, he walked for several blocks, making a few
stops along the way.  He eventually met the others in front
of the museum (Paula had been so kind as to provide complete
directions) where they waited anxiously.

Belphanior:  (changes back into his real identity)  I'm
  back!
Peldor:  How'd it go?
Belphanior:  Without a hitch.  They believed everything,
  and assuming that Paula gets out of the city and goes
  somewhere else to live.
Paula:  (holding up the stacks of hundreds in her pockets)
  Lessee...ten, twenty, thirty, forty...fifty thousand!
Mongo:  Huh?!?
Bosco:  I'm confused.  When the people you gave the money
  back to count it, they're gonna find that some is missing
  and then won't they hunt you down?!?
Belphanior:  You should have been listening when we planned
  this out.
Alindyar:  They _will_ count the correct amount, you see,
  minus the six thousand that Belphanior told them was
  missing.
Belphanior:  Had to be realistic...a thief would have spent
  _something_, after all.
Alindyar:  They will count the money and find the correct
  amount, and if they count it again in an hour, they will
  _still_ find the correct amount.  Only tomorrow - sometime
  tomorrow evening, to be exact - will they learn that a bit
  more than six thousand is missing.
Paula:  (trying to do math in her head)  Six...?
Belphanior:  (holds out the black leather wallet, complete
  with a driver's license depicting the dead assassin)
Alindyar:  Ah.  (the wallet vanishes)  Simple illusion, that.
Bosco:  Wow...

  They entered the museum, and began wandering around as
Ged searched for whatever mystical device was supposedly
contained therein.

Ged:  I can _sense_ it...
Belphanior:  (using his magical compass, which he has
  directed to lead him to the item Ged is looking for)  Ah!
Ged:  Hmm?
Belphanior:  It's upstairs...

  They all went up some stairs, entering a large section
filled with ancient statues, carvings, and the like.  Some
of the displays were actually re-created stone structures,
pieced together from their component blocks.  The various
signs on the exhibits indicated that they came from places
both old and wide-spread - the ends of the earth.

Belphanior:  We're getting warmer.
Ged:  Yea.
Lyra:  I sense power in this place...power that the people
  of this world have no idea exists...
Alindyar:  Aye.
Mongo:  I still don't see how we can hope to find something
  that we've never even seen-
Belphanior:  (he and Ged lead the party around a corner)
Ged:  There!  (he points excitedly)

  Before the party, indeed at the end of this hallway, was
a huge arch of blue stone.  It looked rather weird there,
disembodied from whatever long-fallen building had once
surroundee it.  Though contained within a roped section,
it now seemed to tower above all else nearby, and they
sensed that the archway didn't really belong in a museum
at all.

Arnold:  Aaa.
Bosco:  (looking around, wondering what's about to happen)
Lyra:  (staring in awe)  You can feel the power radiating
  from it...
Alindyar:  Verily.

  Indeed, the thing was now glowing with a soft blue light,
and a mild humming sound filled the surrounding hallway.

Belphanior:  This is it!
Ged:  Yea...the way home!  Thanked be Boccob!
Peldor:  Bah.
Rillen:  The arch seems to be responding to our presence.
Alindyar:  Very astute.  It senses that we do not belong
  here, and its magical powers have awakened, perhaps for
  the first time in eons.
Belphanior:  (to Ged)  How'd you learn about this from a
  bunch of library books?
Ged:  Well, we found some interesting phenomena mentioned
  in several unrelated texts, and then we used Boccob's
  wisdom, via some of my spells, to divine which of the
  things we'd read about actually had some power.  From
  there, it was a simple matter to track down one.
Alindyar:  (adds nonchalantly)  The nearest one.
Peldor:  You mean there are more?
Ged:  Several more, apparently...though, given the level
  of destructive weaponry and technology we've seen in
  this world, it's probably a good thing that no one here
  seems able to harness magical energies.
Mongo:  Huh.
Bosco:  Yeah.  You said it.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  (grins to himself)
Paula:  (staring, spellbound, at the arch)  Whoa.
Ged:  Paula, you probably ought to think about leaving this
  city as soon as possible.
Paula:  Only after you guys are gone.
Lyra:  That time has come, little one.
Arnold:  Yah, we have imbordant things to do back home.
Ged:  True.
Paula:  (gets a sad look on her face)
Bosco:  Aww...

  The expected sappy farewells were exchanged, while the
blue archway glowed brighter and brighter.

Ged:  Well, we'd better go, before someone comes to
  investigate this light.
Alindyar:  Aye.
Lyra:  (to Belphanior)  We don't even have to cast a spell,
  it seems - the arch will draw us back of its own accord.
Paula:  Err...yeah.
Mongo:  (looking around)  Well...
Rillen:  Time to go.
Ged:  Remember, Paula:  use your money wisely.
Lyra:  Yes, get yourself off of the streets, go to school,
  whatever.
Belphanior:  And be careful!
Arnold:  Yah.

  Each of the adventurers waved goodbye to the waif before
entering the arch and vanishing in bright sparks of blue
electricity.

Bosco:  (the last one to go)  Bye now...
Paula:  Bye...





next time :  back on Oerth

notes     :  The character of Paula started out as a joke of
  sorts, a tribute to a good friend of mine.  Now, I'm not
  sure what she (the character) means anymore, but since the
  party has left Earth, the point is moot.
    This Earth storyline was exciting at first, boring in
  the middle, and exciting again at the end.  I'd be lying
  if I said that I didn't want to get back to the traditional
  FRP-setting stories, though.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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