Chapter #224

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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                    +
+                    +
+   THE PARTY (or more accurately, a fragment of it):         +
+                                                             +
+   Belphanior    13th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Rillen        17th level human warrior                (N) +
+                                                             +
+   Otto, a dwarf                                (guest star) +
+   Date:    7/27/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    midday                                           +
+   Place:   the northernmost reaches of Iuz                  +
+   Climate: cold                                             +
+   "What's your prediction for the fight?"                   +
+   "Prediction?"                                             +
+   "Yes, prediction."                                        +
+   "Pain..."                                                 +
+                                         - from _Rocky 3_    +

               CCXXIV.  The Great Plains

  Having proven himself in an ancient warrior temple, Rillen
has now embarked on a great journey westward, to compete in
the great fighting tournament.  Accompanied by Belphanior,
Otto, and the wispy thing, he now flies (literally) across
the land, thanks to the magical horseshoes that the monks
gave him and his companions.  Their mounts galloped a foot
or so above the grasslands, and moved much faster than their
normal rate.

Belphanior:  Quite a gift, I'd say.
Otto:  Yeah.
Rillen:  I certainly earned it.
Belphanior:  No denying that...
wispy thing:  Yrrrp!
Rillen:  (watching as the lands whiz by under the horses'
  hooves)  Fortuitous, indeed, these magical horseshoes.
Belphanior:  Yup.  We've at least doubled the time we would
  have made while riding normally.
Otto:  Hard to believe it's only been a week...

  Indeed, after skirting the Cold Marshes to the south,
they had crossed into the northern border of that most evil
of lands, Iuz.  Even disregarding the inherent danger of
riding through the cursed place, the marshy terrain and the
cold weather would normally have lengthened the travel time
to almost three weeks.  Of course, there had been challenges
along the way - three different bands of roving orcs had
tried, and failed, to arrest the party on charges of
trespassing in Iuz' domain.

Belphanior:  (smiling fondly)  That was one of my more well-
  placed fireballs...
Otto:  I'll say.  I think you got their cavalry, footmen,
  and shamans - all in one fell swoop.
Rillen:  Aye.  The few that remained were child's play.
Belphanior:  And Bosco isn't even here.  Yeah, yeah.  Good
  times like these always make me happy that I chose to
  dabble in the mystic arts.
Otto:  (consulting a map)  Well, you ought to have many
  more chances to...dabble.  We're about eight - err, four
  at this speed - days east of Eru Tovar.
Rillen:  Eru who?
Otto:  (scowls)  Eru Tovar, the capital (hah!) of the
  Wolf Nomads territory.
Rillen:  Wolf Nomads?  I've heard of them...
Otto:  Yeah.  Some people also call them the Weigwur.  For
  the most part, they're rough, hardy plainsmen, loving
  battle and violence.  When they're not warring with one
  another, the tribes raid south or west.
wispy thing:  (frowns)  Sprrrrrrd.
Rillen:  And we're heading through their capital?
Belphanior:  Sounds like a fun place.
Otto:  Actually, it's pretty tiny, as capitals go.  If
  we lay low and don't stay long, nothing should come up
  to hinder us...

  Unfortunately, someone still tried, for the next day, a
large band of horsemen approached from the south.

Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Maybe turn invisible?
Belphanior:  Well, they've already seen us all by now...
  but...(he does cast Fly upon himself)  Already got the
Otto:  (eyeing the riders)  Wonder what they want?
Rillen:  (grips his new quarterstaff loosely)  Maybe they
  just want to talk.
wispy thing:  (frowning)  Snrrrd.
Belphanior:  We'll see in a few minutes...

  As the group approached, the trio saw that it was made
up of fur-cloaked warriors, hefting long spears and mighty
bows.  Most of the tribesmen wore hoods fashioned from
wolf's heads, and crude jewelry adorned their muscular
bodies.  A leader-type dismounted, and stepped forth...

wolf nomad leader:  Chaaaka haa, gruuun skaarka bral.
Belphanior:  Uhh...(he realizes that he should have taken
  some earlier opportunity to learn the Tongues spell)
Otto:  (begins speaking in the strange dialect)  Baraka
  Chaka Khan.
wolf nomad leader:  Karka fanaka graa...
Otto:  ...westward, toward the Chakyik lands, and then the
wolf nomad leader:  I see.  You should be aware that we
  have heard reports of battles in this area...battles
  with Iuz' stinking orcs.
Otto:  Err...that might have been us.  It's so hard to tell
  these days...orcs come and go, you know...
wolf nomad leader:  (grins slyly)  I see.  Any enemy of the
  foul one is a friend of ours.  Dwarf, go in peace.  (he
  raises his hand, making a sign)
Otto:  (raises his hand too)  Farewell.

  The nomads turned and rode northward, leaving the three
adventurers sitting there on their horses.

Rillen:  Whatever you said, it must have been good.
Belphanior:  Yeah.  Good work.
Otto:  No problem.
Rillen:  Just how many languages do you speak?
Otto:  Lots.

  They rode onward, quickly resuming their earlier rapid
pace.  Four days later, they arrived in Eru Tovar, and
took the opportunity to rest, relax, and re-evaluate their
progress.  In a small room within a tavern, the three
rolled out a large map...

Otto:  By my reckoning, we're...almost three weeks from
  the coast.
Rillen:  That puts us far ahead of schedule.
Belphanior:  Maybe we should slow it down...enjoy all of
  the beautiful scenery we've been missing.
Rillen:  I have missed nothing.
Otto:  Well, we could definitely afford to take it easy
  for awhile.  Maybe re-stock our supplies here...
Belphanior:  Sounds good.
Rillen:  (somewhat antsy)  Let's not linger for too long.
  Much can happen before we reach the coast.
Otto:  Always a possibility...

  They stayed in Eru Tovar for four days, allowing their
exhausted horses (and themselves) some much-needed rest.
Besides stocking up on food, drink, and other supplies,
they discussed certain recent events.

Belphanior:  I've been thinking...given the difficulty of
  the three trials-
Otto:  -notably the third one-
Belphanior:  -I find myself wondering if _every_ single
  combatant in this tournament also had to go to that
  temple, and undergo the same tests.
Rillen:  Why, of course not.
Belphanior:  (surprised)  Eh?
Otto:  Then how...?
Rillen:  You see, there are numerous places where one who
  would fight can prove his or her worth.
Belphanior:  Her?
Rillen:  The temple we ventured to was reputed to have the
  most difficult trials of all.  Therefore, I took great
  pains to go _there_, and face _those_ tests.
Otto:  You're nuts!
Belphanior:  No, that's me.
Rillen:  Nuts?  Perhaps...(he grabs a large walnut from a
  bowl, cracking it in one large hand)  I had to know that
  I was _truly_ ready.  And now I do.
Otto:  (remembering the trials)  No doubting that.
Belphanior:  (fingering Blackrazor's pommel)  So, there'll
  be others at the tournament who aren't necessarily as
  good a fighter as you?
Rillen:  Precisely.  But now I know that I will be among
  the elite, of those who are there.
Otto:  Confidence-booster, eh?
Rillen:  That's one way to put it.
Belphanior:  (drains a wine flagon)  Well, I'm exhausted.
  See you in the morning.  (he wanders toward his bed)

  When they set out westward, the following morning, a
thin mist had set in, hovering over the grasslands.  This
spooked them somewhat, given certain recent events.

Otto:  Hopefully it's not like that other...fog.
Rillen:  I've been wondering what that was, anyway.
Belphanior:  Death.
Otto:  Come again?
Belphanior:  I said death.  The fog contained death, for
  any mortals caught within it.  (he looks around)  If
  you must know, I've been trying to figure out where I've
  read or heard of such things before.
Otto:  (interested)  And?
Belphanior:  It seems that I once read something about
  how certain places, fixed geographical points on our
  world, that were actually nexes to other dimensions.
Rillen:  Makes sense.
Otto:  And you theorize that that town was one such nexus?
Belphanior:  Maybe not the town.  Maybe somewhere _near_
  the town.
Rillen:  Too near for their own good, it would seem.
wispy thing:  yrp.
Belphanior:  One extraplanar place is said to contain the
  physical embodiments of all things dark...sinister...
  evil.  Could've been a gate to that dimension.
Rillen:  That sounds about right.  Not that I care anymore.
Otto:  Yeah, some things are best left to lie.
Belphanior:  I believe you're right.  (wondering if he'll
  ever really know, or if he wants to)
Otto:  Hmm.
Rillen:  Hiya!  (he spurs his horse onward, and is soon
  airborne and zooming westward, followed by the others)

  Things were fairly uneventful for the next week or so;
they rode for most of the day, giving the horses liberal
breaks throughout, and set up camp each night.  Several
different times, they encountered Wolf Nomads, but simple
offerings of gems appeased the tribesmen.  In some cases,
the adventurers were able to barter, securing weird items
of jewelry, exotic furs, primitive relics, and the like.

Rillen:  (having donned a large, thick coat of black fur)
  This is quite comfortable.  I'm ready for the winter.
wispy thing:  (looks around)  Spaaa.

  Eventually, they reached the Fler River, which was the
unofficial boundary between the Wolf Nomads, or Weigwur,
to the east and the Tiger Nomads, or Chakyik, to the west.

Otto:  'Course, we're up at the northern part of the river
  and the lands...which means that this is kinda neutral
Rillen:  (points to the forest on the northern horizon)
  And what of that?
Belphanior:  (noting how the timberland stretches as far
  east and west as the eye can see, he then consults the
  map)  Wow.  It's almost four hundred leagues across.

  Meanwhile, at the edge of the forest, a band of savages
watched the distant party.  The strangers looked like the
sort who would have a lot of money and valuables, and best
of all, there were only three of them.

savages' leader:  (grunts to his men, giving the order to
  prepare to sneak onto the grasslands and stalk the party
  before the attack)

  Suddenly, the normally inscrutable savages were shocked,
as a heavy arrow thudded into one of their number's heads.

other savage:  Aie!
savages' leader:  (tries to get his men under control)
random savage:  (running around wildly)  Aaaa-  (an arrow
  impales him, passing through his torso)  Gaahk!

  The primitives looked around frantically, but couldn't
see anything.  After two more of their party had been slain,
sense overtook their leader, and the band fled to the north-
east, forgetting any notion of ambush on the trio of
unsuspecting adventurers to the south.

dark figure:  (drops from the trees, bow in hand, and looks
  south, watching the adventurers)  Hmph.

  The fellow was tall, though not overly so, and broadly
built.  Far from young, judging by the lines on his weather-
beaten face, he yet moved with the grace and power of men
in their youth.  The fellow was clad in furs and heavy
boots, and an axe was strapped to his wide back.

dark figure:  (still watching the three adventurers)  Hmm.
  (he turns northward, and heads back into the forest)

  Meanwhile, the three unsuspecting adventurers had gone
ahead and decided to ford the river and continue to the
west.  They did so, making very good time, and they never
encountered any of the savages of the Burneal.
  For almost two weeks, they rode westward, braving the
savage frontier that was the Chakyik land.  Finally, one
afternoon, they smelled the odor of salt, in the air.  A
bluish-black horizon was now visible - they had reached
the coast!

Otto:  The Dramidj Ocean!
wispy thing:  Pffffs.
Rillen:  We'll need to move northward, I think, until we can
  find the area of coast nearest to the island of Lao Khan.

  This took longer than expected - almost a whole week, to
be sure.  They knew they had found the right spot when their
inquiries caused the locals to recoil in fear.

fisherman:  Aie!  Yes, that isle's out there.  (he points to
  the ocean)  I wouldn't go there if I were you...though a
  lot of other folks have come through here looking for the
  island too.
Rillen:  What kind of people were these?
fisherman:  Warriors...strange, savage, big warriors.  Mean
  ones, more often than not.
Belphanior:  Where might we book passage to this island?
fisherman:  The Khan's got a barge that goes that's
  a short walk up the coast, there.
Otto:  Thanks, pal.

  They rode that way, and found the barge.  It was manned by
two shaven-headed monks, in plain brown robes.

Otto:  Now we can be sure we're in the right place.
monk:  Your token of passage?
Rillen:  (presents the silvery metal medallion with purple
other monk:  Ah.  Step aboard, please.

  They joined some other warriors on the barge, and quickly
sailed out, leaving the coast behind.

wispy thing:  Rrrrr...
Belphanior:  (feels Blackrazor tingle oddly)  Eh?
Rillen:  (to one of the monks)  Where is the island, anyway?
monk:  Ahead...soon.
warrior on barge:  (sizing up Rillen)  Fighting in the big
  tournament, eh?
Rillen:  Right.
warrior:  I heard it's gonna be a real doozy this year...
  maybe the biggest tournament ever.
other warrior:  (a short, lanky fellow)  Yeah.  All kinds
  of riff-raff...

  Rillen talked with the other fighters for awhile, learning
what he could about the upcoming tournament.  Belphanior
watched the waves, keeping his thoughts, whatever they were,
to himself.  Otto took a nap, leaning against a mast.
  About ten minutes into this trip, the wispy thing grew
very restless indeed, for no apparent reason.

wispy thing:  (flits about erratically)  Rrrrr...
Belphanior:  What's going on?  (he suddenly feels very weak)
Rillen:  Eh?
wispy thing:  (goes crazy now, actually flying off the boat
  as it does flips and loops)  RrrrrrrRRR!
Otto:  (quite confused at this point)  What the hell...?
Belphanior:  I've felt...this effect once before.
Rillen:  What effect?
Belphanior:  (turns to the monks)  Anti...magic field...
wispy thing:  RRRRRRRRR-  (vanishes)
Otto:  No magic?  (he looks worried)  Why?
monk:  It is the nature of the Khan's tournament.  All
  magical effects - spells, items, anything - are totally
Rillen:  Why?
other monk:  To bar any chance of cheating or other unfair

  For the first time in a long while, Belphanior's left eye
wasn't glowing red.

Belphanior:  Fuck!  (he staggers weakly)  Can't...see from
  one eye now...
Otto:  (wondering if they can find the elf an eyepatch)
monk:  Fear not.  We shall be there soon.  Observe!  (he

  Ahead loomed an ominous, mist-shrouded island, from the
center of which loomed the dark spires of a large castle.

Otto:  Wow.
other monk:  Lao Khan's domain!

next time :  the tournament

notes     :  This past weekend (11/18-20) was Homecoming,
  which means that I got to see most of the players.  I now
  have a group picture of them uploaded to my WWW page...
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