Chapter #298

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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.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1995 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  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Ged          14th/14th level grey elven priest/mage        (NG)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        2/6/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       Havenhill, capital of the Principality of Ulek      +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Everybody's entitled to a little confusion in their lives.      +
+   I practically thrive on it."                                    +
+     - Commander Cain, from _Living Legend_ (Battlestar Galactica) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                  CCXCVIII.  A Debt Repaid





  After arriving in Havenhill, Ged has managed to be granted an
audience with the king of the Principality of Ulek, one Olinstaad
Corond.  As the big morning arrives, the elf is in his guest's
quarters in the local temple of Boccob.

Ged:  (finishes dressing, right as a knock comes, on the door)
  Come.
Demetrius:  (enters)  Good morning to you.
Ged:  And to you.
Demetrius:  Shall we have breakfast, before you go to the royal
  palace?
Ged:  That sounds good.  (they leave, Ged's cat ignoring them as
  it stretches in its sleep)

  The two high priests of Boccob entered a dining hall, and had a
simple but filling breakfast, talking while they ate...

Demetrius:  Not to pry, but I've detected a certain...detachment
  about you.  Is all well?
Ged:  Hmm, not really.  (he proceeds to give a digested version
  of his story, the fateful dream, and his quest)
Demetrius:  Interesting.  Well, as long as one's an observer.  It
  sounds like the Almighty One wishes you to do something...but he
  hasn't made clear _what_ exactly that thing is.
Ged:  And that is precisely what I must figure out.  You see,
  although I've built a castle and surrounded it with farms, workers,
  and followers of Boccob, I'm not exactly retired.
Demetrius:  Unlike me.
Ged:  As you say.  So...what happens is that every so often, some
  great quest or journey presents itself, and I traipse off into
  some far corner of the world...
Demetrius:  ...leaving your temple without leadership and guidance.
Ged:  Something like that.
Demetrius:  Yes, I have seen similar problems in...other temples.
Ged:  Really?  Hmm.  So anyway, over time, the little things added
  up, and added up, and things suffered, and weakened.
Demetrius:  Until Boccob himself intervened?
Ged:  So it appears, yea, but that is the crux of my problem.  Why?
  From what I heard in my dream, it seems Boccob is displeased with
  me...personally.  I seem to have put worldly possessions between
  myself and the Great One.  I have let affairs of little importance
  draw me away from my regular holy duties.  And so I decided to
  leave everything behind and devote every waking hour in the
  service of Boccob.
Demetrius:  And that alone isn't enough penance?
Ged:  It seems not, for Boccob has not been satisfied.  Since the
  dream, I've roamed the lands as he asked, doing all that I can to
  convert people and aid smaller, less fortunate temples of Boccob.
Demetrius:  Hmm.  A quandary, indeed.  Perhaps a communion with the
  Great One would shed some light?
Ged:  True, but the Great One has cut himself off from me, so great
  is his displeasure.
Demetrius:  I could perhaps try myself, to help you learn something-
Ged:  Thank you, but I can't have you intervening on my behalf.
  I feel that whatever he wants me to do, I must do alone.
Demetrius:  If you insist.
Ged:  The choice is not mine alone.  (he smiles wryly). Besides,
  eventually Boccob will make plain the nature of his displeasure,
  and I will then be able to make amends.
Demetrius:  Once you do get your powers back...what then?
Ged:  Well, once things are back to normal, I need to stand back
  and reflect...and contemplate.  (frowns)  Actually, I've already
  been doing it - hours of traveling can get very boring.
Demetrius:  Go on.
Ged:  My objectives are threefold.  First, I must find some way to
  balance my responsibilities against my travels.  Second, I must
  guarantee that more - much more - of what I do is for the greater
  service and power of Boccob.  Third, I must work much harder to
  gain him new worshippers.
Demetrius:  In my opinion, these problems have arisen because you
  aren't retired, devoting all of your time and energy to your
  temple.
Ged:  (looks irritated)
Demetrius:  Of course, that's just my opinion.
Ged:  Constructive criticism.  No, I'm not retired.  That's the real
  root of the problem:  I'm far too young, especially for a grey elf,
  to retire.  I've got centuries upon centuries of traveling, of
  adventuring, of research left to do.
Demetrius:  Why did you buy land and build a castle, then?
Ged:  Good question.  It seemed to me at the time that Boccob wished
  me to begin to gather a flock to worship Him; the land was other-
  wise unused; I had the money and the time; and, I must confess,
  there was considerable appeal in being the lord of an important
  region near Greyhawk.

  Having finished their breakfast, the pair stood and prepared to
see the king.  Demetrius escorted Ged from his temple to the king's
palace, for Ged knew not the streets and buildings of Havenhill.
Before too long, they approached at the main entrance to the royal
palace.

Demetrius:  So, how do you know the King?
Ged:  Long ago, some friends and I infiltrated the Slaver ring, in
  these and nearby lands, and brought it crashing down around their
  ears.  (he ponders these pleasant memories)  One of our more...
  extravagant adventures.
Demetrius:  I'll bet.  (he waves to the guards as he walks by, Ged
  in tow)
Ged:  You seem to be a well-respected fellow in these parts.
Demetrius:  Boccob's power waxes high in Ulek.  As in many lands.
Ged:  As it should be.

  They walked through the palace; Demetrius had obviously been here
before, for he knew his way around.  After passing through two small
halls and a number of passages, they entered the huge hall that was
the throne room of Olinstaad Corond, ruler of the Principality of
Ulek.  At the far end of the vast chamber, upon a great throne made
from worked metal, sat a majestic figure, surrounded by courtiers
and advisors.

royal announcer:  (looks over a scroll in his hands, then turns to
  the two priests)  Demetrius and Ged?
Demetrius:  (nods)
royal announcer:  (snaps his fingers at the royal trumpeter)
royal trumpeter:  (blows a trumpet)
royal announcer:  (yells toward the king)  Your Majesty!  Demetrius
  and Ged, of Boccob, to see you!
king:  (nods, and beckons)

  Shortly, the priests stood before the king.  Ulek's lord was a
stocky human, in his middle forties.  He wore a thick but well-
trimmed beard, tinged like his hair with grey.  Despite his age,
the man had quite a commanding presence.

royal page:  (shouting)  His Serene Highness, Olinstaad Corond, king
  of Ulek's Principalities!
Olinstaad:  Greetings, good Demetrius.  And friend?
Ged:  (bows)  I am Ged, a high priest of Boccob, sire.
Olinstaad:  Any friend of Demetrius' is a friend of mine.
Demetrius:  (realizes that Ged had something to talk to the king
  about, and also that his presence is superfluous)  Begging your
  pardon, lord...?
Olinstaad:  Eh?
Demetrius:  Milord, Ged, not I, wished to speak with you.  I shall
  now respectfully retire to the royal antechamber.
Olinstaad:  Of course, good Demetrius.
Demetrius:  (quietly and efficiently leaves the hall)
Ged:  (stands there, looking vaguely embarrassed)
Olinstaad:  (addresses the elf)  I remember you, Ged.  You and your
  friends.  (he looks puzzled for a moment)  They're not here, are
  they?
Ged:  I didn't ask them along, I'm afraid.
Olinstaad:  Well, I remember them just the same.  Your band destroyed
  those slaver operations, so many years back...by the gods, what a
  feat!  So, what can I do for you, my elven friend?
Ged:  Actually, Your Majesty, it's rather interesting that you should
  mention our feats...for what I am here to ask you about pertains to
  those very deeds.
Olinstaad:  Ah.  Please explain.
Ged:  After we defeated the slavers, you made us nobles, by your own
  hand.
Olinstaad:  Yes, I remember.
Ged:  Well, Your Highness, as well as the titles of Ulek nobility,
  we were given tracts of land.
Olinstaad:  Land?
Ged:  Yes.  And this is why I have come here:  to take possession of
  that land.  Not just my land, but that of my companions as well.
Olinstaad:  Oh?
Ged:  Yes.  They have surely forgotten about the land by now...all
  of them.  Mongo.  Peldor.  Alindyar.  Belphanior.
Olinstaad:  Hmm.  I shall have to check into this land.  (to a page)
  Go to Slabonius, and tell him to find out about this, and then to
  come here to report to me.
royal page:  (obeys)
Ged:  Many thanks, sire.
Olinstaad:  Think nothing of it.  I suspect that the lands, as tends
  to happen in cases such as these, have been royally ceded.
Ged:  Pardon?
Olinstaad:  That means that the lands remained within the royal
  demesne, since they were not claimed by those to whom they were
  granted.  Probably they've been used for farmland or storage or
  some such purpose.
Ged:  Hmm.  And when the grantee comes to claim the land?
Olinstaad:  It is given, of course.  Or equivalent lands are given.
Ged:  Ah.
Olinstaad:  Fear not.  All of your land, and that of your companions,
  will come due now.
Ged:  Again, many thanks.
Olinstaad:  Hells, it's the least I can do, given all that you did
  for us.
Ged:  This news cheers me considerably, milord.
Olinstaad:  Good.

  Mere moments later, Slabonius, Ulek's commissioner of land, came
into the royal hall, bearing a stack of papers.

Slabonius:  I'll have it momentarily, Your Majesty.  (he begins
  digging through the papers)  573...572...ah!
Olinstaad:  (both he and Ged lean forward, though from different
  directions)
Slabonius:  Hmm.
Olinstaad:  And...?
Slabonius:  Milord, their land has become some of the richest, most
  prosperous farmland of our Eastern Reach.
Olinstaad:  Ah.  (muttering to himself)  I _knew_ that was good
  land.  (to Ged)  This shall require much maneuvering.  We may
  even have to find you and your friends some other land.
Ged:  Whatever suits your fancy, lord.
Olinstaad:  Where are you staying in Havenhill, good Ged?
Ged:  Demetrius has given me lodgings at the temple of Boccob.
Olinstaad:  Very well.  Retire to that place, or any other you wish.
  I shall send a messenger to you, when this matter is settled.
Ged:  (bows)  I shall, and many thanks, O king.  (he turns to go)
Olinstaad:  (watches the elf leave)
Slabonius:  (also watching the elf)
Olinstaad:  (quietly, to the minister of land)  Slabonius, why was
  that land used for farming?
Slabonius:  (shrugs)  I'll have to check further, but I'd assume it
  had something to do with those heroes never returning to claim
  their rightful land.
Olinstaad:  Hmm.  (stands)  Well, this once, I care not what the
  circumstances were.  I want Ged to have his land, to do with as
  he wishes.
Slabonius:  I shall work something out, milord.
Olinstaad:  I know that I can count on you, my friend.



  That day passed, and the next.  Ged prayed, attempting to talk
with Boccob, but he had no luck.  Demetrius continued to offer his
own advice, and Ged listened to those parts which he thought were
applicable or relevant.  Two days after his audience with Olinstaad,
a page came to the temple of Boccob, bearing a scroll sealed with
wax and stamped with the royal crest.  Ged thanked the page and
opened the document, and learned of Olinstaad's decision.

Ged:  (beaming)
Demetrius:  What is it?  What news?
Ged:  The king has evaluated and combined all the land due my
  companions and I, and chosen a large tract near Havenhill.  It is
  mine...
Demetrius:  (frowns)
Ged:  ...which means that it is Boccob's.
Demetrius:  Oh?
Ged:  You heard me.  (he writes some notes on Olinstaad's scroll)
  I want to give that land to your temple, for subletting to tenant
  farmers.  Olinstaad will understand, I think.
Demetrius:  But...how can you afford to just give away such a huge
  piece of land, especially one so close to Havenhill itself?
Ged:  You might be surprised by what I can afford: truly, in
  happier days, Boccob smiled most generously upon me.
Demetrius:  (still amazed)  Tenant farmers?
Ged:  It's an arrangement that works, trust me on this.  Besides,
  I'm not leaving you empty-handed, to develop and cultivate the
  land.  (he reaches into his pack, and produces a dozen large
  diamonds)
Demetrius:  (open-mouthed with astonishment)
Ged:  Take them, please.  They're yours, to use for the land.
Demetrius:  You're not staying, then.
Ged:  I can't.  I think you know the reasons why.  My path lies
  elsewhere, until I have returned to the favor of Boccob.
Demetrius:  (nods)
Ged:  When I wandered through here, I suddenly remembered the land.
  It was almost as if...(he dares to allow himself to hope)
Demetrius:  (claps the elf on the shoulder)  Worry not.  The time
  shall come.
Ged:  Yea.  (he turns)  I must be moving on.  Use the land, and the
  money, well.  Someday I will return.  I may even send my young...
  assistant to help you with the planting of the land.
Demetrius:  Assistant?
Ged:  You'll know her when you see her.  She's a young elf, named
  Nenya.
Demetrius:  Very well.  (he and Ged clasp hands)  Farewell, my
  friend.   I shall pray to Boccob on your behalf, that he may turn
  his face towards you once more.
Ged:  We shall meet again.  (he turns and departs)
Demetrius:  (just stands there, his mind awash with thoughts)

  Ged left the temple, and the city; he had made sure the king knew
of his wishes, for the land.  He figured that Demetrius would be
working closely with the king, or Slabonius, on this matter anyway.
He had deliberately neglected to tell the other high priest, but he
had had another dream last night...a very vivid one.  In accordance
with the shadowy voice in that vision, he was heading northward.
His destination uncertain, his exact path unknown, Ged, defrocked
priest of Boccob, made for the northern reaches of Ulek.



  Nearly a week passed, and Ged moved into the wild prairies.  He
was on foot, as before, no horse there to speed his travel.  The
cold winter air stung his exposed skin, a not unpleasant feeling.
The elf had gathered fresh supplies back in Havenhill, and he took
periodic breaks for rest or food.  It was nice to not be bound by
any schedule or duties.  More often than not, his feline familiar,
the cat Endymion, padded along beside him, pleased to be in the
wilderness.
  The pleasure ended before long, as a band of riders approached,
barely visible on the horizon.  As Ged watched them approach, he
got the impression that they weren't friendly.  Of course, without
his holy spells, he had to wait and find out the hard way.

rider:  You!
Ged:  (looking around)  You must be talking to me.
rider:  Damn right.
Ged:  I must warn you against this course of action-
rider:  Save it, elf.  Let's see what riches you carry, shall we?
Ged:  I think not.  (he rattles off a quick command word, and five
  fiery missiles shoot from his fingers, each hitting one of the
  five riders in the chest)
riders:  Ugh!  Argh!  (two fall, perhaps dead; two others are
  stunned, and the leader, he who spoke out, is fazed)
Ged:  I warn you again:  leave me be.
leader:  Not...a chance...(draws his sword)
Ged:  (begins spellcasting, backing up all the while)
riders:  (recovering their nerve, those who are able now move to
  surround Ged)
Ged:  (casts a Sleep spell)  By Boccob's power...
three riders:  (fall asleep)
Ged:  Hmm.  (to his cat, which passed the battle hidden in the
  tall grass)  I suppose we should make sure they can't follow
  us.  (he pulls all the men from their horses, then drives their
  mounts away)  So.  Come, Endymion.

  With that, the elf moved on, resuming his journey as if nothing
had happened.  He walked on, but no more than an hour after the
bandits, Ged was accosted by a tribe of kobolds.

Ged:  (sees the foes coming, thanks to his familiar, and casts a
  spell before the humanoids reach him)
kobolds:  (swarm from the grass, toward their prey)
Ged:  (unleashes his spell, right then)

  The elf's Web caught the majority of the kobolds, pinning them
to the ground and each other.  A few had escaped the sticky strands,
though, and these three charged Ged, shortswords flashing.

Ged:  By Boccob!  We are attacked!  (he whips out his morningstar)
  These scum will find me no easy prey!  (he swings his weapon, and
  hits the nearest kobold in the head, braining it)
kobold:  (falls, its head a bloody ruin...and vanishes!)
Ged:  (staring at the empty air)  What the hells?!?
other kobolds:  (stop their charge)  Aie!  He killed Dorkus!
Ged:  In the name of Boccob, you are finished!  (he charges the two
  kobolds)
kobolds:  (begin to melee with Ged)

  Scant moments later, Ged had slain the other two kobolds, and was
now staring in amazement as their bodies too faded from view.  Ged
had suffered two minor wounds, a cut to his arm and a bruise on his
chest.  He realized that he had no means of healing himself, so he
bound his wounds - it felt good to use those old skills - and then
rested for a bit.  He left the kobolds in the web, after breaking
their puny swords (he was still wearing his magical girdle of giant
strength) and warning them against following him.  Truthfully,
though, he was unnerved by the strange disappearance of the dead
kobolds, and the lack of other travelers on this road.  As before,
the elf moved on, resuming his northward trek.
  And again, shortly later, he was attacked.  In fact, a regular
(and random) succession of monsters followed.  There was a giant
scorpion, followed by a huge spider and then a two-headed snake;
each of these came about ten minutes apart.  There were other foes
after those:  an aggressive , burrowing worm-thing, a flying, needle-
tailed manticore, and still weirder ones.  Ged was able to dispatch
these foes, using his spells; a Fireball here, a Slow there, and a
Fly somewhere in-between.  At one point, he had hasted himself, while
at another, he was airborne, flying above the heads of foes.
  Throughout the course of these tribulations, he began to wonder if
some divine power had made him a beacon for any monsters in the area.
Certainly, something strange was happening, for the bodies of those
foes who the elf slew (but didn't obliterate) dissolved after death.
These strange events defied all reason, and try as he might, Ged
couldn't make any sense of them.
  He did, however, acquire more wounds; nicks, bites, claw furrows,
and bruises.  After all, he wasn't invulnerable, and though his
chain mail saved his hide more than once, the wounds began to take
their toll.  Worse yet, Endymion had disappeared and Ged was at a
loss to figure out when or where the cat had gone.  By dusk, he was
stumbling along, weak from blood loss, confused by recent events,
and low on magical power.  He found himself wishing that he had
thought to bring some potions of healing on this trip.  Then again,
the civilized lands shouldn't have had this many hostile people and
creatures.
  After battling with an ettin that had somehow snuck up on the elf
from behind and very nearly finished him, Ged polymorphed into a
hawk and took to the skies.  Even this offered little respite as
the winds seemed to shift against him.  After half an hour of fly-
ing, the tired hawk-Ged spotted a small grey cat curled up on the
ground below.  How Endymion got so far ahead of him was beyond
comprehension, but Ged was beyond rational thought.  As he landed
and transformed back into his true form, he thanked the genius who
had wrought the Polymorph spell with its regenerating properties.
But the grey cat, turned out to be only a rock.  A dull, grey rock.
Cursing and swearing like a certain dwarf of his acquaintance, Ged
resumed his trek, determined to reach some haven before nightfall.
  Though his vision faded and his body ached, the elf continued to
walk, one step at a time.  He believed that Boccob had some purpose
for him, in the future, and this was the only thing that kept him
going...

Ged:  (shuffling along, he hears a low moaning from the grasslands
  nearby)  Eh?

  The weird keening started from just one quarter, but was soon
emanating from all directions.  Ged panicked, for the first time
in years, and began running through the grasslands, given fresh
energy by the horrible sounds that now surrounded him.  No matter
how fast and far he ran, though, there was no escaping that dire
wailing...

Ged:  (nearly out of breath, he stops, spying a small inn several
  hundred feet ahead)  Boccob!  (he makes for this structure)

  It might have been only a few hundred feet, but it seemed like
leagues, and seemed to take hours to reach.  All the while, as his
lungs threatened to burst and the blood pounded in his ears, Ged
could hear the moaning at his heels.

Ged:  (finally arrives at the inn's front door, coughing)  Open...
  open up!  (he comes to his senses and tries the handle, finding
  the door unlocked)  Yea!  (he opens the door, dashes indoors,
  takes one look at the handful of people who are staring at him,
  then slams the door behind him)  Whew.





next:   the mystery deepens
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  Last night, I took a break from writing to watch Game 3 of
  the World Series.  If you weren't there, it was an 11-inning
  see-saw game, with plenty of tension to go around, and finally
  ended as a 7-6 Indians win.  Anyhow, as I wrote this story, I
  watched Game 4, and it was a good one...a 5-2 Braves victory.
  Tense like last night, but a better outcome.  One more to go...
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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