Chapter #361

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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 1991-6 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:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Arnold         12th level human barbarian                   (NG) +
+  Ged            14th/14th level grey elven priest/wizard     (NG) +
+  Mongo          17th level dwarven fighter                   (CG) +
+    Gorin         9th level dwarven fighter                   (NG) +
+  Date:        1/21/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        evening                                             +
+  Place:       the open road, between Greyhawk and Dyvers          +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Nobody _has_ to do anything."                                   +
+                                                - Charles McCabe   +

                   CCCLXI.  In Search of Allies

  Ged, accompanied by Arnold, Mongo, and Gorin, rides westward from
his castle, toward Dyvers.

Mongo:  Tell me again - what exactly are we up to here?
Ged:  A great force of evil is marshalling beneath the Cairn Hills.
  Boccob, in his wisdom, has seen this and sent me to stem the tide
  before it grows beyond control.
Gorin:  So why do you need _us_?
Ged:  (shrugs offhandedly)  My magical might may be without peer, but
  I need great warriors to pave the way.
Mongo:  Ah.  Just what I thought.
Ged:  (holds a finger up in the air)  Of course, the foes shall be
  fearsome, and the treasures priceless...
Gorin:  Naturally.
Mongo:  We wouldn't have it any other way.
Ged:  Neither, I'd warrant, would Bosco, had he come along.
Mongo:  Yeah, I've been meaning to ask you about th-
Arnold:  Aaa.  (he looks behind him, to the east)  So why are we
  riding away from the Cairn Hills?
Ged:  Eh?
Arnold:  Dyvbers, and soon us, are west.  The Cairn Hills are east.
  Why are we riding _away_ from the abventure?
Ged:  Because we need allies.
Mongo:  Right.  So why not Peldor, and Alindyar, and the like?
Ged:  (sighs)  Peldor and Tanya couldn't make it - I asked them.
  The drow were likewise occupied.  (he looks to the sky briefly)
  Those four have firmly rooted in Greyhawk...
Gorin:  What about Nenya?  That girl knows how to handle herself.
Ged:  She's got to run my castle and lands, along with Deryck, in my
Gorin:  Oh, yeah.
Arnold:  I guess Belphandior isn't available.
Ged:  No, indeed.  He's vanished to who knows where, and Otto with
  him.  And of course, Rillen's in some faraway land as well.
Arnold:  Yah.
Mongo:  So how'd you know about these "allies"?
Ged:  Boccob is not the only divine power who has taken an interest
  in this...problem.  Others, representing other masters and faiths,
  shall join us in our quest.
Gorin:  Sounds interesting.
Lightbringer:  (chimes in)  It will be - especially if there are any
  undead slime lurking at our destination!
Mongo:  (wondering how long it's been since he heard the enchanted
  morningstar speak aloud)  Huh.

  As they rode, they discussed the wherabouts and activities of their
companions.  Peldor and Tanya, and Bosco, were in Greyhawk; likewise
for Alindyar and Lyra.  Belphanior had departed about a week before,
taking Otto and the menacing Razor Charlie with him.  As for Rillen,
no one had heard from him in many months.  Presumably, the warrior
had found Songa, or given up, or perhaps even found another quest to
pursue.  They wouldn't know for sure until either they traveled to
the frozen north or Rillen returned.

Gorin:  Wait, wait, wait.  I remember hearing about Alindyar using
  that magic mirror of his to find out about Rillen.
Ged:  Ah, yes.
Gorin:  (chuckles)  From what I heard, the big guy had things well
  in hand.
Mongo:  I'll say.

  The foursome rode on for several days, eventually reaching Dyvers,
a free and independent city in its own right.  The place had lost
much power and influence over the recent centuries, as Greyhawk had
risen, but it was still a huge, influential place.  The adventurers
secured lodgings for themselves, then went to seek Ged's supposed

Ged:  We have to find a tavern called "The Rusty Nail" - they'll be
Mongo:  Who'll be there?  I mean, do you know who we're meeting?
  Fighters?  Wizards?  Thieves?
Ged:  I know what to look for, and what to say.  My magic will
  ensure that we're talking to the right people.
Arnold:  Good, because I think we're here.  (he gestures to a noisy
  tavern on the right)

  A gigantic rusted nail was mounted over the entrance to the place.
They entered, Ged scanning the crowd for those whom he sought.

Mongo:  We'll be at the bar.  (to Gorin)  C'mon, let's go grab a brew
  or two.
Arnold:  Wait for me, that makes three.  (he follows the dwarves)
Gorin:  (hops onto a barstool)  Bartender!  Three mugs of foaming
  ale, please.
bartender:  Coming right up.
Mongo:  (seats himself at a second stool)  Y'know, I'm kinda looking
  forward to a dungeon adventure.  It's been a while.
Gorin:  Thunderdelve, anyway.
Arnold:  Aaa.  That's the place where Bodsco was sleeping on the pile
  of treasure.
Mongo:  Yup.  (he snickers)  That little rugrat!
Gorin:  I kinda miss him.
Arnold:  (nods)  Me, too.
Mongo:  Yeah, I know what you mean.  Things are a lot...livelier with
  him around.  Hey, I never did find out why Ged didn't invite him
Gorin:  Well, hey, maybe if we keep talking about him, he'll show up
  like he did last time.
Arnold:  (looks confused)  He did that?

  However, someone other than the jubilant halfling showed up this
time.  A large, beefy fellow in the uniform of a city guardsman now
stood behind Mongo, arms crossed.

guardsman:  ...can't even go to the pisser without someone taking my
Mongo:  (turns slightly)  Did you say something?
guardsman:  You're in my seat, pal.  Now take a hike.
Mongo:  I think you'd better find another seat, friend.
guardsman:  Huh?
Mongo:  If you'd asked nicely, we could have cleared this up without
  a problem.  But since you didn't, I'm not moving until my beer's
Gorin:  (almost apologetically, to the guardsman)  Actually, that
  shouldn't be long.
guardsman:  It won't be.  (he grabs Mongo's arm and makes as if to
  pull him bodily off of the stool)

  Try as he might, though, the man couldn't budge the heavy dwarf.
Mongo merely flexed his arm and kept the guardsman in place - and
looking quite stupid, incidentally.

guardsman:  (finally lets go, wincing as a few nearby spectators
  laugh)  Okay, that's it.  Now I'm gonna make you-

  The guardsman turned as a hand clapped down upon his shoulder.
The hand was large and calloused, and belonged to a very large man
outfitted in full plate mail.

man:  There's no need for trouble, my good fellow.  (to Mongo)  Why
  don't you and your two companions join us at our table?
Mongo:  (eyes the guardsman, the newcomer, the bartender, and his
  recently-arrived mug of ale)  Hell, why not?
guardsman:  (to the newcomer)  Sorry about that.
man:  (pleasantly)  Think nothing of it, friend.  There, have your
  seat back.  (he looks around, smiling, then leads Mongo et al. to
  his table)  Come with me, my guest.

next:      allies!
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:   (preferred)
notes:     For those of you who liked the Mardi Gras report, here's
  a similar report on the cruise I just took:

  It all started back in mid-1995.  My mother called me and said that
every year, she went on a cruise.  For 1996, she was inviting my two
brothers and I, if we wanted to go.  I said, sure, count me in.  I had
to commit to it then, and so I did...and promptly forgot all about it.
  Next thing I knew, it was the weekend before the cruise.  It was her
and my youngest brother Eric and me.  The cruise sailed Monday at 5 pm
from Miami.
  After driving to Augusta Saturday afternoon and taking it easy for
a day, I re-packed on Sunday.  I've learned that it's always a good
idea to bring more stuff than I might need (that's one of the reasons
I got a sports-utility vehicle) and I consolidated the cruise baggage
down to one small suitcase and a carry-on gym bag.  My brother Eric did
even better, with one carry-on bag, though my mother had two large
suitcases.  They were heavy, too (who do you think got to carry these
things?)  The flight left at 6:50 am Monday morning, so we had to leave
at 6 or so for the airport.  It was crowded, because Masters spectators
were leaving Augusta, but they kept the plane on the runway until
everyone had checked in and boarded.
  I am not a fan of flying.  I couldn't tell you why, though an attempt
to explain it might involve the complete lack of personal control over
one's own fate.  Anyway, I was reminded how much I disliked flying as
we hit some pretty bad turbulence en route to Atlanta.  Obviously, the
plane didn't come apart at the seams, and before too long, we were
rushing through Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta to catch the connector
flight to Miami.  This plane was a bigger one, a 767, and the ride was
much smoother than the first one.  I actually fell asleep for a while.
  Upon arriving in Miami, we were scooped up by a Royal Carribean
employee, a short woman who reminded me of that exorcist-wanna-be lady
in "Poltergeist."  Once she had collected all the soon-to-be-cruisers,
she led everyone to a waiting bus, and we were taken through downtown
Miami to the pier where the cruise line docked its ships.  Walking past
the ships, which were much larger than I ever would have imagined, we
finally reached the one on the end:  the "Nordic Empress."  If the
other ships were big, this one was titanic - it was almost longer by
half than the next largest ship.
  After a short wait, we boarded and went to our cabin.  Fortunately,
it was ready, even though we were early (it was 11 am and the ship
didn't sail until 5.)  We unloaded our carry-on luggage and split up,
each to explore the ship in our own way.  For me, this meant putting
on swim trunks and going to the pool.  Being somewhat young and foolish,
I didn't bother to put on any suntan lotion, figuring I'd only be out
there for a few hours.  Heh.  The pool was nice, and there were a lot
of nice things to see there, too.  Almost all of them were much older
than me, though, and it quickly became apparent that the vast majority
of the passengers on this cruise were older couples, or else families.
  Still, I got some sun, and swam quite a bit in the salt-water pool.
I guess collecting and filtering fresh water is too much trouble.  A
couple of hours (and a mild case of sunburn) later, I left and went to
discover whatever other wonders the ship held.  What I discovered was
to have a profound effect on the vacation as a whole:  on decks 5-6
was a casino.  Not only was it my first glimpse of a casino, but the
place was quite impressive.  It had four blackjack tables, two roulette
tables, a craps table, and at least four poker tables.  Oh, there were
also well over two hundred slot machines.  By this time, the ship was
underway, which meant the casino was open.  I got two rolls of quarters
and went to work on the slot machines.
  What they say about gambling is true:  it's quite addictive.  For
the first fifteen dollars or so, I wasn't having much luck.  Then, a
single quarter somehow spawned two hundred, and fifty dollars chimed
and bounced into the tray.  I scooped it all up (they have stacks of
paper buckets, like you get popcorn in at the movies, for this very
purpose) and went to the cashier to turn it into currency.  The total
of all my quarters came to $54.50, and as I walked back to my cabin
with my newfound winnings, I couldn't resist dropping the two quarters
I still had into the same slot machine.  The second won me a hundred
more quarters, aka twenty-five more dollars, which I quickly cashed
in as well.
  At the cabin, I did my best to impress my mother and Eric with my
newfound (and totally lucky) prowess at the slots.  It worked, though
they both told me I ought to call it quits while I was ahead.  Would
I do a thing like that?  I pondered this as we ate.  We had what was
called the "main seating", or the 8:30 pm dinner.  The earlier dinner
seating was at 6:30, and for some odd reason was called the "second
seating."  The tables held eight people, and whoever the other five
were, we'd be stuck with them for the whole week's dinners.  Lunch
and breakfast wouldn't be formal affairs like dinner.  Things turned
out okay; we shared the table with Jeff and Leslie (a couple from
Philadelphia) and Ramon, his wife, and their oldest daughter, Sarah.
I'd bad with names.  The latter family was from Detroit; Ramon is an
engineer who designs and installs fiber-optic cable systems, so we
hit it off pretty well and had a lot to talk about while we ate.
  All aspects of the dinner were excellent:  quality, quantity, and
service.  Since all meals are included in the initial cruise cost, it
pays to eat as much as you can - a lesson I learned quickly and well.
You could also get food any way, any time, and in any amount desired.
Want your bean soup without beans?  No problem.  Want a second entree?
No problem.  Want four desserts?  No problem.  Want food delivered to
your cabin at 3 a.m.?  No problem.  It became apparent that this ship
was one of the few places in the world where the customer was always
right.  I don't remember what we had for dinner that first night, but
it was pretty damn good.  Our waiter was Manesh, a young fellow from
India, and our assistant waiter was Ilkar, an even younger fellow
from Brazil.  I learned later that these guys worked on tips only (you
tipped everyone at the end of the cruise) and even then, they made
more than 99% of the people in their native lands.  Working aboard a
cruise ship was considered a great job in their homelands.  Hmm, come
to think of it, working aboard a cruise ship probably really _was_ a
great job, no matter what your homeland.
  After dinner, I waddled back into the casino and proceeded to lose
every quarter of my earlier winnings.  No further comments on this,
though I've since decided that the slot machines must've been rigged
to let people win big in the first few hours, then revert to a normal
state.  It's the only possible explanation.
  Tuesday, I woke up too late for the real breakfast, so I had to
order room service - croissants with butter, cheese, and jelly.  It's
a rough life.  I ate several of the things, then headed off-ship.  We
had landed in Freeport at 8 am, and there was a city to be explored.
Well, sort of.  Mostly it was really poor native people hawking their
handmade goods for low prices.  Eric, who has long, blond hair, was
a natural target of the dozens of hair-braiders who swarmed upon us
rich Americans.  He didn't fall for it, and once we escaped the juju
ladies, we spent several hours at the marketplace, looking at and
buying things.  After I'd purchased three or four, I realized that
there were far too many people I knew who I could get things for, and
I'd never take care of everybody.
  Not knowing precisely how to deal with this situation, I went back
to the ship to eat lunch.  After that, it was too close to sailing
time (which was at 3 pm that day) so I went back to the pool and the
poisonous rays of the sun.  After a few hours (I used suntan lotion
this time, though it was only meager spf 4) at the pool, and a few
drinks, I decided that the time had come to go for a run.  Deck 6 was
a quarter-mile track, for walking and running, so I went there and
got down to business.  My original plan had been to run two or three
miles, but after three the pain in my knee had gone away and I did a
fourth.  And then a fifth.  By then, I decided to go for six - after
all, the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th is 6.2 miles, and I needed
to be in shape for that.  Well, six somehow turned into seven, and I
finally stopped.  Several people had comments for me, ranging from
"I didn't think you were ever gonna stop" to "Son, are you training
for the Olympics?"  I'd be lying if I said that comments like this
don't help drive me to run like I do.  When you can go out and run
five-plus miles on a whim, and you aren't even breathing hard after-
wards, your ego tends to swell just a little bit.  Anyway, it was a
good run.
  After a long, hot shower and a change of clothes, I went to the
casino, my second home, where Eric showed me how to play blackjack
and roulette.  Blackjack I didn't particularly care for, though Eric
seemed to have mastered it.  He won somewhere in the neighborhood of
a hundred dollars.  I tried my luck at roulette, and almost instantly
turned twenty dollars into fifty.  It was dinnertime, so we left for
the dining room before I could lose the money I had just won.  The
dinner tonight had a French theme, and so naturally I tried something
I'd sworn I'd never eat:  escargots, aka snails for those of you who
don't parle francais.  They weren't great, but now I know that if I'm
ever called upon, I can eat them.  That's kinda why I did it anyway.
After some kind of cheese-filled ravioli (French?  Makes you wonder)
I ordered all three of the dessert choices, and then ate them.  This
is another reason why I run - you can eat just about anything you
want and never gain weight.
  After dinner, Eric and I put our heads together and came up with a
foolproof strategy to win at roulette.  Then we went to try it, and
of course it failed miserably.  I produced some more money and messed
around with the game for another hour, neither winning nor losing any
significant amount of money.  Later, I went to bed and was asleep as
soon as I hit the pillow.  This is yet another reason why I run:  it
helps me sleep soundly.
  A brief break here.  I don't want you to get the impression that all
there was to do was eat, tan, and gamble.  No, they had an exercise
room, the aforementioned running track, massages, facials, manicures,
jacuzzis, a dance hall, several nightclubs, and much, much more.  I'd
simply found that I preferred to spend most of my nighttime hours in
the casino.  Okay, back to the story.
  Wednesday morning, I woke up to find the ship docked at Nassau.
Skipping breakfast (I slept for too long) I hit the shops again, and
bought a number of gifts for a number of people.  Nassau was pretty
run-down, even for an island in the middle of the Bahamas, and the
people were almost desperate to sell their wares.  Haggling was not
only expected, but necessary.  Cars drove on the left side of the
road here; I also noticed a variety of makes and models not found in
the continental U.S.  After lunch on board the ship, we headed back
out to the bazaar, wher Eric finally consented to have his hair
braided (he talked the lady down from $100 to $35.)  Since my hair
isn't nearly long enough for braiding (not anymore) I went away on
my own to buy more stuff.  In the Bahamas, liquor is a lot cheaper
than back home, so I took advantage of this and picked up a liter
of Bombay Sapphire gin for $11.  Then, weighted down with cargo, I
returned to the ship and went to the pool for more hours of sun.
About 4 pm, they brought out ice cream, all you could eat, three
flavors, and I partook of this feast.
  Next up was the casino, where I broke even at roulette again, and
dinner (Caribbean theme.)  After that, I indulged myself and signed
up for the dance show at 11 pm at the Crystal Palace, on the far side
of Nassau.  For $36 I got the taxi rides there and back, admission,
and one free drink at the show.  I left around 10 pm, and rode to the
place with a bunch of old, rich people.  The Crystal Palace was a big
casino/showroom, and since the show wasn't until 11, I killed a roll
of quarters in the slot machines.  Their casino was about five times
as big as the one on the ship, which wasn't skimpy itself.
  At 11, I snagged a good seat and watched the show.  I don't know
what the proper term for it was, but let's just say it had tasteful
partial nudity.  It also had, between the song-and-dance acts, a
comedian and a magician.  The latter was extraordinary; the man was
producing birds from rubber balls, eggs, veils, and thin air.  He was
good enough that I couldn't spot any of his tricks (I usually do at
magic shows.)  After the show was over, I went back to the casino.
It was only 12:15 am and the ship didn't leave until 3 am - plenty
of time for some honest gambling.  I found the roulette table I
wanted to play at, and after a moment, I displaced a drunken idiot
who was just sitting there with no chips left, drooling over a slim
Hispanic girl in the next seat.  She was really bizarre, combining
attractive with goofy.  She wore glasses like women used to wear in
the 1960s, with the pointed frames.  She also spoke to another woman
and the dealer in some Spanish-sounding language that was definitely
not Spanish.  She must have been a good gambler, though, because she
had a pile of hundreds of chips, and it continued to grow.  I traded
a twenty in for chips, then spent almost an hour turning that initial
twenty into thirty, then ten, then fifty, then thirty, and so on and
so forth.  I ended up with twenty-eight, and since I was tired and
more than a little drunk, I tipped the dealer five, cashed in my chips,
and left.  The taxi-van I was pointed toward was filled with people
from my ship who were even older and richer than those in the taxi on
the initial trip.  One lady told me, in a rather snobby voice, that
there was no more room in the taxi.  Since there clearly was, and
she clearly didn't feel like moving over, I told her that if she
didn't move, I'd sit in her lap.  Her husband thought this was pretty
funny, and told her to move and make room for me, and that was that.
I got back to the ship before 2 am, and again crashed as soon as my
body hit the bed.
  Thursday morning, I had a slight hangover until I ate; this time,
I somehow got out of bed and made it to the breakfast bar.  There was
only one day left on the cruise, and there wasn't any sense in missing
_all_ the breakfasts.  One of the guys serving breakfast was singing
his own version of "Holiday" by the Scorpions, and I told him I knew
what he was up to.  He just nodded and laughed and kept singing - this
is the sort of friendly attitude that made the cruise such a great
experience.  We had landed in CocoCay (a private island owned and run
by Royal Caribbean) and I bought a few last-minute gifts, then went
back to the pool for more sun.  By now, my first day's sunburn had
turned into a deep tan - a stunt I have pulled off in the past with
great success.  After a few hours baking in the sun, I felt like
running again, so I did.  This time I only went five miles, since my
calf was still sore from the Tuesday run.  I also got some good sun
while I ran, because the running track had a high canopy that let the
sunlight in.
  Later that day, I tried to show my mother how to play roulette (I
don't think she got it) then went to the farewell show.  It had a
singer who looked like a cross between Eddie Murphy and Bob Marley,
but had a voice like Lionel Richie.  It had dancers (no nudity - you
readers have dirty minds!) and a vaudeville comedian/magician and
all in all, it was a great ending to the cruise.  The entertainment
director, a fellow named Ken Rush, gave a sort of farewell speech,
into which he mixed various jokes and one-liners.  The funniest one
of these was a cruise-ship version of Letterman's "Top Ten" lists,
which I sought out and got a copy of the next morning.  I think you'll
get a kick out of it:

Ken's Top 10 Stupid Questions Asked Aboard a Cruise Ship:

10. Do these stairs go up or down?
9.  Which elevator do I take to get to the front of the ship?
8.  Is there music in the disco?
7.  Does the ship generate its own electricity?
6.  If the pictures aren't marked, how do we know which ones are ours?
5.  Is the water in the toilets fresh water or salt water?
4.  What elevation are we at?
3.  What do you do with the ice carvings after they've melted?
2.  Does the crew sleep on board?
1.  What time is the midnight buffet?

  The final dinner was an American theme, so naturally I ordered the
manicotti (!) and then another plate and then three desserts.  Those
runs make me even hungrier than I get when I drink.  After stuffing
my face, I headed to the casino for a final night of gambling.  Fifty
dollars came out of my wallet and transformed into chips.  Two hours
later, I had raked in an enormous pile of chips, which counted out to
a grand total of two hundred fifty-four.  That's right, I won just
over two hundred dollars.  Even I knew enough to quit while I was
ahead, and I was _way_ ahead.  So, I tipped the roulette dealer an
even fifteen (she had been very nice throughout my winning streak)
and cashed out, adding a pair of hundreds to the meager contents of
my wallet.  You could say that I walked out of there in a pretty good
mood.  Bedtime came soon afterward.
  Friday morning's breakfast was a reserved-seating affair, meaning
we got a chance to say our final goodbyes to the people we'd eaten
the last four nights' dinners with.  Soon after that, it was time to
pack the carry-on luggage (the suitcases had been taken by porters
the night before) and disembark.  The Customs people looked a lot
scarier than they were, and I got the impression that I could've
smuggled just about anything off the ship if I had wanted to.  Of
course, a good little boy like me would never do something bad like
  We had an hour-long wait in Miami, a smooth flight to Atlanta, an
hour-long wait in Atlanta, a terribly bumpy (the cabin looked like
it was coming apart!) flight to Augusta, and then we were home.  It
was all I could do not to kiss the ground.  My respect for airline
pilots increased tenfold after this last trip.  I stayed in Augusta
through Sunday, both to wind down and to avoid the Freaknik crowds
in Atlanta that weekend.
  Conclusions about the cruise?  One, it was a lot of fun and I'll
definitely do it again (though with different company.)  Two, I now
sincerely believe that Royal Caribbean is a better cruise line than
the others (I talked to a lot of people on the ship and formed this
opinion based on their horror stories about other cruise lines.)
Three, there weren't many single women of my age on the cruise, but
then again, I'm not looking, so it was no big deal.  Four, gambling
in general and roulette in particular are a lot of fun and merit
future investment.  Perhaps Atlantic City, or Las Vegas, awaits on
the horizon...

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