Chapter #401

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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                    +
+                           +
+  Alindyar     17th level drow mage                            (N) +
+  Belphanior   (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief      (CN) +
+    Otto       8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief            (CN) +
+  Lyra         13th level female drow mage                     (N) +
+  Mongo        18th level dwarven fighter                     (CG) +
+  Peldor       20th level human thief                          (N) +
+    Tanya      5th/11th level female human fighter/thief       (N) +
+    Bosco      11th level halfling thief                      (CN) +
+  Date:        4/7/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       a sealed chamber somewhere in Greyhawk              +
+  Climate:     hot and stuffy                                      +
+  "I'm sorry, Dave...I'm afraid I can't do that."                  +
+  "What's the problem?"                                            +
+  "I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do."     +
+                                   - from _2001:  A Space Odyssey_ +

                    CDI.  Picking Up the Pieces

  Three days have passed since the fateful events that took place in
the Thieves' Guild.  Here, now, all those who were present there have
been gathered in the assembled presence of the Oligarchs of Greyhawk:

Nerof Gasgal, Lord Mayor
Derider Fanshaen, Constable
Sental Nurev, Captain-General of the Watch
(vacant chair)  (Guildmaster of Thieves)
Turin Deathstalker, Guildmaster of Assassins
Kieran Jalucian, Guildmaster of Wizards
Otiluke, President, Society of Magi
Ravel Dasinder, Patriarch of Boccob
Jerome Kasinskaia, Patriarch of Rao
Ren o' the Star, Guildmaster, Merchants' and Traders' Union
Laup Cobrun, Merchants' and Traders' Union
Carmen Halmaster, Merchants' and Traders' Union
Dernen Nathane, Merchants' and Traders' Union
Bodmi Hollardel, Guildmaster of Jewelers and Gemcutters
Sir Anton Palmirian, Guildmaster of Lawyers and Scribes
Glodreddi Bakkanin, Inspector of Taxes

  In addition, Ged, High Priest of Boccob and old companion of all
the witnesses here, has been summoned to testify.  Also present are
all the surviving city guardsmen from the guildhall battle.

Nerof Gasgal:  Bring forth the evidence.
Otiluke:  (snaps his fingers, and an invisible platform sails forth,
  bearing something covered with a sheet)

  As the exhibit moved into the chamber, seemingly of its own accord,
many of the Oligarchs gasped or muttered to themselves.

Nerof:  Display what lies beneath the sheet.

  The sheet lifted, magically, revealing several green corpses of
unquestionably alien origin!  More gasps and cries of shock issued
forth from the Oligarchs' rounded table, a half-circle within which
sat the witnesses.

Nerof:  Explain.
Derider:  I understand that these creatures typically decompose upon
  dying, but I was able to preserve them by magical means.
Nerof:  Decompose?  How did you learn this?
Derider:  The Oligarchs call Belphanior to the witness stand.
Belphanior:  (walks to the stand, facing the fifteen rulers of the
  city, a half-smile on his face)

  The elf didn't really want to be here, especially without his
sword at his side, but Peldor needed his testimony.  If Belphanior
had had his way, he'd have been long gone by now.

Derider:  Please, share your information with us.
Belphanior:  We first encountered these...things in the sewers, years
  past.  There are several types, but all of them share one thing in
  common:  they fall to dust upon being slain.
Sental Nurev:  (sputtering)  We're to believe the words of...of a
  murdering assassin?!?
Turin:  (smiles)
Nerof:  Sental...let the elf speak.
Sental:  (lapses into fuming silence)
Belphanior:  As I was saying...these things never leave a body behind.
  So it made sense to try and salvage one, at case someone
  decided to have a trial, kinda like we are now.  (he takes his seat)
Nerof:  (to Ravel Dasinder)  Do the priests of Boccob have any
  knowledge of these creatures, previous to this time?
Ravel:  No...but our divinations have revealed several items of
  interest.  (he rubs his large, beaked nose)  Perhaps Kieran can
  explain more precisely...
Kieran:  Yes.  The Guild of Wizardry has examined one of these bodies.
  The monster's ecology seems completely geared toward assuming the
  form of other creatures...rather like the more common dopplegangers
  we all know of, but...considerably more advanced.
Nerof:  I see.
Kieran:  Their guise is capable of fooling all but the most powerful
  spells, and a few other means.  X-ray vision and soul-sensing seem
  to be effective, based on certain testimonies.
Ravel:  And the creatures are quite evil...Boccob's divinations have
  told this.
Jerome:  And Rao's as well...
Ravel:  (nods)
Nerof:  And the things had taken up residence in the sewers?  (he
  points to Peldor)  Peldor, please address the table.
Peldor:  (takes the stand)  We first fought the things years back,
  as Belphanior was him, me, Bosco...
Ren o' the Star:  (regards the halfling, remembering their last card
  game at the Wheel of Fortune gambling house, and smiles)
Peldor:  -so we beat them that time, and escaped.  They were using
  ghouls then, to draw attention away from themselves.  It almost
  worked  - we only found them by chance.  After we slew them, we
  informed the proper authorities.
Turin:  Org Nenshen?
Peldor:  Right.  I believe Org had some master plan to go back and
  find them...but I can't be sure.
Nerof:  Hmm.

  The Lord Mayor listened intently, his dark hair seemingly greying
by the moment.  Nerof was quite upset at the loss of his good friend
Org Nenshen, and he was determined to get to the bottom of whatever
was afoot here.

Nerof:  Why didn't Org act, then?  Why did the shapeshifters gain a
  hold on us, and eventually manage to slay him?
Peldor:  I don't honestly know.
Nerof:  Someone had better know!
Peldor:  With all due respect, Lord Mayor, Org was my friend too.
Nerof:  (quiets down)
Sir Anton:  (seizes the reins of this discussion)  And you claim to
  have been tasked - by this "false" Org - to go back down into the
  sewers and eliminate these shapeshifters?
Peldor:  That's right.  It was a set-up though-
Sir Anton:  Do Org's records affirm this claim?
Derider:  (shakes her head)  We searched Org's desk and files, all
  of his scrolls...nothing.  But, that means little - he might have
  destroyed the records.
Sir Anton:  Bah.
Glodreddi:  (the dwarf stands up, that he might better be seen by
  those below)  Perhaps you simply wished to rule the guild...or
  steal some money, eh?
Peldor:  That's quite a comment, coming from the head of the Greyhawk
  Revenue Service.

  Much snickering followed, and not just from below.  The red-faced
dwarf sputtered, but took his seat at a glance from Nerof.

Nerof:  An which your two parties were split, and one of
  your number perished?
Peldor:  Well, he wasn't exactly with us...
Derider:  One Darek Halfplow...retired miner, lived in the Low Quarter.
Nerof:  Hmm.
Sir Anton:  Perhaps we should hear from the others now.
Nerof:  Yes...(he points at Otto)  Otto, of Perrenland.
Otto:  (takes the stand)
Nerof:  You and Peldor escaped, and fought your way to the surface?
Otto:  Absolutely.  I didn't have any intention of buying it down
  there in that shithole.
Turin:  (stifles a laugh)
Nerof:  And you...(he checks a scroll)...eliminated an entire colony
  of these creatures?
Otto:  Damn right we did!
Sir Anton:  Have you any proof?
Otto:  Just ashes, but I didn't much feel like going back into that
  cavern to collect them.
Sir Anton:  Hmph!
Nerof:  And you two - you and Peldor - eventually made it back to
  the city - at which time he went to talk with Org?
Otto:  How many times do we have to tell you?  Yes, yes, yes.
Sir Anton:  ...and Peldor used the opportunity to make his play for
Peldor:  (stands angrily)
Nerof:  Silence, Anton.  (to Otto)  Where were you while Peldor went
  to the guildhall?
Otto:  At the Green Dragon, and then I went to find Alindyar and Lyra.
Nerof:  (glances at Otiluke questioningly)
Otiluke:  (quietly)  Drow magi, and trusted members in good standing
  of our guild.
Kieran:  (nods)

  As the archmage spoke, his everpresent ioun stone spun faster and
faster about his head, perhaps indicating his mood.

Otiluke:  And...(he tosses his head, his close-cropped black hair
  flopping about)  You may remember their efforts in that tarrasque
  business awhile back...?
Nerof:  Aye.
Sir Anton:  And the woman Tanya - she was in the inn as well?
Nerof:  (calls Tanya to the stand)

  The red-maned warrior-woman approached the stand, slowly.  A wide
swath of bandage was wrapped around her stomach, evidence of the
terrible wound which had nearly claimed her life.  If not for Derider
and her prompt healing magic, things might have turned out differently.

Nerof:  You know Peldor, correct?
Tanya:  (holds her chin high)  We're engaged.
Nerof:  Where was he that night?
Tanya:  In the sewers!  I stayed out late, but eventually returned
  home and went to bed.
Sir Anton:  We didn't ask you where _you_ were.
Nerof:  (quiets the lawyer with a glance)
Tanya:  Peldor never came home, though.  The next thing I knew, Otto
  and Alindyar and Lyra came to get me.
Sir Anton:  Have you an alibi, to prove that you were there during the
  wee hours of the night?
Tanya:  Well, no...
Derider:  Actually, a witness has verified this story.
Nerof:  (nods)  The Oligarchy calls its next witness.
Turin:  (points at one fellow in the crowd)
Whisper:  (disguised in his Wendell-guise, he takes the stand)
Nerof:  And who are you?
Whisper:  Wendell.
Derider:  (she detects no lie here, and thus senses nothing amiss)
Otto:  (frowns)
Ravel:  (notes the powerful magic of disguise that the assassin is
  using, as does Kieran, but both have already been briefed about
  this by Turin and Nerof, and they hold their tongues)
Nerof:  Occupation?
Wendell:  I am an assassin for the city's guild.
Laup:  (gasps in terror)  An assassin!
Nerof:  (ignores the merchant-cum-Oligarch, as usual)  Wendell, what
  is your involvement in this matter?

  Wendell proceeded to divulge all the details of Org's contract on
Otto, and the subsequent discoveries made about the true nature of

Tanya:  (mutters to Peldor)  He was in our _bedroom_?!?
Peldor:  (shrugs)  Guess so...don't worry, we'll get better locks.
Wendell:  And that, as they say, is that.
Turin:  Hmm.  So the false Org wished to eliminate all evidence of
  the task he'd assigned Peldor and the others?
Wendell:  A logical conclusion.
Sir Anton:  Speaking of eliminating, Peldor has claimed to have been
  slain and thrown into the sewers by Org's men...but if I'm correct
  there are no thieves in the guild who performed this disposal?
Derider:  No.  We've interviewed them all - every thief in the guild -
  and none of them dumped any body.  However, five thieves from the
  guild _are_ missing...
Nerof:  Hmm.
Glodreddi:  Never mind about that!  (his bearded jowls quiver)  What
  _I_ want to know is how he survived a heart-wound!
Nerof:  (motions Peldor to replace Wendell on the stand)
Wendell:  (winks at Peldor as he passes)
Peldor:  (takes the stand)  Regeneration.
Sir Anton:  What?
Peldor:  The answer to your question.
Sir Anton:  (checking a scroll)  Without any items?  Preposterous!
others:  (muttering)
Glodreddi:  (laughing openly)  Utter nonsense, says I!
Ravel:  (sighs)  Are you suggesting that he's still dead, Glodreddi?
Glodreddi:  (sputters as numerous laughs break out)

  And so it went.  The Oligarchs questioned everyone, from adventurer
to associate (Ged) to thief to guardsman.  Several of these latter two
groups had actually seen the Org-shapeshifter or the other creatures,
or both.  It was this fact that ultimately saved the adventurers from
trouble, though it certainly didn't hurt that Derider herself had seen
the evil monsters at work.  Indeed, the third-in-command of the City
Guard, Nolger Karvakian, had turned out to be a shapeshifter, and
there were numerous witnesses to this fact.  The adventurers were also
helped by several small but important details; Tanya had gone out of
her way to rescue one thief from the acid-pit, and this man made sure
that the Oligarchy knew exactly what had transpired in that room.  The
fact that the adventurers had uniformly fought to subdue - rather than
kill - also helped their cause today.
  Some, notably Vilos from the guild and Sir Anton and Glodreddi
from the Oligarchy, did their best to discredit the companions, but
it didn't matter.  Too many had seen the shapeshifters, and there
was too much powerful magic available now, for there to be any doubt.
A thorough cross-examination, aided by spells to detect lies (and one
to detect monsters posing as normal people!) found Peldor and his
various companions to be in the right.  They were absolved of all
charges, real or implied, in this matter, by a majority vote of the
Oligarchy.  As the room emptied, each individual going back to his
or her own life, Nerof took Belphanior aside.

Nerof:  A word with you, if you please.
Belphanior:  Sure.
Nerof:  Er...alone?
Belphanior:  Let me get my sword and you've got a deal.
Nerof:  Sorry, we can't do that.
Belphanior:  Well, then, I must be going-
Mongo:  I'll hang around...just in case.  (to Belphanior)  I'll be
  at the door.  Don't worry.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Thanks.  (to Nerof)  Okay.
Nerof:  (to Peldor)  You too.
Peldor:  Sure...(to Tanya and Bosco)  I'll be out in a minute.  Just
  wait outside.
Lyra:  Alindyar and I will be waiting, too.

  Momentarily, the room was empty, save for Belphanior, Peldor, Nerof
Gasgal, Turin Deathstalker, Sental Nurev, and Derider Fanshaen.

Belphanior:  (warily)  What's on your mind?
Sental:  We know about your violent and bloody past here-
Nerof:  But we also know of your good deeds on behalf of the city.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  I must've slipped somewhere along the way.
Turin:  Whatever your motivations, you seem to have redeemed yourself.
Peldor:  (looks surprised, though not as surprised as Belphanior)
Derider:  (looks vaguely unhappy with this arrangement)
Belphanior:  Pardon?
Nerof:  We're cutting you a deal.  Stay out of Greyhawk, don't cause
  us any more trouble...and we'll leave you be.
Belphanior:  Oh, boy.
Turin:  There _was_ talk of putting a contract out on you.
Belphanior:  Well, that's good to know.
Nerof:  What say you?
Belphanior:  I say you're all crazy, but since I don't even like this
  damned city, there won't be a problem.
Nerof:  Excellent.
Sental:  But, if you make any more trouble in our city...(he leans in
  close)'re mine.
Belphanior:  (turns, and stalks from the dim chamber without a word)
Sental:  (waves after the elf)  Have a nice day!
Derider:  (not at all pleased with this exchange, either)
Turin:  Quit gloating, Sental.
Sental:  (smirks)
Peldor:  Hmm.  Oh, well.  (he turns to leave)
Nerof:  Say, Peldor?
Peldor:  Eh?
Nerof:  You've got your job back, though we're going to have to do
  a complete audit of both your books and Org's.  We'll expect your
  full co-operation, of course.
Peldor:  (wearily)  Of course.
Nerof:  It'll take the Guild a long time to fully recover from this
  whole affair.
Turin:  It may never recover.
Nerof:  And don't talk about any of this until we've fine-tuned the
  cover story.
Peldor:  Eh?
Sental:  We can't have widespread panic in Greyhawk, now can we?
Peldor:  I guess not.
Turin:  And there may yet be other shapeshifters, in the city.  We'll
  find them, though, with the help of the Wizards' Guild.  Find them
  and make them disappear...(he smiles thinly)
Peldor:  Glad to hear it.  (he walks toward the door)  Now if you'll
  excuse me, I'm going home to sleep for two days or so.
Nerof:  Take care, now.

next:      a flippant break from the hectic frenzy of late
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     This is the aftermath to #400.  You know, 400 kinda snuck
  up on me.  I mean, one minute I was writing #380, and then...bam!
  400!  I'm still in shock.

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