Chapter #440

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                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    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                    +
+                           +
+  Halbarad         13th level human ranger                    (NG) +
+  Mongo            18th level dwarven fighter                 (CG) +
+    Gorin           9th level dwarven fighter                 (NG) +
+  Peyote           11th/12th level half-elven warrior/druid    (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Oakly Greenleaf, the Grand Druid                             (N) +
+  Date:        5/1/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        early evening                                       +
+  Place:       the home of Oakly, within the Vesve Forest          +
+  Climate:     mild                                                +
+  "What is a friend?"                                              +
+  "A single soul dwelling in two bodies."                          +
+                                                     - Aristotle   +

                 CDXL.  Oakly Spills the Beans

  After harrowing trips by giant eagle and druidic circle, the
adventurers have now taken another journey, this one through the
trunk of a colossal tree!

Mongo:  (appears on the other side)  Well, I'll be...

  The phase-door (or whatever it was) that Oakly had taken them
through led to the interior of the tree.  They now stood in an odd
chamber, much like the den of a house save for the gnarled wooden
trunk that formed its walls, the dangling stems and leaves protruding
from its ceiling, and the smooth yet unfinished floor of live tree-
wood.  They were standing _inside_ a living tree!

Gorin:  What IS this place?
Oakly:  My home...within the eldest of the roanwoods in my grove.
  (he chuckles)  The tree and I, you see, have a sort of...working
Mongo:  I'll just bet.
Halbarad:  The tree does not mind you living within its trunk?
Oakly:  Obad-Hai's pointy ears, no!
Halbarad:  Hmm.
Gorin:  (still marveling at the natural beauty inherent in this place)
  You must be one hell of a powerful high priest.
Oakly:  (waves a finger, frowning)  That's a _druid_, son.  There is
  a difference.
Gorin:  Okay.
Peyote:  But, Great Grand Dude...what of the reason you brought us all
  here.  What of the great danger in the Vesve?
Oakly:  (smiles, somewhat absentmindedly)  Ah, yes.  Yes, yes, yes.
  Have a seat, all of you.  (he gestures to a number of small, firm-
  looking mushrooms of large size)
Peyote:  Whoa...shroom stools.
Halbarad:  Those aren't alive, are they?
mushroom stool:  (twitches)
Oakly:  Everything here is alive.
Halbarad:  Oh.
Mongo:  I'll stand, thanks.
Gorin:  (to the wild-bearded druid)  You have a story to tell us,
Oakly:  Indeed...a story which will make you understand our problem.
Peyote:  (wiggles his pointed ears)  We're all ears, man.
Oakly:  (clears his throat)  Ahem.  As you may or may not know, our
  beloved Vesve is a vast place, safe for the most part from the
  humanoid scourges of Iuz and similar areas.  Still, the northern
  reaches of the woodland do attract a certain unpleasant element,
  and we haven't the forces to repel such creatures as those that
  roam the upper reaches...foul gnolls and bugbears, for the most
Mongo:  Stinking humanoids - that's it?  Hell, you don't need _us_ for
  a job like that.
Oakly:  Quiet, brash one.  I am not done.
Peyote:  (regards Mongo sternly)
Oakly:  Foul as the infestation is, we can yet abide it, for it poses
  no threat, and would have to grow in size before it did.  And _that_
  would not go unnoticed, I assure you.
Halbarad:  (trying to arrive at his own conclusions)
Oakly:  Long ago, centuries if one asks the trees of the area - before
  the Vesve had spread as far southward and westward as it now sprawls,
  and before the days of civilization as you know it - there rested a
  buried crypt, a fell place, hidden far from the eyes of man and beast
  alike.  Within this place dwelt an evil most foul, that vilest and
  most dangerous of the living dead:  a lich!
Mongo:  A-ha.  _Now_ we're getting somewhere.
Oakly:  (doesn't seem to notice the interruption this time, as he
  pulls at his beard and continues to tell his tale)  The name and
  origin of this ancient evil are lost to us, but it matters not; the
  dark one was slain ages ago, and his evil empire was toppled.  The
  tale can be found in a score of long-lost tomes, if one knows where
  to look.
Halbarad:  (scratching his stubbled chin as he listens with interest)
Oakly: Grand Druid, I am privy to all things happening
  within my domain, and I have learned of activity in the vicinity of
  that lost tomb.
Gorin:  What kind of activity?
Oakly:  Alas, I know not.  The eyes and ears of the forest are mighty
  indeed, but they cannot penetrate into long-lost darkness.  For that
  same reason, we of Obad-Hai's following are unable to confront this
  menace directly.
Halbarad:  (a devout follower of Ehlonna himself, he frowns at the
  mention of that other deity's name)
Mongo:  So what you're saying is, priests of the forest don't have the
  right kind of power to take on what could be a fuckton of undead?
Oakly:  ...well-put, dwarf.  You are correct.  Make no mistake, we
  can augment an attack force to a great degree.  (he smiles as he
  thinks of a line of huge treants assaulting a castle)  Still, such
  an adventure as this requires great warriors, wizards, and who knows
  what else.
Gorin:  Maybe we need Ged...
Mongo:  It would be nice to have him around, but he's not here.
Halbarad:  (to Oakly)  We can certainly scout this place out, but if
  there _are_ a number of undead or similar monsters about, we shall
  need more manpower.
Oakly:  (nods)  That's really all we want right now:  an expeditionary
  force, a small group of skilled adventurers to have a look.
Mongo:  You need us.
Oakly:  Exactly.
Gorin:  Good thing Bosco's not here.  He'd surely demand a king's
  ransom for a job like this.
Mongo:  Yeah.
Oakly:  Who's Bosco?
Halbarad:  No one of consequence.
Peyote:  Well, Great Grand Druid Dude, we'd be happy to have a look
  at this crypt.  (he glances to the others)  Wouldn't we?
Halbarad:  Aye, a noble quest.  Count me in.
Mongo:  (scratching his beard, which is almost as long and thick as
  Oakly's)  We'll go, too, I guess.  I haven't kicked any ass in a
  good long while.  With any luck, there'll be foes a-plenty to smash
  and crush.
Peyote:  That's the spirit, dude.
Oakly:  Excellent!
Halbarad:  (regards the small group)  We four, and my tiger Zephyr...
  (he shakes his head)  I fear that may not be enough.
Mongo:  (nods)
Oakly:  (shakes his head, smiling)  Fear not, noble ones.  I have a
  number of allies on hand or within easy summons, to heed the call to
Gorin:  Oh.
Mongo:  Allies?  What kind of allies?
Oakly:  Tomorrow, my short friend.  For now, you must rest, and ready
  yourself for the quest ahead.
Halbarad:  Aye...undead are not foes to be faced at night.
Peyote:  But face them we will, man.
Gorin:  They can face the edge of my axe...
Mongo:  That's the spirit!  (he looks around)  Uh, Oakly...where are
  we gonna sleep tonight?
Oakly:  Beds of grass and moss...
Mongo:  Great.
Peyote:  Aren't they though?

  The Grand Druid led them back out of his tree-domicile and into a
small, cleared area nearby.  At a gesture from the wild-bearded man,
four large, plush patches of green moss sprung up from the earth.

Peyote:  Your bunks, fellow dudes.
Gorin:  Neat.
Oakly:  A simple matter, really...not as complicated as summoning
  insects or conjuring storms.
Halbarad:  I should hope not.
Oakly:  You'll find these beds soft and restful.  Get your sleep -
  tomorrow will be a taxing day, I think.
Peyote:  Right on, O Grand One.

  They ate a quick meal of rations, supplemented by roots, fruits,
and vegetables provided by Oakly's druids.  These men and women, who
had previously been unseen and unknown, were now several dozen in
number.  They wandered the grove, attending to whatever tasks druids
attended to; at least some of them seemed to be praying and preparing
for something.

Peyote:  Aid for us, on our journey...
Mongo:  What kind of aid?
Peyote:  Blessings, supplies, useful items...we'll be glad for the
  help, I'd venture.
Gorin:  Speaking of venturing, how far is this crypt-place from here?
  I mean, are we going to be riding for days?
Mongo:  I doubt it - our horses are gone.
Gorin:  Oh, yeah.
Halbarad:  He does raise a good question, though.  Where _is_ this
  dark place?
Peyote:  Not sure, but it can't be too far.  Anyway, I'd count on
  Oakly having a faster way there than mere horses.
Gorin:  No more giant eagles, I hope.
Peyote:  (shrugs)  No telling, little dude.

  Within the hour, they were asleep; even the troubled yet excited
Mongo fell into a deep slumber.  Such was the power of the sacred
druid grove.
  In the morning, after a hearty breakfast, Oakly made his secrets

Oakly:  Allies you need...and allies you shall have!  (he waves a
  hand, and a huge tre-ant strides forth)

  This being was larger than even Elmtrunk, the tre-ant in Peyote's
home; it stood fully thirty feet high, and waved huge limbs as it

tre-ant:  (speaking in a deep, booming voice)  Greetings, small ones.
  I am Iptroot.
Oakly:  Iptroot here is among the oldest and wisest of the locals.
  He will be your transportation and guide as you journey to the
  ancient crypt.
Peyote:  Way cool.
Halbarad:  Pleased to meet you.
Iptroot:  Likewise, though I wish we had met in more pleasant times.
  (it makes a motion akin to a shrug, its upper branches and leaves
  twitching slightly)  We must go forth and make the wrong things
Mongo:  Count on it.
Oakly:  But wait, there are more!
Gorin:  More?
halfling:  (climbs down nimbly from one of Iptroot's branches)  Long
  time, no see, Mongo of the Thunderheads.
Mongo:  (smirks)  Kup Swiftfoot!  Of the Flinty Hills...
Kup Swiftfoot:  (he bows, smiling)  At your service.
Gorin:  You're that guy who led the force of halflings, against the
  marauding giants...
Kup:  (lights his small, curved pipe)  None other.  (he blows a trio
  of smoke-rings up into the air)
Oakly:  (snaps his fingers angrily, and the halfling's pipe suddenly
  goes out)  Kup, you know that smoking in my forest upsets me.
Kup:  (looks mildly apologetic)  Sorry 'bout that.  I'd forgotten about
Oakly:  Most unwise.
Kup:  Yeah, yeah.
Oakly:  Kup is a skilled thief-
Kup:  That's unkind, to say the least.  When have I ever taken any-
  thing from you, that you should call me a thief?  When we adventured
  together, those who we relieved of their ill-gotten gains would have
  called you a thief as well.  I just located and disarmed traps,
  opened locks, listened at doors, and things like that; you generally
  took a more active role.
Oakly:  (sighs)  I suppose you're right, although you always twist
  things into the picture you want...
Gorin:  (to Mongo) He seems like what Bosco could grow up into, if he
  lives that long.
Mongo:  Maybe there is hope for Bosco yet, then...although I don't
  think that Bosco will ever grow _up_.  (he chortles at his own wit)
Kup:  I heard that.  (he tries to get his pipe re-lit, without any
  luck)  Who in the tarnation is "Bosco"?
Oakly:  (muttering something)  Unfortunately, I was unable to succeed
  in securing a wizard for this adventure, but I've another ally for
  the cause - a high priest of Pelor.
Kup:  A high priest of Pelor?  But that would mean-
fellow:  (steps forth from behind some trees)  That's correct, old
  friend.  I'm back.
Kup:  Relmar!

  Relmar certainly didn't look like a priest.  He was a tall, broad-
shouldered fellow with a lean, strong face and prematurely white
hair that was tied in a neat ponytail.  Beneath his white robes,
which were emblazoned with the sun-symbol of Pelor, could be seen
the tiny links of fine chainmail.  At the priest's side was a silver
mace which looked too finely-wrought to be nonmagical.

Relmar:  (speaks in a deep, clear voice)  My pleasure to meet all
  of you...or at least those I haven't met before.
Oakly:  Relmar is an old adventuring companion and a powerful foe
  of Evil.  His talents will surely come in handy.
Mongo:  (introduces himself to Relmar)
Oakly:  I do have something else that may help you.  (he hands Peyote
  a bag of beans)
Peyote:  (peering in the pouch)  What're these little things?  Do they
Oakly:  Hardly.  They have special - and mighty - powers.  Use them in
  times of need, and they shall serve you well.
Mongo:  (remembering the old days, and the wand of wonder, he groans)
Halbarad:  I shall summon Zephyr when the time is right.
Gorin:  That's a big cat.
Halbarad:  Truly, and his temper is fierce indeed.  Too bad he can't
  eat undead flesh - his ferocity is dulled somewhat by that foul
Gorin:  Still, a good ally.
Halbarad:  (nods)
Relmar:  This is a beast of some kind?
Halbarad:  A tiger - a giant tiger.
Relmar:  Interesting.
Oakly:  You must be off, if you're to reach the place today.
Mongo:  But how are we gonna get there?
Iptroot:  Leave that to me.  (gathering the various adventurers in
  his great arms, he bids farewell to Oakly)  We shall return.
Oakly:  May Obad-Hai watch over you.
Iptroot:  (takes a step forward)

  One step for the mighty tre-ant was more than ten for a normal man
or dwarf (or halfling.)  The tree-creature increased its pace, and
within moments, Oakly and his grove were far behind.  Mongo and the
others could only gasp in astonishment and exhilaration as Iptroot
moved through the forest, seemingly unhindered by the thick trees and

Kup:  Whee!

next:      chaos in Hardby
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Thanks to Sean Donahue, VP Tervonen, and Tom Vallow for
  the various suggestions that led to this quintet of episodes -
  I bet you guys thought I'd forgotten.  Now that we've heard about
  some of the things Halbarad and Peyote did in the past few years,
  and seen Peyote-Henge, and learned some of the ways of the druids,
  and even met a treant, I hope your lost-characters-cravings are at
  least partially satisfied.
    In the last few episodes, there were mistakes or points requiring
  clarification.  First, an error in 439:  Oakly refers to Peyote as
  his Arch-Druid when he first sees him.  This is a typo; he meant to
  say Druid.  Second, I shouldn't have titled 439 as "The Great Grand
  Druid."  Oakly Greenleaf is a Great Druid, aka 14th level.  Peyote
  calls him the Great Grand Druid because he's perpetually stoned.
    Five episodes for Peldor & Tanya...five for Belphanior and his
  merry crew...five for Mongo and Gorin.  I hate to leave you with
  another cliff-hanger, but I honestly think it's past time that we
  looked back to Peldor, Tanya, Reuben and his bandits, and the
  Despotrix of Hardby.  Surely a mighty adventure lies in there

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