Chapter #450

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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                    +
+                           +
+  Belphanior     (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief    (CN) +
+    Otto           8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief        (CN) +
+    Razor Charlie  8th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+    Victoria      11th level female vampiric human fighter    (NE) +
+                                                                   +
+  The new mercenaries:                                             +
+    Aja           10th level human priestess of Wee Jas       (LN) +
+    Darrell        6th level human fighter                     (N) +
+    Jomo           6th level human fighter                     (N) +
+    Jutokai        7th level human fighter/archer              (N) +
+    Kinichi        7th level human ranger                     (CG) +
+    Skektek        8th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                 (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Special guest stars:                                             +
+    Alindyar      17th level drow mage                         (N) +
+      Lyra        13th level female drow mage                  (N) +
+    Drawmij       archmage                                     (N) +
+  Date:        5/1/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       the Free City of Greyhawk                           +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "Listen to them - children of the night.  What music they make!" +
+                                                         - Dracula +

                   CDL.  The Legion of Night

  After returning from Perrenland, seven mercenaries stronger,
Belphanior and Otto found the castle trashed and Victoria missing.
Now they must find out what happened, and quickly, for Victoria's
very unlife may be at stake!

                ACT I:  In Pursuit of the Truth

  Within a spacious lecture hall at Greyhawk's College of Magic, a
certain drow was in the middle of his morning lecture...

Alindyar:  (facing the roomful of aspiring students)  -and thus, you
  see, is illusion formed.  Its effects are not _actual_, but rather
  _perceived_.  And therein-  (he waves a slim pointer as he speaks)
  -therein lies its power.
student with cowlick:  (raises his hand)
Alindyar:  Yes, Grimley, what is it?
young Grimley:  Then how can some people die from illusions?
Alindyar:  Hmm.  A good question - I am glad you asked.
students:  (waiting expectantly for an answer)
female student:  (sitting in the back row, she whispers to a fellow
  student)  I think he's _cute_.
other student:  (chews her quill thoughtfully)  You're just attracted
  to him because he's so smart.
first student:  And powerful...what confidence.  Gods, it's _sexy_!
second student:  You may be onto something...(she sighs)
Alindyar:  (lost in thought, he remains oblivious)  Let me think of
  the best way to-  ah.  (he sets the pointer aside)  Imagine, if you
  will, illusionary magic as a force unto itself.  Every living being
  has a certain degree of resistance to this force.  Some attributes
  do allow for more resistance than others - for example, the more
  intelligent a person is, the less likely he or she is to believe an
students:  (engrossed, or perhaps baffled, they yet stare)
Alindyar:  Those beings without enough resistance to the force that
  is illusion...can be slain by it.  Just as if it were completely
young Grimley:  I don't understand.
Alindyar:  (sighs, and whips out a quick spell)
flame-breathing salamander:  (appears in the air over that student)
young Grimley:  (recoils, his clothing and hair singed)
other students:  (seeing nothing)
young Grimley:  (quivering in sheer terror)
Alindyar:  (snaps his fingers, and the illusion instantly blinks out
  of existence)
young Grimley:  Huh?  (he regards his hands, finding no burns)  What?
Alindyar:  (spreads his hands)  Illusion.  Yet it seemed real, did it
young Grimley:  <gulp>  Y- yes...
Alindyar:  All of which illustrates another important precept of all
  magic:  anything can, and will, happen - sometimes completely

  Suddenly, there was a shimmering in the air, and then, ten beings
blinked into existence on the podium, next to Alindyar.

Alindyar:  (taken aback, he turns to his class)  See what I mean?
Belphanior:  (smiles grimly)  Long time, no see.  Got a moment?
students:  (unsure if this is another illusion or not, they watch
  with interest)
Alindyar:  Not really, but I get the impression you won't take no
  for an answer.  (to the class)  Er...excuse me for just a bit.
Skektek:  (looking around, he marvels at the feat he just underwent) our new employer is more than just a warrior.
Jutokai:  Much more, it would seem.
Kinichi:  This...teleportation makes me uneasy, my friend.  It's not
Aja:  I get the feeling you'd better get used to it.  We all should.
Otto:  (listening with interest as the new recruits chat amongst them-
Alindyar:  (looks over Belphanior's companions)  Hmm.
Belphanior:  Teaching, eh?
Alindyar:  (ignores the question)  How, pray tell, did you move this
  many people...(he eyes Ys uneasily)...this much weight?
Belphanior:  You wouldn't believe me if I told you.  (he looks around)
  Good to see that this place hasn't changed a bit over the years.
Alindyar:  You studied here?
Belphanior:  Long ago.  Listen, I need your help.
Alindyar:  Ah, I was wondering what brought you here.  Never mind how.
Belphanior:  This is the kind of help that could take awhile.  Maybe
  your students could use some extra homework time.
Alindyar:  (frowns)  Aye...(to the gaping students)  Class dismissed.
  We'll continue with illusions and phantasms tomorrow.
Ys:  (flicking his forked tongue, he grins toothily)  Rrrp.
students:  (begin calmly but efficiently evacuating the hall)
Alindyar:  (turns back to Belphanior)  Now, then:  what can I do for

  Quickly, Belphanior related the discoveries he'd made at the castle
earlier that day...

Alindyar:  And you found the servants?
Otto:  Yup, the two girls were in town.  Turns out Victoria sent them
  away, and in an awful hurry.  They don't know anything, but at least
  they're safe.
Alindyar:  And your carriage-driver?
Belphanior:  He was in town all day anyway.  Nobody saw anything.  And
  nobody's perfected a "speak with golem" spell...
Alindyar:  The spell of speaking with monsters would be useless in
  any case.  Golems do not have minds, or intelligence, and they are
  incapable of conscious thought.
Otto:  Funny, I always thought Angus was a little shifty-eyed...
Alindyar:  'Tis not the time for jokes.
Otto:  But I wasn't.
Ys:  (picks up Alindyar's wooden pointer and examines it curiously)
  A puny weapon, this.
Alindyar:  (watching the lizard-man out of the corner of his eye)
Belphanior:  I tried the spell, though - and you're right, I couldn't
  communicate with Angus.  So that leaves...
Alindyar:  My crystal ball.
Belphanior:  Right you are.  I suspect that, with that thing, you can
  scry for Victoria's whereabouts.
Alindyar:  I could, but you would be better advised to do it.
Belphanior:  Eh?
Alindyar:  The device will have greater range and accuracy if the
  object of the search is known to the user.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Alindyar: 'Tis a rather easy process, one I am sure you can learn on
  the very first try.  And I would be more than happy to help you.
  I sympathize with your plight.
Belphanior:  I thought you might.  (to everyone)  Very well...let's
  go get that crystal ball!

  Shortly, within the vast mansion of the drow...

Alindyar:  The sphere is yonder, in the study.
Skektek:  Nice place - where'd you get it?
Alindyar:  A friend found it for me, actually.
Jutokai:  Some friend...
Aja:  It's dark...moody...old.  I like that.  (to tell the truth, she
  also likes Alindyar, and her gaze often shifts his way)

  By now, Belphanior had made the cursory introductions, and most
of the mercenaries regarded the mansion and its contents with some

Razor Charlie:  (eyeing some old daggers in a display case)
Alindyar:  Purely ceremonial, those.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at the knives in their case)
Darrell:  (a polite fellow at heart, he doesn't touch anything)  It
  is a nice place, though.
Jomo:  (nods, his dreadlocks bouncing a bit)  Rich owners...meaning
  the elf has rich friends.
Skektek:  Powerful friends too, I'd wager.
Ys:  (blinking his double-lidded eyes as he regards an oil painting
  of some long-ago battle)  Sss.
Lyra:  (appears from a nearby room, wearing a black skirt and a tight
  black shirt of some sort)  Excuse me?
Ys:  (turns to regard her)  Another drow elf...most fascinating.
Lyra:  (smiles, her curiosity piqued)  And you are...?
Ys:  (spreads his clawed hands and grins, his arrowhead-sized teeth
  gleaming)  I am Ys.
Lyra:  (smiling back)  Ys you are.
Alindyar:  May I present Lyra, my fellow wizard, and also my mate.
Aja:  (to herself)  Drat.
Skektek:  (chuckles, but recognizing the priestess' power, he chuckles
  to himself)
Belphanior:  (bows slightly in Lyra's direction)  Been awhile.
Lyra:  Not that long.
Belphanior:  Sorry to barge in like this...
Lyra:  You're always welcome in our home.
Belphanior:  ...but my lady-friend's been kidnapped, maybe killed, and
  I need help to find out where she is.
Lyra:  Oh.
Darrell:  (having never seen a dark elf in his life, before a short
  time ago, he stares at Lyra)
Jomo:  Pick your jaw up off the floor, mon.
Darrell:  Er...okay.
Kinichi:  (to Jutokai)  This isn't the sort of work I signed on for.
Jutokai:  Relax, it hasn't been that long.  I'm sure something more
  interesting will happen soon.
Razor Charlie:  (twirls a knife in his hands, but occupies his ears
  with the small-talk of his new companions, the better to judge
  their worth)
Lyra:  Why don't all of you make yourselves comfortable in the den,
  over here...follow me.
mercenaries:  (they do so)
Belphanior:  I'll be back shortly.
Alindyar:  Aye.  (he, Belphanior, and Otto head for the study)

  The eight mercenaries (Razor Charlie was, at heart, a blade-for-
hire) made themselves comfortable in the mansion's huge sunken den.
Lyra snapped her fingers, and unseen servants brought drinks for the

Ys:  (sniffs at a glass of pale green cider, the sparkling container
  tiny and fragile in his huge, scaly hand)  Interesting...(he guzzles
  the cider in a single quick swallow)
Aja:  (to Lyra)  Might you have any Velunan wine?
Lyra:  (frowns)  Sorry, we're fresh out.
Aja:  (smiles to herself)
Razor Charlie:  (takes a glass from the tray as it floats by)
Lyra:  (frowning at the just-enough-but-never-more level of service
  provided by the magical apparitions)  Hmm, we'll have to do some-
  thing about that sometime.

  Meanwhile, in Alindyar's study...

Alindyar:  Now, place your hands on the crystal ball, and think of
  your missing friend.  Think hard.
Belphanior:  (doing so)  Victoria...

  The magical orb shone with a pale green light, and an image took
form in its image of a half-naked Victoria, in chains!

Belphanior:  (slams a fist into the wall, instantly bruising three
  knuckles)  Damn!
Alindyar:  Take heart, my friend - she lives!
Belphanior:  Yeah, but for how long?

  Victoria was apparently in some kind of dungeon, for the stones
of the place seemed dark and slimy.  Even as the two elves watched
through the crystal ball, several people arrived and began to talk
to the captive.

Alindyar:  Odd...(he peers closer)
Otto:  Holy shit, look at their faces!
Belphanior:  Vampires...

  There was no doubt about it; Victoria's captors had the same pale
complexion, the same arrogant demeanor, and last but not least, the
same pointy little fangs that adventurers everywhere knew to be the
marks of vampires.

Alindyar:  Most dire.
Belphanior: that's why Angus was uninjured, but smashed up
  the castle.
Otto:  They couldn't hurt him, but he couldn't hit them.
Belphanior:  Right...and that's why there were signs of a struggle,
  but no blood.
Otto:  And how all our defenses were useless...whew, it's a good thing
  Daphne and Phoebe weren't around.
Belphanior:  Truly.
Alindyar:  (suddenly realizes what's going on)  You mean to tell me
  that your girlfriend is a _vampire_?!?
Belphanior:  Let's discuss that some other time, shall we?
Alindyar:  Aie.
Otto:  The question is, _where_ are they?  (to Alindyar)  Does this
  thing tell you what kingdom or wilderness the image is taking place
Alindyar:  Unfortunately, no.
Belphanior:  I was afraid of this.
Otto:  What now?
Alindyar:  I haven't the spells to solve this little riddle...but I
  know someone who does.

                ACT II:  In Pursuit of Victoria

Drawmij:  You're asking if I've perfected a teleportation spell that
  works off of a crystal ball image?
Alindyar:  (nods)  Precisely.
Drawmij:  Who wants to know, and why?
Belphanior:  (steps forward)  That'd be me.
Drawmij:  I remember you...
Belphanior:  I need your help - one who I care for greatly has been
Drawmij:  Ah, true love...surely there is no higher cause.
Alindyar:  You can assist, then?
Drawmij:  Hmm...maybe.
Belphanior:  (frowns)  Maybe?
Drawmij:  (shrugs)  I've bandied around a few variants on the basic
  teleportation spell, but I've got nothing solid yet.
Belphanior:  Hey, semi-solid is better than nothing.
Drawmij:  (thinking)  Well, there _is_ one spell that might do it...
Alindyar:  Eh?
Drawmij:  I've made pretty good progress with one spell that might do
  it...but it could be dangerous.
Belphanior:  Danger is my middle name.
Alindyar:  (to himself)  I thought that was Peldor.
Drawmij:  But there's danger and then there's danger.  Failed
  teleportation variants can be lethal.  And this...little more than
  a blind teleport at best...(he shakes his head)
Alindyar:  It can really work through a crystal ball?
Drawmij:  In theory.
Belphanior:  How'd you pull it off?
Drawmij:  Well, as you no doubt know, certain spells can be cast
  through crystal balls.  So, given those few, I sought to mimic
  the same paths of enchantment, the same basic auras.
Alindyar:  Fascinating.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Most interesting.  I, myself, have been working
  on a mass teleport spell...just tested it, in fact, a little while
Alindyar:  Aha!  so _that_ was how-
Drawmij:  (to Belphanior)  You fool - all of you could have been torn
  to bits instantly!
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  We've all got our problems.

  The mercenaries, and Otto as well, were waiting in Alindyar's
mansion, under the watchful eye of Lyra.  Alindyar could only hope
that none of the rough-looking characters tried to steal anything,
but then again, Lyra _was_ there.  In fact, at this very moment, she
was learning that Ys was a great conversationalist...

Ys:  -and then we landed, directly amidst the orcish horde.  Let me
  tell you, much blood was split that day.
Lyra:  Hah hah!
Ys:  (frowns)  Of course, we won that war.
Lyra:  Naturally.
Ys:  And the princess was returned, and everyone lived happily ever
Lyra:  A good ending...
Ys:  (thoughtfully)  And some of us grew very, very wealthy.
Lyra:  It never lasts long, though, does it?
Ys:  It certainly doesn't.
Otto:  (playing cards with Darrell, Jomo, Jutokai, and Kinichi)  Ah,
  read 'em and weep - a full house!
Kinichi:  (throws his cards down in disgust)  Bah.
Darrell:  Damn, and I thought I had it won for sure this time.
Jomo:  Never, mon.  You know you can't play cards.
Darrell:  Pipe down, bro.
Otto:  (raking in the coins)
Jutokai:  A lucky hand.
Otto:  Think so, eh?
Jutokai:  Deal again and we'll find out.
Aja:  (having little interest in such games, she instead pores through
  a tome on Flanaess history, occupied for the moment)
Skektek:  (studying his spellbook, for perhaps he alone realizes that
  something serious and dangerous may well happen)

  Back in Drawmij's hidden castle...

Drawmij:  Let's see, here...ah, yes.  This should work.
Belphanior:  (reading the arcane words and formulae)  Yeah, I can
  understand this.
Alindyar:  (looking over Belphanior's shoulder, he has already
  memorized the basic tenets behind the spell)
Drawmij:  You owe me both do.
Belphanior:  Don't worry, pal.  After this is over, you can call on
  me to return the favor.
Alindyar:  I think he meant we owed him a spell.
Belphanior:  I've got a spellbook with me, and it contains my notes
  on the rudimentary mass-teleportation spell.  I'll get it for you
  in a moment.
Drawmij:  Very well.  First, however, you should copy my spell into
  your spellbook.
Belphanior:  Ah, yes.
Alindyar:  (to Drawmij)  Er...might you have anything of use against
Drawmij:  Vampires?!?
Belphanior:  (somewhat sheepishly)  Uh, I didn't mention it, but I'm
  about to teleport into the lair of a number of vampires...
Drawmij:  Good gods, why didn't you say so?
Belphanior:  Slipped my mind.
Alindyar:  (frowns)
Drawmij:  Vampires...vampires...well, the best weapon - besides a
  decanter of endless holy water, anyway - is knowledge.  You need
  enchanted weapons to hurt them, or holy water, or a wooden stake
  through the heart, or a powerful priest...
Belphanior:  Yeah, yeah, I know all that.
Drawmij:  So let me get this right:  your girlfriend was kidnapped
  by a gang of vampires?
Belphanior:  (wearily)  Just don't ask.
Drawmij:  Hmm.  So what can I do to help?
Belphanior:  I've heard tell of items that render the bearer immune
  to vampiric powers and effects...might you have anything like that?
Drawmij:  I'm afraid not.  About the best I can do for you is offer
  you an oil that will empower your weapons to injure the undead, if
  they can't already.
Belphanior:  Sold!
Drawmij:  No, but now you owe me two.  (he dispatches an unseen
  servant to go fetch the special oil)  With that goop, you'll stand
  a better chance of resisting the vampires, since your weapons will
  actually hurt them.
Belphanior:  That's good news.

  A short time later, after Belphanior had copied the incantation
and taken the jar of oil, he and Alindyar thanked Drawmij and took
their leave.  The drow cast a spell to teleport them back to his
mansion, and like that, they were gone.  Behind them, standing in
his castle's guest hall, Drawmij rubbed his chin and frowned.

Drawmij:  The day may come, Belphanior, sooner than you think...

  Back in the mansion...

Belphanior:  Everyone get ready - we leave in five.
Lyra:  (incredulously)  You've got a spell that'll take _all_ of you
  to the place shown in a crystal ball?
Belphanior:  I do now.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  If he really has such a spell, we need
  to get it.
Alindyar:  (ESPing back)  Already taken care of, my dear.
Lyra:  (smiles)
Otto:  So everything's cool?
Belphanior:  Not until we have Victoria and are back in the castle,
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)  Safe?
Otto:  I wonder how they found her in the first place, anyway...
Belphanior:  We'll find out, with any luck.  (to Alindyar)  I'll have
  to go back up and re-scry the location, then cast the spell.
Alindyar:  Of course.  Say, do you require any help?
Lyra:  (makes an angry face)
Ys:  (flicks his tongue around as he watches Lyra's discomfort)
Belphanior:  No, absolutely not.  I can't ask you to come along on
  this one.  It's risky, and it's not your fight, and you've already
  done enough.
Alindyar:  But surely-
Belphanior:  No.
Alindyar:  Very well.

  Belphanior passed the magical weapon-oil around, explaining its
properties and application.  Razor Charlie in particular was glad
to have the stuff, for he had been worried about his knives (most
of which weren't enchanted) not being able to injure the vampires.

Razor Charlie:  (grins crookedly as he replaces the last of the
  greased blades in its belt-sheath)
Belphanior:  Hmm...(to the band)  What I said to Alindyar here goes
  for all of you.  I realize we just hired you on, but this is one
  of those missions that some people won't be coming back from.
Jomo:  Y'know, I've been thinking about that, mon.  Maybe this isn't
  a trip I want to take.
Darrell:  Aw, come on.  Where's your sense of adventure?
Jomo:  (reluctantly)  Well, if you're going...(he oils his weapon)
Jutokai:  How long is this stuff good for, anyway?
Belphanior:  Several strikes...enough to get the job done, hopefully.
Lyra:  (appears with a small rack filled with vials of clear liquid)
  Here, you'll need these.
Otto:  What's that?
Lyra:  Holy water.  There's a temple of Pholtus right down the
  street, and I just went there.
Belphanior:  Damn, that was quick.
Lyra:  (doling out the blessed water to everyone)
Ys:  My thanks, lady.
Lyra:  Just come back in one piece, alright?  I'd hate to miss the
  ending of that last story.
Ys:  Don't worry about me.  I can take care of myself.
Kinichi:  We all can.
Belphanior:  I hope so.  I truly hope so.  (he turns to Alindyar)
Alindyar:  'Tis time?
Belphanior:  Yup.

  They went to the study - all of them this time - and Alindyar
unveiled the crystal ball.

Skektek:  (looks on, coveting such a powerful magical item)
Aja:  (looks on, coveting Alindyar)
Belphanior:  (conjures up the image, which is about the same as
  before:  an imprisoned Victoria, alone in a cell)  Ah, there she
Darrell:  (eyes the image)  Wow, she's a looker.
Belphanior:  (transfixed by the image within the crystal ball)
Jomo:  She's the reason we're doing this?
Otto:  Yep, that she is.
Darrell:  Now _that_ is a cause worth fighting for!
Aja:  Definitely an unusual adventure.
Skektek:  You can say that again.
Aja:  I could, but I won't.
Ys:  (chortles)
everyone:  (stares at the huge lizard-man)
Belphanior:  All right, we're about to drop in.  Remember:  we're
  there to rescue Victoria, that's all.  I want to teleport in, free
  her, and teleport out.  All you have to do is hold off anything
  that attacks us while I'm casting the spell to get us back to
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  What's Helgate?
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  No clue.
Belphanior:  If everything goes well, this shouldn't be a big deal.
  (he speaks with a confidence that even he doesn't wholly feel, as
  he begins casting Drawmij's unique spell)
Otto:  (muttering)  But nothing ever goes entirely well...
Belphanior:  Everyone who's going, join hands now.
everyone:  (does so)

  As Alindyar and Lyra watched in anticipation, a bright glow
appeared from the crystal ball - their crystal ball - and quickly
grew to encompass the entire group.  In the blink of an eye and
the flash of an otherworldly light, the ten visitors were gone.

Alindyar:  Off they go...
Lyra:  You know what just occurred to me?
Alindyar:  What might that be?
Lyra:  Maybe Drawmij needed some guinea pigs for his new spell...
  and now he's had them.
Alindyar:  I doubt it.  Drawmij isn't that kind of fellow.  But
  we have no idea if the spell worked or not.
Lyra:  Sure we do, dummy.  (she gestures to the crystal ball)

              ACT III:  In Pursuit of Survival

  Chained in her cell, Victoria sulked angrily.  Had she been free,
heads would be rolling at this moment.  Unfortunately for her, even
vampires could be held, if the shackles had the proper enchantments.
Hers did - those who had taken her knew their business.  And well
they should, since they were vampires too.  Sighing, the voluptuous
vampiric vixen sagged in her chains; it was no use.  An opportunity
to escape might present itself, but not at this time; she would have
to wait.
  As she did, Victoria pondered the recent events that had brought
her to this accursed place.  It had been nearly a century since she
had fled the secret enclave of vampires, hidden deep within the Yatil
Mountains.  No, "fled" wasn't the right word; perhaps "left" would
more accurately describe those events.  Victoria ran from no one or
nothing, especially not a group comprised mostly of whelps not even
a century old.  In any case, the clan hadn't taken kindly to her
spoken intention to leave, and she had been forced to incapacitate
several of the other vampires when she finally made her exit.  By
going far and keeping a low profile - things that she'd have had to
do anyway - she had succeeded in eluding the clan.  Until now, at
  And then there was the matter of Qurac...Qurac, leader of vampires
and lover scorned-

  Victoria's thoughts were interrupted by a flash of light and a hum,
brief and high-pitched.  Then, suddenly, inexplicably, a group of
rough-looking people were standing there in the cell with her.

Belphanior:  Hiya, babe.
Victoria:  (wide-eyed in surprise, but only for a moment)  Belphanior!
  (she struggles with her shackles)  Quickly, get these off of me.
Belphanior:  (grabs the slender, puny-looking chains, but finds them
  as strong as magical steel, which they probably are)  Ungh.
Ys:  Please, allow me.  (he grabs the chains, careful not to catch
  the vampiress' hands, and snaps them as if they were made of paper)
Victoria:  (looks up at the hulking reptilian)  My thanks.
Ys:  No, my pleasure.
Darrell:  (gawking at the half-naked Victoria)  Whoa...
Jomo:  Calm down, mon.
Victoria:  What's the matter, you've never seen a naked woman before?
Darrell:  Uh...
Aja:  (snickers)
Victoria:  (tosses the mangled chains aside)
Belphanior:  Enchanted chains, to keep you from assuming mist-form,
  I take it?
Victoria:  Right.
Razor Charlie:  (picks up the broken shackles)
Otto:  Hey, we can have the long, tearful reunions later - right now
  we need to get going.
Belphanior:  Right.  (he begins spellcasting)
Otto:  (to Victoria)  How many, and how close?
Victoria:  About a dozen, and-
Razor Charlie:  (whirls about)
black-robed vampire:  (bursts into the cell-block, the door's pieces
  flying everywhere)  Very close.  You can forget your spell, elf -
  you'll never finish it in time.

  The speaker was a tall, black-haired human.  His skin was rather
unnaturally pale, even for a vampire, as if he had once been of dark-
skinned Flan descent but had paled over the years.  Still, the fellow
was handsome, with a square jaw, dark bushy eyebrows, and an aquiline
nose.  His eyes were crimson, and they bored into the intruders' with
dangerous intensity.
  Behind the speaker, other shapes could be seen, flitting about like
shadows in the dimness behind their leader.

Victoria:  Qurac!
Qurac:  These are your would-be rescuers?  This pathetic band of men,
  elves, and...(he eyes Ys)  Well, we certainly weren't expecting
Otto:  That's why we're here.
Qurac:  (extends a hand)  Victoria...come.
Victoria:  (growls at him)  Never!  Leave me be, you jealous dolt!
Qurac:  (shakes his head)  Tsk, tsk, tsk. dear, sweet
  Victoria.  Will you never learn?
Victoria:  I already have learned...learned that life here is not for
Qurac:  This elf..._he_ is the one you've been whoring with?
Belphanior:  (sick of being ignored, then referred to in the third
  person, he points at Qurac)  If I were you, I'd just turn around
  and walk back through that door.
Qurac:  On the contrary, elf, I bid you:  surrender.  (he gazes at
  Belphanior, exerting his vampiric powers to charm)
Belphanior:  (stands his ground, his own eye glowing slightly, his
  jaw set)  No.
Qurac:  No?  'No' is not a word I am used to hearing.
Belphanior:  Want to hear it again?
Qurac:  Bah.  You may think yourself clever, but shortly, I shall
  show you the error of your ways.
Belphanior:  (laughs)  You and what army?
Qurac:  Me...and this army.

  Behind the speaker now stood a good dozen vampires, all of them
humans of unnatural handsomeness or beauty...and also of striking,
supernatural power.

Belphanior:  Is that the best you can do?  Hell, I brought my own
Qurac:  Your pathetic allies will avail you naught.  Even one of my
  kind could defeat a dozen of yours.  (he gestures behind him)  And
  I've brought _all_ of my companions.  No reinforcements, no more
  surprises.  In this cell, you shall all die, your blood feeding us
  as you die...the way it was meant to be.
Otto:  (nocks a bolt)  I don't think so.
Qurac:  (to his companions)  My kindred...kill them!  Kill them all!

  Everything seemed to happen at once.  Flitting, shadowy forms moved
forth, striking with inhuman speed.  Yet, the forces of Belphanior
were ready; as Aja brandished her holy symbol and began chanting,
Razor Charlie had knives in his hands, Otto was raising his crossbow,
and the others were similarly moving into action.

Otto:  (fires his bolt, but misses a short, female vampire)  Damn!
vampire#1:  You'll have to be faster than that, dwarf!  (she closes
  in on him)
Otto:  (dropping the crossbow, he whips out his shortsword and waves
  it in deadly arcs)  Come on, then, you bitch!
Razor Charlie:  (hurls two knives, hitting a tall, gaunt vampire in
  the neck and chest)
vampire#2:  Argh!  Enchanted weapons!
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at the vampire)  Silver, too.
vampire#3:  (a pudgy, bearded man)  Grargh!  (he slashes at Darrell,
  driving the warrior back even as his sword whistles wide of its
Darrell:  (tasting the life-draining effects of the vampire's chill
  touch, he staggers)  Aaargh!
Jomo:  Darrell!  (he slashes at the vampire, scoring a shallow cut)
vampire#3:  (laughs)
Jutokai:  (fires an arrow at a tall, blond-haired female vampire)
  Taste that, demon!
vampire#4:  (ignores the shaft)  Bah!  Come here mortal...I thirst.
Jutokai:  Aie.
Kinichi:  (faces off against a fifth vampire)
vampire#6:  (a blond-haired man, he attacks Victoria, snarling)
Qurac:  Careful, I want her alive...but not unharmed.
Victoria:  Too bad _I_ don't have to play by such rules.  (she meets
  the other vampire, and in instants the foe is repelled, his stomach
  torn open)
vampire#6:  Aaargh...(he falls to the ground, then turns into mist)
Qurac:  (gaping in shock, for even he didn't realize how powerful his
  former companion was, compared to these young vampires)
Victoria:  What now, Qurac?  (she turns to face the clan's leader,
  blood dripping from her fingernails)  I guess you have to die next.
  It's obviously the only way to be rid of you.
Qurac:  You'll never succeed-
Victoria:  You don't have those shackles to stop me this time...and
  that means you die today!
Belphanior:  (forced to abandon his spell of teleportation, he now
  ponders his options)  Hmm.

  The elf recalled one of Blackrazor's more disconcerting properties:
if it hit an energy-sucking undead being, such as a vampire, it stole
its own wielder's life-force!  Belphanior couldn't have that, of
course, so he had previously switched the black blade with another
sword from his arsenal.

Belphanior:  (slashes vampire#7, slicing a deep gash in its shoulder)
vampire#7:  (hissing, it rakes Belphanior with filthy claws, but fails
  to have the expected weakening effect)  Hssss!
Belphanior:  Surprise!  (he kicks the thing away, then twirls his
Otto:  Hey, where'd you get _that_ from?
Belphanior:  Dagron...remember him?
Otto:  Yeah.  (he stabs vampire#1 in the neck)  These things almost
  remind me of ol' Dagron...
vampire#1:  (screams in pain, for this weapon too is magical)  Aaagh!
  (she recoils, moving around Otto, trying to get at him from the
Otto:  (pivots as she does, keeping his sword between them)
vampire#7:  (leaps upon Belphanior, suddenly, raking him with claws
  and snapping at his neck)
Belphanior:  Shit!
Victoria:  (seeing this attack, she snarls, leaping toward the two)
Skektek:  (fires a lightning bolt, knocking vampire#1 and several
  others right out the cell's doorway)  Hah!
vampire#8:  (swoops down upon the mage)  Graar!
vampire#9:  (racing toward Aja, who as a priestess is an obvious and
  important target, especially as she chants her holy rhymes)  Die...
Ys:  (interposes himself between the vampire and its intended victim)
  Not today, monster.
vampire#9:  Look who's talking...(he leaps for the big lizard-man,
  clawing wildly)  First you die, then the priestess-bitch!
Ys:  (fending off the vampire's attacks, he sustains several gashes
  across his arms and shoulders
vampire#9:  (notices that the wounds he inflicted ooze a syrupy blue
  fluid)  What's this?!?
Ys:  (with blinding speed, he intercepts the vampire's next strike,
  grabbing both of its wrists in one hand)  Time to play a little
  game.  (he swings the vampire like a club, smashing the foe back
  and forth against the stony floor)
vampire#9:  (dazed and bloody, it prepares to mist)
Ys:  (grabs the vampire around the neck, lifting him off the floor)
vampire#9:  Ghak!  I'll...have your life-force!  (flailing, he grabs
  at Ys' arm)
Ys:  (unaffected, he tightens his grip)
vampire#9:  Wh-  how?!?
Ys:  (snaps the vampire's neck)  Heh.
vampire#9:  (turns into mist, quickly floating away)
Ys:  (shrugs)
Aja:  Thanks...for now I can do this!  (she holds her holy symbol
  high, bathing the room in light)

  Most of the vampires were turned back, shrieking and hissing; only
five remained, including Victoria and Qurac.

Aja:  (looks confused)  Fled...?

  Whatever the priestess' problem was, her effort yet turned the
tide of battle immensely, for the repelled vampires fled the room
within moments, leaving the mercenaries' foes outnumbered.  Still,
the vampires were not foes to be taken lightly...

vampire#2:  (stalking Razor Charlie)
Razor Charlie:  (hurls another knife, burying it in the vampire's
vampire#2:  Urk!  You'll pay for-  eh?  (it finds that it cannot
  come any closer to the scarred, tattooed human)  What?
Razor Charlie:  (hits the foe in the leg with yet another knife)
vampire#2:  Argh!
vampire#2:  (pulling the blade out)  Argh!  I'll kill you with your
  own weapon!  (he sends the knife flying at the human)
Razor Charlie:  (catches and throws it back in one fluid motion)
vampire#2:  (hit in the neck)  <gurgle>  Sssss...
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at the monster)
vampire#8:  (having drained some of Skektek's life-force, it now
  leaps at Darrell, whose back is turned)
Darrell:  Aaaaugh!
Jomo:  Darrell!  (he charges toward his brother, sword raised)
vampire#5:  (moves toward Jomo)
Kinichi:  Not so fast...(he slashes at the undead, but misses by
  mere inches)
vampire#5:  (whirls)  Raaarg!
Kinichi:  Whoa!
Qurac:  (now facing Victoria)  You foolish woman.
Victoria:  Just because _I_ want to see the world, rather than live
  like a rat in some dark cave...(she clenches her fists)
Qurac:  It took long enough to find you.
Victoria:  Good.  (she smiles cruelly)  I've had practice...and I've
  grown more powerful since our paths last crossed.
Qurac:  We'll see about that.  (they stalk one another)
Otto:  (watching this)  Geez...they look like animals...
vampire#2:  (having fled from the un-attackable Razor Charlie, it
  begins reintegrating its mist-form next to Otto)
Otto:  Fuck-
vampire#2:  (corporeal once more, it grabs the dwarf, feeding on his
  life energy)
Otto:  AAARGH!
Aja:  Stand fast!  (popping the stopper on a vial of holy water, she
  hurls the blessed fluid all over the mist-covered Otto)
vampire#2:  (begins evaporating again)
Otto:  (sinks to the ground, weakened)  Ugh...
Skektek:  (having recovered - somewhat - from the earlier vampire
  attack, he launches a volley of miniature lightning bolts at the
  misty vampire)  Take _this_!
vampire#2:  (unaffected)
vampire#8:  (rises from Darrell's trembling form, facing Jomo as he
  slashes with his longsword)
Jomo:  You'll pay for that, crypt-thing!
vampire#8:  (grazed by the warrior's blade)  Bah.
Razor Charlie:  (hits the undead in the back with a knife)
vampire#8:  Ouch.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers as the thing defies the power of his attack)
Ys:  Here, let me try.  (swings his huge sword, shearing one of the
  vampire's arms off at the shoulder)
vampire#8:  (dissolves into mist)
Ys:  Yes, much better.
Jomo:  (tending to his fallen brother)  Oh, mon.
Darrell:  (groaning in agony)
Kinichi:  (misses vampire#5 with an attack)
vampire#5:  (swats the ranger, knocking him from his feet)
Jutokai:  (having spied the flinders of wood that litter the floor,
  from the shattered door, he leaps like a cat, holding the sharp
  spike of wood before him)
vampire#5:  (whirls, just in time to have the makeshift stake buried
  in its chest)  YAARGH!  (it clutches at the wooden spike with
  increasing weakness)  AAAAARGH!
Jutokai:  (mesmerized, he backs away)  Ugh.
vampire#5:  (melting quickly)  AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!
Razor Charlie:  (watching in fascination, a knife poised for throwing
  in his hand)
vampire#2:  (lashing out at Skektek)
Skektek:  (shudders)
Aja:  (hurls another flask of holy water, smashing it against the
vampire#2:  (smoke rises from its face and shoulders, which are now
  wet with the liquid)  ARGH!
Razor Charlie:  (having picked up a particularly straight sliver
  of wood, he hurls it at the vampire)
vampire#2:  (struck in the heart, it screams in agony, but doesn't
  die, for the stake isn't in deeply enough)  AAARGH!
Razor Charlie:  Hmph.  (grimacing, he dashes forth, grabbing the
  stake and pushing it deeper into the monster's chest)
vampire#2:  AAAAAaaaaieeee...!  (it dissolves into mist)

  This had been a quick and savage battle, with little in the way of
grandstanding and wasted action.  Everyone was wounded, and several
were drained of life-force - and barely a minute had passed!  Still,
the center of the conflict was now Victoria and Qurac, who were
locked in savage, bloody combat.

Qurac:  (punches Victoria)  Away, foolish wench!  I'll-
Victoria:  You'll do _nothing_!  (she spits blood, and lashes out,
  digging furrows in Qurac's chest)  Now _I_ am the better!
Qurac:  Argh!  (he reels from the fierce attack)

  Qurac may have been taller and stronger, but Victoria was by far
the more aggressive.  Perhaps she really was older, or perhaps it
was just rage.  Whatever the cause, she took the offensive and went
with it, pushing the other vampire back with repeated and wounding

Victoria:  No one rules my life, do you hear me?  No one!  (she
  rips at the other vampire again, tearing shreds of his face off)
Qurac:  AARRRRGH!  (he looks stunned)  How _could_ you?!?
Victoria:  You just haven't been listening, have you?  (lunging in,
  she ignores a blow to the head as she punches Qurac in the belly,
  gutting him with a single blow)
Qurac:  (spews blood from his mouth)  Ghaaak!  (he evaporates into
Victoria:  (stands there, triumphant, blood dripping from her hand)
  And so it ends...
Belphanior:  (watching from the sidelines, stunned)  Wow.
Victoria:  (teetering on her feet, she turns to face Belphanior)
  I' tired.

  The vampiress was bleeding from numerous cuts and scrapes, and
though they both knew she would heal in a matter of hours, the
wounds were yet fearsome to behold.

Victoria:  Ungh...(she collapses into Belphanior's arms)
Belphanior:  (catches her)

  Victoria wasn't the only one who was hurting.  Besides the wounds
everyone had incurred - everyone except Razor Charlie, anyway - Otto,
Skektek, Kinichi, and Darrell had all suffered from the vampires'
life-draining touch.

Ys:  (checking himself for wounds)  Hmm, not a scrape.
Aja:  How can this be?
Ys:  Just lucky, I guess.
Skektek:  (to Belphanior)  Can we leave this place now?
Belphanior:  We should...
Victoria:  (muttering painfully)  Not...not yet...
Belphanior:  Eh?
Victoria:  Have to...destroy them all...
Belphanior:  Hell, she's right.  If we don't take care of them now,
  they'll come back for us later.
Otto:  (standing again)  They know where we live.
Aja:  It's settled, then.  We have to find their coffins and destroy
  their bodies.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Right.
Ys:  (grins, flicking his forked tongue out)  Sounds good to me.
Kinichi:  But where would they be?
Jutokai:  We may never find them...
Victoria:  Leave that to me.  (finding the strength to stand up
  straight, she takes the lead)  I seriously doubt they've changed
  anything since I left here.

  Those who were able to walk on their own, did; those who needed
help got it.  Victoria led the party through elaborately-carved
passages and chambers, all lit by unnatural torches.

Skektek:  (weakly)  We're underground?
Victoria:  (nods)  They took this complex from some dwarves who used
  to live here...made it into their own private lair.
Belphanior:  Far from the sun's rays...
Victoria:  (seeming to grow stronger with every passing moment)  Yes,
  but far from the pleasures of civilization too.
Kinichi:  Are the vampires all in their coffins?
Aja:  Not the ones I turned away.
Victoria:  (nods in agreement)  Yes...those could be anywhere.
Ys:  It doesn't bother you, killing your kin like this?
Victoria:  They're _not_ my kin.  None of them.
Belphanior:  Not even that Qurac fellow?
Victoria:  No.
Belphanior:  Then what was he-
Victoria:  Not now.  (she points ahead)  The coffins should be in
Otto:  (frowns)  They all sleep in here?  (he marvels at this glaring
  tactical blunder on the part of the vampires)
Victoria:  Yes.  Not all vampires are sensible and willing to break
  from the old ways.  These scum still sleep in the same chamber...
  and with grave-dirt in their coffins, I'd wager.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers)
Belphanior:  I guess they never expected to get raided.
Victoria:  I doubt it.  Qurac and his bunch were arrogant and pushy.
Ys:  (his broad sword in hand, or claw, he pushes the door open)  This
  is the place...

  Indeed it was.  The arched chamber was dark, for no light-sources
were present here, and it was also musty with the fetid scent of the
grave.  Skektek quickly produced a light, a magical glare that he
placed on the ceiling of the room.  Under this spell's glow they could
make out a dozen old, wooden coffins.

Otto:  We'd better get to work.
Victoria:  (to Aja)  The vampires who you repelled can't come back
  here now that we're in the chamber...but if they're already in their
  coffins, they can attack us if disturbed.
Aja:  (sarcastically)  That's good to know.
Jomo:  Can't we just leave?  Darrell's hurting bad!
Darrell:  (through gritted teeth)  I can make it...
Belphanior:  We have to stay and kill these things.
Otto:  Speaking of which, we're gonna need stakes.  Lots of 'em.
Jutokai:  You mean like these?  (he holds up a dozen slivers of wood)
  I picked these up back in that other room.
Otto:  That'll teach vampires to live in places with wooden doors...
Victoria:  (ponders this idea)  Hmm.
Razor Charlie:  (grins, and takes one of the stakes)  Anyone got a
Otto:  (produces several)  Packed 'em special for this trip...just in
Kinichi:  Now that's thinking ahead...
Belphanior:  Hurry!  There's no telling how long we've got.
Ys:  (opens a coffin - and finds it empty)
Razor Charlie:  (opens a second coffin - and finds a vampire!)  Hnfh.
  (without hesitation, he raises his arm, then lets the stake fall,
  spearing the undead creature through the heart, driving with his
  hammer rapidly and repeatedly)
vampire:  (hisses and shrieks in agony, its body melting away)  AAIEEE!
Otto:  Heh.  (inspired, he opens a coffin himself, and finds a sleeping
  vampire)  Well, lookee here...(he gazes at the thing for uncountable
  seconds before finally hammering his stake into its foul heart)
vampire:  (dies, loudly and messily)
Victoria:  (cringes at these sounds)
Belphanior:  (puts his arm around her)  Sorry.
Victoria:'s got to be done.

  Jutokai and Kinichi found a third vampire-inhabited coffin, and put
its inhabitant out of their misery.  Next, however, tragedy struck,
as Darrell and Jomo opened another coffin.  Apparently, this vampire
wasn't one of those who had been slain in battle; as such, it was
able to rise up and attack before they could react.

vampire:  (bites Jomo, tearing his neck open and sending warm blood
  gushing everywhere)  Ssssss!
Jomo:  Aaaaaieeee!  (he drops his stake and hammer)
Darrell:  Jomo!  (he stabs the vampire with his stake, but misses
  the heart)
vampire:  (stares at the stake in its shoulder)  Hah!
Darrell:  (raises his hammer anyway)  You'll die now, monster!
vampire:  Not today...(it grabs the warrior, tearing his throat
Darrell:  (gurgles and falls)
Aja:  (runs forth and douses the vampire with holy water)  By the
  gods, you undead monstrosity, die!
vampire:  (writhes in its coffin, wailing)  Aaaaaaaiee...
Victoria:  Quickly, before it can assume gaseous form-
Ys:  Got it.  (planting one huge hand on the vampire's neck, he
  takes a stake in the other and drives it into the thing's heart
  with a single motion)
Aja:  (to Skektek)  Wow, he didn't even need a hammer.
Skektek:  No one ever claimed he was a weakling...

  Within moments, the rest of the vampires had been defeated, though
another "live" one was found before it was all over.

vampire:  (leaps to the attack)
Otto:  (aims and fires his loaded crossbow, skewering the creature
  through the heart and causing it to vaporize into mist)
Belphanior:  I guess there's something to be said for wooden bolts.
Skektek:  (to Belphanior)  You're not even hurt!
Belphanior:  (shrugs)
Otto:  Man, not being susceptible to their draining powers must come
  in handy...
Belphanior:  Don't worry, we'll find some priests to help you all...
Aja:  Not me - I don't have that kind of power.

  After all vampires present were accounted for, however, there were
still five empty coffins.

Victoria:  And no Qurac...
Belphanior:  Maybe he slept in another room.
Victoria:  Entirely possible.
Otto: now we have to go look for the rest of the coffins.
Razor Charlie:  (rises from Darrell and Jomo's bodies, signalling to
  Belphanior with a finger across the throat)
Belphanior:  Shit.
Victoria:  Their bodies will have to be disposed of, too...burned.
Skektek:  I could fry them...a lightning bolt should do the trick.
Victoria:  (angrily)  I said burned!
Belphanior:  Everyone relax.  (he produces a wand)  This'll do the
  job...though I hate to leave their bodies here.
Victoria:  (firmly)  There isn't any choice.
Belphanior:  (sighs)

  Just then, the very rock around them shook, dust leaking from cracks
which were forming in the chamber's walls and ceiling.

Otto:  Oh, hell.
Belphanior:  (to Victoria)  What's this?
Victoria:  An earthquake?  I don't know!
Ys:  (looking around)  We really should think about leaving, and soon.
Kinichi:  (nods)
Jutokai:  But the elf said that was his last spell of teleporting,
  and it got wasted!
Skektek:  We're all going to die here.
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Any bright ideas?
Belphanior:  (produces a scroll)  Of course.
Victoria:  What's that?
Belphanior:  I always keep a few select spells handy on scrolls...
  for times like this.
Otto:  (grins)  I should have known you'd have an ace up your sleeve.
Ys:  (holding up the ceiling as it sags)  It won't matter if you
  don't hurry up and work the magic!
Belphanior:  Right.  (he begins reading the scroll)
Otto:  (remembers the bit about Darrell and Jomo's bodies, and douses
  them with a couple of flasks of oil)
Razor Charlie:  (on the ball, he immediately lights the corpses with
  a tinderbox)
Jutokai:  (watching the bodies burn)  We hardly knew them.
Otto:  Everyone, get together _now_!  The spell's about to go off!

  They did so, joining hands again as Belphanior concluded the weaving
of his enchantment.

Ys:  (dwarfing Aja's and Kinichi's hands in his own)  This is silly.
Aja:  But necessary.
Ys:  (grins his unique, fang-filled grin)

  As the vampire-crypt continued to collapse, the nine survivors
blinked out, carried far by the power of the teleportation spell.
The next thing they knew, they all stood in the dining room of
Belphanior's castle.

Otto:  Whew.  (he slumps into a chair)
Belphanior:  We're home!
Skektek:  We made it!  (he hugs Aja)  We made it!
Aja:  Be careful there, friend.
Belphanior:  (to Victoria)  How're you feeling?
Victoria:  (looking unusually pale all of a sudden)  Just...want to
Belphanior:  That can be arranged.  (he hefts her in his arms, and
  carries her away)  I'll see all of you in the morning.  (as he
  walks toward the stairway, he mutters something about how he should
  have teleported into the bedroom)
Jutokai:  (to Otto)  What now?
Kinichi:  What about food, and drink?
Aja:  And sleep?
Skektek:  And restoration of lost life-force?
Ys:  And maybe Victoria's lost items and weapons?
Otto:  (waves them all off)  We'll worry about all that in the
  morning.  Right now, all I want to do is sleep for two days or
  so.  (he limps away)
Razor Charlie:  (goes to a nearby storage closet and gets blankets
  for everyone)  Crash on the floor, for now.  (he goes to the
  fireplace and quickly builds a roaring fire)

  After the knife-thrower had departed for his own chambers, the
five surviving recruits were left to sleep in the dining room.
Though they were all regretful to some extent about the deaths
of the brothers, such was life - and a hard life it was.  All of
them had long ago learned to accept such things.

Aja:  An unusual - and challenging - first day of work.
Skektek:  No kidding!
Jutokai:  Also a costly day...
Kinichi:  I don't know about this job.  It's not what I thought it
  would be.
Skektek:  And we haven't even gotten paid yet.
Aja:  I need to build my temple to Wee Jas...
Kinichi:  I need time to rest and get better...
Skektek:  And some of us need to see a priest...
Ys:  (rumbles, irritated)  Would all of you just go to sleep?

next:      we revisit Mongo, Gorin, Peyote, and Halbarad, and we
           don't go away until their quest is over!
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     450...and a fairly sizable episode at that.  The greatest
  challenge lies ahead, though:  making 500 an even better storyline
  than 400 was.
    In the middle of writing this one - around the time Alindyar was
  showing Belphanior the powers of the crystal ball - I discovered
  that my modem card had died.  Given that I bought the damn computer
  less than four months ago, this is unacceptable.  Kinda like my
  7-month-old truck's alternator dying while I was on vacation, but
  I digress.  As I write this, I'm pondering the fact that I have to
  take the CPU away tomorrow morning, leaving me unable to write any
  stories for at least 3 days.  Now, I'm not addicted to the f$@%ing
  thing or anything, but dammit, relatively new products should NOT
  have problems like this.  I bought the piece of shit so that I
  could write at my leisure.  Grr.  I shoulda got a Dell.  Anyway,
  on to other things...
    Ys seems to have gained his own little fanclub.  I don't really
  know _what_ Ys is, but he's not quite a lizard man and not quite
  a yuan-ti.  Like I said, he's...well, he's an eight-foot humanoid
  reptile with a snaky head and grey, scaled skin.  He has lizard
  eyes with double membranes, his hide is very tough, and he's quite
  musclebound.  He's pretty smart too, and for a walking lizard, his
  Common isn't half-bad.
    Thanks to VP Tervonen for the original idea to show Alindyar
  actually teaching.

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