Chapter #479

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                                  +
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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Alindyar     17th level drow mage                            (N) +
+    Lyra       13th level female drow mage                     (N) +
+  Belphanior  (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief       (CN) +
+    Otto        8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief           (CN) +
+    the wispy thing                                                +
+  Ged          15th/14th level grey elven priest/mage         (NG) +
+    Arnold     13th level human barbarian warrior             (NG) +
+  Mongo        18th level dwarven fighter                     (CG) +
+    Gorin      10th level dwarven fighter                     (NG) +
+  Peldor       20th level human thief                          (N) +
+    Tanya       5th/11th level female human fighter/thief      (N) +
+    Bosco      11th level halfling thief                      (CN) +
+  Rillen       17th level human monk                           (N) +
+    Songa      13th level human huntress                       (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Tenser       archmage and member of the Circle of Eight          +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        6/22/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       elsewhere                                           +
+  Climate:     chilly and foggy                                    +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I have crossed oceans of time to find you."                     +
+                            - Vlad Dracula, from _Dracula_ (1992)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





             CDLXXIX.  The City on the Edge of Forever





  After being gathered and regrouped by Rary, at the behest of the
Circle of Eight, the party has begun its journey to the mythical
Isle of the Ape.  Now, they marvel as the archmage Tenser's spell
of teleportation deposits them in a strange place...

Otto:  (looking around)  Excuse me if I'm particularly dense, but
  this doesn't look like a tropical island.

  They stood in an alley between two rows of run-down buildings.
The street beneath their feet was old and in disrepair, its loose
cobblestones smoothed by countless heels and wagon-wheels.  The
air was slightly chilly and tinged with wisps of mist.

wispy thing:  (looking around)  Sprrd.

  The grey, sunless sky overhead made it hard to tell what time of
day it was; clouds obscured all details.  Though the noises of people
could be heard, somewhere nearby, the adventurers saw no one.

Songa:  (the hairs on the back of her neck bristling with trained
  instinct)  Something's...wrong here.
Mongo:  You got that right.  (he turns and looks at Tenser)
Alindyar:  (frowns as he reasons - correctly - that Tenser brought
  them here intentionally)  Why are we here?
Tenser:  I'm using a bit of an...alternate route.  This way, minions
  of you-know-who won't have a chance of finding you out.
Bosco:  You mean Or-
Tanya:  (clamps a firm hand over the halfling's mouth)  Don't you ever
  learn?
Ged:  So, what is this place?
Belphanior:  It looks like a small town...(to Otto)  Kinda like one
   we both know well, eh?
Otto:  Right you are.
Tenser:  Adventurers, we are in a town known as Nexus.  It floats
  within the Ethereal Plane, and is a crossroads of various realities
  and dimensions.
Bosco:  Groovy.  (he looks around, wondering if there are casinos
  here)
Ged:  So we're using this place as a springboard, to venture to the
  island-plane?
Tenser:  Precisely.
Ged:  (smirks, pleased with his intuition)  Hah.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  It didn't take a genius to figure that
  one out.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Let him be; he has been through some
  bad times of late.  Any change to the Ged of old is probably a
  positive thing.
Lyra:  (frowns)
Tenser:  I shall put you on a vessel, from here, and my magic will
  take you to your destination.
Mongo:  Well, let's get going.  All this talk and dancing around is
  beginning to bore me, y'know?
Tenser:  Time has a different meaning here, good dwarf.  Still, it
  will take me a while to ascertain and align the ethereal currents
  that you need.  (he points to the street beyond the alley they all
  stand in)  Go forth.  In the street you will find several taverns;
  wait for me in the Maelstrom's Eye.
Belphanior:  That's the name of a tavern?
Tenser:  (nods, and heads away in a different direction)
Belphanior:  Neat.

  They followed the archmage's directions, soon emerging into the
main street.  If they had worried about standing out and attracting
attention, they now knew that they needn't have.  A plethora of
beings, many of them non-human, wandered the streets and stores of
Nexus.

Alindyar:  (notes a band of three drow, who frown in his direction)
Lyra:  (spies a valley elf, and then a forest elf, dealing with some
  deep dwarves for several gleaming blades)  Odd place.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  And dangerous, my dear.  Keep your guard
  up.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Always.
Belphanior:  (passing by a huge ogre mage, he accidentally bumps it
  in passing)
ogre mage:  (instantly turns around, scowling)  Hey, watch it there,
  buddy.
Belphanior:  Now l-  (he thinks for a moment)  Sorry, excuse me.
ogre mage:  Hrmph.  (grumbling, it turns back around and continues
  its transaction with a band of floating halflings)
Ged:  (never one to pass up a chance for commentary)  Yea, but things
  have changed.  In the old days, that big goon would be dead and
  bleeding all over the street.
Belphanior:  (squinting with his single eye)  Anger is a powerful
  weapon, but it has to be controllable for it to be of any use.
Ged:  Oh.
Otto:  (notes, in the distance, a tall, broadly-muscled reptilian
  figure that looks somewhat familiar)  Hey-  (he starts to head in
  that direction)
Belphanior:  No time for explorations, now - the last thing we need
  is to get lost here.
Otto:  But-  (he looks again, jumping up to get a better view, but
  the strange figure is gone)  Damn.
wispy thing:  (also scanning the crowd)  Aaarp?
Ged:  Where's this tavern, anyway?
Arnold:  I don't know.  (he points at another tavern, called the
  "Whispering Wind" by the sign out front)  Maybe we could go there
  instead?
Ged:  Nope.  You heard Tenser - we need to meet him at the place he
  named.
Mongo:  I say one grog-joint's as good as another.
Gorin:  (nods)  When you're really thirsty, it doesn't matter.
Peldor:  (to Tanya)  Maybe we could just stay here, in Nexus...?
Tanya:  Between planes?  (she frowns and shakes her head)  Too far
  from Oerth for me, I think.
Peldor:  Hmm.
Bosco:  (unnoticed by all, he calmly and quietly picks the pocket of
  a passing elf)
Rillen:  (gazes at a two-headed giant that thunders by)  A strangely-
  populated city, this.
Songa:  It is, at that.  (she passes by three hulking barbarians)
barbarians:  (their gazes turn and follow her appreciatively)

  At one point, they passed by a decrepit wagon, probably broken down
on the side of the street.  A small table had been set up in front of
it, upon which a skinny, wrinkled fortune-teller was dealing cards and
cackling to herself.

fortune-teller:  (looks up at the party as they pass)  Read your
  fortunes for a silver piece?
Mongo:  No thanks, lady, we're-
fortune-teller:  A great quest...you are on a great quest!  (she
  hastily begins shuffling cards around)
Ged:  Look, we don't really have time for this.
fortune-teller:  (scanning her cards)  Going sailing, you are...
Ged:  (suddenly interested)  What's that, now?
fortune-teller:  You'll cross a great span of water, to reach a place
  from which there is no return, to find something which is better
  left lost.  (she looks up, into the amazed faces of the adventurers)
Belphanior:  (tosses her a silver coin)  Keep talking.
fortune-teller:  Thirteen...such an unlucky number.
wispy thing:  (frowns)  Brfff.
fortune-teller:  (suddenly frowns)  But...(her eyes go wide)  Aie!
Alindyar;  What is it?
fortune-teller:  Death!  Death lies on the horizon for one of you!
Rillen:  What?!?
Arnold:  Aaa...
Lyra:  Death?  How can you know this?
fortune-teller:  (turns up a card, displaying it to them)  Death!
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  C'mon, this lady's off her rocker.
Belphanior:  But she looks so serious.
fortune-teller:  (quickly gathering her cards into a pile)  No more
  fortunes today.
Mongo:  Oh, now you wanna go-
fortune-teller:  No more.  (she slams the cover of her wagon down)
Gorin:  What a weirdo.
Rillen:  This is foolishness.
Ged:  That it is.  come on, everyone - we're supposed to be waiting
  in a certain tavern.
Songa:  She could have been right, you know.
Mongo:  Yeah.  Sure.  What does she know?
Arnold:  Who can say?  Not Ah-nold.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I wonder what that woman was babbling
  about?  Do you really suppose...?
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Anything's possible.  Only a fool would
  completely ignore her words.
Bosco:  Man, that lady was nuts!
Gorin:  Yeah...damn frauds.  They'll do anything for a coin.
Ged:  Where's that damned tavern-
Belphanior:  There it is!  (he points to a sign, in front of a tavern
  ahead, on the left)

  The Maelstrom's Eye was like no other tavern they'd ever seen.  At
least ten stories high, it was no more than fifty feet across at the
base.  The structure resembled a tower more than a tavern, but an
old, weatherbeaten sign swinging outside its front door confirmed
the place.  Built of different types and shades of wood, it was rather
shabby-looking; yet, there it stood.  Various people (and non-people)
walked in and out of the swinging double doors of the establishment.

Belphanior:  Looks like my kind of place.  C'mon.  (he leads the
  party into the tavern)

  Inside, the place was one big common room; three floors high, this
single chamber had a number of ledges and balconies, achieved by thin
staircases that wound about the interior of the building.  Numerous
lanterns hung from pegs on the walls, or else rested in the centers
of broad tables.  The tavern was crowded and bustling, though several
large tables appeared free.  Belphanior and the others headed for one
such table against a wall, close to the door.

Otto:  (muttering to himself)  Old habits die hard, eh?
Belphanior:  You better believe it.
Mongo:  (he and the others settle into the table, and a lean, scarred,
  and tattooed woman is there almost instantly)
woman:  What'll it be, strangers?
Bosco:  I'm no stranger, I'm Bosco-
woman:  Everyone's a stranger here, kid.
Belphanior:  (spies three fellows at a nearby table, a flagon of blue
  liquid resting at the center of their table)  We'll take some of
  that blue stuff.
woman:  Rykarian ale?  Coming right up.
Mongo:  Weird name for a liquor.
Ged:  What, were you expecting "Mongonian ale"?
Mongo:  Well, no.
Otto:  The stuff looks good.
Belphanior:  (leans over in his chair, toward the neighboring table)
  Say, is that stuff made here?
short, hairy fellow:  Mind your own business, bub.
Belphanior:  (frowns, but decides not to start any trouble here, and
  returns to his table, grumbling)
short, hairy fellow:  Bah.  (downs the contents of his glass)  Urp!
tall, stocky fellow:  Go easy, tovarisch.  The man was just trying
  to be sociable.
short, hairy fellow:  He can go be sociable somewhere else.
thin, dark-furred fellow with tail:  You really need to settle down,
  mein freund.  (he refills his companion's glass)  Have another
  drink.

  Back at their own table, the adventurers were sampling their newly-
arrived flagon of blue ale and discussing their situation.  Suddenly,
a tall, blue-robed fellow appeared, seemingly from nowhere.

Tenser:  (walking toward the table)  Is everyone ready?
Rillen:  Not really, but...
Ged:  You found what you were looking for?
Tenser:  (nods)  It's time.
Belphanior:  (blood pumping with excitement)  Time...let's go, then!
Otto:  (drains his glass)  We're leaving, then?
Tenser:  Yes.
Otto:  (lags behind, purchasing a bottle of the fine blue ale from the
  bartender's stock)  Thanks, pal.  (he leaves, running to catch up
  with the others)  Hey, wait up!

  The blue-robed archmage led them down first one street, then another;
ultimately, they ended up walking down a rickety old wooden dock.

Mongo:  Uh, what are we doing here?
Tenser:  (points to a large longboat)  There.
Otto:  (frowns)  Surely we're not-
Ged:  (shakes his head)  I think we are.
Tenser:  That boat will do.  (he begins an incantation, and a few
  moments later, the vessel begins glowing with a pale blue light)
Bosco:  (to Gorin)  Are we _stealing_ this boat?
Gorin:  Looks that way.
Arnold:  Aaa.
Tenser:  Actually, I own this boat.  (he spreads his hands)  I make it
  a habit to keep some possessions here.  Just in case.
Belphanior:  Good planning.

  They stepped up to the boat, which was tethered to the dock by a
rope that had to be stronger than it looked.

Alindyar:  (examines the thin, frayed rope)  Odd.
Tenser:  Come, into the boat.
Ged:  Yea, yea, we're going.  (he climbs into the boat and has a look
  at its construction)  Seems sturdy enough.
Belphanior:  (follows Ged, then turns back to Tenser)  Anything else
  we need to know about?  Such as, say, the legends of certain magic
  not working on the island?
Tenser:  (looks slightly embarrassed)  Let me warn you now:  illusions,
  invisibility, and summoning spells don't function particularly well
  on the Isle.
Alindyar:  What wonderful news.
Tenser:  (watches them get into the longboat)  After you are underway,
  row away from these docks.  Before long, you will come to the island
  itself.
Otto:  (grumbling to himself)  I don't know about this...
Bosco:  Really.  (he shivers, and bundles his little overcoat tighter
  around himself)  Brr.
Mongo:  (spots two pairs of oars, and stands between one)  I can row.
Rillen:  I'll take the other pair.  (he dips the oars in the water,
  testing their movement)
Arnold:  I could row, too.
Rillen:  That's okay, I could use a good stretch.
Gorin:  (to Arnold)  Got any dice?
Tenser:  (watching as they pile into the boat)  There, there, plenty
  of room for all.
Peldor:  (takes a bench-space next to Tanya)  This boat seems small
  all of a sudden.
Tanya:  Oh.  Well, I could go sit in the bow end, if you'd like.
Peldor:  That's not what I meant.
Ged:  (speaks to Tenser as he boards)  How will we find the portal
  away from the island?
Tenser:  I cannot say.  All I know - all that any of us knows - is
  that you must use your wits as well as your sword-arms if you hope
  to escape.  And whatever happens, do not give up the wand, should
  you succeed in claiming it!  That way lies failure...
Belphanior:  Don't you worry.  (the last one into the boat, he unties
  the ropes, tossing them to the blue-robed archmage)  We're out of
  here.
Mongo:  (uneasy on this sea-bound vessel, he sits down, feeling a bit
  queasy)
Songa:  Here, I'll row.  (she takes Mongo's oars)
Mongo:  Err...thanks.
Songa:  Think nothing of it - I don't.
Tenser:  (waves as their boat moves away from the dock)  Good luck!
  (he mutters to himself as they vanish into the mists)  You'll need
  it...





next:      to the Isle!
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.access.digex.net/~dpm
           http://www3.hmc.edu/~kshobaki/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     I created this town, this Nexus, myself, just today,
  on a whim.  Hell, why go straight to the Isle?   :)
    This one was written during the 1996 World Series game 1.
  It's looking good for the Braves (12-1 after 6 innings.)
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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