Chapter #505

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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 1991-7 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) +
+    Lyra       13th level female drow mage                     (N) +
+  Date:        7/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        afternoon                                           +
+  Place:       Alindyar and Lyra's mansion, in Greyhawk            +
+  Climate:     hot outdoors, cool indoors                          +
+  "How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil        +
+   comes from judging wrongly!                                     +
+                                             - Elizabeth Gaskell   +

                      DV.  No Good Deed...

  After wrapping up various affairs, the majority of the party has
departed for other places.  Mongo and Gorin ventured to Greyspire,
to investigate Lord Marcus' offer of military employment.  Rillen
and Songa, accompanied by Arnold for at least one leg of the trek,
returned to their village in the far northeast to pursue their own
ends.  Nenya and Deryck retreated to Ged's Tor and the surrounding
lands, to begin the process of carrying on the late elf's work.
Belphanior and Otto, despite a hint about their intentions, left
for parts unknown - accompanied by Peldor, Tanya, and Bosco!
  Thus, of all the adventurers, only Alindyar and Lyra remain in
the Free City of Greyhawk.  Currently, they are preparing to begin
some muchly-prolonged work on spell variants.

Alindyar:  (pushes several stacked tomes aside as he drops a new
  volume onto the table)  Ah.
Lyra:  (sitting at the table taking notes from an ancient scroll,
  she pauses in her work)  What's that?
Alindyar:  I finally found the one that deals with permutations of
  invisibility dweomers.
Lyra:  Good.  It sure took you long enough.
Alindyar:  (shrugs)  No trivial library, ours.
Lyra:  (nods slightly)  It is getting big.  Maybe it's time to
  reorganize the shelves.
Alindyar:  Personally, I believe that Bosco shuffled the tomes
  around as a prank.
Lyra:  He would.
Alindyar:  So.  The time has come to delve into the research.
Lyra:  It sure has.  Before the last time I was interrupted, I
  was almost done testing the mobile wall of force.
Alindyar:  (raises an eyebrow)  Mobile?
Lyra:  That's right.  The typical spell, except that it moves
  about with the caster.
Alindyar:  Some would say that it could no longer be termed a
  "wall of force" then, technically.
Lyra:  (smirks)  Then they'd be right.
Alindyar:  Bear in mind that one of the great strengths of the
  wall of force is that it resists all.  Even a raging juggernaut
  would bounce off of the barrier.
Lyra:  You've been talking to Bosco again, I see.
Alindyar:  Bosco?  What does he have to do with any of this?
Lyra:  No matter.  I realize the drawbacks of a movable wall of
  force, but it's only an experiment, really.
Alindyar:  And a most impressive one, at that.
Lyra:  (smiles)  Remember, you're not the only genius around
Alindyar:  I never wanted to be.
Lyra:  (stretches)  Ouch.
Alindyar:  Eh?
Lyra:  (grimaces painfully)  I've got a crick in my's
  been bothering me ever since the funeral.
Alindyar:  Why did you not tell me?  (standing, he quickly makes
  his way to her chair, and begins rubbing her neck)
Lyra:  Ahh.
Alindyar:  Better?
Lyra:  Much better.  So...what are you up to over there?
Alindyar:  (casts a glance at the mess of tomes, parchments, and
  quills where he was working)  Not much, in truth - only some
  variant invisibilities and silences.
Lyra:  (feeling her neck muscles turn to putty beneath her mate's
  fingers)  How variant is variant?
Alindyar:  You are rather...distracted for someone on the receiving
  end of a rubdown.
Lyra:  I wouldn't call this a rubdown.
Alindyar:  How now?
Lyra:  On the other hand, if we went to the bedchamber...
Alindyar:  A good idea, my dear.  A break from work would be long-
Lyra:  (a mischievous glint in her eyes)  Yep.

  However, just then, there was a rapping on the front door of the
mansion.  They were able to hear it due to magicks in place on that

Alindyar:  Damn.
Lyra:  Who could that be?
stone golem:  (standing in its place just inside the door, it stirs)
Alindyar:  (walking toward the door, he waves a hand, unbolting the
  portal and causing it to swing open)  I have no idea, but they had
  better have a damn good...reason...

  On the doorstep stood a familiar figure, a long-nosed, middle-aged
man in deep blue robes of the finest make.

Alindyar:  Tenser?!?
Tenser:  (nods politely)  I hope I'm not disturbing you...?
Lyra:  Not really.
Alindyar:  What brings you to our mansion?  (ESPing to Lyra)  I
  suspect we already know.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I suspect you're right.
Tenser:  The Circle of Eight requires your presence.
Alindyar:  I see.
Tenser:  Are you ready to depart right now?
Alindyar:  I suppose so...(he turns to Lyra inquisitively)
Lyra:  (straightens her clothing)  Now is as good a time as any.
Tenser:  Very well.  (he begins spellcasting)
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I think he means to teleport away
  from here.  I shall lock up.  (with a gesture, he causes the
  front door to close and secure itself, and the stone golem
  moves back into place)
Lyra:  Good thing we already ate lunch.
Tenser:  It is time.

  A moment later, the trio stood in a vast hall, the room's exact
dimensions masked by the prevailing darkness within.  At one end
of the room, nine ornate chairs formed a half-circle around a
curving table of heavy wood.  This entire assembly rested on a
raised dais, elevated a foot or so above the rest of the hall.
Two plush chairs were arrayed before the semicircular table; a dim
light shone on these from somewhere above.

Tenser:  Welcome to the council-hall of the Eight.  (he quickly
  steps away and up, taking one of the nine chairs)

  The two drow realized that the chairs were all occupied.  Some
of the Eight they already knew:  the blue-robed Tenser, the lean
and simply-dressed Bigby, the tall and youngish-seeming Drawmij,
the elderly Rary in his clothing of desert hues.  Also present were
those members of the Circle with whom the drow had had little or
no contact:  the short and puny-looking Otiluke, the tall and gangly
Nystul, the immense Otto, and the attractive woman Jallarzi.  Yet,
the one who brooded over this group held the visitors' attention
moreso than any of his comrades.  Tall and middle-aged, yet robust,
the black-bearded Mordenkainen was the de facto leader of the Circle
of Eight and one of the most powerful archmagi in the known world.

Alindyar:  (bows slightly)  We are honored.
Lyra:  (imitates Alindyar's reaction)
Mordenkainen:  And we, as well, are honored.  It isn't often that
  wizards of such power ally themselves with our cause.  However,
  it is that cause that brings this discussion about.  Sit, please.
  (he gestures toward the chairs, and as the drow seat themselves,
  a small table with a crystal decanter and two glasses appears
  from nowhere)
Alindyar:  (fills his and Lyra's glasses, the liquid within shining
  and reflecting what little light there is in this place)
Mordenkainen:  I'll be brief.  Our agent Rary-  (he tips his head
  to his left)  -tasked you and your companions with the retrieval
  of a certain relic of unholy power.
Rary:  (takes up the discussion)  Yet, we have become aware that the
  wand in question wasn't brought back...indeed, the demon-lord
  himself has it!

  There was much muttering from the other assembled magi, though
Alindyar was sure that they already knew what Rary had just said.

Mordenkainen:  Our question is simple:  why?
Rary:  Why did the fiend end up possessing the wand?
Alindyar:  (clears his throat)  Well...
Lyra:  The first thing is that you have to believe what we tell you.
Bigby:  Worry not on that account - no lies escape our notice here.
Alindyar:  The truth of the matter is simple.  We did gain that item
  whilst on the isle.  Through no fault of our own, however, we found
  ourselves transported to the Abyssal regions.
Lyra:  We tried to escape, immediately, but our efforts were in vain.
Mordenkainen:  (nods)
Alindyar:  Rather than waste time and energy fighting the untold
  legions of Orcus, we instead made our way directly to his palace.
Rary:  That was exactly what he wanted you to do.
Alindyar:  (shrugs)  Perhaps, but as I said, we had little choice.
Tenser:  Perhaps we should have foreseen this, given the nature of
  the isle and its creator.
Lyra:  We suspected that the demon prince, or one of his minions,
  had some kind of link to Oonga's treasure-cave.
Drawmij:  Indeed, this is highly probable, considering the powers
  involved and the recent advances in dimensional travel.
Mordenkainen:  (glares at the tall mage)
Rary:  So you were taken to the Abyss, and had no recourse.  Why,
  still, did you hand over the item willingly?

  Somewhat perplexed and frustrated by this line of questioning,
Alindyar laid out the entire story of the climactic battle with
Orcus and his minions, with occasional comments or interjections
from Lyra.  When his tale was over, the drow calmly unfolded his
arms and took Lyra's hand in his own.

Alindyar:  These were not my decisions, or Lyra's - but rather
  those of the larger group.  Yet, we stand by them adamantly.
Lyra:  We had to choose, and we chose the lesser of two evils.
  Whether we lived or died there, the fiend would have still taken
  the wand as his own.
Otto:  (shifts his huge frame in his oversized chair)  Can you be
  sure of that?
Alindyar:  My- our resolve is absolute.
Lyra:  (nods grimly)
Nystul:  (to Mordenkainen)  I tend to agree with them.
Bigby:  You always play the devil's advocate.
Nystul:  Better that than the demon's advocate.
Mordenkainen:  Enough.  (to the drow)  I doubt that many of us are
  pleased with this, but I believe we understand.  (he glances to
  the others questioningly)
Nystul:  Perhaps the battle could have been won, but not under those
  conditions.  I favor their decision.
Otiluke:  Bah.  (his ioun stone orbits his head at a faster rate as
  he becomes agitated)  With sufficient magic and courage, it would
  have been a closer fight.
Lyra:  We lost a longtime companion on this adventure..._your_ damned
  adventure!  As well, you weren't there...and I say you have no
  right to judge us!
Otiluke:  You impetuous drow-witch-
Alindyar:  Have a care with your choice of words, fellow.
Otiluke:  (red-faced)  How dare you-
Mordenkainen:  SILENCE!

  The stately archmage rubbed his silver-shot black beard and glanced
around the table.

Mordenkainen:  What of you others?
Drawmij:  I, for one, have worked with these two and their companions
  previously.  I would vouch for both their decisions and character.
Rary:  Given their words here today...I agree.
Bigby:  (shaking his head)  I have to say, I do too.  It wasn't the
  right decision, but it was the best one.
Otiluke:  (grumbling)
Tenser:  As you all know, we have been watching these drow, and some
  of their companions, for quite some time.  Additionally, I have
  aided them in the past, on at least one noble quest.  Their word is
  good with me.
Mordenkainen:  (turns to Otto)
Otto:  The failure to retain the wand was a major blow for the forces
  of evil.  We will surely end up reaping the ill-effects of all this.
  Yet, wasted lives count for naught.  (he clasps his hands)  What else
  could they have done?
Jallarzi:  Their actions in the Abyss seem much unlike those of a group
  of champions of Good-
Lyra:  That might be because we're _not_ a group of champions of Good.
Jallarzi:  (frowns, neither retorting nor agreeing with the remark, and
  gazes at the others)  I don't at all agree with the outcome, but I
  defer to your collective wisdom on this matter.
Alindyar:  (nods to himself, knowing that she's a junior member of the
Mordenkainen:  Hmm.
Nystul:  The important thing, methinks, is that we keep a vigilant
  watch for the demon lord and his minions.  With the power of his wand,
  he can bridge the gap between worlds as never before.
Alindyar:  What's this?
Mordenkainen:  The cosmic balance has shifted in favor of the fiends,
  once more.  That wand has many fell powers, but chief among them in
  the epic struggle is its ability to open rifts between the Abyss and
  other planes...such as this one.
Lyra:  He wouldn't dare to do such a thing!
Rary:  Not now...not even a decade from now.  But in years to come,
  who can say what evil plots that one will come up with?
Alindyar:  (angrily)  Perhaps if we had known of this particular
  property ahead-of-time, we would have had a different outlook on
  the entire quest...!
Lyra:  Agreed, and violently.
Mordenkainen:  Whatever the case may be, understand that we are not
  assembled here today to judge you.
Alindyar:  How fortunate.
Mordenkainen:  Hrmph.  We merely needed to know what happened out there,
  to hear your side of the story, as it were.
Lyra:  And now that you have...?
Mordenkainen:  I suppose it would be useless to question your assorted
Alindyar:  Aye.  They are all departed, and most have pressing troubles
  of their own.
Rary:  I'll bet.  No static lot, that.
Mordenkainen:  No one must know of all this - it is a Circle matter, not
  a Greyhawk matter.  Understood?
Alindyar:  Certainly.
Lyra:  (nods)  Secrecy in these matters is, after all, vital.
Mordenkainen:  This conversation never happened.
Rary:  (smiles thinly)
Tenser:  Come, I shall return you to your home now.
Alindyar:  Nay.  We can go under our own power.  (not wishing to seem
  weak or under-powered in the presence of the assembled magi, he begins
  a spell of teleportation)
Lyra:  (clasps hands with Alindyar, then turns back to the Circle)  This
  matter is settled, then?
Mordenkainen:  Essentially.  We shall ever seek ways and means to counter
  the ploys of the fiends...but of this, no more can be done.
Lyra:  Hmph.  (she and Alindyar blink away)
Rary:  (turns to Mordenkainen)  What do you think?
Mordenkainen:  What can any of us think?  We weren't there...if we had
  been, what could we have done differently?
Nystul:  We'll never know.
Otiluke:  I still say, if you want a job done right, you've got to do it
Bigby:  I think they did just fine, given the machinations of the demon-
  lord.  Criticizing them further, second-guessing their actions, would
  be a waste of our time and theirs.
Mordenkainen:  (wondering privately whether Alindyar, with his power and
  will, might someday make a worthy addition to the Circle, once someone
  else steps down)

next:      the first major story arc of the post-500 stories begins
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Thanks to Jim Sidaris for the Circle of 8 debrief idea.

  Following is a guide to all the new spells invented by our merry
drow couple:

  hollow darkness (3rd) - standard 15' darkness with 5' radius of
    non-darkness in its center
  distraction (4th) - causes illusory but realistic unpleasantness
    based on victims' individual fears
  helping hands (4th) - magical aids that halve casting time
  Alindyar's Closet (6th) - safe extradimensional space that can
    be accessed via later castings of the spell
  Disguise (8th) - powerful and mobile personal illusion, but unable
    to inflict actual damage
  wall of electricity (5th) - self-explanatory but has odd properties
  Chain Fireball (6th) - self-explanatory

  All of these were introduced in #305 except:  Chain Fireball
(mentioned in #357) and Hollow Darkness (first used in #487.)

  These spells can be found within the Adventurers' Arcanum, aka

  The new spells mentioned in this episode aren't ready yet - but
when the time is right I'll re-post this little index along with
the new spell descriptions.  Speaking of those, here's the basic
gist of what to expect:

  wandering wall of force - like the regular one, but moves with
    the caster; powerful attacks will push it along, but not break
  lingering invisibility - doesn't go away if recipient attacks
    or takes action, maybe lasts for an entire day!  Also perhaps
    a version that lets one pick things up and make them invisible
    too.  Possible variants of Improved Invisibility.
  silence, 1' radius - for smaller-scale applications e.g. snoring
  wall of silence - sound can't pass through, but can exist on
    either side

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