Chapter #571

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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 1991-8 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/10th level dwarven fighter/thief         (CN) +
+    the wispy thing                                            (N) +
+    Aja          9th level human priestess of Wee Jas          (N) +
+    Jutokai      7th level human archer                       (LN) +
+    Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+    Skektek       12th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Ys          13th level reptilian fighter                  (LN) +
+  Date:        1/7/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+  "Before you can understand the living, you must commune with     +
+   the dead."                                                      +
+                - from _Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil_   +

                  DLXXI.  In Search of the Truth

  Three days have passed since the great battle with Omak and his
band.  Still, things haven't quite gotten back to normal yet.  The
three visitors - Alindyar, Lyra, and Bosco - had been gone for a
day, but the ruler and marshals of Helgate were still recovering
from their wounds.  At the moment, they were all gathered in Aja's
temple, preparing for something completely different.  Two of them
had never been inside before...

Razor Charlie:  (looks around, sneering at the religious objects
  and grim tapestries that Aja has decorated the place with)  You
Jutokai:  (softly)  Still pretty weak.  I need to eat more, to get
  my strength back, but my guts aren't up to it yet.
Razor Charlie:  (shrugs)  Happens.
Jutokai:  Well, to look on the bright side...I'm alive.
Razor Charlie:  (nods)  There is that.
Jutokai:  It's not every day that you get brought back from the
Razor Charlie:  (nonchalantly)  Nope.
Jutokai:  (reaches out to touch an ancient urn that stands upon a
  pedestal, then thinks better of it)  This place is _weird_.  I
  mean, she's done it up in her own, strange little way.
Razor Charlie:  (nods)  I don't like it either.

  Meanwhile, three others were discussing an important choice...

Otto:  -so we're going to ask who they were, where they came from,
  why they were after you, and when they're gonna try again.  Is
  that enough?
Belphanior:  It's a start.  We've got to pick the best corpse; the
  one who knew the most.  Victoria didn't leave very big pieces of
  the two she wasted, so they're not optimal candidates.
Otto:  If I understand these things correctly, the smarter ones may
  not be as disposed to tell us what we want to know.
Belphanior:  (nods)  That would rule out the ogre mage.
Otto:  Well, there're plenty of others to choose from.
Ys:  The one I fought was...obsessed with me in particular.  I dare-
  say he concerned himself with the others as little as possible,
  especially their secrets.
Otto:  If you say so.  I'd go with the priest, myself.
Belphanior:  (frowns)  So would I, but Aja vetoed him - said she'd
  explain why later.  Which leaves the monk Aja slew and the wizard
  who kept summoning monsters.
Otto:  You seemed pretty happy to grab his ring.
Belphanior:  (looks at the band of darkest metal on his left hand)
  Oh yes.  Yes indeed.  (he eyes the ring, thinking wistfully of
  what could have been, if he'd only had this ring in the past)

  The final two members of the band were involved in a private
conversation which wouldn't remain private for long, at the rate
their voices were rising...

Aja:  (visibly displeased)  And I'm afraid I must insist upon casting
  this spell before a limited audience.
Sketek:  Hey, I've seen priests speak with the dead before.  I'm not
  some hayseed-
Aja:  (suddenly livid)  Silence!
everyone:  (turns, shocked)
Aja:  (ranting at the wizard)  You fool!  This is a temple dedicated
  to Wee Jas, goddess of magic and _death_, and you have no idea what
  is about to happen!  Did it not occur to you, _wizard_, that what
  I am about to cast is not a common spell?  That Wee Jas bestows
  upon me, her priestess, a more powerful method of-
Sketek:  (interrupting with a shout) I've-
Ys:  (watching carefully)
Otto:  (not liking this confrontation, he grips his knife's hilt
  without thinking about it)
Aja:  (shouting as well) You-
Belphanior:  ENOUGH!

  Such was their respect for (and fear of) the elf that both of them
stopped their tirades.  He glared at both of them wordlessly.

Aja:  (calmer now, but quite grim)  This is my temple.  You are not
  welcome within.  Your arrogance would endanger us.
Sketek:  (stares at her, then spins around and leaves without
  speaking another word)
Jutokai:  (shuffles his feet nervously)
Aja:  (much gentler) I would ask you to leave as well, friend,
  but only because you are not ready to witness such power.
Jutokai:  (actually grateful, he doesn't hesitate)  Hey, no
  problem.  (he departs, shaking his head)
Aja:  (to Ys and Otto)  The two of you may stay; you both have the
  willpower to remain silent and the wisdom to do so.  (she turns
  to Razor Charlie)  You, I regret, have not the proper respect for
  deities; I must ask you to step outside.  (she smiles softly)
Razor Charlie:  (sneers and leaves)
Belphanior:  (impatiently)  And myself?
Aja:  (faces him, unflinching)  You may remain...
Otto:  (smirks to himself)
Aja:  ...not because you are my employer, nor because your wealth
  provided for this temple, but because you are well-suited to
  witness what will occur.  However...
Belphanior:  (watching her intently, curiously)
Aja:  I must respectfully request that you leave that sword outside.
Belphanior:  (not expecting this at all)  What?  Blackrazor?
Aja:  Yes.  In fact, it would be best if you were to never bring
  it in here again.  Please.
Belphanior:  (testily)  You of course have an excellent reason for
  asking this?
Aja:  (sighs)  Of course.  You probably haven't considered what
  that weapon might mean to a Goddess of Death, but _I_ certainly
Belphanior:  (puzzled)  I don't see a problem.  Wouldn't she be
  happy with anything that helps me kill?
Aja:  (shaking her head)  As I thought...the answer is an emphatic
  "no".  Wee Jas may be categorized as the goddess of "death", but
  what deity can be accurately summarized in a single word?  Wee
  Jas does not merely desire fatalities; _souls_ are her goal.
  And we both know what results from death by that sword.
Belphanior:  You're saying that I've offended your deity?
Aja:  On the contrary, you have sent many a spirit on its way by
  means other than that particular blade.  (she shrugs)  But that
  is beside the point.
Otto:  (tiring of this topic)  So what _is_ your point?
Aja:  Simply that I don't want to risk antagonizing Wee Jas in the
  slightest.  All I'm asking is that it not be brought into this
Belphanior:  Well, fuck it then.  CHARLIE!
Razor Charlie:  (opens the door, as if he'd been waiting around out
  there)  Yeah?
Belphanior:  Hold onto this.  (tosses Blackrazor at him)
Razor Charlie:  (not startled in the least, he catches the sword
  and closes the door from the outside, not saying a word)
Belphanior:  You're ready to conjure now, I hope?
Aja:  Yes.  (already moving items from drawers onto the altar)
Ys:  If I may inquire, what _is_ special about this spell?
Aja:  It is no common spell - in fact, it is only granted to high
  priestesses of Wee Jas, by the goddess herself.  (she waves a
  rather large, jet-black feather, likely from the tail of a large
  predator)  If I wield this feather when communing with a recently
  departed soul, he or she is threatened with permanent torture of
  the most unbearable type, and is quite aware of it.  The soul is
  mine, to be ripped free from whichever deity it has travelled to
  since his body was killed.  Whereas evasions and trickery are
  possible, even expected, under a normal speak-with-dead, the soul
  is quite eager to accommodate my every query during this spell,
  as I can condemn it forever at my whim.
Ys:  (suddenly very quiet and motionless)
Otto:  Nice.  I like it.
Belphanior:  Impressive, and very desirable given the current
  situation.  And it explains your veto, since priests would
  naturally be more protected by their deities.  But it doesn't
  seem worth kicking people out of here.  No offense.
Aja:  (gazes at him)  True.  (she looks towards Ys)  And I think
  someone else has realized the truth.  (looks back)  Surely you can
  see that I alone am not powerful enough to seize a soul from a
  deity?  For a few moments, I will yield my essence and allow Wee
  Jas herself to come into my body, here in her temple!  _She_ will
  temporarily transform me into what laymen call an "avatar", and it
  will be _her_ power which commands obedience from the soul with
  which we wish to speak.  It is a very powerful - and demanding -
Belphanior:  Ah.
Otto:  Works for me.
Ys:  (remains absolutely stock-still)
Aja:  Leave now if you feel uncertain, for it's time for me to
Ys:  Thank you.  I think I shall.  (he departs)
Belphanior:  Well, that was odd.
Otto:  I'm sure he has his reasons.
Aja:  Two will be enough; we must begin.
Belphanior:  Quick question:  exactly which of the slain ones are
  you going to talk with?
Aja:  The monk.  Despite the potential of mental discipline, his
  mind seems best suited for what we are going to do to it.
Otto:  And it doesn't hurt that you were the one who killed him,
  using a spell your deity granted you.
Aja:  (nods, pleased that the dwarf understands)  Correct.  (she
  places some final candles in their places, then walks over to a
  casket)  The monk is within.  Help me place this on the altar,
Belphanior:  (he and Otto do so)
Aja:  Now, be silent.  The time is upon us.  (she begins chanting,
  the words flowing forth in some long-dead language that barely
  sounds human)

next:      Wee Jas pays a visit, and Belphanior gets what he wants
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Thanks to David Murphy for some major ideas & input to
  this story.  Pretty much all of Aja's work here was his doing.
    Now to answer a frequently-asked question:

    > Ged bequeathed a red tome to Belphanior... is this anything
    > special or just another book for his library?

    It had five spells from the _Tome of Magic_ which will appear
  in Belphanior's spell listing the next time stats are published:

  6th       Forrest's fiery constrictor
  7th       acid storm
            Malec-Keth's flame fist
  8th       Abi-Palzim's horrid wilting
            Gunther's Kaleidoscopic strike

    Hope this helps clear up some of the mystery!  Thanks to all
  who inquired about this over the last year or two.

    Now for a SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT concerning the episode postings
  for the remainder of this year!

    The previously announced pace would have 575 wrap up this
  December, and 576-600 would take up the first half of 1999.
  However, I have a good backlog built up, and some ideas for
  next year, and so I've changed my plans.  I will be releasing
  one story per day from now until 12/17/98.  That's right, one
  per day!  Here's the schedule, more or less:

    Nov 18 = 571
    Nov 19 = 572
    Nov 20 = 573
    Nov 21 = 574
    Nov 22 = 575
    Nov 23 = 576
    Nov 24 = 577
    Nov 25 = 578
    Nov 26 = 579
    Nov 27 = 580
    Nov 28 = 581
    Nov 29 = 582
    Nov 30 = 583
    Dec  1 = 584
    Dec  2 = 585
    Dec  3 = 586
    Dec  4 = 587
    Dec  5 = 588
    Dec  6 = 589
    Dec  7 = 590
    Dec  8 = 591
    Dec  9 = 592
    Dec 10 = 593
    Dec 11 = 594
    Dec 12 = 595
    Dec 13 = 596
    Dec 14 = 597
    Dec 15 = 598
    Dec 16 = 599
    Dec 17 = 600

    You can view brief episode synopses on the Sneak Previews
  section of the Adventurers web page.

    That's the good news.  The bad news, which you should already
  know if you've been reading between the lines, is that I will
  not be writing ANY Adventurers stories in 1999.  Why?  Well,
  let me count the reasons:

    1)  Real life.  Between weightlifting, cardio training, and
        softball, I have very little time after work and on the
        weekends.  That time needs to be focused on some other,
        more productive things for a while.
    2)  I have some other material that has been sitting idle in
        my brain for far too long.  It's about time I put it into
        writing.  In 1999, I will.  However, for this other work
        to be the best it can be, I need to devote my complete
        attention to it.  Thus, no Adventurers.
    3)  I need a break from schedules of any kind.  In the early
        days, I just wrote stories whenever I felt like it, and
        there was very little error/logic correction going on.  In
        recent years, I've adopted a regular schedule for releases
        and I've put the stories through more rigorous proofing
        before they get released.  Lately, however, the pace of
        Adventurers production (and all that it entails) has
        begun to grind on me.
    4)  I need a break from Adventurers.  It's not that I'm out
        of ideas - I have hundreds.  I'm burned out on writing
        the same characters in the same world.  There has to be
        some time off.

    Needless to say, this is not debatable.  1999 will perhaps
  see many things, but one thing it will NOT see is Adventurers.

    You may be wondering how you'll get to see whatever I write
  in 1999.  Well, if you're on my mailing list, you've got it
  made, since new work will be distributed via the list.  If you
  are reading this and aren't on my list, either get on or keep
  checking the Adventurers web page in 1999 for the new work.

    That is all.  Enjoy the "30 days, 30 stories" schedule!


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