Chapter #583

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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Peyote       12th/12th level half-elven warrior/druid        (N) +
+    Daffodil   11th level human female druidess                (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        Richfest, after 6/28/577 C.Y. (Common Year)         +
+  Time:        the middle of the night                             +
+  Place:       the depths of the Vesve Forest                      +
+  Climate:     magical                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing         +
+   the world he didn't exist."                                     +
+                                     - from _The Usual Suspects_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                    DLXXXIII.  Bad News Bared





  Almost five years had passed since Peyote's ascension to the rank
of Druid.  In that time, he had adventured with his old friends on
several occasions, including a quest for a lost Rune, a rescue from
a remote island, and his own mission into the Vesve Forest.  Unknown
to everyone, though, the half-elf had also gained a number of new
responsibilities along with his Druid title.
  Some of these were mundane, such as the organization and deployment
of druidic forces and the planting of new trees.  Like all of the
other ranking Druids, Peyote had a network of subordinates who did
most of this work for him.  His chief role was to make decisions and
co-ordinate efforts.  Now that the Vesve was Peyote's responsibility,
higher-ups who also resided there (such as Confernicus and Oakly
Greenleaf) were free to pursue their own mysterious ends.
  Personally, Peyote had long ago begun to suspect that he had been
tricked, that the position of Druid was more work than fun.  Oh, he'd
been warned, asked before the ritual combat if he was sure of what he
was getting into.  He'd thought he knew all about it, but after the
last five years, he wasn't sure anymore.
  One thing made it all tolerable, perhaps even worth the drudgery
of day-to-day operations and worries.  The young woman Daffodil,
she who Peyote had beaten to rise to his current rank, had been at
his side through it all.  At first, they'd merely shared a physical
attraction, but after weeks of talking and working together, they
had found that they had a lot in common.  Both enjoyed the natural
world - forests, leaves, animals, wilderness.  Both believed in the
precepts that the god Obad-Hai stood for.  Both had a talent, an
unusual affinity, for wielding druidic powers.  Both, as it turned
out, liked constant change and the thrill of living without any set
plan or routine.  They had quickly become friends, and then more
than friends; lately, they were inseperable.
  Daffodil hadn't changed at all, it seemed, in the last five years.
Just under five and a half feet tall, her body was lithe and lean and
tanned.  Her curly brown hair was, if anything, a bit longer than it
had been when Peyote had first laid eyes on her; it now fell to the
middle of her back.  Daffodil looked and acted considerably younger
than her forty years, and Peyote wondered if she had elven blood in
her veins like he did.
  For Peyote's part, he had aged only slightly.  Small lines creased
his face these days, but only when he frowned or smiled.  His hair
was just a bit darker, his stomach just a bit larger.  Still, Peyote
was young, even for a half-elf, and he had many, many good years
ahead of him.

  Tonight, as he and Daffodil took a quiet walk through part of their
domain, Peyote was worried.  He hadn't told the woman why, but she
knew him well enough to detect his worry, and it didn't take her
long to bring it up.

Daffodil:  What's on your mind?
Peyote:  Huh?
Daffodil:  Something's bothering you.
Peyote:  It's dire business, man.
Daffodil:  That means it's druidic business, and you should tell
  me before I find out anyway.
Peyote:  It may take awhile.
Daffodil:  (looks around)  We're not exactly pressed for time.

  Peyote gazed at the trees, listening to the sounds of the night
as if there were enemies about.  Of course, there weren't; nothing
went on in the Vesve without Peyote knowing about it.  The chirps
of the animals and the rustling of the leaves were like words to
him, and here he was more secure than in any keep or dungeon.  Both
he and Daffodil knew that any words they exchanged here would fall
on no hostile ears.

Daffodil:  Well, on with it!
Peyote:  A little more than a year ago, I led a small exploratory
  band into the northern Vesve.  We'd gotten word, through the
  little dudes of the forest, that something foul was afoot.  We
  ventured into the afflicted area and checked it out.
Daffodil:  And...?
Peyote:  (sighs)  And, we found a lost crypt - right there in the
  middle of the forest!
Daffodil:  What was inside the place?
Peyote:  We're not sure, because some rottenhead showed up and-
Daffodil:  Excuse me...rottenhead?
Peyote:  Err, a lich.
Daffodil:  Oh.
Peyote:  Anyway, the lich came and, as best as we could figure,
  _took_ something.  Something powerful.  An artifact, maybe, or
  an unholy relic.
Daffodil:  That can't be good.
Peyote:  (shakes his head)  No way.  Anything that an evil dude
  wants can only lead to more evil.
Daffodil:  So what are you doing about it?
Peyote:  Well...I didn't mention it to the others at the time, but
  I picked up some old scrolls I found down in that crypt, before
  we sealed it up for good.
Daffodil:  Scrolls?
Peyote:  Yep.  As you know, I'm somewhat of an authority on ancient
  history and lore.  Nevertheless, it's taken me years - and a
  _lot_ of help - to even begin to decipher those ancient rhymes.
Daffodil:  So that was why you sent the lesser Initiates far away,
  to the big cities, last month.
Peyote:  (nods)  We've only begun to get to the bottom of things,
  but it's not looking good.
Daffodil:  (looks worried)  How so?
Peyote:  Many hundreds of years ago, that crypt was the lair of a
  very powerful, very ruthless lich named Xusia.
Daffodil:  Never heard of him.
Peyote:  Not surprising - he perished with the Suel Empire.  No one
  knows why he had a lair so far out of the Suel lands, either.
Daffodil:  Maybe he was establishing a base in the central Flanaess
  when he was killed.
Peyote:  Whoa.  I didn't say he was killed.  The dead sometimes
  don't die that easily.  It was widely thought that he was out of
  it after the fall of the Suel Empire, but I've uncovered a number
  of clues that indicate that he was actually just hiding...buried
  somewhere, resting, gaining power...waiting.
Daffodil:  Waiting for what?
Peyote:  Good question.  I did some more digging, and had agents
  contact sages all over the place.  It's not looking good.  Xusia
  has been freed!
Daffodil:  Freed?!?  When?  By who?
Peyote:  Recently...and, it appears, by Ged and some of my other
  old adventuring companions!
Daffodil:  Geniuses, those.
Peyote:  Actually, Ged was.  But the whys and wherefores aren't
  important.  What _is_ important is that he's loose, and he sent
  one of his minions to his old lair to recover something.
Daffodil:  This bodes ill.
Peyote:  I know.  I've alerted the other eight Druids, and asked
  them to be on the lookout for any signs of the lich or his foul
  minions.  (he frowns)  No luck at all.
Daffodil:  You don't think he could have a stronghold in one of
  the forests without one of us finding out?
Peyote:  Nope.  Wherever he is, he's not in any woodland that's
  under the domain of Obad-Hai.
Daffodil:  So how can we find the lich and put an end to him?
  We haven't the time, or the wherewithal, to get away for that
  long a time.
Peyote:  (smiles grimly)  We might not, but I bet we can find
  someone who does.





next:      Peyote puts together his plan
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.intertex.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           http://www.shobaki.org/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv/adv.html
email:     tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     As far as I'm concerned, Peyote has reached the highest
  levels, both at warrior and druid, that he will ever reach.  I've
  already bumped up his "official" racial level limits to suit my
  needs anyway.  Now, a ceiling of 12th level for a druid effectively
  limits his career options - it would appear that our friend can't
  ever be an Archdruid, much less the Grand Druid or the Great Druid.
  This is probably a good thing.
    Speaking of those guys, here's a refresher from the Player's
  Handbook:  in any single geographic region (to me this means the
  Oerik continent, aka the known world from the Greyhawk maps) there
  can only be 9 true Druids (12th level) and 3 Archdruids (13th
  level) and 1 Great Druid (14th level.)  There can only be a single
  Grand Druid (15th level) in the entire world.
    I claim that the entire scheme just stated repeats for every
  deity that has druidic priests.  In Oerth that means twice:  the
  goddess Ehlonna (Halbarad's patron goddess) has one hierarchy of
  druids, while the god Obad-Hai (Peyote's patron god) has another.
  We'll put aside the followers of Ehlonna, instead taking a closer
  look at the followers of Peyote's god, Obad-Hai.

    Within the Obad-Hai power structure, Peyote is one of the nine
  12th level Druids.  His boss is Confernicus, the aged 13th level
  Archdruid whose assigned region spans one-third of the known
  Flanaess, including the Vesve Forest where his headquarters is
  located.  Confernicus oversaw Peyote's fight for the rank of
  Druid, back in Lost Tales #14.
    Obad-Hai's single 14th level Great Druid for the Flanaess is one
  Oakly Greenleaf.  Oakly is Obad-Hai's second-ranking servant on the
  Oerik continent, and Confernicus' boss.  You met him in episodes
  439-440.
    There is also only one 15th level druid, called the Grand Druid.
  He is Obad-Hai's top man in the world, and controls all below him,
  including Oakly, Confernicus, Peyote, and everyone else who follows
  the ways of Obad-Hai.  Oerth's Grand Druid has never been revealed
  and he is surely a reclusive, mysterious figure.

    Where do these high-ranking Druids live?  Well, after his rise to
  power, Peyote fashioned his own home, the henge you saw in episode
  438.  This place is within the Vesve Forest, within hex U4/80 on
  the western Greyhawk map.
    Confernicus' home is a series of dome-like structures composed
  entirely of living trees, branches, and roots.  You saw this odd
  place in Lost Tales #14.  It is within hex U4/82.
    Oakly Greenleaf makes his home within a gigantic living roanwood
  tree, also in the Vesve (deeper in, farther north than Confernicus
  or Peyote) and you saw this in episodes 439-440.  It is located
  within hex V4/83.

    As previously mentioned, there are nine Druids in the Flanaess,
  each one making his home in a different large forest.  These are,
  in roughly descending order of size:
  - Vesve Forest, northwestern area of the continent
  - Burneal Forest, extreme northwestern area of the continent
  - Adri Forest, western Aerdy
  - Grandwood Forest, southern Aerdy
  - Gamboge Forest, northeast of Nyrond
  - Bramblewood Forest, Ket
  - Dim Forest, west of the Gran March
  - Celadon Forest, southwest of Nyrond
  - Gnarley Forest/Welkwood, east of Celene

    There are a few other woodlands larger than some of these (the
  Fellreev and Dreadwood Forests come to mind) but the Druids must
  choose their lairs carefully, keeping out of forests bordered by
  not a single friendly land.
    Each of the three Archdruids oversees a region of the world.  The
  largest of these regions is the one belonging to Confernicus; it
  includes the Vesve, the Burneal, the Bramblewood, and the Dim
  Forests.  This region is generally located in the northwestern
  area of Oerik.  Confernicus' region has the most surface area of
  woodlands, but it is also the most widespread, and widely held
  among the Druids to be the most difficult to keep order in.
    The second such region is in the central Flanaess, and includes
  the Gnarley/Welkwood, Celadon, and Gamboge Forests - basically
  everything west of the Rakers and the borders of Aerdy.  This is
  the most peaceful Druidic region to oversee, despite technical
  responsibility for such trouble spots as the Phostwood and Fellreev
  Forests.
    The third region is made up of the eastern area of Oerik, and it
  includes the Adri and Grandwood Forests as well as smaller ones
  like the Rieuwood and the woodlands to the far north, where the
  barbarians dwell.  This area is perhaps the most dangerous, given
  the unfriendly climate in Aerdy and the mercurial nature of the
  barbarian hordes.

    Now for Daffodil.  She is an 11th level initiate (all druids
  below 12th level are referred to as "initiates") and one of three
  such initiates who serve Peyote directly.  This arrangement is
  against convention - Peyote's three initiates should be no higher
  than 9th level - but Daffodil is the daughter of Oakly Greenleaf
  and, as such, she has a little more pull.  Though she didn't put
  it to old Oakly this way, Daffodil wanted to be assigned to Peyote
  because she was strongly attracted to him.  Thus, she became one
  of Peyote's helpers instead of going to the Great Druid (Oakly
  himself!) as tradition would have suggested (hey, would YOU want
  to work for your father?)
    The rest, as they say, is history.
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