Chapter #590

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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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Belphanior     (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief    (CN) +
+    Otto           8th/10th level dwarven fighter/thief       (CN) +
+    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) +
+    Victoria      11th level human vampiress/fighter          (NE) +
+    the wispy thing                                                +
+    Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                (LN) +
+                                                                   +
+    Neko          human female thief (new marshal)                 +
+    Zhao          human swordsman (new marshal)                    +
+                                                                   +
+  Alindyar        17th level dark elf wizard                   (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:           7/11/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+  Time:           evening                                          +
+  Place:          the remote mountain town of Helgate              +
+  Climate:        cold                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Never hate your enemies.  It affects your judgement."           +
+                        - Michael Corleone, from _The Godfather_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                       DXC.  Dinner Guest





  The dark elf gazed upward, at the sheer wall that formed the front
face of the dark castle.  He hadn't seen many true castles in his
many years, but this one was impressive.  He began to have notions
of owning his own castle as he took the knocker in hand and rapped
on the door...once, twice, three times.
  A moment later, the portal swung open - but the way was blocked by
Angus!  The massive golem of iron stood impassively, arms folded.

Alindyar:  May I enter?
Angus:  (watches him, but does not move)
Otto:  (appears behind the golem)  Angus, it's okay.  Let him pass.
Angus:  (steps aside)
Otto:  Welcome to our home.
Alindyar:  (steps into the castle, whose doors close silently behind
  him)  My thanks...you were expecting hostile visitors?
Otto:  (shrugs)  Ever since that business with Omak and his crew
  popping in here, we've kept our guard up.
Alindyar:  Ah, Omak...I wonder what ever happened to him?  Perhaps
  someday we shall hear from him again.
Otto:  (smirks)  I don't think so.
Alindyar:  Hmm.
Otto:  So what brings you here?  Belphanior's upstairs, having a
  private dinner with Victoria.  (he winks at the dark elf)  If you
  know what I mean.
Alindyar:  Oh, I do.  I do indeed.

  Despite the fact that Otto had just asked the drow a question, he
wandered away, apparently expecting the visitor to follow him while
answering.

Otto:  (looks back)  Well, don't just stand there - come on.  I've
  got some things to attend to.
Alindyar:  ...of course.  (he follows the dwarf)
Otto:  (walking through a hall)  I was just on my way to brief the
  marshals on the coming week's assignments.
Alindyar:  Actually, I had better say what I have to say, then,
  before they are present.
Otto:  (suddenly suspicious, he stops in the middle of the hall)
  Why's that?

  Alindyar relayed Peyote's tale, and probably more efficiently
than the half-elf would have.  Though the drow's version lacked
the flair that Peyote would have spun into it, the point was made.

Otto:  Xusia...yeah, I remember him.
Alindyar:  I remember helping Belphanior find him, last time...
  though I did not come along for the battle.
Otto:  Oh yeah.  We fought him, and then Orcus got involved.  It
  was a big mess, but the point is, we know who Xusia is, and he
  knows who we are.  And he's out there on the loose.
Alindyar:  Perhaps Belphanior will not wish to go after him, then,
  after all.
Otto:  (recalls Belphanior's vow, once upon a time, to seek out
  and destroy worldly temples of Orcus)  I think he might have a
  score to settle...come on, let's go.

  The dwarf led Alindyar into a small hall, where various people
sat at a table, drinking from flagons and munching on snacks.  Most
of those present were familiar to Alindyar.

Skektek:  (nods to the drow)  Hey, what's cooking?
Jutokai:  Well met, wizard.
Ys:  It has been a while...you look well.
Razor Charlie:  (grunts an acknowledgement)
Aja:  (stares at Alindyar, inadvertently licking her lips)  And I
  thought it was going to be a boring night...
short yellow-skinned man with pointed wooden hat:  (regards the
  dark elf coolly)
lithe, tanned young woman:  (smiles evenly)

  In one corner of the chamber, the servant girls Daphne and Phoebe
waited, watching for flagons or plates that were empty or nearly
empty.

Otto:  Since Belphanior is detained, we would be honored if you
  would join us for a bit.
Alindyar:  I thought you had to-
Otto:  Later.  (he motions to an empty chair)  Sit, please.
wispy thing:  (flies through the hall, orbiting Alindyar's head a
  single time before vanishing again)  Yrrrp!
Alindyar:  (sighs)

  The next hour was an interesting one for the drow.  He wasn't
one to make conversation readily, for he didn't particularly enjoy
talking to anyone other than close friends, not in close quarters
like this, anyway.  However, they kept him busy, asking all sorts
of questions about Greyhawk and other parts of the world.  Alindyar
realized that these people were basically cut off from the world
outside; any news, no matter how minor or outdated, was good news.
Skektek, Otto, and Ys did most of the talking; Aja helped too, but
Alindyar sensed that she had another purpose in mind.
  He didn't know why the high priestess acted this way towards him.
Frankly, he didn't care.  He only knew that he needed to avoid her,
for her attentions would get him in trouble, especially since Lyra
could read his thoughts at any time.  It could have been worse,
though:  Alindyar could have actually been attracted to Aja, which
was not the case.  Human women simply didn't do it for him.
  Jutokai said little, and Razor Charlie said nothing.  As for the
other two, the ones Alindyar didn't recognize, they pretty much
listened to what he had to say.  He figured that the two were new
marshals, but he wasn't sure why Otto hadn't bothered to introduce
them yet.  At one point, he thought the dwarf was about to correct
the situation...but then Belphanior strode into the room.

Belphanior:  (his red cloak billowing behind him, he smiles)  Ah!
  Old friends come a-knocking...

  The elf was quite obviously in a good mood, and a moment later,
Alindyar figured out why.  Victoria entered the hall, clad in high
black boots of leather.  These matched the leather skirt and tight
bodice that exposed more flesh than they covered.  Her long, black
hair streamed behind her; her lips were full, her eyes sparkling.
Even Razor Charlie, stoic as he was, blinked as the vampiress
walked into the room.

Victoria:  Alindyar.  What brings you here?
Alindyar:  Err...(he looks around, unsure whether he should say
  anything in front of the marshals)
Belphanior:  (glances at Otto)
Otto:  (nods to Belphanior)
Belphanior:  (to Alindyar)  Speak.  Anything of import should be
  known to the people you see gathered here.
Victoria:  (nods to Daphne and Phoebe, who promptly leave the
  hall)
Alindyar:  (notes this silently)
Belphanior:  (to Alindyar)  Ahem.
Alindyar:  Very well...

  For what seemed like the umpteenth time that day, the tale of
Xusia was related.  Belphanior smiled evilly as Alindyar wrapped
the story up...

Belphanior:  Xusia...
Alindyar:  Otto said that you have already encountered this lich
  after we located him that time.
Belphanior:  Yep, and the outcome of that meeting wasn't at all
  satisfactory.
Alindyar:  You will help Peyote, then?
Belphanior:  No, I'll help myself.  The fact that doing so happens
  to coincide with what Peyote wants is just a boon for him...but
  certainly I owe him my assistance in return for his information.
Alindyar:  (frowns)
Belphanior:  (grins)  Of course, you don't need to tell it to him
  like that.
Alindyar:  Of course not.
Belphanior:  Very well, then.  We shall be in Greyhawk tomorrow.
  (he regards the others in the room)  At least, some of us...
  those who aren't scheduled for duty.
Ys:  Drat.
Razor Charlie:  (sensing a boring weekend coming on in Helgate,
  he sneers)
Belphanior:  The rest of you, be prepared to combat undead.  We
  will go to Greyhawk tomorrow night.
Victoria:  I shall be pleased to join you.
Otto:  (frowns)
Belphanior:  (to Alindyar)  Can you come to my study?  I have
  some spells I need to ask you about.
Alindyar:  Very well.

  Shortly...

Belphanior:  Sorry to pull you away like that, but I needed to
  ask you something.
Alindyar:  Ask away.
Belphanior:  This business with Xusia...why is Peyote mixed up in
  it?
Alindyar:  As far as I can tell, he feels responsible due to the
  events in that crypt in the northern Vesve...perhaps he thinks
  that since some significant part of Xusia's plans occurred within
  his domain, he must see that the lich falls.  I know not.
Belphanior:  (nods)  And you think Rob's coming along?
Alindyar:  Aye.  Why?  (he thinks momentarily, and the pieces fall
  into place)  Oh!
Belphanior:  Well, it could be worse.  Remember Ged and that holy
  morningstar, Lightbringer?
Alindyar:  Victoria would have had to kill or be killed.
Belphanior:  Well, one thing's for sure:  I'm not going to hide
  anything.  I'm going to tell her up front that a high priest
  of a Good deity will be along, and when we run into Rob, I'm
  going to tell him up front that Victoria is an ally, and is
  _not_ to be harmed or threatened.
Alindyar:  This could be bad.
Belphanior:  Yes, it could.  I sure would hate to see Rob die.
Alindyar:  As would I.  (he looks around the study)  You possess
  many books.
Belphanior:  I pick 'em up whenever and wherever I can.
Alindyar:  Did you ever have a chance to check on that tome which
  you suspected of containing necromantic spells?
Belphanior:  You mean Kronos' spellbook?  (he nods)  Yeah, it's
  definitely got some powerful spells...I can't fully understand
  most of them.  I just haven't had time to research the book.
Alindyar:  You have had months...
Belphanior:  I've been busy.  Besides, it's not like I absolutely
  must learn Kronos' secrets right away.  I've got all the time in
  the world.
Alindyar:  Kronos probably thought the same thing once.
Belphanior:  (recalls the scene in the lich's tomb, and wonders
  what ever happened to Kronos)  Hmm.
Alindyar:  Thinking about the possible whereabouts of Xusia?
Belphanior:  Actually, no, but maybe I should be.
Alindyar:  You have no faith in Rob or Peyote's ability to locate
  the lich?
Belphanior:  You could say that, I guess.  I'll make an effort,
  too, in case they fail.
Alindyar:  That might be helpful.  You do recall, do you not, the
  location of Xusia the last time?
Belphanior:  The Isle of Woe...yes.  From the outcome of our big
  battle on that island, though, I'd guess Xusia's moved bases.
  He knows that we know where he is, which makes him vulnerable.
Alindyar:  (nods)  Agreed.
Belphanior:  We'll see what the others come up with, then maybe
  I'll mention the Isle of Woe.
Alindyar:  In any case, we should get together after all of this
  is done, and pool our efforts to solve the mysteries of Kronos'
  spellbook.
Belphanior:  You've got a deal.  (he yawns suddenly)  It's going
  to be a long night.
Alindyar:  Well, I must be going.
Belphanior:  You might as well stay the night.  I can just take
  you back to Greyhawk tomorrow, when we go.
Alindyar:  No.  Lyra is expecting me, and we have some matters to
  discuss.  Tonight.
Belphanior:  Suit yourself.
Alindyar:  We must get together sometime...collaborate on spells,
  as we once discussed.
Belphanior:  Agreed.  Drop in anytime...but come through the front
  door, not right into the castle.  It could get dangerous other-
  wise.
Alindyar:  (already thinking about fashioning some kind of device
  to communicate across long distances, he suddenly realizes that
  his crystal ball could probably do the trick)  Hmm.  (he begins
  spellcasting)

  Shortly, the dark elf had teleported away, back to Greyhawk.
Belphanior was left in his study, sitting in his easy chair, his
hands steepled as his brow furrowed with deep thought.  He wasn't
sure what this mission would entail, or what the risks were, but
he knew one thing for certain.  He knew that Orcus was about to
pay a hefty price for interfering in their lives.





next:      underway...will Rob meet Victoria?
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           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     Nah.
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