Chapter #592

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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 1991-8 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) +
+    Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas        (N) +
+    Jutokai        7th level human archer                     (LN) +
+    Neko                     human female thief                    +
+    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) +
+    Zhao                     human swordsman                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard (NG) +
+     Deryck       11th level half-elven ranger                (NG) +
+  Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven warrior/druid     (N) +
+    Daffodil      11th level human female druidess             (N) +
+  Rob             16th level priest of Trithereon             (LG) +
+  Date:           7/14/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+  Time:           late afternoon                                   +
+  Place:          the sky above the Cairn Hills                    +
+  Climate:        pleasant                                         +
+  "This is insane!"                                                +
+  "It is...that's the point."                                      +
+                                      - from _Escape From L.A._    +

               DXCII.  A Slight Change of Plan

  Belphanior stood at the prow of his airship, the wind blowing
through his long hair.  He was pleased, for a number of reasons.
He was pleased that Peyote and Daffodil, as well as Deryck and
Nenya, had decided to participate on this quest after all.  He
was pleased that Victoria would be along to help.  He was pleased
that he'd taken charge by teleporting back to Helgate with Otto,
boarding the airship docked amidst the fog above his castle, and
piloting the vessel back to Greyhawk.  He was pleased that he'd
changed his mind and picked up Ys and Razor Charlie.  Most of
all, he was pleased that he was finally going to get a chance to
repay Orcus and his worldly minions some of the grief that they'd
dished out.

Otto:  (strolls over)  What's up?
Belphanior:  Nothing...I'm just happy.  Did you know that this
  ship automatically surrounds itself with a cloud, to avoid
  being detected from the ground?
Otto:  No, but that's kinda neat.
Belphanior:  How are our passengers doing?
Otto:  They're fine.  Some of them are still wandering about,
  gawking.  (he frowns)  Can't say I blame them..._I'm_ still
  wandering about, gawking.  This airship is marvelous.
Belphanior:  Why do you think Peyote and his woman, and Nenya and
  her man, came along?
Otto:  Well, offhand I'd guess that Deryck convinced Nenya that
  he needed to go, and then she didn't want to miss out.  As for
  Peyote...harder to tell.  Why do you ask?
Belphanior:  Nothing.  (privately, he wonders if the others are
  coming along simply to keep tabs on him)
Otto:  Good thing you decided to go back and get this ship.  I
  don't think any other means of travel could have taken us right
  to where we're going, non-stop, in less than a month.

  It was true.  They'd reviewed all the options available to them,
but all had fallen short.  A teleportation spell couldn't take the
whole group, and besides, they weren't sure exactly where in the
Vast Swamp they were going.  Rob claimed that he could get there
in mere moments, by walking the winds, but he could only bring one
or two others with him.  Peyote babbled about a chariot of fire,
but again, there were too many in the party for him to bring along.
  At that moment, Belphanior had suggested his solution.  Bidding
them to wait for a day or two, he and Otto (and Victoria, though
nobody knew it) had returned to Helgate.  A day and a half later,
when Belphanior appeared in the Green Dragon Inn claiming to have
their transportation, some had laughed.
  They weren't laughing now.  No, now they were looking through
portholes, in awe.  As it should be.

Belphanior:  We'll get to the swamp faster, no doubt about it.
  And this way, we can carry everybody.
Otto:  Good idea, picking up Angus.  Undead can't really hurt him,
  and we're sure to run into a lot of undead.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Angus makes sixteen.
wispy thing:  (flies by)  Brrrp!
Belphanior:  Okay, seventeen.  (he considers this)  Wow.  This
  group rivals the Isle of the Ape group in sheer power...
wispy thing:  Spaaa!  (it disappears under the cabin's door)
Otto:  Rob should come in handy, especially, with a lot of undead
Belphanior:  (nods)  Him and Aja, you mean.
Otto:  Yeah...Peyote and Daffodil will provide druidic power,
  which I guess could come in handy in a swamp.
Belphanior:  And with Deryck along, we might have an easier time
  finding Xusia in the swamp.
Otto:  Nenya offers more wizard power.
Belphanior:  (raises his eyebrows)
Otto:  Not that we really need any, of course.
Belphanior:  Heh.  Actually, the more, the better.  I can't shake
  the feeling that we got lucky with Xusia last time...and that we
  had better be on our guard this time.
Otto:  You know, something else is bothering me.
Belphanior:  What's that?
Otto:  When it comes down to it, we're doing Peyote's dirty work for
Belphanior:  But it also benefits us.
Otto:  Does it?  I know you want to throw a kink into you-know-who's
  works on this world, but still...
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  Nobody had to volunteer for this.  (he frowns)
  How are Neko and Zhao doing so far?
Otto:  Fine, I guess.
Belphanior:  Tell me more about them.
Otto:  Neko's just fast...damn fast.  And strong.  Before hiring her,
  I sparred with her.  She almost got the better of me a couple of
Belphanior:  Why's that?
Otto:  Don't know...there's something about her...something she's
  not telling us.
Belphanior:  As long as she's not a spy, I don't care.
Otto:  I wouldn't bet on it.  We spent a week in Perrenland when we
  were hunting for new marshals.  It's not like she came to us.
Belphanior:  What about this Zhao guy?  He never talks...never says
  anything at all.
Otto:  I don't think he's quite mastered Common.  Don't worry about
  that, though.  When you see him fight, you'll understand.
Belphanior:  What do you mean?
Otto:  He's like a whirlwind...jumping all around, his sword moving
  faster than the eye can follow.  Very acrobatic - bounces off of
  walls and stuff.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  You don't get training like that just anywhere.
Otto:  Nope.
Belphanior:  (gazing at the clouds as the ship soars through the
  sky)  Well, we're on our way.
Otto:  Yep.

  They made good time, and their chief problem was boredom...the
nervous kind of boredom that preceded a grand, dangerous adventure.
Jutokai spent most of his time sharpening silver arrowheads and
attaching them to new arrows.

Aja:  I didn't know you could make your own arrows.
Jutokai:  You have got to be kidding.  It comes with my occupation.
Aja:  Silver heads...that ought to stop a few undead.
Rob:  (wanders over)  You should bless them.
Jutokai:  Huh?
Rob:  I could bless them if you'd like, before we go into battle.
  That would make them doubly effective.
Jutokai:  Hmm.  (he nods)  It's a deal.
Aja:  Also, bear in mind that silver won't hurt _all_ types of
  undead, only some.  Watch your targets to see how they react
  when hit.
Jutokai:  Hmm...good advice, thanks.
Rob:  (to Aja)  What god do _you_ follow?
Aja:  (proudly)  Wee Jas, whose domain is magic and death.
Jutokai:  (winces, expecting a holy war here)
Rob:  Whoa.  I hope your goddess can help us out too.
Aja:  I'm confident of it.
Rob:  (wanders away cheerfully, to talk with Peyote)
Aja:  That guy's kind of goofy.
Jutokai:  I think he means well.  If he's as powerful as they're
  saying, then we'll need him.
Skektek:  (joins the conversation)  Bah.  His priestly powers are
  nothing compared to true magic.
Aja:  Did you learn anything from our last battle, with Omak and
  those others?  Magic is magic, my friend.  Some is preferable
  to other sorts, depending upon the caster - but all magic is
  powerful, and none of it should be underestimated.
Jutokai:  (tenses, expecting an outburst)
Skektek:  (rather sheepishly)  Yes...yes, I suppose you're right.
Aja:  (somewhat surprised herself)

  Peyote and Daffodil spent a lot of time communing with Obad-Hai,
in their cabin, and weren't seen much.  Similarly, the warrior Zhao
was meditating in his cabin, and was seldom out and about.  Neko
seemed bored, though when she wasn't sleeping she kept busy, roaming
the ship and asking questions.  Deryck offered to help pilot or
steer the sky-ship, so Belphanior and Otto gave him a quick lesson
and run-down of how the vessel operated.  This allowed them to take
breaks and catch some sleep, at least more often.  The half-elven
ranger proved a quick learner, and he also seemed to enjoy helping
out, so everyone was happy.
  Ys and Razor Charlie bided their time, eager for action and also
pleased that they'd gotten to come along as well.  Peyote and Rob
were both in awe of the big reptilian, but had not yet dared to
approach him.  Razor Charlie, as it turned out, had been preparing
for such an adventure as this.  He'd had Ganzer, Helgate's smith,
fashion him two dozen knives of a silver-and-steel alloy, and he
planned to use these against the undead foes they were sure to
face soon.

  They only moved by day, stopping the ship at night to give it a
rest.  Belphanior didn't know its limits, but he didn't want to push
it unless there was a reason.  Victoria stayed in the captain's
cabin by day, and roamed the ship at night.  On one such night, she
and Belphanior stood on the foredeck, looking at the moon, which
bathed the vessel in its light.

Belphanior:  How are you doing?
Victoria:  Fine.
Belphanior:  No cravings for blood?
Victoria:  (smirks)  Please.  I need it to live, but I don't have
  to feed every night.  Maybe in a few days...
Belphanior:  Hopefully we'll land by then.
Victoria:  I'll have to find some peasant village or something.
  Though nobles and people of high birth tend to taste better.
Belphanior:  We never really talked about you kill your
Victoria:  Not usually.  (she recalls the assassin Xylus)  And if
  I do, I take...precautions to ensure that they don't come back
  as vampires themselves.  I'd control them, if that happened, but
  it's not worth the trouble...because they have to feed, too, and
  after a time they get uppity and seek to escape the control of
  the one who created them.
Belphanior:  Speaking from experience?
Victoria:  Yes, though it's been a while.  But no, I don't usually
  drain them all the way.  And I don't get the same victim twice.
  That way, they don't ever figure out what happened.  It also
  helps to move around, from town to town, to keep people from
  linking attacks.
Belphanior:  How far from Helgate have you gone to feed?
Victoria:  Not far.  There are several small towns within flying
  distance, you know.
Belphanior:  Yeah.  (musing to himself)  Maybe someday I'll take
  them over.
Victoria:  This trip will be a good opportunity for signs of my
  presence to fade away, in the nearby towns.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Victoria:  I guess I'll finally get to confront this Xusia, eh?
Belphanior:  Not if things go as I planned...we'll just destroy
  him from a distance, blow his whole temple or crypt or whatever
  he's hiding in - blow it all to hell.
Victoria:  Where are we going, exactly?
Belphanior:  (pulls out an ancient parchment)  Here.  The ruins of
  Castle Mukos.  Nenya's tomes hint at a past connection between
  the realm of Mukos and the doings of Xusia.  (he regards the
  tattered map in his hands, a map which is certainly much older
  than he is)  Hmm...

next:      a big group meeting to compare notes and tactics
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     I'm sure you'd like to see the map that Belphanior's
  looking at.  Well, you can, at:

    This map comes from the old module S2, White Plume Mountain,
  although nothing from that module will play a part in this story

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