Chapter #593

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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:           7/19/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+  Time:           nighttime                                        +
+  Place:          the sky above Sunndi                             +
+  Climate:        cool                                             +
+  "Anything's fair in love and war, jerkweed.  And I just love     +
+   to make war."                                                   +
+                                                      - the Hulk   +

                    DXCIII.  Pow-Wow

  The sky-ship had been stopped for the night, and Belphanior had
called everyone to the galley for a critical meeting.

Belphanior:  I'll keep it simple.  We've spent most of our efforts
  so far finding our quarry and just getting here.  Now we're
  drawing close to our goal.  We're about to head into one of the
  deadliest places in the world, the lair of a centuries-old lich.
  Some of us don't even know each other, much less how the others
  handle combat.  I've faced this thing before, and if we're not a
  team in there, we'll get ripped apart.  (he crosses his arms)
  It's time we laid out our fighting tactics, spells we plan to
  use, special powers, whatever's gonna keep us alive.
Rob:  (eyeing Peyote, he nods)
Belphanior:  And just as important, we need to go over the powers
  of our adversary.  There are some among us who know about
  undead, and can offer advice and tactics to defeat undead.  We
  need to share this sort of information with each other.
Peyote:  Right on, dude.
Belphanior:  Since my group is the largest, I'll lay out what I
  know and how we fight.  (he clears his throat)  I'm here for one
  reason only:  to kill Xusia once and for all.  My sword here
  isn't the best against undead, but I have others.  As the best
  warrior present, I'll probably be going toe-to-toe with him
  after I've fired off a few spells.  Take heed:  if we don't
  press the fight to him personally, Xusia has the power to make
  things very bad for us.  I'll be summoning some monsters once
  the battle is joined.  Don't worry about the control of them.  I
  have that covered as well.  Use them as fodder or distractions,
  whatever seems best.
others: (nodding)
Belphanior:  To my right is Otto, my second-in-command.  A dirty
  fighter, and if you follow his lead, you just might survive.  He
  fights mainly with crossbow and sword, but this time I think
  he'll be staying invisible, right?
Otto:  Definitely.
Aja:  That's not necessarily effective against undead.
Belphanior:  We'll cover that later.  Otto, I may put you at
Otto:  Your call.  I've loaded my crossbow with silver bolts
  thanks to Jutokai, but I need to get them blessed before we
  encounter any of the scum.
Rob:  (waves a volunteering hand)
Otto:  (nods)
Belphanior:  Ok, next is Ys.
Ys:  Well met all.
Daffodil:  What _is_ your story, lizard man?
Ys:  I am no lizard man, milady.  (he shrugs)  I am Ys.  I do
  not cast spells, and most undead powers can't affect me.  The
  sword strapped across my back should speak well enough of my
  combat tactics.
Daffodil:  ...right.
Ys:  (cheerfully)  You shall see.
Belphanior:  Ys is easily the strongest of us and he swings freely
  so keep an eye on that sword and make sure you aren't in the
  way.  I'm counting on you to hold back any of the lesser undead
  that may try to swarm us with greater numbers.
Ys:  My pleasure.
Belphanior:  Next comes Jutokai.  Our master with the bow.
Jutokai:  I've got plenty of silver arrows.  I'll soon have
  blessed silver arrows.
Aja:  And he's not bad-looking, either.
other guys:  (grinning and chuckling at Jutokai's expense)
Jutokai:  (almost blushes)  My role will be simple:  stand far
  away and pepper the foes with missile fire.
Razor Charlie:  (jerks a thumb at Jutokai)  What he said, but I
  throw knives.  And sometimes a net.
Daffodil:  Who are you, though?
Razor Charlie:  No one to be trifled with.  (for Victoria's
  general benefit, he conveniently forgets to mention his amulet
  that protects him against vampires)
Belphanior:  Let's keep it orderly.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers)
Belphanior:  Both Jutokai and Razor Charlie will be keeping some
  of the more dangerous undead busy with ranged attacks when the
  spellcasters aren't doing the same.  Which brings me to the
  newest members of the group, Neko and Zhao.  Perhaps you two'd
  like to introduce yourselves.
Zhao:  (stands swiftly and smoothly, then bows)  Zhao.  My sword
  and I are one.  We dance like the wind, and cut the foes in
  great numbers.
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Told you.
Belphanior:  I'm curious...we'll see soon enough.  (nods to Neko,
  who is watching him)
Neko:  My name is Neko, and I'm new to this group.  (casts a
  glance at Zhao)  I'm pretty fast, and better in a fight than
  you might think to look at me.  (she pats the shortsword at her
  side)  I've got no spells or offensive magical items, though,
  so I'll avoid anything that anyone else casts.  (to Belphanior)
  If you want me to take the point, I can.  I've done it before.
Belphanior:  Not this time.  I expect the both of you to flank Ys
  and help cover the spellcasters.  Otto says you're both good,
  but this isn't the time to show off.  Just impress me by
  staying alive and not letting anybody...or anything...break our
Zhao:  Hai!
Peyote:  Cool!
Belphanior:  Now for the spellcasters.  Besides myself, Skektek
  probably has the most destructive spells.
Skektek:  (interrupts)  My specialty is destructive magic with
  large-area effects - thunder, lightning, fireballs, all the good
  stuff - and I intend to mow down undead by the dozens.  Simple
Nenya:  You're overconfident.
Skektek:  With my magic, I can afford to be.
Nenya:  Think again, before it's too late.
Skektek:  I'll be sure to ponder that.
Belphanior:  (raising his voice slightly)  Enough.  Aja is our
  priestess.  A priestess of Wee Jas though...perhaps you should
  explain, Aja.
Aja:  I cannot bless you or your weapons, or create holy water...
  but I can stop the undead in their tracks, or sometimes turn
  them against whoever sent them.  (she grimaces)  I can't say I
  expect this to work where we're going, but I will try.  My main
  assets for this mission will be my understanding of, and powers
  against, the undead.  (she winks at Victoria)
Victoria:  (impassive)
Aja:  Since Wee Jas rules over aspects of death, I will commune
  with her, and attempt to learn more details about Xusia.  And I
  hope to gain some warning before we face him directly.
Belphanior:  Good enough.  Anything you learn, share with
  everyone, no matter how small.  Aja can also heal you if
  necessary, though I think her abilities will be more useful in
  the conflict directly.  (he looks around)  That just leaves
Victoria:  (steps forth)  I am Victoria, and yes, I am a vampire.
  Don't waste time thinking on it, though.  I can fight undead
  more effectively than most of you, and my presence will throw
  them off, confuse them.  I may also be able to help out in
  assorted tight depends what Xusia has up his rotted
  sleeve.  (she moves to stand by Belphanior)
Nenya:  Excuse me if this is rude, but aren't you liable to be
  controlled by this lich?
everyone else:  (wondering the exact same thing)
Victoria:  No, it's good for you to ask.  Technically, the answer
  is yes; realistically, the chances are very small.  So small,
  in fact, that _you_-  (she waves her hand to point to most of
  the group)  -are more likely to fall under his influence.  I'm
  old enough and strong enough to resist any such attempt, but
  I'll avoid locking eyes with him and the more powerful
  opponents just in case.  Of course, the same goes for all of
  you, too.
Nenya:  (hugs Deryck closer)
Rob:  (glaring at her)  About the only thing I can suggest is
  that you stay behind me while I face the undead foes.  Well
  behind me.
Victoria:  (more than a little intimidated by something in the
  priest's gaze)  Understood.
Aja:  The same goes for spells that he - or I - may cast.  We
  will call your name if such a case arises.  (to Rob)  Correct?
Rob:  ...yes.  (he finds himself wishing he'd had time to draw
  up some scrolls of protection from undead)
Belphanior:  Be careful, both of you, with your invocations.
  Victoria, if you must, I want you to use your ring.
Victoria:  Only if I must.
Belphanior:  Yes.  What am I forgetting?
wispy thing:  (floats by, upside down)  Pfsss?
Otto:  No, not you.
Belphanior:  Ah, Angus.
Peyote:  Who?
Belphanior:  Angus, my iron golem.  You may have seen him below
  decks.  He's immensely strong and immune to most attacks, even
  those of the more powerful undead.  The problem is, he can't go
  with us in the swamp - he'd sink like the great mass of iron
  that he is.
Nenya:  We'll think of something.  Let's wait til we get there.
Belphanior:  Agreed.  If he is with us, he'll obey myself, Otto,
  or Victoria.  Angus doesn't think for himself however.  He
  follows exactly the orders given to him.  So.  Nenya, Peyote,
  and Rob I've fought with before, so I have some idea of what to
  expect.  Deryck and Daffodil, you especially need to let us all
  know what roles you can play in this affair.
wispy thing:  (sails past Peyote's face)  Yrrrp!
Peyote:  (turns his head to follow the wisp's flight)  Uh...okay
  then.  I'm Peyote, a great Druid of Obad-Hai.
Daffodil:  You're not the Great Druid!
Peyote:  No, but I am great at being a Druid.  So like I can do
  swordplay or magic, though I expect that most of my magic will
  only be useful in the swamp, before we reach Xusia's lair.
  (he frowns)  Druids and undead don't mix well.
Otto:  What about helping us more through the swamp?  Trying to
  get our weapons and equipment swamp-proofed is turning out to
  be a major pain in the ass.
several others:  (nodding and muttering)
Peyote:  By communing with Obad-Hai, I hope to gain us assistance
  from the denizens of the Vast Swamp...and perhaps druids, too,
  if there are any.  Hang in there.
Otto:  (nods)
Skektek:  I'll be happy to conjure a floating disc for people
  to dump their stuff in.
Belphanior:  Now that's a good idea; I know that spell too, and
  it'll be perfect for getting items through a swamp untouched.
Daffodil:  I'm also a Druid of Obad-Hai, and like Peyote, I have
  the same sorts of spells.  Both of us can heal anyone who gets
  hurt, but neither of us can turn or dispel undead with magic.
Peyote:  Oh, I also have a bagful of magic mushrooms.
Belphanior:  (eyes the half-elf dubiously)
Peyote:  No kidding, man!  Really...these mushrooms, when eaten,
  protect you against fear, cure poison, and such things.  I'll
  be dispensing them before we go into combat.
Daffodil:  Ahem.  I also wield Thornbolt.  (she holds up her
Thornbolt:  (speaking in a strong female voice)  I shock those I
  hit in battle - literally - and once in a while, I can launch
  a bolt of lightning or create a wall of thick thorns, so keep
  your eyes open.
Peyote:  Hey, baby, that reminds me.  I've also got some javelins
  that turn into bolts of lightning, but I'll make sure nobody's
  in the way before I hurl one of those babies.
Deryck:  (eyeing Peyote and Daffodil)  I am a servant to Ehlonna
  and as such do not care much to work with minions of Obad-Hai,
  but for this cause, I will put that aside.
Peyote:  Right on, man!
Deryck:  I'm, uh, quite skilled with the bow, but when the time
  comes for melee, I have both a dancing sword and a sword of
  flames, the latter of particular worth against the foul undead.
Victoria:  (beginning to grow uncomfortable, but also pleased
  that people are being so open, as she'd rather know what they
  can do than remain ignorant)
Deryck:  I also possess a magical horn that can summon a number of
  berserkers to aid our cause.  I will wind it when the need
  arises.  (to Jutokai)  I could use a "loan" of some silver-
  tipped arrows.
Jutokai:  You've got it.  (to Deryck)  Those of us who use bows
  must take great care to oil our bowstrings, to protect them
  against the swamp.
Deryck:  (nods)  One more thing:  it's been years since I fought
  in a real fight, with a sword.  Quite frankly, I'm rusty, and I
  need someone to spar with for a bit, before we arrive.
several others:  (nodding)
Deryck:  Good.
Nenya:  I am both warrior and wizard, though I think I will remain
  in the back to cast spells for this fight.  Most of my spells
  are destructive as well, I suppose.
Belphanior:  Deryck, I think you should remain close to Nenya.  I
  don't want you two getting distracted by losing sight of each
  other in the heat of battle.
Deryck:  (hugs Nenya closer)
Belphanior:  (grimly turns to Rob)  That just leaves you, priest.
Rob:  (helpfully)  Right.  I am a high priest of Trithereon.
  Justice and retribution are the ethos here and magic, especially
  holy magic, is my specialty.  This Xusia and his unholy servants
  will taste the full wrath of Trithereon soon.
Belphanior:  Now-
Rob:  There are several things we will need to do to prepare for
  the battle against the undead.  (he stands)
Belphanior:  I-
Rob:  First of all, I have been blessing some missile weapons
  already, and if anymore remain, I will see to them before we
Belphanior:  Th-
Rob:  Second!  I have given out some vials of holy water (he
  points at Otto) already, and will have more prepared before we
  see the lair of the lich.
Belphanior:  (scowling)
Rob:  I have also brought a magical flute which causes all allies
  to be blessed and shielded from evil.  I shall sound this
  instrument before we go into battle.
Peyote:  Gnarly.
Rob:  Quite.  I'll be wielding this magical weapon.  (he pats the
  mace at his side)  It's enchanted to cause powerful earth
  tremors so if you see me striking the ground with its butt end,
  be ready.
Belphanior:  So-
Rob:  Oh, and our last meal before we enter Xusia's domain will
  be a Heroes' Feast...this powerful spell will fortify us for
  what lies ahead.
Belphanior:  (waits)  Will there be anything else?
Rob:  Oh dear, did I forget something?
Daffodil:  There's one more thing that I need to bring
  may not seem important, but-
Belphanior:  Everything's important.  What is it?
Daffodil:  Well, I've never fought undead before, so some basic
  pointers would be helpful.
Belphanior:  Undead 101...Rob, if you'd be so kind...
Rob:  Welllll...poison and cold are generally useless, but acid
  and flaming oil - as well as other flames, of course, tend to
  work rather well.
Nenya:  Some undead are immune to other forms of attack.
Skektek:  Last time we met, Xusia shrugged off my lightning bolt
  like it was nothing.  (to Daffodil)  Remember that, since most
  of your heavy-duty offense seems to be based on electricity.
Daffodil:  Then Peyote and I will carry mostly healing spells,
  freeing the clerics to carry combat spells.
Peyote:  Excellent.
Belphanior:  All agreed?  (they nod)  Okay, everyone remember
  who to go to when you're hurt.  Anything else about fighting
Aja:  Avoid their never know what ill effect you
  may get from even a simple contact.
Nenya:  Charms and suggestions and holding magic hardly ever work
  on such foes, so don't waste your time.
Rob:  When it comes to the ones with lots of bones, blunt weapons
  usually do more damage.  (to Jutokai and Razor Charlie)  Your
  missile weapons probably won't slow skeletons down at all, so
  I'd suggest focusing your efforts on the "fleshy" undead.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers at the priest)
Victoria:  (helpfully)  Those that appear and act more intelligent
  are often the ones that drain life energy.  Watch their actions
  and movements - it may help.  And remember that most such undead
  can't be harmed by non-magical weapons.
Rob:  Hmm.  (nods)  Also, don't forget holy water - which, again,
  I have created in abundance.  Holy water will burn the flesh
  from any undead creature, so don't spare it.  It seems harmless
  to you, but it is the bane of the unliving.
Otto:  That's not all.  (he points to a crate)
Belphanior:  Eh?
Otto:  Back when me and Charlie and Jutokai went north - before we
  picked up Neko and Zhao there - we lived it up for two days
Jutokai:  When we sobered up, we remembered to buy a bunch of
Daffodil:  Food and drink?
Razor Charlie:  Oil.  Acid.  Healing potions.  Spikes.  Blades.
Otto:  It's all in that crate - we'll open it up later on.
Belphanior:  (eyes a second crate, one that he brought along but
  didn't mention to anyone)  Heh.

  As Belphanior thought to himself what he could do with the
contents of the second crate, the discussion began to break up
into individual conversations.  Belphanior brought everyone's
attention back to him banging his fist against the table.

Belphanior:  Alright, alright.  Let's get back on track.  We've
  had our introductions.  Does anyone have any brainstorms on how
  to coordinate our attacks?
Nenya:  I suggest code-words for us magi, before we cast a
  large-scale destructive spell.
Skektek:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  (nods)  What did you have in mind?
Nenya:  Something simple, something yelled out so that everyone
  knows what's about to happen.  How about..."RED" for a fire
  spell like a fireball..."WHITE" for an ice spell..."YELLOW" for
  a light spell or bright flare of any kind...maybe "BLACK" for
  anything electrical?
Belphanior:  I could do that.
Skektek:  I'll try to remember.
Nenya:  It's to warn everyone else...
others:  (nodding)
Nenya:  I also brought a bunch of light-pebbles...these have a
  permanent bright light spell cast upon them, and can come in
  handy in darkness or to surprise foes.  I'll be handing them
  out to whoever wants a couple, but remember the code word:
Skektek:  Light should be "white".
Nenya:  That's for ice.
Skektek:  Then ice should be "blue".
Belphanior:  (irritated)  Ice isn't "blue", it's "white".  And
  light spells are "yellow".  _I_ pick the colors, not you.
Skektek:  Yeah.
Belphanior:  Okay, it's getting late and there may not be much
  more rest in the near future, so let's wrap this up.  We've
  got myself, Victoria, Ys, Otto, Zhao, and Neko up front.  Peyote
  we may need you there as well or in back.  Razor Charlie,
  Jutokai, and Deryck will provide missile attacks and watch for
  flank attacks or surprises from the rear.  That leaves Rob,
  Aja, Nenya, Daffodil, and Skektek to provide magical support.
  Anything further?  Everyone know what they need to do to
everyone:  (nods)
Rob:  Are we done?
Belphanior:  Yes.  I'll close this with a reminder of our goal,
  which is simple:  kill everything, preferably from a distance;
  there are no friendlies where we're going.  Destroy ALL foes,
  grab any treasure, sterilize the area, and leave.  No mercy, no
  hesitation, and we all cover each other's backs:  we survive
  together or we die together.  And _I'm_ going to survive!

  A strange silence fell over the room which no one seemed willing
to break.  Belphanior stood up and left them pondering the serious
task ahead of them.  The briefing was over, and it was a success.
Everyone now felt much more confident about this mission, and
each of them had at least one thing to take care of or acquire.
All that remained was to succeed in their grand plan.  Most of
them didn't get to sleep for at least an hour or two, but sleep
they did, in the end.  On the morrow, they would arrive at the
Vast Swamp, and then they would land, to make their way into
Xusia's domain.

next:      they land in the Vast Swamp and set out on foot
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Thanks to David Murphy, Tom Vallow, Patrick Weeks, Lance
  Dooly, Matt Hurd, and Leonard Bottleman for suggestions shown in
  this episode.

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