Chapter #619

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                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2000 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Alindyar        17th level drow wizard                                +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Date:           1/26/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          a small town to the northeast of Hardby               +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "We all wear masks."                                                  +
+                                               - from _Batman Forever_   +

                       DCXIX.  The Hill People

  The drow - freshly disguised by illusion, of course - were the toast
and talk of the town.

mayor:  -insist that you accept this reward, as a token of our gratitude.
Alindyar:  (regards the small sack of coins)  Nay.
Lyra:  We were happy to help.  (she ruffles the hair of one of the little
  girls who they saved from the trolls last night)  Only too happy.
mayor:  But...but...
Alindyar:  Perhaps this "reward" could be applied toward a new wagon for
  these people.  After all, the trolls ruined their old wagon.
mayor:  Of course!  If you say so, it shall be done.
Lyra:  And now...we really must be on our way.
mayor:  So soon?
Alindyar:  We have pressing business nearby.
Ragnor:  (shakes their hands)  Pleasure helping you.
Lyra:  The pleasure was all ours.

  The drow had fresh food and drink, thanks to the grateful townspeople.
They bade their farewells and departed, getting back on the trail, their
well-rested horses keeping a good, rapid pace.

Lyra:  I guess maybe it's a good thing we didn't stay there an extra day.
Alindyar:  Agreed.  I understand their appreciation for our help, but it
  does grow old after a while.

  Shortly past noon, the low, ridged slopes of the Abbor-Alz came into
view in the distance.  A few hours later, as they drew near the hills, a
challenge was issued from the denizens of the area:  a trio of mounted
warriors rode forth, weapons ready at their sides.  One bore a lance,
while the second man held a battleaxe and the third was armed with a

warrior #1:  Ho, there.
Alindyar:  ...ho.
warrior #1:  You are trespassing on our lands.
Lyra:  That may be, but we seek one who is said to live here.
warrior #2:  Hold your tongue, woman.  Who gave you leave to speak?

  Lyra, enraged, was working up a suitable magical retort...but Alindyar
beat her to it as he held forth the small rod with the tiny mummified
hand at its end.  A giant translucent hand scooped up all three riders,
horses and all, and lifted them a good thirty feet into the air.

Alindyar:  Understand this:  we will not be stalled, delayed, or trifled
  with.  Relay this message to your chieftain, or whoever you call master.
warrior #1:  U- uh...we shall.
warrior #2:  (looking around frantically)
warrior #3:  (trying to escape the hand, he is unable to do so)
Alindyar:  Is my message clear?  Crystal clear?
warrior #1:  It is.
Alindyar:  Good.  (he puts the men and their horses down)
horses:  (quite panicked, they rear up and whine for a bit before their
  riders are able to calm them)
Alindyar:  We shall only warn you once:  any further threats or attacks
  will result in a show of magical power, the like of which none of you
  or your people have ever witnessed before.
Lyra:  (as an afterthought)  Take us to your leader.

  For a good quarter-hour, the warriors led the two visitors into their
hills, stopping any of their people who spoke or tried to interfere.
Both drow had already cast magical protections, and Alindyar had his
staff of power ready in case of treachery.
  There was no treachery.  His earlier message had come across loud and
clear.  The warriors took the drow into a crude village, past numerous
huts and fires and hill-people, until they reached a larger and sturdier

warrior #1:  Stay here.  I will go tell the chieftain of your arrival.
  (he enters the hut)
Alindyar:  (regards warrior #2)
warrior #2:  (turns away)
warrior #3:  (shuffling nervously in the saddle)

  Presently, a pair of large, burly guards emerged, followed by the
first warrior.

warrior #1:  You can leave your horses here.  They will be taken care
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  You don't think they'll do anything to our
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Nay.  They seem skittish...and with good
Lyra:  (dismounts, covered by Alindyar, then watches the hill-people
  as Alindyar dismounts)
guard #1:  You'll have to leave that staff outside.
Alindyar:  I think not.
guard #2:  But-
Alindyar:  Had we wanted to destroy your village, or your chieftain, we
  would have done it already.
Lyra:  And we wouldn't have needed a staff, either.
guard #1:  (grumbling)
voice from within:  Let them enter.
guards:  (immediately pull the hut's crude wooden door open, beckoning
  the drow silently)

  The interior of the hut was lavish, at least by the standards they'd
seen here in the village.  Thick furs were piled all about, and candles
in wrought-iron sconces provided ample light.  Across the hut, in an
ancient, heavy-looking wooden chair, an old man rested.  His arms were
folded across his chest, and he had the look of a chieftain.

chieftain:  So you are the ones who command the mighty magic.
Alindyar:  We are.
chieftain:  Why are you here?  Not to raze our village and kill our
  warriors and plunder our women.
Lyra:  Definitely not that.
Alindyar:  We seek who departed the large city to the north
  and west, many winters who is said to live here, somewhere
  in the Abbor-Alz.
chieftain:  (leans forward)  What sort of man do you mean?
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  He knows something.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye.  We must work to double-team him,
  get him to admit without intending to.
Lyra:  He's a spell-worker...a mighty one.
chieftain:  Mightier than you two?
Alindyar:  Err...doubtful.
chieftain:  Have you come to challenge him, or to ally with him?
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Damn.  Tough question.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Perhaps we should have cast ESP on _him_.
chieftain:  (grins, cackling)  Ha!
Lyra:  You could say that we...merely wish to talk with him.
Alindyar:  There should be no destruction or such conflict.
chieftain:  Of course not.  That's what they always say.
Lyra:  Others have come here seeking this wizard?
chieftain:  From time to time.  Sometimes they leave...sometimes they
  do not.
Alindyar:  Most passing odd.
chieftain:  I have reached my decision.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Well, that's good.
chieftain:  I will have two of my best trackers take you to the area
  where the one you seek dwells.  But it shall cost you.
Alindyar:  Oh, we have every intention of making it worth your while.
  (he produces a pouch and tosses it to the chieftain)
chieftain:  (regards the pouch suspiciously, as if it might eat his
  hand or something of the sort)
Lyra:  Oh, for- it's full of coins!
chieftain:  (shakes the pouch, hearing the clinking of coins within)
Alindyar:  I trust that sum will be sufficient?
chieftain:  (dumps the coins out in his lap, his eyes gleaming)  Yes.
  Our village accepts your token of gratitude.
Lyra:  I'll just bet it does.
Alindyar:  Is the place we seek far from here?  We wish to go there
  with all due haste.
chieftain:  Not far at all. (he stashes the coins and pouch beneath
  a heavy fur, then stands)  Come.  You shall have your guides.
Alindyar:  One more thing.
chieftain:  Eh?
Alindyar:  No tricks or lies.  If this is some kind of trap or ambush,
  someone shall be very, very sorry.
chieftain:  Bah.  No traps, no tricks.  We can take you to the one you
  seek.  Whether he will speak with you, I know not.  But we will take
  you to him.
Lyra:  Then you have our thanks.

  The hill people seemed only too happy to get the drow out of their
village; the two guides, both rough and mean-looking men, were quick
and efficient.  They led the drow out of the village and into the
hills, following no road or track that either dark elf could detect.

Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  A trap, maybe?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I doubt it.  Still, we shall keep alert.

  Less than an hour later, the horsemen stopped.

tracker #1:  (gestures ahead)  This is as far as we go.
Alindyar:  But where...?
tracker #2:  See that pointed hill in the distance?  That's where
  you want to go.
Lyra:  You're afraid, aren't you?
tracker #1:  Not afraid.  Smart.  Afraid happens when you get closer.
  (with that, he turns and rides back the way they came, along with
  the other)
Alindyar:  Well.
Lyra:  We're almost there.  I wonder why he lives all the way out here
  in the middle of nowhere?
Alindyar:  There is only one way to find out.  (they spur their mounts
  onward, toward the odd hill in the distance)

next:      finally, the drow find their quarry
released:  3/6/00
notes:     A lot of people have been asking about Arlanni, the young
  female thief who was the sole member of her group to escape death
  after invading Belphanior's castle.  Here's the short answer:  no,
  we will NOT be seeing her again.  Not every minor supporting NPC is
  a loose end worth worrying about.  Sorry.

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