Chapter #626

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                                     +
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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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Angus          an iron golem                                        +
+     Aja                      human priestess of Wee Jas                 +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo         dwarven berserker                                     +
+   Otto             8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:           1/10/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          Baron Albert's domain, in Blackmoor                   +
+   Climate:        chilly                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "The hardest thing to hear - for any of us - is something we          +
+    don't agree with."                                                   +
+                                            - from _Prince of Darkness_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                      DCXXVI.  To the Victors...





  After demolishing Baron Albert's mansion, Baron Albert's forces, and
then Baron Albert himself, the adventurers are wrapping things up.  Even
now, they are completing their explorations of the late foe's lair...

Otto:  -we got lucky.
Skektek:  How's that?
Otto:  That beholder seemed a bit easy to kill.
Aja:  Easy?!?  How would you know?
Otto:  It just so happens that I once watched an entire force fall to a
  beholder.  (he shrugs)  Which leads me to believe that the one we just
  fought was young, or injured, or retarded, or something.
Belphanior:  Maybe we did get lucky, but we still won.  I don't care if
  it's luck, skill, cheating...as long as we win.
Mongo:  Hey, no problems there.
Bosco:  Maybe it was just a weak beholder.  Anything that powerful that
  serves someone else...well, there's got to be a reason.  You know?
Otto:  (nods)  Be that as it may...we were prepared, aggressive, and had
  the element of surprise.  Our foes had none of these advantages, and
  it showed.  Maybe they got soft, sitting here in this mansion in the
  middle of nowhere.  Hard to tell...but it doesn't matter now, since
  we're alive and they're worm food.
Gorgo:  (only half-listening)  Food?

  They'd spent the last hour exploring the rest of the destroyed mansion's
cellar.  There had been little of value or interest - apparently most of
the valuables and possessions had been stored above ground.  Nevertheless,
the adventurers still came away with quite a haul:  the deceased Baron
Albert had been wearing or carrying a number of magical items.  There was
also the treasure in the small golden chest they'd found in the floor of
the vampire's coffin chamber.

Belphanior:  As I said, we'll divide that stuff up later, when we're safe
  aboard the skyship.  For now, what I'd really like to know is what's
  giving off such a powerful magical aura...(he faces a wall)  Hmm.  It's
  coming from that direction.
Bosco:  (using his ring of x-ray vision to scrutinize the stone)  Nothing
  hidden here, or behind.
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  When you say "powerful magic aura"...how powerful
  are you talking about?
Belphanior:  Pretty damned powerful.
Otto:  We should go back to the first area here, where we came down, and
  then check all of the walls from that point on.  We might have missed
  something.
Belphanior:  I think we definitely missed something.

  It took them a while, but eventually they found it:  there was a hidden
space behind one of the walls in the coffin room.

Otto:  Well, how about that...
Bosco:  (produces his magical granite dagger)  I can cut through the wall
  in no time-
Belphanior:  That's okay.  My way's better.  Angus!

  In short order, the golem had smashed a hole through the foot-thick
stone wall, revealing a ten-foot-wide passage beyond.  The corridor was
crudely cut from the surrounding stone, and led away out of sight.

Belphanior:  Curiouser and curiouser...

  The adventurers regrouped into battle formation before proceeding into
the passage, but it turned out to be unnecessary.  After a short, winding
distance, the tunnel opened into a larger space.  The small cavern, like
the passage that led to it, had been roughly hewn from the stone around
it.  Its shape was that of a quarter-sphere, about ten feet in radius.
The large hemispherical side of the room faced them as they entered, and
that entire wall was molten, as if a fireball had just detonated here.

Otto:  It's still steaming.
Gorgo:  (reaches out and touches the melted rock)  Ow!
Mongo:  You dummy.  Get away from there.
Skektek:  Couldn't have been a fireball or lightning bolt - we'd have
  known about that, one way or another.  (he looks around)  Especially
  if it happened in a confined space like this.
Aja:  (to Belphanior)  Traps?
Belphanior:  No...just magic.  Strong magic.
Bosco:  Where?
Belphanior:  (gestures to the molten wall)  There.
Ys:  The answer seems fairly obvious:  something highly magical was in
  here, and it was destroyed.
Belphanior:  Yup.
Jutokai:  Good.  Can we leave now?  (he fidgets, wanting to be out of this
  dark place)
Otto:  (looking around)  No other entrances or exits.
Bosco:  (helpfully)  Or treasure.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (he digs in his pack, eventually finding a small glass
  jar)  I might want to look at this in more detail when the time is right.
  Bosco.
Bosco:  Yeah?
Belphanior:  Let me borrow that stone-cutting knife for a moment.
Bosco:  Why?
Belphanior:  (glares at the halfling)
Bosco:  Okay, okay.  (he hands the knife over)

  Taking care not to burn himself, Belphanior sliced a small chunk of the
melted stone out of the wall, placing it in the glass jar and securing the
lid.

Belphanior:  (returns the knife to Bosco, hilt first)  Any rock that's
  giving off an aura like this bears further investigation.
Skektek:  I might be able to figure out what sort of energy melted it...
Belphanior:  (nods)  We'll look into this when we get back to Helgate.

  With that, their work here was done.  Within the hour, they had left the
cellar and the ruined mansion far behind...

Bosco:  Did you have to torch the house?
Belphanior:  No, I didn't have to.
Otto:  Best to leave as little evidence as possible.
Bosco:  Ah!  (he wonders who might care about such 'evidence' in the first
  place)
Belphanior:  (reminds himself to talk with Skektek about recharging his
  fireball-wand, when they get back to Helgate)



  Midday found them sailing among the clouds, en route to their next port
of call.

Otto:  The temple of you-know-who?
Belphanior:  Right.  Should be about two days, give or take.  Where is
  everyone?
Otto:  Below, eating and resting.
Belphanior:  How's Aja?
Otto:  Well, it could be worse.  She's slowly regaining her strength
  and endurance.  Looks like those undead effects were just temporary.
Belphanior:  But...?
Otto:  But, she's been aged maybe ten years, and she's lost some life
  force.
Belphanior:  Damn it.
Otto:  She needs a temple...probably a temple of her own goddess, Wee
  Jas.
Belphanior:  Negative.
Otto:  What?
Belphanior:  We don't have time to go find one and stay there for
  however long it will take.
Otto:  Hmm...we don't even know where one is.
Belphanior:  My point exactly.
Otto:  We should at least ask her and find out, in case it's an option.
Belphanior:  (sighs)  Very well.  But if it's out of our way...
Otto:  I'll let you know shortly.  (he pauses for what turns out to be a
  long, awkward silence)  About the loot we found back there...
Belphanior:  Yes.  We need to divide up the treasure, and discern the
  properties of the magical items.  Maybe tonight?
Otto:  Sounds good.  You'll need to be there to figure out the enchantments
  of the magical items, right?
Belphanior:  And also to make sure I get the ones I want.
Otto:  Gotcha.

  By the time the skies had darkened, several questions had been answered.
It turned out that Aja did indeed need a temple (and high priestess) of
Wee Jas.  Fortunately, there was one situated within a major city that
was right along their travel route.  After arranging that stop with Aja,
Belphanior decided that getting his priestess' ailments cured was in
fact the most sensible course of action, especially considering where
they were going for the next attack.
  For Aja's part, she was in good spirits despite being quite weak.
Jutokai seemed aloof, unsure what to do or how to treat her now that
she'd been magically dilapidated.  He'd been keeping to himself ever
since the battle, and Aja hadn't seemed to notice overmuch.
  One other member of the group had been weakened by the attacks of
undead.  Gorgo wasn't as badly affected as Aja, but he needed some
curative magic too - magic which she was sure the temple of Wee Jas
would provide.
  That evening found everyone gathered in the main galley...

Belphanior:  -have completed my divinations.  We need to divide this stuff
  up.
Mongo:  How do you want to do it?
Belphanior:  I figured I'd call out each item and we could try and give it
  to the one who can most use it.
Skektek:  I'll be wanting that wand, then.
Belphanior:  Ah.  (he holds up the wand that was found in the chest)  This
  has several cold-oriented powers.
Skektek:  (raises his hand)  I volunteer.
Belphanior:  Very well.  (he hands the wand to the wizard)  No testing on
  board the ship - wait until we're on land again.
Skektek:  Oh, I'll wait until enemies are arrayed against us...
Belphanior:  Right.  Next...here's a ring that helps wizards with their
  spell-casting.  Since Skektek and I are the only wizards, and Skektek
  just got something...(he takes the ring)
Mongo:  (not caring much for this method of treasure-dividing, he frowns)
Belphanior:  This other ring confers upon its wearer protection from many
  spells of holding and such.  Maybe good for you, Gorgo?
Gorgo:  Sure.  (he takes the ring, happily)
Belphanior:  (holds up a cloak)  This is also enchanted to help keep the
  wearer safe from harm.
Aja:  Is it just me, or is it shifting and moving on its own?
Belphanior:  Yup.  Can you use this?
Aja:  Not really.
Belphanior:  Anyone else?  Mongo?
Mongo:  I don't wear cloaks.  They get in the way.
Belphanior:  Jutokai?  Ys?
Jutokai:  Oh, I'll take it.  (he does so)
Belphanior:  Next, we have boots that allow the wearer to leap about like
  a gazelle.
Otto:  I could use some boots.  The ones I'm wearing are about shot anyway.
Belphanior:  (hands the boots to his right-hand man)
Aja:  What about that amulet, there?
Belphanior:  Yes, this...it carries powerful magic, to shield one's life
  force.
Aja:  I could definitely use that, given my line of work.
Belphanior:  (hands the amulet over)
Bosco:  Hey, what if I wanted that?
Belphanior:  What if?
Bosco:  (frowns)
Belphanior:  No worries, Bosco - I saved the best for you.  This pouch
  contains dust that creates illusions.
Bosco:  Really?
Belphanior:  I figured one as mighty as you would want something as mighty
  as this.
Bosco:  (takes the pouch)  Whoa.
Belphanior:  That leaves us with a flask of iron and a black gem.  I wasn't
  able to identify the gem - I want to tackle that back in Helgate.  As for
  the iron flask, I believe it only works for wizards, and I may need to
  consult Alindyar about both.
Skektek:  (looks like he's about to say something, then thinks better of it)
Belphanior:  So, I'm taking both for now.  (he regards Ys and Mongo)
Ys:  (shrugs)  If the truth be told, none of these items held any particular
  interest for me anyway.
Mongo:  Fuck that.  I want something.  If not the flask or gemstone, then
  give me that ring you got.
Belphanior:  (holds up the ring of wizardry)  This ring?
Mongo:  Yeah, that ring.
Belphanior:  But you can't use it-
Mongo:  But I can sell or trade it for something I can use.  (he holds out
  his hand)
Belphanior:  Very well.  (he hands the ring over)

  In actuality, Belphanior didn't mind giving up the ring, for he had one
just like it on his left ring finger.  Besides, the potential uses of the
iron flask and the black gemstone outweighed any of the other baubles he'd
just divided.  In particular, that dark gem was likely to bear a strong
enchantment against clerical undead-turning, which would be an excellent
gift for Victoria.

Belphanior:  Now, as for the monetary portion of the loot...(he beckons to
  Angus, who carries a slab of wood over)

  Atop the slab were eight cloth pouches, each of which appeared to be
stuffed with coins.  The elf handed these to everyone else present.

Belphanior:  The sum of the treasure, split eight ways.  For those of you
  who work for me in Helgate, consider this bonus pay.
Skektek:  (nods)
Jutokai:  (thinking about all the things he could do with the year's worth
  of pay, give or take a month, that just got handed to him)
Gorgo:  (opens his pouch, spilling golden coins into his hand)  Yeah!
Mongo:  (considers reminding his cousin that they're going to have about
  a million times that much gold when they find and plunder the lost tomb
  of Hyperion, but then decides to save his breath and let Gorgo savor the
  moment)
Bosco:  (counting heads)  -six, seven, eight.  Hey!  (to Belphanior)  What
  about you?
Belphanior:  What about me?
Bosco:  Where's your gold-pouch?
Belphanior:  I split up my share among the rest of you.  A token of my
  gratitude for being rid of Baron Albert.
Otto:  Revenge is sweet, eh?
Belphanior:  That it is.  And it will be even sweeter in a few days' time,
  when we hit our next target!





next:      Alindyar makes another try for the Lord of Illusions
ftp:       ftp.peldor.com
www:       http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:  http://www.peldor.com/
email:     tmiller@peldor.com
           tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu
released:  3/30/00
notes:     Belphanior's a crafty bastard, eh?
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