Chapter #636

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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   +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+      Zephyr          rather large tiger                                 +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+   Date:           2/2/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the Vesve Forest                                      +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "He's our best man...though I never tell him."                        +
+                                 - "M", from _The World Is Not Enough_   +

                    DCXXXVI.  A Gathering of Forces

  Two weeks have passed since Halbarad's discovery of orcs roaming through
woodlands where they didn't belong.  He has recently arrived in the Vesve
Forest and shared his findings with Peyote...

Halbarad:  I don't like it at all.  Orcs, and other such scum, seldom
  venture into that forest.  The fact that an organized war party marched
  through there can't be a good omen.
Peyote:  What can it mean?
Halbarad:  One of two things, I figure.  Either someone's planning to mount
  an attack on the peaceful lands to the south of the forest, or the orcs
  have a hidden base somewhere in the woodlands.  (he frowns)  That latter
  possibility bothers me...a lot.
Peyote:  Hmm.
Halbarad:  Where's Daffodil?
Peyote:  Around here somewhere.

  Halbarad knew that Daffodil - like a large number of Obad-Hai's other
followers here - did not care much for the presence of a ranger of Ehlonna.
Peyote hadn't let that affect their friendship; the half-elf was willing to
compromise in a great many areas, but he wasn't one to let others tell him
who his friends should be.  Both of them knew from past experience that the
differences in which deity they followed didn't much matter when one's life
was at risk.  More could be accomplished by working in unison, and Peyote's
stance had been firm.
  Indeed, these two and the high priest Rob had worked together many a time
since splitting off from their old adventuring companions several years ago.
Peyote had made some joke about outcasts, which Halbarad had ignored and Rob
hadn't understood.  Of course, Rob was a changed man these days...

Peyote:  Do you really buy that story about magical fruit making him wiser
  and smarter?
Halbarad:  Pardon?
Peyote:  Rob, I mean.  The story about how he was in some deep dungeon and
  ate some way magical fruit, and then ceased to be senseless?
Halbarad:  That's not quite the way he put it.  What makes you speak of Rob
  when we've been talking about orcs and potential invasions?
Peyote:  Beats me, dude.  I guess I was just musing.  (he grins)  Hey, there
  was this muse once, in this temple I snuck into one night-
Halbarad:  Better keep that to yourself, my friend.
Peyote:  Hmm, good point.  Don't want to get busted.
Halbarad:  Well, to answer your question about Rob and his acquisition of
  common sense...yes, I guess I do believe his outlandish story.
Peyote:  Remember those days of him tripping all the time and drinking acid
  and stuff like that?
Halbarad:  Long gone, and none too soon, I must say.  I like him better this
Peyote:  I wonder what he's up to?
Halbarad:  We may know sooner than you think.  I've been in contact with him
  lately, most recently before I went into the woodlands this last time.
  Trithereon, it would seem, is also interested in this matter.
Peyote:  As is Obad-Hai.
Halbarad:  Naturally.  The fighting of evil is always the common factor
  between us.
Peyote:  We should get with Rob and try to get right to the bottom of this
  whole deal.

  Just then, there was a knock at the door.

Peyote:  What's up?
druid:  (enters)  You've got a visitor, O Luminous One.
Peyote:  On my way.
druid:  (leaves)
Halbarad:  (critically)  "O Luminous One" ?
Peyote:  Hey, I like it.

  They went outside, Halbarad immediately looking around for his giant
tiger, which was nowhere to be seen.

Halbarad:  Now that's odd.
Peyote:  (looks around)
Halbarad:  Zephyr!  (he whistles)  Zephyr!  Now where did that cat get off
Peyote:  He's in the ficus bushes, there.
Halbarad:  (turns)

  It was true.  The huge tiger had fallen asleep amidst a large cluster
of bushes.  Having heard its master's call, it had opened one eye, rolling
around onto its back, paws in the air.

Peyote:  Maybe he's stoned.
Halbarad:  Not a chance.  I warned him against eating any of the mushrooms
  that grow here.
Peyote:  Well, let's see who's come to dinner.  Err, lunch.  Err, late lunch.

  They walked a short distance, Halbarad admiring the serene and natural
setting all around.  Only druids and rangers could live in such harmony with
the wilderness, and it always pleased him to see others like himself.

Peyote:  Whoa!  It _is_ Rob!
Halbarad:  So soon?

  The priest looked about the same as he had last time:  roughly thirty,
a slight bit paunchy, average height and build...very _normal_.  However,
anyone who assessed him based on just his looks would be severely under-
estimating the man.

Rob:  Greetings.
Peyote:  Enter freely and of your own-
Rob:  Yes, yes.
Peyote:  How'd you get here, anyway?
Rob:  (shrugging nonchalantly)  I walked on the winds.
Peyote:  Oh.
Halbarad:  (to the priest)  Any news?
Rob:  As a matter of fact, I bear grave news.  Not one but _two_ parties
  of orcs have been seen in the northern reaches of the Shield Lands.
Peyote:  Aie.
Halbarad:  That is grave news.
Rob:  It is possible that they have...unusual leadership.  Perhaps the
  Horned Society.
Halbarad:  Are they on the move?
Rob:  They're moving south, but not too fast or too far.  Perhaps they're
  looking for something.
Halbarad:  Steps must be taken to ensure that they don't succeed, then.
  We need to mobilize a strike force.
Peyote:  And attack
Daffodil:  (appears)  Is that such a good idea?
Halbarad:  (regards her cooly)  The strike force?  Of course.  Evil cannot
  be allowed to simply roam about in the lands of the free and the homes
  of the-
Daffodil:  I meant that Peyote going along wouldn't be a good idea.
Rob:  We could use his magic.
Halbarad:  And his sword.
Peyote:  And my witty comments and wry sense of humor!
Rob:  Those, too.
Daffodil:  (to Peyote)  You have duties here-
Peyote:  -which others can attend to for a few days.  I'm the big cheese,
  and if I want to go fight evil, I can and will.  Besides, I kinda need a
Daffodil:  Then I'm going with you.
Peyote:  Sure thing.
Daffodil:  (surprised, as she was expecting an argument)  Uh...
Peyote:  (scoops her up in his arms)  I can't think of anyone I'd rather
  have on my side in a fight.  Any other woman, anyway.
Daffodil:  (her anger defused simply by Peyote being Peyote, she smiles)
Rob:  (to Halbarad)  How touching.
Halbarad:  Hmph.
Peyote:  (makes a mental note to see about getting the ranger a woman)

  They decided to stay in the henge for a day or so, to rest and prepare for
their journey.  Both Peyote and Halbarad had no doubt that Rob's information
was accurate; the priest simply didn't repeat things unless he knew them to
be true.  Also, they knew that Rob wasn't merely using them as pawns in some
overall scheme of him or his deity (the way some, like Belphanior, surely
would.)  There were orcs - and their allies, likely their masters - where
there should not be orcs.  By striking hard and fast, they could both defeat
the foes and learn their motivations - something Halbarad hadn't been able
to do on his own in the forest, weeks ago.

next:      orcstorm
released:  5/4/00
notes:     Zephyr's behavior in this story was inspired by my cat, which
  was asleep on the bed while I was writing.

    Bonus points to anyone who can tell me the origin of "O Luminous One."

    My newest ramblings:

    Another cool movie preview:
  Too bad we have to wait til Christmas 2001/2002/2003 for each of the
  three parts, but all good things are worth the wait, I suppose.

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