Chapter #639

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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:           1/17/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the skies above the Horned Society lands              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "I escaped.  I always escape."                                        +
+                                     - Simon Templar, from _The Saint_   +

                       DCXXXIX.  Daydreams

  Almost a week ago, Belphanior and his allies attacked the home of one
Baron Albert, in Blackmoor.  Since then, they have stopped by a major
city to visit a temple of Wee Jas, in order to cure certain ailments
incurred during the battle with the vampiric wizard.  Now, they close
in on their next target...

Belphanior:  (in the skyship's control room, with only Otto to keep him
  company)  This is playing out a little differently than I'd imagined
  back when we planned the whole thing.
Otto:  How's that?
Belphanior:  I'm not sure.  It's just not like I expected it to be.
Otto:  Maybe what we need is some really destructive item we can just
  drop on our foes from above.
Belphanior:  (smiles)  Last time you said something like that, we got
  the idea to drop Angus onto Baron Albert's mansion.
Otto:  Forget Angus - I'm talking about something that would explode,
  leave a crater maybe fifty feet deep and hundred of feet wide.  Total
  obliteration of the target...
Belphanior:  I wonder...what kind of a world would it be if such weapons
Otto:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  Hmm.

  Meanwhile, in the hold below...

Skektek:  -and I could really use that ring you got from the treasure.
Mongo:  So could I.
Skektek:  No you can't!  Only wizards can get any use out of it.
Mongo:  Yeah.  I can trade it to one for something I _do_ need.
Skektek:  I'll trade...what do you want?
Mongo:  What do you have?
Skektek:  (quickly taking stock of his possessions)  Crap.
Mongo:  Nothing useful, huh?
Skektek:  It's not that.  I just need everything I have...the wand of
  fireballs...the staff of power...the thunder ring-
Mongo:  Hey, thunder ring!  I like the sound of that.
Skektek:  (flatly)  No.
Mongo:  (shrugs)
Skektek:  But you don't understand.  I _need_ that ring.
Mongo:  When you have something to trade, let me know.
Skektek:  (fuming)
Mongo:  Same deal I'd give anyone else.
Skektek:  (thinking quickly, he realizes that if he got the ring, he'd
  have to give up another one anyway)  How about a protection ring?
Mongo:  Lemme see.
Skektek:  (removes the simple, plain-looking band from his finger)
Mongo:  (turns the thing over in his hand)  Hmm.
Skektek:  Well?
Mongo:  Quiet.  I'm thinking.
Skektek:  (tapping his foot impatiently)
Ys:  (dozing in a huge chair after eating about a hundred pounds of
  fish, he opens one eye)
Mongo:  (yawns)  Nope.
Skektek:  What?!?
Mongo:  My ring is better than this ring.  A lot better.
Skektek:  Aaargh!
Mongo:  But...
Skektek:  Eh?
Mongo:  I'll _loan_ it to you, so that you can use it during these
  battles and then my quest.
Skektek:  Ah.  (he begins to wonder how he can end up keeping the
  ring permanently)
Mongo:  And you're probably sitting there wondering how you can end up
  keeping the ring.  Here's how:  when you get some magic item that
  I can use, or one that _is_ worth my ring, then we'll trade.  Until
  then...a loan.  (he hands Skektek the ornate ring from Baron Albert's
Skektek:  Ah!  (he puts the ring on)  Fits like a glove...made for me,
  obviously.  (he regards Mongo)
Mongo:  Now, since you have three rings but only two hands, I'll need
  your protection ring on loan.
Skektek:  What?!?
Mongo:  Just like you can use that ring I'm loaning you, someone else
  in our group can use your ring, which you won't be needing while you
  have mine.
Skektek:  You drive a hard bargain, dwarf.  (he hands the ring of
  protection over)
Mongo:  Hey, Gorgo.
Gorgo:  (busy playing cards with Bosco)  Huh?
Mongo:  (tosses the ring to his cousin)  Magic protection ring.
Gorgo:  Hey, great!  Thanks!  (he puts the ring on)
Ys:  Unfortunately, it will not protect him from yonder halfling's
Bosco:  (triumphantly presenting another winning hand, he rakes in the
  last of Gorgo's coinage from the recent adventure)
Gorgo:  Shit.
Bosco:  Anyone else?  (to Gorgo)  Unless you'd care to wager that ring
  you just got-
Mongo:  Bosco.
Bosco:  Eh?
Mongo:  No.
Bosco:  Hah, hah, just kidding.
Mongo:  If I see that ring on your finger, Bosco, I'll take it back -
  along with the finger.
Bosco:  Eep.  (he quickly goes to find something else to occupy his
  time and attention)

  The halfling roamed the hold, peeking into the different rooms.  He
thought about trying to get into that locked one at the stern of the
skyship, but remembered Belphanior's warning.  It wouldn't have made
much difference anyway, for Angus was stationed in front of the thick
oaken door.

Bosco:  Hey, Angus.  How's it hanging?

  The iron golem ignored him, as it always ignored him, and everyone
else but Belphanior.  Sometimes, Bosco had noticed, Otto seemed to
have some measure of command over the golem; however, the elf was
indisputably its master.  Bosco began to wonder how he, too, could
find himself such a golem, to command and control...
  Wrapped up in his thoughts, the halfling kept walking, ignoring the
huge golem until he bumped into its outstretched hand.

Angus:  (stands there impassively, blocking Bosco)
Bosco:  Aw, come on, Angus!  Let me in there...just one little peek...
Angus:  (stands there impassively)
Bosco:  Well, fine then.  (he turns on his heel and walks away, his
  mind drifting to other treasures he could find for himself)

  Bosco was pretty excited about the quest Mongo would soon be leading
them on.  Just about every fool on Oerth - Bosco included - had heard
of the empire that predated even the Suel people, stretching across
the world, seizing and hoarding countless riches.  Those had been grand
times, Bosco figured, especially if one was the emperor and controlled
all that power and wealth.
  As he formulated plans for his ultimate destiny, the halfling passed
by Aja's room.  The sounds coming from the chamber weren't unusual,
except in their volume; Bosco figured Jutokai to be a lucky man, at
least at this particular moment.  Whatever else he might be, however,
the halfling was no voyeur.  He walked on without stopping, content in
the knowledge that whatever the two had been arguing about a week ago
was now behind them.
  Bosco's wanderings took him above-deck, where it was possible to just
stand and feel the wind in your hair while you watched the clouds go by.
Now this was the place to be!

  Behind the halfling, in the steering cabin, Belphanior and Otto watched
the halfling watch the sky around the ship.

Belphanior:  Now what in the hell is he doing out there?
Otto:  Let's just hope he doesn't fall off.

  Outside, Bosco's thoughts turned to the more unpleasant things in his
life at the moment.  The most prominent of these, by far, was the fact
that sooner or later Pompa-Peyvur's masters would come after him again.
Oh, it might not be the masters themselves, or even the lardass Peyvur.
Someone would come, though.  In fact, Bosco had noticed some people in
the Green Dragon Inn right before he'd left Greyhawk with Belphanior...
people who looked like they were from the same lands as Peyvur.  It hadn't
been complete coincidence that Bosco had been ready to leave the city for
a while at precisely the time someone had a mission lined up.
  That was the funny thing about Belphanior:  the elf and his allies
never seemed to leave any foes alive.  In a way, Bosco felt safer with
Belphanior than he did in Greyhawk with Peldor and Tanya.  Peldor would
talk his way out of anything, if he could; Belphanior's blade spoke for
him, more often than not.
  Still, all of this didn't have any bearing on the basic problem:  those
who sent Pompa-Peyvur to bring Bosco to trial would keep trying until
they had the halfling.  If their agents were killed, more would come.  If
they were killed, someone else would come to avenge them.  Where would it
end?  How could he convince them that he'd been possessed by a demon at
the time he'd laid waste to the better part of two towns, killing dozens
of innocents?  Or could he _ever_ convince them?
  Bosco just didn't have any of the answers, but one thing was certain:
the questions weren't being asked by anyone as long as Bosco was away on
these quests.

next:      plan of attack, and then...attack!
released:  5/15/00
notes:     Well, it's done - I've moved.  The actual moving didn't take
  long, but added to the unpacking and organizing, it made for a busy
  weekend.  Time to settle into the new place.  It's a 2/1 condo which
  I'm renting for a year, maybe buying after that, if it works out ok.
    For better or worse, I am trying to wrap up as many dangling plotlines
  as I can between episodes 600 and 700.

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