Chapter #655

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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   +
+   Alindyar        17th level drow wizard                                +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Date:           2/25/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           early evening, presumably                             +
+   Place:          elsewhere                                             +
+   Climate:        comfortable                                           +
+   "Let's just say I was testing the bounds of reality."                 +
+                                     - Jim Morrison, from _The Doors_    +

                      DCLV.  More Than Meets the Eye

  After defeating some illusionary defenses, Alindyar and Lyra have walked
into a teleportation zone...

Alindyar:  (looks around)  Amazing.
Lyra:  By the gods...

  They seemed to be in a completely different world.  Rather than the dark
sky and broken landscape that they'd just stood between, they were now
under a pleasant greenish-blue sky.  Everything was well-lit, despite the
lack of a visible sun above.  Neither their eyes nor their skin were at
all irritated by this light.  They stood in the middle of a field of lush
grass, among which flowers of all colors were scattered.  A path of soft
earth, devoid of grass, led from their location - through the field and
in the direction of a distant village.

Alindyar:  What in the world is going on here?
Lyra:  (smirks)  You led us to this place.
Alindyar:  (wondering if this is just another illusion)

  Concentrate as he might, Alindyar could detect nothing illusory here.
It was as real as anything he'd ever seen.

Alindyar:  But where _are_ we?
little green gnome-like guy:  In my home, of course.
Alindyar:  (whirls)  Aie!
Lyra:  Whoa!

  Neither of the dark elves had seen or heard the little fellow approach,
yet there he was, right behind them:  a three-foot tall being with smooth,
hairless green skin and large yellow eyes.  These eyes lacked pupils, a
property which was rather unnerving.  Except for his head and hands, the
creature's body was completely covered, for he was clad in a well-worn
brown robe.

gnome:  (smiling)  Welcome to my humble abode.
Alindyar:  And who might you be?
little gnome-like guy:  I go by many names...most of them not of my own
  making.  Call me...Tonberry.
Alindyar:  Tonberry?!?
Tonberry:  Suffice it to say that you've been searching for me for quite
  some time now.
Alindyar:  The Lord of Illusions...
Tonberry:  Who else?
Lyra:  Wait, wait.  Hold it just a moment.
Alindyar:  Eh?
Lyra:  I don't buy it.  It's too easy.
Tonberry:  Oh, really?  (he waves his hand)

  In the blink of an eye - maybe less - they were standing under a night
sky, the stars twinkling overhead.  A cool breeze blew, the air cleaner
than any they had ever smelled.  The entire scene was actually quite

Tonberry:  Perhaps further...demonstrations would help to convince you?
Lyra:  Uh...
Alindyar:  Are we actually moving from place to place, or...?
Tonberry:  Very perceptive.  Your instincts serve you well.
Alindyar:  An illusion, then?
Tonberry:  If you wish to call it that.  When one walks the paths I walk,
  it really doesn't matter.

  Just like that, they found themselves back in the grassy-field setting.
Unlike teleportation magic, there had been no sense, however brief, of
moving through space.  Or moving at all, for that matter.

Lyra:  (staring at the little green-skinned being)  What _are_ you?
Tonberry:  (shrugs)  I am Tonberry.
Alindyar:  Obviously.  But where do you come from?  What is your origin?
Tonberry:  There are some questions that must always go unanswered.  You
  should be thankful that I allowed you to come here in the first place.
Lyra:  Why did you, then?
Alindyar:  Indeed...why not simply continue to elude us...rather than
  exposing to us your home in the wastelands?
Tonberry:  What makes you think that we're still in the wastelands?
Alindyar:  Hmm.
Tonberry:  For that matter, what makes you think that you were _ever_ in
  the wastelands?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  If what he - it - says is true, the power
  levels involved must be staggering.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  That's putting it mildly.
Tonberry:  I would be a most ungracious host if I did not immediately
  inform you that your thoughts are open to me.
Alindyar:  (sighs)  I should have known.
Tonberry:  Let us retire to more...comfortable environs.

  A moment later, they found themselves sitting in plush yet simple
chairs of the softest leather, within what appeared to be a wooden cabin.
The chairs were arrayed around a small table, upon which were several
decanters holding various drinks.

Alindyar:  Are we truly indoors?
Tonberry:  (shrugs)  I wanted you to be relaxed.
Lyra:  So you simply made it happen.  How does one come to command that
  kind of power?
Tonberry:  To tell you the truth, I have forgotten.
Alindyar:  I must admit, I am surprised that we were able to find you.
Tonberry:  Nobody finds me unless I wish it.
Lyra:  Then...why?
Tonberry:  Think of it this way:  the more effort you put into your own
  search, the more attention you drew.  Every person you sought some kind
  of information from was a person who might themselves seek me out some
Alindyar: order to avoid drawing attention to yourself, you...
  ended our quest prematurely?
Tonberry:  It was either that, or simply destroy you.
Lyra:  (frowns)
Tonberry:  But you need not worry about that.  I would never allow such
  talent to be wasted.
Alindyar:  Eh?
Tonberry:  You are one of a handful of beings who represent the most
  skilled and powerful illusionists in the world.
Alindyar:  Surely you jest.
Tonberry:  (gravely)  I do not jest.
Alindyar:  What of Balveebes?
Tonberry:  Balveebes is skilled, but you have surpassed him, whether he
  knows it or not.
Alindyar:  (smugly, to Lyra)  See?
Lyra:  Hmph.
Tonberry:  There are others...a deep gnome beneath Greyhawk...a lone,
  renegade slaad in the depths of Lake Quag, a rather colorful fellow
  within the ranks of Iuz...a vampiric wizard in the Sink-  oh, never
  mind that one.
Alindyar:  (somewhat excited now)  Surely you seek a to
  teach the ultimate secrets of illusion...
Tonberry:  (regards the dark elf)  You desire such knowledge?
Alindyar:  It is the final step...the missing link.
Tonberry:  We are speaking of the line between illusion and reality.
  You have witnessed the very fringe of this line while in my company
  here, but there is more...much more.
Lyra:  (thinks about speaking up, but opts not to)
Alindyar:  You must desire to pass the knowledge and lore on?
Tonberry:  I have not had a disciple since...(he pauses for several
  moments)  Ages.
Alindyar:  Why not now?
Tonberry:  Why are you so eager?
Alindyar:  Eh?
Tonberry:  Power such as mine is also a curse...for it is difficult to
  do much and not be noticed.  I can always move on, leaving none the
  wiser, but...what would the point be?  (he shrugs)  No, easier to
  simply remain here, isolated, peaceful.
Alindyar:  Hmm.
Tonberry:  (regards the dark elf)  Still, you seem eager, and sound of
  mind.  I have been watching you, and the others, for some time now.
  It is possible...just possible...that an arrangement can be worked

  Meanwhile, around this time, the intruder Rasimov was having a bit
of trouble in the drows' mansion.  The illusions weren't really much
of a problem - powerful and well-done, but they were mere illusions.
Rasimov found himself counting his blessings that these drow didn't
seem inclined to summon monsters to guard their home.
  However, defenses of a simpler nature had almost spelled doom for
Rasimov.  While trying to enter the laboratory, for example, he'd
almost been done in by a series of dart-traps.  No wizard's work,
those - surely the hand of a thief had been involved.  Only his
previously-cast stoneskin spell had saved him that time.  The sealed
laboratory had still proven inaccessible, however, its door locked in
ways that not even Rasimov could overcome.  Frustrated, he'd tried to
bypass the door entirely, to no effect - apparently the walls of the
laboratory were lined with lead.
  To the dark elf, who had thus far enjoyed free reign of the house,
this was intolerable.  However, his intelligence overcame his temper,
and he simply turned his efforts to other rooms.  The library proved
almost impenetrable, for a rather powerful illusion had guarded that
chamber.  Rasimov had found it necessary to hide behind a magical
barrier until he had a chance to work magic to dispel the illusion.
He hadn't even been completely sure that the shadowy beast _was_ an
illusion, but given the nature of some of the mansion's other wards,
he'd played his hunch and triumphed.
  Of course, getting into the library and being able to do much there
were two different things; his magic detected a number of magical
protections and false or trapped scrolls and books.  It would take
many hours to work his way through all of this - too many hours to
spend the time right now.
  Smiling to himself, Rasimov contemplated his next and final deed,
a little surprise he would place here before taking his leave of the
mansion.  If Lolth was with him, this surprise would be the next step
in his plan of revenge.

next:      the quest for the Oracle of Espyria
released:  7/10/2000
notes:     "Tonberry" is, of course, a rather bizarre little monster from
  the Final Fantasy 7 and 8 games.  He's basically a strange little foe
  who does nothing and you just keep hitting him and then suddenly he
  unleashes some monstrously powerful attack and utterly kicks your ass.
  The homage seemed appropriate.

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