Chapter #656

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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       +
+     Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas                 +
+     Neko           7th level human female thief                         +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Zhao           8th level human swordsman                            +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                          +
+   Date:           2/18/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           evening                                               +
+   Place:          some small town in Bissel                             +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "You know, for a guy with no principles, sometimes you act            +
+    kinda peculiar."                                                     +
+                                            - from _Last Man Standing_   +

                        DCLVI.  On the Road Again

  After weeks of travel, the party is currently in southwestern Bissel,
heading further still to the south and Geoff.

Belphanior:  I thought for sure that this oracle really would be at the
  end of the world.
Mongo:  I think the expression wasn't meant to be taken word for word.
  Don't worry, though - the actual Tomb of Panagaea is almost certainly
  at some far edge of the known world.
Bosco:  (half-heartedly)  If not beyond.
Belphanior:  Is something bothering you, Bosco?
Bosco:  Not really-
Belphanior:  Don't.  You've been on edge since we left, and it's pretty
  easy to notice.  Now tell me why.
Bosco:  (looks around at the others before he finally speaks)  I don't
  see why you didn't just bring the whole gang.
Belphanior:  It's not exactly a gang - it's a highly-trained team of
Mongo:  And a big group attracts more attention.  (he glares at Bosco)
  We don't need that much attention, you know.
Belphanior:  Besides which, this is only the part of the quest where we
  find the oracle and get some answers.  More than likely, we'll go back
  to Helgate to shuffle the ranks one last time before we head to the
  Tomb itself.
Bosco:  Oh.
Belphanior:  So what's the problem?
Bosco:  Well, I was just worried that this wouldn't be enough people to
  see the quest through.  But now that you've told me that this isn't
  the final group for the main quest, it's all good.
Belphanior:  (frowns)

  They had just ridden into town - some small town, perhaps unworthy of
a name - and were happy to be in out of the cold, wet weather and the
other rigors of the road.  The Oracle was less than two weeks' journey
onward, in the Grand Duchy of Geoff past the Dim Forest.  Privately,
Belphanior wasn't too happy about having to make this journey the slow
and tedious way, but it was Mongo's quest...and Mongo's call.
  Now that the adventurers were out of the cold and into the nice, cozy
confines of a tavern, things seemed to have gotten better.  Even Bosco's
mood brightened after he had a sip of some fine ale.

Bosco:  Good stuff.
Skektek:  It had better be, considering what they're charging for it.
Neko:  It's nothing, considering your salary.  Which I'm sure is far
  greater than mine.
Skektek:  Bah.
Zhao:  (ignores this foolish banter, sipping some hot tea)  Not bad, for
  a tavern in a land so far from my home.
Aja:  And where is your home, exactly?
Zhao:  Far from here.
Gorgo:  (rips a turkey in half, gnawing heartily on one of the dripping
Mongo:  Leave some of that for the rest of us!
Gorgo:  (sheepishly puts the other half back onto the platter)
Bosco:  (sighs)  This will never do.  (he signals a passing waitress)
  Another bird, please.
Gorgo:  (grins through a mouthful of fowl)  Hey, good idea!

  Somewhat bored by all of this, Neko had turned her attention to the
other tables.  Most of the patrons in this place were men, but most of
these were either old or homely.  As she scanned the crowd, really for
no real reason, the young woman caught some rough-looking types staring
at _her_.

Neko:  (somewhat surprised, she covers it up with a yawn, turning back
  to her own table)  More wine, anyone?
Gorgo:  (holds up his empty goblet)  Always!
Aja:  Ugh.  (to Skektek)  He has the manners of a goat.
Skektek:  Wild boar is more like it.
Zhao:  I was thinking more of an angry bull.
Neko:  A hungry bull, at any rate.
Belphanior:  (talking to Mongo)  So...we'll find the oracle fairly soon,
  and he or she will guide us to the Tomb, using that stone you have?
Mongo:  That's the plan.
Belphanior:  If it wasn't for the portable hole, I'd worry about the
  lack of porters.
Mongo:  (wipes ale from his beard)  We'll do what we can.  If the lost
  treasure is everything the legends say it is, we'll be able to fill
  up every sack and pouch we have with gemstones and still leave behind
  enough loot for ten kings' ransoms...a hundred, even!
Belphanior:  (whistling)  That certainly is a lot of treasure.  Even
  Bosco would be hard-pressed to spend a share of such a hoard.

  Speaking of the intrepid halfling, he had gone to relieve himself in
a back room, in the process relieving two drunken fellows of the coins
in their pockets.  It wasn't for his own personal gain - Bosco told
himself that every day - but more for the sheer practice such sport
  As he returned from the back room, the halfling spotted several big,
nasty-looking fellows heading toward Belphanior's table.

Bosco:  Hmmmmmmmm.


Aja:  (to Neko)  Don't look now, but there's a really big, mean-looking
  fellow heading right for you.
Neko:  Figures.  (rather loudly)  Can't a girl drink in peace anymore?
Belphanior:  (looks up, assessing the situation with a single calm gaze)

  The man was huge - closer to seven feet tall than six, and broad.  A
jagged scar ran down the length of his face, and he looked like someone
who knew how to handle himself.  More, he had five or six friends, all
of whom had followed him to the adventurers' table.

big man:  This seat taken?
Neko:  (looks up at the man)  It sure is.
big man:  (glancing around)  Oh yeah?  I don't see anyone sitting there.
Neko:  Oh, I haven't decided who's sitting there yet - it's just not you.
big man:  Hah!  (he spins the chair around and sits, helping himself to a
  leg of turkey)
Gorgo:  Hey-
Mongo:  (puts a hand on his cousin's shoulder)
man:  That's right, stay in your seat, shrimp - 'cause nobody messes with
  me, Big Mac.
Belphanior:  Is that a fact?
Big Mac:  Oh, it's more than a fact - it's the way it is.
Belphanior:  I see.
Big Mac:  Damn right you do.
Neko:  (to Belphanior)  I can handle this...
Big Mac:  Little girl, I'd break you.  (he grins)  Which is exactly what
  I intend to do-  erp.

  The man had winced in surprise as he found the tip of the young woman's
dagger at his crotch.

Neko:  I'm not interested, buddy, and if you don't back off and return to
  whatever hole you crawled out of, you'll be singing for a living.  (she
  jabs slightly with the dagger's needle-like tip)  Get my point?
Big Mac:  S- sure!  (he looks around)
Neko:  Then get lost!
Big Mac:  (staggers backward)
Neko:  (sheathes her blade)  Idiot.
Belphanior:  (raises a glass)  My compliments on a job well done.
Gorgo:  Yeah.  (he frowns)  I really should go kick that guy's ass.  (he
  grabs the remaining leg from the second turkey and starts to munch on
Mongo:  No need...waste of time and effort.
Belphanior:  Agreed.  For once, it's nice to just sit down and enjoy a
  meal without-
Big Mac:  (standing there with seven friends, now, thick arms folded
  across his chest)  I changed my mind.
Gorgo:  (stands)  Good.

  As chairs slid back and people stood up, facing off, Bosco was busy
himself, off to one side...

Bosco:  (wheeling and dealing with a half-dozen locals)  Step right up,
  place your bets now!

next:      a little scuffle
released:  7/13/00
notes:     I've said it before and I'll say it again:  every once in a
  while, a good barroom brawl must occur.

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