Chapter #689

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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                         +
+                                                                         +
+   Tonberry        the Lord of Illusions                                 +
+   Date:           3/5/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           indiscernable                                         +
+   Place:          elsewhere                                             +
+   Climate:        comfortable                                           +
+   "I'm watching you."                                                   +
+   "You watch, but you don't see."                                       +
+                                                 - from _The X-Files_    +

                      DCLXXXIX.  Master and Pupil

  More than a week has passed since Alindyar and Lyra discovered (or
perhaps were allowed to discover) the Lord of Illusions.  Having come
to an arrangement about passing on the ultimate secrets of illusion,
Tonberry and Alindyar have been busy every day, the master teaching
the dark elf.

Tonberry:  Concentrate...feel the dweomer.
Alindyar:  (eyeing a potion before him, he clenches his jaw)  Alteration.
Tonberry:  Excellent.
Alindyar:  Whew.  (he wipes a bead of sweat from his brow)  I never, in
  a hundred years, would have thought that simply _thinking_ could be so
Tonberry:  You are doing more than thinking.  Knowing the various types
  of basic magic is a vital skill; without it, you will never be capable
  of discerning the thin line between illusion and reality.
Alindyar:  I'm afraid I still misunderstand...or fail to understand.  How
  can illusion and reality be the same thing?
Tonberry:  (sighs)  Illusion is simply a re-arranging of reality, relative
  to the caster and the affected beings.  A weak illusion changes reality
  in minor, brief ways.  A strong illusion will last longer and have more
Alindyar:  (still looks confused)
Tonberry:  You must understand this before you can be a true master of
  illusion.  It's not a complicated realization, but in fact a simple one.
  Either you will get it, or you won't.  If you do, it will just happen
  one day.  (he snaps his green fingers)  Just like that.
Alindyar:  (sighs again)
Tonberry:  Enough of that.  We will now review the dimensions of reality.
Alindyar:  Illusion?
Tonberry:  Ah...yes!
Alindyar:  Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch...and the sixth sense.
Tonberry:  It is the sixth sense that is key to the line between illusion
  and put it in terms you're used to.

  While all of this was going on, Lyra kept out of the way.  While a fair
enough caster of illusions, she didn't have the skill or interest that
her mate did.  It might have been easy for her to get bored after a week,
except for Tonberry's gracious offer to let her have the run of his vast
library.  This place was curated by a most bizarre being, a disembodied
floating mouth that acted as tour guide for the dark elven woman.

mouth:  And that tome contains everything you ever wanted to know about
  dragons, and much that you probably didn't.
Lyra:  I still can't believe you have no real name.
mouth:  Who needs a name?  Not me.
Lyra:  Hmm.
mouth:  Don't sweat it.  I never do - not that I get a lot of people to
  talk to.
Lyra:  Surely Tonberry has other companions...friends?
mouth:  Maybe, but if so, he's not talking.
Lyra:  (notes a thick black book encased within a translucent bubble)
  What's that?
mouth:  Ah...the Codex of Infinite Planes.
Lyra:  You mean _the_ Codex of...
mouth:  Right you are.  Held within its pages are the secrets to all the
  planes of existence:  their histories, how to get to them, who or what
  lives there...everything.
Lyra:  A mighty item, that.
mouth:  Good thing you're not a thief, eh?
Lyra:  (smirks)
mouth:  It wouldn't work out, even if you were.  The Codex contains nine
  and ninety cursed pages, the pages of damnation.  Even viewing one of
  those will bring a terrible fate down upon a person.
Lyra:  Oh.
mouth:  In fact, most who even open the book are destroyed on the spot.
Lyra:  Maybe such a thing is best left alone.
mouth:  That's why it's here.
Lyra:  What's that next volume?
mouth:  That?  The Universal Bestiary.
Lyra:  A guide to monsters?
mouth:  Oh, much more than that.  It can open portals to the monster in
  question, even bring it to you.
Lyra:  (eyes wide)
mouth:  Yep, the pages really do come alive.
Lyra:  (shaking her head)  What about that book, the one with the engraved
  faces on its spine?
mouth:  The Lost Libram of Al-Agamemnon.
Lyra:  What does it do?
mouth:  It's just a history of ancient Baklunish culture.
Lyra:  Oh.
mouth:  Not everything here is an item of power, you know.
Lyra:  Still...(she turns to the disembodied mouth)  How did the Lord of-
  How did Tonberry accumulate all of these wondrous things?
mouth:  Luck...effort...and ages and ages of life.
Lyra:  How old _is_ he?
mouth:  You don't want to know.
Lyra:  (starts to retort, then thinks better of it)  Fine.

  Elsewhere in the pocket dimension (if that's what it really was - neither
of the visitors was truly certain) Alindyar was trying to learn a new spell.

Alindyar:  (sweating profusely)  Pain...
Tonberry:  Keep at it.  All you have to do is visualize and concentrate on
  the form you're trying to take.  (helpfully, he summons up an image of a
  griffon, right in front of Alindyar)
Alindyar:  ARGH!  (his form shifts and changes, becoming that of a griffon)
Tonberry:  Good.  Good!
griffon:  (takes to the air briefly before spinning and crashing to the
  ground, its form changing back into that of the drow)
Tonberry:  Hmm.
Alindyar:  Argh...a most difficult and draining spell, that.
Tonberry:  You've got to train yourself, increase your endurance for such
  powerful magicks.
Alindyar:  (shaking his head doubtfully)
Tonberry:  You asked for this, remember.
Alindyar:  I am not going to quit.  It is just...more difficult than I had
Tonberry:  Of course it is.  Nobody ever succeeds right away, not totally.
  You're doing no worse than anyone else who's ever walked this path before
  you, and you're certainly doing better than nine of every ten magi who
  might try this.
Alindyar:  (smiles, despite himself)

  The little green being hadn't been generous with compliments in the last
week, so when he delivered one, Alindyar was pleased with himself.  As the
hours passed, however, he was tested time and again, each task harder than
the last.  Rocks were transformed into gold.  Bushes were transformed into
animals.  Larger and larger monsters were fabricated from thin air.  Waves
of fire, walls of sleet, cloudy skies, rivers, crevasses - all these and
more were made to appear and disappear, as were their varied effects and
traces.  It was difficult for Alindyar to gauge his success with these
challenges; as far as he could tell, he was doing what he was supposed to,
but Tonberry seemed to be measuring success on some other scale, known
only to himself.

Tonberry:  (watches the dark elf work, nodding to himself)

  The Lord of Illusions had been pushing Alindyar, and pushing him hard,
but he knew aptitude when he saw it.  In most professions, one started
out as a raw pupil with no skill, only desire.  When it came to mastering
the magical art of illusion, however, the "raw pupil" was a powerful mage
in his or her own right.  Only the best could try, and only the best of
the best could have a chance of succeeding.

Tonberry:  (talking to no one in particular)  I think he'll do.

next:      change of scenery
released:  11/6/2000
notes:     I'm trying to wrap up (or at least bring to a stopping point)
  as many peoples' story arcs as possible, by episode 700.  I'm not sure
  which arc will see the light of day in 700, but at least this way I'll
  have options.
    Some in Finland have informed me that I've won their Paska award
of the FFA (Finnish Fantasy Association) for all of my work on the

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