Chapter #701

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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       +
+   1991-2001 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       +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+     Zhao           8th level human swordsman                            +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Boltar          high priest of Pholtus                                +
+   Drak            rather cultured barbarian warrior                     +
+   Parekh          dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+   Date:           3/23/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          Rauxes, capital of Aerdy                              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Most people are afraid to die.  But not you - you're afraid          +
+    to live."                                                            +
+                                                   - from _Highlander_   +

                    DCCI.  Picking Up the Pieces

  Several weeks had passed since the battle of Helgate, and after a good
deal of travel in the skyship, the party had stopped its travel to rest
and gather supplies.  They had been in Rauxes for several days, stocking
provisions and valuable information.  Belphanior had been rather moody,
mostly keeping to himself in the skyship while the others were in the city
far below.  His brooding had reached such a level that even Otto declared
to the others that he'd never seen Belphanior act this way before.  The
elf kept his thoughts to himself, however, holding in all the pain and
loss - for that was his way.  Even Bosco knew not to disturb Belphanior
with jokes and pranks at a time like this.  Everyone had been thankful to
finally near Rauxes - the last major city before they moved out over the
Solnor - so that some rest and relaxation could be had.
  And still, Belphanior brooded.  He brooded over the apparent deaths of
Aja and Victoria, not to mention Daphne and Phoebe.  Angus was as good as
dead, buried beneath countless tons of rock in a place where magic could
not be employed to dig him out.  Working closely with Parekh and Boltar,
Belphanior had used every spell, every method known to man (or woman, or
elf) to scry for the whereabouts or fate of his two missing companions.
The best answers they got pointed to Aja being slain and Victoria being
missing.  The scrying results for the two women were different enough to
suggest that Victoria wasn't dead, at least not in the sense that Aja
was.  This small glimmer of hope was frustrating indeed, since there
was no way to _find_ Victoria if she indeed still existed.  The best
guess that Parekh had been able to venture was that Victoria definitely
wasn't on the Prime Material plane any longer.  And that drove Belphanior
absolutely crazy, until finally he'd given the order to prepare the great
skyship for travel.  If he couldn't discern the fate of Victoria, then
he would lead the band to the Lost Tomb of Panagaea.  Action was better
than inaction.
  As for the survivors...Jutokai and Skektek had recovered from their
shattered bones.  The barbarian Drak's severed arm had grown back,
thanks to Boltar's mighty healing magic.  Various other wounds, cuts,
bruises, ailments, and afflictions were all but forgotten.  Belphanior
had taken a chance and invited the surviving vampire hunters - Boltar,
Parekh, and Drak - to join their quest.  It had been an interesting
discussion, a few short weeks ago...

  Boltar:  Let me get this right:  you are offering us a place in this
    greatest of all quests?
  Belphanior:  (shrugs)  I can use you.
  Drak:  Sounds good to me.  We've got nothing else to do right now,
    not with Bram...gone.
  Parekh:  Panagaea, eh?  It could be interesting.
  Drak:  It could set us up for life.
  Parekh:  We're not doing badly as is...
  Boltar:  (to Belphanior)  What makes you think that we have any real
    interest in this lost tomb and its treasure?
  Belphanior:  The sheer size of the treasure.  Whatever your future
    goals and aspirations are, they would be much more possible with
    a share of such a treasure as Hyperion's.  I know it, and you know
  Parekh:  Here's another interesting question:  what if we refuse to
    have any part of this quest?  Are we not then risks, knowing of the
  Belphanior:  You don't know exactly where it is - as I do - and I'm
    guessing that if you really wanted to go after it, you'd have little
    problem doing so with my team as allies.  But I think you will go.
    I think that the spirit of adventure, and the need to find unknown
    things, hoards, and secrets runs deep in your hearts, as it does
    in mine.

  In the end, the elf's machinations proved successful:  the trio of
former vampire hunters opted to join the quest.  This was probably the
only good to come out of the Helgate fiasco, Belphanior had decided.
Aside from the loss of friends and allies, there were the other things,
such as the entire cache of items gained from the otherworldly adventure
many years ago.  Belphanior's library and laboratory, all of his great
experiments - all were gone.  And then, of course, there was the loss
of the castle and town themselves.  All he'd wanted was to carve out
his own little niche in the world, a place not subject to the often-
idiotic laws and rules that seemed so ingrained everywhere else in the
  Was that so wrong?  Apparently the gods thought so, having seen fit
to wreck everything Belphanior had worked so hard for.  That had been
his attitude for the first two weeks after the town's destruction...
until he snapped out of it.  Until he realized that life was what one
made of it, and blaming one's problems and woes on others - even gods -
led nowhere.  At that point, he remained barricaded in his cabin most
of the time, but by then he was planning and plotting, thinking and
rethinking, trying to decide how to proceed with his life.
  Since there was nothing that could reasonably be done to track down
Victoria, the first order of business had been to secure the former
vampire hunters to the quest, which had been achieved.  Next, as they
flew through the clouds, eastward, Belphanior had decided to drop by
Greyhawk to leave Eduardo with Peldor and Tanya.  The youth hadn't
been happy; there was no way to make him understand that Panagaea,
quite possibly the most dangerous place in the world, was no place
for a largely unskilled teenager - even a brave one.  The only bright
side to Eduardo's newly-imposed stay in Greyhawk was the fact that it
reunited him with Felicia.  Belphanior and Otto had long suspected that
the two had grown close during their summer together a couple of years
  While others collected fresh food, drink, and other supplies in the
Free City, Belphanior had taken Eduardo to the Green Dragon Inn and
had a chat with Peldor.  The latter had fully understood the problem
and the solution, and had been glad to help...

  Peldor:  And how's Bosco holding up?
  Belphanior:  Fine, I suppose.  He doesn't seem ready to come back.
  Peldor:  Well, of course not.  You haven't found the treasure yet.
  Belphanior:  True...true.
  Peldor:  There's something else you should know.
  Belphanior:  Eh?
  Peldor:  About Bosco.
  Belphanior:  What's that?
  Peldor:  I haven't told anyone this, but some people have been
    nosing around Greyhawk, looking for him, quietly but not quietly
    enough to escape my notice.
  Belphanior:  Who are they?
  Peldor:  They're from a land to the far west.  Some of these same
    outlanders once chased Bosco down for that business way back in
    the town of Targ, with that demon possession and all that.  They
    still hold Bosco accountable for that, you know.
  Belphanior:  Then they're idiots.
  Peldor:  Yes, but they're still dangerous.
  Belphanior:  So am I.  If they come after Bosco while he's helping's their funeral.
  Peldor:  Ah.
  Belphanior:  I'm in no mood to fuck around anymore - any bastard who
    comes at me with a sword is a dead bastard.  But anyhow, I leave
    you with Eduardo.  We'll come back to get him - it probably won't
    be more than a week or two.
  Peldor:  If you come back.
  Belphanior:  (pauses for a moment)  ...when.

  So here they were, having flown halfway across the world, currently
floating in the clouds high above the eastern edge of the known world.
To the east, somewhere out there in the Solnor Ocean, rested a sunken
isle that held the lost tomb - and a treasure beyond imagining.  The elf
personally hoped for knowledge and power, rather than material goods,
but he had a feeling that both - and more - were held within that tomb.
  First, though, he had to put together the clues given him by the
Oracle.  For that, he needed a sage.  Rauxes, the sprawling capital
city beneath the airship's current position, would contain many such
sages.  And while Belphanior was down there, he planned to find out
all there was to know about the various spellbooks, wands, and weapons
that he'd accumulated over the years.

next:      some answers
released:  1/1/01
notes:     Happy New Year!

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