Chapter #710

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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            barbarian warrior                                     +
+   Parekh          dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+                                                                         +
+   Neera           female human sage/astrologer                          +
+   Date:           3/28/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           afternoon                                             +
+   Place:          just off the shore of the lost isle                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Any landing you can walk away form is a good one."                   +
+                                                            - unknown    +

                         DCCX.  Beached

  As Belphanior supervises the unloading of people and cargo from the
sinking ship, the first landing party waits on shore...

Bosco:  (eyeing the ship through his telescope)  She's listing to one
Mongo:  Lucky thing it's in one piece at all.
Gorgo:  Tough ship.
Otto:  Not anymore, I'm guessing.
Bosco:  Hey, why'd Belphanior pick us four to stay here with all the
Otto:  Because he trusts us.
Bosco:  Oh, okay.

  The beach was about a hundred feet wide, and inclined slightly toward
the center of the island.  Even from here, they could see the peak that
rose up from the isle's center.  Between beach and mountain was a vast
expanse of trees...huge trees that towered well over a hundred feet, with
trunks perhaps twenty feet in diameter.  These trunks grew straight and
stout, the branches almost parallel to the ground.

Mongo:  Never seen trees like that before...wonder what they are?
Bosco:  Beats me - I'm no tree expert.  We'd need Nenya for that.
Otto:  They kind of look like deklo trees, except that the trunks more
  resemble palm trees, or something you'd find in a jungle.  Plus, of
  course, the fact that deklo trees don't grow this big.
Gorgo:  I wonder if they have fruit, 'cause I'm hungry.
Skektek:  (flies down and lands on the beach)  What news?
Otto:  We're all in one piece.  Hey, I thought that was you we spotted up
Skektek:  Yep.  I always try to sip from a flying potion before engaging
  in an aerial battle.  Good thing, too - that damn bird evaded our spells
  and...well, you know.
Bosco:  Yeah, what _was_ that thing?
Skektek:  Parekh says it's a roc - a huge, rare bird.  It figures that
  we'd run into one all the way out here in the middle of nowhere.
Mongo:  I'm guessing that the thing makes its lair up on that peak, there.
Skektek:  Probably so.
Bosco:  (wondering how much roc eggs go for on the open market)  Or I
  could let it hatch and raise one...for my mount...
Mongo:  Did you say something?
Bosco:  Huh?  Nope.
Skektek:  (eyeing the forest uphill from the sandy beach)  I don't like
  the look of this place.
Otto:  So you and Parekh got knocked off-deck when the thing hit us?
Skektek:  (nods)  She must have had some item or something, because she
  was floating almost instantly.
Otto:  Hmm.
Skektek:  Good thing the bird took off, or we would have hammered it with
  some heavy-duty spells.
Gorgo:  (nods)  You bet.
Otto:  Where _is_ Parekh?
Skektek:  Trying to help Belphanior save the skyship.  From sinking.
Otto:  Gotcha.

  By now, the smaller folding boat had reached the shore with its second
load of passengers:  Ys, Razor Charlie, Jutokai, Zhao, Drak, Boltar, and
Neera.  Jutokai was piloting the boat, and Ys hopped off into a foot of
water, pulling the vessel in.

Otto:  Belphanior's back at the skyship?
Jutokai:  (nods)
Otto:  Okay, we've got a sizable force here, plus all of these supplies.
  We need to form a defensive perimeter.  Bosco, Jutokai, Ys - check the
  forest's edge.  Skektek, fly up a bit and see what you can see.
Skektek:  (wondering if the roc is still around)  Uh, I already did, when
  I was flying down after the ship was attacked.  This place is basically
  a wooded island with a mountain in its center.
Otto:  Okay...go with Bosco and Jutokai then, as spell backup.  Everyone
  else, let's get these supplies further away from the water.
Drak:  (grows back to his larger size, which he had given up so he could
  fit in the boat)  Piece of cake.

  Meanwhile, offshore...

Parekh:  (hovering in place)  I can't keep it afloat.  It's just...too
Belphanior:  (watching the ship list to one side)
Parekh:  And it's too far gone.

  As they looked on, the ship suddenly tilted up on one end and, with a
groaning sound, slipped under the waves.

Belphanior:  (hands on hips)  Dammit.
Parekh:  I guess that answers the question of whether the ship can float
  on water.
Belphanior:  It might have, if it wasn't damaged.  We'll never know...
Parekh:  (points)  What the hell...?
Belphanior:  Eh?
Parekh:  There!

  Those on shore spotted it too, for nobody needed a telescope, enchanted
or otherwise, to see the gigantic fin that sliced through the water.

Otto:  Damn thing's got to be more than five feet high...
Skektek:  Which would put the shark at maybe thirty or forty feet.
Bosco:  Well, so much for a nice cool swim.  (tracking the fin as it moves
  through the water, he spots another and then another)  A whole pack of
  'em!  Wow!

  As suddenly as they'd appeared, the fins - and their owners - vanished
into the depths, leaving no trace amidst the rippling waves.

Jutokai:  Well, I'm glad we're on shore.
Skektek:  Agreed.  Sharks smaller than those have been known to attack
  boats.  Those ones might even attack a ship.
Ys:  You were once a sailor?
Neera:  Or an expert on marine life?
Skektek:  Not a sailor, but for a time I was the wizard aboard one of
  Aerdy's flagships...many years ago.
Belphanior:  Interesting.  (he and Parekh land on the beach)
Skektek:  To say the least.
Gorgo:  (wondering just how many sharks are out there)
Bosco:  (wondering what those sharks eat)
Zhao:  Why did those sharks come now - why not before, when we were in
  the small boat?
Belphanior:  Hard to say.  Maybe they were held at bay by the skyship.
Parekh:  I'm not so sure.
Ys:  Another mystery of this island, I suppose.
Belphanior:  (eyeing the huge trees, he raises both arms)  Well, here we
Mongo:  (looking around)  Now what - head for the center of the isle?
Belphanior:  Actually, no.  Not yet.
Bosco:  Why not?
Belphanior:  Parekh and I have been talking, and we've decided to send
  scouts out to look the island over.
Bosco:  Oh, okay.  I volunteer-
Parekh:  We're not going to waste our own people as scouts.  Observe.
  (working a spell, she chants some arcane syllables)

  Suddenly, there was a loud "POP" as a giant eyeball appeared, hovering
above the ground.

eyeball:  (staring right at Bosco)
Bosco:  Aie!
Parekh:  (smirks)

  The thing was about a foot across, and was utterly disembodied, with
hairlike blood vessels trailing out behind it.

Gorgo:  What the hell...?
Belphanior:  Wizard eye.
Parekh:  Not a complete set, though...
second eyeball:  <POP>
third eyeball:  <POP>
fourth eyeball:  <POP>
Bosco:  Aaa!  Stop doing that!
Parekh:  That is all...two pairs of eyes, to fly about the island and
  do our scouting for us.  (to Belphanior)  The center of the isle, for
Belphanior:  (nods)  Maybe another around the perimeter of the beach...
Parekh:  (waves her hands, sending the eyes off to various parts of the

  As the weird things flew away, they also became invisible!

Bosco:  Huh?
Parekh:  (somewhat annoyed)  What is it now?
Bosco:  If they're invisible, they can sneak up on us...
Parekh:  Or anyone else.  That's the general idea.
Bosco:  Jeepers.
Belphanior:  (wondering exactly why these eyes are freaking Bosco out like
Mongo:  (to Belphanior)  We're waiting to see what those things find out
Belphanior:  Right.
Gorgo:  (yawns)  Guess we sit and wait, then.
Razor Charlie:  (sneering to nobody in particular)
Ys:  (to Otto)  There must be something we can do.
Otto:  Just get ready.  The way those eyeballs moved, I don't think we'll
  be sitting here for long.
Parekh:  (sitting crosslegged, a few feet above the beach, she appears to
  be meditating)
Gorgo:  What's she up to?
Mongo:  Watching- looking through those eyes, I'd bet.
Drak:  (nods)  Good guess.
Jutokai:  (looking around for something to do, he wonders if some target
  practice might be in order)

  The island did have its fair share of birds - large seagulls, much like
those one might find at any beach or on any island.  Small crabs scuttled
along the beach, and other minuscule lifeforms swam, crawled, or floated
amidst the shallows.

Jutokai:  Doesn't seem so bad.
Belphanior:  Bear in mind that we've only seen the edge of this island.
Boltar:  There's no telling what lurks in its inner reaches.
Drak:  Or the tomb.
Mongo:  Especially in the tomb.
Ys:  Question:  whatever happened to the tomb...well, the empire?
Mongo:  What do you mean?
Ys:  Did the emperor, Hyperion, just put all of his treasure into his
  tomb, then seal it off from the world?  Why has no one tried for it,
  during all these years?
Mongo:  Damn good question.  (sticking a thumb at Parekh, who is still
  in some kind of trance)  I bet she'd know.
Drak:  When she snaps out of it.  I've seen her do this before - keeping
  track of what four different eyes are seeing is tough work.
Neera:  Ahem...
Belphanior:  Eh?
Neera:  As I told you already, I've been studying this...reading up on
  Panagaea and Hyperion.  Parekh did a good job of collecting source
  material - even if some of it is historical conjecture - and I've
  been able to put some pieces together.
Belphanior:  (nods, pleased)  Go on.
Neera:  Hyperion ruled the greatest empire the world has ever known, long
  before the days of the upstart Sueloise and the defiant Baklunish.
Belphanior:  How long before?
Neera:  Millennia.
Otto:  (whistles)  That is old.
Neera:  At one time, his empire spanned the length of what is now the
  Oerik continent.  He ruled all.  Power and riches beyond measure were
Mongo:  But...?
Neera:  His pride, his ego grew with every conquest, with every passing
  year.  Finally, there came a point where he dared to challenge the gods
Boltar:  Which ones?
Neera:  On that part, the history books are unclear.  Nor do they well
  define what happened next.  By all accounts, the gods unleashed their
  wrath on the upstart mortal...
Belphanior:  Classic!
Neera:  The empire was laid to waste, utterly.  Given that much of it
  seems to have been where the depths of the Solnor Ocean are now, I'm
  guessing that this cataclysm of the gods was of world-shattering scope.
  It's hard to say, because of the lack of credible information.  Even
  these tomes I've been studying seem to have been guessing.
Mongo:  And the tomb?
Neera:  Hyperion's final resting place.
Bosco:  How'd he have time to build it, if the gods wiped him out?
Neera:  Again, I'm not sure.  My guess would be that he had built it
  already - the greatest monument to the greatest ruler ever, something
  like that - and moved all of the empire's treasure there at some point.
Skektek:  Maybe he knew...knew that he was headed for a fall.
Neera:  (nods)  If people had known the answers to these questions, the
  Tomb would have been discovered and looted long before now.  I wish I
  had more information, but I don't.
Belphanior:  In any case, now we know a whole lot more than we knew before.
  Thank you - and good work.
Neera:  No problem.
Mongo:  Damn, we're gonna need every sword - and other weapon - we've got
  to crack this nut.
Boltar:  Swordplay alone isn't always enough in a place like this.
Mongo:  (eyes Parekh)  No, I guess it's not.
Parekh:  (opens her eyes suddenly)  My spy-eyes return.
Bosco:  I don't see them.  How d'you know?
Parekh:  I just do.  (she floats above the ground, still crosslegged)
Gorgo:  (commenting to the floating wizard)  Do you ever walk anywhere?
Parekh:  Not in dungeons or other hostile places.  Walking just invites
  one to fall prey to traps, snares, and such.  My way's better, not to
  mention easily maintainable.
Belphanior:  So, you're done watching your little eyes scout the isle?
Parekh:  (nods)

  All of this conversation was interrupted by a monstrous shadow that
moved over the party, blocking out the sun's light for a moment or two...

Bosco:  Ulp.

  It was the same gigantic bird that had attacked the skyship!  It looked
fairly impressive from the adventurers' point of view, with a wingspan
easily exceeding two hundred feet, and its passage overhead swayed the
trees and threatened to knock the explorers from their feet...

Parekh:  The roc!
Bosco:  (awestruck, as are the others)

  The colossal bird swooped down toward the ocean with incredible speed,
its huge claws just dipping into the water...and coming out with a prize!
One of the big sharks that the adventurers had seen a short time ago now
wriggled and writhed in the grip of the larger predator.

roc:  (lets out a deafening screech, then flies back up and away, toward
  the center of the island)
Mongo:  Well...damn.
Drak:  Wow.  Even at my full size, I'd just be a snack for that thing.
Bosco:  (shaking his head)  I didn't even know the shark was there.
Razor Charlie:  The bird knew.
Belphanior:  Looks like the beast is headed toward that mountain, in the
  island's center...
Parekh:  Just as we suspected.
Otto:  Probably has a lair there.
Skektek:  Hey, I just realized - that's NOT the same bird that knocked
  us out of the air.
Belphanior:  How can you know that?
Skektek:  Because I clipped the first bird's wing with my ice-blast,
  but the one we just saw didn't have any evidence of damage at all.
Drak:  Are you sure?
Skektek:  Positive.
Otto:  So there's two of 'em.
Belphanior:  Makes sense, actually.
Parekh:  A mated pair.  Definitely a nest on the mountain, then.
Bosco:  (having serious doubts about the future chances of "Bosco, roc-
  rider")  Hmm.
Skektek:  So what we have here is an island in the middle of nowhere,
  inhabited by a roc - a pair of rocs - that hunt and eat gigantic
Bosco:  Can they _do_ that?
Razor Charlie:  One just did.
Neera:  I wonder how much food such a bird needs to sustain itself...and
  just how far it can range to get it.
Parekh:  Rocs are said to fly to the moon, if they desire.
Skektek:  (shrugs)  Quite possible.  (he looks around)  Big birds, big
Bosco:  This had better not be a land of the giants, 'cause that puts me
  at a severe disadvantage.
Neera:  (staring at the halfling)  How can you makes jokes at a time like
Bosco:  Easy:  someone needs to.
Gorgo:  (to Mongo)  Biggest damn bird I ever did see.
Zhao:  Agreed.  (to Belphanior)  It would seem that this adventure will
  make up for the last one, which I missed.
Belphanior:  Just don't get turned to stone this time.
Zhao:  (smirks)
Parekh:  My eyes's almost time to get moving.

  As the four eyes neared their summoner, they became visible once more,
one by one.  Those weird oculars would now help determine which way the
group went...

next:      setting out
released:  2/1/01
notes:     New rant:

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