Chapter #748

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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   +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Deryck          11th level half-elven ranger                          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard           +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+   Date:           4/21/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          a secret chamber somewhere within Greyhawk            +
+   Climate:        warm and pleasant                                     +
+   "Is evil the opposite of good...or just good made evil by hate?"      +
+                                     - from _Highlander_, the TV series  +

                     DCCXLVIII.  Debriefing

  The chamber remained dark as Rob finished his account of the recent
events.  All present were gathered around a long, rectangular table.
At one end sat the archmage Mordenkainen, de facto leader of the Circle
of Eight; the others were arrayed on either side of him.  Rob and his
seven companions occupied the other half of the table.  It was almost
confrontational, in a way.  The tall, regal figure who led the Circle
steepled his fingers before his face, regarding the high priest of

Rob:  And we are.
Mordenkainen:  Quite a tale.
Nenya:  Surely you don't doubt its accuracy?
Mordenkainen:  Not at all.  Indeed, we have known of the arch-lich's
  presence almost since the day of his unearthing.
Halbarad:  And you allowed him to build his power and gather allies?!?
Mordenkainen:  Nobody "allows" anything on this world.  There are checks
  and balances that the vast majority of people know nothing about.  One
  part of having power is knowing when _not_ to use it.
Halbarad:  I fail to understand.
Nenya:  As do I.  This whole thing seems fairly cut and dried to me:  a
  bastion of great evil exists, and it threatens all of us, potentially.
  Someone needs to do something.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  They are speaking boldly, considering who
  they address.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  That's for sure.
Rary:  As the oldest and perhaps wisest of us - heh, heh - allow me to
  put it another way:  we're all on a chessboard here.  If we make a
  move, so will they, and then we must counter, and then they shall as infinitum.  It is better to bide our time and watch and see
  what happens.
Deryck:  Politics.
Halbarad:  (shakes his head)
Bigby:  Which is not to say that there won't come a time when a vast,
  sweeping move is made, wiping all opposing pieces from the board.
Deryck:  If we're not careful, it's _us_ who will get wiped away.
Rob:  (to the Circle in general)  We see your point, but ours remains
  as well:  by doing nothing, we are still having an effect on the
  overall balance of this situation.  The lich grows in power every
  day, and soon it will be too late to stop him.
Nenya:  If it isn't already.
Tenser:  What would you have us to his lair and bombard it with
  fireballs and lightning bolts?
Halbarad:  That would be a good start.
Mordenkainen:  We must know more.  (to Rob)  Your deity Trithereon has
  led you to know...what, exactly?
Rob:  The lair of the evil ones is far to the north and east, where the
  Troll Fens meet the Griff Mountains.
Mordenkainen:  Hmm.
Drawmij:  An ideal site...shielded by mountains, hidden from the beaten
Rary:  If I was going to hide somewhere and gather evil power without
  anyone knowing, that's one place I'd consider.
Halbarad:  (already looking at a map he's unfolded and laid out on the
  table)  Troll Fens...that's rough territory, and makes an approach
  from the south problematic.
Deryck:  Or downright dangerous.
Halbarad:  No army will ever have an easy time getting to this place.
  (to Rob)  What are we talking about here?  A fort, or a town?
Rob:  A fortress, carved from the deep heart of the mountains, with a
  city at its feet.
Mordenkainen:  Thus far, it sounds no different than any other young,
  fledgling nation.
Rob:  But you know better, don't you?
Mordenkainen:  (sighs)  I'm afraid I do.
Peyote:  (finally decides to speak up)  Our deity as well - Obad-Hai,
  the Shalm - has taken an interest in all of this.  Something has to
  be done, and soon.  The question is...what?
Otto:  (settles his immense bulk deeper into his chair, which creaks)
  And how...and who?
Alindyar:  (perhaps inspired by Peyote, he also speaks up for the first
  time)  I think that what it comes down to is this:  we, and many of
  our friends and allies, have helped Greyhawk and the area on more than
  one occasion.  Recall the beast from beyond the stars...and later the
  quest to the Isle of the Ape, for a certain demon-lord's wand...a quest
  in which we lost one of our own.
Bigby:  All so true.
Alindyar:  Now, we face beings whose power and cunning rival that of any
  we have known before.  When they finally make their move, who do you
  think they will target first?
Rary:  Hmm.
Alindyar:  Were it me, I would seek out the most powerful of those who
  could rival or stop them out, destroy them, and all those
  who stood with them, and all of their possessions and property as well.
Rary:  Hmmmmm.
Alindyar:  (folds his arms)  Fight them now, or fight them later - but
  fight them you will, have no doubt.
Mordenkainen:  Well spoken!
Rary:  He brings up a good point.  Balance and neutrality are only good
  up to a point.
Jallarzi:  Much as I hate to say it - because of the repercussions it
  could have - I agree.  We can't sit by idly while armies of evil are
  built and trained.
Tenser:  (smooths wrinkles from his blue robe)  Yet we can't exactly
  raise an army here and just send it up there.
Drawmij:  An interesting question posed here:  how best to assault a
  mountain fortress hidden behind a city, without benefit of an army?
Mordenkainen:  Yes, it _is_ an interesting question.  We shall have to
  ponder it for a bit.  (to Rob and the others)  You will have to take
  your leave of us now.  We have much magic to work, planning to do.
Rob:  Of course.
Mordenkainen:  Do this one thing, however:  begin thinking about some
  sort of small, exploratory force that can be sent...a scouting mission,
  if you will.
Halbarad:  I'll go.
Mordenkainen:  Work on that whilst we of the Circle work on what we must.
  You will hear from us soon.

  With that, the adventurers left the magi to their discussion.  Soon,
they were in Alindyar and Lyra's mansion...

Peyote:  Big spooky place you have here...
Lyra:  You have no idea.  It's a bit messy...we've been away.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  No intruders this time, while we were away.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Good.
Halbarad:  A scouting mission...what a good idea.  A smaller force can
  foray into this place, get the lay of the land, see what's what.
Peyote:  Yeah, but you can't be in on it.
Halbarad:  Pardon?!?
Daffodil:  You're inherently good...they'd sniff you out right away.
Nenya:  Hmm...true.  True for all of us.
Alindyar:  Except Lyra and myself.
Halbarad:  I am unconvinced.  I have the skill and experience - I should
  be involved in a mission like this.
Rob:  Not directly, not when scouts need to go unnoticed.
Peyote:  What we need is Belphanior and his crew.  They'd fit right in
  at any evil city.
Nenya:  Hmmmmm.
Rob:  Perhaps our next focus, while we wait for the Circle of Eight to
  come to a consensus, should be the finding and perhaps rescuing of
  our favorite elf.

next:      Belphanior!
released:  6/14/01
notes:     I have no idea why I'm tying this all together.  Hell, they
  may not even be able to find Belphanior - or, since 740 happened before
  the current time of this episode, Belphanior and friends could have had
  all sorts of adventures after they went through the well of worlds,
  yet before the events of this episode.

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