Chapter #751

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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       +
+     Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+   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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Victoria        warrior/vampiress                                     +
+   Date:           indeterminate                                         +
+   Time:           indeterminate                                         +
+   Place:          an unidentified plane                                 +
+   Climate:        bad and getting worse                                 +
+   "Come on, everybody's got their price!"                               +
+   "You may be right, but I don't want to know what mine is."            +
+                                                       - from _Cannon_   +

                         DCCLI.  Enemy of my Enemy

  The battered, weakened party - or that portion of it that still remains
functional - has just been handed some very bad news indeed...

gigantic monstrous being:  (looming over them all, it roars with sheer
Boltar:  Ulp.

  There was no doubting that the sky had darkened in the last few moments,
and the air was noticably warmer and tinged with an acrid smell not unlike

Belphanior:  (grips his sword tightly)
Demogorgon:  NOW...LET US PARLEY.
Belphanior:  ...right.
Demogorgon:  (raises his thick tentacle-arms)  UNLESS PERHAPS YOU WOULD
Belphanior:  We'll parley.
Demogorgon:  GOOD.  (he returns to the humanoid form he'd assumed before)
  We shall talk normally.  Now that you've seen me as I truly am, you'll
  have no doubts as to who you're dealing with.
Belphanior:  (still amazed that he is talking to one of the most powerful
  demon lords in the Abyss, and still breathing, it takes him a while to
  come up with sensible words)  I don't get it.  If you wanted to deal,
  why'd you let your bird-ape-things attack us?
Demogorgon:  There are many put you off your show
  you your place...for my own amusement...pick any of these.
Belphanior:  No need.
Victoria:  (interrupts the conversation, pointing to Belphanior)  We will
  have words.
Belphanior:  Yes, but let's have them in our own world, not here-
Victoria:  The sooner, the better.
Demogorgon:  (turns to her, his eyes briefly flickering crimson)  DO NOT
Victoria:  (backs away silently)
Demogorgon:  (turns back to Belphanior, smiling)  Where were we?  Ah.

  With a snap of his fingers, the demonlord created a table of blackest
wood, complete with two chairs.  He then took one, sitting and clasping
his hands.

Belphanior:  What about my companions?
Demogorgon:  They can wait.  This business is for you and I alone.  Unless
  you'd enjoy watching them fend off a horde of minor demons?
Belphanior:  No, they'll be fine with waiting.
Demogorgon:  Let's get to it, then.  I know that my accursed rival has,
  in the past, made plays for power on your home plane.  I also know that
  other powers have moved to stop such things - which is why I choose not
  to employ that same tactic myself.
Belphanior:  Makes good sense to me.
Demogorgon:  One who does not learn from the mistakes of others...will be
Belphanior:  So true.
Demogorgon:  Orcus wishes to exert his power on your world, still, but now
  he is being indirect...using his minions.
Belphanior:  Xusia.
Demogorgon:  Yessss.  That one is like unto a demigod should
  have killed him when you had the chance.
Belphanior:  One of my greater blunders, that.
Demogorgon:  Xusia has served my rival for a long time...centuries, by
  your reckoning.  I have tried many times to subvert him...but always
Belphanior:  So now it's my turn?  You'd have me trade one demon lord's
  foothold on Oerth for another's?
Demogorgon:  Not so fast, mortal.  I said "agent" before, not "servant"
  or "scout."  I have no wish to claim a foothold in your world.  Believe
  me - I'd sooner conquer more of the Abyss than extend my reach to some
  piddling mortal plane.
Belphanior:  But I thought demons wanted power elsewhere too...?
Demogorgon:  We are all different.  That which one demon prince covets
  may have no value to another.  No, my goal is much simpler:  I wish to
  foil his plot.
Belphanior:  Oh.
Demogorgon:  To foil his plot, his minion must be stopped.  I am offering
  you assistance in this endeavor.
Belphanior:  (thinking of great demons which he could bind to his power)
  What sort of assistance?
Demogorgon:  We'll get to that later.  Xusia has surrounded himself with
  allies of fearsome power, rivaling that of such groups as your former
  adventuring band, or the slayers of Feuerhauch, or the Crimson Blades.
Belphanior:  I see.
Demogorgon:  Several of the lich's allies are paragons of their kind, the
  absolute masters of some skill or school.  Xusia has been exceedingly
  clever in the finding of his allies.
Belphanior:  Aha.  So you'll point us in their direction and let us go
  head-to-head with them?
Demogorgon:  Something like that.  Be sure that I will do everything I
  can to stack the deck in favor of your side.
Belphanior:  Pawns...we'd be doing your bidding whether it was posed that
  way or not.
Demogorgon:  True, but look at the alternative.  As well, I have reunited
  you with your long-lost love.
Belphanior:  (eyes Victoria, who is sulking well out of earshot)  It's not
  like that.
Demogorgon:  Oh, I know.  She isn't happy at all, and you will have your
  hands full with her at some point.  I've been watching both of you for
  a long while now.  It was I who pulled her from your former town, just
  as I pulled your group from the lost tomb.  Those of my kind who are
  princes can do that, you know - wait for a pathway to open between your
  plane and any of the lower planes, and then snatch you from it.
Belphanior:  Your parents must be very proud.
Demogorgon:  My parents are long dead.  Was that supposed to be funny?
Belphanior:  Not really.
Demogorgon:  Good.
Belphanior:  I have another question, since you're exceedingly rational
  for a demon and since you brought it up...?
Demogorgon:  What?
Belphanior:  Doesn't Orcus know I'm here?  Won't he find out about all of
  these plans of yours?
Demogorgon:  No, he will not.  He has had his hands full lately - I can
  personally vouch for that.  In any event, he cannot see into my domain
Belphanior:  Of course.  (he cracks his knuckles)  So, in'll
  send us home, and help us to find and attack the newest lair of Xusia
  and his allies...and in return, all you want is that we carry out said
Demogorgon:  (nods)  Plus I give you your beloved vampiress back.
Belphanior:  You speak with a silver tongue, demon lord...but I know it
  to be forked.
Demogorgon:  But of course.  I _am_ a demon, after all.

  All this time, Boltar had been to one side, resting and recovering...and
also listening and brooding.  Finally, the high priest could take no more.

Boltar:  (stands)  You mustn't do this!
Belphanior:  Eh?
Boltar:  (to Belphanior)  You can't deal with this one...think, damn you!
  Think about what you're saying, what he's proposing!
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  It's a pretty straightforward business deal, in
  my eyes...and a damn good one, I might add.
Boltar:  You cannot deal with his kind!  It is...wrong!  Fundamentally
Belphanior:  I disagree.
Boltar:  It goes against everything...everything I have strived for in my
Belphanior:  (regards the other sternly)  Recall that I am not a priest
  of Pholtus.
Boltar:  But you are bargaining with a demonlord!  Think of what that
Belphanior:  I _am_ thinking about it.  The enemy of my enemy is my
  friend, and on top of that, he's got the card I want.
Boltar:  No!  NO!  I won't stand for it-  <THUNK>  (he crumples to the
  ground, senseless)
Mongo:  (puts his hammer away and gathers up the high priest's limp form)
  Time for a nap.
Parekh:  What have you done?!?
Mongo:  Just a tap on the head.  I probably just saved his life.
Demogorgon:  So true.  I was just thinking about devouring him, mainly
  to end the annoyance.
Belphanior:  We'll handle him.  (he stands)  I accept your terms.  We'll
  be leaving now; I can't say when I'll be ready to attack, though.  My
  companions and I have been through much, with little time to catch our
  breath, much less recover.  I need some time.
Demogorgon:  And of course you shall have it!  Your days and weeks mean
  little to ones such as myself and Orcus.
Belphanior:  How will you contact me, and assist in what's to come?
Demogorgon:  You'll know when it happens.  (he waves his hands, opening
  a yawning archway of black energy that becomes a crystal-clear view of
  Greyhawk at dusk, from the sloped plains overlooking the city)  Go.
  Freedom awaits.

  Belphanior was as hesitant as any of them to willingly walk through a
trans-dimensional portal created by a demon prince.  However, logic won
out here:  if Demogorgon had wanted them dead (or in any other condition)
he could have and would have done it already.  Escape and his home world
were right there before his eyes, and he was ready.

Belphanior:  Let's go, people.

  Demogorgon had never risen from his chair, and he sat there and watched
as the mortals exited his home plane.  He wondered privately if he'd been
overly polite and non-threatening with them, but that had been crucial to
securing Belphanior's co-operation.  The demon prince had a master plan,
and the first part of it meant that his rival's greatest servant on Oerth
had to be eliminated.  The best chance of achieving that end was to make
it Belphanior's personal mission - not that the elf wouldn't have done it
anyway.  That was the beauty of Demogorgon's scheme:  Belphanior thought
he was getting something in return for a task he'd have gladly done on his
own.  The truth, however, was that Demogorgon had given up nothing this
day - in fact his true plans remained as secret as they were convoluted.
To be sure, if Belphanior had known what Demogorgon was _really_ up to, he
would never have agreed to the deal.  Lack of lies did not indicate the

  The demon prince chuckled to himself as the portal to Oerth closed after
the mortals passed through.

next:      consequences and partings
released:  7/2/01
notes:     Since I'm going to go ahead with writing (despite the saga's
  flaws mentioned in 750) at this time, I've decided to go full-speed-
  ahead on making this as epic as possible.

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