Chapter #752

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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                               +
+     Victoria      warrior/vampiress                                     +
+     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                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   Peldor          20th level human thief                                +
+   Tanya            5th/11th level female human fighter/thief            +
+   Date:           4/22/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the plains outside the Free City of Greyhawk          +
+   Climate:        warm                                                  +
+   "I understand how you must feel."                                     +
+   "Don't understand me so quick."                                       +
+                                                   - from _Alligator_    +

                   DCCLII.  Consequences and Partings

  After some close encounters of the abyssal kind, the adventurers have
traveled through a planar portal and returned to their own world...

Mongo:  Damn, but it's nice to be home!
Belphanior:  Second that.  This didn't turn out as badly as it could have.
Victoria:  (steps right out of the gateway - and into the bright sun of
  this warm spring day)  Aaaaaaie!  (she reflexively shields her head)
Belphanior:  Fuck!  (he whips his cloak up and around the vampiress, to
  afford her some immediate protection from the direct sunlight)

  The vampiress had other ideas, though.  She wore a very special ring,
acquired from a foe in recent years, that allowed her to instantly and
unerringly transport herself to a predetermined place of refuge.  This
recall power saved her life now, as she vanished to parts unknown (but
presumably safe) before the sun could burn her into ash.

Belphanior:  (clenches his fists in rage)  I am going to KILL someone for
Otto:  I swear that the portal - what lay beyond it, meaning this area -
  looked dim and grey from the other side.
Belphanior:  A trick of the demon lord.  I should have expected something
  like this.  (he fumes silently)
Neera:  (taken aback)  That woman was a vampire.
Belphanior:  Of course she was.
Neera:  Interesting.
Otto:  (muttering to himself)  You have no idea.
Mongo:  She's okay, though, isn't she?
Belphanior:  Absolutely.  If she used that ring to spirit herself away,
  you can be sure that it's to a safe place.
Boltar:  It worked last time - I was there to see her vanish.
Otto:  (shoots Belphanior a "but-didn't-the-castle-collapse-into-rubble?"
Belphanior:  (aware, as no one else here is, that Victoria had moved the
  recall-ring's companion item from the castle to another nearby place,
  shortly before the destruction of Helgate)  She'll be okay.
Mongo:  Yeah...speaking of which, I sure hope we're actually home, and
  not some bad place that just _looks_ like home.
Parekh:  We're back.  I'd know if we weren't, trust me.

  Wounded or incapacitated companions were starting to recover...

Boltar:  (stands, furious)  I can't believe you dealt with that...that...
Belphanior:  Calm down.  I did what I had to do, to get us home.
Boltar:  What you have done is indescribable...inexcusable!
Parekh:  (turns to the priest)  Boltar...this is not the time.
Boltar:  But-
Parekh:  I said, it IS NOT THE TIME.

  Something in the woman's tone caused the priest to take note and stop
complaining.  It was simple as well as strange, but Belphanior wasn't
about to object - he was getting sick of hearing others criticize his
decisions.  Fortunately for everyone, the matter was settled, at least
for now.
  The group made its way toward the city walls, carrying the wounded by
magical means.  Before long, they had reunited with an old friend...

Peldor:  (eyes the motley crew, some of whom are still unconscious)
  This is an inn, not a hospital.
Belphanior:  It's only for a night or two.
Tanya:  Nobody's following you, are they?
Belphanior:  No.  We're free and clear for the moment.
Peldor:  Okay.  I think you should really be talking to Rob, though,
  given the state of some of your people.
Boltar:  Rob?
Peldor:  Yeah, Rob.
Boltar:  The high priest of Trithereon - that Rob?
Belphanior:  That's the rascal.  Why, do you know him?
Boltar:  We've met in the past, yes.
Peldor:  I see.
Boltar:  Anyhow, I can handle the curative duties, now that we're out
  of the Ab-
Belphanior:  Right.  (he hands a large pouch to Peldor)  This should
  cover it.
Peldor:  It's not a matter of money...but of safety.
Belphanior:  Trust me, it'll be a quiet night.
Tanya:  It had better be.  (she storms away, obviously upset)
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Peldor:  Let's talk in private.

  While the others headed to their rooms - with the most direly wounded
(Ys and Gorgo) being handled by Boltar - Peldor and Belphanior took a
walk, heading up and out, onto a rooftop terrace.

Belphanior:  I didn't know you had anything up here on the roof.
Peldor:  No one does.  Sometimes I like to come up here and just think.
Belphanior:  What's on your mind?
Peldor:  As much as I might miss the old's not for me anymore.
  Even a Peldor has to retire sometime.
Belphanior:  You're not retired, and you know it.  People like us don't
  die in our beds.
Peldor:  That may be true, but only the fates know.  Anyhow, two things
  concern me now.
Belphanior:  I told you, we're not being followed, and there'll be no
Peldor:  If you say it, I believe it - but don't push your luck, okay?
Belphanior:  A day, two at the most.  Boltar just needs to get our people
  healed and back up to strength.
Peldor:  Yeah, what happened to Bosco?
Belphanior:  It was the dungeon, I swear-
Peldor:  Come to think of it, that's my second concern:  The last time we
  talked, you were headed for the lost tomb.  It occurs to me, my friend,
  that you owe me a story.
Belphanior:  That I do.  Got an hour or so?
Peldor:  (produces a bottle of fine brandy)  Believe it.
Belphanior:  Well, then...

  The elf proceeded to recount the entire tale, from the forced landing
to the battle with the ancient tribes of creatures, from the initial
tomb entry to the great treasure chambers...and the final battle, with
three distinct parties involved.

Peldor:  Good gods.
Belphanior:  Yeah...first we lost some people at Helgate, then two more
  on the isle.  (he clenches his jaw)  I hate losing allies...friends.
Peldor:  We've all been there too.
Belphanior:  But there's more.

  He then went on to describe the entire foul business with Demogorgon,
omitting nothing.

Peldor:  You've omitted nothing?
Belphanior:  No.  Why?
Peldor:  You may find this hard to believe, but Rob, Nenya, and even the
  drow are caught up in a quest to find and destroy the exact same evil-
  doers that you are.

  Peldor had known Belphanior for almost ten years, and in that time, he
could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen the elf taken
completely aback.  This was one of those times.

Belphanior:  You're shitting me.
Peldor:  Not a chance.
Belphanior:  (his eyes gleaming)  Most excellent.
Peldor:  Yeah, they could be powerful allies.  Listen now.  I don't care
  that much about Rob and Nenya, but you should at least tell Alindyar and
  Lyra that you're doing this for a demon lord.
Belphanior:  I should?
Peldor:  Yes, you should, and you know it.  Think on this, but don't let
  me down.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Peldor:  And Bosco stays behind.  I'll use the excuse that I need him here,
  if I have to.  Besides, I figure he'll need help counting all that money.
Belphanior:  Hell, that's right...we have to split all that treasure up.
Peldor:  By the sound of your story, that can't be done in any place
  smaller than a feasting hall.
Belphanior:  A very real consideration.
Peldor:  You'll note that I don't have a feasting hall here in the inn, as
  much as I'd like to see the loot.
Belphanior:  We'll figure something out.
Peldor:  (raises the bottle)  Hell of a tale, Belphanior.  Hell of a tale.

  Morning found Boltar the bearer of good news...

Belphanior:  How's Ys?
Mongo:  How's Gorgo?
Boltar:  Both will live, and recover.  It wasn't easy, though.  I had to
  use great magic to burn the venom - literally - from the veins of the
  reptilian.  It was derived from a species of snake that hasn't existed
  for centuries.  Had Ys been a normal man, he'd have been dead three
  times over.
Mongo:  And Gorgo?
Boltar:  I had to use restoration magic on him, and even then, it almost
  didn't cure him.  I've never seen a foe quite like that dark being.
Belphanior:  And hopefully we never will again.  (he regards Boltar, who
  is quite obviously drained, having taxed his healing magic to its limits
  in the last days)  You look like hell.
Boltar:  A priest's work is never done.  (he takes a seat wearily)
Parekh:  And with that, we are finished.
Belphanior:  How's that?
Parekh:  We - myself, Drak, and Boltar here - were essentially taking a bit
  of a break from normal life when we joined Bram and eventually met you.
  After that, it was a matter of seeking the greatest treasure ever known
  to mortals.  Now that all of that is past, we must get back to our own
Belphanior:  No desire to rid the world of Xusia and his evil allies, then?
Parekh:  Oh, please.
Drak:  You'll do just fine, I'm sure.
Belphanior:  (to Parekh)  I have a request.
Parekh:  Neera?
Belphanior:  How did you know?
Parekh:  She and I have talked.  Your upcoming quest is no place for her;
  hell, she's lucky to have seen all that we've seen recently and lived to
  tell of it.  She doesn't want to be in danger any more than you want her
  to, so everyone wins by her coming with me.
Belphanior:  I get the impression that she could - and will - spend years
  studying the items we've brought back from the tomb.
Parekh:  They could be happy years.  I'll lend my magic and my resources to
  her work.  Who knows, we may learn something of import.
Belphanior:  Good...good.

  Privately, the elf was pleased at this.  He didn't know if Victoria was
aware of Neera's attraction to him, but the vampiress was angry anyway, and
would undoubtedly be more angry when she rejoined Belphanior.  He really
didn't want to find Neera gutted and hanging from a rafter - something he
was well aware could happen if she remained around.  Also, Parekh was right
in that another dangerous mission was no place for a sage who knew nothing
of spells or swordplay.

Belphanior:  When do you leave?
Drak:  I'd say shortly after we divide up all of the things we found in the
  great treasure-halls of the lost tomb.
Mongo:  Yeahhhhhh, now you're talking!

next:      the riches of the lost empire!
released:  7/6/01
notes:     I have a new philosophy that I'm trying to stick to when I
  write:  something should HAPPEN in each and every episode.  No more
  filler episodes.
    After my rantings in 750, a number of you sent supportive and/or
  thankful emails, and I appreciate that.  Understand this:  if/when
  I stop writing these, it's not because I'm out of ideas, it's because
  I don't want to write these particular stories anymore.  My ideas
  could go on forever, but the structure I'm putting them in is still
  fundamentally flawed (reference my comments about magic, power levels
  and lack of pacing.)  So I don't need more ideas.  I need to take a
  break and possibly work on something new, that's all.  It would be
  nice to reach 1000 and bring everything to a close, but that would
  mean 200 more episodes - and I don't have the time or energy for that.

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