Chapter #754

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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   +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+     Lyra          14th level female drow wizard                         +
+                                                                         +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Otto          10th/12th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie 10th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       13th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            14th level reptilian fighter                          +
+   Date:           4/23/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          Alindyar and Lyra's mansion, in Greyhawk              +
+   Climate:        cool                                                  +
+   "Tell me something you didn't tell him."                              +
+   "I told him everything."                                              +
+   "You never tell _anybody_ everything!"                                +
+                         - from the _Highlander_ episode "See No Evil"   +

                      DCCLIV.  Machinations

  After the healing of wounded comrades and the division of treasure,
the tomb raiders have split up.  Belphanior finds himself left with only
some of the power that the previous grouping possessed...

Belphanior:  We're down to five.
Ys:  What of Mongo and Gorgo?
Belphanior:  I think Gorgo's done for now - he was just accompanying
  Mongo for a time, and now that time is past.  Mongo may help in the
  next quest, but right now he's headed back to their homeland with
Razor Charlie:  (sneers)
Belphanior:  Bosco won't be joining us either.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers again)
Otto:  (realizes just how many of the Helgate group have gone, one way
  or another, in recent weeks)  If I didn't know better, I'd say someone
  was out to get us.
Belphanior:  Well, I can't lie to you about what's next.  The fortress
  of the lich and his allies won't be an easy place to invade.  We may
  well lose more people there - the risk is as high as anything else
  we've ever done.  I can't and won't ask you to follow me there; that
  decision rests with each of you.  Opinions?
Skektek:  Here's mine:  I'm fine with doing this thing, whatever the
  reasons, but let's do it right:  lots of scouting, lots of planning,
  and then a fast, brutal strike.  We need to make better use of the
  power and ability that we have.
Belphanior:  A good point.
Otto:  If you think about it...we've really been letting other people
  and events control _us_, which isn't the way it should be.  Having
  said that, I'm in for the fortress invasion.  (he smirks)  Hell, I
  wouldn't miss it for the world.
Skektek:  Ditto here.
Ys:  You can count on soon as I recover fully, of course.
Skektek:  Hell, at the rate you're going, you'll be ready by suppertime.
Belphanior:  (eyes Razor Charlie)  Charlie?

  Razor Charlie wasn't so keen on rushing back into yet another dangerous
adventure, but he wasn't sure how to explain that, as it went against the
simple concept that had defined his entire adult life.  Thus, he simply
nodded, figuring he'd think more about it later, when he had the time and

Belphanior:  So we're five.
Alindyar:  (enters the room)  Or perhaps seven.
Lyra:  Or even more.  Have you talked with Rob and the others yet?
Belphanior:  No...there's a bit of a complication.
Lyra:  Yes, we know.  The demon lord.
Belphanior:  (unable to conceal his surprise)  Peldor told you?!?
Alindyar:  No, actually, that Boltar fellow told Rob, before he left.  It
  turns out that they know one another.  Such things are probably to be
  expected, given the small number of high priests of Good deities in the
Belphanior:  Ah.
Alindyar:  And so Rob passed the tale on to Nenya, Peyote, Halbarad, and
  the rest.
Belphanior:  Ah.
Lyra:  You _were_ planning to tell us, yes?
Belphanior:  Of course.
Alindyar:  Then again, we would have found out anyway - there are too
  many hands involved in this matter.
Belphanior:  Maybe you should explain.

  And so the dark elf did, recounting not only the earlier foray into the
crypt of Kyuss, but also the talk with the Circle of Eight and Halbarad's
determination to conquer the foes.

Belphanior:  That fool's going to get himself killed.
Lyra:  He may be acting foolish, but he's no fool.
Belphanior:  So you're telling me that there's another group preparing to
  do the same thing I am?
Alindyar:  Aye.  You would do well to ally yourselves with them, though
  they will be far from happy about demonic influences...
Otto:  Well, we could always let them go ahead and try...see what happens.
Lyra:  "Them" includes _us_, Alindyar and I.  We too are involved in that
Belphanior:  We should join forces - all of us.  Both parties would have
  done this anyway, so what does it matter if some demon lord thinks he's
  manipulating me, or you, or all of us?
Alindyar:  I see your point, but others might not.
Belphanior:  True.
Lyra:  All we're saying is this:  people such as Rob don't tend to take
  actions that - if even indirectly - ally them with demons.
Belphanior:  We'll soon know, because I intend to talk with him at the
  first opportunity.  They're all at Nenya and Deryck's castle?
Alindyar:  Aye.
Belphanior:  It's rather late in the day.  We'll head there tomorrow and
  see what's what.
Lyra:  Not today?
Belphanior:  Nope.  I have some odd jobs to take care of.
Alindyar:  We need not take horses - teleportation works well, and we
  know the way.
Belphanior:  How about we return here after breakfast tomorrow, then?
Alindyar:  (nods)  Aye.

  Later, behind closed doors, Otto tried to get to the bottom of things...

Otto:  Why'd you cave?
Belphanior:  I didn't.
Otto:  But what happens if Rob and the others refuse to join forces for
Belphanior:  We'll have to see what happens.  I'm not going to push the
  issue if it gets touchy.
Otto:  Now that would be interesting.
Belphanior:  What would be interesting?
Otto:  If both of us, both groups, were vying to be the first to have
  the privilege of attacking this fortress.
Belphanior:  It could be interesting, if it came to that.  But it won't.
Otto:  Why not?  How can you avoid it, if they refuse to play nice?
Belphanior:  Well, if that's what they want to do, then what choice do
  we have?  We'd be forced to just sit back and let them stage their own
  assault on the lich and his with the first ranks of
  defenders, occupy the foes' attention, take the first casualties...
  think about it.
Otto:  Ahhhhh.
Belphanior:  Right.
Otto:  Clever.  Bastardly clever.
Belphanior:  That's why I won't debate the others, if they choose to make
  their assault without us.
Otto:  Hmm.  Every aspect of this thing involves someone doing something
  because they want to, but with someone else thinking they've tricked
  the other party into doing it.  In a way, it's strange and sick.
Belphanior:  The games demons play.
Otto:  Not just demons.
Belphanior:  I'm not playing any games, I'm just doing what has to be any means necessary.
Otto:  Given what we're going up against, that's the only way.
Belphanior:  I'm still hoping to be able to join forces with the others,
  and augment our might with theirs, but I'm also working on a backup
  plan in case they refuse.
Otto:  Yep.
Belphanior:  One way or another, the lich is in for a world of hurt.

next:      Belphanior vs Rob
released:  7/24/01
notes:     For some reason, I'm really working hard to show Belphanior's
  moral fiber (or lack thereof) with this turn of events.  By the same
  token, he's only doing what he has to do in order to get the job done
  when others don't agree with him and refuse to compromise.  Personally,
  I can see myself doing the same sort of thing.

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