Chapter #755

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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          10th/12th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie 10th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       13th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            14th level reptilian fighter                          +
+                                                                         +
+   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:           4/24/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          Nenya & Deryck's castle, southwest of Greyhawk        +
+   Climate:        cool                                                  +
+   "Men make promises.  Heroes keep them."                               +
+                                              - from _Crossfire Trail_   +

                  DCCLV.  Neither Allies Nor Enemies

  After teleporting to Nenya's castle, Belphanior is engaged in a crucial
meeting with the other adventurers who have the same general intention as

Rob:  We cannot join forces with you.
Belphanior:  Why?
Rob:  (shrugs)  Trithereon does not ally himself with demons.
Belphanior:  It's not that simple.
Rob:  It is to me.  Though we can use your help, it isn't possible with
  that demon prince operating behind the scenes.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Is this wise?
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Agreed.  We could definitely use Belphanior's
  help in this endeavor.
Belphanior:  (to Rob)  Maybe we're all puppets, even if we won't admit it.
Rob:  Five years ago, I could have easily been persuaded to go along with
  your plan, undoubtedly through simple ignorance.  Sadly for demon lords
  everywhere, those days are past.
Belphanior:  It's your choice.  (he turns to the others)  Do you share his
Halbarad:  In a way, yes, though practicality should perhaps override any
  moral position.
Peyote:  Ditto for me, dude.  It's a tough call.
Nenya:  I have to agree with Rob, simply because any goal of a demon can't
  be a good thing.  One of them is no better than any other.
Belphanior:  What about the goal of the demon whose minions are in that
  fortress right now?  By _not_ doing anything, you're furthering _his_
Rob:  We _are_ doing something, we're just not doing it in the manner
  that someone else wishes.
Belphanior:  By doing what your god wishes, you _are_ doing what
  Demogorgon wishes.
Rob:  By doing what my god wishes...I am doing what my god wishes.  It is
  not for mortals to question the ways of gods.
Belphanior:  (exasperated)  Stupid.
Rob:  (shrugs)  It is Trithereon's will.
Peyote:  Uh...this may seem like a silly question, but why not just let
  the two demon sides battle it out, and then step in when the smoke
Belphanior:  There _is_ no Demogorgon side.  He's not making a move - he
  can't.  He has no agents on this plane.
Rob:  How do you know that for sure?

  Outside the chamber, the others waited for Belphanior...

Skektek:  Do you think they'll join forces with us?
Otto:  Probably not.
Skektek:  Nah, me either.
Ys:  Then we will make our move immediately?
Skektek:  I imagine we'd wait for a bit...plan and plot, that sort of thing.
Otto:  We'll see.
Ys:  This may sound odd coming from me, but...if it's to be just we four
  and Belphanior, we may well need to seek out some help.
Razor Charlie:  (thinking of the recent deaths, disappearances, and whatnot
  that have depleted their ranks)  Hmph.  (he grimaces)
Skektek:  Oh, we'll have help.
Ys:  From what front?
Skektek:  Aside from whatever the demon lord may do to help Belphanior, you
  have to factor in all the allies that the elf can summon.
Razor Charlie:  May not be enough.
Otto:  He'll handle it.  He always has.


Rob:  And don't even think about heading there first - we've already
  begun the scouting and planning process.
Belphanior:  (makes a mental note to kick Boltar in the teeth if he
  ever sees the priest again)  Fine.  Have it your way.  I wish you luck.
  (he spins on his heel and departs)
Halbarad:  Well.
Alindyar:  We could have used his help...and perhaps that of Mongo, who
  is away but seems allied with Belphanior at this time.
Rob:  We shouldn't count Mongo out just yet.  He can be swayed.
Peyote:  (wondering why everyone can't just get along)
Daffodil:  I think we'll be fine without him too.  After all, we have
  three high priests, basically, plus three powerful wizards, and also
  significant fighting power.
Nenya:  Everything has tradeoffs.
Deryck:  We'll soon know.
Halbarad:  Have you assembled your scouting force?
Deryck:  Done, yesterday.  They are already en route.
Nenya:  (explaining)  I took them to within a half-day's ride of that
  town, Harshaak.
Peyote:  And they're competent?
Deryck:  They forayed into the upper reaches of the temple of elemental
  evil and came out alive.
Nenya:  (holds up a finger)  Though we never did get that whole tale.
Deryck:  They emerged alive, which says much for them.
Rob:  And they are trustworthy?
Deryck:  Hardly, but it doesn't matter, since I've not told them any
  details of what's happening.  They don't know the big picture.
Halbarad:  They're just scouting.  (he frowns)  Which I could have done.
Deryck:  You - or I, or any of us - would stick out like a sore thumb in
  the repellent town that lies at the fortress' base.  No, we had to send
  some who can fit right in.
Rob:  Since I've never met these people, I'll have to take your word for
Deryck:  Oh, trust me...they fit in.  They definitely fit in.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Is it true?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I have no idea...I have never met these
  hirelings Deryck speaks of.  We shall have to trust him.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  And prepare as many fallback options as we
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Absolutely.

  The plan was simple:  after the scouting party had infiltrated the town
and gotten the lay of the land, a couple of them would leave by night and
put a goodly distance between themselves and the town.  In this sub-group
would be their wizard, who would then use a specially-prepared token to
alert which point the entire group would teleport to that same
spot.  After a debriefing, the main team would then execute its attack.

Alindyar:  This plan is fine and well except for one thing:  we shall be
  eight, against not only nine but presumably other forces, such as their
  armies, bodyguards, servants, monsters, and such.
Rob:  Oh, not to worry.  We'll have some reinforcements.
Deryck:  How so?
Rob:  I have been in communication with other high priests of other Good-
  aligned deities.  (to Alindyar)  They, in turn, have contacted your
  friends in the Circle of Eight.  Support and resources for this are
  being brought into might be surprised.
Alindyar:  True...but then again, I might not.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  What in the hell is he talking about?  What
  other support and resources?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I know not, but rest assured, we will find
  out...we most certainly will find out.
Rob:  I would suggest that everyone rest up and prepare yourselves for
  what is to come.
Halbarad:  That statement is contradictory.
Rob:  You know what I mean.
Nenya:  And remember, we have the spells of mass teleport - thanks to
  Lyra - so you can bring henchmen, a handful of soldiers or allies,
Lyra:  (nods)  True.  The more, the merrier.
Daffodil:  How long do you think it'll be now?
Rob:  Days, at the most.
Deryck:  They work fast.  Perhaps tonight, but tomorrow night at the very
Halbarad:  (grasping his axe's handle)  We'd best be ready, then.

  With that, they retreated to their guest quarters in Nenya's castle,
each to prepare in his or her own way.  Rob, for his part, was highly
pleased with himself.  He had conversed with his counterparts from other
religions, including Boltar (representing Pholtus) and _three_ of the
Free City's Oligarchs:  Ravel Disander for Boccob, Derider Fanshaen for
Pelor, and Jerome Kasinskaia for Rao.  In addition, he was attempting to
open communication with ranking servants of other powers of Good, such
as Heironeous, St. Cuthbert, Celestian, and Fharlanghn.  Truly, Rob was
taxing his limits, physically, mentally, spiritually, and politically.
However, in a few short days he had basically built, from nothing, a
loose alliance of almost a half-dozen major representatives of deities
whose basic aims were the same.  All that remained was to round out the
group and align its members' resources in the same direction...and then,
even Xusia had best beware.

  For this reason, Rob knew that his party could and would get by just
fine without the aid of Belphanior.  Nobody wanted to see agents of Orcus
(or any other such dark power) establish any kind of foothold on Oerth.
The cards were all chosen, the hands all dealt; whether they were above
the table or below, the game was about to be played out.

next:      Deryck's "scouts" do some free thinking in the town of Harshaak
released:  8/1/01
notes:     I'm not sure what's more amazing:  that this is getting so
  complicated, or that I'm actually letting it!
    It will all tie in nicely with an accessory I've been working on
  for more than a year now:  the Fortress of the Nine.  It details Xusia,
  his eight partners in crime, their fortress, and the town at its base.
  I guess I'd better take it out, dust it off, and polish it up for you.

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