Chapter #759

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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                          +
+   Date:           4/24/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late evening                                          +
+   Place:          a run-down inn outside of Greyhawk                    +
+   Climate:        cool                                                  +
+   "If it's locked, then it's worth stealing."                           +
+                                                - from _Dracula 2000_    +

                   DCCLIX.  Long-Ignored Mysteries

  After parting with Rob and the others, Belphanior is cooling his heels
in creative and useful ways...

Belphanior:  The time has come to learn the secrets of Klark and Vybool's
Ys:  Who?
Belphanior:  Two of the ones we killed back when Omak's crew attacked us
  in Helgate.  I learned their names when we talked with the dead one.
  (he eyes Skektek)  I'll be needing your help here.
Skektek:  (nods)  I don't see why we couldn't have done this in a nicer
  place, say, inside Greyhawk.
Belphanior:  Because, though I'm not technically a criminal there anymore,
  it's not worth taking chances...or being seen by anyone who knows Rob.
Otto:  Why?
Belphanior:  Because I want them to think I'm gone and have lost interest
  in their attack plans.  Right now, they're probably finalizing their
  scouting and attack plans.  There won't be much time.
Ys:  Much time until what?
Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)  Not yet.
Ys:  I have a question.
Belphanior:  Shoot.
Ys:  You may not care for the question.
Belphanior:  What is it?
Ys:  Our ranks - those of the marshals - have been...seriously depleted
  in recent weeks.  Have you any plans to rectify this?
Belphanior:  Well, with no town, there's no need for marshals, in the
  most technical sense.  I could find more bodies to fill the spots, I
  suppose, but it comes down to trust.
Skektek:  How's that?
Belphanior:  With all this demon and fortress business, things will get
  pretty rough, pretty soon.  I only want people I can trust to fight
  with me.
Ys:  Ah.
Belphanior:  Besides, I have a plan.  I'll let you know when it's time,
  which I promise will happen before any fighting takes place.  Trust
Ys:  Certainly.  I was merely curious.
Razor Charlie:  (eyeing the spellbooks on the table before Belphanior
  and Skektek, he decides that he has better things to do)  Later.
Ys:  I, too, have no interest in the works of magic.  Perhaps an early
  bedtime is in order.
Belphanior:  Suit yourself.  We could be here for hours.
Ys:  (follows Razor Charlie through the door, into the next room)

  They'd rented two cheap but large rooms in one of the many taverns
that had sprung up on the plains around Greyhawk over the last decades.
However, Belphanior hadn't been looking for premium lodgings, but rather
a place where he could work undisturbed and unnoticed.

Skektek:  So what have we got here?
Belphanior:  Vybool, as near as I can tell, used mostly combat magic.
  The other one, Klark, did nothing but summon monsters and such.  It's
  his book I think will be the most useful to me, at any rate.
Skektek:  Let's see.

  They tackled Vybool's spellbook first; it was a large, cumbersome tome
bound in worn leather.  There was a glyph of warding set into it, which
was fairly easily defeated.  Belphanior couldn't find any more mundane
traps, such as poison needles, and so he opened the book.

Skektek:  You were right...though we can still use this stuff.

  The ogre mage's spellbook contained a number of basic offensive spells
(burning hands, color spray, magic missile, the acid arrow, fireball and
lightning bolt and cone of cold) but they found its best contents on the
last two pages.

Belphanior:  Interesting...he's got an incantation here to bathe himself
  in fire.
Skektek:  Immolation.  Wonder why he didn't use that when he fought us?
Belphanior:  I doubt he got the chance.  What's this other?
Skektek:  Haste _and_ confusion, all in one spell?  Weird.
Belphanior:  He had a sense of humor, maybe.  Me, I'd have added the
  uncontrollable dance to the package, to make it complete.
Skektek:  Still, a useful spell.

  The spellbook of Klark was a more elaborate - and dangerous - affair.
Thick and heavy, it was bound in the scaly hide of some unknown beast.
No less than three spells protected it, including one that went off
despite their best precautions, burning a crater in the tavern's floor
and requiring a shot of foam from Belphanior's wand to douse it.

Skektek:  Think they'll take that out of our security deposit?
Belphanior:  (smirks)

  They saw right away that Klark had been a much more accomplished mage
than Vybool.  His book contained most of the spells to summon monsters,
as well as related incantations (charm monster, conjure elemental, hold
monster, and several spells that Belphanior already had in the Book of
Beasts.)  As with the other tome, this one's greatest treasures were
found at its end.

Belphanior:  (nods)  Excellent.
Skektek:  I'm not following these writings...something about earthen
Belphanior:  I forget that you haven't delved into summoning magic as
  I have...or as Klark did.  This spell fashions a number of mindless
  warriors from dirt, rock, and mud - handy almost anywhere.  (he turns
  a page)  And _this_...a spell that summons the exact same thing just
  summoned by another caster.  Excellent.
Skektek:  What is that last page, there, so thick?  Is it even paper?
Belphanior:  (flips to that page)  Hmm.

  The page was a painted rendering of some swirling mists, with vague
shapes moving about within.

Belphanior:  What the hell is this?  (he runs a finger across the

  Both of them were shocked to see Belphanior's hand pass _through_
the book's page!

Belphanior:  Aie!  (he jerks his hand back, eyeing it critically)
Skektek:  Did it shock you?  Burn you?  Freezing, maybe-
Belphanior:  I'm fine...just don't want to lose a hand.  (he regards
  the image in the book again)

  The mists seemed more lifelike now, as if the painting had come into
focus.  The strange thing was that it had looked realistic before the
elf touched it...

Skektek:  Looks almost good enough to reach out and grab.
Belphanior:  Hmm, I wonder...(carefully, he reaches out - and _into_
  the page again)

  The elf was surprised to find that he could feel the vapors swirling
around his hand.  Not wishing to take any chances, he quickly pulled
his hand back into this reality.

Skektek:  Well, I'll be.  A pocket space within a spellbook.
Belphanior:  I've heard of such things, but never seen them.  Until
Skektek:  Could be risky to experiment with.
Belphanior:  Or powerful.  This thing's giving off a strong magical
  aura.  I wonder what the things in the mists are...they looked like
  demons in a way, but it's hard to tell.
Skektek:  Maybe you have to see them before you can contact them or
  do whatever it is that the page does.
Belphanior:  Or maybe there's some command word to operate this thing.
  (he grins)  Think about it:  this item was the greatest and best-
  hidden treasure of a master summoner.  What do you suppose it does?
Skektek:  Heh.

next:      Belphanior learns more lore
released:  9/21/01
notes:     Though I release it on 21 September 2001, this story and
  several more were written long before the events of 11 September
  2001.  Terrorism strikes the U.S. on a scale never before seen or
  even thought of.  Wow.  I really don't have many words; just like
  all of you, I'm watching and waiting now, to see what happens next.
    I've not written anything in a week, not from lack of desire but
  from lack of time:  I've been at CNN 8-12 hours every day since
  the 11th, and for 11-14 September, that was after putting in my
  8 hours at my main job.  "Madhouse" doesn't even begin to describe
  the work environment at CNN right now.  But if you look at the main
  page and all the specials, I had a hand (or more) in a great many
  of them, at some point.

    Anyway.  Nutshell summaries of new spells:

    Immolation (4th level) - bathes caster in flames which don't harm
      him, but inflict 1d6 hp damage per caster level on all within a
      10' radius
    Apeshit (5th level) - confusion & haste, save at -3, duration is
      one turn; rumors exist of a better version which causes the
      victim to do the irresistable dance as well

    cannon fodder (6th level) - 3d10 animated statues form from nearby
      rock, mud, or dirt; AC/HD/damage varies depending on composition
    copycat (7th level) - imitates any one summoning cast in the last
      turn; if first summoning spell was higher level than 7th, the
      summoned creature(s) from this spell will be uncontrollable

  As for the magical spellbook page...use your imagination.  I've given
all the clues you need.

  I'll get more complete descriptions done later.  I've been really busy
and that's likely to continue through the end of October.  Softball's
still going on, I'm still working two jobs, chasing a woman, and buying
a house.  Getting to 800 by the end of 2001 could be my greatest feat yet.

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