Chapter #761

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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                                +
+   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:           4/25/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          Nenya & Deryck's castle, southwest of Greyhawk        +
+   Climate:        cool                                                  +
+   "At least we can be temporary friends.  We have a common enemy."      +
+                                           - Jeffrey, from _The Killer_  +

                     DCCLXI.  Champions

  The time has come.  In the dining hall of Nenya and Deryck's castle,
in response to a potentially world-shaking evil, a company of mighty
champions has assembled...

Rob:  (surveys the group, arms crossed)  Excellent.

  Three of the Oerth pantheon's greater powers were represented here,
and all three of those representatives were also Oligarchs of the city
of Greyhawk.  Ravel Disander, the aged but stout high priest of Boccob
and Ged's former mentor, would not be going on this adventure, but he
had entrusted Nenya (and indirectly, Deryck) to bring the power of
Boccob to the company.
  Pelor, god of sun, light, and healing, was represented by the head
constable and priestess Derider Fanshaen.  Pelor's highest-ranking
follower in the area, the Matriarch Sarana, was not the adventuring
sort, and she had designated Derider to go in her place.
  Jerome Kasinskaia, Patriarch of Rao and bringer of peace and reason,
rounded out the high priests of the greater gods.  Like Derider, he
was an Oligarch of Greyhawk; unlike her, he demanded to go, and used
his standing to ensure this.  Jerome had been thinking of retiring
from the Oligarchy for years now, for he was bored and tired of such
work.  They were glad to have him, for his power and wisdom rivaled
and perhaps exceeded that of Ravel himself.

  But there were others.

  Rob, of course, served Trithereon, god of liberty and retribution.
Next to him stood Boltar, vassal of Pholtus, the bringer of light and
law; the high priest had only recently returned from the Lost Tomb of
Panagaea with Belphanior.  Heironeous, noble god of justice and honor,
was well-represented by his champion Sir Drexel.  The armored paladin
towered over the elf Eyer, who followed the ways of Fharlanghn, the
Traveler.  That deity's brother, Celestian the Wanderer, also had an
elf in this company:  Pallin, a grey elf whose magic favored stars and
space.  An actual saint, Wilhelm of the Cudgel, was here to speak (and
act) for the legendary Cuthbert.
  Both of Greyhawk's druidic powers had a voice here as well:  Peyote
and Daffodil followed the wild Obad-Hai, while Halbarad served the
Lady of the Forests, Ehlonna.

Jerome Kasinskaia:  (to Alindyar)  What deity do _you_ serve?
Alindyar:  (ignoring the inquiring looks and increased attention that
  this question brings)  Lyra and I serve no greater powers.
Jerome Kasinskaia:  Oh.
Lyra:  (slips an arm around Alindyar's waist, drawing herself close)
  Then again, when one's mastery of illusion allows one to reshape
  reality, it doesn't really matter, does it?
Jerome Kasinskaia:  Err...I suppose not.
Pallin:  (ignores Jerome, addressing Alindyar via ESP)  You are the
  individual who studied under the Lord of Illusions?
Alindyar:  (only briefly alarmed, he answers instinctively, also by
  ESP)  Aye.
Pallin:  (nods slightly to the dark elf)

  Although none of the Circle of Eight were part of this company,
Alindyar and Lyra had their blessing, as well as some other boons.
Lyra had been given a staff and robe of the archmagi, these mighty
items boosting her already-formidable offensive and defensive power
for the battle ahead.  Alindyar had received an enchanted belt with
the useful property of deflecting, without fail, the first attack
of any sort by a given foe.  In essence, this item gave its wearer
a second chance during combat.
  More important than these items, however, was the covert participation
of several members of the Circle in the massing of a small army to lay
siege to the evil ones' fortress.  The basic problem was that, in order
to find and defeat Xusia and his allies, a small force would have to
delve deep into the depths of the fortress.  That team was now fully
assembled, but to do its part, it would have to be supplemented with an
additional force of some sort.  This force would have to draw attention
away from the true purpose of the mission and also deal with the standing
army quartered in Harshaak and the fortress itself.  The favored solution
seemed to be an army for the side of Good; raising such an army was no
small feat, but actually _getting_ it to the fortress, undetected, was
an impossible feat.
  Or was it?  Several of the involved parties had participated in the
creation of the massive but temporary portal used to send the great
beast far from Greyhawk, years ago.  Such magic could be invoked once
again, this time to send an army from one place to another.  In this
particular case, there would actually be several armies.  The primary
and largest was being formed even now in Furyondy, consisting of troops
form that kingdom as well as Nyrond.  A second force was massing in the
Flinty Hills and was made up of dwarves, gnomes, and halflings.  The
third army was to come from Ratik, to the east; this force was smaller,
as the Baron of Ratik could ill afford a large host of warriors while
the Bone March teemed with evil.  A fourth, supplemental force would
make its own way to the Fortress:  the mercenary army of Greyspire,
hired out in its entirety for this campaign.

  Synchronizing these various forces while keeping a low profile was far
from a sure thing.  However, it had to be done;  favors were called in,
countless thousands of coins changed hands, and politics were brought
into play.

  But these things were on a scale too large for the champions to deal
with or worry about just yet.  For now, they simply assembled, and made
ready for the great work ahead.

  Many of these heroes had one or more henchmen, subordinates, or other
support crew, ranging from the elven archer Baltek (Eyer's henchman) to
the great tiger Zephyr (Halbarad's companion) to the white hound that was
constantly at the side of the elf Pallin.  There were humans, dwarves,
elves, a gnome or two, even a lizard man - the servants of these people
were as varied as their masters were powerful.  And then, of course,
there was always the unexpected ally...

Rob:  What's all that ruckus?
Deryck:  (draws his sword)  Sounds like a fight...coming this way.

  There was some commotion from the hall, and then a loud, angry dwarf
burst into the meeting-chamber, several servants and guards almost dangling
from his armored form.

Nenya:  Mongo!
guard:  Forgive us, milady.  He wouldn't be stopped.
Mongo:  I want in.
Nenya:  But Belphanior said that you had business elsewhere-
Mongo:  Not any more.  Gorgo can make his own way home without any
  problem.  If there's ass to be kicked, I'm coming along.
Pallin:  Who is this...barbarian?
Derider Fanshaen:  Everyone, this is Mongo Thunderhead, an ally and
  friend of mine.
Eyer:  And an ally of Yod Ironbeard, of Thunderdelve.
Ravel Disander:  I, too, will vouch for him.
Sir Drexel:  As will I.  You'll find none braver, or stronger.
Peyote:  Hey, me too.
Rob:  (to the assemblage)  We need more warriors here anyway.  Mongo is one
  of the best.  If he wants to go...he goes.
Mongo:  Now you're talking.

next:      things get moving
released:  10/16/01
notes:     Sorry it's been so long.  I've been doing a ton of work on
  the "Fortress of the Nine" accessory.  To give you an has
  6 levels that have to be mapped and keyed.  Completing roughly two-
  thirds of this work has taken me 12 hours...hours which are rare.
    In addition to lots of CNN overtime (meaning more than 80 work hours
  per week) I've started working out daily again and really regimenting
  my meals.  And softball...we have 2 weeks of that left, the two teams
  are 5-2 and 2-6.  Last night I went 4-4 with 2 doubles, a triple, 3
  runs scored, and 4 runs batted in.  It was awesome.
    So the bottom line is this:  after October, I should have more time
  to write, and the fortress should be done and in your hands.  Can I
  get to 800 by year's end?  It would be a tough goal to reach, no doubt
  about that.

  Some useful resources pertinent to this story arc:

  - good, quick primer on the Greyhawk pantheon

  - powerful personages of Oerth


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