Chapter #790

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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      15th/15th/15th 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:           5/15/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the Free City of Greyhawk                             +
+   Climate:        warm                                                  +
+   "Everyone's your brother til the rent comes due."                     +
+                                                  - Sam, from _Ronin_    +

                          DCCLXL.  Favors

  About two weeks after the great battle at the fortresss of the Nine,
Belphanior and his crew are discussing future possibilities...and past

Belphanior:  Talk is cheap.  Those bastards.
Skektek:  What did you expect from the high and mighty Circle of Eight?

  That body of magi had debriefed each of those who had taken part in the
assault on the fortress, even Belphanior, though the elf's participation
had not been sanctioned.  The others, of course, had put in a good word
for him.  Belphanior had spoken for his people, dealing with the Circle
  He had not been pleased at the outcome.  Although they couldn't deny
his role in the battle, they clearly did not approve of it either.  This
would have mattered a lot more if Belphanior had actually gone to the
fortress on their behalf, instead of his own.  Still, he was one to try
and get the most out of every situation, and he had been hoping to gain
some favors from the Circle.  It was not to be, however.  Otiluke had
cancelled the debts that Belphanior owed him from times past, and the
group had presented him with a sizable sum of money (not knowing or
caring, perhaps, that the elf had pocketed some choice valuables from
the fortress itself, in addition to his ungodly gains from Panagaea as
well as the fact that he'd been rich even before that.)  He suspected
that they were giving him a token, buying him off.
  Belphanior had really wanted one thing:  to find and loot Xusia's
lair, wherever it was.  To this end, he had used all the magic at his
disposal - as well as the magic of those others who had fought at the
fortress - to scry for the lich's unknown lair, or sanctum, or whatever
hidden place he had kept his books, scrolls, items, and such.  It had
been a lost cause, though; their best efforts amounted to naught.  They
could find nothing.  It had been easy enough to convince them all, of
course, to use their mightiest spells for this effort - the excuse of
needing to find any dormant evils left by the lich was a good one.  The
only problem was the lack of results.  This was both infuriating and
dangerous, a loose end that nobody wanted...but if their magic found
no trace, that was the way it was, and nothing could be done about it.
Belphanior had implored the Circle of Eight to use their own magic for
this purpose, as well; they assured him that they had, with a similar
lack of results.  Privately, Belphanior refused to let this go, and
resolved to investigate further on his own, in the near future.
  The thing Belphanior wanted second-most, and would have settled for,
was more favor in Greyhawk.  In this, too, he was sorely disappointed.
It seemed that certain past history would never be erased, despite any
claims to the contrary and despite tangible evidence of persecution.
Belphanior had been hoping that the Circle would help him with certain
tasks (current and future) of the magical sort.  When it became obvious
that they were content to hand him money and tell him thanks, and then
be rid of him, he realized that he would never possess the standing and
honors that Rob, Nenya, and those others had or would soon have.
  Thus, he'd left, quietly and without fuss.  His sole satisfaction was
in knowing that he'd fought this last fight for himself, not for them,
and that at least some of them (and gods knew who else) were somewhat
irked that the elf had participated at all.

Belphanior:  (his thoughts return to the here and now)  Yeah.  Bastards.
Razor Charlie:  Everyone's a bastard - just a matter of how long til
  they show it.
Ys:  Aye.
Belphanior:  (cracking his knuckles)
Otto:  Can you find what you need to know without their help?
Belphanior:  Probably, but I hate to generate more favors from friends
  when I could have gotten them for free, from non-friends.

  This soon led to another meeting with the archmage Parekh, who was
(aside from the Circle of Eight) the most powerful wizard who Belphanior

Parekh:  Yeah, they're bastards all right.  I tried to get close to the
  Circle, a long time ago, but they weren't having any of it.
Belphanior:  You weren't powerful enough?
Parekh:  Not as powerful as I am currently, but still the match of half
  of them.  The problem was that it was a mens' club, and as you've no
  doubt noticed, I am not a man.
Belphanior:  But they have that woman now, that Jallarzi-
Parekh:  That was recent - a couple of years at most.  My experience
  with them was almost a decade ago.
Belphanior:  (finds himself wondering just how old Parekh really is)
Parekh:  Anyway, I'd be glad to help you.  Err, what is it you need?
Belphanior:  I have a loose end of a personal nature:  Victoria.
Parekh:  The vampiress.
Belphanior:  The one and only.  She tends to keep disappearing on me,
  and she may be upset with me too.  We were too close way
  or another, it's got to be brought to a head and settled.
Parekh:  Why in the world did you ever share a bed with a vampiress...
  much less _how_?
Belphanior:  The energy-draining thing?  Oh, I have this amulet that
  shields me from such effects of undead.  Beyond that, I can't say.
  It really makes no sense to me just happened.
Parekh:  Did you ever consider that perhaps the amulet made her more
  desirable to you, or vice versa, or both - in addition to making the
  whole thing possible, physically?
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (he frowns)  Hmmmmmmm.  (he scowls)
Parekh:  Didn't mean to strike a nerve - I'm just being pragmatic.
Belphanior:  No, it's okay.  The amulet _did_ come from Necros, a high
  priest of...shit.  Death and undead.  I think you must be right.
Parekh:  I'll find her for you, if that's what you want.  But realize
  that perhaps this stone is better left unturned.
Belphanior:  Oh, I'm sure she's mad.
Parekh:  If you're lucky, she'll only be mad.  I can begin the scrying
  today; it may take a while.  Perhaps you'd care to spar with Drak, or
  talk with Neera in the study?
Belphanior:  I may just take a nap.
Parekh:  You should talk to Neera sometime.  Did you know that she has
  a crush on you?
Belphanior:  (frowns)  If that's what you want to call it.
Parekh:  You could do worse than her, you know.  She's smart, pretty,
Belphanior:  What are you, my mother?
Parekh:  No, I'm the wizard who always ends up helping you with your
  problems, and I'm giving you some good advice.  It's yours to take
  or ignore, of course.
Belphanior:  Mmm.
Parekh:  Go now.  There's a guest room down the hall, you'll know it
  when you see it.  Someone will wake you when it's time.
Belphanior:  But-
Parekh:  Out.  I have work to do.

  The elf had gone to the guest room, laid down on the unbelievably
plush bed, and instantly fallen asleep.  The dreams that followed had
been some of the most bizarre ever, consisting of vague images of a
dark world, mists, undead, and somehow tied to it all, Victoria, who
seemed to be mocking him.  When he finally woke, in a cold sweat, the
day had become night, and still Parekh had been at work.  Belphanior
had eaten a nice supper with Drak and Neera, catching up on recent
events; the battle at the fortress made one hell of a dinnertime tale.
  Parekh wasn't done until the following day, and when she approached,
Belphanior could tell by the look in her eye that the news wasn't good.

Parekh:  Good news and bad news.
Belphanior:  Let's hear it.
Parekh:  I found her.  But she's in just about the worst place you'd
  ever want to go.
Belphanior:  Where?
Parekh:  Have you ever heard of Skava-Ra?
Belphanior:  (furrowing his brow)  That word rings a bell...I can't
  quite recall why...
Parekh:  It's a legendary city, told of in whispered tales.
Belphanior:  A city?  So what?
Parekh:  This city is like no other.  In addition to being far below
  the world's surface - though not the Underdark, which is something
  different - it has a rather unique population.
Belphanior:  I feel like I'm missing one little thing here.  Could you
  just skip the complicated math and put two and two together for me?
Parekh:  Skava-Ra is a city of, by, and for vampires.
Belphanior:  (sighs)

next:      will he do it?  if so, will his crew do it?
released:  1/6/02
notes:     Remember, all of these plot ideas don't actually have to see
  the light of day - I'm just planting seeds here.

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