Chapter #802

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2004 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!                                          +
+   Belphanior      15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+   Angus           iron golem                                            +
+   Otto            10th/12th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+   Razor Charlie   10th level human fighter                              +
+   Skektek         13th level human wizard                               +
+   wispy thing     strange, intangible sentient being                    +
+   Ys              14th level reptilian fighter                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Parekh          18th level female human wizard                        +
+   Pallin          17th level grey elven wizard of Celestian             +
+   Date:           3/8/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          Pallin's tower, in some distant land                  +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "My kind of trouble doesn't take vacations."                          +
+                             - J.J. McQuade, from _Lone Wolf McQuade_    +

                      DCCCII.  Answers and Secrets

  After some research and planning, Belphanior has journeyed to the home
of some allies to gain insight about his still-unknown destination...

Belphanior:  You're saying there's no way to track the magic down?
Pallin:  I never said that.  It is simply no trivial task, by any means.
  The specific dweomer you seek is as elusive as it is unusual.
Parekh:  But it _can_ be found?
Pallin:  (nods)  I believe so.  Understand:  this is only so because I
  specialize in magic of this sort...magic that spans great distances.
  No such enchantment - even one constructed by a lich archmage - can
  defy a servant of the Celestian, the Far Traveler.  (he begins working
  a spell)  We shall find what you seek.
Belphanior:  If it's a matter of funds, I assure you that I can provide a
  small fortune if necessary.  (he grins)  Or a big one.
Pallin:  (frowns)  Be serious.  There is no amount of money that I would
  require or that would be of use to me.  I do this for the good of us
  all - any residual plans or minions of Xusia must be found, and soon.
Parekh:  (nods)  This was decided by
Belphanior:  The bunch of powerful wizards you were telling me about?
Parekh:  That's us.
Belphanior:  (smirks)  You're sure you didn't come up with some fancy
  name for yourselves, like the Circle of Nine or the Fellowship of Magic
  or the Riders of the Realms or the Wizards of the-
Pallin:  (sternly)  Stop right there.
Belphanior:  Okay, okay.
Parekh:  Why would we name ourselves?
Belphanior:  True...after all, as you said, you're making a point of "not
  sitting around making up new spells we can slap our names on" so...
Parekh:  Exactly.  We know who we are, and we don't care whether or not
  other people know who we are.
Belphanior:  With that much collective power, it won't be long before
  others know about _you_, though.
Pallin:  We operate behind the scenes - much as those pompous fools in
  the Free City of Greyhawk - but we have scope far beyond them, and
  without the rule, cliques, and such that ofttimes make them inefficient.
Parekh:  And thus ineffective.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  What others make up your ranks?
Pallin:  That, my friend, is a secret of the highest magnitude.
Parekh:  Suffice it to say that we have recruited from a number of well-
  known adventuring groups and other organizations.
Belphanior:  (wanting to know more but not sure how wise it is to push
  further, he frowns)
Pallin:  (somewhat annoyed)  Let us return to the business at hand...
Parekh:  Ah, yes.

  Meanwhile, outside of the special scrying room, some of Belphanior's
people waited, biding their time...

wispy thing:  (flying around Razor Charlie's head)  brrrp!
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces, but otherwise ignores the wisp)
Skektek:  Some things never change.  (somewhat annoyed that he's not in
  there with the others, he paces angrily)
Ys:  This room's not going to get any bigger.
Skektek:  I should be in there with them.  They're planning probably one
  of the biggest adventures ever, and I'm not in on it.  Or, I should be
  with Otto back in Perrenland, finding our team a new priest.  I could
  help with that too, you know.  Though the adventure seems quite a bit
  more interesting...
Ys:  Perhaps you are supposed to be planning the attack magic instead.
Skektek:  Attack?  We don't even know who we're going to attack yet.
  (his thoughts turn to fireballs, lightning bolts, and the like, and
  he begins mumbling to himself happily)  Attack...
Ys:  Whoever it is, they likely won't be an easy foe.
wispy thing:  (flying around in slow circles, it frowns)  nrrrp.

  In the scrying room, the trio of magi sat around a large stone table,
continuing their discussion.

Pallin:  Bear in mind that this is mere conjecture, and nothing is sure,
  especially given the involvement of a lich.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Understood.
Pallin:  To put it appears that Xusia was intent on creating
  and maintaining permanent gateways of teleportation across Oerth, and
  perhaps elsewhere.
Parekh:  As we suspected.
Pallin:  I am not sure quite how the lich dismantled the portal within
  the fortress of the Nine so quickly, given that multiple parties were
  attacking the place at the time, but there you have it.
Belphanior:  Maybe he didn't dismantle it after all...maybe it's just
Pallin:  (shakes his head)  No.  What we found while exploring that
  place was a vacancy...a place where the magic had once been, but no
  more.  Somehow the entire portal was removed.
Parekh:  Which leaves us...?
Pallin:  This is where my particular field of study comes in.  I have
  tracked those traces of evocation magic - however faint - and moreso,
  they match the lump of stone you brought me from Baron Albert's manor
  in Blackmoor.  They are _identical_, and I know where you must look.
Belphanior:  And where might that be?
Pallin:  A remote enough site:  the inner reaches of the Pelisso Swamp,
  in Hepmonaland.
Belphanior:  (scratching his chin)  Hepmonaland...
Parekh:  That southern wilderness, south of the Great Kingdom and then
  the Lordship of the Isles.  It's inhabited by savages.
Belphanior:  Yes, I know where it is...I may have even journeyed in that
  region once or twice.  (he frowns, trying to recall if this is actually
Pallin:  Nevertheless, I shall create a map for you.
Belphanior:  That would come in handy.
Pallin:  Observe.  (he makes an arcane gesture, and the ceiling above
  opens like a two-part hatch, allowing a huge sphere to descend to eye
  level of those seated around the table)
Belphanior:  Whoa.
Parekh:  (smiles thinly)

  The globe was about five feet in diameter and appeared to be fashioned
of parchment, as if a gigantic map had been plastered atop a perfect
sphere of some more sturdy material.  The thing spun about slowly, its
surface depicting continents, oceans, and the like.  Some sections were
blank, but more of the surface was detailed than not.  Belphanior stared
at the globe for a few moments, not understanding why its contents seemed
unfamiliar, until it finally dawned on him:  the continent of Oerik was
just one relatively small part of this three-dimensional map's total

Pallin:  This is the Eye of Fharlanghn, an artifact that I use to locate
  things and people, keep track of them, and so on.  It contains the sum
  knowledge of generations of explorers and sages.
Belphanior:  Is this thing accurate...I mean, are we looking at the entire
  world of Oerth here?
Pallin:  Yes.
Parekh:  As you can see, the "known world" is actually only a fraction of
Belphanior:  (still studying the globe)  I'm no cartographer, but this...
  this is amazing.  How many people are aware of the extents of the entire
  continent, and what lies beyond?
Pallin:  (shrugs)  Perhaps a dozen.  Fharlanghn is not my deity, but his
  brother is, and so I am blessed by Celestian to have access to the Eye.
  (he waves his hand, causing a drawer in a nearby desk to open)

  A roll of parchment floated out of the drawer and over to the elf's
outstretched hand; he unrolled it, revealing it to be blank, and then
held it up in front of the globe, chanting some magical phrases.  Before
their eyes, the parchment began to glow, and then writing appeared on its
surface!  A few moments later, Pallin was holding a detailed map of the
Pelisso swamp and the surrounding vicinity.

Pallin:  (hands the map to Belphanior)  This will help you.
Belphanior:  Err, thanks.
Parekh:  I will have Neera do some quick research on the area.  If she
  learns anything valuable, I'll see that it gets to you before you go.
Belphanior:  Thanks.  How is Neera doing, anyway?
Parekh:  Just fine.  She's got all the essential traits of a master sage:
  enthusiasm, intelligence, and thoroughness.  She proves her worth time
  and time again; I'm glad to have her.
Belphanior:  (thinking about how he'd like to have Neera around, but not
  until things get a bit less dangerous)  Mm.
Pallin:  (politely but firmly)  If you will excuse me, I have many other
  things to attend to.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Again, my thanks.  Your scrying and map will prove
  invaluable in the hunt for Xusia's secrets.
Pallin:  Just be cautious.  No secrets - especially ones potentially as
  powerful as the lich's - will come easily.
Parekh:  (with Belphanior, she heads for the chamber's exit)
Belphanior:  (wishing he had more time to study that magical globe, and
  perhaps get some other maps)

  As Parekh and Belphanior walked down the corridor that led to the area
where the latter's crew waited, they had a parting discussion...

Belphanior:  Thanks to you too - I owe you one.
Parekh:  Just find out about the lich and his ruined case they
  aren't so ruined after all.
Belphanior:  Oh, I will.  I will.

  Belphanior had a passing thought about whether or not his crew was ready
for this adventure, but he quickly decided that things were in order.  The
only weak point was Razor Charlie, who was after all a normal human who
threw knives.  Previously, this might have been considered a liability;
however, in their most recent campaign, Charlie had gained a powerful item
that would bolster his defenses.  The Amulet of Keogh was a minor artifact
which conferred resistance to disease and poison as well as regeneration
from wounds.  With its powers, Charlie had become a lot tougher to hurt or
kill, which made both him and Belphanior happier.
  In any case, that was that, and Belphanior collected his people and left
the tower of Pallin.

  A short time later, after Parekh had sent Belphanior and the others
away, she conferred with Pallin.

Pallin:  They are gone?
Parekh:  Yes.  I used my special "teleport others" spell to send them
  home.  (she frowns)  Are you sure it was wise, showing off the globe
  like that?
Pallin:  A small price to pay for enabling Belphanior to go after Xusia's
  surviving force.
Parekh:  (sighs)  I wonder if it's occurred to him that he's furthering
  our group's ends by furthering his own?
Pallin:  It could have entered his mind.  He is not stupid.
Parekh:  I feel bad, in a way.
Pallin:  Remember the pact you made - that we all made, when we entered
  into our alliance of magi.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of
  the few, or the one.
Parekh:  Wise words indeed.
Pallin:  I cannot take credit for them, but they ring true for us now.
Parekh:  (nods)

  Far away, in Perrenland, Belphanior and the others had regrouped with

Otto:  What news?
Belphanior:  (happily)  We've got a lead.  Something's afoot in the wilds
  far south and east of here...the Pelisso Swamp.  It may or may not pan
  out, but it's a start, and we'll go for it.
Otto:  (grimacing)  I've never been there, but that's supposed to be a
  dangerous place.  It's nestled right in there with the realms of the
  savages in Hepmonaland, it's unexplored, it's far enough south to be
  hot and humid, even at this time of year...and we have to go through
  either Ahlissa or the Scarlet Brotherhood to get there.
Skektek:  Hey, Ahlissa's not so bad-
Belphanior:  (frowns, surprised at Otto)  Since when have you backed down
  from any mission, no matter how dangerous?
Otto:  I'm not afraid - I'm just cautious.  Those are rough lands, far
  from any friendly faces.  We'll need to be damn careful.
Belphanior:  Enough of the morale-boosting talk.  How'd it go with the
  search for priests to join us?  Any viable candidates?
Otto:  Whew...let me tell you, this is tough work, hunting for new help.
  (he frowns)  Especially priests.
Skektek:  Are we sure we need one?
Belphanior:  I am.  Between wounds, disease, and undead - especially
  undead - we'd be far better off with a priest than without.
Ys:  I have a request:  no female death-priests, please.
Otto:  Hah.  No, I didn't look for any of those.  However, some of the
  people I did talk to were a little...odd.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)
Belphanior:  So what's the summary?
Otto:  Well, after throwing out all the goody-goody types, the ones who
  follow some unpleasant god, the ones who follow some useless god, the
  ones who like nature, the ones who can't heal...we're left with just
  two who seem like good possibilities.  One's a woman, a follower of
  Istus, the Lady of Fate...and destiny, and precognition, and gypsies
  and weavers.
Ys:  Weavers?
wispy thing:  aaarp?
Razor Charlie:  (regards the wisp, fingering one of his knives)
Belphanior:  A priestess of Istus...
Otto:  She's the one I was thinking of when I used the word "odd"...she's
  more than a little on the quiet side.  However, neither she nor her
  goddess is going to demand much from us, plus she can heal wounds and
  cure afflictions.  And turn undead.
Belphanior:  Sounds good.  What about candidate number two?
Otto:  Not a pure priest, but he's got an interesting skillset...he's a
  priest of some obscure gnomish god called Baravar.
Ys:  I'm guessing this second candidate is a gnome, then.
Otto:  Yep.
Skektek:  Baravar...never heard of him.
Otto:  Exactly.  Anyhow, this gnome is part priest, part illusionist, and
  he's also a thief.  (he frowns)  He didn't exactly admit that last part,
  but I picked up on some things and pushed him until he fessed up.
Belphanior:  (thinks back more than a decade to his own introduction into
  the party of Ged, Peldor, and the others)  Heh.
Otto:  Like I said, he's not _just_ a priest...but he seems useful.  And
  we need all the help we can get.
Belphanior:  We need all the help we can get who don't get in our way.
  We'll take them both - if either doesn't work out, well...we always
  need warm bodies on the front lines.
Skektek:  Works for me.
Otto:  (nods)  I'll get them tracked down and ready to go.  Um, when are
  we going?
Belphanior:  That question would be a lot easier if we still had that
  skyship.  Since we don't, and teleportation's spotty with such a big
  group, including a golem...we'll probably have to go overland.  Or
  oversea, maybe.  I'm working it out.  Tell them to be ready in three
wispy thing:  brrrp!

next:      departure
released:  1/9/04
notes:     I'll deal with the new henchlings the way I've always dealt
  with new ones for Belphanior:  write them for a while, keep them if I
  find them easy/fun to write, else kill them off.
    You can zero in on this group's eventual destination by clicking on

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