Chapter #803

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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                                            +
+   Elgon           gnomish priest/illusionist/thief                      +
+   Jenna           human female priestess of Istus                       +
+   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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Rob             17th level human priest of Trithereon                 +
+   Date:           3/25/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          Niole Dra, capital of Keoland                         +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "A man with faith...a rare quality."                                  +
+                                     - from _Assault on Precinct 13_     +

                      DCCCIII.  Intermission

  The party has been traveling for two weeks, having left the Perrenland
area and moved south, through mountains and foothills, through Bissel and
the Gran March.  Now they find themselves in the capital city of Keoland,
and Belphanior has called for a day of rest and resupplying in this huge

Belphanior:  We've been on the road for a while, sleeping on the ground
  and eating over fires.  Time for a break, people.
wispy thing:  (grinning as it floats in the air between Belphanior and
   Otto)  nrp, nrp.
Otto:  (chuckles)  You may not need a rest, friend, but we normal types
  sure do enjoy one from time to time.
Elgon:  (shaking his head)  Don't tell me you actually _understand_ what
  that thing's saying?
Otto:  No, but after a while his babbling gets pretty easy to interpret.

  Elgon was one of the two new recruits whom Otto had recently found.  A
gnomish priest who also dabbled in illusions and thievery, he seemed to
fancy himself a magician and trickster.  He followed the ways of the
little-known gnomish deity Baravar, which was just fine with Belphanior
as long as the priest could heal and otherwise assist the party in its
times of need.  Elgon fought with a shortsword but could also throw darts
in combat.

Elgon:  (snaps his fingers, and a tiny burst of green fire appears in
  the air near the wispy thing)
wispy thing:  (glares at the gnome)  sprrd.
Elgon:  Sorry, old chap.
wispy thing:  (flies around to the far side of Angus, perhaps taking
  cover behind the golem's immense metal form)
Angus:  (lying prone in a sturdy wagon pulled by four big horses)
Razor Charlie:  (watching this entire thing, he shakes his head in
  disapproval)  Hrmph.
Ys:  (turns to the cloaked, hooded woman who rides alongside)  So there,
  friend Jenna - how are you liking this so far?
Jenna:  An interesting companion you've got there.
Skektek:  The wisp, or Angus?
Jenna:  The wisp, of course.

  Jenna was the other new party member - a priestess of Istus, goddess
of fate and destiny.  None of Belphanior's group had yet seen her without
her cloak and hood, but a few basic facts were evident:  she was human, a
little over five feet in height, of slender build, with pale skin...and
she preferred to keep her face and hair hidden from sight.  She spoke in
a clear, high voice and tended to be direct.  Her weapon of choice for
combat was a five-foot wooden staff, though hers had both of its ends
shod in metal.

Belphanior:  Into the city we go.  We'll secure lodging for the night,
  as well as more food and supplies...then we'll meet for supper before
  retiring for the night.  I want to be out of here shortly after dawn

  Once they'd passed through the city gates, they split up.  Otto and
a couple of the others went for fresh supplies, while Belphanior and
the rest sought an inn.  The city was large and sprawling, and so the
adventurers had their pick of lodgings; Belphanior settled on one that
seemed above-average but not extravagant.  The first stop there was the

Belphanior:  (hands a stableboy some coins)  Fresh feed and water for
  all of them, right?
stableboy:  Sure thing.
Belphanior:  (checking the ropes tying down the heavy tarp that now hides
  Angus from sight)  Right.

  Soon, the elf had secured seven adjacent rooms for his party.  Elgon
seemed pleasantly surprised that his new employer picked up the tab for
such things.

Elgon:  Mighty nice of him, eh?
Jenna:  (shrugs)  He does as he wishes.
Elgon:  Best deal around, and that's for sure.  (he looks around)  I've
  not been in too many big cities...this seems like a fine place for a
  game or three of dice, or cards.
Skektek:  Maybe Dragon-Deck.
Elgon:  You're a gambler, then?
Skektek:  No, not me - I just know a bit of the game.
Elgon:  I can teach you more, hell, we could even have a bit of a wager
  on it!
Skektek:  No thanks.  I do my gambling on the battlefield.
Belphanior:  Yeah, but you play with a stacked deck.
Skektek:  (shrugs)
Elgon:  I love to fact, my deity practically demands it!
Belphanior:  (sternly)  Just don't get yourself in trouble or attract
  any.  We don't have time for undue attention.
Elgon:  (spreads his hands)  That only happens to those who lose.  Half
  an hour, you said?  I'll be at the dining room.  (he wanders off toward
  a loud common room)
Ys:  This gnome reminds me of the one called Bosco.
Belphanior:  Except he's not yet a Bosco we can trust.
Ys:  There exists no such Bosco.
Belphanior:  True.  (to Skektek)  Here are the other room keys.  I have
  an errand to run.  If I'm not back by suppertime when everyone regroups,
  go ahead and get started, order whatever you want.  I'll be along.

  With that, the elf made a hasty exit from the inn, leaving Skektek,
Ys, and Jenna to arrange for a table and the rest of supper.

Jenna:  (to Ys)  What is a "Bosco" ?

  As the sun set outside, Belphanior stalked the streets of Niole Dra,
intent on something only he knew.  He had to stop once to ask someone for
directions, but after that it didn't take him long to walk the four blocks
and make the two turns necessary to get to his destination...

high priest:  Welcome, my son, to the temple of Trithereon!
Belphanior:  Thanks, Father.  (he looks around)
high priest:  Can I help you?
Belphanior:  I hope so.  I'm looking for a high priest, a fellow named
  Rob.  Last I heard, he lived in this city and was in charge of the
  temple of Trithereon here.
high priest:  Are you a friend of his?
Belphanior:  I'm no foe, that's for sure.
high priest:  No matter, really...he could deal with foes as well, I'm
Belphanior:  He could if he was here, which he's not.  So where could I
  find him?
high priest:  You really aren't from around here, are you?  Rob has left
  this city and gone south, about a day's ride.  He's got his own temple
  out there now, in the wilds.
Belphanior:  How...odd.
high priest:  Anyway, if you leave the city by the south gate, you'll see
  a new road - you can't miss it.  Just follow that and you'll be at his
  temple in a good day's ride.
Belphanior:  What does his temple look like?
high priest:  Oh, don't worry - you can't miss that either.  Just follow
  the road.
Belphanior:  If you say so.  (he nods)  My thanks.

  Shortly, at a large table in the inn's dining room...

Otto:  We're going to see Rob?  Why?
Belphanior:  Normally I'd say something like "because we're in the area"
  but in this case, I actually got a tip from Parekh.  She said to visit
  Rob when we passed this way, because he had something that would help
  us in our mission.
Skektek:  Maybe it's a magical staff, or a wand...or even another golem.
wispy thing:  frrrn.
Ys:  Whatever form the help takes, it will be most welcome.
Belphanior:  Jenna.
Jenna:  Eh?
Belphanior:  You're a diviner, more or less...right?
Jenna:  Indeed I am.  You're going to ask me to shed some light on this
  "help" that we may soon gain?
Belphanior:  (grins)  You didn't have to be a diviner to guess that, but
  yes.  Any ideas?
Jenna:  (frowning in concentration)  I see...a powerful force of good...
  very powerful...and yet seeking another, even more powerful...another
  lost that must be found...
Skektek:  (stops chewing his food)  Is this for real?  (he turns to Otto)
Otto:  (shrugs)
Razor Charlie:  (shakes his head, unwilling to believe anything he can't
  see tangible proof of)
Elgon:  Bah.
Jenna:  (opens her eyes, and sags with a bit of fatigue)  Doubt me if
  you will, but come tomorrow, you shall see whether my vision has merit.
Belphanior:  Indeed we shall.

  The food and drink were excellent, especially to people who had been on
the road for two weeks.  The hearty repast was consumed, and heavily, by
all; afterward, most chose to retire.

Elgon:  I may find a card game or two.
Otto:  Are you really hurting for money that bad?
Elgon:  (frowns)  Money?  Oh, I don't do it for the money.  I do it for
  the thrill.  (with that, he wanders into the neighboring room, from
  which a goodly ruckus can be heard)
Otto:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  If you recall Bosco's ways, then what Elgon just said makes
  sense.  Oh well.  See you all tomorrow.  (the rest of the group makes
  their way to their rooms)
Jenna:  (to Skektek)  Who is "Bosco", anyway?

  As might be expected from a large city in a peaceful kingdom, the night
passed quietly and uneventfully.  Morning found everyone (even Elgon)
well-rested and refreshed.  After checking out of the inn, reclaiming
their horses and wagon, and checking to make sure Angus was still there,
the party left Niole Dra and headed south, on the wide stone roadway.

Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Who would steal Angus, anyway?
Skektek:  And _how_ would they steal Angus?
Ys:  And what would they do with him?
Belphanior:  I have no idea - to any of those questions - but it's just
  a simple precaution I can take, so why not do it?
Otto:  Good point.
wispy thing:  brrrp!
Elgon:  (yawns)  Nice road, this...flat, straight, and rather boring, I
  must say.
Razor Charlie:  (yawns)
Ys:  (studying the path ahead)  The road has been built very recently.
  The flagstones are still perfectly straight, without weeds, and show
  little wear.
Belphanior:  Maybe this road was built specifically for Rob's new temple.
Skektek:  Which is...where?  When will we be seeing it in the road ahead?
Jenna:  Soon.

  "Soon" turned out to be about an hour.  One thing was sure:  just like
the priest in the city had told Belphanior, it was impossible to miss.

Otto:  Holy shit...look!
Belphanior:  (whistles)
Elgon:  (unused to the sight of surface cities and buildings anyway, he
  just stands there, gaping)

  Once in a generation, someone builds a castle, tower, or other large
structure that goes down in the history books as a wonder - a place that
people will be amazed and inspired by seeing, and will travel great
distances to see.  Rob's new temple was such a place.
  The temple complex, situated on a flat grassland, was easily visible
from a league away.  This was primarily due to the central cathedral, a
three-hundred-foot high monster of a building festooned with dozens of
spires and hundreds of decorative windows.  This single structure was
larger than most whole castles, but it was only the centerpiece of the
temple.  Smaller buildings, both attached and free-standing, surrounded
the cathedral; all of these were bordered by thick decorative hedges.
Aside from the wide stone paths, lined with young trees, that connected
all of these buildings, all other space was filled with lush green grass.
The entire place was bordered by a circular wall of stone, over ten feet
high; the diameter of the circle formed by this wall was several thousand
  Of course, all details aside from the colossal cathedral only became
visible as the travelers neared the complex.  The stone road that bore
their horses and wagon led right up to a huge gate, manned by a dozen
heavily-armed soldiers in plate mail.  Their chestplates and shields
bore a symbol that Belphanior knew well.

Skektek:  What's that crest?  It looks like a rune or similar sigil.
Belphanior:  That's the symbol of Trithereon.  I understand that this
  entire complex looks like that symbol as well, if one is airborne.
  (he frowns)  There was a time when we'd be airborne for a journey of
  this sort.
Elgon:  (somewhat disbelieving)  You don't say.
Jenna:  He speaks the truth.
Elgon:  (smirks)  Yeah, sure.  How can you know, anyway?
Jenna:  All high priestesses of Istus have the ability to detect truth
  from lie.
Elgon:  Oh.
Otto:  Those guards look like they mean business.  Are we expected?
Belphanior:  I don't know, but I'm sure I can talk my way through them.

  As it turned out, they actually _were_ expected...

Rob:  (strides toward the main gate, from the interior of the complex)
Belphanior:  (he clasps hands with the high priest)  How goes it?
Rob:  All is well.  (he gestures all around with his hands)  Or better
  than well, as you can see.
Otto:  Some spread you've got here.
Elgon:  I'll say.  Must have cost a fortune.
Ys:  (whispers something to Elgon, something about that rare priest who
  can part oceans and demolish armies of undead)
Elgon:  Ulp.
Rob:  (regards Belphanior's companions)  Some of these are new.
Belphanior:  Ah, of course.

  Quick introductions were made as Rob led them toward the cathedral.
The high priest of Trithereon seemed wiser and more relaxed than ever,
at least to those who had known him before.

Rob:  -and to the left of the cathedral is the armory.
Otto:  Armory?  You have weapons here?
Rob:  Weapons, armor, and the warriors to use them.  Trithereon is not
  a docile god - he demands forcible protection of the flock, and battle
  against the foes.
Belphanior:  So you have a small force stationed here?
Rob:  A large force...five hundred at present, and eventually a lot more.
  I, and Trithereon, originally envisioned this place as a bastion against
  evil from the south.  (he frowns)  Or from anywhere, really.
Ys:  But this seems like a peaceful kingdom.
Rob:  It is, but chaos is in the air...haven't you heard?
Belphanior:  We've been too busy, to be honest.
Rob:  (sighs)  Things are afoot in the Flanaess, as we discussed at the
  ten-year reunion party last fall.  Certain areas are abuzz with evil
  activity, and unknown machinations have been set in motion.  (he wags a
  finger)  Mark my words, some major events are coming.
Jenna:  It's true.  I have seen it.
Rob:  Have you, priestess of Istus, teller of fate?
Jenna:  (solemnly)  I have.  Those who are able have been watching these
  happenings for months now.
Rob:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  If what they're saying is true, we probably lost
  Helgate at a good time.
Otto:  Ugh, don't remind me.
Ys:  Take heart, my friends - the town didn't go easily.
Skektek:  That's for sure.
Rob:  Enough idle talk.  Are you staying here for the night, or heading
  onward for Hepmonaland?
Belphanior:  We're-  wait.  How did you know...?
Rob:  The one called Parekh contacted me, and I know of your quest.  Since
  I can't leave this place right now to accompany you, I instead offer you
  a different sort of assistance.
Belphanior:  Oh.  (he frowns)  A weapon against undead?  A potion that
  renders us immune from undead attacks?
Rob:  No, I'm afraid not.
Otto:  Some secret of Xusia's, then, perhaps learned recently by all of
  you high priests?
Rob:  Nope.
Skektek:  A scroll of undead-slaying?
Rob:  (shakes his head)  Come with me.

  The priest led them into the huge cathedral, which was even larger up
close than it appeared from a distance.  Every chamber they passed through
had at least twenty-foot ceilings, and many were higher still.  Even the
hallways were fifteen feet high at the top of their arches.  At almost
every turn was either a soldier or a priest, in seemingly equal numbers.

Otto:  Do you have five hundred priests here, too?
Rob:  No, but it's close.  The soldiers are theoretically enough, but all
  of my priests - from acolyte to high priest - can fight as well.  (he
  leads them up a short flight of stairs to a spacious balcony which
  overlooks a vast expanse of grassland)  See all that empty land?  Soon
  it will be filled with farms and farmers, shops and streets, all under
  the protection of this citadel.  This is my future.
Belphanior:  That's nice...but what about this help for our quest?
Rob:  Ah, yes.  Almost there.  Come along, now.
Otto:  (walking along, he admires the layout and construction of the
  catherdal, muttering to himself)  Yeah, built to last.  It's not just
  a gigantic church.
Skektek:  Dual purpose, eh?
Otto:  Very much so.  A very small force of very good warriors could hold
  this place against a much larger number of foes.
Razor Charlie:  (wondering if any battle that big will ever take place
  this far into supposedly peaceful lands)
wispy thing:  (flies behind a large shield mounted on the wall)  brrrp!
random priest of Trithereon:  (passing by carrying a water-skin)  Whoa!
Ys:  Hah.

  Rob led them into a hallway lined with large but simple guest suites.
Stopping before the door to one such chamber, he took hold of the round
iron knocker and rapped against the oaken door, one, two, three times.

Rob:  Hark!  It is time!

  There were footsteps, and then the door opened inward.  Standing in the
doorway was a very large, powerful-looking fellow who seemed somehow

Otto:  Hey!
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  Sir Drexel?
big man:  No.  Drexel was slain at the Battle of Xusia's Fortress, as they
  have taken to calling it.  No, I am his twin brother and right-hand man,
  Sir Dremel.
Rob:  (helpfully)  Since we're not sure what exactly happened to Drexel's
  soul, any possible lead, no matter how small, must be followed up on-
Sir Dremel:  What he means is that if you're tracking any surviving
  evildoers, I shall accompany you to search for a way to bring my brother
  back to life.
Belphanior:  (muttering under his breath)  Dammit.

next:      onward to Hepmonaland
released:  1/16/04
notes:     The cathedral/temple was inspired by something I watched go up
  in Atlanta over the last few years, off of Northside Drive parallel to
  I-75 a couple miles north of downtown.  I mean this place is without a
  doubt the biggest, most elaborate church I've ever seen (in the U.S. at
  least.)  It amazes me that organized religion can raise that much money
  to build something so gigantic.

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