Chapter #867

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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       +
+   1991-2005 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        +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Drak           14th level human barbarian warrior                     +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Parekh         18th level human female wizard                         +
+   Date:          7/1/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          lunchtime                                              +
+   Place:         Parekh's home (exact location unknown)                 +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "There are two ways of meeting difficulties:  you alter the           +
+    difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them."                    +
+                                                   - Phyllis Bottome     +

                   DCCCLXVII.  Sanctuary

  A week has passed since Belphanior's rescue from the Hold of the Sea
Princes, in which he was saved from imminent execution.  The elf has
rested, healed, inventoried his items, and done some planning.  Now, in
his temporary refuge within Parekh's hidden lair, he has gathered his
people together for a strategy session.

Otto:  Good to have you back.
Skektek:  No kidding.  Until we rescued you, I had been getting bored.
Belphanior:  Thanks to you all.  It was a difficult time, one caused by
  a combination of that bad gateway, those damned slavers, and a great
  deal of bad luck.
Otto:  Well, the slavers are taken care of, more or less.
Belphanior:  I'll deal with Prince Creon and the slavers another time.
  For now, I want to focus on the bad gateway, as well as the rest of
  Xusia's bases.
Elgon:  Are we sure it was a bad gateway?
Belphanior:  I am, but we might need help to verify that.  (to Parekh)
  Is Pallin available?
Parekh:  He's elsewhere at the moment, but I'm sure he'll be happy to
  have a look.  In the meantime, your best bet is to avoid using that
  one gateway.
Belphanior:  (smirks)  Yeah.

  They were sitting around a large table whose structure was stylish yet
simple:  the base was a section of tree trunk, lacquered and polished to
a deep brown hue.  Upon this sturdy central leg rested a wide disk of
thick, opaque crystal.  The smooth, grayish surface didn't appear overly
strong, yet it held the weight of Ys' massive arms without so much as
creaking.  The group sat in plushly cushioned chairs around this odd
table, and they were having a splendid lunch.  Standing away to one side,
silently and unobtrusively guarding Parekh as always, was the golem of
mithril.  Nine feet tall, powerfully built, and stronger than any steel,
this construct was unique and rather sturdy.  Fortunately, it didn't seem
that the golem's services would be required anytime soon.

Elgon:  (eyeing the golem, in awe at its simplicity and power)
Skektek:  (hands Belphanior a parchment)
Belphanior:  Let's review the gateways we know...(he takes the list and
  taps at it with a quill as he talks)  The first one we found is in the
  Pelisso Swamp, then one in the Sea of Dust that was inhabited by the
  mummy king Al-arakara and his followers.  Third, the one in the frozen
  north, which was abandoned and had some magic items in it...fourth was
  the one in the mountainous region, fifth was overgrown with all those
  evil plants.
Skektek:  And the two we know about that were destroyed, one in the
  Fortress of the Nine and one beneath that manor in Blackmoor.
Belphanior:  Right.  So that's five we've seen, and two that have been the unknown faulty destination that split us up, that
  makes eight.

  The elf's thoughts wandered for a moment, recalling the various tales
that his group had shared concerning where they'd ended up after the
disastrous gateway split.  Belphanior himself, of course, had been
transported to the Hold of the Sea Princes, but the others had dealt
with their own share of confusion and problems.  Otto had ended up in
Aerdy, where he'd found it necessary to be crafty as well as careful to
escape with his skin intact.  Apparently, things were becoming more and
more lawless there, by the day.  Skektek had found himself in the middle
of a city of dwarves in Urnst, almost a laughing matter compared to the
trials and tribulations of some of the others.  Razor Charlie's story
was simple, and told only in brief by the gruff warrior:  he'd woken up
in a region of mountainous wilderness in the middle of winter.  Only his
survival skills and will to live had sustained him for the month it took
him to find his way back to civilization.
  Ys had suffered the peculiar indignation of being teleported into the
midst of a village of halflings, who had understandably been terrified
and retaliated with their full force.  Unfortunately for them, their full
force wasn't enough to harm the gigantic reptilian, so he'd left the
village and made his own way back to civilization...or at least, had been
in the process of doing so when the others located him.  Elgon and Jenna
had vaguely interesting, but not exceptional, stories of where they'd
ended up and how they'd dealt with it.  As for the wispy thing, it had
no way to communicate its experiences, even if it had been inclined to
do so; its comings and goings were, as usual, a mystery to all others.
  Of course, of all these adventurers, only Skektek had a modicum of the
magical prowess necessary to contact Parekh, whose greater magical power
had been necessary to locate each member of the group.  Skektek had,
after all, focused his talents on purely destructive spells; while he
knew the principles of other sorts of magic, it had taken him some effort
just to find Parekh.  Fortunately, Belphanior had friends in high places,
and thus his friends had friends in high places.  Once Skektek had been
able to locate Parekh, it was a trivial matter for her to find the others
and regroup them...except for Belphanior, who had been under heavy guard
in the Sea Princes' dungeons when she tracked him down.  This had then
necessitated the elaborate rescue mission which they'd mounted.

Belphanior:  (remembering the treatment he received at the hands of
  Tyros, Prince Creon and the others, he flexes the fingers of one hand
  into a fist)  They'll pay...
Parekh:  What's that?
Belphanior:  Nothing.  (he frowns)  What was I talking about?  Oh, yeah.
  So there are eight gateways we can account for, and we decided that
  there were nineteen total, which leaves eleven we haven't explored.
Neera:  And the runes that match some of those eleven destinations are
  "blood", "tree", "sun", "lunatic", "water", "cut" or "wound"...
Otto:  It seems that the next move is to go back to the first gateway we
  found, in the Pelisso Swamp, and then try some new, unknown ones.
Belphanior:  That's right.  I know that you all probably want some rest
  time - believe me, I understand - but I want to get back to the network
  of gateways as soon as possible.  What do you think about heading out
Otto:  A day of rest is enough for me.
Skektek:  (sighs)  I was hoping for more, but I can deal with it.
Razor Charlie:  (just shrugs)
Elgon:  You're the boss.
Jenna:  Whatever happens, it's the fate of Istus.
Ys:  (yawns)
Belphanior:  (to Parekh)  Of course, I'm assuming that it's okay for us
  to stay here another day?
Parekh:  Certainly.  In fact, I've already taken the liberty of having
  chambers prepared, and meals planned.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Then we'll go with my plan.

  At that point, they split up, each to attend to their own business.
Otto and Razor Charlie wanted to check their weapons and equipment,
especially Charlie, who muttered something about rust on his throwing
knives.  Skektek said something about reviewing the order and type of
his attack spells, then excused himself.  Jenna retreated to her guest
room to pray to Istus, in private.  Elgon asked for, and got, permission
to simply take a walk.  Ys went to take a nap.

Belphanior:  And that's that...and we'll be fighting unknown foes again
Neera:  I'm going to work some more on Skektek's notes of the gateways,
  and see if I can come up with some more clues for you.
Parekh:  Don't work too hard.
Neera:  I have to, if they're leaving tomorrow.  (she smiles)  But this
  is what I do, and I enjoy it.  It's not a problem.

  Neera gathered her parchments and exited the room, leaving Belphanior
and Parekh at the table.

Belphanior:  You're sure this isn't an imposition, especially after all
  you've done for us?
Parekh:  Not at all.  The gateways are important, and they need to be
  explored and charted.  Better to have our own people do that, rather
  than some unknown minion of Xusia.
Belphanior:  Or a Sueloise mummy-king.  (he stands)  I'm heading to my
  room.  I need to take stock of my items - what I've lost and what I've
  still got.
Parekh:  Indeed.

  Soon, Belphanior was walking along a pathway between two small swaths
of grass.  Birds chirped and insects buzzed, the sun was warm overhead,
and the sky was blue and clear.  It occurred to Belphanior that somehow,
these conditions were always prevalent at Parekh's home.  It then occurred
to him that he still wasn't quite sure where this place was located; he
decided that the next time he had the time or inclination, this matter
would need to be investigated further.

Drak:  (chopping wood under the shade of a large, ancient tree, he waves
  the elf over)
Belphanior:  (clasps hands with the warrior)  How are you?
Drak:  It's been a while.
Belphanior:  I was...busy.
Drak:  (nods)  Make sure you repay those bastards for what they did.
Belphanior:  Count on it.  (he changes the subject)  Chopping wood?  I
  wouldn't have guessed that you needed to do that here, with Parekh and
  her magic, not to mention the fact that it's summer.
Drak:  (grins, stretching his massive arms)  Oh, I don't _need_ to do
  this - I want to.  It relaxes me, and helps keep me fit and strong.
Belphanior:  Ah.  Well, I've got some things to attend to.
Drak:  Take care.

  The pathway led between two buildings; one was a tower, which housed
Parekh's meeting-room, magical world globe, library, laboratory, living
quarters (and presumably other things yet unrevealed.)  The other was a
bunkhouse of sorts, with a dozen guest rooms as well as a kitchen and a
dining hall.  These two structures were surrounded by lush green grass,
assorted hedges, and numerous flowers.  Beyond the central complex was
a field, ranging about a hundred feet out in all directions; this field
was surrounded by a perfectly circular stone wall, three feet in height.
It was Belphanior's personal opinion that the wall was more for show
than protection; beyond the wall, in all directions and as far as the
eye could see, were rolling hills covered with short grass.  There was
a strong aura of magic throughout the entire place.

Belphanior:  (eyes the hilly terrain beyond the circular wall, wondering
  what's out there)

  Parekh had cautioned all guests to her home, on their very first visit,
not to ever go past that short wall.  All such warnings came in a tone of
voice that didn't invite questioning or debate, much less disobedience.

  Shortly, Belphanior had locked himself in his room.  The accommodations
in Parekh's guesthouse were equivalent to the suites at some inns:  the
room was spacious, the bed large and soft, the window expansive and as
clear as crystal.  Aside from a dresser and a table, there was a separate
washroom, whose bathtub and washbasin filled and drained themselves, by
magical means.  It was actually a good getaway - especially considering
everything that Belphanior had been through in recent days.

Belphanior:  (opens his various bags and pouches, cleans out his pockets,
  and lays out all of his possessions, across the bed and the floor)

  The elf's collection of magical items had taken a hit.  When he'd been
in Tyros' study during the escape from the Hold of the Sea Princes, time
had been short.  Some items had been missing, and there had been no way
to find them.  He still had the most important things:  Blackrazor, the
crystal eye, the portable hole, the cube of force, the Book of Beasts.
He'd also recovered useful but more minor items:  his twin periapts,
folding boat, the iron flask (currently holding Drusilla), and his ring
of spell storing.  The odd Panagaean figurine of wondrous power, which
summoned the wild three-headed dog, had also been collected.
  Everything else he'd been carrying at the time of his capture was gone
and presumably lost forever:  the bracers of defense and belt of ogre
power, the ring of wizardry, boots and cloak of elvenkind, the silver
string, lightning rod, well of many worlds, and several potions.  Last
but not least, the amulet of Necros - that mighty quasi-relic that
conferred immunity to all harmful undead side-effects - was lost.  That
item had allowed him to carry on some semblance of a normal life with
Victoria, back in the Helgate days.  He decided that it was a good thing
she'd gone, and wondered if his impression of her had been altered, even
subtly, by the amulet he'd been wearing.  It was, after all, a creation
of evil undead powers.
  Spell-wise, Belphanior had lost his traveling spellbook, which was no
big deal aside from the fact that someone else had gotten those spells,
if they didn't already have them.  His master spellbooks were safely
hidden away, and could be used to create another traveling spellbook,
given time and effort.  The elf never kept more than that one traveling
spellbook on his person, since he had so many items and allies to fall
back on when the going got tough.  That strategy, he mused to himself,
might now have to change.
  Of course, the elf had also been carrying a small fortune in gemstones
when he'd been captured, and that loot - enough for any normal person to
retire and live in comfort for the rest of their life - was long gone.
Belphanior wasn't overly concerned about that, since it was just a tiny
part of his overall fortune, which had been bolstered considerably after
the Panagaea adventure.  Belphanior preferred to deal in gemstones, since
they were portable yet valuable; he'd long ago converted the vast bulk of
his fortune into gemstones.  Most of these were currently stored in the
care of friends (Parekh and Peldor) or secreted in numerous caches across
the Flanaess.

  All in all, he'd suffered some losses, but it could have been a lot
worse.  Belphanior would have to change the way he did some things, and
the way he prepared for adventuring and combat, but all in all, this was
survivable.  After all, he'd survived.  But now, surviving was not enough
for Belphanior - he didn't want to just survive, he wanted to thrive, and
indeed, to conquer.  He'd learned from his recent hardships, and now, it
was time to get aggressive and take some action.

next:      gateway #9
released:  4/8/05
notes:     I know I copped out on explaining where Belphanior's crew was
  teleported to, and what adventures they had there.  Maybe that will be
  a lost tale someday.
    As of this episode, Belphanior now carries ten magical items (sword,
  eye, two periapts, ring, book, folding boat, cube of force, portable
  hole, and the figurine.)  The ruby skull of wizardry had been stashed
  elsewhere and was not lost.  Everything else from the "worn" and
  "carried" sections of his inventory page on the website can officially
  be considered gone (the "kept" and "extra" sections' items are fine,
  since they were stashed elsewhere.)  This was a good opportunity to
  purge his inventory, and I took it.
    Also, remember, you can get the latest version of everything that the
  adventurers know about the gateway system from the website, at the URL

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