Chapter #876

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                                   +   +
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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!                                          +
+   Daffodil        11th level human druidess of Obad-Hai                 +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger of Ehlonna                    +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid of Obad-Hai  +
+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Eyer            13th/16th level wood elven fighter/acrobat            +
+   Leila           12th/12th level female grey elven warrior/mage        +
+   Relmar          18th level human high priest of Pelor                 +
+   Validor         11th level human wizard (sage/astrologer)             +
+   Date:           7/2/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the unknown eastern reaches of the Solnor Ocean       +
+   Climate:        hot and humid                                         +
+   "If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or             +
+    reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want,        +
+    and all that is left is a compromise."                               +
+                                                        - Robert Fritz   +

                    DCCCLXXVI.  Critical Juncture

  Two weeks have passed since the encounter with the island that turned
out to be a gargantuan sea turtle...

Peyote:  (stands on deck, mopping sweat from his brow with a damp rag)
  This sucks.

  That sentiment about summed it up.  The voyage had gone on for months,
and the ship, though huge, somehow seemed smaller with every passing day.
People were growing sick and tired of each other, with stupid arguments
breaking out regularly.  The immense stocks of food and water that the
ship had sailed with were nearly depleted, which meant that the priests
would soon be expending a great amount of time and effort to create more.
It also meant that if anything happened to them, everyone on board would
starve...except, of course, that they'd die of thirst first.  Further
complicating things was the recent outbreak of disease; while controllable
thanks to the quantity and quality of priests aboard the _Odyssey_, this
newest problem demanded much of their attention, and wore down their
faith and resolve.  Even the normally stout, stoic Relmar - the most
powerful of the high priests on board - was looking haggard and weary
of late.
  And then, of course, there was the summer heat and humidity, the latter
even greater on the open water.  Sticky sweat and the resultant smell had
become a part of daily life aboard the vessel.

Peyote:  (raises his arms)  I'd feel the breeze...if there was a breeze.
  (he turns to Daffodil)  How can it be so hot, I ask you?
Daffodil:  That's easy.  We're on a ship in the middle of nowhere, with
  no trees to soak up the heat.
Peyote:  Hey, it was _your_ dad who sent us here.
Daffodil:  (frowns)  I know, and I'm going to get him back for this.  I
  mean, it would be one thing if we'd found land by now, found this new
  continent on the far side of the world...but I'm beginning to wonder if
  it really exists, or was someone mistaken?
Peyote:  Hear, hear.

  Wind had been at a premium for the last few days, and the sails were
empty as often as not.  A smaller vessel could have used human power,
via oars, to keep moving, but the _Odyssey_ was far too massive for that
sort of propulsion.

Relmar:  (appears on deck, eyeing the sails angrily)  Again?
Kiel:  (nods)  Again.
Relmar:  (spellcasting)  Surely there is a better use for Pelor's magic
  than this.  (he waves his hands, and a magically-generated wind fills
  the sails)
Kiel:  This is the best use for your magic right now.
Relmar:  That, or attending to the sickly below-decks?  Soon, we may
  have to choose.  (he points at the sails)   The wind I just summoned
  is powerful, and will last for an hour or so.  After that, you're back
  where you started.  (he sighs, then returns to the decks below)
Peyote:  That guy seems frazzled.
Kiel:  I can't blame him.  What he's doing isn't the work of Pelor, but
  rather just maintenance...taking care of the sick and the ship.  (he
  gazes out at the horizon sadly)
Peyote:  Dude, it seems that we've been sailing eastward without finding
  anything for weeks now.
Kiel:  That's because we have.
Leila:  What we need is an air elemental.  I hate to waste that kind of
  magic just to get us moving, but it would be worth it.
Peyote:  And we'd have a nice breeze, too.  You should do it.
Leila:  (debating to herself despite the heat and humidity)  On the other
  hand, an ice elemental would cool us all off, for quite some time, but
  that wouldn't get us moving.
Kiel:  (holds up a spyglass, scanning the horizon again)  What if all the
  legends are false, the tales wrong?  What if there _is_ no mysterious
  new continent halfway around the world?
Peyote:  If that was the case...well, it would still beat the world being
  flat, and us sailing over its edge into an endless void.
Kiel:  (stares at the half-elf, annoyed)
Peyote:  I'm just saying.
Daffodil:  (to Kiel)  There's a lost continent.  There has to be.  It's
  not possible that my father, guided by Obad-Hai, was wrong.
Kiel:  (wipes sweat from his brow)  For all of our sakes, I hope you're

  That day wore on...and then the next, and the next.  The sun beat down
mercilessly, ensuring that the main deck wasn't much of an escape from the
sweltering confinement of the decks below.  The crew was grumbling, as
were many of the passengers.  Tempers were high, morale was low, and the
problems mounted.  And then, a single occurrence took on the significance
of a miracle...

lookout:  (shouts something down to a third mate)
third mate:  (comes running up to Kiel, out of breath and flushed with
  excitement)  The lookout's spotted a bird, sir!
Kiel:  (grins, his sunburned skin wrinkling)
Halbarad:  A bird means land of some sort.
Peyote:  Hopefully something more than a little island.

  Airborne scouts were quickly deployed, Validor using his carpet and
Leila's magic to fly east and gather information.  They returned a short
while later, with mixed expressions on their faces.

Kiel:  What is it?
Leila:  We've found something...something very strange.
Validor:  Something unlike anything ever seen before.
Rillen:  Enough of this wordplay - what's out there?
Leila:  A wall.  A wall of mists, too thick to see through.
Peyote:  A wall?  In the middle of the ocean?
Validor:  There's no other way to describe it.  It begins at the water
  and rises into the clouds.  It extends to the left and right as far as
  we flew, which was quite a ways.
Leila:  It's just a light gray mist, like a fogbank, except it's so thick
  that we couldn't see into it at all.
Validor:  And...(he hesitates)
Kiel:  What?
Leila:  The wall of mist defies magic.
Kiel:  You couldn't use spells to see through it?
Leila:  No, I mean literally, it defies magic.  The carpet started to dip
  as we neared the barrier, and we both got that feeling of weakness and
  nausea that accompanies an anti-magic zone.
Validor:  And then we watched a flock of birds fly down and through the
  mists, and we heard them chirping to each other for a while, until they
  faded into the distance.
Leila:  As if they were alive and well, and flying back to their home on
  some unseen landmass beyond the mists.
Relmar:  This is most distressing.
Leila:  (nods)  To go any farther, we have to risk losing our magic while
  we move through the mists.
Halbarad:  Hah.  That's an easy choice.
Leila:  It is for you.  (she shakes her head)  This isn't good.  A thing
  like this - this barrier in the middle of nowhere - doesn't just come to
  exist.  There's something more to all this, and I don't like it.
Rillen:  What do you propose, that we turn the ship around and sail all
  the way back?
Leila:  No, of course not.
Kiel:  We'll have none of that.  We don't have to like what's ahead, but
  we do have to challenge it.  Barrier or no, we're going through.

next:      breaching the mists
released:  6/10/05
notes:     The opening portion of this episode pretty much reflects how
  I, personally, react to heat/humidity.  In other words, I don't like it
  at all.  I've frequently bragged of my superpowers that allow me to
  resist cold - it's true.  I really can walk outside in 50-degree (F)
  weather with a short-sleeved t-shirt on and not shiver.  I simply don't
  get cold as easily as the average human being.  The flip side of this,
  of course, comes in the hot season.  I think it wouldn't be so bad if
  not for the humidity in my part of the U.S.  At some point, I'd like to
  move northward, where the hottest part of the year is only 80 degrees
  or so, but for now I'm trapped where I am.
    As for the story stuff, well, I'll put it this way:  I know what the
  barrier is, and I know what's inside it and beyond it.  What I don't
  know is what exactly is on the "lost continent" that they'll find
  eventually.  I have about a dozen possibilities, of which about five
  are good (meaning that I'd be happy writing a story arc with them).  I
  just need to decide.  I'm toying with the idea of putting it up to a
  readers' vote!

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