Chapter #902

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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       +
+   1991-2006 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!                                          +
+   Alindyar       18th level drow wizard                                 +
+   Bosco          13th level halfling thief                              +
+   Eduardo         4th level human thief                                 +
+   Felicia         4th level female human thief                          +
+   Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Peldor         20th level human thief                                 +
+   Tanya           5th/11th level female human fighter/thief             +
+   Vinnie          8th level human warrior                               +
+                                                                         +
+   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              +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          8/1/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          early evening                                          +
+   Place:         the Green Dragon Inn, in the Free City of Greyhawk     +
+   Climate:       warm and pleasant                                      +
+   "There's a very definite difference between me and you.  It's         +
+    ambition."                                                           +
+                       - Rau, from the _Fist of the North Star_ series   +

                   CMII.  Covert Machinations

  Despite a would-be threat by a drunken, foreign warrior, the Green
Dragon has returned to normal...

Peldor:  (watching Vinnie drag the unconscious Brutus through the front
  door)  What a fool.
Tanya:  At least his friends didn't try to back his play.
Mongo:  It might just be me, but it seems like that guy picked the wrong
  place to try and start trouble in.
Belphanior:  (smirks)

  The next hours were a time of fun and merriment, with much catching
up and telling of tales (true as well as tall.)  The topics and nature
of the conversations were as varied as they were interesting.  Mongo and
Bosco debated the ability of Thunderdelve Mountain to withstand a siege
from an army of giants.  Skektek and Lyra compared notes on magical
lightning attacks.  Razor Charlie listened to the adventures of Eduardo
and Felicia since they had begun "training" in Greyhawk.  Alindyar and
Elgon had a hearty discussion on the trials and tribulations of life in
the Underdark.  The wispy thing floated around, adding its peculiar
form of commentary to various conversations.  As for Belphanior and
Peldor, they had ventured down into the wine cellar.  The stated purpose
of this trip was to choose some fine wine for the group above, but there
was another motive:  the need for private conversation, away from the
prying ears of others.

Belphanior:  How goes
Peldor:  (sighs)  It's worse than we ever thought, back when we were
  young thieves with the world before bureaucracy.  You'd
  think that rising to power within your chosen occupation would bring
  even more happiness, but that's not the case.
Belphanior:  Why are you still doing it, then?
Peldor:  (frowns)  I'd rather control a large portion of the system
  than be a victim of it.
Belphanior:  Victim?
Peldor:  Any thief in any big city - no matter how skilled or how
  daring - eventually has to answer to the Thieves' Guild there, or
  else face reprisal.  As I chose to settle down, I realized that
  defying the Guild wasn't an option, so I set out to control it.
Belphanior:  I see.

  They stood before a wall-sized wine rack, containing hundreds of dusty
bottles of all vintages.  Peldor took one in his hands, reading the faded
label before putting the bottle back.

Peldor:  Don't get me wrong:  this is the best outcome for me, given
  that I'm living in this city with a family who I care about and need
  to protect.
Belphanior:  (thinking of Helgate)  I tried that once...sort of.
Peldor:  I wouldn't trade Tanya and Ariel for the world - and I've seen
  much of the world - but there are times when I miss the wandering,
  the adventures...
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  Each lifestyle has its advantages and pitfalls.
  I bet you've never had to look behind you, wondering which of a few
  hundred enemies might be waiting with a knife.
Peldor:  Actually, that _can_ happen around here too.  But I get your
Belphanior:  And then again, it's impossible to live life by your own
  rules and not upset some people along the way.
Peldor:  (examining another bottle of wine)  Yeah...speaking of upset,
  I heard about Mongo's near-tantrum when you first got here.  That's
  very much unlike him.  What's going on?
Belphanior:  He recently got a new belt, some kind of ancient dwarven
  artifact.  It grants him strength greater than any giant, but it also
  seems to be causing fits of rage.  (he frowns)  Not just that, but
  also...pride?  Ego?  Sometimes Mongo is a bit _too_ eager to charge
  into battle.
Peldor:  All of this sounds like a dangerous combination.  (he hands
  a bottle to the elf and begins looking for another)  Especially for
  a dwarf who also has invulnerable armor and a hammer that can level
Belphanior:  (nods, muttering)  Dangerous, though sometimes useful.
Peldor:  What's that?
Belphanior:  Nothing.  I've talked this over with Parekh and Neera,
  two of the sharpest minds I know, and they suspect that the belt may
  be somehow...what word did they use..._resonating_ with the other
  artifacts Mongo possesses.  Especially Stormcrest.  The hammer's not
  even from this world, so it's hard to scry information about it...
Peldor:  Let me see if I'm understanding this correctly:  they think
  that these two dwarven artifacts are combining to make Mongo super-
  aggressive and super-confident, as well as super-strong and super-
Belphanior:  Yup.
Peldor:  Mmmm.  (he hands Belphanior a second bottle, then takes two
  more himself)  That ought to do it for now.  Let's get this wine up
  to the others before they die of thirst.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Uh...there's one more thing.  I need a favor.
Peldor:  (raises an eyebrow)
Belphanior:  Don't worry, it's no risk to you or anyone in Greyhawk, and
  you don't even have to do anything.  I just need to borrow something
  for a while.

  Shortly, the two thieves had returned upstairs with the wine, which
was likely to be consumed within minutes anyway.

Belphanior:  (musing to himself as he absent-mindedly sips wine which
  is older than he is)

  The elf was quite pleased; everything was working out nicely on this
trip.  He'd just gotten one of the things he came to this area for, and
it wouldn't be long (relatively speaking) before Nenya hopefully came up
with some clue about the horned helmet that had incapacitated Ys.  From
the outset, Belphanior had suspected the thing to be of Suel make, and
Nenya had agreed with this theory.  Her knowledge of Sueloise culture
and history, combined with her intellect and skill with magic, combined
with the considerable prowess and resources of the others (Belphanior,
Neera, and Parekh) gave Belphanior cause to expect Ys cured and back in
action very soon.
  After that...well, the elf had decided that most of the unresolved
gateway-type issues (the three that contained hostiles, the black metal
cylinder in the darkness gateway, the angelic being in the moon gateway,
further exploration of certain gateway complexes) were secondary to his
new top priority.  He did need the golems from the armory gateway, but
that was going to be fairly easy to accomplish, he suspected.  If all of
the other gateway issues were shelved until a later time, and if he got
the golems assembled under his control, and if Ys was cured, and with
Mongo on his would be time for perhaps his most ambitious
undertaking to date.

Tanya:  (to Belphanior)  What are you smiling about?

next:       it begins
released:   1/13/06
notes:      I'm not kidding.  This could be Belphanior's greatest, most
  ambitious, and most ballsy endeavor yet.  I suppose you readers will be
  the judge of that, though, when all is said and done.

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