Chapter #903

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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       +
+   1991-2006 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!                                          +
+   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                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level drow wizard                                 +
+   Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Peldor         20th level human thief                                 +
+                                                                         +
+   Parekh         18th level human female wizard                         +
+   Date:          8/20/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes        +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "The mere fact that you _could_ automatically begs the question       +
+    of whether or not you _should_."                                     +
+                                              - from _Coup d'Etat_ #3    +

                   CMIII.  The Machinations of Doom

Twenty-two days ago...

  Belphanior:  And so, I could use a little help.
  Parekh:  (nods)  This is dangerous territory...unlike anything you've
    ever tried before.
  Belphanior:  Unlike, yes, but maybe not as risky.  In the grand scale
    of things, this is a lot less intimidating than dealing with, say,
    the demon lord Orcus in his own domain.
  Parekh:  Point taken.
  Belphanior:  Hell, with the level of planning and preparation I'm
    putting into this, it has to succeed, at least partially.  I may not
    gain everything I'm after, but I'll damn well make a difference.
  Parekh:  I have no doubt.  (she locks eyes with him)  What sort of
    help do you need?
  Belphanior:  Well...(he begins counting with his fingers)  One, I need
    Pallin's expertise with teleportation, gateways, and such.  The sort
    of power he commands would make a huge difference in what I've got
  Parekh:  I can talk to him.  The cause is just...and after all, he
    lent his...assistance against the same forces previously.
  Belphanior:  (nods)  Two, I need some magical means of communicating
    back to those waiting for the signal...come to think of it, I need
    a place for those people to lay low and wait for the signal.
  Parekh:  That counts as two things, not one.
  Belphanior:  Okay...then it's three:  teleportation, communication,
    and a staging area.  (he pauses)
  Parekh:  Four?
  Belphanior:  Four...would be you and Drak coming along to help with
    the main battle.
  Parekh:  (shakes her head)  No.  Out of the question.  We can't get
    directly involved, not in something of this scale.  That might draw
    unwelcome attention to me - to my home, and my peaceful existence
  Belphanior:  Well, I had to try.
  Parekh:  Understood.  I'm fairly confident that I can help you with
    the other things.  I'll talk to Pallin and bounce around some ideas,
    and you go to Greyhawk as planned and talk to Nenya about the cursed
    helm and Ys' condition...and those other things.  I will contact you
    shortly with some answers, and some details.
  Belphanior:  Many thanks.  And what of that other thing which we spoke
    about last time?  Is there any chance...?
  Parekh:  Oh, that.  (she waves her hand flippantly)  I have my best
    people hard at work on that.  I suspect the endeavor will be
  Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)  Outstanding.

Nineteen days ago...

  Peldor:  You want to borrow _what_?!?
  Belphanior:  (looking around the wine cellar nonchalantly)  The hat.
    It would only be for a short while, a month at most.
  Peldor:  (shakes his head)  I don't know...I mean, it's not like I
    use it that much anymore.  But it's a good, useful item.
  Belphanior:  I know, and that's why I need it.
  Peldor:  What exactly are you going to use it _for_?
  Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  I can't tell you, and believe me when
    I say it's for your own good.
  Peldor:  You mean my knowing would put me at risk?
  Belphanior:  (nods grimly)  Possibly.  Just trust me on two things:
    one, it's better that you don't know what I'm up to, and two, you
    will definitely get the hat back.
  Peldor:  (frowns)  You're probably up to no good.
  Belphanior:  I'm always up to no good.  (he has an idea)  You know,
    I can cover the loan, so to speak...(he reaches into his pocket and
    produces a huge ruby)  This is worth a fortune, and not a small one.
    You can hold it as collateral-
  Peldor:  (puts up a hand)  I don't need collateral.  What use is such
    a gemstone to me - or you, for that matter - people who have seen
    entire fortunes come and go in our adventuring?
  Belphanior:  Good point.
  Peldor:  (sighs)  I'll loan you the hat.  I can only hope this is for
    a good cause.
  Belphanior:  Oh, it is.  Just remember:  this has to be between us.
    Don't tell anybody - for their own safety, and mine, and that of many
  Peldor:  Mum's the word.
  Belphanior:  And trust me, you'll hear about it soon, and when you do,
    you'll know the cause was worthy.

Eighteen days ago...

  Belphanior:  (somewhat surprised at the quick answer)  You'll do it?
  dark figure:  Of course.  It's just a job.
  Belphanior:  There's no approval needed from Greyhawk's rulers, or your
    superiors, or anything like that?
  dark figure:  I have no superiors.
  Belphanior:  Er...right.  So you can do the job on the exact date I've
  dark figure:  You can bet your life on it...or someone else's, as the
    case may be.
  Belphanior:  You must have quite a memory for details, since you're
    not taking any kind of notes.
  dark figure:  Notes are evidence, and my memory is impeccable, as are
    my other credentials.
  Belphanior:  (nods)  Just remember, around the time you're...finishing
    up, things are going to get crazy all through the city.
  dark figure:  That won't be a problem.  Nor, I assume, will payment in
    full, now.  (he extends a calloused hand)  The fee will be twenty
    thousand pieces of gold.
  Belphanior:  (only flinches a little, before reaching into his pack)
    Coins or gemstones?
  dark figure:  It doesn't matter.
  Belphanior:  (produces a handful of large, perfect diamonds)  I once
    had one of these estimated at two thousand gold pieces.  Here are...
    eight...nine...and ten.  Will that suffice?
  dark figure:  (takes one of the gemstones and holds it up to his hood-
    shrouded face)  Done.
  Belphanior:  Very well.  (he stands to leave)  This deal is, of course,
    completely and utterly secret?
  dark figure:  All of my deals are secret.  (he makes the gemstones
    disappear, and then backs into the shadows, disappearing himself)
  Belphanior:  (startled)  Whoa.  (he scans the darkness with his crystal
    eye, sensing only a faint trace of very powerful magic)  Damn, that's

Seventeen days ago...
  Mongo:  Hell yeah, you can count me in!
  Belphanior:  (nods, pleased)  It's a noble cause and-
  Mongo:  -and it gives me...err, us...another crack at those bastards.
    Last time kind of felt like unfinished business, you know.
  Belphanior: did, at that.
  Mongo:  We're damn well going to finish it this time, you can bet on
    that!  (he looks around)  Whew, I'm worked up.  I need to go smash
  Belphanior:  Just save the real power for the enemy.
  Mongo:  Don't worry about that.  (he grins)  I'll be around, just find
    me when it's time to leave.
  Belphanior:  I will.  And remember - don't tell anyone.
  Mongo:  No need to worry on that account.
  Belphanior:  (having gone through that issue in his head before this
    discussion, and concluded that the dwarf had always been reliable
    when it came to important plans, he still can't help but wonder if
    this was a mistake)
  Mongo:  I'm looking forward to smashing some buildings.
  Belphanior:  (decides that Mongo's power was an important asset, worth
    the risk, which needed to be secured as soon as possible)
  Belphanior:  I'll be right there with you, old friend.

Sixteen days ago...

  Nenya:  I said, it won't be a problem.  The helm is known in ancient
    Suel lore, and while powerful, its curse can also be undone with the
    right item.
  Belphanior:  Which you just happen to have right here in your Suel
  Nenya:  (nods)
  Belphanior:  Unbelievable.
  Nenya:  To some, perhaps.  The great horned helm's proper name is the
    Skull of Trakos.  Trakos was a mighty warrior-general of the Sueloise
    Empire, but he angered a goddess with his pride and his boasts.  His
    might was such that direct threats were insufficient - a trick was
  Belphanior:  The helm.
  Nenya:  Yes.  It took his will to live, rendering him a vegetable...and
    it has done the same to many who put it on, over the centuries.  Of
    course, that is the only power it retains, since the gemstone in its
    front has been missing all that time.  This black diamond, said to be
    an earthly form of that evil goddess' eye, was pried from the helm
    and made its own way across the world, all those years ago.
  Belphanior:  Who knew?
  Nenya:  Well, I did, for one, since it ended up in my collection of
    Suel treasures and relics.  Mind you, there's no legend or lore about
    the gemstone and helm being reunited and nullifying the curse, but
    since that would be the reversing of the events that led to the curse
    in the first's worth a try.
  Belphanior:  Agreed.
  Nenya:  There are two conditions, as I've said.
  Belphanior:  I know, I know.  One, I have to bring the gemstone back
    immediately, whether it works or not.  Two...(he frowns)
  Nenya:  The black ruby you mentioned, that was found in the same place
    as the helm.  It is a similar source of much Sueloise power and evil.
    It must be kept somewhere must be kept here, by me.
  Belphanior:  I'll have to...retrieve it from a friend.
  Nenya:  You do that.  I'll see both gemstones within a day, yes?
  Belphanior:  (cursing mentally at the costs involved with his current
    plan)  Yes, yes.
  Nenya:  (nods)  Then we both win...we both get something we want.

Fourteen days ago...

  Belphanior:  How is he?
  Jenna:  He's fine, just resting.  One can't be in a comatose state
    for weeks and then just wake up and start walking around.  Even if
    one is an eight-foot tall reptilian humanoid hulk.
  Parekh:  He's welcome to stay here as long as necessary.
  Belphanior:  Thirteen days.  I'll probably want to move the others
    here, as we discussed, and use it as a staging area.
  Parekh:  Actually, that won't be necessary.  Pallin and I have worked
    out several tools to help you with your mission.
  Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  You use tools to build something.
    We're destroying things, so I need weapons, not tools.
  Parekh:  Call them what you want.  (she leads him outdoors, down one
    of the many paths in the strange, magical domain that is her home)
  Belphanior:  (casually observing the trees and shrubs on either side,
    he blinks as they pass through a wall of shrubs and enter a small
    field)  What...?!?  That can't be...?
  Parekh:  (smiles, pleased with herself)  It is.
  Belphanior:  Oh, yes.

    They were looking upon something Belphanior had long ago written
  off as lost and unrecoverable:  the skyship!  The elf had last seen
  that marvelous work of engineering and magic a one-and-a-half years
  ago; after being attacked by a roc, the ship had crashed into the
  ocean.  Belphanior and his companions had made it safely to shore,
  but the ship took on water and sunk before their eyes, seemingly lost

  Belphanior:  This is incredible.  (he regards the sorceress)  How did
    you recover it?
  Parekh:  When it sank, I was weary, and besides, I had no custom spell
    capable of performing a feat such as that.  Ever since that day, I've
    been thinking about ways to get your skyship back.  (she shrugs)
    Losing it bothered me.
  Belphanior:  I see.
  Parekh:  Plus, I had help.  But no matter - it's here, it's repaired,
    and that means you can use it in your upcoming escapade.
  Belphanior:  (thinking of the past effectiveness of dropping golems
    upon targets, from a great height)  Golem bombs.
  Parekh:  Actually, that might not be such a good idea.  Golems can be
    damaged by such falls; from everything I've seen and heard about the
    iron golem you had - Angus - he was an unusually strong and robust
    specimen, not to mention unusually obedient.  I wouldn't count on
    Xusia's golems to carry on that tradition.
  Belphanior:  Good point.
  Parekh:  Having said that, the golems are still a crucial element of
    your plan...but I'd recommend boulders or iron balls if you want to
    bomb targets from the air.
  Belphanior:  Heh.  Trust me, I'll have as much ammunition as I can
    carry on the skyship.
  Parekh:  Oh, it gets better:  Pallin and I found a way to help with
    that.  (she floats up onto the ship, beckoning him to follow)

    Shortly, they were looking at one wall of the steering cabin, the
  one facing aft (in other words, facing the open middle area of the top

  Belphanior:  Why are there runes all over the cabin wall there?
  Parekh:  You'll notice two rings of runes.  They're inscribed in ink
    fashioned from a mixture of displacer beast blood and other, even
    rarer things.
  Belphanior:  Sounds like they won't wash off if it rains.
  Parekh:  They can't be erased except by a serious dispelling effort,
    by a wizard more powerful than me.
  Belphanior:  (smirks)  So what are they.
  Parekh:  Teleport rings.  Pallin did some reverse-engineering on one
    of the gateways-
  Belphanior:  Oh.  (he wonders which one, and why he wasn't told about
  Parekh:  -and combined what he learned with what he already knew.  This
    is the result:  a pair of teleportation gateways, permanently locked
    into specific places.
  Belphanior:  Which places are those?
  Parekh:  The gateway on the left-  (she points to the ring of silver
    runes on the cabin's outer aft wall)  -leads directly back to one of
    my laboratories.  I figure that's how we'll get the golems to the
    scene, since collectively they're too heavy to all ride aboard the
  Belphanior:  But that won't get them down to the battle...unless...?
  Parekh:  The gateway on the right-  (she points to the ring of black
    runes to the right of the silver ones)  -leads to wherever you open
    this.  (she hands him a length of braided black cord)
  Belphanior:  (examines the cord, finding it tough and resilient)  A
    portable teleportation device?
  Parekh:  (nods)  Simply make a circle out of it, say the command word,
    and it opens a portal to your ship.
  Belphanior:  So with both portals open at once, and me on the ground
    with this one, we can shuttle golems - or whatever - right into the
    battle as needed.
  Parekh:  Yes.  And one last thing...(she hands him a small crystal
    ball)  This will allow you to communicate with me from afar.  No
    more special spells, pre-rigged but blind teleports, and so on.  With
    this sort of magic - teleportation and communication - keyed into
    portable items that anyone can use, the forces you command can much
    more easily be harnessed for battle.
  Belphanior:  (regards her coldly)  Don't take this the wrong way, since
    I'm quite appreciative of all you've done, but...why exactly are you
    and Pallin helping me like this?
  Parekh:  Haven't we always?
  Belphanior:  Yes, but that's not the answer to the question.
  Parekh:  (sighs)  The others - the other magi and I - discussed this
    new mission of yours, the day after you told me.  We had to, really,
    if you wanted even a chance of getting some magical help.
  Belphanior:  So you obviously agreed to pool your not-inconsiderable
    talents and help me...why?
  Parekh:  Simply put?  Because we agree with your goal here, and because
    it needs to be done, but nobody has ever been willing to actually go
    through with it.  (she frowns)  Then again, I suspect that nobody
    has ever approached the problem in the unconventional manner we are.
  Belphanior:  Mmm.
  Parekh:  Besides, you've been good about bringing us unusual, and quite
    powerful, magical items to play with.  For that, the help we offer is
    trivial.  You'll notice that everything Pallin and I have done here
    allows you the tools you need, without either of us having to become
    directly involved.
  Belphanior:  Yeah, I did notice that.
  Parekh:  So it's a win-win situation for all of us, right?
  Belphanior:  It sure is.
  Parekh:  We don't have to be with you in order to back you.  (she
    frowns, thinking about how she's not telling him that she had the
    skyship recovered almost a year ago)
  Belphanior:  (frowns, not telling her that he suspects some motives
    are being kept from him)
  Parekh:  Anyway, there you have it:  skyship, teleporters, crystal
  Belphanior:  All that's left now is to get the golems ready.

Thirteen days ago...

  Belphanior:  And so that's my plan.  I figured I'd just ask both of
    you and see what you thought.
  Alindyar:  I see.
  Lyra:  Hmm.  (ESPing to Alindyar)  At least he respected me enough to
    bring me in on this from the start, rather than just appeal to you.
  Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye.  (out loud to Belphanior)  We shall
    have to discuss this.  You may go now.
  Belphanior:  (suddenly finds himself in the Green Dragon Inn)  Whoa!
    How the hell did he do that?!?

    Back in Alindyar and Lyra's home - a small townhouse in the wealthy
  section of Greyhawk, as they'd long ago given up the mansion and all
  of its peculiarities - the drow conferred.

  Alindyar:  'Tis a noble cause.
  Lyra:  Agreed, but if you consider everything that's happened to him
    there, a pattern of personal revenge emerges.
  Alindyar:  That is the question:  is he doing this for the right
    reasons, or is he doing it for himself?
  Lyra:  Funny how sometimes, those turn out to be the same thing.
  Alindyar:  Aye.
  Lyra:  I approve of his goal, and none can deny the benefit that would
    be achieved...but it's quite risky.
  Alindyar:  The amount of planning he has done...the sheer volume of
    his preparation...the numbers and types of his allies and minions
    who will help...these things tend to put the odds in his favor.
  Lyra:  As would our participation.  It's just trouble that we don't
    need.  What if revenge is born out of all this?
  Alindyar:  If we execute properly, no one will be around to take any
    revenge.  Besides, we have little to fear...not with the powers I
    now command.
  Lyra:  (sighs)  I see your point...all of them, actually.  If we do
    this, we need to have an up-front understanding with Belphanior, as
    to what we will and won't do to contribute.  We also need to have a
    claim to a share of the treasure.
  Alindyar:  (smirks)
  Lyra:  No, I'm not greedy.  But money is money, and there will be a lot
    of it as a side-effect of this whole thing.  We deserve a share of
    that...not to mention a share of any magic items that turn up.
  Alindyar:  Very well then.  I shall let him know of our decision.

Eleven days ago...

  Belphanior:  ...and that's it.  Simple, and highly dangerous.
  Skektek:  Actually, it sounds like fun.
  Otto:  It's ambitious, and it could be something that changes the
    course of history.  (he frowns)  If it works.
  Skektek:  How can it not work?  We've got all sorts of planning, and
    a whole lot of power.
  Ys:  Not to mention the crucial element of surprise.

    The big reptilian was up and about again, thanks to the efforts of
  Jenna and Parekh due to the help of Nenya.  He had no memory of what
  had happened, or his comatose state; it was as if he'd awakened from
  a long nap.  Ys was eager for some action, having heard the stories
  of the adventures he'd missed.

  Otto:  Oh, I'm not saying it won't work, or can't work.  I'm just
    saying that we need to do everything - EVERYTHING - in our power
    to tip the odds in our favor.  (he casts a glance at Belphanior)
    That includes as much overkill as we can muster.
  Skektek:  Overkill is my middle name.
  Ys:  Mine's-
  Belphanior:  Don't worry about any of that - I'm taking this very
    seriously.  (he turns to regards each of them)  Make no mistake
    about it:  this will be a killing mission.  Our goal isn't to take
    over, or rule anyone, or preserve anything.  No, we're going to
    destroy, pure and simple...maximum casualties and property damage.
    I want to send a message, and I want it to be as loud as it is
  Elgon:  I'm just going to point this out, because someone needs to
    and it seems like a valid concern:  suppose everything goes fine,
    perfectly, and we eliminate all of the people you've mentioned.
    What's to stop others - the seconds-in-command, perhaps, or maybe
    just others waiting behind the scenes - from just taking over what
    the dead ones had started?
  Belphanior:  Ah, an excellent question.  The answer is this:  I said
    that we're going to send a message.  The message will be, in effect,
    "These people died for doing what they were doing, and if anyone else
    tries it, they too will die."
  Skektek:  It won't be easy to make an entire city - an entire _nation_
    in fact - listen and believe that threat.
  Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)  That's why I emphasized maximum death
    and destruction.  We have to MAKE them believe.
  Neera:  I speak only for myself, of course, but I'm not sure what sort
    of help I'll be in this effort.
  Belphanior:  That one's easy:  you're not coming along on the attack.
    We need you back at the home base, helping Parekh with that end of
  Neera:  Uh...right.
  Otto:  (realizes that this is a tactful, non-offensive way of saying
    that Neera doesn't need to be in combat)
  Belphanior:  As for the rest of you...this undertaking is my idea,
    driven mainly by my ideas of right and wrong.  It's also going to
    be exceedingly dangerous, and could result in repercussions that
    follow us forever.  I don't want to push any of you into this; if
    you don't want to take the risks, that's fine, and I wouldn't think
    any less of anybody who doesn't want to be there.
  Otto:  I'm in.
  Skektek:  Me too.  This is too good to miss.
  wispy thing:  yrrrp.  (grinning happily)  spaaa.
  Razor Charlie:  (thinking)
  Ys:  You know you can count on me.
  Belphanior:  Otto, Skektek, Ys, Charlie - you were all there last time,
    and at least know how things will be.  But Elgon and Jenna...this
    conflict is new to you.
  Elgon:  I know I've only been with you people for a short time, and
    I don't really know much of the ways of the surface world...but it's
    clear to me that what we're planning is not only the right thing to
    do, but something that needs to be done.  I'm honored that I would
    even be considered to help, and the best way I can be worthy of that
    is to participate.
  Otto:  That's a "yes" ?
  Elgon:  Indeed it is.
  Razor Charlie:  (still thinking)
  Belphanior:  Jenna, what about you?  I can't say this is any kind of
    mission for a priestess, or a healer.
  Skektek:  Well, not one who's on our side, anyway.
  Jenna:  Istus works in mysterious ways, and your plan seems sound.  I
    would not be here if I wasn't meant to play a part in these events.
  Belphanior:  Very well.  (he regards Razor Charlie)
  Razor Charlie:  (sighs)  I'm in.
  Belphanior:  Well, there we are.  You all want to be part of this, so
    let me now tell you what I'll do for you.  (he stands)  I'll plan
    and plan and then plan some more, so that every angle and potential
    problem is considered.  I'll spare no expense, money or magic, to
    best prepare us for what's to come.  I'll do everything I can to
    ensure us the most powerful allies - like Mongo, Alindyar, Lyra,
    Parekh, and so on.  And I won't ask any of you to do anything that
    I'm not willing to do myself.  You can believe that I'll be right
    there on the ground, fighting, when the time comes.
  Otto:  (watching the others, who are visibly stirred by this
      speech)  When do we start?
  Belphanior:  Soon.  I have one more item to attend to.

Nine days ago...

  Belphanior:  -and that's what we're going to do.
  robed figure:  Amazing...simply amazing.  Your reputation precedes
    you, but not in this way.  (he turns to another who stands nearby)
    My thanks.  You definitely did the right thing, to bring him here.
  other figure:  (simply nods)
  Belphanior:  Sharing my intentions with you was not something I did
    lightly; after all, it's hard to trust anyone when it comes to the
    planning of something like this.  (he frowns)  But you too have a
    reputation, and I guessed that it would make you understand and
    appreciate what I'm planning to do.
  robed figure:  You guessed correctly.  Of course, with politics
    being what they are, my options are limited for now.
  Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)
  robed figure:  I cannot help you - that goes without saying - but I
    will be watching the outcome of this.
  Belphanior:  That's all I can ask for.

Eight days ago...

  city guard:  (eyeing the steady stream of merchants and foreigners
    as they shuffle through the walled gate)

    The guard was bored, and didn't like his job; there was nothing
  particularly exciting about standing at a city gate all day and
  inspecting those who entered the city.  Most of them were merchants,
  bringing foodstuffs, craftwork, or supplies to try and sell in the
  city's marketplaces.  Others were simply looking for work or visiting
  for business or pleasure.  What few failed to realize was the obvious
  yet hidden truth about Monmurg, and the Hold of the Sea Princes in
  general:  anyone could, and often did, end up in the slave pens.  The
  idea that all of the land's slaves came from the Amedio Jungle was a
  common one, but also incorrect.  "Civilized" people could just as
  readily meet such a fate.  The natives of the kingdom didn't seek to
  enslave one another - not usually, as there were certain rules and
  regulations governing how that could and could not happen.  But any
  outsiders were fair game, and it happened more than most people cared
  to admit.
    The guard idly poked and prodded at the people entering the city,
  now and then stopping one to inspect his or her person or possessions.
  He wondered how many of these people would one day end up in chains
  in Monmurg or some other city in the Hold.

  guard:  (eyes an exceedingly tall and ugly fellow)  Hold it, there.
    What's in the cart?
  tall, ugly man:  (glances back at the small cart, pulled by a single
    donkey)  Rugs, fine sir!  (he grins, exposing the rotted stumps of
    what few teeth he has left)  Care to see?  (pulling a tarp back, he
    reveals a heap of old, smelly rugs in the cart)  I'll give you a
    good deal-
  guard:  (holds up his hands, backing away)  No, forget it.  Go on.
  dwarven laborer:  (standing behind the tall, ugly man and holding the
    donkey's reins, he coughs, spitting into the dirt)

    Thus it was that the disguised Belphanior (along with Otto, an old
  donkey, and about three silver pieces' worth of old rugs) entered the
  city of Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes.  Naturally,
  as soon as they were in a rented room and out of sight, Belphanior
  used the magical hat of disguise to assume another identity, that of
  a grizzled old merchant.  Both identities had been created after some
  intense crowd-watching in Greyhawk, and Belphanior had even practiced
  certain mannerisms and speech inflections for the two identities.

  Otto:  Okay, so we're in.
  Belphanior:  Now comes the tough part, maybe even tougher than the
    actual attack.  We've got just over a week to completely scout this
    city, and learn everything we need to know...the main seat of city
    government, locations of large numbers of troops and city guards,
    places where mass quantities of slaves are being held.
  Otto:  Don't forget the city treasury, the main armory, and any change
    in location or setup of the wizards' guild since the last time we
    were here.
  Belphanior:  And the docks, with their warships and cargo ships for
    slaving.  Not to mention the identities and homes of the primary
    slavers themselves.
  Otto:  (produces some parchment)  I'll get some lists worked up.
  Belphanior:  (inhaling deeply)  A week is plenty of time for what we
    need to do, gathering information to streamline the attack.  This
    city is likely ill-prepared for something like this; after all, it
    and its rulers have grown rich and fat from the toils of others.
    (he clenches his fist)  All of which is about to end.  We're going
    to send a message that the entire Flanaess will hear and understand.

  That had been eight days ago.  Now, on this fine summer morning, the
inhabitants of Monmurg were waking up, going about their daily business,
never suspecting that this would be the day their lives changed forever.

next:       it begins
released:   1/20/06
notes:      Planning this was actually scary, in a way.

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