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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 +
+ Otto 10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief +
+ Parekh 18th level human female wizard +
+ Drak 14th level human barbarian warrior +
+ Pallin 17th level grey elven wizard of Celestian +
+ Date: 8/23/580 C.Y. (Common Year) +
+ Time: midday +
+ Place: Parekh's home (exact location unknown) +
+ Climate: cool +
+ "I'm a priest, not a saint." +
+ - from _The Count of Monte Cristo_ (2002) +
CMXII. An Irrelevant Debate
While talking with Parekh and Pallin, Belphanior has witnessed some
apparent treachery towards Otto...
The dwarf was unnaturally stiff and unmoving, with his eyes, mouth,
and arms all in positions that could not have been maintained normally.
In a single motion, Belphanior drew his sword and spun around, instantly
arriving at the only possible conclusion.
Belphanior: (glaring at Pallin, but keeping Parekh and Drak in his
field of view) What the fuck have you done to him?
Pallin: (his hands in view and motionless) Your perception was as
swift as I expected. But fear not, your companion is - and will
remain - uninjured; all I have done is stop time around him. What
will be discussed now is for your ears, not his.
Drak: (looking vaguely uncomfortable, he finds himself wishing that he
could be somewhere else)
Belphanior: (angrily) This is not the action of a trusted ally.
Parekh: "Trusted allies" is what we may no longer be. The truth is,
you've used us, just as you've used others all your life - and we in
turn have used you for our ends. Plots within plots, hidden schemes
and secret goals, and even friends who are trusted at one level are
merely tools at another. Knowledge withheld for justifiable reasons.
This is all familiar to you, of course.
Belphanior: (flatly, almost emotionlessly) A trap. (His eyes dart
around the room, finding nothing helpful, but his sword detects the
the presence of another soul nearby, which he assumes is another
wizard with some powerful spell aimed at him)
Parekh: I've never been one to hide behind words. A trap it is, but
we are not your enemy.
Belphanior: (realizes his options are extremely limited, as they are
familiar with his equipment and tactics) I'm _so_ glad to hear that.
What's the point of this, then?
Parekh: The point is that there has been an unforeseen development,
one that you might very well object to - and we're all aware of the
fate that befalls people to whom you object.
Belphanior: You're not putting me in a very receptive mood.
Parekh: I'm not trying to. I've asked someone else to do that.
The door opened and closed, admitting perhaps the one person the elf
never, ever expected to see in this place.
Rob: Hello, old friend.
Belphanior: (speechless, but still quite angry)
Rob: Yes, a bit awkward. Well, just to start the conversation, I want
you to know that I appreciate your intentions concerning what you did
in Monmurg, if not all of the results. At least you took a stand and
acted on your beliefs.
Belphanior: (shakes his head) Whenever you talk like that, it reminds
me how much you've changed from the bumbling half-wit pain-in-the-ass
I once knew.
Rob: (smiles gently) And whenever there is massive destruction, it
reminds me how little _you've_ changed since the beginning.
Belphanior: Hmm. I remember how you, me and Pallin were the last ones
standing in the battle against Xusia, which explains how they know
you, but not why they called you in. I sincerely hope you're not
here to proselytize, because I'm sure as hell not in the mood.
Rob: Not in the slightest. I'm here simply because they think I am
the only one that you might permit to work magic upon you.
Belphanior: (looking darkly at Parekh and Pallin) Don't be too sure.
Rob: Regardless, I have been granted a powerful spell which will
permanently purge certain memories from your mind. I'm hoping to
cast it upon you shortly.
Belphanior: (quite bothered now) A spell? A memory-altering spell?
On me? Why would I allow that to happen?
Rob: Because if you don't, neither of us will leave this room alive.
You will die because they are prepared to kill you, and I will die
because you'll take me with you. (he gestures at Blackrazor, which
is only a few feet from him)
Belphanior: You're risking your life just to do this?
Rob: We're about to find out.
Belphanior: (facing Parekh once again) So what's so important that
you have to tell me and then make me forget, or else kill me for?
Parekh: It's quite simple. Prince Creon lives, and rules in Monmurg.
Belphanior: (flabbergasted) That's not possible. I killed him myself
a short time ago, and Blackrazor absorbed his soul! (he thinks for
a moment) What have you done? A clone? A doppleganger?
Pallin: No and no, and "we" have done nothing. We have not deceived
you in any way.
Parekh: Your earlier deduction was correct; though we backed your
attack, we never expected such death and destruction.
Belphanior: I'll take that as a compliment.
Parekh: As you should, for I doubt anyone else could have achieved what
you did. Nevertheless, when you succeeded to the extent you did, we
had no contingency planned. But someone else did...Alindyar and Lyra,
for reasons of their own, seized the moment and re-created the Prince,
using flesh and blood from the still-living man as the genesis.
Belphanior: (recalls the various wounds on Creon when he was captured)
Pallin: Knowing that you would slay him sooner or later, they saw a
chance to install a puppet capable of stepping into the power vacuum
that resulted from your various attacks on Monmurg. Normally there
would still be too many authority figures - political, religious,
royal, military - to effectuate such a charade, but the aftermath of
your actions left an ideal situation, and they were determined to take
advantage of it.
Belphanior: So...they're going to, what, run the city? Why?
Rob: Apparently, you are not the only one with a dislike of slavery.
Parekh: That is one clear impetus, but there are certainly others.
For instance, where on Oerth can dark elves openly wield such power?
Surely you know they would never be tolerated in a true position of
ultimate authority. Alindyar realized as soon as he was healed that
this was his chance of a lifetime to make real changes while remaining
unknown. You've been with him long enough to know that while power
is one thing he seeks, fame is not. This sort of action suits him,
Belphanior: Agreed, but what does he hope to accomplish that couldn't
better be done with blood and fire?
Parekh: Let us show you.
Pallin: (makes an arcane gesture, and the ceiling above opens wide,
allowing a huge sphere to descend to eye level) Surely you recall the
Eye of Fharlanghn?
Belphanior: (nods angrily)
Parekh: (gestures to the sphere as various scenes begin to materialize
within its depths) What we've seen in the last day is that "Prince
Creon" has organized most of the remaining troops to maintain order
and prevent looting, as well as granted complete freedom to all
slaves, outlawed slavery, and sent new ambassadors to Keoland and the
Belphanior: (thoughtfully) That's actually a pretty clever move, since
both of those kingdoms have long claimed to oppose slavery and the Sea
Princes' use of it. If they _don't_ help out right away, they'll be
revealed as hypocrites. We'll see if they're just talk. (sourly)
You probably know that I talked to the king of Keoland personally,
right before we mounted our attack?
Parekh: To be honest, no. We are allies enough that we haven't been
spying on your every move. But what is paramount to us now is the
current situation in Monmurg, and what the other cities will think.
Pallin: Already, several buildings have been restored to help those
injured. People are beginning to rally. With his extraordinary
control over reality, Alindyar and his mate might actually be able to
bring order to the chaos you created, saving many lives and building
a stable future for the entire area.
Drak: (helpfully) Plus, this fixes the problem of what to do about the
thousands of ex-slaves running around mad.
Belphanior: (considers) They'll never pull it off. The false Creon
will be overthrown or slain, and then-
Parekh: (tensely) Who are you to deny someone else's idea? You have
your methods, and they have theirs. Certainly they're as entitled to
try as you were. I don't see how they can worsen the situation...as
long as the strings remain hidden.
Pallin: And _that_ is the dilemma we faced. We did not want you to
know the truth behind the false prince, since you just made thousands
of new enemies, and have quite possibly doomed yourself to be the most
hunted person in existence. The risk is too high that you'll be caught
and tortured, ruining what they are striving to build. On the other
hand, you would obviously find out about the "survivor" very quickly,
and just as obviously try to do something about it.
Belphanior: Damn right I would. (thinks carefully) So you told me,
rather than letting me find out on my own where I couldn't be talked
down...and now that I know the secret, you're determined to keep my
mouth shut about it, eh?
Pallin: That sums it up, yes.
Belphanior: No, it doesn't. What's the use in telling me this if
you're going to erase it from my memory? This is a pointless waste of
Rob: I can clarify that. This magic is extremely selective, not the
simple low-level brute-force sort of spell you're probably familiar
with. I'll clear the _details_ from your mind, but the base _feeling_
will remain. That is why it is now so important for you to not only
understand, but believe: you'll be certain that this man's existence
is tolerable without recollecting _why_, and that you have no desire
to attack any of the other cities at this time.
Belphanior: (sarcastically) I find myself wondering what you people
will do when the "new" Monmurg fails, brought down by the same basic
people and attitudes that we're failing to deal with while we have
them by the balls.
Belphanior: I can see you've got no interest in debating it, but I'll
tell you anyway, one more time: you're wasting a golden opportunity
to destroy a kingdom.
Parekh: No, we're taking a golden opportunity to _rebuild_ a kingdom
the way it should be.
Belphanior: Bah. (to Rob) So your memory magic won't work effectively
if I don't co-operate?
Rob: Without a deep, willing assurance within your own self, this entire
exercise would indeed accomplish nothing.
Belphanior: I still don't like it, no matter how much you justify it.
Pallin: We're not asking you to like it. Sometimes things just happen,
and we have to deal with it for the greater good of all.
Parekh: The question you have to ask yourself is this: are you truly
fighting slavery, or are you on a violent rampage just for the sake of
bloodletting? If the former - which is what you've always claimed -
then the best way to _defeat_ slavery in the Hold of the Sea Princes,
without needless loss of life and property, is to let this new chapter
take its course. Granted, there are ways in which it could fail, but
it might also succeed, and if that happens, the benefits clearly make
the attempt worthwhile.
Pallin: But for the new Creon's protection, and that of the new Hold,
your knowledge of the false ruler must be removed.
Rob: I assure you, it's painless and quite harmless.
Belphanior: (glares at all of them)
Parekh: Your companions will have no interest in this matter on their
own; as always, they will simply follow your lead...even Otto. Once
you say the situation is tolerable, they won't question it. You are
the driving force, and it is you who must be contained. (she pauses)
Contained, not controlled.
Belphanior: What about Otto there? He, too, knows that the true Creon
has been slain.
Rob: My spell will easily work on his mind, as he is not a spellcaster.
Parekh: It's a lot like the way a Feeblemind spell works only on those
who work magic, except this is sort of reversed.
Rob: (to Belphanior) With you, the process is helped greatly by the
subject's compliance, as I said already.
Belphanior: This isn't very reassuring.
Rob: Bear in mind that I refuse to affect either of you without your
Belphanior: (shakes his head)
Pallin: Think of the balance here: if you don't do this, you will be
the greatest risk possible to the rise of a new, slavery-free Hold of
the Sea Princes. The secret in your head could someday bring it all
Belphanior: (sarcastically) And the three of you are no risk? How
Pallin: We were not there, no object owned by us was there, and we
had taken magical precautions against being associated with your
venture, even before this current situation. I assure you, no one
will link us to Prince Creon. (frowns) Either of them.
Belphanior: (gazes sideways at Rob, who is waiting patiently) Yet you
involve another person, just to remove the threat I represent? That
doesn't make- (he ponders briefly) Ah, of course. A new temple for
a certain lawful good deity will soon be built and consecrated in
Monmurg, I'd wager...a beach-head for religion from the north.
Rob: (shrugs) Call it what you will, but it's obvious that priests who
heal the injured and feed the hungry are better than an army trying to
conquer or reclaim the city. I've already called for some volunteers
to prepare to sail from Gradsul, to help with the suffering - and yes,
accept new worshippers. Assuredly, it will help to support the
prince's new "enlightened" persona amongst the people, leading to an
overall improvement in every way.
Parekh: For what it's worth, Alindyar and Lyra know nothing of this;
they are simply doing what they will-
Belphanior: I disagree - they're far too intelligent to have failed to
think ahead. But it doesn't matter, does it? You're already bound
and determined to see this through anyway.
Rob: It might have occurred to you that I myself am being used by
Belphanior: (nods, as that very thought had indeed been going through
his mind as he tried to decide whether to submit or not) Tools.
Rob: My friend, your chosen path in life - to worship no god - has
its advantages, but my path has a few as well. I am a high priest of
Trithereon, and I stand for truth and retribution. I swear to you
that this spell will have no permanent effect upon you beyond what
I stated earlier: no other part of your mind will I touch or even
examine, and only the origin of the puppet prince will I remove. I
do this of my own will, and I cannot be deceived in this, for my deity
himself guides me.
Belphanior: (glares at Parekh and Pallin angrily, then turns to Rob)
Get it over with.
next: a break from all this
notes: Every so often - and it's exceedingly rare - I write some
episodes and then get hit with a great idea that radically reshapes
those episodes, and I end up rewriting much of them. That happened
here. One good side-effect of this is that I don't have to deal with
further attacks on the Sea Princes, plus it gives that kingdom a good
chance to improve all by itself. The arc ends in a way that it could
not possibly have ended with my old game plan (having Belphanior wage
a long, complicated war against the Hold.)
This will of course free Belphanior up for other adventures...
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