Chapter #918

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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                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Dervan           9th level human ranger                               +
+   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                 +
+   Weaver           8th level human ranger                               +
+   Date:           7/15/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          an undiscovered continent far to the east             +
+   Climate:        hot and humid                                         +
+   "The best people to get us out are all right here."                   +
+                                                    - from _The Cave_    +

                    CMXVIII.  Jungle Fever

  The ten-member scouting party has spent most of the day trekking
through the jungle and hacking through underbrush, finally emerging
next to a sizable river...where human tracks have just been found!

Halbarad:  (examining the prints)  These are a couple of days old, at
  most.  (he looks around)  There are definitely people here.
Songa:  As we knew there had to be.
Dervan:  (also checking the tracks)  Looks like a dozen or so, all of
  them barefoot...primitive people.  Maybe savages.
Weaver:  One time, we got lost in the land of the savages, and-
Songa:  The question is, do we use this river as a travel route?
Halbarad:  And if so, how?  We could walk the banks, or we could build
  a raft.
Eyer:  (eyeing the river, which is a good fifty feet wide)  A fresh-
  water river, flowing slowly yet steadily northward.  I'm not lazy by
  any means, but I say we follow the river.
Songa:  (nods)  It doesn't lead directly toward the mountains, but it
  does lead into the unexplored wilderness.  And it offers us a clear,
  brush-free path along which to travel.
Halbarad:  Agreed.  We'll make much better time, and avoid some fatigue
  as well.
Relmar:  What about building a raft?  That would make the going easier.
Halbarad:  True, but it would also involve some labor, which would mean
  no further progress while we worked.  The best compromise is for us
  to get moving along this river and see what we find.  We can always
  build a raft later.

  With that, they set out once again.  The river's banks, about twenty
feet wide on either side, were soft and damp; nevertheless, this path
was much less strenuous than the previous one.  There were no bushes
and vines to block their progress, and the insects seemed to be a lot
less frequent here.  Also, there was a ready source of water at hand.

Leila:  (eyeing the river longingly)  I sense a cool bath in my future.
Songa:  I wouldn't advise it.  There might be leeches in that river,
  not to mention carnivorous fish or maybe even alligators.
Leila:  Oh.
Peyote:  It would be cool to catch, cook, and eat a carnivorous fish.
Songa:  If you say so.
Peyote:  I'd be a carnivore...of a carnivore...whoa.
Daffodil:  (muttering to herself)  And there I thought you'd run out of
  magic mushrooms...
Peyote:  Never.
Halbarad:  (ignoring this banter)  The bottom line is that we need to
  check any water we take from the river, and boil it too.
Peyote:  Who wants to drink hot water?
Daffodil:  (sighs)
Songa:  (to Rillen)  Maybe it would be best if we just let him swallow
  some leeches along with his drinking water.
Rillen:  Maybe, but we could use his sword in a fight.  I say cut him
  some slack.
Songa:  Hmph.

  They made much better time now, moving northward and also gradually
eastward as the river wound its way through the jungle.  At all times,
they could hear the sounds of the jungle animals and insects, but if
any big cats or other dangerous predators stalked them, those beasts
kept their distance.

Eyer:  You think anything's out there?
Halbarad:  Probably.  Most lions, tigers, and such will avoid larger
  groups of people.
Relmar:  What if the animals here haven't ever _seen_ people?
Halbarad:  Good point.
Eyer:  (tightens his grip on his sword, eyeing the jungle to the left
  of the party)

  The explorers marched for hours, encountering nothing dangerous but
many things of note.  Once, they passed a gigantic anthill about twenty
feet into the jungle from the riverbank; the ants near this nest were
several inches long and numbered in the thousands.  The party resumed
its travels before the insects could take a vested interest in their
presence.  Another time, they had to veer around the river's edge to
avoid a couple of large alligators that were apparently sleeping; during
this encounter, three ready bows were kept trained on the reptiles at
all times.

Halbarad:  It would take a perfect shot to the skull to kill one of
  those things before it tore into us.
Eyer:  I specialize in perfect shots.
Rillen:  (looks back, wondering if one of the gators opened an eye or
  if that was just a trick of the fading light)
Songa:  (smirks)  Don't think for a second that they were ever asleep
  and unaware of us.
Rillen:  (startled)  What?!?
Songa:  They knew we were there.  They must have eaten sometime recently
  and so they didn't feel the need to come after us.
Weaver:  But if we'd lingered, or gotten too close to them, they would
  certainly have attacked.
Rillen:  Oh.
Weaver:  There was this one time, in a distant swamp, that some friends
  and I saw this huge alligator, I mean absolutely _huge_!  It was more
  than twenty feet long-
Peyote:  A friend of mine once saw one that was over twice that big.
Weaver:  Impossible.
Relmar:  Where was that one?
Peyote:  In some sewers beneath a major city.
Weaver:  Oh, that...a common myth, an urban legend in most big cities.
Peyote:  If you say so, man...if you say so.
Leila:  (shrugs)  I thought those were crocodiles, anyway.
Eyer:  Alligators, there really a difference?
Halbarad:  There is, and unless this jungle's full of salt water, we'll
  see alligators, and not crocodiles.
Relmar:  The main thing to remember is that both are equally dangerous.
Leila:  If only we had our magic...
Relmar:  I've been thinking about that.
Leila:  Eh?
Relmar:  That wall is no natural phenomenon.  Someone or something made
  it, put it around this place for a reason.  The question is twofold:
  firstly, who or what is that powerful.  Secondly, why does he/she/it
  want to shield this place in this way?
Leila:  Good points.  (she stares into the jungle)  For our sake - for
  _all_ our sakes - we must find the answer, somewhere in this jungle.
Songa:  Or in the mountains to the east.  (she glances at Halbarad)
Halbarad:  (nods)  I've been thinking about that.  It's entirely possible
  that this river eventually leads to the mountains.
Peyote:  That would be awfully convenient.
Songa:  Make no mistake, it won't be an easy trip...even at our faster
  pace along this riverbank, we're talking about a journey of weeks.
Leila:  Should we tell the the main camp about that, then, before we get
  any further along?
Halbarad:  I already made the assumption that we'd be away for a month
  or more, and Kiel knows it.  They're not to worry about us, or send any
  search parties after matter what.
Leila:  So we're on our own.
Songa:  We've been on our own from the outset of this jungle expedition.
Halbarad:  (nods)  Of all those aboard the _Odyssey), we're the best-
  qualified to undertake this mission.  The fate of hundreds very likely
  rests with us now...with the outcome of this exploration.

  They moved onward for a short while longer, until the fading light
forced them to make camp and stop for the night.  They carried enough
rope, tarps, spikes, and so forth to set up several tents.  There was
some debate as to the need for a fire; while it wasn't cold enough here
to require the heat of a campfire, and the food they had didn't need
heating, a fire would possibly deter larger jungle predators.

Eyer:  And it will also be visible for many miles, alerting anyone here
  to our presence.
Halbarad:  Anyone in the area probably already knows we're here.
Songa:  (having collected dozens of small branches and sticks, she is
  busy sharpening them with a knife)  Either way, it won't hurt to have
  a ring of these planted in the ground around our little campsite.
Rillen:  (returns from his foraging with an armful of larger branches)
  Is this enough?
Songa:  Yes, thanks.  We can use those to make some sturdier spikes.
Eyer:  For sturdier jungle beasts?
Songa:  Exactly.
Leila:  (starting to have second thoughts about coming along)
Relmar:  (pats her on the shoulder)  Don't worry.  We're in good hands
  out here.
Leila:  I know, I's just that I can't shake a bad feeling I'm
  having about all of this.

next:      this arc pauses as we return to Belphanior and his missions
released:  5/5/06
notes:     I didn't feel like having one of the rangers go into a full
  explanation of the exact differences between alligators and crocodiles
  (after all, this isn't _National Geographic_) but if you really want
  to know, go here:
    I'll admit it:  I need a break from this jungle exploration arc.  The
  time has come to wallow in the aftermath of the last Belphanior arc.

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