Chapter #929

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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              +
+   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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          9/15/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          afternoon                                              +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "Get happiness out of your work or you may never know what            +
+    happiness is."                                                       +
+                                                     - Elbert Hubbard    +

                   CMXXIX.  Some Sudden News

  After their adventures in the moon gateway, the group is taking a day
off to rest and relax.

Belphanior:  We're not going to sit still for long.
Otto:  Our enemies won't, that's for sure.
Elgon:  How many enemies do we have right now?
Belphanior:  Well, there's Al-arakara, but he's in the Sea of Dust and
  he can't use the gateways to travel, so I expect him to pretty much
  keep to himself like he's done for the last thousand years, out there
  in the middle of nowhere.
Skektek:  Mm, good point.
Otto:  Well, someday he might figure out where and how to find's
  not like he's _stuck_ in the Sea of Dust.
Belphanior:  We'll deal with him eventually, but for now I consider him
  an "inactive" loose end.  The ones we really need to worry about - and
  be ready for - are the Sea Princes.  I doubt we'll see an initiative
  from those remaining in Monmurg, but it wouldn't surprise me if some
  of the other cities in the Hold sought revenge on me...on us.
Jenna:  I will commune with Istus and see what she may reveal about this.
Skektek:  (somewhat mockingly)  Yeah, you do that.  In the meantime, why
  don't we make a pre-emptive strike on someone?
Jenna:  (scowls at Skektek)
Mongo:  (ignoring the priestess' reaction, he nods)  It's long past time
  for some battle.
Belphanior:  That's a good idea, but I'm not sure who to attack.  We need
  to let the Sea Princes make a move, so we know who to crush.
Otto:  We can't just sit around and wait to be attacked, though.
Belphanior:  We're not going to sit around.  I need to visit Greyhawk
  and take care of some unfinished business, and maybe analyze some of
  our many captured spellbooks and magic items.  And then it's time to
  review the options.
Ys:  Options?
Belphanior: infiltrate the Sea Princes in another of
  their major cities, or check on the Amedio outpost...or Monmurg, for
  that matter.  We also need to consider heading into Skava-Ra.
Skektek:  I don't know if we really want to consider that.
Belphanior:  We certainly do.
Otto:  (frowns)

  The dwarf was troubled, for he suspected that Belphanior had some sort
of personal vendetta against Skava-Ra, or its residents.  Worse, it was
possible that Belphanior had somehow gotten the idea that Victoria now
resided in that underground city.  If ever there was unfinished, personal
business, this was a prime example.  Otto generally took a quiet stance
as Belphanior's unofficial second-in-command, and he didn't mind having
the group help with a personal vendetta, but a line still had to be drawn
somewhere.  Journeying deep beneath the world's surface, into the dark
depths of the Underdark to a city of vampires, seemed far too risky even
for a party of greater power than Belphanior's.  Otto could only hope
that, like before, Belphanior was just talking out loud and wouldn't
actually try to carry out this particular mission.  If he did, Otto
intended to do his best to change the elf's mind.

Razor Charlie:  (pushes his chair back, standing up)  Sorry to say it,
  but I won't be going to the cities, or the jungle, or the vampires.
Belphanior:  Eh?
Razor Charlie:  I'm through.  Time to retire.
Skektek:  Whoa.
Belphanior:  You didn't just wake up today and decide this, did you?
Razor Charlie:  Nope.  I've been thinking about it for a while.
wispy thing:  (eyeing the knife-thrower, it frowns sadly)  snrrr...
Belphanior:  Are you sure?
Razor Charlie:  Sure I'm sure.  Been at this for thirty years...thrown
  a lot of knives, killed a lot of people, made a lot of money.  (he
  frowns)  Spent a lot of money.  But I have a lot now, and I'm tired,
  and it's time to kick back and enjoy it while I still can.
Mongo:  Makes sense.
Razor Charlie:  I've lived a long while, but I'm no dwarf or
  chance I'll be at this for a hundred years.  (he nods to Belphanior)
  You know I'd never leave during a fight, or with some enemy moving in
  on us...but this seems like a good quiet time.
Belphanior:  I wish I could change your mind, but I don't expect to, so
  I won't try.
Otto:  (to Charlie)  Of course, if you ever need or magic
  or a sword to back you can count on us for it.
Razor Charlie:  Thanks.
Belphanior:  We'll have to cash you out - I've got a ton of money,
  literally, in the portable hole.  Your share should be enough for you
  to live well, anywhere.
Ys:  And buy as much good food as you can eat.
Razor Charlie:  And beer...and women.  (he grins)
Skektek:  (to Jenna)  I've never seen him smile before, ever.
Jenna:  Hmm.

  By that evening, a rough plan had been made:  the following morning,
Belphanior would teleport to Greyhawk with Razor Charlie.  The latter
would go from there on his own, to wherever it was he planned to settle
down.  Belphanior would handle his business in the Free City and then
return to the hideout in the Pelisso Swamp.

Otto:  You don't want backup while in Greyhawk?
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  I don't need it.
Skektek:  But don't some of them have a problem with you-
Belphanior:  I'll be fine.
Skektek:  (somewhat doubtfully)  Okay, if you say so...

  The rest of the day and evening was devoted to a massive feast for
Razor Charlie.  Their hideout didn't contain a huge variety of food and
drink, but there was enough to make a passable meal, and there was more
than enough to drink (even for Mongo.)

Razor Charlie:  It's not about the food or drink, it's about the company
  you keep.

  That was as close to a farewell speech as the veteran warrior made, and
his impending departure was shared fairly quietly with his current handful
of friends.

Otto:  (notices that Belphanior appears to be brooding, and walks over
  to have a word with him)  What's wrong?  Are you upset about Charlie?
Belphanior:  No.  I mean, yes, but that's not the big problem.
Otto:  Well, what is?
Belphanior:  It's the point that Charlie brings up with his decision.
  We run all over the world, fighting people, killing some of them, and
  amassing treasures and wonderful magical items.  (he shakes his head)
  But why?  What's the point?  Why go through the trouble to _get_ all
  this stuff if there's no time - or in our case, no safe place - to sit
  back and _enjoy_ it all?  It feels like some kind of rat race to me.
Otto:  Well...I don't have an answer, other than this:  If we don't grab
  the power and the loot, someone else will, and then eventually they'll
  push everyone else around.  When that time comes, I'd rather be in a
  fighting position than a weakened one.
Belphanior:  (considers this)  Hmm.
Otto:  It's not the secret meaning of life, but it's gotten me through
  some tough times.  (he shrugs, as if to reassure his friend)  Think
  about it, and don't sweat the Charlie thing.  We'll be okay in the
  long run - we always have.
Belphanior:  Yeah.

next:       Belphanior's business in Greyhawk
released:   7/21/06
notes:      In all the books I've read (which may number in the thousands)
  I've noticed that some authors explain certain things, while others do
  not.  I like to think I fall in the middle somewhere, but sometimes it
  really doesn't seem appropriate to explain, justify, or debate something
  I write.  This is one of those cases.  Give it some time and you will
  understand my reasoning in writing this story - I promise.

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