Chapter #940

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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                  +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          10/4/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his           +
+    hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."            +
+                                              - Henry Louis Mencken      +

                   CMXL.  Lethal Enforcement

  A week has passed since Neera officially joined Belphanior's group,
fully prepared to take part in the elf's various adventures and quests.
This somewhat offset the sudden departure, due to retirement, of Razor
Charlie.  Mongo, too, is currently still allied with the elf.

Mongo:  What now?
Belphanior:  I _was_ going to put together a plan of attack against the
  mummy king, Al-arakara, but I've come upon a lead that's too good to
  pass up.
Skektek:  This ought to be good.
Belphanior:  It is.  Our friends the Sea Princes are at it again.
Otto:  How's that?
Belphanior:  They've set up a new slaving operations center, in a remote
  region of the Hold.  I suppose their idea is that anyone who's paying
  attention will see the other such locations lessen or cease slaving
  activities, and assume that those are shutting down...without knowing
  about the new one.
Neera:  How did you find this out?
Jenna:  Magic?  Scrying?
Belphanior:  Actually, I did it the old-fashioned way:  prolonged, well-
  planned, and carefully-executed espionage.  For some time now, I've
  been setting up various connections in the Hold...using several false
  identities and complex paths of communication, I've built a network of
  informants to help me keep up with various activities in that kingdom.
  (he smirks)  Though I will confess that I did utilize a bit of magic,
  here and there, to bolster my other efforts.
Elgon:  Magic or not, those are some damn good informants, if you found
  out all that.
Belphanior:  I didn't get the whole picture at once - I got bits and
  pieces, and then put it all together.
Ys:  Indeed, it was never very clear to me...whether these Sea Princes
  had actually ceased their slaving ways, as your ultimatum dictated.
  (he nods to the elf)  So, they have not?
Belphanior:  No, they haven't.  Monmurg stopped doing it, though I think
  that was as much a practical issue as a moral one.
Skektek:  Yeah, because we decimated that city.
Belphanior:  Whatever's happening in Monmurg, the other members of the
  hold aren't all playing along.  (he spreads his hands)  They've been
  told to stop, but some are proceeding on their own anyway.  It seems
  that our message to them wasn't fully received and understood.
Mongo:  Well, we just need to send another message...a louder one.
Skektek:  (grins)  Yeah.
Belphanior:  I was hoping you'd see it my way.  (he lays a crude paper
  map down on the table)  Behold:  Ganarec.
wispy thing:  (descends to the table level, eyeing the details of the
  map)  pfsss?
Belphanior:  Right.  (he taps the map with a finger)  It's a small town
  on the western shore of the Jerlea Bay, a week's ride south and a bit
  west of the city of Hokar, as you can see.  (he taps the map again)
  They've built the place right here, where the land forms a natural
  inlet for the waters of the bay.  The town's not on any official map,
  but someday it will be - it's quickly and quietly been built up and
  fortified by certain powers among the Hold's governing bodies.  The
  seaborne traffic there is slowly increasing, and not all of those
  ships have been heading north.  (he points to the part of his map that
  depicts the Amedio Jungle)
Ys:  It sounds as if those governing bodies are ignoring all mandates
  from the capital, and instead proceeding on their own.
Belphanior:  I don't care if they ignore Monmurg, but they won't ignore
  me.  (he looks up)  I believe this town, this Ganarec, is the forefront
  of their future plans.  They thrive on slavery, and as we saw from our
  assault on their fort in the Amedio Jungle, the most efficient way to
  stop slavery is at the source.  This town seems to represent the next
  closest thing to the source, as far as we know.
Skektek:  So let's eliminate it.
Belphanior:  Exactly.

  They wasted little time; Belphanior's companions had become used to
preparing and deploying rapidly, with short notice.  By midday, they
were in the skyship, sailing through the clouds far above the world's
surface...on a direct heading for the unknown, hostile town of Ganarec.

Mongo:  (wiping sweat from his brow, he glares at Belphanior)  The only
  downside to most of your plans is that we have to use this ship to
  get where we're going.  You know how I get when my feet aren't on
  solid land.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  I'm sorry for that, but there's no other way.  I
  haven't had time to scout the target area in person, so I can't quite
  teleport us there.  (he frowns)  Though after we're done, there won't
  ever again be a need to venture there, by any means.
Mongo:  Still...I feel sick.  And weak.
Neera:  That can be fixed, you know.
Mongo:  Huh?
Belphanior:  Fixed?
Neera:  I've been thinking about this for a while.  Your earth-bound
  items - especially the belt - are the source of much strength, and
  also much weakness.
Mongo:  Not much weakness - just some dizziness-
Neera:  That belt is tied to the rock and stone of Oerth, in a raw and
  elemental way.  You don't need to downplay that fact.
Mongo:  Well...err...
Neera:  Anyway, my idea is this:  if you're ill while airborne, and the
  belt is making you ill...then just take it off.
Mongo:  What?!?
Neera:  (gestures to the clouds around them)  No one's going to attack
  us up here.  You don't need your strength.  Give the belt a rest, and
  yourself too.
Mongo:  (looking around wildly)  But...what if...?
Neera:  Keep it close at hand, if it makes you feel better.  I'm just
  saying that removing it might ease your discomfort.
Mongo:  (wanders away, muttering to himself)
Belphanior:  A simple solution, and right before our eyes all this time.
Neera:  (shrugs)
Belphanior:  I wonder if he'll take it off?
Neera:  He might.  (she glances at the dwarf, who is heading down into
  the skyship's hold)  It's not as easy as it seems, you know.  That belt
  communicates with him on some primal level; it won't be pleased with
  its removal.  Also, while removing the belt will help, Mongo still has
  it in close proximity, as he's still the "owner" he may be a bit
  ill no matter what.
Belphanior:  Is the belt sentient?
Neera:  Not that I can tell - and I've done some research on it, in the
  recent months when I had so much spare time.  (she smiles at him)  My
  spare time is at a minimum now.
Belphanior:  (smirks)
Neera:  Anyway, the belt won't talk to him or anything like that, but
  it does have preferences, of a sort...and it will convey those to him
  via simple empathy.  He might even get angry.
Belphanior:  Anger, I can use.  When he gets angry, he levels buildings
  and sinks ships.
Neera:  (nods)  He may be the perfect fighting unit...or one person with
  the might of an entire fighting unit, at any rate.
Belphanior:  (frowns)  He's also my friend.  I'd worry more about him,
  with respect to the risks we all face in these missions, except that
  he's practically invulnerable.
Neera:  As Parekh might put it, the ultimate ground soldier.
Belphanior:  Hmm.

  They flew onward, piloting the skyship in shifts; aside from Belphanior
himself, only Otto and Ys had ever expressed any interest in learning how
to pilot the wondrous vessel.  Since they were headed almost due west,
with no mountain ranges in the way, they stayed underway constantly, all
day and all night.  Belphanior made sure that whoever was at the helm had
someone else - anyone else - there to talk to them and help keep them
alert.  No piloting shift lasted longer than four hours; in this way,
the monotony never grew to be too great.  Staring at an endless expanse
of clouds - especially at night, when there was nothing visible - was a
very compelling cure for insomnia.
  Belphanior had estimated the journey to take four days, assuming a
high (but not maximum) rate of speed and no rest breaks.  Fortunately,
with three willing pilots and the others to attend to other necessary
tasks, this was enough crew to make the trip possible.  Things did get
interesting while the skyship was over the vast reaches of the Azure
Sea, though - they had to fly over, around, or through several storms.
While things got shaky, and sometimes tense, the skyship had been built
by powerful magic, and it moved through the storm systems without any
  The afternoon of the fourth day found them nearing a coastline, which
Belphanior's maps and charts indicated to be the western edge of the
Jerlea Bay.  It wasn't long before the skyship hovered far, far above
the coastal town of Ganarec.

Belphanior:  (standing at the rail, he looks down at the distant land-
  mass, wondering why he hasn't yet bothered to procure himself some sort
  of magical eyepiece or telescope)
Mongo:  (impatiently)  What now?
Skektek:  Time to drop something heavy, or flammable?
Otto:  Or both...?
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  No.  There could well be slaves in that
  town, or in its boats.  We need to try and keep the collateral damage
  to a minimum.  We'll scout first, and attack only after we have a much
  better idea about what's down there, and how it's laid out.

next:       blood is shed
released:   10/6/06
notes:      Time for some more bad-ass battle scenes and punishment of
  the guilty!

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