Chapter #951

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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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          11/8/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "To be good at this, you have to learn to enjoy it."                  +
+                         - from the _Fury:  Peacemaker_ comic series     +

                   CMLI.  Squaring Things Away

  A week has passed since Belphanior's group gained the magical rings
that cloak them from scrying and location magic.  Since that event took
place within Parekh's home - a site already protected from scrying - the
various adventurers have essentially gotten a complete blank slate with
regard to being found by any antagonists...

Skektek:  A clean sweep...
Ys:  I have no problem with it.  (he frowns)  Although I also have no one
  chasing me or looking for me.
Jenna:  Not that you know of, at least.
Ys:  Hmm.
Elgon:  We all just have to remember to keep the rings on at all times,
  otherwise anyone actively trying to locate us...would.
Skektek:  Yeah, but they can't keep that kind of effort going forever.
  I'm hoping that after a week or two of unsuccessful attempts, any
  active scrying will stop, and then it won't be so important to wear
  these new rings forever.
Otto:  Well-said.
Mongo:  I still don't care - if anyone wants to find me and challenge me,
  more power to them.  (he pats his hammer, at his belt)  I have ways of
  dealing with such people.
Otto:  (about to speak up and say something)
Mongo:  (quickly)  But I know that it's important for the rest of you to
  keep hidden, so you can count on me to keep my ring on.  (he smirks,
  knowing that his formerly-important ring of regeneration isn't critical
  since his armor confers the same benefit)
Elgon:  I wonder...what about those of us who can't wear a ring?  (he
  nods in the direction of the wispy thing)
wispy thing:  (busy floating near the top of a barrel full of wine, it
  turns and regards the gnome oddly)  rrrrb?
Otto:  Damn, that's a good question.  I never thought about it.  I think
  Belphanior once theorized that the wisp is generally immune to a bunch
  of different magic, but it's not like we ever tested that.
Ys:  But also remember, the wisp is not typically recognized, or known,
  to those we fight against.  I believe us to be safe in this respect.
wispy thing:  (grins)  yrrrp!
Skektek:  So we're all covered - we think - and we can go where we please
  without having to worry about Sea Princes or any other damn fools who
  want to take us on.  (he looks around)  What are we going to do next?
  It's been a week since we left Parekh's...has Belphanior decided the
  next course of action?
Otto:  I believe so, but you'll have to ask him.  He's going to talk to
  us about this, at lunchtime today.  It should be less than an hour...

  The elf was busy in another section of the underground complex, doing
the same thing he'd been doing for two hours a day, every day for the
last week...

Neera:  (sweating, she grins)
Belphanior:  Don't get cocky - this is no joke, and you need to take it
Neera:  I am.

  They were squared off against one another, daggers held firmly in their
hands.  Belphanior had used wooden practice knives for the first few days
of this sparring, but he now felt confident enough about Neera's ability
to practice with real weapons.

Belphanior:  (swipes at her, nodding in approval as she leaps back with
  her weapon raised defensively)  You've learned well.
Neera:  I'm still not sure why you wanted me to train like this, but I
  have to admit that it's a welcome distraction from books and spells.
Belphanior:  There's more to combat than magic, and most wizards never
  accept this fact.  (he lunges again, but Neera parries his stabbing
  attack nicely)  And such wizards, when their magic isn't an option,
  end up dead.  I've worked for many years to make sure that will never
  happen to me, and I'll be damned if I let it happen to you.
Neera:  Well, I appreciate that.  (she steps in, slashing at his knife-
Belphanior:  (dodges the attack, smacking her forearm with the butt of
  his dagger)
Neera:  (recoils in pain)  Ouch!
Belphanior:  Remember, don't fully commit yourself to an attack - that's
  the sort of thing that ogres and giants do.  Survival often lies in the
  ability to leap back and not give your foe an opening.
Neera:  (flexes her arm, wincing)  Right.

  They had been at this daily since leaving Parekh's; Belphanior thought
it was an important lesson.  Fortunately, Neera had been fairly open-
minded about the training, and she was (as always) a quick study.  In a
week's time, her skill with the dagger had improved from functional to
downright dangerous.  Belphanior felt that she could hold her own against
an average combatant, and perhaps even against a superior one if she used
the element of surprise.

Belphanior:  Remember, many foes will pause or get overconfident with you
  because you're a wizard, and a relatively small woman.  Use that - let
  them think they've got an easy kill, and then when the opportunity lies
  before you, stab them in the throat.
Neera:  Because the heart is protected by bone and perhaps muscle, and
  isn't as easy a target.
Belphanior:  Very good.  A stabbing wound to the chest _might_ be fatal,
  but one to the throat is a sure bet.

  The elf had conferred dozens of such wisdoms upon his companion, well
aware that any one of them could save her life someday.  She was an eager
and diligent student, and both of them were quite happy with the past
week's training lessons.

Belphanior:  At least we know you're covered on the magical front.
Neera:  (nods)  I had that covered quite some time ago.

  Between her own magical ability and the help of Parekh, Neera had a
solid, effective series of tactics to use in any battle.  Her defenses
were formidable:  in addition to her cloak of steel (which automatically
became like armor if its wearer was attacked) she wore a brooch which
turned back all non-magical missiles.  In addition, the ring that Parekh
had given her had powerful spell turning properties.  Offensively, Neera
possessed a spell variant that she and Parekh had come up with:  a fast
magic missile.  This spell launched a number of bolts of energy, just as
the "standard" spell, except these were released immediately and with a
single arcane gesture.
  She also had several simple new spells designed to help her deal with
combat situations.  One was a small, localized cone of flame, and there
was also a parallel spell consisting of cold.  These were not quite as
powerful as a fireball or cone of cold, but they also didn't have the
gigantic area of effect that those spells did.  If a group of enemies
stood before Neera, and she wanted to annihilate them but not vaporize
everything in the entire room, either spell would serve that purpose.
Already, she was working on a lightning variant as well.
  In addition to these unique spells, she also knew a number of typical
ones that could be useful in combat.  Parekh had tutored her student
well, and Belphanior's weapons training was merely another piece of the
larger picture - a piece that was now much closer to being in place.

  A short time later, Belphanior and Neera joined the others in the room
they all used for community meals.

Skektek:  (noting the way both of them are soaked in sweat, he smirks)
  Been busy, eh?
Neera:  (holds up her bruised forearm, then holds up her other arm, which
  bears a long cut)  Definitely.
Skektek:  Wow, you two play rough.
Jenna:  (to Neera)  I can help you with those wounds, you know.
Belphanior:  (remains standing, as Neera joins the others seated around
  the table)  I've put a lot of thought into our next endeavor, and I've
  come up with a plan of action.
Mongo:  We're going after that mummy-king you people always talk about?
Skektek:  A surprise attack on the Sea Princes, who will be unable to see
  it coming?
Otto:  A pre-emptive strike on some enemy we've forgotten about?
Razor Charlie:  (shakes his head, frowning)  As long as we're not going
  to any damn vampire cities, I'm in.
Belphanior:  These are all good ideas, and will all be pursued in due
Ys:  What, then?  What awaits us next?
Belphanior:  Kronos.

next:       things get rolling
released:   1/5/07
notes:      I'll get Neera's new spells on the site sometime soon.

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