Chapter #439

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                                +   +
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                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1991-6 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons   +
+  or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  +
+  Copying and/or distribution of these tales is permissible only   +
+  under the sole condition that no part of them will be used or    +
+  sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them...         +
+                                                                   +
+                                  Thomas Miller                    +
+                           +
+  Halbarad        13th level human ranger                     (NG) +
+  Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                  (CG) +
+    Gorin          9th level dwarven fighter                  (NG) +
+  Peyote          11th/12th level half-elven warrior/druid     (N) +
+  Date:        5/1/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:                                                            +
+  Place:       somewhere within the Vesve Forest                   +
+  Climate:     mild but rather breezy                              +
+  "Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?"        +
+                                               - Edgar Allen Poe   +

                 CDXXXIX.  The Great Grand Druid

  After a short but often strange journey, the four companions have
been transported from Peyote's home in the Vesve to another place...

Mongo:  (appears, along with Gorin)  Wha-  ?
Gorin:  (looking around)  Where the hell _are_ we?

  That was a good question.  The two dwarves, along with Halbarad and
Peyote, now stood within a ring of stone blocks.  This henge was much
like the one in Peyote's home, except the slabs of grey stone were
somewhat larger, perhaps ten feet in height.  Surrounding the circle
of stones was a thick woodland, composed of several types of trees.
Although Mongo was no authority on hardwoods, Gorin recognized deklo,
Ipt, and roanwood trees as he looked around.  Halbarad as well knew of
such things, and could only marvel at whatever force or power enabled
these different species to grow in such proximity.
  And whatever force that was, it was responsible for still other
strangeness.  All about the four adventurers, creatures of the forest
flew, hopped, and crawled, seemingly unmindful of the visitors.  Here
a bird chirped, there a rabbit hopped, and to one side, a pair of
orange butterflies orbited each other, even as they fluttered along
on a gentle breeze.  A squirrel stood poised upon a branch, watching
the new arrivals with an unnatural interest.

Peyote:  (chirps something to the squirrel)
squirrel:  (chirps back)
Halbarad:  (folds his arms as he watches this scene)

  Nearby, a stream bubbled, coursing along as it was fed from a small
spring between two massive Ipt trees.  Overhead, the sun shone through
a ceiling of branches and leaves, bathing the area in a pleasant light.
Gorin noticed that the climate here was neither overly warm nor cool,
merely in-between - and a perfect, unobtrusive in-between at that.
This entire place (it wasn't exactly a clearing, as Peyote's home had
been - here, the forest never broke) was teeming and ripe with life.
Even the trees seemed to be watching the adventurers, though there was
no sense of malevolence or threat.  No, this was a completely peaceful
place if there ever was one - and if Peyote's home had been a quiet,
harmonious oasis, this area was a veritable paradise.
  As they watched, there suddenly appeared someone who was undoubtedly
the architect of that paradise.  Towering over all of them at a height
of perhaps six-foot-four, this fellow was broad and husky.  His face
was mostly obscured by a shaggy mop of grey hair and a full, unkempt
beard of the same color.  The man was swathed in greenish-brown robes,
and a circlet of bright green leaves crowned his splay-haired scalp.
They could smell the forest from the man's direction, though he wasn't
blatantly dirty; it was an unusual and somewhat unnerving effect.
  Upon the wildman's shoulder sat an immense, grey-feathered owl, its
round, saucer-like eyes gazing at the adventurers with unknowable
reasons.  The fellow held a thick, five-foot staff in one hand, though
he obviously didn't need it for support while walking.  The staff was
fashioned from a gnarled branch of Iptwood, and numerous leaves, tiny
and green, sprouted along its length.
  When the fellow spoke, it was in a deep, booming voice that yet
hinted at wisdom and understanding - another odd and unexplainable

wild-looking man:  My Arch-Druid, you have returned.  Welcome back!
Peyote:  (bows)  At your service, O Great Grand dude.
wild-looking Great Grand Druid:  (regarding the half-elf's three
  companions)  You have brought aid?
Peyote:  (nods)  Sure thing.  (he gestures to each of the trio, in
  turn)  Halbarad, Mongo, Gorin...may I present the Great Grand Druid
  of the Flanaess:  Oakly Greenleaf!
Oakly:  (nods slightly)  My pleasure.  Any friend of Peyote's is a
  friend of mine.
Gorin:  Nice to meet you.
Mongo:  Yeah.  (he looks around briefly)  Nice place you have here.
Oakly:  It should be - it was here before any of us were born.  I
  simply enhanced its power with my own...or perhaps it was the other
  way around.
Halbarad:  (muttering)  Greenleaf...Greenleaf.  (to Oakly)  Say, you
  wouldn't happen to have a cousin named Curly-
Oakly:  No, I'm afraid not.
Halbarad:  (frowns)  Oh.
Peyote:  We came as soon as we could.  There was-
Oakly:  (nodding, his massive, wild beard flapping around as he does
  so)  Yes, yes, yes.  There is a great evil afoot to the north, and
  I fear the worst.
Peyote:  Rest assured, dude - we stand ready to help!
Mongo:  We do?
Halbarad:  (simply)  The welfare of the forests is the welfare of us
Gorin:  (decides that this might not be the time to discuss his wood-
  working hobby)
Oakly:  (to Mongo)  Son, you of all people should be ready to help
  when the earth itself is being corrupted.

  Although Mongo was sure that he was older than this greybeard who
loomed over him, he still let the comment go unanswered.  There was
something about the way Oakly spoke and carried himself that demanded
respect, a nobility that was completely unattached to any vestige of
civilization or aristocracy.
  It also occurred to Mongo that he'd never even seen where the man
came from.  This was clearly not a fellow to be taken lightly.

Mongo:'re saying that the whole _world_ is in danger?
Oakly:  (shakes his head)  No, no.  Think literally:  the forest is
  but a cousin to the rock and dirt - the earth.  You, Thunderhead,
  strike me as one who knows the power of the earth.
Mongo:  ...?!?
Peyote:  (grinning)  Besides, man, having allies among the forest-
  lords can come in handy.
Mongo:  (scratching his beard uneasily)  Well, tell us what's going
  on.  Maybe we can help.
Oakly:  Excellent.  Come, follow me.  (he walks toward the base of a
  huge, ancient roanwood, its trunk well over thirty feet wide)

  This titanic tree, larger than any that Mongo and Gorin (if not the
other two) had ever seen, was unusually healthy.  Its trunk stretched
up and away, out of sight.

Peyote:  Out of sight!
Halbarad:  How unnatural.
Oakly:  On the contrary, it's perfectly natural.  (he vanishes into
  the tree's trunk)
Peyote:  (without a word, and acting as if that occurrence was wholly
  commonplace, he promptly does the same)
Halbarad:  (frowns for only an instant before turning to the dwarves)
  Tree-walking...come along.  (he, too, disappears into the massive
Mongo:  (to Gorin)  I get the feeling we've done this before.
Gorin:  (shrugs)  It seems harmless.
Mongo:  Let's go, then.  (he touches the tree, finding that his hand
  vanishes into the wood)  Huh.  (he pulls his hand back out)  Damn.
voice:  (of Peyote, from beyond)  Hurry it up, dudes!  We don't have
  all day.
Mongo:  Bah.  (he walks into the tree, disappearing as did the other
Gorin:  (does the same, though a bit less apprehensively)

next:      the threat revealed
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     As I write this, I'm freshly returned from my vacation
  in Tampa, Orlando, and Panama City Beach.  A combination of rain,
  illness, and vehicular trouble dampened the trip, but for some
  reason I feel like writing.  A good thing, too - I've got the next
  30+ episodes outlined in my head.

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