Chapter #542

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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 1991-8 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                    +
+                           +
+  Alindyar     17th level drow mage                            (N) +
+    Lyra       13th level female drow mage                     (N) +
+  Belphanior   (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief      (CN) +
+    Otto        8th/10th level dwarven fighter/thief          (CN) +
+    the wispy thing                                            (N) +
+    Aja         9th level human priestess of Wee Jas           (N) +
+    Jutokai     7th level human archer                        (LN) +
+    Kinichi     7th level human tracker                        (N) +
+    Ys         13th level reptilian fighter                   (LN) +
+  Bosco        12th level halfling thief                      (CN) +
+  Date:        1/2/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the frozen expanse known as the Land of Black Ice   +
+  Climate:     freezing                                            +
+  "You made good time."                                            +
+  "Well, the sooner we get here, the sooner we can leave."         +
+                                              - from _Tremors 2_   +

                DXLII.  Don't Eat the Black Snow

  After arriving in the frozen wasteland known as the Land of
Black Ice, the nine adventurers have set out in search of the odd,
hidden ruin known as the City of the Gods.

Alindyar:  (draws his cloak more tightly about himself)  Brr.
Lyra:  (drapes her blanket of warmth around herself)  Ahh.
wispy thing:  (floating above the drow, it grins and nips at a
  falling snowflake)  Pfsss?
Otto:  Damn cold.
Belphanior:  Yeah.

  It was cold - colder than it had been the last time Belphanior,
Bosco, Alindyar, and Lyra had been in these parts.  Dark snow fell
from the sky, not heavily at all, slowly building up on the ground.
They found that as long as they kept moving, no accumulation built
up on their bodies.  Still, it was cold, and windy, and the sky was
overcast - overall, a dreary place to be.

Otto:  It sucks.
Aja:  Dirty snow...
Alindyar:  Not exactly - 'tis merely a color fluctuation.
Kinichi:  Whatever.
Jutokai:  (scans the horizon)  I don't understand why we just didn't
  use you wizards' magic to teleport right into the City.
Belphanior:  A good idea, but it's not a familiar setting for any of
  us, and teleportation there would be risky at best.  Getting to the
  Land of Black Ice in general was a much safer bet.
Alindyar:  Aye.
Lyra:  Still, let's make haste.  The sooner we're out of this cold,
  the better.  For all of us.
Ys:  (clad in a garment none of them have ever seen him wear before,
  a thick woolen robe with a hood and a sashed waist)  Brr.
Otto:  Cold, are you?
Ys:  Somewhat.  As a reptile, I find this climate...uncomfortable.
  But I will survive.
Bosco:  (perched atop the huge reptilian's shoulders, he imitates
  Jutokai and scans the horizon)  Don't see the city yet.

  No one was quite sure how the halfling had persuaded Ys to allow
him to "ride", but one thing was certain:  this way, Bosco's short
legs weren't slowing the party down.  Alindyar and Lyra weren't
trudging through the snow either; they both sat atop a floating disc
of invisible force.

Belphanior:  What exactly is this spell?
Lyra:  A variant of the typical Tenser's disc, merged with a bit of
Alindyar:  Or levitation, if you will.
Belphanior:  Interesting.
Kinichi:  (snickers to himself, somewhat disdainful of any who are
  too weak to walk on their own two feet)

  The tracker had a lot of work ahead of him, and little time to
ponder the fragility of city folk, so he returned his attention to
the matter at hand.  Unfortunately, the city they sought had no
well-traveled route, and even if it had, the snow would have made
finding it impossible.  Fortunately, there were other options.

Lyra:  Someone can levitate up into the air until they're high
  enough up to spot the city's towers.
Bosco:  Yeah!  Good idea.
Ys:  (smirks toothily)
Jutokai:  Sounds like a good plan, but won't it expose us to any
  monsters or foes who can see?
Belphanior:  (nods)  It will, but that's a chance we'll have to take.
Lyra:  Then it's settled.  (she begins rising into the air)
wispy thing:  (its eyes widen)  Spfff?  (it also rises, matching
  the drow sorceress' ascent)
Bosco:  Hey!  Where're you going?
Lyra:  Up, up, and away.
Bosco:  Wait, you might need this.  (he digs about in his pockets,
  eventually producing his jewelled telescope)  It'll let you see
  a lot farther.
Lyra:  (flies down, taking the item)  Why, thank you, Bosco.  (she
  resumes her ascent, jewelled telescope in hand)
wispy thing:  (follows her as she rises into the sky)  Spaaa...
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  Shortly, we'll have our bearings right.
Otto:  Then we can get going.
Kinichi:  (looks around, feeling rather useless at the moment)
Aja:  (quietly, to Alindyar)  That's some woman you've go there.
Alindyar:  (his gaze following Lyra above)  Aye.
Aja:  If you ever get tired of her and want a _real_ woman, just
  let me know.
Alindyar:  (nearly swallows his tongue, and ends up sputtering and
  coughing - and glad that Lyra's a fair distance up in the air,
  out of range of his ESP ring)
Aja:  (smiles evilly and begins chatting with Otto about monsters
  typical to frigid areas such as this one)

  In the air, Lyra used Bosco's magical telescope to scan the snowy
plains that stretched as far as the eye could see (and farther.)
She quickly found what the party sought:  to the northeast, a glint
of sunlight on metal marked something unnatural to the region.

Lyra:  (talking to herself)  That's it.  That must be it.

  After double-checking, the dark elf floated back down to the
ground and briefed the others.

Kinichi:  I can keep us on a pretty good course in that direction.
  You might want to check again every hour or so, though.  Since
  I'm not working with any kind of tracks here, it's hard work.
Belphanior:  What about the sun being in a different position than
  you're used to?
Kinichi:  That too.
Bosco:  (waving his arms about)  Let's be off, then!  Whee!

  They set out toward the northeast, a caravan of nine in a weird
land, headed for a city totally alien to the weird land.  It was
tough going; the snow impeded progress, and the cold weather made
them all uncomfortable.

Aja:  At least the wind's not too bad.
Belphanior:  It will be, by nightfall.  We should have brought the
  golem again.
Alindyar:  To plow through the snowdrifts?
Belphanior:  Yep.
Lyra:  (half-thinking about flying ahead and checking out the city
  on her own, or with Alindyar)
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Not a bad idea.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  It's Belphanior's parade - we shouldn't
  try to march up front.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  <sigh>  I suppose you're right.

  Onward they went.  It was slow and grueling, and as dusk crept up
they realized that they'd have to make camp and continue the trek

Belphanior:  (muttering)  Should've brought the airship...
Alindyar:  Airship?  (to Lyra)  Airship?
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Why didn't you?
Belphanior:  Don't seemed a bit excessive, I guess.
Aja:  Where _is_ the airship?
Belphanior:  Moored to the top tower of my castle, hidden by dense
Aja:  Oh.
Alindyar:  (confused)  Airship?

  It was later than they thought, given the late sunset this far
north, and nobody realized how tired they were until they had a
chance to rest.  The sun went down, and the moons came up, casting
a pale glow across the dark, icy landscape.  Camp was made, using
snowdrifts to surround a central area.

Otto:  (chopping at the ground with a shovel)  Damn ground's frozen
Bosco:  We need Mongo.
Lyra:  No, we don't.  Everyone stand back.  (she casts a quick spell,
  and flames fan out from her hands, melting away a large portion of
  the frozen ground)  There.
Belphanior:  Good work.  We can wait for that to dry up and refreeze
  and then put down tents.
Alindyar:  I would prefer a wall of force.
Lyra:  Maybe we should work on a new camp.
Alindyar:  Perhaps.
Kinichi:  (eyeing the hard, frozen ground dubiously)  I'll try and
  set some traps.
Otto:  We'll need sentries too.
wispy thing:  (zips around Otto's head)  Spooo!
Otto:  Looks like we have a volunteer.
Jutokai:  (unfolding a large, simple-looking tent while whistling
  to himself)
Aja:  Do you expect us all to sleep in there?
Jutokai:  You can do what you want, but this thing's enchanted to
  keep out all the cold and wet.  I'd suggest that you stay within
  once I get it set up.  There's room for everybody.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I guess we won't need the blanket of
  warmth.  Belphanior's people are well-prepared.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  They seem like they'll be competent in
  battle, but we'll have to see.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I doubt we have much to worry about.
  Though we have yet to see them in a combat situation, they have
  surely proven themselves time and again.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  We need to get working on that camp
  spell as soon as we get a chance.  I don't much care for the idea
  of sleeping out in the open.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Or in a tent...aye, a sneak attack
  would be too easy.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  We'll have to be ready for anything.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Agreed.

  Kinichi set his traps, and Belphanior added an enchantment or two
of his own.  Aja had nothing to offer, since her spells were mostly
of a different type.  To top it all off, Alindyar cast a powerful
illusion upon the entire camp; this magic made the area look (and
smell) completely ordinary.  Those who could fully understand what
he had done - Lyra, Belphanior, and Aja - appreciated it, while the
others went on as usual.
  What everyone could appreciate was the warmth provided by Jutokai's
enchanted tent.  The quarters were cramped but far more comfortable
than the frozen wastes outside.

Ys:  (sinks to the floor in the middle of the tent with a satisfied
Aja:  Get out of the way, you oversized gecko.
Ys:  (asleep already)
Aja:  (steps over him, toward the drow)  Mind if I sleep over here?
Lyra:  Sure.  It looks like we're going to be close friends before
  this is through.
Aja:  I hope so.
Alindyar:  (steps around Lyra and quickly lays down to the outside
  of the tent)
Lyra:  (looks at him quizzically)
Aja:  Rats.
Lyra:  Huh?
Aja:  Oh, nothing.

  And in the other corner...

Kinichi:  I'm glad Skektek got left behind.  I don't think I could
  take his whining about this cold.
Jutokai:  I hear you.  I thought he'd toughen up after a while, but
  some people are just weak to the core.

  As the rest of the group arranged themselves for slumber, Otto
stood at the tent flap looking out.

Belphanior:  (sits up from his bedding)  The wisp will keep an eye
  on things.
Otto:  Then I'll keep him company.
wispy thing:  Frrrp.
Belphanior:  Suit yourself.  Wake somebody in a few hours.  I don't
  want anyone dog tired tomorrow when we reach our goal.
Bosco:  Hey!  Don't wake me!  I'm already dog tired.
Belphanior:  Bosco, you rode Ys all the way here.
Bosco:  You say that as if it's significant.
Belphanior:  Go to sleep, Bosco.
Otto:  (chuckles quietly and then returns to staring out at the
  frozen landscape)

  Hours passed and the moons rose to bathe the dark landscape with
their shadowy light.  Otto remained on guard well past midnight,
long years of training pushing down the need for sleep as he kept
watch over his slumbering companions.  Though he was protected from
the wind and cold that surrounded the campsite, he nevertheless
imagined he could almost feel the elements, all around him.
  At first, the familiar sound was far too distant to be of any
concern.  As the stars turned through the sky, the soulful cries in
the night came closer and still closer.  One call from the south
was answered by another from the west.  Then silence as the wind
grew still.  Snow started to fall again.

Otto:  (moves quietly over to wake Kinichi)  Time to work.
Kinichi:  (awake and alert almost instantly)  Ugh, any problems?
unseen wolf:  (distant)  AwwrroooooOOOooooo!
Otto:  Them.

  The pair waited at the tent entrance listening to the howls grow
ever closer.

Kinichi:  They say the white wolves up here are enormous, that they
  breathe ice.
Otto:  They say a lot of things, but that one happens to be true.
Kinichi:  You think the wizards' spells will keep us hidden?
Otto:  Maybe.  I'm not counting on it.  Can they track us through
  this snow?
Kinichi:  Yes, easily.  (he shrugs)  I could.

  As the wolves came closer, the howling awakened Jutokai, and
Belphanior, and then Lyra.  Within an hour, everyone but Bosco was
awake, scanning the frozen terrain around the camp.  Through the
falling snow, every shadow looked like a wolf and every hungry howl
chilled the bones of those present.  The wolves were very near, but
still searching, confused at the disappearance of the trail they
had been following through the night.

Lyra:  (hugging Alindyar tightly)  I hate these noisy surface
Alindyar:  We really have nothing to worry about.  They can't see
  us or smell us.
Aja:  (scowling)
unseen wolf#1:  AwwrooooooooorrOOOOOOO!
unseen wolf#2:  Awwwroooo-yipe!  Gurk-

  Silence followed...and then the sound of crunching bone.

Belphanior:  What the fuck was that?!
Otto:  (cocks his crossbow)  Somebody wake up Bosco.

next:      battle
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     If you need to review the last trip to this area and the
  City of the Gods, see episodes 198-199.
    Thanks to Lance Dooly for major contributions to this story.

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