Chapter #703

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                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2001 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!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+     Zhao           8th level human swordsman                            +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Boltar          high priest of Pholtus                                +
+   Drak            rather cultured barbarian warrior                     +
+   Parekh          dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+   Date:           3/23/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           early evening                                         +
+   Place:          Rauxes, capital of Aerdy                              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "You cannot leave someone like that to do what he _wants_ around      +
+    here.  He is capable of doing anything."                             +
+                               - from _The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly_  +

                  DCCIII.  Disaster Narrowly Averted

  The dwarf looked at Belphanior, amazed that the elf had added yet
another outsider to their quest.

Otto:  Mongo won't like this.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  We can't navigate without a navigator, and just
  from having to talk to her to find out what I needed to know, I all
  but gave away too much.  Better to have her here with us than maybe
  stirring up trouble in our wake.  Besides, she's a sage, and she may
  be able to help us with the historical aspect of this.
Otto:  Hmm.  Have you told her - told her everything?
Belphanior:  Pretty much.  I tried to get a feel for whether she'd be
  game or not, before I laid it all out.
Otto:  And she said yes?
Belphanior:  (nods)  How could she not?  It's the chance of a lifetime,
  for her or any sage.  And I offered her a huge sum of money, plus a
  share of the treasure.
Otto:  (shaking his head)  Mongo won't like that, either.
Belphanior:  The astrologer's share will come out of my own.  Besides,
  I thought I heard Mongo talking about recruiting some raw manpower...
Otto:  Cannon fodder.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)
Otto:  Hey, we may need some.  No telling what we'll find in that tomb.
Belphanior:  Undoubtedly.  (he smirks)  As long as Mongo pays them from
  _his_ share!
Otto:  (chuckles)  You know, it's amazing:  when faced with this much
  loot - or even the faintest hint of it - most people go crazy, start
  plotting and planning and figuring out ways to get around having to
  share.  And here we are, sitting around joking about how to divvy it
  all up.
Belphanior:  Maybe things would be different if we were sitting here
  looking at the treasure.  Who knows?
Otto:  Not me, that's for sure.
Belphanior:  Me neither, which is why I've made a habit of surrounding
  myself with people I can trust.

  They were sitting in one of Rauxes' many taverns, in a booth far from
potential prying ears, enjoying a cold one (or two, or three) and waiting
for the others to arrive.  Although most of the party hadn't known it,
Skektek was actually _from_ Aerdy, and he knew his way around the capital
city of Rauxes.  It was he who had suggested that they stop here to stock
up, it was he who assured them that the city was no more dangerous or
risky than any other place, and it was he who had sent Belphanior to the
sage Arvthar.  So far, everything had worked out okay, though worries

Belphanior:  I hope Mongo doesn't get himself into trouble.  The last
  thing we need is attention.
Otto:  Maybe, but we kind of had to get supplies and information.  And
  it's not like Rauxes' wizards can see the skyship or shoot it down
  or anything.
Belphanior:  True.
Otto:  So Skektek's out there loading up on spell components and such.
  Jutokai, Charlie, and Zhao are with Mongo and Gorgo?
Belphanior:  Yup.  And Neera's getting some supplies of her own.
Otto:  And Parekh, Drak, Boltar...?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  They're big boys and girls, and they've done this
  sort of thing before.  I'm sure they can take care of themselves.
Otto:  Which leaves Ys and Bosco roaming about?
Belphanior:  Damn, it sure does.  I wonder what they could possibly be
  up to?


Bosco:  (shaking dice in his tiny fist)  Okay, here we go...let's see
  some lucky sevens...and...YES!  (he jumps up and down, but only for
  a moment)  Hah.  (he rakes in a pile of coins)
Ys:  What is the point of this?
Bosco:  To beat the pants off of the other people.
Ys:  No, I mean, what use is all of this money?  You surely have more
  than this anyway, not to mention what's coming soon.
Bosco:  It's the winning, not the money.  (he prepares to toss the dice
Ys:  (shaking his head, he wanders off to find more ale)
Bosco:  The winning.  (he lets the dice fly again, narrowly missing
  another winning combination)  Man, was that close!

  In his own way, Bosco was cutting loose.  After so many days on the
road (or more accurately, in the air) he was at last in a cozy, familiar
setting.  Better yet, he was winning.  Again.  He'd made enough in this
tavern game, tonight, to eat well for a month.  Then again, eating well
was something that the halfling tended to do anyway...

Bosco:  (to a nearby wench)  A round for the table, miss!  And a roast
wench:  Sure thing, shorty.  (she wanders away)
Bosco:  Damn, but it's good to be me.
large man:  Don't be so sure.  (he lifts the halfling up, clear off of
  his stool)
Bosco:  Whaaaa-
large man:  You're cheating.  You've gotta be cheating.
Bosco:  No way!  Heck, these aren't even my lucky dice-
large man:  Maybe you should have brought your lucky dice.  Nobody wins
  this much off me and gets away with it.
Bosco:  Now there's no call for-
large man:  (turns the halfling upside down, shaking him vigorously as
  coins of all sorts fall from his pockets)  Hah!
Bosco:  Aaaaa!
large man:  (regarding the pile of coins on the floor)  There's gotta
  be more than that...where're you hiding it?
Bosco:  I don't know what you're talking about!
large man:  If I can't shake it out of you, then I'll beat it out of

  A huge grey hand came to rest on the man's shoulder just then, its
strength implied more than felt.

Ys:  Kindly let the halfling go.
large man:  Huh?  (he turns around)
Ys:  (grinning his toothy reptilian grin)
large man:  Eyah!  (he drops Bosco)
Bosco:  (somehow lands on his feet)  Whew...dizzy.
large man:  (backs away, cowering behind Bosco)
Bosco:  (ignoring the man, he regards the coins that cover the floor
  around him)  All my gold...I should just get a bag.
Ys:  (produces one of his small pouches, which for Bosco is a big sack)
  Hurry then.  We're late to meet Belphanior and the others.
Bosco:  (notes that it's dusk outside)  Wow, you're right!  (he hastily
  begins scraping coins into the sack)
large man:  (eyeing the halfling wordlessly)
Bosco:  (regards the man)  How'd the time ever get away from me?  It's
  been fun, but I've got to run...

  With that, the halfling and the reptilian left the tavern, under the
gaze of a number of people who usually sought out trouble, but not with
someone the size of Ys.
  And then there were others, like the individual who'd covertly slipped
a special coin in with the ones Bosco had dropped and subsequently had
to gather.  This coin appeared to be gold, but it wasn't.  Nor was it
magical; thus it gave off no aura.  It was, however, unique, which meant
that it could later be traced by means of a certain spell...enabling
simple and swift pursuit of the halfling and his companion, wherever
they might go.

next:      final preparations
released:  1/8/01
notes:     Now what good would an epic quest be without some no-good dirty
  rats thrown into the mix?

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