Chapter #704

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                                   +   +
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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                            +
+                                                                         +
+   Neera           female human sage/astrologer                          +
+   Date:           3/23/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           early evening                                         +
+   Place:          an upscale tavern in Rauxes, capital of Aerdy         +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "I don't have a work ethic...just work."                              +
+                        - Captain Billy Tyne, from _The Perfect Storm_   +

                    DCCIV.  Final Preparations

  Everyone has finally reunited in the rather nice tavern chosen by
Belphanior and Otto...

Mongo:  (looking around)  Well, this is a change.
Otto:  How's that?
Mongo:  Usually you guys pick the seedy places.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  I must be getting old.  What news?
Mongo:  Well, I was looking for more allies for this quest...people to
  help scout, fight, carry loot, whatever.
Belphanior:  From your tone of voice, I'm guessing you didn't find what
  you were looking for.
Mongo:  I found some who might have worked out, but I kinda had a change
  of heart at the last minute.
Otto:  You didn't tell them anything, did you?
Mongo:  Are you nuts?  Of course I didn't!  The fewer who are in on this,
  the better.
Belphanior:  (wondering if this is simple dwarven gold-lust or perhaps
  some item of Mongo's influencing him)
Gorgo:  We talked to some good mercenaries, but in the end, it just
  wasn't worth it.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Agreed.  With, say, a troop of mercenaries along
  for the ride, things could have gotten...complicated.
Skektek:  Not to mention that we don't really have that much room on the
Mongo:  And we sure won't, after we fill it up with treasure.
Jutokai:  Aren't you counting your gold before it's won?
Mongo:  I guess so, but that's the way these things work.
Jutokai:  Hmph.

  The archer had been fairly moody since the grim business at Helgate.
Obviously, he was upset by Aja's demise - but the man was a hardened
warrior, one who had seen many women come and go, and it wasn't like
he had been planning to settle down with the priestess.  No, more than
anything, Jutokai was angry...ready to boil over at any moment, given
a deserving target.  To tell the truth, he'd rather have gone to war
right now than to a dungeon or tomb.  However, since no wars currently
marred the face of the world, and since he didn't have anything better
to do, and since he considered Belphanior and the others to be good
friends, he was here, readying himself for the Tomb of Panagaea and
whatever unknown dangers waited within.

Jutokai:  (muttering to himself)  First we've got to find the place.
Belphanior:  Pardon?
Jutokai: when do we leave?
Razor Charlie:  The sooner the better.  If I stay here much longer,
  I might kill somebody.
Bosco:  I heard that!  There's some dangerous people in this city!
Zhao:  Bring them on, then.  My twin blades yearn for action.
Belphanior:  You'll get your chance, never fear.
Ys:  Hopefully not in this city, before we even set out on our great
Bosco:  (wondering if the incident at the other tavern will come back
  to haunt him)
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Where's this sage you picked up for the trip?
Mongo:  (to Gorgo)  Sage?
Belphanior:  Neera?  I didn't want her around until we're ready to
Jutokai:  Which is...?
Belphanior:  Tomorrow morning.  I'll handle the sage.
Mongo:  What sage?
Belphanior:  Err...I figured it would help if we had a sage along, one
  who could navigate the vague directions we were given, to make sure
  we get where we're going.
Mongo:  (shaking his head)  That's the last thing we need, some damn
  geezer following us around, trying to keep up...only to get eaten
  by a dragon os something.
Belphanior:  Actually, the sage is a woman, a young one, and she can
  keep up.  Not to mention she'll come in handy for scrying and maybe
  solving puzzles, riddles, and such.
Parekh:  (snickers)
Belphanior:  Hey, you never know!  Not all challenges are able to be
  overcome with sword and hammer.  We have to be ready for anything.
Mongo:  (to Belphanior)  Fine - but she's your problem, and she doesn't
  get a share.
Belphanior:  Understood.
Skektek:  So...tomorrow morning!
Belphanior:  Yep.  We'll have to use teleportation to get back up to
  the ship.
Mongo:  (frowns)
Belphanior:  Still uneasy about having to leave solid ground for that
Mongo:  (unwilling to admit this)  Maybe.
Belphanior:  (claps him on the shoulder)  Trust me, it'll be a lot
  shorter of a trip this way than if we took a boat on the ocean.
Boltar:  Speaking of which...
Belphanior:  Eh?
Boltar:  I'd like to talk more about exactly where we're going and what
  we're hoping to find there...
Belphanior:  (holds up a hand)  Not here.  No details here.  We can
  talk openly when we're back on the airship.
Parekh:  That suits me, because I spent most of today locating and
  purchasing all kinds of information on our destination.
Drak:  (gets a pained look on his face)  It's true - she was shopping
  all day long.
Parekh:  (smirks)  And we got some good things - history, ancient maps,
  maybe clues about what we're getting into.  I plan to read it all on
  the way there.
Belphanior:  (nods appreciatively)  Glad to hear it.  You might work
  with our sage on that.
Parekh:  I might.
Belphanior:  (ignores this petulance)  So.  (he addresses the others)
  Last chance, people:  did everyone get what they needed?

  Everyone had.  Supplies were laid in:  food, drink, digging tools,
sacks, rope, hooks, oil, and much, much more.  Boltar had obtained
a number of flasks and bottles, intending to fill them with water
that he could then bless to make it holy.  Parekh and Skektek were
fully-stocked on spell components and useful scrolls, while Razor
Charlie had purchased several dozen fine throwing knives, some of
them fashioned of silver.  Others in the group had taken the wise
precaution of stocking up on healing and battle potions.  Otto had
made sure to secure plenty of poison, acid, and the like.
  This was a group that had the skill, experience, and equipment to
challenge just about anything - and have a good chance of winning!

next:      they're off!
released:  1/11/01
notes:     I don't care if this arc takes 25 episodes to write...or
  even 50.  I'm going to do it right.  As will be mentioned elsewhere
  in these isle-oriented episodes, I have re-worked this batch of
  stories more times than any other arc, ever.  It's actually getting
  kind of ridiculous.  But I have to do it right.
    Go see "Dracula 2000" - good entertainment value.

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