Chapter #718

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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            barbarian warrior                                     +
+   Parekh          dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+                                                                         +
+   Neera           female human sage/astrologer                          +
+                                                                         +
+   captive serpent-man                                                   +
+   Date:           the week between 3/579 and 4/579 C.Y. (Common Year)   +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          an isle amidst the Solnor Ocean                       +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "You're a man who makes people afraid...and that's dangerous."        +
+                                          - from _High Plains Drifter_   +

                    DCCXVIII.  The Feathered Ones

  The adventurers now stand within the ruins of a city thousands of years

Belphanior:  We're getting there.
Neera:  (shudders)  What a cold, dead place.

  As they moved through the city's remains, they explored the piles of
rubble and husks of buildings in passing.  It was apparent, even from
the sorry state of the ruins, that the long-dead denizens of this place
had either been larger than human or had enjoyed grand architecture.
Doorways were never less than ten feet high.  Steps were of a scale that
made it difficult to use them.  It was impossible to know, however, what
the truth of all this was.

Mongo:  Damn, but this is a big city.
Belphanior:  Was a big city.
Boltar:  Quite a place, in any era.
Ys:  A most grand city, this was.
Bosco:  Empty now...except hopefully for treasure.
Neera:  (taking in the lost architecture, she memorizes every detail)
  The city itself is treasure enough for me.
Mongo:  (smirks)

  They sidestepped rubble and avoided cracks as they traversed a wide
pathway that had to have been the city's main avenue.  This great old
street headed right toward the mountain, whose vague outline was just
barely visible through the canopy of branches and leaves overhead.

Belphanior:  (gazing into the treetops)  Whoa.
Otto:  (silently unlimbers his crossbow)  What?
Belphanior:  Company.
Skektek:  (trying to inconspicuously retrieve the wand tucked in his
Belphanior:  About ten souls...all in the treetops above us.
Drak:  Those weird monkeys?
Belphanior:  I doubt it.  Those things looked unintelligent...

  The group, all seasoned veterans, had subtly begun to spread out
so as to offer a tougher target, if it came to that.  However, this
second encounter wasn't to be as violent as their first on the isle.

winged humanoid:  (glides down from above, landing gently on the
  forest floor)

Mongo:  Well, damn...
Parekh:  Bird-people!

  The being standing before them was strange, yet impressive.  About
seven feet in height, its most prominent feature was the pair of large
feathered wings that grew from its back.  These wings were identical
to those possessed by birds of prey, thick and powerful.  The feathers
were broad and long, their hue a dark brown.  The creature had other
avian features as well, for its head was hawklike, ending in a sharp
horned beak.  Its hands and feet had four digits each, three taloned
fingers and an opposable thumb or toe.  The being's non-feathered
parts were covered in short, coarse hair of the same color as its
wings.  Its body was lean and muscular, suggesting power as well as
  The thing had no clothes, and it began to squawk in a language that
was as alien as anything else the adventurers had heard lately.  It
had made no hostile move toward the group, though, and bore no weapons
at all.

bird-man:  (gestures at the captive serpent-man, seemingly agitated)
serpent-man:  (despite Parekh's spell of charming, he begins to hiss
  under his breath)
Gorgo:  They don't like each other...(he puts a hand on the haft of
  his spiked battle-mace)
Belphanior:  (trying to communicate via hand signals, he immediately
  senses that he's getting nowhere)
bird-man:  (points at the serpent-man again)  Squak!
Parekh:  Perhaps I can use another instance of my magic to talk with
  this being.
Belphanior:  Good idea.  And do it quickly, before something bad

  That, however, was beyond their control.  As Parekh cast her spell,
a shadow dove from above, dipping toward the ground just long enough
to snatch the serpent-man and carry it back up to the trees!

Belphanior:  (unsheathes Blackrazor)  Dammit!
Otto:  Prisoner grab.
Parekh:  Given the size and weight of the prisoner, this is even more

  The foliage and distance prevented the adventurers from seeing what
happened to the serpent-man, but there was a loud screech and quite a
bit of commotion, and then the evidence quickly began raining down
onto the forest floor and the party...

Boltar:  (hit in the head by something wet, green, and gory)
Bosco:  Ugh...
Otto:  It seems that our captured guide just met a messy end.

  By now, the entire party had readied their weapons or magical items,
though Parekh's spell was completed.  The bird-man was gesturing at
Ys in the exact same way he'd gestured at the serpent-man, just moments

Ys:  (looks around)
Belphanior:  No.  No fucking way.  They are _not_ taking Ys.
Ys:  I appreciate the show of support-
Parekh:  (says something to the bird-man, something that sounds like
  a whole lot of screeching and chirping)
bird-man:  (takes a step back, alarmed)
Parekh:  (continues talking in the foreign tongue)

  Tensions were high.  The bird-man's unseen allies above were obviously
waiting to attack, and they couldn't be seen or targeted because of the
conditions and distance.  It was clear that they were experts at flying
down through the trees to attack land-based foes.  Despite this, the
adventurers had significant power of their own, if they could just bring
it to bear...

Skektek:  Um, a fireball straight upward would solve this problem.
Belphanior:  Just hold your horses.  Parekh, what's this bird-man's
Parekh:  He says that the scaled ones - both the dead prisoner and your
  companion - are his people's mortal enemies and must be offered up in
  death to appease the winged god.
Ys:  Truly, I must be the envy of all right about now.
Otto:  Don't sweat it.  They're not killing you or anyone else.  That's
  a fact.
Ys:  (nods, bringing his huge sword into a ready position)
bird-man:  (screeching excitedly)
Parekh:  (answers him, then listens again)  Damn.
Belphanior:  What?
Parekh:  He's not going to back down.
Belphanior:  I have an idea, then.

  The elf acted suddenly, without any hint or warning of what he was
about to do.  Thus, he surprised not only the bird-man (or men) but also
his own group.

Belphanior:  (employing one of the spells stored in his ring, he leaps
  at the bird-man, tackling him before he can dodge or fly away)  Hold
  still, you!

  The elf's augmented strength, coupled with the element of surprise,
allowed him to get the other in a headlock despite the wings beating
in his face the whole time.  The bird-man's struggles ceased when the
elf's dark blade touched its throat.

Belphanior:  Now we have another captive, one who'll help persuade its
  friends above to leave us the hell alone.

next:      total war, or slick negotiation?
released:  3/1/01
notes:     One lost race on the isle just wasn't enough.

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