Chapter #888

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                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
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+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2005 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!                                          +
+   Belphanior     15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Drak           14th level human barbarian warrior                     +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Parekh         18th level human female wizard                         +
+   Date:          7/6/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         Parekh's home (exact location unknown)                 +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "Lust of power burns more fiercely than all the passions combined."   +
+                                                              - unknown  +

                   DCCCLXXXVIII.  An Unusual Lunch

  Yesterday, Belphanior and crew found and looted an armory of the slain
lich Xusia.  Afterward, they returned to Parekh's home, as they'd done
many times before, to spend the rest of the day and evening resting and
relaxing.  Now, after a good night's sleep, Belphanior confers with the
sorceress prior to gathering his team and dividing the magic items.

Parekh:  -though, to hear you tell it, you didn't even work up a sweat.
Belphanior:  It was kind of anti-climactic, I monsters there
  to guard it, nothing but the one trap, which wasn't even a trap for one
  who had the key.  (he frowns)  It's many of these gateways
  have led us to monsters or battles, with nothing to show for it...and
  this time, we just walked into a place where he decided to stash the
  mother lode.
Drak:  It sounds like it _was_ the mother lode.  (he shakes his head,
  grinning)  I wish I'd been there.  It sounds like quite an adventure.
Belphanior:  We could have used your strength and hammer in some of those
  places.  (he turns to Parekh)  That's a good idea - why don't you and
  Drak, and maybe even Pallin, check out one of these gateways with us?

  The elf wasn't just being kind; he had a feeling that the dark-skinned
archmage would refuse his offer.  She'd never expressed any such interest
in the past, instead seeming content to let the elf and his small band of
seasoned adventurers deal with that.  It probably wasn't a matter of risk;
Parekh possessed fearsome amounts of magical power and prowess, and Drak
could go toe-to-toe with giants.  No, Belphanior figured that Parekh was
busy with other matters.  He just wished he knew what they were.

Parekh:  No, no.  As I've said, I have no interest in unearthing long-
  lost Sueloise treasures, nor do I have any need for them, or even the
  lich's gold or gems.  There comes a point when enough is enough; Drak
  and I reached that point some time ago.  Even our time helping Bram was
  just a favor to him.
Belphanior:  (recalling how he met Parekh and the other members of her
  vampire-hunting party)  Hmm, that reminds me...someday, I've got to
  track down Victoria and...settle some things.
Parekh:  I'm sure Pallin would be happy to help you, if you wish.
Belphanior:  We'll see...we'll see.  (he sits up straight)  Anyway, as I
  was saying, you'll have a share of the items we just found.  It's long
  past due, for all the help you've given us.
Parekh:  Well...perhaps a single item from the hoard.  Neera and Pallin
  should be done scrying them by lunchtime.

  Belphanior knew that Parekh had done her share toward helping with that
effort, just as Skektek and Jenna had been involved as well.  The reason
for this was twofold:  he wanted more sets of eyes working on deciphering
those items' mysteries, and both Jenna and Skektek had something to offer
the process.  Besides, there was no way to keep Skektek away from anything
that had any sort of potential destructive capability.

Belphanior:  Heh.  I can't think of a better lunch than one eaten while
  discussing the powers of mighty magical weapons and items.
Parekh:  To tell the truth, neither can I.  It should be a feast in more
  ways than one.

  About an hour later, with food and drink a-plenty, the gathered group
went about the task of splitting up the treasure.  Parekh and Neera had
given a brief summary of what they had discerned about the powers and
properties of each weapon or item in the hoard.  Unlike many seasoned
adventuring parties, Belphanior's crew didn't go about this process by
first identifying every single item and then choosing the one that seemed
to be the most valuable or powerful for each person.  Rather, they tended
to choose according to what they could actually use; in other words, Otto
didn't need a staff that fired lightning bolts if there was an enchanted
crossbow to be had.  Many people would have found this approach to be
insane, but Belphanior had noticed that in the long run, it had a way of
working out.  Then again, there were certain times when he stacked the
deck, so to speak...

Belphanior:  I'll go first, because I have big plans for all those golems.
  I'm taking the rod.

  This item was a two-foot-long, inch-thick rod of bluish metal, its
entire surface inscribed with strange runes and sigils.

Parekh:  This item, we found, was created for a specific purpose:  to
  grant control over a specific group of golems.
Belphanior:  And it bears no power over other golems?
Neera:  No.  Judging by our scrying and your description of the chamber
  full of golems, this is almost certainly the control device for them.
  Of course, you'll have to work out the specific details by trial and
Belphanior:  So be it.  (he hefts the metal rod)

  The others had drawn straws to determine the order of choosing, and the
next turn went to Ys.

Ys:  Hah.  This must be my lucky day.  I'll take...the bracelet.  (he
  picks up the thin silver chain)
Jenna:  A wise choice.
Neera:  (nods)  It's a minor relic of some Sueloise deity - one so old
  and obscure that we couldn't even come up with a name or sphere of
Jenna:  Regardless, the bracelet will heal your wounds, much faster than
  normal...and it also confers some protection from diseases and such.
Neera:  We think.  It's difficult to test until you have a chance to
  catch some disease.
Ys:  (smirks)
Razor Charlie:  I'm next.  (he looks over the items, and quickly selects
  the simple bracer of brass)
Parekh:  Ah, the bracer of speed.  (she silently wonders why Charlie
  didn't take the dagger)
Neera:  That bracer may not be tied to a specific deity, but there's no
  doubt about its usefulness:  it hastens your every action, without any
  effect on your body as far as aging.
Razor Charlie:  Good.  (he sits there, wishing that the rest of this
  treasure-splitting would end so that he could go test his new item)
Otto:  My turn, eh?  (he makes a show of thinking, before taking the
  finely-crafted crossbow)
Skektek:  (smiling thinly)  Big surprise.
Otto:  You said something about this thing making its own bolts?
Neera:  (nods)  It's not magically accurate, like the one you have now-
Otto:  Hey!  How'd you know that?
Neera:  (shrugs)  I'm a sage.  Anyway, it may lack the enchantments for
  such accuracy, but it makes up for that by generating its own bolts.
  Every time you prepare the weapon, a bolt will appear, ready to fire.
Otto:  I have to see this to believe it.
Razor Charlie:  Me too.
Otto:  (cranks the string back, and a sleek steel bolt materializes in
  the weapon's groove)  Whoa.  (he points the thing at a nearby table,
  pulling the trigger and sending the bolt through a melon and then into
  the wall)  Huh.  (he readies the crossbow again, and another bolt
  appears instantly)  I like it!
Parekh:  (waves a hand, and the bolt pops out of the wall and drifts
  across the room into her hand, where she examines it)  Non-magical.
  (she hands it back to Otto)
Otto:  That's fine by me.  I'd rather have this for the majority of the
  time, when I don't need a magical bolt.  If I do, I'll switch back to
  my old crossbow.
Belphanior:  Who's next?
Jenna:  Oh, that would be me.  (she takes the intricately-worked chalice
  of solid silver)  I can always use a healing item like this.
Neera:  I'd think so, given that it can turn water into holy water or
  healing potions.
Belphanior:  (wondering what the group would do if Jenna, their only
  healer, were to be vaporized along with all of her possessions)  Hmm.
Neera:  Eh?
Belphanior:  Nothing.
Skektek:  It's my turn now...(without any hesitation, he takes the thin
  ring of purple-black metal)  Spell storing...
Neera:  More so than the ring you now wear.  This one can hold quite a
  bit more in the way of ready-to-cast spells.  It's "empty" right now,
  which means you get to choose which spells to bind to it.
Parekh:  (helpfully)  Remember, once you make that choice, it's final.
  So choose carefully.
Skektek:  Oh, I will.  Trust me, I will.
Belphanior:  Elgon, you're last, but not least.
Elgon: guy's luck...(he takes the amulet, a simple leather
  cord with a small chunk of jade)  How appropriate, given my inclination
  when it comes to magic.
Neera:  The ability to change your form to that of any animal or monster
  is nothing to scoff at, especially considering that all of your items
  transform along with you.
Elgon:  (muttering)  It's a good thing I don't have any super-powerful
  items that might resist such a change...
Belphanior:  Now, as promised...Parekh, you have a share, in repayment
  for all of your help.  Choose one of these items.
Parekh:  I'll take the longsword.  (she smiles)  How ironic, that I'd
  end up with the ideal vampire-fighting weapon.
Neera:  (nods, eyeing the 3' long black metal handle of the sheathed
  weapon)  No Sueloise weapon, this...nor one a lich would want to keep
  lying around.  Maybe he took it from some slain hero.
Belphanior:  You said that its blade glows like the sun itself?
Parekh:  It's quite amazing, frankly.  We unsheathed it just a tiny bit,
  a mere crack, and the light that shot out of the sheath was blinding.
  If you ever go up against an army of vampires, this is the weapon to
Belphanior:  (frowns)  Then we may have to talk one day.  (he looks
  around)  Well, we're back to the top of the order, which means another
  item each for me, Ys, Charlie, Otto, and Jenna.  (he takes the 5' spear
  with its strange, three-edged tip)  What did you say this was, again?
Neera:  The Fork of Doom.  It was used in battle by a long line of
  legendary Suel generals.  Details from our scrying were sketchy - the
  spear is one of the items we had some trouble with - but at the very
  least, it has command and control powers over large numbers of people.
Belphanior:  Excellent.
Otto:  One item to control golems, another to control masses of people...
  heh, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were on a power trip today.
Belphanior:  (chuckles)  If not today, then one day.  These are weapons
  meant to be used, not wasted.
Skektek:  Let's get to it - what's left?
Belphanior:  Ys, it's your turn.
Ys:  That helm seems to fit me best.  (he grabs the finely-worked helm
  of mithril, with its two horns jutting out from either side, and holds
  it up)  What do you think?
Skektek:  It's definitely you.
Neera:  This one's a little difficult best as we can tell, it
  brings the ultimate perception to its wearer.  There's also a vague
  trace of chaos about it, should definitely be careful with
  that thing.
Ys:  I certainly shall.
Belphanior:  Charlie?
Razor Charlie:  (without any hesitation whatsoever, he takes the small,
  razor-sharp throwing dagger)
Belphanior:  Right, then.
Razor Charlie:  (turning the blade around in his hand)  Nice knife.  Good
  balance for throwing.
Neera:  The story on the dagger is simple:  it will always hit what it's
  thrown at.
Skektek:  Big deal - he always hits what he aims at anyway.
Razor Charlie:  (smirks)
Neera:  It's got a potent magical enchantment on it, too, enough to even
  injure things like demons and golems.
Razor Charlie:  Good.
Otto:  (eyeing the remaining items)  A belt made for dwarves, or a mace
  that returns when thrown.  No real choice at all.  (he takes the belt
  of unknown hide, inlaid with rune-covered adamant plates)
Jenna:  (picks up the mace with the spiked ball at its tip, though she's
  not strong enough to fight with it)  Ungh!
Otto:  Sorry, but you couldn't have used the belt either.
Jenna:  It's okay.  I can trade this to someone, sometime, for something
  I can use.
Elgon:  Hey, at least you got two picks.
Otto:  (to Neera)  What's the deal with this belt?
Neera:  Like a few of the other things from this hoard, it's not a Suel
  relic...but rather, a dwarven relic.  It seems to have been fashioned
  by agents of the dwarven god Clanggedin Silverbeard, the Father of
Otto:  I know of his ways, though I follow no deity.
Neera:  Fair enough.  Anyway, it's some kind of strength-belt, but in
  order to use it properly, you have to be some kind of dwarven hero.
Otto:  (straps the belt on, then frowns)  I don't feel any different.  I
  guess I'm not a "hero."
Neera:  We can spend more time scrying the belt, if you want-
Otto:  No, that's okay.  I'll deal with it on my own.

  At this point, most of the group wandered away, to ponder their new
possessions (or perhaps even to test them.)  Parekh, however, still had
some information for Belphanior...

Parekh:  Oh, before I forget, here's a bonus:  Neera and I figured out
  what the strange ruby skull can be used for.
Belphanior:  Ruby skull...(he rubs his temples, momentarily confused
  about the dozens of magical items he's gained, lost, and loaned out
  over his years of adventuring)
Neera:  The ruby skull, from the Tomb of Panagaea.
Parekh:  We'd talked of this before, and I mentioned that the skull had
  wizardry powers...?
Belphanior:  Oh.  Oh yeah, right.  It doubles the number of spells I can
  cast each day.
Parekh:  It doubles _all_ of your spells, not just some, as rings of this
  sort do.  But we've also determined that it reduces all casting times
  by a fraction...not much, just enough to give you an edge over someone
  else, say, casting the same spell at the same time.
Belphanior:  Outstanding.  That's a damn useful item.
Neera:  We've determined that the skull was created long ago, by some
  time-forgotten sorceror of the lost continent.  It's a minor relic, by
  any definition.
Belphanior:  (thinking how lucky he is that he wasn't carrying this item
  when he was captured and his items ransacked by the slavers)  Whew.
Parekh:  (hands the skull to the elf)  Carry it always, and guard it with
Belphanior:  Damn, if only we'd been able to find two of those.  Skektek
  could use something like this.
Parekh:  All in all, I think your group is much better prepared today,
  as opposed to yesterday, for further gateway explorations.
Belphanior:  (holds the Fork of Doom, eyeing the spear's triple blades
  with a gleam in his eye)  Or for anything else we choose to undertake.

next:       a bit of a problem
released:   9/2/05
notes:      This isn't a total Monty Haul situation - there will be some
  trouble with some of these new items.  In fact, it begins next episode.

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