Chapter #915

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                                   +   +
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                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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!                                          +
+   Daffodil        11th level human druidess of Obad-Hai                 +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger of Ehlonna                    +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid of Obad-Hai  +
+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Eyer            13th/16th level wood elven fighter/acrobat            +
+   Leila           12th/12th level female grey elven warrior/mage        +
+   Kiel Morgan     14th level human warrior                              +
+   Og              16th level dwarven warrior                            +
+   Relmar          18th level human high priest of Pelor                 +
+   Thorlok         11th level human war-mage                             +
+   Validor         11th level human wizard (sage/astrologer)             +
+   Date:           7/11/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          an undiscovered continent far to the east             +
+   Climate:        cool                                                  +
+   "You'd be surprised what people can do when they have to."            +
+                                 - Alan Grant, from _Jurassic Park 3_    +

                    CMXV.  Mysterious Island

  A week has passed since the _Odyssey_ ran aground on the shore of an
unknown, uncharted landmass in the eastern reaches of the Solnor Ocean.
The crew and colonists - about four hundred people - have stayed busy
carrying out various work assignments necessary to their survival (both
short- and long-term) in this new land.

  Perhaps the most important achievement was the discovery of a small
lake a half-hour's march inland, from the beach.  There had been some
concern about this water being contaminated (either with the same wood-
eating property as the ocean water or another, unknown property) but the
alchemists had tested it thoroughly and declared it safe to drink.  This
water was not only fresh (salt-free) but also remarkably clean.  A pack
train of sorts had been set up, so that those not busy with the more
skilled tasks could ferry water to the base camp.
  The main camp had changed drastically in recent days.  The engineers
had chosen a site several hundred feet inland (such that the thick tree
cover shielded it from casual viewing from the beach or ocean) and then
gone to work, leveling a small area at first and slowly working their
way inland.  Trees had been felled and used to construct a series of
large lodges; the colony was far from the point where each family could
have its own private quarters, and for now they had to do the best they
could.  Around these dwelling places, a crude wall was underway, its
base consisting of what little stone they'd found, its bulk consisting
of an eight-foot high wall of logs.  The colony's main asset in this
work was its raw workforce:  hundreds of strong, hardy, adventurous
types who saw the need to better their situation, and were willing to
work toward that goal.  Kiel made sure that anyone not busy with a more
specific task was employed to help ferry water, until there was a sizable
reserve in the camp.
  He also appointed several of the wives to coordinate activities to
keep the children busy.  These were functional tasks and chores rather
than play; for example, the camp was in constant need of cleanup, as
sticks, leaves, and other debris from the tree-clearing were in constant
evidence.  The trick was to make the chores look like play-time for the
little ones, and under Kiel's delegation, it seemed to be working.  This
same group (mostly the women) organized all of the ship's supplies and
took inventory, so that the colony would know exactly what they had and
where it was when they needed it.
  As for the defenses, Og and Eyer had that well in hand.  The hundred
warriors who had been aboard the ship worked steadily, in shifts, to
dig a trench around the outer side of the perimeter wall.  The weapons
from the ship were collected, counted, and assigned as needed, with the
surplus ordnance stored in a makeshift armory.  The catapults and
ballistae that had been salvaged were cleaned and stored; there seemed
to be no immediate use for these, but Og wanted them readily functional
in case something happened.  The warriors also cleared the jungle for
another twenty feet beyond the trench, so that nothing could use the
trees for close cover or to get over the wall easily.  Smaller branches
were used to make sharpened spikes, which were lodged in the bottom of
the trench.  All of these measures, together with a series of guards on
duty at all times, restored a much-needed measure of security to the
colony's situation.

  All of these things covered the short-term needs:  shelter, defense,
drinking water, and general organization.  Everything else was mid- or
long-term in scope, and was being handled with less urgency (though just
as competently.)  Peyote and Daffodil worked with the gardeners to plant
the seeds they had brought; several gardens were built and seeded, while
a number of volunteers were taught these methods.  It never hurt to have
a large number of people cross-trained with certain basic (and useful)
skills.  The druids' other duty was to learn all about the local flora,
which meant numerous expeditions into the nearby jungle, as well as some
debriefings of the rangers who were venturing even further into this new
land.  The bottom line was that the plant life here was similar but not
identical to that in the Flanaess.  The dominant tree, which was ever-
present in the jungle here, resembled a palm tree, growing to an average
height of about twenty feet.  These trees topped off with thick, wide
leaves that did a remarkable job of keeping the sunlight and heat from
reaching the jungle floor.  The trees' bark was tough and thick, its
color a pale brown, the average trunk about a foot in diameter.  These
trees also held a coconut-like fruit whose contents (both meat and milk)
proved to be edible and somewhat tasty.  Other small bushes on the ground
contained various berries of many colors and flavors.  As for the other
underbrush within the jungle, it was - to quote Daffodil - "new but not
really very exciting."  Nevertheless, all of this flora was examined, and
samples taken to the herbalists for further study.
  Halbarad, Songa, Rillen, and the rangers had a more adventurous job...
for they were the ones who ventured deeper into the jungle, searching for
food as well as charting the unknown reaches of this continent.  It had
become quickly apparent that this wasn't a small island.  This was rather
evident from the lay of the land and was correlated with sightings taken
by climbing to the tops of trees and looking above the canopy of leaves.
The cartographers were still busy with the information provided to them
by the rangers, and further explorations would be necessary, but it was
already obvious that this landmass was a sizable island, if not a small
  Obviously, this team's first and most significant success had been the
discovery of the inland lake.  To tell the truth, this had been fairly
easy for anyone who knew how to look for the signs and follow the clues.
Their explorations had also verified the existence of something else the
rangers sought:  animal life.  This place may have been off the maps, and
surrounded by an anti-magic barrier and wood-eating ocean water, but it
was completely normal in terms of wildlife.  Birds chirped in the trees,
and flew above them.  Brightly-colored butterflies and moths flitted
about beneath the canopy of trees.  Rodents large and small scurried
through the dense brush and roots that made up the jungle floor.  Unseen
monkeys screeched to each other from their perches, even at night.  Some
of the rangers had found tracks indicating the presence of felines both
large and small, as well as the probably natural prey of the former:  a
small deer, perhaps three or four feet at the shoulder.  It was suspected
that these animals had thus far detected (and fled at) the approach of
any humans.  Squirrels scurried along tree-trunks and sometimes leapt
from tree to tree, and occasionally, bats could be seen flitting through
the air at night.  There were also plenty of smaller, less conspicuous
forms of life:  frogs, beetles, snakes, spiders, and who knew what else.
These creatures tended to stay on the ground and out of sight, but since
they were potentially dangerous, everyone had to be aware of them.
  The rangers had also found some old, faded tracks that appeared to be
human or humanoid, but it was hard to tell even for skilled trackers.

Kiel:  So there's fresh meat?
Halbarad:  (shakes his head)  Some, but it's been smaller animals that
  we've brought down.  I'd like to find some of those deer, but I doubt
  we will, at least not anywhere within a day's hike of the camp.  We
  may need to venture further inland, which will mean overnight trips.
  We haven't done that yet, because I wanted to run it by you, but we're
  ready to proceed.
Kiel:  (nods)  And that will also let you gather more information about
  the extent of this land.  Good.
Halbarad:  The old tracks we found are...worrisome.  Whatever people made
  them should be nearby, but they're not.  Hopefully a deeper expedition
  inland will give us the answers about this.
Kiel:  Agreed.

  Another lack of tangible success was evidenced by those studying the
strange properties of this place:  the magi and priests and alchemists.
Leila, Relmar, and the others had no real answers about either the anti-
magic barrier or the wood-eating ocean water.  The barrier rose from the
ocean water, in the distance, as far as the eye could see; since they
had no boats, it was impossible to row out there to study the thing.  A
couple of the younger, stronger warrior-types had offered to swim, but
this idea had been vetoed, as the volunteers lacked any expertise that
would allow them to study the wall if they did reach it.
  The obvious answer, of course, was to build a vessel, something that
could withstand the wood-decaying effects of the water.  The magic-less
spellcasters had tried treating or coating bits of wood with several
different substances, but nothing had worked.  It took hours before
someone came up with the most simple, obvious idea possible:  to test
wood native to this place.  A large branch, left over from the recent
tree-clearing operations, was brought to the beach and immersed in the
saltwater...and it didn't decay!

Leila:  (smiles broadly)  Then we can use it to build a ship and get out
  of here!
Kiel:  Yes...but we won't do that just yet.
Leila:  What?  Why not?
Kiel:  You're forgetting why we came here in the first find
  out if there was land beyond the edge of the mapped world, and if so,
  to explore and colonize it.
Leila:  But surely, without our magic-
Kiel:  We're explorers.  A new land lies before us.  What do you think
  was meant to happen next?
Relmar:  I understand your point, and I do agree with it to an extent.
  However, there's no reason not to begin planning and building a ship.
Kiel:  Oh, absolutely.  First, we'll build a boat or two, and use them
  to further investigate the anti-magic barrier out there.  We can even
  start thinking about building a new ship, with which to sail home in
  time.  But such a vessel will take vast quantities of wood, time, and
  labor to build.
Leila:  You're right.  It could be years, with the limited shipbuilding
  supplies and resources we have here, and without magic to assist us.
Kiel:  We'll assign a large number of people to the planning and design
  of a new ship, but at the same time, we need to keep working on our
  other endeavors, like colonization and exploration.
Thorlok:  (to one of the other wizards)  To hell with all that.  I want
  to know what that anti-magic wall is and how to bring it down.
Validor:  (looking around to everyone present)  I suggest that we build
  a boat, float it for a day or two just to make sure, then proceed to
  learn all we can about the barrier out there.  All of the other tasks
  can continue as they have been.
Kiel:  (nods)  Agreed.  You all know what to do.

next:      certain realizations set in, and a new initiative is born
released:  4/14/06
notes:     I wrote this one immediately after taking yet another of my
  seemingly-endless project management classes, so that might explain
  some of the structure of the episode.

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