Chapter #922

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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       +
+   1991-2006 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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          9/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          afternoon                                              +
+   Place:         an abandoned complex deep within the Pelisso Swamp     +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "There are men out there I may have to kill.  I don't have time       +
+    for this."                                                           +
+                                                   - from _Wyatt Earp_   +

                   CMXXII.  Shift in Focus

  After some secondary exploration of a remaining hostile gateway (and
a failed attempt to travel to another) the group has returned to the
Pelisso Swamp complex for rest, recovery, and planning...

Belphanior:  Whew.
Razor Charlie:  How's Skektek?
Otto:  He's fine; Jenna's tending to him.  It sounds like the poison
  was pretty powerful stuff; frankly, I'm surprised he survived it for
  the short time Jenna needed to neutralize it.
wispy thing:  sprrd.
Belphanior:  Skektek's tougher than he looks.
Ys:  That may be, but he will need a few days' rest before we can take
  him into another spider-filled dungeon.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces to no one in particular)

  The elf and most of the others sat around a square table of polished
black wood.  It had been one of Drusilla's furnishings which they'd been
using for their own purposes.  Actually, they'd basically taken over the
vampiress' former lair, turning it into their own hideout.  The entire
upper area - the ruined temple, the steps leading underground, and the
passages and chambers beyond those steps - had been separated from the
inner complex by a carefully-planned and -executed cave-in.  With Elgon's
stone-crafting magic and Mongo's brute force, a good thirty feet of rock
had been collapsed, sealing the gateway and the surrounding chambers off
from outside access.  Now, the only way in or out was via teleportation,
either via the gateway or conventional magic.

    ____|         __________        |       a  main entry chamber
   &&___     a   |_____     |   d   |       b  Vermis' quarters
        |____   _____  |    |       |       c  storeroom
             | |   __| |_   |_____  |       d  Drusilla's quarters
         ____| |  |      |   _____| |       e  closet/treasure room
        |  b   |  |  c   |  |   e   |       &  blocked passage
        |______|  |______|  |___.___|       .  gateway alcove

  Different areas of the hidden underground complex had been re-tasked
to fit the party's different needs.  The main entry chamber now held all
of the functional golems:  six stone golems, three iron golems, and the
four unusual golems (bone, coal, diamond, black metal).  These constructs
were lined up against the walls of the entry chamber, inert and awaiting
commands from the wielder of Xusia's golem-talisman.

Elgon:  It was awful nice of this guy to tie the control of his golems
  to a single talisman.
Belphanior:  I'm guessing he did it that way in case he needed one of
  his lieutenants to use the golems.

  While the elf had moved the thirteen functional golems out of the
armory gateway, he'd left behind - for now - the seven unfinished ones.
He had plans to complete them, but it would take some time, and he had
no intention of delaying the opportunities that the functional golems
would allow him to seize.  Vermis' quarters had been cleaned out, and
that chamber now served as the meeting and planning room.  The storeroom
remained a storeroom, but now held more supplies that were useful to the
adventurers, such as casks of water and wine, dried meat and other basic
rations, barrels of oil, torches, rope, tools, and so on.  Drusilla's
quarters had been rearranged to hold bedrolls and such for the entire
party, for those times when it was necessary to sleep in this complex.
The gateway chamber, which had also held various treasure chests of
Drusilla's, was now empty.

Belphanior:  On second thought, I'll put one or two of those golems in
  there, just in case something comes through the gateway.
Otto:  Best thing would be to have more space between that room and the
  ones we're sleeping in.  (he frowns)  And more defenses.
Mongo:  (hefts Stormcrest)  This is the only defense we need.
Otto:  That's fine, but I say the more protection we have, the better.
Mongo:  (shrugs)
Elgon:  I'd be happy to look into mining out more passages and chambers,
  but it's tricky, given that this is basically a section of stone set
  within a swamp.  Honestly, we're lucky that we were able to engineer
  that cave-in without collapsing more of this place.
Belphanior:  Good idea, but I think we're okay for now.  I don't intend
  for this to be our final home - it's just a convenient headquarters
  right now.
Otto:  What _will_ be our final home?
Belphanior:  I'm not sure.  I think Helgate was one-in-a-million; we
  may never find another safe haven like that again, especially given  But I'm keeping my eyes open.
Ys:  Perhaps one of these gateways will lead to some new headquarters
  for us.
Belphanior:  Maybe.  We have several we should explore further, but
  only a few of them require swift action.  (he frowns)  And now we can
  cross one of those off of the list.

  The gateway with the spiders no longer worked; Belphanior had tried
to open a portal to that place, shortly after they'd gotten back.  The
dial simply did nothing, just like when it was set to one of the runes
whose corresponding gateways were known to be destroyed.  The current
theory was that the cave-in had buried and perhaps broken the gateway,
and so that place was no longer a possible destination.

Otto:  The operative question now is this:  how many functional gateways
  contain known hostiles or other risks?
Belphanior:  One definite problem gateway is the one in the Sea of Dust,
  where Al-arakara makes his lair.
wispy thing:  (frowns)  frrrp.
Ys:  Attacking him in his home will be exceedingly dangerous.
Otto:  (nods)  Absolutely.  From what we saw of that place when we were
  there, he controls an entire underground city.  Hell, there could be
  _thousands_ of undead living there.
Mongo:  Then all we an army of our own.
Belphanior:  (frowns)  That's actually a really good idea.  Hold that
Mongo:  Err, okay.
Otto:  Can we afford to hold that thought?  Al-arakara represents the
  single most dangerous ally of Xusia that we haven't yet killed.
Belphanior:  Well, I'm not so sure that the mummy-king is actually using
  the gateways.  If he was, we'd surely have run into him again by now.
Elgon:  But if he's not using the gateways, how did he get into the
  Underdark cavern to fight those drow, that other time?
Belphanior:  I don't know...maybe he had allies - or enemies - somewhere
  in the Underdark.  When we see him again, maybe I'll ask him.
Otto:  Ask him with a blade.  That one's dangerous, and needs to die.
Belphanior:  Agreed, and he time.  What other gateways might
  contain potential dangers to us?
Elgon:  The other one in the Underdark, where we ran into those vampires.
Otto:  I don't know if I believe in the idea of a city of vampires.
Belphanior:  The legendary Skava-Ra?  I think it's down there somewhere,
  probably near the gateway.  There are just too many tales about that
Mongo:  Is that where we're headed next?
Belphanior:  No.  In my opinion, racing into a city of vampires without
  at least a dozen high priests is just asking for trouble.  Plus, they
  don't have the knowledge of the gateways like Al-arakara does.  There
  may well be an underground city full of vampires, but that's trouble
  we don't need right now.
Otto:  Back to your list of hazardous gateways, what about the one
  overrun by the carnivorous plants?
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  Insignificant.  There's no chance that
  the plants will be dangerous anywhere except that one place.
Otto:  Fair enough.  (he thinks for a moment)  I believe that covers
  all of the gateways with intelligent, unfriendly inhabitants.
Belphanior:  Yep.
Elgon:'re saying that we're done exploring the gateways?
Belphanior:  Well, not technically.  There are several that may contain
  things we still need to discover...the moon gateway, with that strange
  winged being...the darkness gateway, with that black metal cylinder...
  those are the two that spring to mind.
Elgon:  Those are two good ones.
Belphanior:  And we'll get to time.  We have some other, far
  more pressing or time-critical things to worry about first.
Ys:  That is certain.
Razor Charlie:  I have a question.
Belphanior:  Sure, go ahead.
Razor Charlie:  Whatever happened to that vampire-witch, the one who
  had this place-  (he gestures to the surrounding walls)  -before us?
Belphanior:  (reaches in one pocket and retrieves a small, sturdy flask
  of iron)  She's in here...and don't worry, she doesn't just get out if
  I drop it and the stopper pops off.  I have to say a word of command
  in order for her to be freed.  (he smirks)  And even if I do that,
  she's still got no memory, in theory, because of Jenna's interrogation
  spell.  As I recall, Jenna said the long-term effects could range from
  amnesia to feeblemindedness.
Otto:  We can't count on that - she's a powerful wizard, and undead as
  well.  She might get her memory back over time.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Agreed.  That's why I don't plan to release her
  from this flask anytime soon, if ever.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the flask)  Good.
Elgon:  I have another gateway question, one which Skektek mentioned
  recently...remember how we had to use the special gateway talisman
  to activate the teleporter network?
Belphanior:  Sure.
Elgon:  Might it be possible to use the talisman to _disable_ the entire
  network?  You know, shut it down, all at once, not to be used again
  until you choose?
Belphanior:  Hmmmmm.
Elgon:  Just an idea, and not one I can claim was mine.
Otto:  If it worked, it'd be a hell of a way to protect ourselves when
  we're not using the gateways.
Belphanior:  It's a good question...a damn good question.  And this, my
  friends, is why I'm keeping Drusilla around, imprisoned in the flask.
  We might need her someday.
Otto:  Hopefully not for much.  She's a risk.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  She's secure.  Speaking of secure, I need to put
  a golem aboard the skyship, as a guard.

  The skyship was above the Pelisso...far above, nestled amidst the
clouds.  Belphanior had long ago learned that the wondrous vessel would,
if the right controls were operated the right way, stay motionless in
the exact same spot in the sky until someone moved it.  He supposed
that a major storm or other powerful force might be capable of forcibly
moving the ship, but that had thankfully never happened.  The other main
concern with the vessel was, of course, that some aerial creature or
individual might stumble upon it, board it, and figure out how to take
it.  Belphanior knew that a golem with carefully-worded instructions
would go a long way toward preventing such a theft.

Belphanior:  Yeah, I definitely need to do that-
Jenna:  (enters the room, looking exhausted)
Belphanior:  How's Skektek?
Jenna:  He's fine...and he's asleep.  He needs to stay that way for the
  rest of today and all of tonight.
Otto:  Is the poison...
Jenna:  It's gone.  He'll recover, fully.
Belphanior:  When?  We have things to do, and we need his magic.
Jenna:  Two days, no less.  It depends on him, and how badly he wants to
  recover and get back into action.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Thanks.
Jenna:  I need some sleep, too.  Healing the dying, the's
  tough work.
Belphanior:  (ponders the fact that although the priestess is useless in
  some situations, she's also invaluable in others)  Thanks, again.  You
  did a good job.
Jenna:  (shrugs)  Healing is what I do.  Well, that and divining.
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Where are we going next?
Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)  Major city, covert mission.  We have to
  right a certain wrong.

next:       the Oligarchs of Greyhawk
released:   6/2/06
notes:      I did some calculations, and I concluded that I could easily
  fill the stories from here to #1000 with pure Belphanior arcs, if I so
  desired.  There are a lot of loose ends and dangling plotlines to wrap
  up, and I may actually have to nix a few in favor of the best ones.

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