Chapter #932

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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        +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level drow wizard                                 +
+   Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Peldor         20th level human thief                                 +
+   Date:          9/20/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          afternoon                                              +
+   Place:         an old, dark mansion in the Free City of Greyhawk      +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "You know what you're doing, right?"                                  +
+   "I always know what I'm doing."                                       +
+                                                 - from _Red Planet_     +

                   CMXXXII.  Categorization

  With the help of Alindyar and Lyra, Belphanior has successfully read
and transcribed the contents of a number of spellbooks captured and kept
over the years.  Now, it is time for the next phase of this endeavor...

Alindyar:  Did you not have some magical items that needed a bit of
  identification, as well?
Belphanior:  Ah, yes.  (he looks around)  We'll need some more tables.

  The elf began unloading items from his portable hole, and both of his
friends' eyes lit up at the quantity and quality of these treasures.
Belphanior had reclaimed a number of things that had been loaned to
others (Parekh and Neera) though he had allowed one item to remain in the
care of Nenya.  That black ruby, found in the darkness gateway, was the
size of a man's fist and glowed with eerie crimson hues in the presence
of any light.  Neera had been unable to discern anything about the item,
so Belphanior had taken it to Nenya, who was an expert in all things
Suel.  The elven mage hadn't disclosed many details - if she truly knew
them - to Belphanior, saying only that the huge ruby was a source of
much power and evil, and needed to be kept in a safe place.  Since Nenya
had a secure museum full of such items, Belphanior had allowed her to
keep the gemstone...for now.
  Another item - the glowing sword encased in black stone, from the lair
of Drusilla in the swamp gateway - had been given to Sir Dremel, and was
no longer in Belphanior's possession.  The same went for the silver helm
found in the moon gateway; it had powerful protective properties, and
had been awarded to Mongo.  A third special case was the supposed "items
belonging to Xylus" - Belphanior knew that several magical items had been
taken from the slain assassin, but he'd now realized that Victoria did
that; only she knew where those items were and possibly what they did.
Since he didn't even know where _she_ was, those items had to be written
off as lost.
  There was another exception, one which had already been used and which
was now gone:  the "teardrop of the gods."  Parekh had advised Belphanior
to keep the strange crystal, and he had, and then one day the thing was
simply gone.  On the plus side, Belphanior had noticed a boost in his
overall power levels around that time, as if the relic's purpose had been
to bestow a permanent increase in its owner's skills.
  Everything else that either he or someone else had been holding was
now laid out across several tables, for Alindyar and Lyra to see.

- crown of Panagaea (found in Tomb of Panagaea, studied by Neera)
- ruby skull (found in Tomb of Panagaea, studied by Parekh)
- big, mysterious mirror (found in Drusilla gateway, never studied)
- Skektek's bone wand (found in Drusilla gateway, studied by Parekh/Neera)
- Fork of Doom (found in armory gateway, studied by Neera)
- white book (found in moon gateway, studied unsuccessfully by Neera)
- paintbrush (found in moon gateway, studied by Neera)
- Moonsword (found in moon gateway, studied by Neera)
- bottle containing tiny ship (found in moon gateway, studied by Neera)
- amulet w/crystal and cord (found in moon gateway, studied by Neera)

  Belphanior, of course, already knew the powers and properties of some
of these items.  He merely wanted to see if the drow came up with the
exact same answers on their own.  Again, it took several days, and this
time, Belphanior had less involvement, because he was observing rather
than actually helping most of the time.  Three days passed, after which
the dark elves' analysis lent credence to the previous scryings - and in
some cases, added additional details.

Alindyar:  (hefts the solid-gold crown, inset with a dozen rubies)  The
  Crown of Panagaea...which grants its wearer insight into the rich and
  storied past of that great lost empire.
Belphanior:  Is that so?
Alindyar:  (nods)  I tried it.  This item may have overwhelming value to
  historians and sages, but it will grant you no tangible power.
Belphanior:  What a shame.
Lyra:  Now, this ruby skull, on the other hand...
Alindyar:  Perhaps the most powerful wizardry item in existence.  'Tis
  not often that one finds something that doubles a wizard's spellcasting
  ability for each day.
Lyra:  And it also grants its owner a small advantage in casting time,
  so if all other things are equal...your spell will finish first.
Belphanior:  I can use this...oh yes, I can use this.
Alindyar:  You may already have, without truly knowing it.
Belphanior:  Hmm...possible.  I haven't exactly unleashed my full magic
  anytime recently.  (he turns to the four-foot circular mirror)  Now,
  this...a mirror without legs or a stand.
Lyra:  This one was easy.  (she regards the frame of purple metal, which
  contains the actual mirror)  Watch.

  The dark elven woman concentrated, and the surface of the mirror -
which had been strangely unsolid to begin with - changed into mist...
and then into a view of a rolling, grassy hillock.

Belphanior:  What's that?
Lyra:  It's a particular point just outside Greyhawk's city walls.
Belphanior:  (watches as a sheepherder walks by, followed by his herd,
  not ten feet from whatever point the mirror is "watching" from)  Can
  he see us?
Lyra:  No.  This is a one-way window...but it's more than a scrying
Belphanior:  A portal?
Alindyar:  (nods)  A quite powerful item, this.  It can open a window,
  for mere viewing or also transport, to any place you can think of,
  provided you have actually been there and can remember the details
  well enough.
Belphanior:  Kind of like teleportation...
Lyra:  Yes.  The reach of this mirror-portal is limited only by the
  intelligence and memory of the user.
Alindyar:  Beware, however...for the portal, as with the viewing window,
  operates only in one direction.
Lyra:  There's no sign of the thing on the "far" end - if you go through
  and end up somewhere, you can't come back that way.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (he wonders why Parekh and Neera weren't able to
  identify this item's powers...and quickly ascribes it to the drows'
  experience with teleportation magic)
Alindyar:  Now, as for this wand of bone, inscribed as it is with odd
Belphanior:  Ah, yes.  Rob apparently told Skektek that it was quite
  powerful, but perhaps also evil.
Lyra:  Evil doesn't begin to describe it.  I'd use the word "insidious"
Alindyar:  This eldritch wand can emit powerful bolts of pure force -
  ranging from enough to stun a person to a blast sufficient to level a
  small building.  Unfortunately, every single such use steals a piece
  of the user's life energy, slowly but surely transforming him into an
  undead creature.
Belphanior:  Oh really?  What kind of undead creature?
Alindyar:  (shrugs)  Unknown.
Lyra:  And there's only one way to test it, too.
Belphanior:  Energy drain...undead...Skektek's not going to like this.
  He was counting on adding that wand to his functional arsenal.
Alindyar:  I would recommend giving it to Nenya, as the thing is a Suel
  weapon and probably belongs in her safekeeping.
Belphanior:  Yeah...(he shakes his head)  What a waste.  I guess they
  weren't all bound to be useful.
Lyra:  Well, most of the rest are.  This spear - this Fork of Doom - is
  your kind of weapon.
Belphanior:  (takes the three-pointed weapon, hefting it experimentally)
  How's that?
Lyra:  It's an ancient Suel weapon, wielded long ago by their generals
  in countless campaigns.  (ESPing to Alindyar)  As he damn well knows,
  since Parekh and Neera did this same work for him already.  I consider
  Belphanior a friend, but really, what's the point of this charade?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  We have to meet appearances, and I have a
  goal in mind.  Trust me.
Belphanior:  (eyeing Lyra expectantly)  Suel generals...countless
Lyra:  It's a control item, and a quite powerful one at that.  Anybody
  who holds it gains the power to command any who hear and understand
  their voice.
Belphanior:  Command?
Lyra:  Command.  I won't say resistance is futile, or impossible, but
  apparently the spear's power borders on divine.
Belphanior:  Mmm.  (he hefts the Fork)  We'll see soon enough.

  There were five things left; all were powerful magical items of Good
that had been found in the moon gateway.  There had initially been six,
but since Mongo now had the silver helm, Belphanior had only brought
five of these items to Greyhawk.

- white book (found in moon gateway, studied unsuccessfully by Neera)
- paintbrush (found in moon gateway, studied by Neera)
- Moonsword (found in moon gateway, studied by Neera)
- bottle containing tiny ship (found in moon gateway, studied by Neera)
- amulet w/crystal and cord (found in moon gateway, studied by Neera)

Alindyar:  The white book...continues to elude us.
Belphanior:  I didn't know that was possible.
Lyra:  It has something to do with "Good"...and none of us apparently
  fit that description.
Alindyar:  To be more precise...I know _what_ the book is:  a holy tome
  filled with many spells oriented toward those who fight Evil.  Our
  problem lies in the fact that it simply cannot be opened by one who
  does not also fight Evil.
Belphanior:  Rob?
Alindyar:  (shakes his head)  Nay.  It must be a wizard, and one with
  Rob's virtue and piousness...not to mention massive amounts of power.
Belphanior:  An archmage version of Rob, eh?
Lyra:  You could keep the book, but you'll never get into it, or be able
  to use it.  I'd suggest trading or donating it to gain yourself a huge
  favor with someone...or we could broker that deal for you.
Belphanior:  (frowns)  I think I'll hold onto it for a while yet.
Alindyar:  As I mentioned previously, the cost of this research shall
  be one powerful item.  This book certainly qualifies as such; 'tis not
  as if you have nothing extra to give away.
Belphanior:  I know, I know.  (he stalls the question)  What about this
Alindyar: a powerful illusionary item, one beyond the full
  comprehension of all but a handful of people on this world.  I have
  estimated a full month's study before I can begin to unlock its
Belphanior:  Well, maybe you can have it, then.  (he thinks of all the
  spells within the white book, and cringes at the thought of letting
  all that power go)
Lyra:  This sword is legendary.  It's called the Moonsword, and any
  undead slain by this blade will be instantly reborn in their living,
  mortal form.
Belphanior:  What about their disposition?  Will a lich reborn as a
  human still desire immortality, and be willing to do anything to get
  it?  Or is this some kind of "clean slate" effect?
Lyra:  There's no way to know until you take the sword and stab some
  rotten foe through the head.  (she smirks)  To put it bluntly.
Belphanior:  This is worth testing.  (he senses a pang of irritation
  from Blackrazor, at his side)  But probably not by me.
Alindyar:  Yet another mighty weapon which you cannot fully utilize.
Belphanior:  (angrily)  Don't remind me.
Alindyar:  On a more positive note, this ship-in-a-bottle will become
  a full-sized warship, if you simply utter a single word of command.
  (he speaks a word to Belphanior)  And there you have it.
Belphanior:  That's it?
Alindyar:  (nods)  It was a matter of studying the physical features of
  the miniature ship, rather than its aura or history or any of those
  things.  Sometimes, 'tis best to think...beyond the problem at hand.
Lyra:  As for this was crafted, apparently, by the deity
  Heironeous himself.  (she smirks)  I'm not sure if I believe that, but
  let me know if it works as it's supposed to, and maybe I'll revise my
Belphanior:  And how exactly is it supposed to work?
Lyra:  In a time of dire need, if you hurl it to the ground and utter
  the words "praised be Heironeous" army shall rise to fight for
  you and yours.
Belphanior:  Hmmmm.
Lyra:  This will apparently happen only one time, as the amulet will be
  destroyed in the process.
Alindyar:  We would, of course, advise extreme caution when dealing with
  any relic of any deity, particularly one who might not see eye-to-eye
  with you.
Belphanior:  Good point.  I'll be careful.
Lyra:  As with a couple of the other items, a test would be in order...
  but if the amulet _does_ have this power, the test would be a dire
Belphanior:  I'm sure I can think of a good time to try it out.

  And just like that, the elf was done - his mission accomplished.  The
drow had verified everything that Parekh and Neera had told him about
these items; in addition, the secrets of all those spellbooks were now
laid bare.

Belphanior:  (smirks)  Well, I've taken up a week of your time, so I'll
  be going.
Alindyar:  (extends his hand)  Our payment.
Belphanior:  Ah, right.  (he thinks, frowning)  How about the paintbrush?
  It sounds like your kind of item.
Alindyar:  Very well.  (he spreads his fingers, and the item floats over
  into his grasp)  Ah.  (ESPing to Lyra)  Excellent.
Belphanior:  And that other matter we discussed...?
Alindyar:  Ah, yes.  (he hands the elf a folded cloak)  As promised, this
  cloak will shield its wearer as well as any plate mail armor, yet it
  only weighs as much as a normal light cloak of cloth.  And the brooch
  that claps it shut affords protection from any and all missiles that
  bear no enchantment.
Belphanior:  That's perfect.  (he hands over some other items)  Thanks.

  Belphanior had arranged a minor trade of sorts, bartering away a dozen
minor magic items he'd taken from Monmurg's vaults.  In return, he was
getting two items that would be of great protective value when worn.

Lyra:  But you don't need these - you've got bracers, or armor if you
  so choose, plus your natural speed and magical defenses.
Belphanior:  Never fear - the cloak and brooch aren't for me.  (he puts
  the two items in his portable hole)  They're for a friend.
Alindyar:  Aye...

  Belphanior packed up his things, said his farewells, and departed.  For
some vague reason in the back of his mind, he was slightly uneasy...but
he was also in a position of far greater power than he'd been a week ago.
With the new spells and knowledge of his accumulated items, Belphanior
had many more options now...many more tools at his disposal.
  He also had a couple of other stops.  The first was to the city vaults,
where he made a significant deposit.  After all, he'd been sitting on all
of the Panagaea loot, as well as the monies liberated from the Monmurg
treasury, plus everything gained in-between.  He left a large fortune in
Greyhawk's care, fully aware that he had five times that much still kept
in his portable hole.  Another sizable sum went to Peldor, for Belphanior
trusted the master thief more than he trusted the City of Greyhawk.

Peldor:  You want me to keep all this?
Belphanior:  Keep it, fence it, change it out for other monies...I don't
  really care.  I just need to distribute my wealth so it's not all in
  one place.
Peldor:  Yes, but this sum you've just handed me could buy some small
Belphanior:  (grins)  I trust you.  Now, I've got to go.
Peldor:  Do I want to know where you're going?
Belphanior:  Probably not.

  Of course, the elf knew exactly where he was going.  It was time to
get Neera and incorporate her into his party.  Although he hated to put
her in danger - and wasn't actually certain that he would - he had grown
quite fond of her, as she had of him.  It didn't hurt that she possessed
exceptional sagely powers, either.  With the gateway explorations more or
less done, now seemed the right time to place her at his side for good.

next:       Alindyar reveals some secrets and motives
released:   8/11/06
notes:      This was _long_ overdue - a complete breakdown of every magic
  item that Belphanior has acquired over the years, along with a "who will
  get it now?" followup.  You should go to right now and check
  the items inventory on Belphanior's character sheet - it's been updated
  and cleaned up, substantially.
    Arvthar the sage scried many of Belphanior's collected weapons in
  episode 702.  Some of the spellbooks were studied in episode 759, and
  there was also some divination by Neera and Parekh in episodes 900 and
  922, and possibly others.
    There have technically been TWO Forks of Doom in my stories.  The
  first was intended as a joke, really, and appeared in #812; I never
  really decided its powers, and Ys got it.  The second one is the triple
  spear found around #888, which Belphanior got and which is much more
  powerful.  I've thought about this problem and fixed the weaker item
  on Ys' character sheet and in the master copy of #812 on the site; it
  is now a fork of Feasting!

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