Chapter #957

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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       +
+   1991-2007 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        +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Date:          12/1/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          afternoon                                              +
+   Place:         a small town in the realm of the Frost Barbarians      +
+   Climate:       extremely cold                                         +
+   "Every man's got a devil, and you can't rest until you find him."     +
+                                                      - from _The Crow_  +

                   CMLVII.  Into the Corusks!

  The group has reached the southern fringe of the Corusk Mountain range,
and a smaller party has ventured down to a small town to get supplies.
Unfortunately, Mongo's temper is proving short today...

Mongo:  Damn right we'll spend money here - I haven't had a decent meal
  in a week!
guard captain:  (points toward the interior of the town)  Be my guest,
  shorty.  (he chuckles, amused at these apparently clueless travelers
  who think they can buy some food, supplies, and horses and just head
  up into the mountains)
Mongo:  What-  (to Belphanior)  What'd he just call me?
guard captain:  Eh?
Belphanior:  Uh...
guard captain:  You'd better watch your tone, friend.
Mongo:  Why, you-
Otto:  (clamps a hand on the other dwarf's shoulder)  Hell, these guys
  are all so tall, even Belphanior's short by comparison.  (he speaks to
  Mongo, quickly and in a low voice)  We can't start a fight here, or
  else our entire cover's blown.  Just calm down and we'll go get a nice
  cold beer...but if we fight, there'll be no beer.
Mongo:  (fuming, he goes along reluctantly)

  At the same time, Belphanior had moved in close toward the belligerent
guard captain, slipping him several thick coins of gold.

Belphanior:  Don't mind the dwarf, he's just hungry and grumpy.  We'll
  find a nice hot meal and a cold beer, and then be on our way.

  The guard captain almost retorted - for he hadn't liked the dwarf's
tone of voice - but there was something in the elf's gaze that unsettled
him, and deeply.  Besides, the coins he'd just been handed were more than
his salary for a month.  Thus was potential disaster narrowly avoided,
and the foursome made their entry into the small town.

Mongo:  Hey, what's the big idea?!  Nobody talks to me like that, not
  even if they're seven feet tall!
Belphanior:  A fight or other public incident here will draw all kinds
  of attention to us, and jeopardize our mission.  We HAVE to find the
  lair of Kronos, and we can't do that if we brawl with idiotic town
Mongo:  Fine, it's your show here...but I'm telling you, there'll come
  a time when I won't ignore some damn fool, and then you'll see how an
  angry dwarf fights.
Belphanior:  I already have, my friend, many times over the years.  This
  town won't be any use to us if you flatten it.
Mongo:  (nods, quietly accepting the compliment)
Otto:  We'll need some warm clothes, blankets, that sort of thing-
Mongo:  I want to eat first!
Neera:  Our friends up there on the ship haven't eaten either, and-
Mongo:  (simply walks away, heading toward a nearby tavern)
Neera:  Well.
Belphanior:  Don't take it personally - he's just obstinate like this
  every time he's been on the skyship for a while.
Otto:  Actually, I think it started when he got that strength belt.
Belphanior:  (nods slightly)  Yeah, I'd gotten that impression myself...
  this bears watching.  I'd like to keep him around, if possible.  People
  who can level entire buildings are hard to find, plus we owe it to him
  to keep an eye on him and his rages.
Neera:  (looks doubtful)
Otto:  Come on, let's catch up with him before someone comes flying out
  of that place through a window.

  They entered the tavern to find that Mongo had already claimed a table
and ordered several tankards of beer.

Mongo:  Don't worry, they're not all for me.  (he looks around)  Let's
  eat, and then we can get on with the supply run.

  They did so, being sure to procure additional hot food for the others.
Though they got curious looks from many of the hulking barbarians in the
tavern, they were left alone.

Belphanior:  I'm sure a number of adventurers come through here on their
  way to the mountains.
Otto:  Heh...I bet all of them don't come back.
Neera:  Especially if there's a Kronos living up there somewhere.
Mongo:  "A" Kronos?  There's more than one?
Neera:  Heh.

  Belphanior had planned to have the group split up into two or perhaps
three smaller groups, and make small talk with the barkeep, the serving
wenches, and other patrons - the goal being to find out anything unusual
about the nearby mountains or what might lurk in them.  This plan didn't
quite work out, though, since even the average serving wench here loomed
over Belphanior.  The people of this town weren't hostile, but they also
didn't seem receptive to talking with strangers.

Belphanior:  (returns from the bar, a strange look on his face)
Neera:  What happened?  Did you get any information?
Belphanior:  Not really.  I don't think we're welcome here, but it seems
  that asking questions makes it worse.  I did convince the barkeep to
  tell me that the only real danger, at least in these parts, is the wild
  beasts that lurk in the mountains...bears, snow lions, even yeti.
Otto:  If there's no danger, then there's also no Kronos around.  (he
  frowns)  We'll have to go deep into the mountains to find him, if he's
Neera:  Agreed.

  After the meal, some basic supplies were procured - oil, torches, iron
spikes, rope, blankets, casks of water, several weeks' worth of rations,
and so on.  Thanks to the two portable holes possessed among the four
adventurers, there was plenty of room for everything.

Mongo:  Well, we're good and ready to search now.  (he frowns, thinking
  about the days or perhaps weeks aloft in the skyship, actually _doing_
  that searching)  Though I'll be damned if I know how we're going to
  actually find this guy you're looking for.
Neera:  I've got a special, powerful spell of scrying, which Parekh has
  given me...but it may be risky.
Belphanior:  How's that?
Neera:  The more powerful the subject of the search, the more likely
  he or she or it is to detect the scrying effort.  This is almost too
  dangerous to use - but you said you wanted to find Kronos.
Otto:  We want to find him - not for him to blow us out of the sky.
Mongo:  (nods)  Damn right.
Belphanior:  As usual, I'll apprise everyone of the risks, before we
  begin our search.  It's a free world, after all.

  Dusk saw them back aboard the skyship, sailing through the frigid air
into the Corusk mountain range.  Belphanior paid extra attention to the
surroundings as he piloted the ship; there were a lot of clouds, which
sometimes obscured the peaks all around them.

Belphanior:  (annoyed)  We're not going to be able to travel by night.
Otto:  No argument here.  The last thing we need is to crash into some
Skektek:  If only we had some massive, large-scale spell of light, to
  show us the way.
Neera:  We should have thought of that, and invented one ahead of time.
Elgon:  We could use a standard light spell, but its range would be all
  but useless.
Belphanior:  Right.  We'd have to slow the ship to a crawl to have time
  to react to anything revealed by the light.  And I'd also prefer that
  anyone or anything down there, below us, not know we're up here.
Skektek:  Well, there goes my idea about using fireballs like flares, to
  light the way ahead of us.
Ys:  (chuckles)  Look on the bright side - no pun intended - this way,
  we all get plenty of sleep.
Otto:  We'll have to post guards.
Mongo:  (looking over the rail at the darkening crags below)  Who would
  attack us all the way up here?  Hell, who _could_?
wispy thing:  (hovering just past the rail, it also looks down)  aaarp?
Belphanior:  Someone, or something, will always find a way.  Remember
  that time in the sky balloon, when that dragon came out of nowhere and
  brought us down.
Mongo:  Oh.  Oh, yeah.
Ys:  That sounds like a good tale to tell.
Mongo:  Maybe when we've stopped and I get some food, we can share that
Neera:  You're hungry again?
Mongo:  Always.

  Fortunately (and perhaps not by accident) the cabin of the skyship was
well-insulated and significantly warmer than the open deck.  Everyone
still had to use plenty of blankets and layers of clothing, but at least
they were comfortable.  By contrast, whichever two of them who stood out
on deck as sentries, at any given time, were shivering constantly...

Skektek:  Damn this volunteering-for-first-watch bullshit.
Otto:  Hey, best to get it over with.  It's only two hours.
Skektek:  It'll be a long two hours...
Otto:  At least it's too cold to fall asleep on watch.
Skektek:  Hmph.

  Thus the group passed their first night in the skyship while in the
frozen north.  The ship was still all night, and nothing attacked them,
though only a flying foe would have had the means anyway.  One blessing
they could count was the morning weather:  although the temperature was
still below freezing, the sky was clear, which meant a productive day of
searching ahead.

Belphanior:  After breakfast, we'll all get ready and get this ship
  underway...and then it's time to use that special scrying spell.  Are
  you ready?
Neera:  (nods)
Jenna:  I should be able to help, too.
Belphanior:  Good.  I'm all for finding Kronos and getting this business
  done with.  The less time we have to spend in this climate, the better.

next:       in search of...Kronos
released:   2/16/07
notes:      Someone please tell me that you remember that old show "In
  Search Of..."  It's been a quarter-century and I still remember seeing
  it on TV.  Scary.

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