Chapter #985

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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       +
+   1991-2012 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     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Bosco          14th level halfling thief                              +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+   Jenna          10th level female human priestess of Istus             +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven fighter                             +
+   Neera          11th level female human sage/astrologer                +
+   Otto           12th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Date:          4/17/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         the sky castle, in the clouds above Oerth's surface    +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "It is only by doing things others have not that one can advance."    +
+                                             - General George S. Patton  +

                   CMLXXXV.  The Spoils of Conquest

  After a massive dungeon expedition that spanned ten distinct levels,
pitted the adventurers against numerous fearsome guardians and deadly
traps, and yielded a number of unique and powerful magical treasures,
the party has retreated to the sky fortress.  There, they have been
resting, healing, training, and studying for a week.  The surviving
monsters summoned to help in the dungeon had, of course, long since
departed.  In addition, two of Belphanior's golems (the coal golem and
one of the stone golems) had been destroyed during the explorations.
  The main order of business now involved treasure...

Belphanior:  Damn.  This is quite a haul.

  from undead dragon's lair:
    old but serviceable shovel
    potion (metal vial, red liquid)
    3 potions (glass vials, yellow liquid)
    small brass figurine (monkey)
    fine sword with silver wolfs-head pommel
    intricate amulet of electrum with large emerald inset in center
    pair of dice joined by leather cord
    staff of green wood with top in shape of snake's head
    tattered scroll in sealed tube
  from laboratory:
    5 assorted potions
    slender metal wand with two smaller prongs
    thin, foot-long metal spike
    10' length of chain with large attached padlock
  from battle w/undead lords in audience chamber:
    15' two-handed maul, weighs ~300 pounds (from undead titan)
    two-handed sword (from death knight)
    chain mail, sized for 6'6" person, damaged (from death knight)
    longsword (from animated suit of armor)
    black cutlass (from undead with flaming skull)
  from undead lords' chambers:
    purse (from banshee's room)
    net (from wraith lord's room)
    sling (from wraith lord's room)
    pair of small metal vials (from death knight's room)
    small cube of opaque carnelian (from death knight's room)
    small brown pouch (from pumpkin-headed being's room)
    small red pouch (from pumpkin-headed being's room)
    small metal vial (from scarecrow's room)
    glasteel beaker #1 (from undead titan's room)
    glasteel beaker #2 (from undead titan's room)
    glasteel flask (from undead titan's room)
    5' x 3' mirror in ivory frame (from undead titan's room)
    hoop earring, of adamant (from floating brain's room)
    small cabinet (from vampires' room)
    scroll (from vampires' room)
    small key of brass (from vampires' room)
    ivory chime (from vampires' room)
    heavy lead cylinder (from vampires' room)
    life-sized statue of warhorse (from vampires' room)
  * thick tome with spine of bone (from Xusia's room)
    loose parchments and jar of mud-like substance (from Xusia's room)
    small rod of gray metal, controls sphere (from Xusia's room)
    small metal carving of anchor (from Xusia's room)
    small metal carving of bird (from Xusia's room)
    circular prism set into frame w/wooden handle (from Xusia's room)
    3' rod with primitive carved head on one end (from Xusia's room)
    large walnut-like object (from Xusia's room)
    steel spear with triple-bladed point (from Xusia's room)
  from treasure vault on level ten:
  * one-foot rod of dull black metal with weird curved tip
  * thin spellbook with black leather cover
      small jar containing crumbling piece of light gray rock
 X* ivory box, 5" x 4" x 2"
 X* transparent case with red padding, containing part of a jawbone
  * large, shiny brass sextant
  * small, simple loom of silver, with golden thread
  * small, triangular piece of smooth black stone

    iron maiden from laboratory (heavy, magic, and evil)
    1' doll, evil-looking (from undead titan's room)
    circlet of tough, thorny branches (from Xusia's room)

    burnt remains of thick tome (from death knight's room)

  monetary treasure:
    a couple hundred medium-sized rubies (from undead dragon's lair)
    about 20 salvageable pieces of jewelry (from undead dragon's lair)
    small pouch of gemstones (from banshee's room)
    several hundred various coins (from wraith lord's room)
    a dozen small pieces of jewelry (from wraith lord's room)
    one box's worth of opals (from death knight's room)
    one small chest's worth of gold bars (from death knight's room)
    opal and platinum ring (from scarecrow's room)
    several pieces of gigantic-sized jewelry (from undead titan's room)
    several small jewelry boxes full of valuables (from vampires' room)
    small pouch with ~100 platinum pieces (from vampires' room)
    small pouch with a half-dozen large uncut rubies (from vampires' room)
    small metal box containing a dozen large gems (from Xusia's room)
    large chest full of thousands of gold coins (from Xusia's room)

    strange ooze within sealed glass canister (from laboratory)
    sheaf of parchments (from vampires' room)
    small notebook (from vampires' room)
    assorted books, mostly fragile (from Xusia's room)
    war-golem, currently damaged and non-functional (from ninth level)

  not taken:
    jumbo-sized sphere of annihilation (from ninth level)
 X* black pool (from tenth level; immovable; highly magical and evil)

  * = unusually powerful
  X = unusually evil

  Obviously, the black pool was immobile, though they wouldn't have
wanted to take it anyway due to its powerful evil aura.  The probable
fate of the thing - and several of the other markedly evil items - was
a study by some powerful ally (such as Rob) in the very near future...
followed by total destruction.  Also deemed too evil to keep permanently
or try to use were the iron maiden from the laboratory/dungeon, the small
gruesome-looking doll from the undead titan's room, and the circlet of
thorny branches from the inner chambers of Xusia.
  As for the gigantic sphere of annihilation, Belphanior had to weigh
its destructive power against the danger involved in having something
like that nearby.  For once, he felt that the reward didn't merit the
risk; after all, this was a thing that would utterly obliterate whatever
it touched.  Such an item was simply too dangerous, and so it was left
down in the depths of Xusia's underground dungeon.
  The war-golem would require careful analysis, and some tinkering, to
restore it to working condition.  For now, it was stored in the basement
of the sky castle.  The sealed glass container with the weird, ambient
ooze was also stashed there; early indications were that this was some
sort of hybrid jelly or slime, perhaps more dangerous and/or intelligent
than the common sorts.
  The charred, melted remains of the thick tome in the death knight's
chamber were useless now, merely emanating vague and weak auras of magic
and evil.
  As for the non-magical paper items, the bulk of them consisted of books
from Xusia's room.  Many were old and fragile, and had taken much time
and care to transport safely (and even then, a couple had fallen apart
in the process).  Belphanior planned to use magic to restore them, so
that they could be perused without further damage.  The sheaf of dusty
parchments from the vampires' room turned out to be the answer to another
mystery:  they described various past research and experiments having to
do with oozes, slimes, jellies, and such.  Apparently the thing in the
glass canister was some sort of super-slime, able to devour any living
material and grow in size as it did so...without a projected limit on
such growth.  This revelation resulted in a permanent bubble of force
being erected around the container in the basement...just in case.  The
small notebook, also from the vampires' room, held some notes and other
information about a certain hidden underground city full of vampires.
Belphanior filed this away in his upcoming reading list.
  The monetary treasure was substantial, and was added to what was
perhaps the largest single personal fortune in the world.  Belphanior
was pretty sure that he'd reached that point after the Panagaea quest,
but both before and after that adventure, there had been other hoards,
other plunders.  The elf was also pretty sure that he could buy himself
a kingdom if he wanted...perhaps something to look into in the future.

  This left over fifty distinct magical items - some of middling might,
others of tremendous power - to analyze and divide.  Neera had worked on
this, to the point of exhaustion, over the last week (though to tell the
truth, this sort of endeavor was one of her passions).  Accordingly, she
had a good idea about almost all of the items from the massive haul.
  Treasure division amongst Belphanior's group had always been a fairly
informal process, with "guest stars" (like Bosco and Mongo in this case)
getting a full share.  Likewise, Neera was entitled to part of the spoils
due to her work in determining their powers and properties.  This time,
there were ten people to whom the assorted magic items from the dungeon
would be distributed:  Belphanior, Bosco, Hope, Jenna, Mongo, Neera,
Otto, Razor Charlie, Skektek, and Ys...

  Skektek got the mirror from the titan's chambers, the life-sized statue
of the warhorse, the three yellow potions from the undead dragon's lair,
and two of the five assorted potions from the laboratory.  The mirror
was a foe-finder - only the owner's enemies would cast a reflection in
its polished surface.  The horse statue could animate upon command,
giving its possessor a sturdy mount that would never tire.  The three
yellow potions were powerful indeed:  each of them conferred upon the
drinker a temporary immunity to all non-magical weapons.  Skektek's other
two potions were of the flying and invisibility varieties.

Skektek:  (eyeing the stone horse)  Where the hell am I going to store

  Hope gained the scroll from the undead dragon's lair, the slender metal
two-pronged wand from the laboratory, the small cube of carnelian from
the death knight's room, and the heavy lead cylinder from the vampires'
chambers.  The scroll contained a powerful spell, Permanency, that could
extend certain other spells' durations forever.  The metal wand was a
fork of sorts, which held the ability to shatter glass; this item would
necessitate further experimentation.  The cube was able to transport its
bearer to five different planes of existence, as well as return the bearer
to the Prime Material Plane.  The lead cylinder turned out to simply be
the case for a rod of cancellation, an item capable of rendering other
magical items useless by permanently negating their magical properties.

Hope:  (notices that Skektek is glaring at her angrily)

  Ys took the old but serviceable shovel from the undead dragon's lair,
the staff of green wood whose top had been carved into the shape of a
snake's head, the 3' rod with a primitive carved head from Xusia's
chambers, and the large walnut-like object, also from Xusia's chambers.
The shovel, called Gold Digger, had substantial treasure-finding powers
but was useless as a weapon or for serious digging.  The snake-staff
could transform into a large serpent upon command, and granted its owner
protection from snakes (as in, they couldn't attack).  The rod was some
sort of primitive totem, its tip turning out to be not a carving but an
actual shrunken head.  Neera was unable to divine the totem's powers at
this time, and that would require further research.  The large walnut-
like object, which was about the size of a grown man's fist, held some
sort of powerful nature magic which Neera couldn't identify.  Druidic
help would be required to learn more about the odd thing.

Ys:  (holding up the totem-rod with the shrunken head in one hand, and
  the walnut-like thing in the other hand)  Well, these may be useless,
  but at least they look interesting.

  Jenna got the small brown pouch from the pumpkin-headed foe's room,
the scroll from the vampires' chambers, and the other three potions from
the laboratory.  The pouch contained a dozen magical beans which could
be removed, planted, and fertilized to produce unknown effects.  The
scroll could be read to invoke a powerful protective incantation, proof
against undead foes.  The three potions all provided the drinker with
powers of control over other creatures:  animals, humans, and dragons.

Jenna:  (regarding the bag of beans)  Great...just great.

  Mongo's items included both small metal carvings, the circular prism
with a wooden handle, and the triple-pointed steel spear (all from
Xusia's chambers).  The small metal tokens were usable once; the anchor
would render a boat or ship immobile for a period of time, while the bird
could be used to repel hostile avian creatures or to transform into a
huge bird to carry a large number of people or items.  The prism would
allow its user to detect and view tiny things.  As for the steel spear,
it had three long, razor-sharp blades set at precise angles; each of these
tapered into a wicked point.  The weapon was forged of magical steel and
bore no rust or signs of wear.  Neera identified it as a mythical minor
artifact of war, bearing the name Havoc; a non-intelligent item, this
spear bore powerful magic whose exact nature remained unknown, save for
the fact that it could only be invoked during a large-scale battle.

Mongo:  A large-scale battle?  (he holds the sharp-tipped weapon above
  his head)  No problem.  I'll find one of those sooner or later.

  Razor Charlie took the chain and attached padlock from the laboratory,
the small purse from the banshee's chamber, the net from the wraith lord's
room, and the small brass key and ivory chime, both from the vampires'
chambers.  The chain/padlock was able to magically animate and bind a
victim, upon command from the owner.  The purse would magically refill
with a couple dozen silver coins each morning, provided this property
wasn't abused.  The net could be thrown or set as a trap, magically
snaring foes at the behest of its wielder.  The tiny brass key bore a
simple but powerful charm that would open most locks it was touched to,
while the ivory chime could be rung once every so often to hamper most
spellcasting efforts nearby.

Razor Charlie: (grimaces to no one in particular)

  Bosco got the red potion, the small brass figurine, and the pair of
dice (all from the undead dragon's lair) as well as the sling from the
wraith lord's chamber and the small red pouch from the pumpkin-headed
thing's room.  The potion was of little use to Bosco, but had no small
potential for mischief:  it was a potion that would induce in its drinker
a berserk, rage-filled state for quite some time.  The brass figurine
was a carven monkey, which could change into a real monkey and then do
anything a small monkey was capable of, at its bearer's command.  The
two dice, joined by a simple leather cord, brought good luck to whoever
carried them around.  The sling was magical, adding a measure of skill
and power to whatever proficiency the user already possessed.  The small
red leather pouch could be used to summon random animals to obey the
bag's owner, though only one at a time could be drawn forth.

Bosco:  (staring at the owl he just summoned)
owl:  Hoo?

  Otto ended up with the wolfs-head sword from the undead dragon's lair
(a shortsword with increased power against werewolves), the thin foot-
long metal spike from the laboratory (an adamantine weapon of unusual
and uncommon shape but surpassing enchantment), the pair of small metal
vials from the death knight's room (which, when their contents mixed,
would cause a singular and powerful explosion in short order), and the
small vial from the scarecrow's chamber (several pinches of dust which
could each be employed to cause a large volume of water to dry up).

Otto:  (almost effortlessly, he pushes the metal spike deep into a stone
  wall)  Nifty.

  Neera hadn't gone along on the adventure, of course, but was entitled
to a share of the treasure due to her affiliation with Belphanior and
her sagely efforts to determine the abilities of the items in general.
She got the intricate electrum amulet from the undead dragon's lair,
plus both glasteel beakers and the glasteel flask from the chamber of
the undead titan.  The amulet was a strange device which could serve as
the receptacle for a newly-dead soul.  The pair of beakers contained
extremely rare substances (oil of slipperiness and sovereign glue) which
fortunately didn't look alike; the flask held a similar rarity known as
universal solvent.  All of these substances would prove highly useful
for some specific potential purposes.

Neera:  (eyeing the various containers)  Hmmmm.

  Belphanior didn't overtly claim much; his one unwavering demand had to
do with the tiny adamant hoop earring from the floating brain's chamber.
Against all odds, this simple item appeared to be something which the elf
had been seeking for some time:  a device that conferred upon its owner a
strong protection from mental attacks.

Belphanior:  (immediately prepares to put the earring into his left ear)
Neera:  But you don't have a-
Belphanior:  (splashes some strong liquor on his earlobe, then simply
  punches the hoop through the flesh)  There.

  The small rod of grey metal, which greatly helped its bearer deal with
spheres of annihilation, was taken not because they had such a sphere but
rather because if they ever encountered one again, Belphanior wanted to
have an advantage.

Skektek:  Perhaps such a thing is better suited for me-
Belphanior:  (glares at the wizard)

  The cabinet from the vampires' chambers had an interesting and useful
property:  it created lavish feasts upon command.  At first there was
some worry about the food only being suitable for vampires, but that
notion was quickly dismissed as the food and drink was entirely fit for
normal peoples' consumption.

Neera:  I've heard tell of such items, but they are exceedingly rare.
Ys:  This could be a great boon for us, up here in this castle.
Bosco:  (stuffing cheese and bread into this mouth)  Mmm-hmph.

  A number of magical items were added to the community "pool" of such
things:  the fifteen-foot maul, the death knight's sword and chain mail,
the animated suit of armor's longsword, and the black cutlass from the
flaming-skulled undead foe all fell into this category.
  The loose parchments and jar of strange mud-like substance from Xusia's
chambers turned out to be the formula for a mortar that defied magical
teleportation, and a sample.  With these two things, it would be possible
to create more of the mortar, which meant that in theory, Belphanior
could build structures that wouldn't be able to be broached by wizards
(or indeed, any teleporting foes).
  And this left the handful of _really_ powerful items...

Neera:  (points to the thick tome with the spine of bone, from Xusia's
  chambers)  That is a legendary relic known, among other names, as the
  Book of the Dead.
Skektek:  Gee, I wonder what it does.
Neera:  (regards him rather seriously)
Skektek:  Uh...okay, I'm listening.
Neera:  That tome is said to be a thorough examination of all major forms
  of undead, including the known history of some notable species.
Belphanior:  Sounds useful.
Neera:  It is, but there's a cost...every bit that one reads takes time
  from one's natural lifespan.  And reading the entire thing is said to
  slay the person doing so, transforming them into undead themselves.
Belphanior: not so useful.
Neera:  This book might be handy as a reference, to be used briefly and
  only in times of dire need, but other than that, it's not something to
  put on your recommended reading list.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Right.  What about the treasures from the deepest
  level, the vault?
Neera:  I haven't had as much luck with most of them, especially when
  it comes to specific powers, abilities, and drawbacks.  Also, bear in
  mind that I focused on the other fifty or so things, as they weren't
  nearly as difficult to scry as the most powerful ones.

  The handful of items from the vaults were laid out on a workbench, in
a neat little row.

Neera:  Anyway, here's what I know so far.  (she first points to the 1'
  long rod of black metal, with the weird curved tip that curved about
  in impossible loops and couldn't be gazed at directly)  Behold...the
  Hand of Oblivion.
Otto:  That sounds dangerous.
Neera:  It is.  This item predates the existence of some gods, and draws
  its power from the primordial forces of creation.  If I'm understanding
  correctly - and this is VERY sketchy because things like this aren't
  exactly documented accurately - the thing can be used to obliterate
  a chosen target, perhaps even a deity-
Skektek:  (punches his hand in the air)  Yes!
Neera:  -at the cost of the wielder's own existence, as well.
Skektek:  (gaping)
Belphanior:  Mutual destruction, then?
Neera:  That's what the lore would seem to indicate.
Belphanior:  It wouldn't be easy to test, though, would it?
Otto:  Nope.

Neera:  (gestures to the thin spellbook with the black leather cover)
  This tome isn't notable in and of itself, but its contents are...for
  they consist of the complete formula for a True Dweomer.
Belphanior:  (raises an eyebrow)  A true-  (he frowns)  Are you sure?
Neera:  Absolutely.
Skektek:  Can it...I mean, do those really exist?
Bosco:  Hey, I know this is wizard-speak and all, but could someone
  please let the rest of us know what the heck you're talking about?
Mongo:  Really.
Hope: can I explain this?  You've seen magi cast different
  spells, some more powerful than others?
Bosco:  Yep.  Boy, have I ever.
Skektek:  If you could rank all spells on a numerical scale as to their
  relative power - I know it sounds ridiculous, but bear with me - if you
  did that for all spells, only a very few would be at the top of the
Neera:  For instance, wishes and such.  But there is supposedly certain
  magic of even greater power...magic so mighty that its casting requires
  the efforts and cooperation of multiple archmagi, working together.
Hope:  These spells can summon dreaded plagues that last for years...
  empower massive armies...affect entire lands..summon fiery doom from
  the asunder the very fabric of time and space...things
  like that.
Bosco:  (wide-eyed and gaping)
Skektek:  That is, _if_ they exist.
Neera:  They exist.  I've heard a bit about them from Parekh, although
  even she isn't privy to such magic.
Belphanior:  (staring at the thin tome)  But now we are.  (he smiles
  thinly)  Excellent.
Neera:  As for that crumbling piece of gray rock in the jar, I believe
  it to be some exceedingly rare spell component necessary for the actual
  casting of the true dweomer within the book.  I'll need more time to
  figure this out for sure.
Belphanior:  (nods)  And what about the small ivory box?
Neera:  It's not ivory, it's bone, just polished to a high luster.  And
  although it looks like it would be easy to open, it's not...and nor
  would we want it to be.  That thing is radiating evil, and with good
  reason:  within are a horde of plagues and pestilences, just waiting
  to be unleashed on the world.
Razor Charlie:  Too late.
Otto:  He's right.  As if the world isn't bad enough already?  What can
  possibly make it worse?
Neera:  (shrugs)  I can't say, but if I'm right and this is the actual
  legendary relic known as the Box of Blights, it's not worth finding
  out what happens if we open it.  (to Belphanior)  This is one that we
  should bury somewhere deep, so that no one can ever find it...and I
  believe Parekh could help you with that process.
Belphanior:  Right.
Bosco:  Why don't you throw it in the hole?
Belphanior:  The hole?
Bosco:  You know, the sphere of annihilation thing.
Neera:  (eyebrows raised)  Hmm...
Belphanior:  (refusing to let himself be sidetracked by Bosco, even
  though the idea is sound)  We'll think about that.
Neera:  Next, we have a small, transparent case, probably of glasteel;
  the plush red padding in its interior holds part of a jawbone, which
  includes a number of sharp teeth.  This thing reeks of both magic and
Ys:  But what could it be?
Neera:  (sighs)  I have no earthly idea.  It's another one I'll need to
  spend a lot of time and effort studying.  The good news is that this
  is the last of the evil artifacts we recovered from the vault level.

  Belphanior gazed upon the final three vaults' treasures:  the large,
shiny brass sextant...the small, simple loom of silver, with thread that
resembled spun gold...and the small, triangular piece of smooth black
stone.  All three emanated overwhelmingly strong auras of magic, enough
to eclipse nearly any other magical item present.

Belphanior:  (rubs his artificial eye, such is the headache it's giving
  him by detecting the magic of the artifacts)  So what do we have here?
Neera:  I'm not really done with my examination, but I've got background
  and general nature for two of them.  The sextant appears to be the
  mythical Eye of Celestian.
Bosco:  Huh?  If that's his eye, then how can he see-
Neera:  (ignoring the halfling)  Normally, a sextant is used to measure
  the angle between a star and the horizon, and that measurement can be
  applied to a map to then determine your position.  But this sextant
  isn't for _finding_ your's for taking you _to_ a location.
Skektek:  Which location?
Neera:  (somberly)  Any location.  One who masters this artifact can
  travel the world...or other worlds.  It's just a matter of figuring
  out how to use the thing; that will take some time, and also some
  experimentation, which will unfortunately be risky.
Belphanior:  Risk is an old friend of ours.
Neera:  And the loom, with its silver framework and golden thread, is
  most likely the Loom of Ages.
Jenna:  (blinks)
Neera:  No, it's not an item of Istus, your goddess and the Lady of Fate,
  though she does favor looms.  This one has powers related to time.  It
  would help if I could tell you what they were, but I'm not quite there
  yet...this damn thing is much more challenging to figure out than the
  sextant, actually.
Ys:  (finds it amusing that the large sextant is actually smaller than
  the small loom)  Heh.
Bosco:  What about that little triangular stone, there?  Is that the Rock
  of Ages?
Neera:  (sternly)  Of course not.  What it an enigma.  This bit
  of stone has defied all of my attempts to scry and divine it, and in
  addition, it has thus far proven to be utterly indestructible.
Mongo:  I could fix that.
Belphanior:  Maybe later, but not right now.
Neera:  As with several of these items, I'll need more time to study them
  and determine their full powers.
Belphanior:  And you'll have it.  (he looks around)  We're taking a break
  from missions and quests and adventures...for I want to know exactly
  what we have in our arsenal before we do anything else.  Neera and I
  will work on that.  For the rest of's time to rest and relax
  for a while.

next:       the price of success
released:   6/1/2012
notes:      You may or may not have noticed that some peoples' levels
  went up; this is due to lots of battles fought and things done in
  recent adventures.
    I also got some minor updates done on  getting new
  spells that were mentioned in the past actually added to Jenna and
  Neera's character sheets...removing magic items that were destroyed
  in the recent arc...updating the master list of gateways...removing
  the golems destroyed in the recent arc.  I really needed to address
  all that stuff before moving onward with the distribution of magical
  loot from 982-984.
    Life is still busy but I wanted to get a new episode released in
  June, before a period of much travel and little free time.  While
  answering some fan mail recently, I had an epiphany that pretty much
  sums up the way I live my life:  there are a lot of things that bring
  me happiness (only one of which is writing) and I want to do them all.
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