Chapter #1004

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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       +
+   1991-2016 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        +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+   Irina          7th/14th level female human warrior/priestess          +
+   Neera          12th level female human wizard (sage/astrologer)       +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Date:          6/1/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          evening                                                +
+   Place:         Chendl, capital of Furyondy                            +
+   Climate:       warm and pleasant                                      +
+   "The brick walls are there for a reason.  The brick walls are not     +
+    there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance  +
+    to show how badly we want something, because the brick walls are     +
+    there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough."            +
+                                                                         +
+                                - Randy Pausch, from _The Last Lecture_  +

                   MIV.  Profit and Loss

  After the fall of the sky castle, the adventurers have found themselves
without a place to call home.  While a long-term solution will still need
to be worked out, they have dealt with their situation for the short term
by journeying to Chendl, capital of Furyondy.  There, they have taken a
suite of rooms in the Gilded Gryphon Inn, where they are in the process
of getting ready for supper.

Neera:  (pacing around the room that she and Belphanior share)  I'm still
  not used to walking on land this much, not after all the time we spent
  floating above the world, in the sky castle.
Belphanior:  I guess I never got used to it.  (he frowns)  Or else didn't
  notice anything different.  Whatever the case, I'm fine here.
Neera:  I'll get there.  (she looks around)  Was it really necessary to
  get the biggest rooms in the nicest inn?  Not that I'm complaining, but
  just wondering.
Belphanior:  After everything the group's been through in the last couple
  of days - the dragon, the castle, the lich - I thought it would be good
  for everyone to spend a few days _not_ having to worry about what they
  eat, where they sleep, or who might attack them.  Which is why I chose
  Chendl over Greyhawk.  Few people, if any, know us's a more
  stable region, and we can just relax.  Everyone needs this,
  and it's not like we can't afford it.
Neera:  (nods)  Sound reasoning.
Belphanior:  We've got to keep everyone's spirits high, and this should
  help.  Hopefully they're all cleaning up, changing clothes, napping, or
  whatever.  It's almost dinnertime, and I've spared no expense.  Tonight,
  we feast like kings!

  Earlier today, when the adventurers had first arrived in Furyondy's
capital city, the elf had scouted various inns while the others bought
new clothes, supplies, and other sundries.  The huge city had a number
of nice, roomy inns, but Belphanior had eventually selected the Gilded
Gryphon because it had private dining rooms.  He'd simply purchased an
entire floor of the larger rooms and ordered up a tremendous quantity
and variety of food and drink, specifying that it be there at sunset.
The inn's proprietor, hastily summoned, had initially worried about the
sudden tall order...until he realized how much money he could make, and
until Belphanior had put sufficient gold coins in his hand to make the
concerns give way to planning.

Belphanior:  By sword, by spell, or by coin, it's possible to get damn
  near anything one wants in this world.  (with Neera, he walks down a
  corridor of the inn, heading for a pair of large, ornate wooden doors)
  And I've certainly used all three, in my time.

  At the juncture of two hallways, in roughly the center of the inn's
third floor, was a large dining room with a high, vaulted ceiling and
thick doors and walls.  In its center was a sturdy oaken table, which
was piled high with all of the food Belphanior ordered:  several large,
well-cooked entire roast pig...plates full of sliced
beef...steaming loaves of bread of several types, and an assortment of
butters to accompany them...four wheels of cheese...platters of fruits
and vegetables...and much more.  The variety of libations was equally
impressive:  ale, mead, wine, and several other choices.

Ys:  (eyeing the spread, he just grins toothily)
Hope:  Four _wheels_ of cheese?  Really?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  I like cheese.
Irina:  (works a quick spell, gesturing in the direction of the food and
  drink on the table)
Ys:  (eyes the great feast, then the priestess, then the food again)  Are
  you seasoning the food?
Irina:  (regards him, her eye narrowed)  Don't be foolish.  I'm merely
  checking all of this for toxins or other harmful substances.
Otto:  (nods to himself slowly, smirking at the notion)
Irina:  What?  You don't do this before every meal you didn't prepare
Belphanior:  (absently grabs the small enchanted gemstone on its chain
  around his neck, the one which confers powerful immunity to poisons)
  Well, I honestly never thought about it.
Otto:  (muttering to himself)  We probably should have.
Irina:  (smiles thinly)  Well, no worries here - this meal is as safe as
  it is appetizing.
Ys:  (feels his stomach rumble)  Good.
Belphanior:  Then let's get to it.

  They eagerly tucked into the food and drink, and for the next hour or
so, the conversation was quite light and pleasant as plates were emptied,
bellies were filled, and spirits lifted.  Eventually, though, the time
came to sit back and contemplate more important matters.

Otto:  (stifles a tremendous belch)

  The fall of the sky castle had not been without consequences.  Besides
the destruction of their home itself, and the various golems, each of the
group had lost personal possessions, some of them magical.  Belphanior's
prized Book of Beasts was gone, as were all of the other spellbooks he'd
acquired from slain foes.

Belphanior:  At least I copied those spells into my own spellbooks, long

  The elf's folding boat and pair of wands had also been destroyed, as
had a trio of powerful magical devices used to control things of Xusia's.
The talisman which opened the armory of golems and the blue metal rod
used to control those golems were both gone (which begged the question
of why the large construct of black metal had obeyed Belphanior's spoken
commands yesterday, but that was a matter for another time).

Belphanior:  (thinking about how he left that golem hidden within a cave
  in the Griff Mountains, as they had no way or reason to transport the
  thing here with them)

  The strange talisman which controlled the deadly sphere of annihilation
in Xusia's vault had also been lost in the destruction.

Belphanior:  That could be a problem.  (he thinks of that large sphere of
  total, matter-consuming blackness which tends to move toward intruders) we may not be able to go back there for a while.
Otto:  Good thing we cleared out the good stuff already.

  For his part, the dwarf had come out of recent events with almost all
of his items intact.  This was largely due to his old habit of keeping
his valuables close at hand and on his person, rather than on shelves or
in drawers in whatever place he called home at the time.  His losses had
been few and random:  the three small blue water-marbles, a ring that he
couldn't even use, the potion gained from Mesoloth's hoard, and the fine
crossbow from Xusia's armory.  That last item was the only one of real
significance, as it magically generated its own bolts; while Otto would
miss it, he could also live without it.

Otto:  (sighs)  I never even really used it much.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)

  The lean, scarred warrior lived his life in a similar manner as Otto,
and like the dwarf had suffered few losses from the sky castle's fall.
The amulet that warded off vampires was gone, though only because Charlie
possessed two magical amulets and had been wearing his other one at the
time of Mesoloth's attack.  Aside from that, he now found himself missing
only a small magical lock and chain set, the dagger gained from Mesoloth's
hoard, and a number of potions.  On the plus side, at least he hadn't lost
his potent elixir of youth, having quaffed that potion months ago - which
undoubtedly contributed to his impressive physical condition for his age.

Razor Charlie:  (shaking his head)  I carry knives, not potions.
Skektek:  (still sulking about his lost items)  That's nice.

  The wizard had suffered major losses, perhaps the worst overall of any
of them from the perspective of items destroyed versus total items owned.
Gone were all four of his wands, including the unique and powerful one
that created magical walls, as well as his stone horse, the mysterious
but mighty talisman from the moon gateway, the tube of magical dust, the
candle of permanency, the enchanted mirror, both of his scrolls from the
dragon's lair, and all five potions.

Skektek:  (looks like he's about to cry)
Irina:  (feeling truly sorry for the wizard)  Do you have anything left?
Skektek:  My robes, and four rings.  And my spellbook.  That's it.
Ys:  At least we all still have our lives.  That must surely count for

  The reptilian warrior typically carried a voluminous backpack, one
which was non-magical but that he'd had specially crafted to fit his
huge frame.  Fashioned of durable, toughened leather, this pack was both
sturdy and roomy, and so it was that Ys' only lost items were the great
axe from the frozen gateway and the serpent-staff - both of which he'd
just happened to have left leaning in a corner of his chamber in the sky

Ys:  (keeps quiet, as he feels bad for the others who lost much more)
Neera:  (sighs)

  Like some others, the divining sorceress had been lucky...or perhaps
just planned ahead better.  Most of her magical items were small and
portable, and had been on her person when the dragon's attack started.
Others, like the rare but heavy stone tablets from the sunken isle of
Panagaea and the journal of the death knight Gorath, had been stored in
Belphanior's portable hole, and had thus been saved.  Neera had lost a
number of rare spell components and substances, and some books of lore,
but only four actual magical items:  the amulet of souls, the oil of
slipperiness, the sovereign glue, and the universal solvent.  Her new
flying carpet had been grabbed by Ys at the last moment, as they had
all rushed to the skyship, as insurance in case the dragon attacked
that vessel.

Neera:  Still, some of those tomes were unique...priceless.
Hope:  I'm sure we'll find others.

  The group's other female wizard hadn't had many magical items to begin
with:  robes, a wand, a rod, a cube, and a the chest, a
wand of conjuration, a scroll, and a potion from Mesoloth's hoard.  The
second wand and both scrolls had been lost in the hurried evacuation of
the sky castle, but she'd grabbed the small chest and taken it with her.

Hope:  (remembering how some of the others had told her to leave it, and
  how she ignored them and took it anyway)
Irina:  (remembering how she'd helped the physically weaker woman lug the
  small chest to the skyship)

  The newest addition to the group had, like Otto and Razor Charlie, a
long-standing habit of carrying her valuables on her person.  All she'd
lost was the new ring and the pair of scrolls from the dragon's lair, and
only because they'd been left lying around loose and had been forgotten
in the chaos of the attack on the castle.

Belphanior:  Let's see...that glass canister is also gone, the one that
  contained the weird ooze.  And my notes on it.  And my notes about the
  city of Skava-Ra, though we really won't be needing them any longer.
  We also lost the formula for, and sample of, teleportation-proof stone.
  Which would have come in handy.  (he frowns)  And that cabinet which
  generated a feast.
Ys:  (shrugs)  We just proved that preparing a feast the old-fashioned
  way was just as good.
Belphanior:  The Book of the Dead, I loaned to Kronos because he wanted
  to study it.  Hell, he's about the only one who _could_.  The trio of
  cursed items - the iron maiden, that gruesome-looking doll, and the
  crown of thorns - are all destroyed.
Neera:  Good.  That doll in particular...well, I always expected to one
  day find it wandering around planning to commit murder.
Hope:  Ugh.  (she nods)  That thing was creepy.
Belphanior:  Also, all three of the cursed or evil items from Mesoloth's
  hoard are gone...I'd stored them with the other three, in the basement.
  I guess Mesoloth saved us the trouble of disposing of them.
Otto:  Or thinking about it.  That knife would have been good for getting
  information out of enemies.  (he frowns)  Shit.
Hope:  What?
Otto:  Our weapons cache...all the enchanted armor and weapons we've been
  keeping.  I know none of us really needed any of that, but there was
  some good stuff there!
Belphanior:  (sadly)  I know.  But those weren't really the sort of items
  that I could keep stashed in my portable hole.  (he sighs)  And just in
  case anyone was wondering, that cache consisted of two suits of armor,
  a shield, eight swords, two cutlasses, a battleaxe, another much larger
  battleaxe, a trident, a spear, a mace, and a pike.
Otto:  Guess we won't be using that stuff to outfit a small army.
Belphanior:  (thoughtfully)  That day will come.  We'll just have to find
  other wepaons to arm them with.
Irina:  So, while we're looking toward the future...what's next?
Belphanior:  We've dealt with the wreckage and the damaged skyship, and
  taken stock of what was lost and what remains.  I figure we have only
  two things left to do:  find a new permanent home, and find Mesoloth's
  real lair and treasure.  And not necessarily in that order.

next:       they begin attending to one of those two matters
released:   3/25/2016
notes:      It still amazes me when I think about the fact that I've been
  writing these stories for twenty-five years...a quarter of a century.
    At the time you read this, the character sheets on the website should
  be updated to "as of episode 1004" to reflect what was lost in the fall
  of the sky castle.
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