Chapter #1005

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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                     +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven fighter                             +
+   Date:          6/4/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         Chendl, capital of Furyondy                            +
+   Climate:       warm and pleasant                                      +
+   "You think ahead."                                                    +
+   "Can't afford not to."                                                +
+                                                                         +
+                       - from _Prince of Persia:  The Sands of Time_     +

                   MV.  Shifting Priorities

  Having attended to most of the pressing problems at hand, Belphanior
has made a decision about the group's next course of action.

Belphanior:  Finding a new home can wait - we're going to find Mesoloth's
  other lair and obtain its treasures.
Skektek:  Sounds good to me.  I need to blast something.
Mongo:  I know that feeling.  Well, not right now, but there have been
  times when I just needed to smash the hell out of something.  (he pats
  his hammer)  Thanks for inviting me along on another mission.
Belphanior:  You're welcome.  Aside from the fact that we can always use
  your might in a battle, this is basically unfinished business from the
  whole dragon thing before.  As I've explained, we have good reason to
  believe that there's another lair - more secret, and probably better
  protected.  This will be Mesoloth's true lair, as opposed to one that
  it intended us to find and plunder.
Skektek:  So how will we find this place?
Belphanior:  For the last few days, you've all rested and recuperated
  here in Furyondy...but I've been busy.  I went back to those mountains
  and used the Loom of Ages to peek back into the dragon's past...not
  just the recent past, like I did before to locate its first lair.  No,
  this time I didn't stop there - I looked farther back.  Far enough to
  watch the dragon depart from its other lair, its true home, almost a
  month ago.
Hope:  Wait, wait.  Wait.  Why not just use the Seeking Scroll?  I mean,
  isn't that exactly what it's for?
Belphanior:  It is, but we don't yet know how to properly use it, and I
  don't want to waste any time getting to Mesoloth's lair.  Plus, that
  scroll can tell us _where_ to go, but it can't tell us _details_ like
  I was able to learn using the Loom.
Hope:  So you just...looked into the past to find out where it was?
Belphanior:  (nods)  But that's not all.  After I learned that, I then
  went even _farther_ back.  I watched the dragon arm its traps, prepare
  its defenses.  Speaking in general terms...for every lock in its home,
  I know what key to use.
Neera:  (beginning to fully realize what it means to have the loom at
  their disposal)
Belphanior:  (pulls a parchment from one pocket)  Of course, we'll need
  to get some of those keys here, before we depart.  (he unrolls the
  parchment)  And here's the list.

  Some of the group were dispatched to find and purchase the necessary
items, while the others made ready to leave before midday.

Belphanior:  (looking around their room at the inn)  This has been nice.
  After we find Mesoloth's other lair, the next order of business will
  be to find one of our own.
Neera:  Let's call it a "home" or at least "base of operations."  Only
  monsters have lairs.
Belphanior:  True enough.
Neera:  Have you given any thought to where we could live?
Belphanior:  Some.  One option would be a large city, like this one or
  perhaps Greyhawk.  The problem with living somewhere like that is...
  we'd probably draw attention to ourselves, sooner or later.  Not to
  mention the rules to be obeyed, other people thinking they're going
  to tell me what to do...(his voice trails away)
Neera:  (nods understandingly, remembering the elf's stories of Helgate)
  We could hole up in the dungeon beneath the Pelisso's not
  like we haven't lived there in the past.  And it's remote.
Belphanior:  (shaking his head)  I'm no spoiled noble who has to sleep
  in fresh silk sheets every night, and have servants clean my room and
  bring me wine...but we can do better than a bunch of old caves under
  a swamp.
Neera:  True.  Perhaps we should just build something...a castle, or a
  tower, or a keep?
Belphanior:  Maybe...if so, we just need to decide where.  Offhand I'd
  think it pleasant, if not downright useful, to live near - but not
  within - a large city.  But large cities have their problems, and
  people would see our castle or whatever every single day.  (he sighs)
  We'll figure it out eventually.
Neera:  Which brings up another question:  after we do find a place to
  live, what next?  How long will you continue to seek out treasures and
  items of power?  What's the end goal?
Belphanior:  Why are you asking this?
Neera:  I'm just curious.  I mean, think about what you now have.  (she
  begins counting off on fingers)  An item that maps the location of any
  specified person or thing.  An item that can transport you anywhere on
  this world, and possibly others.  An item that lets you peer back into
  time and see past events.  A sword that permanently kills by devouring
  souls, such that no foe slain by it will ever bother you again.  A ring
  that bolsters your abilities beyond what should be possible.  Another
  ring that protects you from all mental attacks and influences.  A rod
  that can destroy any foe, albeit at the cost of the wielder's own life.
  (she sighs)  I'm running out of fingers.
Belphanior:  (silent for long moments, he finally replies)  Some people
  collect artwork.  (he shrugs)  What can I say?  If I have something,
  that means someone else doesn't have it.  This world is full of very
  bad people...evil people.  And problems.  Every powerful item I gain
  helps me deal with those problems.  And more importantly - as I've come
  to realize in recent years - every powerful item I gain is also a tool
  with which I can gain more such items.  I'd be a fool not to utilize
  them for that purpose.  Yes, some people collect artwork...I collect
  weapons.  And I use them.  (he frowns)  I like to think that this sort
  of thinking is what separates exceptional individuals from everyone
Neera:  I understand that.  Logically, and tactically, it makes perfect
  sense.  But at some point I'd think you have to ask yourself, what's
  your ultimate goal?  How much power is enough?
Belphanior:  Honestly?  I don't know yet.

  The group regrouped and was ready to leave before lunchtime.  All of
the items Belphanior thought they needed had been acquired, as well as
plenty of rations, supplies, and so forth.

Mongo:  (loads the last barrel of ale into his portable hole)
Otto:  So where are we headed?  Back to the Crystalmists?
Belphanior:  No.  The dragon's other lair was far to the north, buried
  deep within the Yatil Mountains to the west of Lake Quag.  And when I
  say "buried"...I mean _buried_.  Mesoloth made its home in a cavern
  far beneath the mountains, with thousands of feet of rock acting as a
  buffer.  I'd originally hoped to be able to teleport straight there,
  as seeing the destination via the Loom of Ages would render it somewhat
  familiar to me, but with that much rock...(he shakes his head)
Neera:  Perhaps the wizard Pallin, an expert in spatial magic, could-
Belphanior:  No.  No sharing this time.  (he looks around)  I'll give
  Kronos his trinket, but the rest is ours.  All of us.  You've all been
  loyal and fought hard, and without you we wouldn't have accomplished
  the things we've accomplished.  Whatever Mesoloth has kept hidden, it
  will soon be ours.
Skektek:  Now you're talking.

  To be sure, the wizard was still thinking of all the things he'd lost
when the sky castle fell...but, like the others, he was also curious and
excited.  They all wanted to find out what treasures were so powerful,
so precious, that a dragon would hide them away beneath a remote mountain
range.  They checked out of the Gilded Gryphon Inn, made their way out of
the city of Chendl, and walked for a long while, enough to get them away
from any witnesses.  Belphanior had always thought it bad form to simply
teleport in and out of populated areas; it was needless advertisement of
their capabilities.  When they were sufficiently far away from the huge
city, the elf used the Eye of Celestian to transport them to the Yatils.
In the blink of an eye, they went from a warm and sunny plain to a cold,
overcast mountain ledge halfway across the continent.

Razor Charlie:  (disoriented for a moment)  Whoa.
Belphanior:  Yeah, it takes some getting used to.
Otto:  It's not stomach-churning like the teleportation gateways Xusia
Belphanior:  (eyes the powerful magical sextant for a moment, before
  putting it safely away in his portable hole)  It's more powerful than
  those...and more powerful than teleportation spells.
Skektek:  (looking around)

  They stood on a rough but flat natural ledge of rock, about twenty feet
deep and maybe forty feet across.  Below the ledge, a sheer slope dropped
downward, and far below could be seen trees, at the base of the mountain.
Above the adventurers, the mountain continued to rise toward the clouds,
its top shrouded in mists.  The ledge was but a niche in the side of a
mountain that looked much like any other mountain within the vast range.
No crevices or caverns were visible in the mountainside here, where it
intersected the ledge.  It was cold, and a chilly wind made it seem even

Belphanior:  Don't bother putting on more robes and such.  We won't be
  outside for long.  (he turns, leading them away from the side of the
  ledge that drops off and toward the sheer rock wall that stretches away
  and up the mountain)

  The elf approached the stony side of the mountain, running his fingers
across the cold stone.

Otto:  If there's a concealed door here, it was fashioned by magic for
  sure.  No stonemason could make a portal this seamless.
Mongo:  How are we going to pry it open?  I could smash-
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  There's no door here, at least not in the
  conventional sense.  And no magic, and nothing that any detection magic
  would find.  This is a normal mountainside, and contains no door for us
  to open.  The trick here is to cast multiple Passwall spells, to create
  and extend a temporary passage through the rock.  Which is why we picked
  up those spell scrolls in Chendl.

  In short order, the spells were cast, and a thirty-foot deep passage
had appeared in the wall of rock.  Beyond was a small circular chamber
twenty feet across, one edge of which barely intersected the magically-
created passage.  On the opposite side of the room was a single massive
door, constructed of thick wood banded by iron.

Otto:  (looking back as they walk through the passage)  Should we seal
  this behind us?
Belphanior:  That would be prudent, and that's why we picked up some of
  those other spell scrolls.

  The trio of Passwalls were dispelled, the biting wind ceasing as the
exit was blocked by stone once more.

Razor Charlie:  (grimaces, vaguely uneasy with the idea that only magic
  will enable them to leave this place now)
Skektek:  That was an interesting way to block and protect the entrance.
  There's virtually no way to know it's even there, and only a wizard can
  really get in.
Mongo:  Or earth-based creatures.
Belphanior:  Trust me, that was just the first obstacle.  Other, much
  greater challenges lie ahead.

next:       down they go
released:   4/1/2016
notes:      Oddly enough, April 1st happens to be the day I started my
  full-time employment, in ages past.  It kind of makes for a good joke
  to tell at work on those occasions when I'm disgruntled, but it also
  means I might eventually retire on that day.....and that won't be an
  April Fool's joke!
    I didn't write an April Fool's story this year for the same reason I
  didn't write a Halloween story last year:  I think I used up all of my
  good comedy and horror ideas in past specials, or in the course of the
  regular series.  But who knows?
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