Chapter #1023

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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       +
+   1991-2020 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          +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Date:          unknown                                                +
+   Time:          morning, the third day after arrival                   +
+   Place:         a keep in the town of Worgenfeld, in lands unknown     +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "Intuitive improvisation is the secret of genius."                    +
+                                   - Zorin, from _A View to a Kill_      +

                   MXXIII.  Recalibrating

  After two full days holed up in the keep of Vorkos the Red, the party
is ready to depart for the south.

Belphanior:  (assesses his companions, nodding)

  Everyone and everything was as good as it had been since they arrived
in this strange land.  The group was fully healed and rested up, and all
three wizards now had new spellbooks filled with the combined spells that
had been known to Vorkos and Hermis:

  Alarm, Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Hold Portal, Identify, Light,
    Magic Missile, Read Magic, Shield, Sleep, Spider Climb
  Darkness 15' Radius, Flaming Sphere, Knock, Mirror Image, Web, Wizard
  Dispel Magic, Fireball, Fly, Lightning Bolt, Slow
  Fear, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Wall of Fire

  In addition to these spells, which they could study and memorize each
evening, each of the party's three wizards had a number of spells still
available from before the group had been transported here:

    Burning Hands, Enlarge, Shocking Grasp
    Alter Self, Fog Cloud, Shatter
    Gust of Wind, Haste, Wind Wall
    Polymorph Other, Polymorph Self, Stoneskin, Wizard Eye
    Fabricate, Passwall, Telekinesis, Transmute Rock to Mud
    Disintegrate, Move Earth, Transmute Water to Dust
    Phase Door, Reverse Gravity
    Incendiary Cloud

    Magic Missile
    Mirror Image, Invisibility, Stinking Cloud, Web
    Dispel Magic, Fireball, Lightning Bolt
    Dimension Door, Evard's Black Tentacles, Ice Storm, Wall of Fire
    Cloudkill, Feeblemind, Hold Monster, Wall of Force
    Chain Lightning x2
    Prismatic Spray

    Color Spray, Jump, Magic Missile
    Darkness 15' Radius, ESP, Magic Mouth, Mirror Image
    Dispel Magic, Haste, Melf's Minute Meteors, Slow
    Confusion, Dimension Door, Ice Storm, Shout, Wall of Ice
    Chaos, Cloudkill, Hold Monster, Wall of Force, Wall of Stone
    Globe of Invulnerability, Men of Stone (aka Cannon Fodder, from Klark)
    Limited Wish

  Belphanior's spellcasting abilities in particular had suffered from the
loss of his magic items.  One such item had doubled the number of spells
he could cast per day, while another had bolstered his experience and
understanding as a wizard.  The most powerful magic (such as mass charms,
prismatic walls, symbols, gates, meteor swarms, and wishes) was beyond
his ability at the moment.  The elf wasn't happy with this development,
but was determined to make the best of it until he could regain his full
  The trio of wizards figured that they'd be able to expand their current
spellcasting options by finding guilds or libraries (which was preferred)
or defeating hostile wizards and taking their spellbooks, as had been the
case with Hermis and Vorkos the Red.  As for magical items, the few they'd
found were divided among the party as deemed strategically appropriate:

  silver rod w/small metallic fist             Belphanior
  wand of frost                                Hope
  ring of shocking grasp                       Skektek
  potion of fire breath                        Skektek
  potion of flying                             Otto
  potion of invisibility                       Otto
  potion of speed                              Razor Charlie
  potion of clairvoyance                       Hope
  potion of healing                            Skektek
  potion of healing                            Hope
  potion of healing (2)                        Irina
  potion of anti-magic                         Belphanior
  shortsword +1                                Otto
  dagger +2                                    Razor Charlie
  footman's mace +3                            Irina

  The three enchanted weapons were an unexpected surprise; the first two
had been taken from the bodies of slain soldiers.  It pleased Otto greatly
to wield a fine magical shortsword, his weapon of choice for many years
and many adventures.  The dagger would perhaps give Razor Charlie an added
edge in some future battle.  As for the mace, Irina had spotted it in one
corner of the keep's armory, ignored and forgotten, shrouded in cobwebs.
Just thinking about the discovery now brought a thin smile to the warrior-
priestess' face as she recalled the discovery yesterday...

     Irina:  What's this?  (she brushes the cobwebs away and grabs the
       weapon from its dusty corner)  Oh, look at you.

       The mace was about two feet long, the thick handle fashioned of
     some rich, dark wood that was incredibly dense.  The weapon ended
     with an iron head that consisted of seven equally-spaced edges, and
     the weapon would definitely do some damage.  Better yet, it was much
     lighter than it appeared, and its balance was extraordinary.

     Irina:  (hefts the mace, swinging it a few times)  Outstanding.  You
       and I will see much battle together.

  As for the potion of anti-magic, it was all that remained of whatever
supply Vorkos had previously prepared and used.  The elf had searched the
wizard's chambers and study for a formula, or ingredients, or some notes
as to the composition and preparation of the potent draught.  All those
efforts had all been in vain; the secret to the concoction had died with
Vorkos.  The best that Belphanior could hope for was that sometime in the
future, given the bottle in his possession, he could analyze and reproduce
it himself.
  The party was in good shape as far as armor and weapons.  Belphanior,
Otto, and Razor Charlie had each found well-crafted leather armor that
fit them.  Irina now wore a shirt of chain mail, which wasn't perfectly
sized (it had been intended for a man) but would afford her excellent
protection in battle.  Skektek and Hope didn't wear armor, but at least
they now had fine new robes courtesy of Vorkos' collection.

Hope:  You would take the red ones.
Skektek:  That's about all the bastard had!  Just be thankful that one
  of the gray robes actually fit you, or else we'd be some kind of weird
  wizard twins.
Hope:  Hah.

  Belphanior had actually kept the longsword he'd bought from the armorer
in town, because he liked its balance more than any of the other swords
found in the keep.  Otto, of course, had the magical shortsword, but now
he had the best of all the crossbows carried by the soldiers - he'd even
fired them all before making his choice.  He had also taken a number of
spare parts for the weapon, not to mention a number of quivers, each full
of bolts.

Hope:  Did you take every single bolt in the castle?
Otto:  Just about.  I have a feeling I'm going to be firing an awful lot
  of them.  Besides, most of the carrying work will fall to the horse.

  Otto had also recovered his original possessions (the half-dozen bolts,
tipped with silver, and his various vials of poison and bottles of holy
  Razor Charlie had the dozen finely-crafted silver throwing knives that
he'd arrived with, plus the dozen rusty ones that he'd acquired in town;
these, like Otto's possessions, had been reclaimed after the keep's ruler
was slain.  The lean warrior had also added another couple dozen knives
to his armament, taking anything he found that was decently-balanced for
throwing.  Like Otto, he wanted to be prepared for anything.
  All three of the warriors - Belphanior, Otto, and Razor Charlie - also
had small daggers concealed in their boots.  In addition to all of this
various magic and weaponry, the adventurers had also liberated a sizable
sum of gold, silver, copper, and gems from Vorkos' chambers.  It wasn't
a fortune, but they definitely had some buying power now, with which to
continue their search for a way home.  They now proceeded to the outdoor
stables, where the horses were saddled, bridled, well-fed and watered, and
loaded up with supplies.  In the end, they'd decided to take all of the
horses, both to have fresh mounts available and to distribute some of the
load.  Whatever else Vorkos might have been, he obviously cared for his
horses; every one of the animals was a healthy and powerful specimen.  It
would have been a shame to just leave such fine horses behind.

Belphanior:  It's time.

  As they mounted up, an immense form strode through the entrance to the

Poulos:  We have unfinished business.
Belphanior:  Uh-oh.
Poulos:  (turns to Hope)  My lady.  (he bows, which doesn't do much to
  lessen his great height)
Hope:  (taken aback)
Poulos:  You saved me from a master I hated.  In my homeland, that calls
  for a blood debt.  Until the debt is repaid, my life is yours.  I will
  serve you loyally and to the best of my ability.
Hope:  Uh...
Poulos:  (opens the stable door all the way, revealing a rather large
  horse, also saddled and ready to go, a large sheathed scimitar among
  the equipment and provisions)  As you can see, I am ready.  (he swings
  himself into the saddle)
Hope:  Well...
Poulos:    (cheerfully)  The matter is really not open for discussion.
Hope:  (looks to Belphanior)
Belphanior:  (shrugs)
Hope:  Alrighty then.
Skektek:  (looking irritated)
Hope:  (smiles, smugly)
Belphanior:  Welcome, Poulos.  I can't say our journey won't be dangerous,
  but I promise you one thing:  it will never be dull.  (he turns to the
  south, where the open grasslands beckon, beneath a sunny sky that has
  begun to take the chill out of the air)  Let's get the hell out of here.

next:       what lies south
released:   5/22/20
notes:      I wrote two (1022 and this one) in one weekend, the weekend
  between weeks 5 and 6 of the new work-from-home world.
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