Chapter #1032

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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                         +
+     Poulos       gigantic, beefy former slave with scimitar             +
+   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:          dusk                                                   +
+   Place:         the city of Fellban                                    +
+   Climate:       chilly                                                 +
+   "This place hasn't been safe since long before me and mine."          +
+                                                   - from _Big Legend_   +

                   MXXXII.  Answers and Preparations

  After a solo scouting mission to the north, Belphanior has returned to
Fellban to share information and discuss strategy with the others.  They
have all gathered in a private chamber within the mayor's manor.  To stay
undetected, the elf had entered the manor invisibly and from the air.  It
was unlikely that Baron Tarkus had any spies within the city, much less in
the mayor's manor, but it was better to play things safe.

Belphanior:  ...and that's it.  About a hundred mounted riders, definitely
  not armored cavalry but rather just people.  That force was augmented by
  several hundred wolves.  (he frowns)  I'd estimate we have a day, day
  and a half.
Otto:  That means they could get here tomorrow night.  Funny how all of
  our skirmishes with these wolves seem to happen at night.
Belphanior:  This won't be a skirmish, it'll be an all-out battle.  We
  should assume that Tarkus is bringing everyone and everything he has at
  his disposal.  Which is a good thing, because it means that when we deal
  with this force, we'll be done.  But first, let's hear what all of you
  accomplished while I was away.

  As it turned out, the group had accomplished a great deal.  Skektek and
Hope, given the full cooperation of the mayor's court wizards, had been
able to find and transcribe a large number of useful spells into each of
the three wizards' spellbooks.  This work had, of course, required the
assistance of said wizards in the process, as six could copy and write
much faster than two.  Overall, the court wizards' degree of expertise
was actually substantial; while not quite as accomplished as any of the
party's three wizards, the spellcasters of the Fellban court were capable
of learning and casting many challenging spells such as walls of force
and stone, the transmutation of rock to mud, the holding of monsters,
and so on.

Belphanior:  Makes you wonder why these people haven't stood up to Tarkus
  themselves, by now.
Skektek:  They have the magic, but they don't have the combat experience.
  Their idea of a good use of a wall of stone is to bolster an old section
  of city wall.  Frankly, I'm surprised that they ever learned spells like
  Cloudkill, Fireball, and such.  There appears to have been some passing-
  down of such magical knowledge from their elders, over the years...sort
  of a "we may not ever use it, but we have it" approach.
Hope:  To be fair, they're also afraid.  They've actually been concealing
  their full spellcasting capabilities for many years.  I don't think they
  even wanted to tell us what they knew, much less share with us, except
  that the mayor ordered them to.
Belphanior:  It's fine; we can use the spells that they won't.  A sheathed
  weapon is still a weapon.

  Otto and Razor Charlie had been tasked with procuring physical weapons,
particularly ones containing silver given the nature of their foes in the
imminent conflict.

Otto:  You want the good news or the bad news first?
Belphanior:  Yes.
Otto:  Okay, the bad news is that there's no way the blacksmith - or any
  blacksmith - can forge a true steel-and-silver weapon in the timeframe
  we have.
Belphanior:  That's unfortunate.
Otto:  We could have had him try, but it seemed likely that even if he
  had been able to finish it, the effort would have produced an inferior
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at that idea)
Otto:  But the good news is that he's instead focusing his time on making
  us more silver-tipped crossbow bolts.  A lot more.  Those are easier to
  craft, and thus faster.  I already had a half-dozen, and he's working
  hard to produce as many more as he can.

  The dwarf walked over to a table upon which various objects had been
placed, grabbed a quiver, and removed one bolt from it, holding it up for
all to see.

Otto:  Silver and iron, brand new, and razor sharp.  (he grins)
Belphanior:  Well, that's something.  We'll have to make sure you're well-
  protected in the battle, so that you can properly employ those bolts.
Otto:  And Razor Charlie already has a dozen silver throwing knives, from
  before we arrived in this place, so there's that.
Razor Charlie:  (cracks a thin smile)
Belphanior:  Good.  We've got plenty of silver weapons that can be used
  from a distance.
Otto:  And there's one more thing.  While there was no time to forge any
  decent silver weapon at this point, apparently someone had already come
  up with the same idea, some time back.  (he puts the bolt and quiver
  back, then takes a sheathed longsword from the table)  About fifty years
  ago, the blacksmith's uncle - also a blacksmith, back then - made this.
  It seems that someone was considering fighting back against Tarkus, but
  for some reason that never happened.  This sword has remained hidden all
  this time.
Belphanior:  (takes the weapon, unsheathing it to reveal a fine blade of
  gleaming steel, with thin veins of silver visible throughout its length)
  Hmm.  (he waves the sword back and forth experimentally)
Otto:  That could come in handy if you find yourself up close and personal
  with Tarkus.
Belphanior:  (nods)  That's for damn sure.
Otto:  I saved it until last.  Told you there was good news.

  Poulos had acquired supplies, provisions, and other things as directed.

Poulos:  We have enough food and water for a week, plus several large
  sacks of large iron spikes, a dozen barrels of oil, two dozen cords of
  firewood, a dozen large glass jugs, pots of red and black paint, several
  dozen spears, another several dozen wooden poles, eight large rolls of
  thin netting...and two large casks full of blood and entrails...sealed,
   of course.  (he frowns, confused)  As requested.
Skektek:  (to Hope)  Blood and guts?
Hope:  (shrugs)
Poulos:  The mayor has men ready to carry all of this back through the
  tunnel, to our horses, whenever we are ready to leave.
Belphanior:  Good work.

  Irina's task had been to talk with the sage and get some answers, and
she had much to report. 

Irina:  I'm not sure how to say I'll just say it.  Not only are
  we on a different world - or plane of existence if you prefer - but it's
  not even a "normal" different world.  This isn't a place you can enter
  or leave via plane shifting, magical gates, and such.  It's a land which
  is completely controlled by unseen and unknown powers, and that control
  is absolute.
Belphanior:  Wait, wait.  Is it a land or a world?
Irina:  The Barony of Tarkus is but one land within a large continent,
  which to these people is the known world.  But none of them have ever
  been outside of Tarkus, because it's not possible.  That's where the
  land of mists comes's the barrier between Tarkus and the rest
  of the world.  It keeps the Barony isolated, and all within under the
  rule of the Baron.  No one has escaped this land in at least a century,
  but legends tell of neighboring lands beyond the mists being similar,
  except with different rulers.  Each of them is also kept separate by
  mists.  These mists seem like more of a barrier than an area filled
  with monsters.  (she shakes her head)  It's a bit unclear.  We'd have
  to venture there to truly know.
Belphanior:  That's bizarre.  What's the purpose of such a design?
Irina:  Actually, I think you hit the nail on the head.  Design...this is
  the vast design of some dark god or gods.  Perhaps this series of lands
  was fashioned this way for their amusement, or for some insane contest
  only they can understand.  There are many theories, but no one really
  knows for sure.  Even the sage...much of what he said was really just 
Otto:  So that would explain why you can't contact your goddess and pray
  for her magic?
Irina:  (sadly)  Yes.  Istus is powerful, but we are now in the realm of
  other deities.  I'd imagine not stronger or weaker, just different...
  like two adjacent kingdoms, where the rulers of each stay out of the
  affairs of the other.
Belphanior:  So not only can we not get back to Oerth...we can't even get
  out of the Barony of Tarkus?
Irina:  It is said that the mists sometimes allow people to move from one
  region to another, at the whims of the unknown powers.  Or perhaps some
  feats allow travel between the lands.
Belphanior:  Obviously, Baron Tarkus can't escape, or he would have.  My
  guess is that we have to defeat him - the ruler of this land - in order
  to be able to leave his land.  (he cracks his knuckles)  Which is the
  plan anyway.  Speaking of which...we need to start preparing for battle.

next:       readying the battlefield
released:   7/24/20
notes:      I haven't come out and said it, but astute D&D veterans will
  now know where the adventurers have ended up.
    Belphanior's delegation of all the different tasks was not just due
  to time constraints; it was also meant to show an evolving trust in his
  people.  Sure, he could have done it all himself, and maybe even done
  it all better (and perhaps more satisfyingly to some readers who would
  want to see him involved in every part of everything) but that's not
  the most efficient way, nor does it empower or build up his people.  If
  you can't tell, I've had recent leadership training.
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