Chapter #1064

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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       +
+   1991-2021 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        +
+   Irina          7th/14th level female human warrior/priestess          +
+   Benjamin       human bricklayer-turned-fighter                        +
+   Paige          human female warrior                                   +
+   Date:          unknown (over three weeks since arrival)               +
+   Time:          mid-morning                                            +
+   Place:         the town of Holmburg, within the land of Wallaris      +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "I thought he was helping us!"                                        +
+   "I'm pretty sure we're helping him."                                  +
+                                   - from _Star Trek:  Into Darkness_    +

                   MLXIV.  A Holy Revival

  This morning has seen one surprise after another, with the latest being
perhaps the most significant of all...

Arusha:  And there's something else.  (she pauses a moment for effect,
  sensing that she's winning this debate)  After years of work, I have
  concocted a draught that should restore Ocrivus' mental, physical, and
  spiritual faculties.
Belphanior:  What?
Arusha:  We can add a high priest - one who will absolutely align with
  your cause - to your ranks.
Belphanior:  Now that...absolutely interests us.
Arusha:  With him present and fully-empowered, you stand a much better
  chance of being able to injure Marek sufficiently to drive him back to
  his coffin, where he can be staked and put out of everyones' misery.
Belphanior:  (thinking about this, he nods slowly)
Arusha:  It's prudent to do everything possible to tip the odds in your
  favor.  If Marek takes your companion as a mate, his power will become
  even greater.
Belphanior:  Do you think that's why he stole her away?
Arusha:  Hard to tell with him, but I'm not at all surprised that he made
  a preemptive move.  He is not one to wait for what he wants, or accept
  being denied.
Belphanior:  Which is why I want to find and rescue Hope as soon as we
Arusha:  An endeavor that will be made less difficult with a rejuvenated
  and highly-motivated high priest on your side.
Benjamin:  And explain again why you didn't use this potion on him long
  before now?
Arusha:  Whatever power he commands, it would be much better paired with
  a larger group of allies who have the same purpose.  (she regards them)
  You are the first such group to come along since I completed the draught
  many months ago.  And I believe you have a least as much of
  one as can be hoped for.
Paige:  And you aren't worried about Ocrivus possibly perishing in this
Arusha:  (folds her arms)  Yes, he's my bloodline.  But for
  my entire short life, I've never actually talked to him, or known him,
  due to his condition.  And, as I said, he is technically to blame for
  everything that's happened since that first fateful trip up to Marek's
  castle.  In any case - whether or not I have any familial feelings for
  Ocrivus...I'd rather him die fighting the vampire than continue to live
  like he has been for all this time.
Belphanior:  That makes sense.
Benjamin:  As much sense as anything in this place does.
Belphanior:  (to Arusha)  We accept your offer.  You - and the old man,
  provided your concoction works - can accompany us to rescue our friend.
Arusha:  (smiles thinly)  At last.
Belphanior:  But we need to hurry.  I know it's only morning, but all the
  little tasks and distractions and such have a way of adding up.  I want
  to reach the castle well before dusk.
Arusha:  Fear not.  I can pack everything I need in a matter of moments,
  and then I'll need to go to Ocrivus and feed him my potion.
Paige:  Will that be a problem?  Macron and the others - well, especially
  Macron - seem to guard him pretty well.
Arusha:  (holds up a small ring of keys)  As the one who has cleaned the
  temple's chambers for the last decade, I have all the keys.
Belphanior:  Very well.  Do you need one of us to go with you for that?
Arusha:  (shakes her head)  No one will stop me on the way in...and if the
  draught works, no one will stop him on the way out.
Belphanior:  Meet us at the city gate in half an hour.
Arusha:  The north gate or the south gate?
Belphanior:  Eh?
Arusha:  The north gate is the one that faces the path up to the castle.
  That should be the one you mean.
Belphanior:  Right.

  As the four adventurers split from the determined young woman, the elf
mused silently to himself about these various developments - particularly
the possibility that a newly-competent Ocrivus might well join the fray.
Belphanior had no problem using the priest in any way necessary, even if
that meant him losing his life in the conflict.  As Arusha had pointed out
multiple times, the old man was primarily responsible for everything that
had happened more than a century ago (and indirectly responsible for an
unknown number of other events that had happened since.)  It was entirely
possible that Marek might have had a calmer disposition - and murdered
less people - over the years if not for Ocrivus' rash actions.
  Then again, it really didn't matter to Belphanior.  Marek had sealed
his fate when he chose to ignore the offered bargain, instead kidnapping
Hope.  The fact that Belphanior hadn't intended to accept the deal, and
would have attacked the vampire, didn't enter into his logic.  Intentions
didn't matter to the elf - only actions.  And now some new actions were
underway, as he led the others to the city gates.

Belphanior:  (spots the others, who are saddled up and waiting)

  The elf breathed a quiet sigh of relief, for he'd worried that one of
any number of potential distractions or other issues might have delayed
the group from being there and ready.

Belphanior:  Any problems?
Skektek:  Nope.

  The elf's question had a dual meaning; aside from the other half of the
team having possible entanglements with the town's guards, there had been
the matter of drugging Otto.  The dwarf had not been himself lately, given
the pending full moon tonight - an event that would spark unpredictable
and savage changes.  As much as Belphanior trusted and needed his longtime
lieutenant for the confrontation with the vampire, it was not to be.  And
accordingly, he'd left instructions about what to do.

Skektek:  We used a bit of the sleeping potion that Irina provided...not
  much, as he might've smelled it in his wine as we all toasted to the
  mission's success.
Razor Charlie:  He knew.  (he grimaces)  After he drank, he frowned and
  smelled the cup.
Skektek:  Before passing out.  I swear he was about to curse at us, but
  then he was out.  And then we fed him the rest of the potion, and the
  other, and tied him to his bed and locked him in his room.  (he smirks)
  I even used a bit of my new potion of gas-form to pull that off without
  a hitch.
Razor Charlie:  Still feels wrong.
Williamson:  (having not been let in on the plan, he is more than a little
  disturbed by both its conception and execution)  Sure does.
Belphanior:  I know it...believe me, I know it.
Paige:  The irony here is that, now that Otto's in a deep magical sleep,
  it's possible Ocrivus might have the power to cure him.
Irina:  (frowns)  He might, but from listening to Arusha, he's likely to
  hold all of his magic for the battle with the vampire.  He seems quite
  self-righteous and single-minded.  Or at least was, long ago.
Skektek:  Arusha?  Ocrivus?  What the hell did we miss?

  Belphanior quickly brought the rest of them up to speed on everything
his team had learned at the temple, and then from Arusha.

Skektek:  That's outrageous!  (he pauses)  Hmm...and it's all crazy enough
  to be true, too.
Paige:  Then you're going to love this.  (she nods in the direction of the
  temple of Athon)

  Two people approached at a rapid walk.  One was smaller and familiar -
Arusha, who carried only a small satchel in preparation for whatever lay
ahead today.  The other person was increasingly familiar as he got closer
to them:  it was Ocrivus, but not the frail and senile old man who'd been
completely bedridden before.  This man was middle-aged but quite hale and
hearty, his armor freshly wiped of dust and its breastplate emblazoned
with the symbol of a blazing torch.  A long, ornate warhammer hung at his
side.  The man projected confidence and looked quite serious.

Arusha:  This is-
Ocrivus:  I am Ocrivus, High Templar of the Almighty Athon.  I'm pleased
  that you can accompany me on this holy quest to rid the land of Lord
  Marek, once and for all.
Belphanior:  (without missing a beat)  Before you join us, I need to know
  that you have magic...real spells, that you cast.  No potions, no other
Ocrivus:  (regards the elf, clearly annoyed)  Using my magic to prove my
  worth - when we should be using every bit of it against the enemy - is
  both wasteful and unnecessary.
Belphanior:  Oh, I insist.  Humor me.  Surely there's something you can
  do to prove your worth here.

  The man apparently decided that allies were in short supply this day,
and that he needed anyone he could get.  Removing a bottle from a pouch,
he muttered some words in a low voice while sprinkling water on each of
the adventurers in turn.

Ocrivus:  May the blessings of Athon be upon you.

  The priest's power was definitely genuine; they could feel the magical
effects of his spell, as each gained a measure of confidence and energy.
For those who had never before experienced such a spell, it was a unique
and amazing experience.

Williamson:  (blinks, feeling freshly invigorated and ready to take on
  any foes)  Hmm.
Benjamin:  This is...yeah.  Wow.
Razor Charlie:  (just grimaces)
Ocrivus:  Will that do?  I saw no need to expend a more powerful spell,
  and in any event there are no undead or evil creatures around.
Belphanior:  Right.  (he gestures to the two saddled but riderless horses
  that the others brought)  You two can use the mounts belonging to our
  absent companions.
Ocrivus:  (eyes the horses)  Very well.  (he quickly mounts up with the
  grace and vigor of a man much younger, and rides around in a couple of
  small circles before aiming himself at the road to the castle looming
  in the distance, far above)  Let us be off!  (without waiting for any
  of the others to acknowledge him, he rides away)
Belphanior:  (to Arusha)  Is this how he normally acts?
Arusha:  How should I know?  I'm not quite sure if he's fully regained
  his senses, but at least his hate for the vampire seems intact.  And,
  as we just witnessed, his powers seem intact.
Belphanior:  So after you gave him the potion, did he just strap on his
  armor, grab his weapon, and come with you?
Arusha:  Even faster than I ever suspected he could.  At first, he rubbed
  his arms and stomped his feet and stretched, but then he cast a spell
  on himself...and after that, he was ready.  As for his mental state...
  it's as if he fell asleep long ago, and then woke up today without any
  time passing.  I explained everything that's happened to him, but I'm
  not sure he's taken the time to think about it.  (she gestures to the
  priest, who is still riding out alone)  Honestly, I'm not sure his mind
  is all there right now.
Belphanior:  Well, that's great.  (he sighs)  I suppose we're still better
  off with him than without him.  We just need to make sure he's aimed at
Arusha:  (watching Ocrivus as he draws farther away from the main party)
  I don't think that will be a problem.
Irina:  (noticing the small crowd that has gathered and are now talking
  excitedly amongst themselves)  What did Macron say about all this?
Arusha:  Poor Macron.  He didn't understand, and then he tried to come
  along.  I told him that Ocrivus no longer needed his help, and that if
  this endeavor failed, the temple would need Macron's leadership more
  than ever.  I thought he was going to argue with me, but he accepted
  my logic and agreed to remain behind.
Belphanior:  That makes sense, I guess.  (he regards Ocrivus, who is now
  several hundred feet ahead of the party and doesn't seem to have yet
  realized that they're not following him)  We should get going.  It's
  still only late morning, but that doesn't mean we've got all day for
  dealing with Marek.  It's a long ride up to that castle.  (he looks
  the group over)  Some of you have known Hope for a while, but others
  only joined us recently.  You don't have to do this, if you don't want
  to.  No one will hold it against you.
Poulos:  (grabs his horse's reins)  Try and stop me.
Paige:  What he said.  It'll be an adventure.  (she grins)  I live for
  this sort of thing.
Benjamin:  (checks Otto's enchanted longsword, which he was loaned by the
  others after the dwarf was tranquilized and secured)  Count me in.
Williamson:  Werewolves, zombies,'s all the same to me.
  We need to help the innocents...and fight for those who can't fight for
Belphanior:  Let's get to it, then.  (he spurs his horse, leading the
  other eight in the direction that Ocrivus went, out of Holmburg and on
  the long, winding, ascending path up toward the castle of Lord Marek)

next:       challenges along the way
released:   3/5/2021
notes:      As I write this one, it's not even Thanksgiving 2020 yet,
  and I've now got 16 episodes in the can.  I could take a break from
  writing for the other half of November, plus December and January,
  and still have all of March to write new material.  But I won't, both
  because I like maintaining (and adding to) my reserve, and far more
  importantly, because I'm on a ****ing roll right now.
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