Chapter #1074

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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!                                          +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+     Poulos        8th level human warrior (currently weakened)          +
+   Irina          14th/7th level female human priestess/warrior          +
+   Date:          7/2/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          late afternoon                                         +
+   Place:         the Free City of Greyhawk                              +
+   Climate:       warm and pleasant                                      +
+   "Those will be thy best friends, not to whom thou hast done good,     +
+    but who have done good to thee."                                     +
+                                                          - Tacitus      +

                   MLXXIV.  Restoration

  While the others count treasure and ponder related matters, three of
the group have ventured to the Free City of Greyhawk.  They now wander
through its wide streets and marketplaces...

Poulos:  (looking around, astounded)  This is quite a place.
Hope:  It's practically the center of civilization, not to mention the
  geographic center of the continent.  (to Irina)  Your errand first.
  Are we close?
Irina:  (nods)  It's on the next street, just down to the right.  Although
  this isn't technically _my_ errand.
Hope:  True.
Poulos:  (still gazing about in wonder)  What splendor...and yet, these
  people all seem busy with their everyday tasks.

  Soon, they had arrived at the city's temple of Istus - a fair-sized but
unpretentious structure in a good area of town.

Irina:  Come.  (she leads the way in)

  The chain-mail-clad, one-eyed priestess was still well-known to those
within this temple - very well-known, if the respectful nods from other
priestesses were any indication.  A short while later, within an inner
chamber, they conferred with the temple's high priestess.  This was the
same stout middle-aged woman who had talked with Belphanior just before
tasking Irina to his group, not even two months ago.

Irina:  Much has taken place since that time.
high priestess:  (nods)  As was fated.  We must confer.
Irina:  Of course.  (to Hope)  I'm sorry, but you two will need to wait
  in the antechamber.
female acolyte:  (helpfully appears, to guide them to that other room)
Hope:  That's fine.  (she follows the other to an exit door, down a short
  hallway, and into a small room with a couple of simple chairs)

  Returning to the high priestess' chamber, Irina knelt, bowing her head
in deference to her elder, as was the custom in temples of Istus.

high priestess:  Speak now of your trials and tribulations with the elf.

  Irina gave a brief verbal summary of everything that had happened since
she'd joined Belphanior's group:  the journey to Mesoloth's home, the epic
battle with the dragon which culminated in its defeat, the finding of its
lair and the treasure that had led to the quest in the first place...and
then the discovery that the dragon wasn't actually dead, a discovery made
when it violently attacked the sky castle, that battle eventually leading
to the massive structure plummeting from the sky to crash into the surface
of the world.  Of course, after that, they had located and entered the
great underground vault, gazing upon its vast trove of magical treasure
before the unfortunate incident that caused most of the group to end up
in another, distant world...where they had spent the last month enduring
various challenges, both supernatural and otherwise.

Irina:  And now we're back.  (she frowns)  It's good to be back.  It was
  difficult - to say the least - being cut off from Our Lady of Fate, but
  I managed.
high priestess:  Know that Istus is pleased with your work thus far.  You
  shall continue on the same course as before, here on Oerth.
Irina:  I shall.  (she looks up)  There is another matter...

  A short time later, the priestess rejoined her companions in the nearby
antechamber, nodding subtly to Hope as she entered the small room.

Hope:  (smiles briefly to herself, pleased)  It's time.
Irina:  Everything is being prepared now.  I'll be waiting in the next
  room.  (she turns and leaves)
Poulos:  What is this all about?
Hope:  (to Poulos)  I'm not sure of the best way to breach this topic,
  so I'm just going to come out and say it.  I've arranged for the high
  priestess here to use magic to restore your lost parts.
Poulos:  (utterly shocked, his eyes widen in surprise)  This...this can
  be done?
Hope:  Irina just confirmed it, and in doing so she also confirmed the
  willingness of her superior to work the necessary spell.  This can
  happen - will happen - before sunset tonight.
Poulos: not know what to say.
Hope:  There's nothing to say.  You were wronged in the past, and it's
  now within my power to right that wrong.  And I was happy to arrange
  it.  You've stood by the group and proven yourself time and again over
  the last few weeks.
Poulos:  You saved me from a life of servitude under the wizard.  I had
  never dared to rebel against him...I had become defeated.  (he frowns)
  And now my debt to you grows greater still.
Hope:  It's fine, and it's not a debt.  I'm just doing the right thing.
Poulos:  (shrugs)  The debt is still real, in my eyes.
Hope:  If that's how you feel.  (she nods to the door)  Are you ready?
Poulos:  (stands)  I am.

  They left the room, and then followed Irina through several passageways,
eventually arriving in what looked like an ornate bedchamber.  The middle-
aged high priestess was here, and was sorting several jars and bottles on
a small table.

high priestess:  Welcome, good Poulos, to the Chamber of Healing.
Poulos:  (looks around nervously)
Irina:  Relax.  It will be fine.
high priestess:  (nods)  There is nothing to fear.  Unlike some deities,
  particularly evil ones, Istus demands nothing out of the ordinary from
  you in return for this curative measure.
Hope:  That's odd.
high priestess:  Not really.  He follows you...and you in turn are aligned
  with the elf, as is Irina.  Aiding Poulos ultimately serves Istus' ends.
Irina:  (nods)  We are all in this together.
high priestess:  More than you know.  (to Hope)  All but myself and the
  recipient of the healing magic must leave the chamber.
Hope:  Okay.
Poulos:  (to Hope, nervously)  You are not leaving the temple, are you?
Hope:  I'm not going anywhere.  I'll be in the next room.
Poulos:  Very well.  (to the high priestess)  Then I am ready.

  Irina and Hope departed, closing the door behind them and relocating to
another nearby chamber.  There, they poured wine and discussed various

Hope:  I appreciate this.  I really do.
Irina:  You're welcome.  And I sense that Poulos will be even more loyal
  to you, and fight harder, as a result of this.
Hope:  He's a good man.  I can sense it, despite not having known him for
  very long.
Irina:  Agreed.  We were fortunate to pluck him from obscurity in that
  other world, as it were.
Hope:  The same could be said for the others.  Particularly Paige and
  Arusha.  The one fights like the devil, and seems to have the right
  temperament to survive in our unusual group.  And the other possesses
  an extraordinary measure of magical potential.
Irina:  I have sensed this as well.
Hope:  I'm not sure how much you know about wizardry and related matters,
  but it's pretty much universal that every wizard starts as an apprentice
  and is taught the ways of magic...the formulas, the incantations, other
  such basic things.  For someone to learn all of that on her own...(she
  shakes her head)...I've never heard of such a thing.  She's special.
Irina:  She also seems to know a lot about vampirism, and perhaps other
  similar things.  Which could be useful in the future.
Hope:  I don't know what will happen, but I see her most likely becoming
  a student of Neera.  They seem to have similar aptitudes, and are best
  suited to stay behind and do research and such, while the rest of us go
  out and risk our lives on adventures.
Irina:  Yes.  With them helping us indirectly, we will be better prepared
  for our endeavors.  If Belphanior doesn't reach this conclusion on his
  own...I will help him reach it.
Hope:  Heh.
Irina:  As for the gnome, I am not yet sure how he can best help us, but
  he seems to have some skill with stonework...and metal-work...and wood-
  work.  (she frowns)  Hmm.  Such skills, combined with magical ability,
  might benefit the group in other ways.
Hope:  I was thinking golem construction.  (she realizes that after the
  sky castle's fall, she no longer knows how many golems are intact and
  functional, or how many are damaged and need to be repaired)
Irina:  Golems...or perhaps expanding the chambers of the vault.  If we
  remain there, we may need that.
Hope:  Hmm, true.  Another idea we'll need to mention to Bel-

  The conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the high priestess,
who smiled as she closed the door.

Hope:  Was it...successful?
high priestess:  I doubt any of us should be the one to verify that...but
  yes, it was successful.  Or perhaps I should say, it will be soon, when
  the magic fully takes effect.  The spells have been cast, the enchanted
  healing ointments given to him to apply.  In an hour at most, he will
  be whole again, both in body and in life force.
Hope:  Good.  I can't even imagine what his life has been like since it
  happened.  (she turns to them both)  Again, you have my thanks.  If I
  can do anything...contributions of gold, magical items...just say the
high priestess:  Keep your treasures, dear child.  True wealth stems from
  other things.
Hope:  Like knowledge.
high priestess:  Indeed.
Irina:  (to the high priestess)  And I thank you again for undertaking
  this.  I know that I am capable of this same magic, but the chances of
  its success were of course greater with you leading the effort.
high priestess:  (merely nods)
Irina:  (to Hope)  What else do you need to do here, before we return?
Hope:  (ticking off a mental list) dozen
  different herbs and other raw materials...a couple of other oddities.
  And then I was thinking it would be nice to bring some fresh fruit and
  wine back.
Irina:  I see.
high priestess:  (having already found that she was unable to scry into
  whatever location they are referencing, she simply remains silent now,
  trusting Irina to keep an eye on things and help steer Belphanior along
  the right path)

  Suddenly, they were all surprised to see Poulos practically burst
through the door, a broad smile on his face.  It occurred to both Hope
and Irina that this was probably the first time they had ever seen the
giant warrior smile.  He also spoke in a slightly deeper voice now, and
was clearly in a great mood.

Poulos:  I am whole again!
Hope:  Excellent.
Poulos:  (to the high priestess)  You have my thanks, for working this
  wondrous magic.  (to Irina)  You have my thanks, for making it happen.
  (to Hope)  And you have my loyalty.  I will follow you to the ends of
  the world, and lay down my life in your service, if need be.
Hope:  You don't have to-
Poulos:  I have spoken.  (he paces around, excited)  I am ready to walk
  about...explore...see things, as a new man!
Irina:  (to the high priestess)  Maybe we'd better be on our way.
high priestess:  Agreed.

  After exchanging the proper pleasantries, they left the temple of Istus
and set about dealing with the other errands.  Hope needed an hour or so
at the Guild of Wizardry, so Irina offered to pick up the other foodstuffs
and supplies; Poulos happily accompanied her, seemingly content to just
roam the city and take it all in.

Poulos:  Are we staying in this glorious city tonight?
Irina:  We have to - Hope said earlier that some of the items she needs
  require many hours to mix and prepare, so they won't be ready until the
Poulos:  Ah.
Irina:  (bluntly)  Are you going to need to visit a brothel or similar
Poulos:  (cheerfully)  Oh, no.  Not yet, at least not anytime soon.  Your
  high priestess told me to let everything heal for at least three full
  days...and so I must wait, as much as I would rather not.
Irina:  Well, that's a relief.

  After the various errands were complete, the trio regrouped and soon
found lodgings at a high-quality inn, for the sun had set and night would
soon fall.  They secured three rooms for the night, exchanging coinage for
the keys.  While they would collect Hope's items and then return to the
distant mountain vault, on the morrow...tonight they would sleep in soft
beds and eat fresh food, which was a quite pleasant thought.

Hope:  Ahhhhh.
Irina:  This looks like a nice enough inn.
Hope:  Belphanior suggested another place called the Green Dragon, but I
  honestly didn't feel like walking any more.  Plus he said to watch out
  for a rather obnoxious halfling who might be found in that establishment.
Irina:  I'm not really in the mood for any obnoxious halflings.
Poulos:  (feels his stomach rumbling)  Can we have supper before we turn
Hope:  Absolutely.  And I'm buying!

next:       at last, the community magic item pool
released:   5/14/2021
notes:      This arc - which truthfully began with the idea to find and
  recover the Seeking Scroll, back around the late 990s - will conclude
  with the next episode.  I'll do my damndest to wrap up all the loose
  ends then, so that Belphanior's group will be at a stopping point.
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