Chapter #1107

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic VI      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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       +
+   1991-2022 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        8th level human warrior                               +
+   Irina          14th/7th level female human priestess/warrior          +
+   Neera          12th level female human wizard (sage/astrologer)       +
+     Arusha        6th level human female wizard/alchemist               +
+     Judhon        7th level gnomish illusionist                         +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Paige          13th level human female warrior                        +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Bosco          14th level halfling thief                              +
+   Eduardo         4th level human thief                                 +
+   Felicia         4th level female human thief                          +
+   Peldor         20th level human, Greyhawk Guildmaster of Thieves      +
+   Tanya           5th/11th level female human fighter/thief             +
+   Vinnie          8th level human warrior                               +
+   Date:          4/15/586 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         the Free City of Greyhawk                              +
+   Climate:       pleasant                                               +
+   "What's the point of being an outlaw when you've got                  +
+    responsibilities?"                                                   +
+                  - Jesse, from _Breaking Bad_ episode _Kafkaesque_      +

                   MCVII.  An Accounting

  Belphanior has brought his crew to Greyhawk and the Green Dragon Inn,
and things are now in full swing.

Peldor:  That's quite a story.  And I thought mine was good, given that
  it lasted several years and affected most of the continent.  But then
  I never would have guessed that you weren't here for it.
Belphanior:  (smirks)

  They were seated at one table within the private dining room that the
former adventurer reserved for more personal and private gatherings.  It
was spacious and held multiple tables, around which all of the others had
gathered in random groupings for food, drink, and conversation.

Peldor:  (watching Bosco continue to hit on Paige, he sighs)  Some things
  never change.
Belphanior:  And yet some do.  I noticed that no one insisted we hand over
  our weapons this time.  (he recalls the near-fight between Mongo and
  Vinnie during the last visit)
Peldor:  (frowns)  Times have changed.  No one in the world walks around
  unarmed these days.  Not even in Greyhawk.
Belphanior:  That makes sense.
Peldor:  By the way, I'd suggest that you get rid of that red cloak.  It
  will remind too many people about the Scarlet Brotherhood and their
  recent misdeeds.  Better to avoid drawing attention to yourself.
Belphanior:  Good advice, and I'll heed it.  (absentmindedly toying with
  the catch of the old, tattered crimson cloak which is certainly long
  overdue for replacement)  Heh.  (he looks around the sizable dining
  room, pleased to have some downtime and see everyone relaxing for a

  At another table, those who had been with Belphanior for a longer time
were catching up with Eduardo and Felicia...

Felicia:  -we haven't been doing that much real, actual thieving.  Things
  have been crazy, even though Greyhawk wasn't directly involved in the
  wars.  There's been a lot going on, and we've been helping Peldor with
  some of his work as Guildmaster.
Eduardo:  But we've still been practicing, keeping our skills sharp.
Otto:  (nods)  Always a good idea.
Eduardo:  (holds up a thin, well-balanced knife and nods to Razor Charlie)
  And I've been working on my knife-throwing.  A lot.
Razor Charlie:  (cracks a thin smile)

  It was amazing to see these two - both of whom the older adventurers
remembered as first children and then teenagers - as young adults now.
Felicia was perhaps twenty-five, and while only a hair above five feet,
was slender and wiry; she looked like she'd be just as comfortable scaling
a building as she would in a sparring session.  As for Eduardo, he was
twenty-one now and had grown into a lean, strapping young man.  His dark
skin and coal-black eyes were the same as always, but behind those eyes
were now years of experience to go along with the natural resourcefulness
and toughness that he'd always had.
  And despite the slight age difference, it was readily apparent that
these two were a nearly-inseparable couple who worked together to handle
things and take care of one another.

Skektek:  It seems like ages ago...those days in Helgate.
Eduardo:  Yeah.  Remember how I used to run around the place, watching
  and listening to everything and then selling information?
Ys:  That you did.  And that information often benefitted us in one way
  or another.
Otto:  (recalling various adventures in that now-ruined mountain town in
  a remote mountain range halfway across the continent)  Those were the
Skektek:  Remember that one time, when-

  As the skinny wizard launched into a story of adventures past, another
of the tables had more or less been taken over by the ladies...

Paige:  I'll drink to that!  (they all raise their respective glasses)
Irina:  (drains half of her ale)
Hope:  (not quite as much of a drinker, she intentionally takes smaller
  sips, wanting to keep up appearances but not get drunk)
Neera:  (finishes another glass of wine)
Paige:  That's the spirit!  (she quickly refills the tall, thin glass
  from a wine-jug, one of many various spirits at the table)
Neera:  Thanks.
Paige:  (turns back to Irina and Hope, who have begun to recount one of
  the many tales from the strange, dark world in which they recently
Tanya:  (having joined the table recently, she simply listens, wanting
  to get the measure of Belphanior's new companions)
Neera:  (holds her wine-glass out in front of her face, studying it)
Arusha:  (amazed at her mentor's capacity for alcohol)  Uh...shouldn't
  you slow down a bit...?
Neera:  (slyly, and in a low voice)  I'll let you in on a little secret.
  I've cast a spell that renders me immune to the effects of alcohol for
  several hours at a time.  I could drink everything on this table and
  still remain completely sober.
Arusha:  Heh.
Neera:  Unfortunately, the spell doesn't prevent the need to get rid of
  all that liquid.  (she frowns)  I'll need to work on improving it, then.
  Yet another side project.

  Nearby, a third table had collected those who were left...

Vinnie:  (not used to meeting someone even taller and larger than himself,
  he has been sharing battle stories with Poulos)  So you were a eunuch
  AND a slave?
Poulos:  (nods)  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  That was no way to live,
  but there was no escape...until Hope and her friends came along.  I owe
  her my life.
Vinnie:  Not literally?
Poulos:  I am honor-bound to serve and protect her.  And proud to do so.
  (he shrugs)  It's that simple.
Bosco:  (eyeing the table of women)  I can think of worse friends to have.
  (he chugs the contents of a mug that's almost the size of his head)  Ah,
  that's good stuff.  (he regards Judhon)  Don't you drink, friend?
Judhon:  Oh, I love ale...and beer...and mead...all of it.  I just don't
  drink as much as I used to, or as much as I can.  (he frowns)  Whereas
  you seem to have no such problem.
Bosco:  (burps)  That's right.  (he looks over to the next table, yet
  again)  And I'm about ready to make my move.

  Before anyone could stop him, the halfling climbed down from his stool
and pranced toward the adjacent table, somehow managing not to spill the
full mug clutched in one hand.

Vinnie:  And there he goes.
Poulos:  That's a strange one.  It's as if he doesn't realize that it's
  impossible for a halfling and a human to mate.  (he pauses)  It is
  impossible, isn't it?
Judhon:  I...truly have no idea.
Vinnie:  Impossible or not, it's never stopped him from trying.
Judhon:  (smirks)  Ten gold pieces says he's back here in short order.
Vinnie:  Hah.  No way I'm taking that bet.
Poulos:  "Short order"...heh.


Bosco:  (climbs up onto an open stool before anyone can stop him, and
  turns to Paige)  So you're from another world...aside from the other
  world they met you on?
Paige:  You seem to have it all figured out.
Bosco:  (takes a long draught from his mug, then shrugs)  What can I say?
  I know things.
Paige:  (smiles, then speaks up as the halfling is about to say something
  else)  Then know this:  while you're certainly entertaining, and maybe
  even funny're not really my type, not by a long shot, if
  I'm being honest.
Bosco:  (considers this as he takes another drink)
Neera:  Aww...
Hope:  (feeling sorry for the halfling, she bites her lip)
Irina:  (wonders how he will handle rejection)
Arusha:  (wonders if Bosco will cry)
Bosco:  (rolls his eyes, grinning)  Hey, don't feel bad.  Not everyone
  warms up to Bosco right away.  It takes a while...(he frowns)  Sometimes
  a long while.  (he grins suddenly)  So don't worry, I can wait - I'm
  quite patient, actually.  (with that, he hops down and wanders over
  toward the table with Otto and the others)
Irina:  And now I've finally met the legendary Bosco.  (to Paige)  That
  was well-handled.
Neera:  Though perhaps a bit harsh.
Hope:  He doesn't even get it, does he?
Paige:  Ah, he's cute...he sort of reminds me of a little monkey.

  By now, at their table, Belphanior and Peldor were discussing matters
of no small importance...

Peldor:  Anyhow, despite all that's happened, my grip on the Thieves'
  Guild is stronger than ever.  We've had some personnel changes, both
  within the Guild and among the Oligarchy - retirements, both voluntary
  and otherwise.  (he recalls one former high-ranking official who turned
  up floating in the river with a knife in his back, and a few others who
  simply disappeared without a trace)  Overall, the changes have been for
  the better.  For my part, the key aspects and responsibilities are all
  handled by people I trust, ones who I put into those roles.  Same thing
  goes for the city in general.
Belphanior:  So Greyhawk took out the trash.
Peldor:  Gone and disposed of.  Better yet, my position doesn't rule my
  life - I've reached a pretty good balance between it and my family.
Belphanior:  How old is your daughter now?  Six?  Seven?
Peldor:  Eight, earlier this year.
Belphanior:  Amazing.
Peldor:  She is.  I wish you could see her, but she's in school during the
  day - we have her in Greyhawk's best and most exclusive such place of
  learning.  Which is also the safest.  (he regards the elf)  I'm sure you
  can understand how loved ones must be protected.
Belphanior:  I can, although I'm not sure I've always done the best job of
  it...which is something I'm hoping to change.  And that leads me to ask
  you now:  what is the state of all the money I've given you to invest
  here, over the years?
Peldor:  (grins)  I'm happy to say, it's done quite well.  You're still a
  silent partner in a number of businesses across the city, plus you own
  a dozen pieces of land ranging from just outside its gates to an hour's
  ride in various directions.  And I kept a sizable chunk of those funds
  in the city's vaults for safekeeping, just in case everything else went
  to hell.  But it didn't, and if anything, you've made money...or will
  if you sell.  (he frowns)  What _are_ you planning to do?
Belphanior:  I'm not quite sure yet, but whatever it turns out to be, it
  will be momentous.
Peldor:  I'd expect nothing less.  I hope this city's future will be as
  great as whatever you're planning.
Belphanior:  Yeah, I noticed...looks like a big chunk of the Old City was
  burned down, or damn close.
Peldor:  That was, of course, from the incident right before the signing
  of the Pact of Greyhawk.  Not even two years have passed, and most of
  the damage remains...dozens of buildings completely burned down, and a
  hundred more damaged.  A lot of those people lost everything they had,
  and can't afford to pay for repairs.  And of course, the area's drawn
  more than its share of beggars, thieves, refugees, and criminals.  It's
  a mess, and progress moves along at a slow creep most of the time.
Belphanior:  And the wealthy go about life as normal, or even prosper.
Peldor:  And that will never change.  Not here, at least.  We're doing
  what we can, but the simple truth is that the city can't fund solutions
  to every single one of its problems.  (he thinks about the monies that
  Greyhawk's rulers are secretly funneling to kingdoms in need, such as
  Nyrond and Furyondy)  Not nearly.  Trade is down, taxes are up, but it
  will take years for things to stabilize.  In the meantime, we continue
  to deal with a combination of displaced refugees, our own poor, a slew
  of ambassadors from other the new territories that the
  city has acquired.  (he frowns)  The bulk of the Cairn Hills, smaller
  communities like Greysmere...Hardby, more or less...large portions of
  the Gnarley Forest and the lands of Dyvers.  We've even expanded our
  influence into the pair of surviving cities in the northern Wild Coast.
  (he frowns)  Well, what used to be the Wild Coast.  These days, it's
  better described as a dangerous buffer zone between this area and the
  Pomarj, to the south.
Belphanior:  I grew up in the Wild Coast...although I'm no patriot for
  the place.  Far from it.
Peldor:  Nothing I've told you is not common knowledge, but I wanted you
  to understand the various factors that can influence the investments
  I've made for you in the last few years.
Belphanior:  (nods)  And you have my thanks.  There's no one else I would
  have trusted with that.  (he sighs)  I'll need to think on all of this.
  It might well be time to make some...changes.

  By midafternoon, with the eating, catching up, and other conversations
done, everyone split up to attend to whatever matters were most important
to them.  In the case of Peldor and his family or friends, they returned
to their various daily routines in the Green Dragon Inn.  Hope, Skektek,
Neera, Arusha, and Judhon set out for the Guild of Wizardry and the city's
libraries, to acquire various magical supplies and knowledge.  Poulos and
Ys accompanied them, both for security (as if five wizards needed physical
protection) and out of the desire to simply wander about in a huge city
and experience its splendors.  Otto, accompanied by Razor Charlie and
Paige, went on a resupply mission for various adventuring supplies and
weaponry (and in Otto's case, poisons and such as well).  Paige muttered
something about not wanting to hang around a bunch of wizards and their
books, preferring the company of warriors for the exploration of a new
city.  Irina made for the temple of Istus, where she could both update
her superiors and receive any further guidance from her goddess.
  That left Belphanior to his own thoughts and tasks.  As the elf headed
to his room in the inn, he considered all that had happened, and what yet
remained to be done.  He'd found and rescued Neera and the others, gotten
Peldor's take on the recent world events, and checked the status of the
great wealth he'd entrusted to the master thief turned Guildmaster.

Belphanior:  (thinking of the irony of that concept)  Hah.

  While he wanted to check on other old friends (Mongo, Peyote, Arnold,
Rillen, and Halbarad all came to mind...and perhaps Nenya and Deryck too)
there were some other things that needed to come first.  Reaching his
room, the elf unlocked it, entered, and closed the door, securing it with
both the key and also a simple spell.

Belphanior:  Ah.  (wasting no time, he moves some items around, and adds
  a couple that he'd been carrying)

  In short order, the elf was looking at the total eight magical items of
holding that Neera had saved from the vault...and filled with some of the
greatest and most powerful of the group's community hoard of treasure.  He
had already reclaimed a few choice items, back in Parekh's home - those
things he didn't want to let out of his sight ever again.  Now, it was
time to take full stock of those items currently in hand.
  Some of the magical containers had not survived the trip to the pocket
demiplane, their enchantments being damaged or destroyed and all of their
contents lost forever in the space between worlds.  This included all four
of the bags of holding and both backpacks.  Those were empty and ruined,
their fabric torn both physically and magically, never to function again.
Fortunately, both the portable hole and the small iron chest had remained
unaffected, and their contents intact:

  - several dozen books containing particularly useful lore or history
  - longsword +4, Defender
  - shortsword +2, of Quickness
  - whip +3
  - dagger +5
  - ( 2) Bolt of Lightning
  - bracers of Defense AC4
  - bottle of Air
  - figurine of wondrous power, golden cat
  - horseshoes of speed and saddle of riding (matched set)
  - mirror of mental prowess
  + Fork of Doom
  + Moonsword
  - everfull basin
  - 43 mp (mithril pieces)
  - curse-breaking totem (from sky castle treasure; primitive wooden
    sculpture, destroys any cursed item it touches)
  - Gold Digger (old, worn shovel that can locate treasure)

SMALL IRON CHEST (chest of keeping)
  - a dozen large, extremely valuable gemstones
  - spellbook containing the True Dweomer used to protect the vault
  + spellbook with other true dweomer (from Xusia vault)
  - Mapping Scroll (automatically maps out all rooms and passages,
    including secret/concealed, within 200')
  - (kept within) indestructible  wooden scroll case
  - Ring of Protection +3
  - Ring of Wishes (2 left)
  - Corner Stone (small, worn stone brick w/powerful construction
  - Droplets of Eternal Sleep (tiny vial, one drop ingested will cause
    1d4 years of uninterruptible slumber)
  - Flask of Storms (well-sealed, contains ever-churning water, can be
    opened at sea to cause a storm)
  - Hoe of the Crops (farming implement that blesses crops it's used on)
  - Nail of Holding (confers strong protection/durability on the structure
    in which it's employed)
  - Needle of Sewing (repairs damaged garments, including magical ones)
  - Sail of Sailing (small folded-up sail that, once unpacked and
    installed, generates its own wind)
  - Sphere and Pyramid of Ngeces (6' one-ton metal sphere moves at 12" and
    is controlled by bearer of tiny pyramid)
  - Spoon of Stewing (magically fills a container with any edible liquid)
  - Urn of Souls (small iron urn that can imprison a foe)
  - broom and feather duster (both animate and clean on their own)
  + Seeking Scroll (blank sheet of translucent hide, carried within a tube
    of mithril; when commanded to locate a person or thing, it magically
    draws a map on its surface, guiding the user from their current
    location to the destination)
  + figurine of wondrous power, 3-headed hound
  + adamant box with extremely powerful magic aura
  + small triangular stone with extremely powerful magic aura
  x Hand of Oblivion
  x iron flask (currently contains deadly black cloud from sky castle)
  - tiny ornate lock (wizard locks all within 100' once/week)
  - skeleton key (will open most locks it's touched against)
  - chime of interruption
  - everfull drinking horn
  - holy spoon (purifies water it's dipped in, within reason)
  - Daern's Instant Fortress (small metal cube, from Gorath's treasure)
  - (21) seeds from the sower (from sky castle treasure; single planted
    seed yields bountiful crops next morning)
  - fist-sized walnut (single-use item; when planted, causes a gigantic
    tree to grow rapidly)
  - thorn (when planted in soil, will spawn a large expanse of sharp,
    thorny growth)

Belphanior:  (nods to himself, greatly pleased with Neera's choices about
  what to save)  Good girl, Neera.  Damn fine work.

  The elf was barely bothered thinking about what other items had been
stored in the packs and bags, and were now lost.  With what _had_ been
salvaged, he had a strong foundation upon which to build.  But building
would have to wait.  He'd allow the group a few days of rest and recovery
within the Free City - they'd all earned it, and they all needed it.  But
after that, he intended to turn his team's full attention on a singular
mission:  find and destroy whoever had broken into his former underground
base and looted the bulk of its treasures.

next:       the path toward the reckoning begins
released:   5/13/2022
notes:      This episode took care of a lot, obviously.  The idea was to
  deal with all the little minor things (or at least those things that I
  would have worried about if I was Belphanior) and firmly position the
  group to go after their missing possessions.  More, some of the post-
  war changes to the City of Greyhawk and its environs have been shown.
  (If you didn't know, there are tons detailed in the _From the Ashes_
  boxed set, which has been sitting in boxes or shelves in my various
  living places for decades...just waiting for the time when my stories
  finally caught up to those events.)
    You may have noticed that some of Peldor's group (at least the more
  active pair of young whippersnappers) leveled up a bit.  It only made
  sense, since we haven't seem them for a while (episode 902, which was
  five and a half years ago in game time).  Also, Arusha gained a level,
  which is indicative of the time she and the other two spent trapped in
  the vault (both times).  I figured out a rough XP amount that all three
  of them gained, but only she gained a level from that; the other two
  are closer now, though.
    And Peldor and Bosco hadn't appeared since episode 993, Tanya and
  Vinnie since episode 975, and Ariel since episode 800.  That's five or
  more years of game time for that crew.

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