Chapter #134

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                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1993 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                        +
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Alindyar      15th level drow elf mage              (N)   +
+      Lyra       12th level female drow elf mage       (N)   +
+   Belphanior    12th/13th/13th level high elf w/m/t  (CN)   +
+   Ged           13th/13th level grey elf priest/mage (NG)   +
+      Arnold     11th level human warrior             (NG)   +
+        ?             grey cat (familiar)             (NG)   +
+   Mongo         15th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+      Flint      11th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                (N)   +
+   Rillen        15th level human warrior              (N)   +
+   Date:    n/a                                              +
+   Time:    n/a                                              +
+   Place:   some alternate dimension                         +
+   Climate: n/a                                              +
+   "Men in masks cannot be trusted."                         +
+                        Fezzik, from _The Princess Bride_    +

                CXXXIV.  A Little Trip

  The adventurers, having met this world's Belphanior,
have basically agreed to ally with him for the purpose
of invading the evil Ged's fortress to find the item
they need to get home.  A grand feast is in progress,
as the bandit leader's elves and woodsmen revel happily
amidst their treeborne village.

Peldor:  (also reveling happily)  Urp!  What a party!
Belphanior:  I hope we can start our quest soon.
Alindyar:  Our quest was begun long ago.
Mongo:  (confused)  Huh?
Belphanior-2:  (perusing maps and notes with Ged)
Ged:  So, you claim to know of a secret way in, eh?
Belphanior-2:  Yes.  The evil one, chaotic as he is,
  slew all those who had architected or worked on his
  fortress.  After the place was completed, of course.
Ged:  Whew, now _that's_ chaotic.
Belphanior:  Tell me about it.  It's things like that
  which have caused me to become a bandit in this land.
  Anyway, there was a secret tunnel dug, under the lake
  and all its water.  I'd guess it was some kind of
  escape route.  Anyhow, it was a "minor alteration" of
  which Ged wasn't made aware, before he had the miners
  and architect put to death.
Ged:  Hmm.  This sounds tenuous.  I can't believe that
  he wouldn't know about this tunnel.  I mean, _I_ would
  if it was _my_ fortress.
Belphanior-2:  True, but it's better than a pure frontal
  approach.  We'll just have to risk it.
Rillen:  (whirls)  What?!?

  Without warning, a tall figure clad entirely in black
dropped silently from the trees above, landing gracefully
near Belphanior-2.  The man's head was covered by a hood,
with only an opening for the eyes.  A straight sword was
sheathed at his side, and his black boots had only two
large toes in their feet.

Mongo:  Yie!  (grabs his hammer)  Who the hell is that?!?
Rillen:  (stalks the intruder)
Belphanior:  An assassin?  Here?
dark stranger:  (ignores everyone else as he turns and
  faces Belphanior-2)
Belphanior-2:  (calmly spreads his arms)  What do _you_
Flint:  What, you guys know each other?
Peldor:  (guzzles another beer)  It's not a party until
  _everyone_ shows up!
dark stranger:  (speaks out, in a voice that is vaguely
  familiar, yet also sounds rather like stone grinding
  upon stone)  You should know what I want.  You cannot
  plan an invasion of this scope without also planning on
  my participation.
Rillen:  (gasps)
Arnold:  Aaa.  He talks like Rillen!
Belphanior-2:  (rubbing his eyes tiredly)  Okay, okay.
  You're welcome to come along.  It's just that I thought
  you were away, in...uh, was it the Firecrest Mountains?
  Taking care of some business with old friends?
dark figure:  Yes, old business with old "friends"...but
  it was nothing that a keen sword edge could not settle.
Belphanior:  Oh, I see.  (turns to the adventurers)  Uh,
  visitors, meet...Rillen.
Peldor:  I knew it!
Rillen:  (feeling a headache coming on)
Belphanior-2:  Rillen, these are some guests, from really
  far away...
Rillen-2:  Of course.  (sits at the table)  Food.
Mongo:  I guess it's safe to assume that you can fight?
  I mean, on a level with us battle-scarred veterans?
Rillen-2:  (eating a chunk of meat)  Some would say that.
Belphanior:  He doesn't talk much.
Lyra:  No kidding.
Rillen:  (ignoring their host, addresses his counterpart)
  Perhaps a...challenge?  To test your prowess, and my
  own as well?
Rillen-2:  I am not interested in challenges.
Rillen:  Just a friendly practice match.  Come.
Rillen-2:  I refuse.
Rillen:  Come now.  Are you a coward?
Rillen-2:  Cease!  (leaps up, and hurls several small
  metalblades into a nearby tree, creating an impressive
  line of spikes in the tree)
Mongo:  Wow!
Belphanior:  (muttering to himself)  Didn't even see his
  arm move...
Rillen-2:  In my line of work, there are no "practice
  matches" - only swift, efficient death.  My skills are
  not to be wasted on trivial contests.  Now leave me be.
Rillen:  Oh.
Peldor:  Friendly guy, isn't he?
Belphanior-2:  I can see that we're going to get along

  A fair amount of planning went on in the next few hours,
as the route to the Black Lake and the fortress was mapped
out.  After that, it was time for sleep, for the next day
promised to be a busy one.  Belphanior-2 estimated that
the trip would take four days.

Ged:  Four days?!?  By this route you've planned out, we
  couldn't possibly get there in less than two weeks.
  (gets out his magical sky balloon)  Now it's my turn to
  provide help.  (speaks the command word)  Eh?  (nothing
  happens)  Hey, my balloon's not working!
Lyra:  The other Alindyar did mention that some items
  from our world wouldn't work here...
Ged:  Agh!  It's just not fair!
Belphanior-2:  Worry not, the journey will be a quick one.
  Trust me.

  Forest elves showed the adventurers to their temporary
quarters, which were quite spacious and comfortable, and
most everyone drifted quickly into sleep.

Rillen:  (meditating deep into the night)

  Early the next morning, Belphanior-2 had a fine breakfast
prepared, after which he announced that it was time to go.
Leading the adventurers to a stable-like area, the wiry elf
showed them a herd of strange winged horses.

Ged:  Pegasi!
Mongo:  Horses with wings?!?  Now I've seen it all.
Alindyar:  What fabulous creatures...
Lyra:  Feeling a bit clinical today, are we?
Arnold:  Strange horsdes...
Flint:  Yeah.
Rillen:  Strange, yet practical.
Belphanior:  This should be interesting.
Mongo:  Forget it.  I'm not getting on one of those things
  to save my life!
Peldor:  Hey, don't knock it 'til you try it.
Belphanior-2:  They're perfectly safe.  Besides, they'll
  cut our travel time significantly.

  Eventually, Mongo was convinced that the pegasi were safe
to ride (mainly because he had the magical amber-encased
bee that enabled him to feather fall) and everybody was
saddled up.  Besides the nine adventurers, Belphanior-2
and Rillen-2 were going, as well as the wolf Sparky, who
had a special harness to ride in, one that would hang
beneath the mount.  A thirteenth, riderless pegasus was
brought along, for reasons known only to Belphanior-2.

Belphanior-2:  Oh, I have a feeling that we might need it.

  They set out, and made excellent time, though most of
the party were uneasy at first.  Peldor and Belphanior
were comfortable in the air, and Ged seemed to have no
fear whatsoever of heights.  Another problem, one might
have though, would have been the adventurers' general lack
of experience with winged mounts.  However, the pegasi
were highly intelligent, and unlike conventional mounts,
needed little expert guidance.  While the adventurers
would still be no good in airborne combat, they could
ride without fear of accidents.
  After hours of flight, in fact, the trip became almost
boring.  The riders couldn't really talk among themselves,
due to the rushing wind, and it was equally hard to see
much on the ground far below.

  This went on for three days, with the mounts stopping
to rest each night, while the group made camp.  There were
also shorter breaks, for meals (it was risky to open one's
pack while flying, for one gust of wind could catch it and
scatter one's valued possessions all over the countryside
like dust).  On the third day of travel, Belphanior-2 took
the group slightly off course, to the west.
  About an hour later, they descended, toward a small hill
fort, a walled complex nestled amidst some rocky ground in
the wilderness.  Though fairly small, the place looked
well-built and fairly defensible.

Ged:  (muttering to himself)  Just like the tree village.
Peldor:  (disguises himself as Belphaniors)  Heh heh.

  As the pegasi descended from the sky, numerous archers
appeared below, training their bows on the intruders as
they landed.

Belphanior-2:  (looking slightly worried)  Ho, there!  We
  have need to speak to your leader, about some urgent
guardsman:  Leader?  What leader?
Belphanior-2:  (sighs, and throws up his hands)  You know
  who I'm talking about.  There's no time to waste - we
  need to speak with that rascal, and I mean _now_!  Tell
  him it's his old friend Belphanior!
Mongo:  (considering hurling his hammer at some of the
  archers around)  Yeah!
archers:  (several of them cower)
Belphanior:  (wondering if everyone's confused by the mere
  presence of two of him)
Peldor:  Three.  There's three of us now.
Belphanior:  True.
Belphanior-2:  Uh...right.
guardsman:  (frowns, then disappears down a ladder)
Rillen:  (scowls)
Rillen-2:  (scowls)
archers:  (look worriedly toward Rillen-2)

  Shortly, the guard returned, and barked an order to the
others, who slowly lowered their bows.

guardsman:  Let them pass.  The boss said it's okay.

  They were led down the ladder, through halls and rooms,
down some stairs, and finally into a small, darkened feast
hall.  The place was illuminated by only a few blazing
torches set in sconces along the wall.  Padded chairs were
arranged around a stout wooden table, and in one of those
chairs sat a familiar-looking fellow.

Ged:  Oh, no!  It can't be!
grey cat:  (peeks cautiously out from under the flap of
  Ged's pack)
Belphanior-2:  Allow-
Peldor-2:  You come here in the company of two lookalikes,
  the Dread Lord Ged, his general Mongo, an assassin, and
  a band of strangers?  I trust you have a _very_ good
  explanation for all of this?
Peldor:  (drops his disguise, becoming himself again)
  Okay, everybody relax, I'm here.
Peldor-2:  (his jaw drops)
Belphanior-2:  Err...this might take awhile to explain.

next time :  to the fortress they go!

notes     :  Nah.

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