Chapter #156

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

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1994 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:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Arnold        11th level human warrior               (NG) +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/13th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Ged           13th/14th level grey elven priest/mage (NG) +
+   Mongo         16th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+      Gorin       4th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       6th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+   Date:    8/27/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    high noon                                        +
+   Place:   the very fringes of Aerdy's North Province       +
+   Climate: hot                                              +
+   "Flying is hours and hours of boredom sprinkled with a    +
+    few seconds of sheer terror."                            +
+                                    - Gregory Boyington      +

         CLVI.  World Tour, part 6:  Grendep Bay

  While stopped to rest and let Ged's magical sky balloon
recharge, the adventurers have sighted a patrol of armed
riders approaching on the horizon.

Peldor:  Hmm, they must have seen the balloon land.
Ged:  I'm not taking any more chances.  (he prepares a
  spell, just in case)
Belphanior:  Right on.  (he draws his sword and assumes a
  hostile demeanor)  Grr!
Rillen:  (discreetly readies his quarterstaff)
Arnold:  (scratches the stubble on his chin)  Aaa.  These
  Aerbians are bad news.
Gorin:  (hearing his pony making noise, he goes into the
  balloon's cabin, to make sure the horses are calmed and
  quiet)  I'll be back in a second.
Bosco:  (accompanies the dwarf, to help)  Hold up!
Belphanior:  No hurry.  We've got things under control.
wispy thing:  (menacing a nearby bird, it ignores these
  goings-on)  pfaa.
Peldor:  Maybe you guys are overreacting a little bit.
Mongo:  Maybe, maybe not.  If they're not hostile, then
  whatever we do won't matter.

  The riders drew near, and the adventurers saw that they
numbered a dozen or so.  Both their armor and their shields
bore the symbol of the Great Kingdom (aka Aerdy), a blazing
yellow sun surmounted by a golden crown.  Though they made
no overtly threatening moves, their glares didn't exactly
hint at benevolence, either.  A foppish, garishly dressed
noble, sporting a neatly-trimmed moustache and beard,
sallied forth on horseback, and addressed the party.

captain:  You!  You people!  Halt and identify yourselves!
Belphanior:  Halt?  We weren't going anywhere.
Peldor:  Yeah, we're just sitting here resting.  Us and our
  sky balloon.
Arnold:  Yah.  (folds his arms)
captain:  Who are you, and what is your business in Aerdy's
  Northern Province?  And what in the hells is _that_ thing?
  (he points to the balloon)
Peldor:  (muttering)  It's a balloon.  What, are you a fool?
  Get serious.
captain:  I _am_ serious.
Belphanior:  Then why are you dressed like that?
Mongo:  Look, pal, we don't want any trouble.  We're just-
captain:  Silence, lout.  (to his men)  I can see that this
  bunch just won't cooperate.  Place them all under arrest.
patrolmen:  (move forth)  You're all under arrest-
Rillen:  Under what law?
captain:  Under the law of Aerdy, that's what!  And I told
  you to stay quiet!  Perhaps lifetime prison sentences are
  in order here...
patrolman:  To hell with that - let's just execute 'em and
  confiscate their possessions!
other patrolmen:  (cheering)  Yeah!
Rillen:  (his eyes widen)
patrolmen:  (moving in)
Ged:  By Boccob, that's _enough_!  (he casts his Sleep spell
  upon the soldiers, and five of them instantly fall asleep)
captian:  (sputtering)  By Hextor and Beltar!  Get them!
patrolmen:  (charge)
Rillen:  What madness!
Mongo:  Yeah.  (ducks a soldier's clumsy blow, and swats the
  man with a gauntleted hand, knocking him out cold)  I'm
  pretty mad...
Rillen:  (whirls his staff in a dizzying flash, and lets
  two charging patrolmen have it)  Hai!
patrolman:  Argh!  (he reels, dazed and bleeding)
other patrolman:  Urgh!  (he falls, his arm broken)
Belphanior:  (parries a slashing blow, and cuts down the
  fellow who attacked)  Ha!
patrolman:  Aie!  (dies)
Ged:  Hey, that was uncalled for!  We don't have to _kill_
Arnold:  (grabs a patrolman, and punches him, breaking his
  jaw and knocking him unconscious)  He'll live.
Peldor:  (meleeing with the remaining guard, he avoids a
  stabbing attack, and manages to kick the foe away)
captain:  No!  No!  You fools!  That's not how you attack!
Belphanior:  (points his sword at the captain)  I notice
  you haven't even unsheathed your sword, buddy.  Why don't
  you come here and show us _all_ how true swordplay is
captain:  Uh...err...(he flees, spurring his horse to great
  speeds)  Aie!
Belphanior:  (sheathes Blackrazor)  That's one sure thing
  about bullies - they always turn and run when confronted.
  (he considers blasting the fleeing man with a spell of
  some sort)
Arnold:  (proudly surveying the writhing or unconscious
  bodies)  Aaa.  This will brink trouble.
Mongo:  Yeah, no kidding.
Ged:  Come on, let's get airborne before something else
  happens.  We don't need to take on an entire kingdom.
Belphanior:  Not right now, anyway.
Mongo:  Huh?

  They boarded the giant balloon, and sailed away, to the

Arnold:  We should have done this in the firdst place.  I
  know aboud these Aerbians...
Mongo:  How's that?
Arnold:  Sometimbes we used to raid to the south, crossing
  the bay.  I was fidghting Aerbians long ago...they're
  bad peoble.  Chaodic, dishonorabdle, and liars too!
Mongo:  Well, we're gone from there now.  Uh, where _are_
  we, anyway?  The Grendep Bay, maybe?
Ged:  Who's got the map?
Rillen:  Map?
Peldor:  (holds a tattered map down on a table, so that all
  can see it)  According to this, we're about to cross...
  uh...a really big bay?
Arnold:  Ridght.
Ged:  By Boccob...that could take more than a week!
Bosco:  So?
Belphanior:  So, this vessel needs to have some time to
  rest.  Like a good horse.
Ged:  Yea, we'd never make it across the open water, not
  that distance.  We need an alternate route, one which has
  places we can land and cross on foot.
Mongo:  Well...(points to the map)  Northwest of here is
  the land of Ratik.  They're good people - always warring
  with those scumbags in Bone March, too.
Arnold:  Yah.
Rillen:  Maybe we should go there, to let this thing rest.
Ged:  Fine by me.
Mongo:  Sounds like a plan.
Gorin:  (sweating as he looks at the ground far below)  Ah,
  good.  The sooner, the better.

  They sailed along in a northeasterly direction, crossing
a good bit of open water as well as the northern portion of
the Bone March.  After this, they moved over a (relatively)
narrow band of hills and mountains, and then sailed past a
a region of lush grasslands.  Shortly afterwards, they hit
open water, actually some shallows a few miles from shore.
It had been five days since they had departed Aerdy, and
the adventurers seemed long overdue for a bit of trouble.

Rillen:  (pointing out something in the sky)  Look!
Peldor:  (squints)  Uh-oh.
Ged:  Wha-  Boccob!  A dragon!

  Sure enough, an enormous dragon was headed right for the
balloon!  The flying lizard's black hide gleamed in the
sunlight as it approached.

Mongo:  Where in the hell did _that_ come from?!?
black dragon:  (wondering what in the world the balloon is)
Ged:  (steers hard to port, trying to avoid the dragon)
Belphanior:  (preparing a spell)
black dragon:  (rather busy, it swoops by, ignoring the odd

  However, the ignorance was only one-sided, for in passing,
the huge dragon created a powerful updraft, and the balloon
was caught and hurled about roughly.

Ged:  (torn from the helm as the balloon tips sideways, he
  crashes into a wall)  Argh!
Bosco:  (crashes into Mongo)  Ugh!
Mongo:  Ouch.
horses:  (those that remain, they bounce around, injuring
  each other as well as the adventurers)
Gorin:  (tumbles about)  See?!?  I told you that flying was
Arnold:  (grabs onto a rail)  Aaa.
wispy thing:  (somehow stays upright and unfazed)  sss.
Peldor:  (protected by his feather falling, he floats to
  one side)  What's going on?!?
Belphanior:  (holding on to a rail, he looks out a window,
  hoping to spot the dragon)  He'll pay for that...(since
  his spell was ruined, he points a wand out the window)
Ged:  Yea!  Blast it!  (he prepares a Fireball)
Rillen:  (realizes that the balloon is right-side up now)
  Maybe we should just leave well enough alone...
Belphanior:  (spies the dragon, about a hundred yards away,
  and yells in triumph)  I see him!  (he fires a bolt of
  lightning from the wand)  Ha ha!
Gorin:  What's-

  The dragon took the lightning bolt in the side, and fell
a bit before regaining its balance.

black dragon:  Huh?  Who shot me?
Ged:  (in the balloon, he leans out a window, and casts his
  spell)  For Boccob!
black dragon:  (its eyes widen as the fireball blazes toward
  it)  What-

  There ensued a tremendous explosion of flame and light,
centered around the dragon.  Tongues of fire were thrown in
all directions, and the heatwave singed the eyebrows of any
who watched too closely.   After the smoke cleared, there
remained one rather angry dragon, hovering in the air near
the balloon.

black dragon:  Grr...(more irritated than injured, it yet
  breathes, spewing a stream of acid at the balloon)
Ged:  Look out!
Belphanior:  Incoming!  (he closes his porthole)  Brace

  The acid was, unfortunately for the adventurers, right on
the mark, and there was a loud sizzling sound as it began
dissolving the balloon's walls and decks.

Rillen:  (watching acid drip down a porthole)  Hmm.
Mongo:  Can that stuff-
Ged:  Don't know.  Acid like that's bad for flesh, but who
  knows about metals?
Belphanior:  (sniffing the air, which is permeated with the
  smell of burning metal)  I'd say, offhand, that we're in
Rillen:  (grabs a rail as the balloon shakes)  Agreed.
Arnold:  Aaa.  This sucks.
Peldor:  Whoa!  (he falls, as the balloon tilts)
Bosco: it just me, or are we falling?
Gorin:  (wailing in terror)

  The balloon plummeted from the sky, picking up speed.

black dragon:  (happily surveying its work, it decides to
  let the sea have the weird balloon and whoever's inside)
  Ha.  (it flies away)
Peldor:  (opens a hatch) I'm outta here!  (he leaps out of
  the balloon)

  Fortunately, they hadn't been flying very high above the
water, and within moments, the balloon crashed into the sea
with a tremendous splash.  Peldor, feather falling as usual
at times like this, was still in the air, sailing gently
down toward the sea.  The others, however, found themselves
inside the balloon, which was filling up with water.

Ged:  Everyone out!  I can't shrink this thing if anyone's
  inside it!
Belphanior:  (already halfway out the hatch, he digs in
  his pack for a particular item)
Rillen:  (climbs by the elf, and stands atop the balloon's
  outer hull, since the thing is floating sideways in the
  water)  Hmm.  (he pulls open another hatch, and tries to
  get the horses out of the balloon)
horses:  (swimming around, they exit the sinking vessel,
  one by one, mainly due to Rillen's help)
Bosco:  (leaps out a porthole, and grabs onto the outside
  of the balloon)
Rillen:  (grabs the halfling's collar in one hand and pulls
  him onto the deck)
Bosco:  Whew.
Mongo:  <glub>  (armored as he is, he begins to sink like
  a rock)  Hah!  (he grabs a porthole and tries to pull
  himself up)
Arnold:  (grabs an acid-scarred pit in the hull and holds
  on, despite the great weight of his armor)  Aaa!
wispy thing:  (floats out of a cracked porthole and looks
  around)  pff.
Gorin:  (grabs Rillen's hand and hoists himself up onto the
  hull)  Damn, this thing's sinking!
Belphanior:  (speaks a command word, and his folding boat
  unfolds, becoming a small ship)  Aha!  (he scampers to
  board his boat)
Peldor:  (floating gently down from the sky, he lands atop
  the ship's deck)  Ah, a perfect landing!  Thanks for
  putting a landing pad there for me!
Belphanior:  (now aboard his ship, he begins tossing rope
  to the others, most of whom are clinging to the balloon's
  sinking hull)
Rillen:  (swims out, toward the ship, which is only fifteen
  feet away at the most)
Bosco:  (leaps out, grabbing a rope as if to swing up onto
  the ship's deck)  Whoaaaaa-  (he slams into the side of
  the ship instead)  Ow.
Peldor:  Heh heh.  Remember that your legs aren't quite as
  long as most good jumpers.
Bosco:  Bah.
Rillen:  (climbs aboard the ship, and looks back to the
  balloon)  It's sinking faster!
Arnold:  (grabs a thick rope tossed by Peldor)  Got it.
Ged:  (clambers onto the hull)  Everyone out?  Good.  (he
  speaks the command word, and the balloon shrinks into its
  miniature form, making loud crunching sounds as it does
  so)  Uh-oh.
Mongo:  Sounds like it's broken.  (he is pulled up onto the
  ship by Belphanior and Rillen just as the balloon shrinks)
Ged:  Oops, forgot to get a rope for myself...(he begins to
Arnold:  (grabs Ged with one hand, while holding the rope
  with the other)  Pull us in!
Mongo:  (quickly reels them up onto the boat)
Rillen:  Hurry, we need ropes!  We must save the horses!
Gorin:  (moves to help)
Mongo:  Yeah, the horses.  'Course, mine's long dead...
Arnold:  I'll helb save the hordses.
Ged:  Yea, let's get them into the ship here.
Belphanior:  Good thing I had this folding boat.
Rillen:  Agreed.  (he looks around)
Gorin:  I can't believe it.  We crashed!
Ged:  Well, I guess any landing you can walk away from is a
  good one...

  They scanned the horizon, and spotted a distant coast on
the horizon to the west.

Peldor:  Land ho!  Ah, I've always wanted to say that!

next time :  R&R in Ratik

ftp site  : in /pub/frp/stories/adventurers

notes     :  Through various discussions, I've concluded that
           horses _can_ swim, or at least tread water for a
             Madri Gras report:  AWESOME!!!  I've never had
           such a good time.  Of course, I was with bona fide
           New Orleans natives...I did all kinds of crazy
           things this time - we were able to get onto a
           second-floor balcony atop Bourbon Street...I could
           look out and see people shoulder-to-shoulder all
           down the street in both directions...usually I've
           been _in_ that crowd, but this time I was _atop_
           it.  And I had a LOT of beads to throw this time...
           Damn, I had a blast.

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