Chapter #622

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                                   +   +
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                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2000 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!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Angus          an iron golem                                        +
+     Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas                 +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     the wispy thing                                                     +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo         dwarven berserker                                     +
+   Otto             8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+   Date:           1/7/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          the sky over Perrenland                               +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "When in doubt, fill the graveyard."                                  +
+                                       - the Trader, from _Deathlands_   +

                      DCXXII.  Impending Assault

  As the skyship sailed through the clouds, headed toward Blackmoor,
Jutokai's sole consolation was that things could have been worse.
  That didn't mean he was happy.  Ever since Belphanior had selected
those he wanted to come along, there had been tension.  Aside from the
fact that Neko, Zhao, and Razor Charlie had all resented being picked
to remain behind while strangers got to go, Jutokai didn't care for
the way Aja had been acting ever since Belphanior's briefing.  The
mention of an undead lord and his minions had made her eyes gleam with
a light that the archer didn't care for.  At times like this, she
tended to talk and act strangely and pay little attention to Jutokai.
However, he couldn't control her, and wouldn't dare try; he just didn't
like this mood she got in whenever undead or her deity were involved.
  The mission sounded simple enough:  they were going to a mansion in
the wilds of Blackmoor, far to the north.  Upon arrival - which would be
timed to occur in the morning, when the sun was sure to be up for many
long hours - they would find a huge mansion, invade it, and destroy
anyone or anything inside that the sun's rays didn't kill outright.  It
was a good plan, and a simple one, but it didn't allow for Victoria, and
it didn't allow for marshals who didn't use magic or possess a lot of
raw fighting power.  Jutokai was only there, he was sure, because of his
ability to unleash silver arrows at a rapid rate of fire and with a high
rate of accuracy.
  The archer understood that after this first stop, Belphanior had some
other destinations in mind.  He wondered what these were and why they
were so important.  But he didn't ask.  The elf was in a foul mood of
late, and some did their best to avoid him.

  Not so Otto, who feared the red-cloaked elf only as a foe...

Otto:  A few days, then?
Belphanior:  Yup.  Best if everyone just relaxes and rests up.
Otto:  No way we can find another priest?
Belphanior:  I don't think we need one.  Aja's power should be more
  than enough.
Otto:  Maybe, but she's not exactly a holy priest.  Err, priestess.
  I somehow don't see her blasting hordes of undead to dust with a
  single sun-blast.
Belphanior:  (growing irritated)  There are no other options, short
  of just stopping somewhere and hiring a priest to come with us...
  which I'm not prepared to do.  The fewer strangers involved in this
  grim business, the better.
Otto:  That's why those ones Mongo suggested won't work?
Belphanior:  (nods)  That's why.  Even if we knew where they were
  right now - which Mongo doesn't - I don't care for the righteous.
  Especially not some holy-rolling paladin.
Otto:  (wonders if he should point out that Belphanior had no problem
  with Rob being involved when the mission was for Victoria's benefit)
Belphanior:  No more talk of this.  It won't matter anyway.  Not with
  the plan we're going to implement when we get to Baron Albert's old

  Elsewhere on the skyship...

Bosco:  Darn, but this thing is neat!  I wonder if he'd sell it?
Mongo:  Wouldn't count on it.  (he sits back in the plush chair, still
  uncomfortable)  Ugh.

  Belphanior and Otto had long ago appointed the ship with furniture
so that allies en route to somewhere wouldn't have to sit on the hard
and often-cold wooden planking.  This still didn't help Mongo, who
had been upset by general queasiness ever since they'd left the firm
ground of the world.  This was one of the curses that the dwarf had
to live with, in return for the wondrous powers of Stormcrest.  The
powerfully-enchanted hammer had been built by and for powers of the
earth, and when the hammer was taken away from its natural element,
the bearer was sure to be uncomfortable.
  Gorgo, on the other hand, loved riding in the skyship and looking
out the portholes at the clouds and the world far below.  This might
have simply been because he didn't have any sense of what would happen
to him if he fell out; that was Mongo's theory, at any rate.

Bosco:  Cards, anyone?
Mongo:  Not right now, Bosco.
Bosco:  Aw, come on!  A good game of cards is sure to cheer anyone
Mongo:  Not to mention lining your own pockets, eh?
Bosco:  (to Gorgo)  They're on to me.  I don't know how the word got
  up here this fast, but they're on to me.  (he spreads his hands,
  shrugging)  What can I do?
Gorgo:  Go away.

  Mongo's cousin didn't particularly care for Bosco, probably because
the halfling had conned him out of some coinage shortly after they'd
been introduced.  Gorgo had also lost out on at least part of a recent
huge feast, thanks to the halfling and his ability to eat far more than
his tiny stomach should have allowed.  Bosco, naturally, remained
utterly oblivious of the dwarf's feelings toward him.

Bosco:  Maybe a quick game of-
Gorgo:  No games.  Leave me alone, I mean it.
Bosco:  (wanders away)  Spoilsport.

  At least there was plenty of good food and drink board the skyship -
Otto had made sure of that, noting that a well-fed crew made for a
competent crew.  The same, he claimed, applied to a fighting force.
They'd also packed plenty of supplies and weapons - enough to see them
through several battles such as the ones they intended to start before
much longer.
  The next couple of days seemed to take forever.  The ship, while far
from cramped, was no palace; quarters weren't as private as some would
have liked, and everyone was eager to get off of the ship and get to

Belphanior:  Maybe we should have stopped and destroyed some easier
  target along the get everyone in a better mood.
Otto:  What do you mean, 'should have'...?
Belphanior:  We're getting close now...should be over Baron Albert's
  domain around dawn.
Otto:  Sounds good.  No need to attack that one at night.
Belphanior:  (nods, pleased with his attack plan)  Dawn.
Otto:  Heh.  That ought to ruin his day...hmm, what exactly are we
  dealing with here?  You said he was a vampire, and an illusionist,
  but what else should we know?
Belphanior:  It'll all be covered in the briefing...


Belphanior:  This will be similar to the briefing we did before we
  went to visit Xusia that time, more than a year ago.  But simpler,
  too.  Here's the deal:  Baron Albert is a vampiric illusionist.
  He's powerful, but his illusions aren't insurmountable:  Alindyar
  was able to notice and then see through his illusions without much
  of a problem.  Plus, I have a scroll that will help us fight such
  magic - to be used when the time is right.
Otto:  What of the vampire's servants and minions?
Belphanior:  Mostly slimes and jellies, though he had a few dangerous
  fowl about - cockatrices, whose slightest touch can turn you to stone.
  So watch out for that.
Mongo:  What about that big, pale butler?
Belphanior:  Ah, yes.  I think he was a vampire, too - not sure.  He
  definitely acted weird, though, and he was strong as hell.
Mongo:  (nodding)  I remember.
Belphanior:  Since Angus is the strongest and the most immune to undead
  effects, not to mention being unaffected by illusions, he may be the
  frontal attack force here.  We'll see how it all plays out once we're
  down there.  We have one very strong advantage:  surprise.  That plus
  the daylight factor should really help us clean some clocks tomorrow.
Gorgo:  (to Mongo)  Clocks?
Mongo:  Don't worry about it.
Belphanior:  So that's it.  Angus and Ys, frontal assault.  Mongo and
  Gorin right behind them.
Mongo:  You mean Gorgo, not Gorin.
Belphanior:  Ah, yeah...Gorgo.
Gorgo:  (confused)  Huh?
Belphanior:  Anyway...and Aja for clerical power.  Jutokai, sniper
  support.  Skektek and me will hurl magical attacks.  Otto and Bosco
  hang back and deal with any surprises that spring up.  (he smiles
  thinly)  We'll scout it all out tomorrow and finalize the exact plan
  of attack.
wispy thing:  Sprrd!

  And with that cryptic but perhaps entirely meaningless comment, they
went to bed, each one to prepare themselves for the battle on the morrow.

next:      the assault begins!
released:  3/16/00
notes:     Man, is this gonna be fun.

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