Chapter #651

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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       +
+     Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas                 +
+     Eduardo        3rd level human thief                                +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Neko           7th level human female thief                         +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+     Zhao           8th level human swordsman                            +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                          +
+   Otto             8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+   Victoria        11th level human vampiress/fighter                    +
+   Date:           2/1/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the town of Helgate                                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "I can't imagine that the opinions of others affect you very much."   +
+   "I realized long ago that to be popular, one must conform.  I         +
+      find that too big a price to pay."                                 +
+   "Conform?"                                                            +
+   "To the standards of conduct dictated by convention.  I have          +
+      my own standards - I conform to them."                             +
+   "At least you're honest."                                             +
+   "And probably my only virtue.  I'm always honest - even with          +
+      myself.  I wonder how many people can truthfully admit to          +
+      that."                                                             +
+                                         - from _Plague of the Zombies_  +

                          DCLI.  Next Steps

  In recent weeks, Belphanior has led a mixed force into battle against
some of his old enemies.  Now, the entire crew has met in Helgate to plan
the next move...

Mongo:  No next move?!?
Belphanior:  Nope.
Otto:  So we're not going to go visit our friends the Slave Lords?
Belphanior:  It's not practical.  An overt, obvious attack would cause
  too much attention, new foes, new vendettas - not something I want.
  I'm thinking about a much smaller-scale operation, when the time
Ys:  You mean an assassination.
Belphanior:  Yep.  We can try again later, with a smaller group.  I don't
  think this is the right time, though.  In fact, I find that my taste
  for revenge is somewhat...sated.  For now.
Victoria:  I never thought I'd hear you say that.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)
Mongo:  Does this mean that we're going to head off on my quest pretty
Belphanior:  It does indeed.
Mongo:  Good.
Gorgo:  Yeah, good.  The other stuff was fun, but we've got a quest.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the dwarf)
Bosco:  Quest!  A quest for the legendary Bosco!  (he leaps and cavorts
Jutokai:  (almost hit by the seemingly-bumbling halfling, he finds himself
  growing irritated and wondering if Bosco can outrun an arrow)
Eduardo:  (to Belphanior)  What about the wispy thing?
Belphanior:  What about it?
Eduardo:  Where is it?  When is it coming back?
Belphanior:  Who can know?  The wisp never did well with anti-magic zones.
Eduardo:  But...
Belphanior:  It always makes its way back.  It did before, and it will
  again.  Just a matter of time.
Skektek:  No big deal, kid.  The wisp is probably vacationing on some
  other plane.  But it's likely to return eventually.
Eduardo:  (looking decidedly unconvinced)
Neko:  (to Belphanior)  So do I get to go on this next journey?
Zhao:  And what of me?  I came here for adventure and honor...not to keep
  an eye on drunken miners.
Belphanior:  (rubs his chin, pondering this)

  Later, as Belphanior and Otto chatted alone on a balcony...

Otto:  They raise a good point.  Perhaps it's time to shuffle the ranks
  of those who stay and those who go.
Belphanior:  Perhaps.  But then who do we take, and who do we leave?  We
  need Ys for sheer power, Skektek for magical power, Aja for clerical
  skills...Jutokai and Charlie aren't vital, I guess, but I hate to leave
  Charlie behind again.  Ditto for Neko and Zhao.
Otto:  And Eduardo's too young and inexperienced for this kind of trip.
Belphanior:  And Victoria's not exactly cut out for long journeys either.
Otto:  (shaking his head)  It's a dilemma, that's for sure.
Belphanior:  But one we're going to have to solve.  And soon.  I think
  Mongo wants to get going right now.
Otto:  Screw that - I'm getting a good night's sleep.
Belphanior:  Agreed.  We're not going to rush into anything...though I
  must admit, if there's even a _chance_ that the Tomb of Panagaea is
  really out there somewhere...
Otto:  I know.  We'd have the riches to buy a kingdom.
Belphanior:  An empire, even.
Otto:  (shaking his head)  Big "if" though.  When we're talking about
  things and people and treasures from millennia before the time of the
  Suel Empire...well, let's just say I have some doubts.
Belphanior:  I understand, but we have to try.
Otto:  The only thing crazier is not trying...
Belphanior:  Right.  I'm figuring we'll head out tomorrow.  The only
  question is who "we" will be.

  A short time later, they had brought Mongo into their impromptu
rooftop meeting...

Mongo:  (looking over the balcony's ledge)  Long way down...not that
  you can see it through all the fog.  (to Belphanior)  How in the
  hell did you get this place?
Belphanior:  Hell might very well have had something to do with it.
Mongo:  And those two servant girls...they're so polite, it's creepy!
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  There's not much around here that isn't weird,
Mongo:  No kidding.  Good thing we'll be heading out soon, I guess...
  which I assume is why we're here talking right now?
Belphanior:  Yep.  I wanted to run the group by you before it's all
  finalized and I tell them.
Mongo:  You're not bringing the same people?
Belphanior:  No.
Mongo:  Well, who's it to be?
Belphanior:  Myself, of course.  Also Skektek, Aja, Zhao, and Neko.
  No Ys, no Jutokai, no Charlie...and no Angus.
Mongo:  And no Otto?  (staring at Otto)  You're not coming?
Otto:  Much as I hate to miss this, no.  We've got to keep the numbers
  down while maintaining a strong group here.  And at the same time,
  we've got to try and keep everyone happy.
Belphanior:  Well, we don't have to, but we try anyway.
Mongo:  So five from your band, plus me and Gorgo.
Otto:  Don't forget Bosco.
Belphanior:  Who could forget Bosco?
Mongo:  Sounds good to me, I guess.  This Neko girl - is she really
  trustworthy?  She seems pretty shifty, from what little I've seen of
Belphanior:  I vouch for her.  If she turns out to be undeserving of
  my trust, then I'll deal with her.
Mongo:  Good enough for me, but I'll be keeping one eye open anyway.
  Heh, remember back when we had to watch Peldor all the time?  Never
  was there a lighter pair of fingers!
Belphanior:  (smiles, thinking of the times Mongo was watching the
  wrong thief)  Very true.
Otto:  Well, I'm off to inform the others.  You're leaving tomorrow?
Belphanior:  (looks at Mongo)
Mongo:  Sure!
Otto:  Right.  (he goes inside)
Belphanior:  So where are we headed?
Mongo:  Well, the first step is finding the Oracle of Espyria - which
  is a lot tougher than it sounds.  As I said weeks ago, I have a map.
  Thing is, we've got a hell of a lot of ground to cover - the Oracle
  really _is_ at the end of the known world.
Belphanior:  It's okay.  We've got the skyship.
Mongo:  That thing really makes Ged's old sky balloon seem like a toy.
  Only one problem.
Belphanior:  What's that?
Mongo:  I don't want to take it.
Belphanior:  What?
Mongo:  I can't handle the flying...not that far.  It's my hammer, you
Belphanior:  Look, I don't mind traveling by land, despite the delay
  involved.  But you have to think about this:  suppose we _do_ find the
  lost treasure of the Panagaean Empire, of Emperor Hyperion.  How are
  we going to move it all out of there?
Mongo:  The ship can't go underground, so we'd have to move the treasure
  out of the Tomb anyway, without the airship right there next to the
  treasure vaults of Panagaea.  Hell, we've got my portable hole, or we
  can stay to guard the loot and send someone back for more help or
  whatever.  My point is, we'll figure something out.
Belphanior:  (sighs)  Very well.  So where is the Oracle?
Mongo:  (grins)  You'd never believe me if I told you.

next:      at last:  the one, the only...Peldor!
released:  6/26/00
notes:     I am seriously beginning to wonder if I can come up with a
  treasure (and backstory) worthy of the hype I'm generating.

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