Chapter #702

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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       +
+   1991-2001 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       +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/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                          +
+                                                                         +
+   Boltar          high priest of Pholtus                                +
+   Drak            rather cultured barbarian warrior                     +
+   Parekh          dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+   Date:           3/24/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          Rauxes, capital of Aerdy                              +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Blood is the best security in this business."                        +
+                                  - Kerim Bey, _From Russia With Love_   +

                       DCCII.  A Pair of Sages

  Belphanior glared at the sage from across the table.  If what the man
had just told him was the truth, then he'd been sitting on at least one
extremely powerful quasi-artifact for quite some time.

Belphanior:  (muttering to himself)  It fucking figures.
Arvthar the sage:  Eh?
Belphanior:  Nothing.  But you're sure?
Arvthar:  Of course I'm sure - this is what I do for a living, son, and
  I've been at it for thirty years!  That bottle's an iron flask, of the
  sort you can trap things in.  I'd stake my soul on it.  (he pauses for
  a moment)  In fact, I betcha someone else did, once.
Belphanior:  I...see.
Arvthar:  Fortunately, the thing's empty right now.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Arvthar:  Be careful who or what you try that flask on, kid.  You're
  liable to piss off the wrong being, and then you'll be in a whole
  world of shit.
Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)

  The elf liked the crusty old sage, who was by all accounts the best
in Rauxes when it came to divining things about magical items.  He had
a fiery temperament, a flagrant style, and a glib tongue.

Arvthar:  Okay, we've talked about the teeth of the demonlord, which
  you can plant to grow your own skeletons.  Bad crop, that - personally,
  I'd recommend corn, or squash.  But to each their own.  And now you
  know about the iron flask.  You've got that look about you, the look
  of someone who's barely even started, so...what else?
Belphanior:  Well, let's see.  I've got some spellbooks-
Arvthar:  I don't do spellbooks.  Any self-respecting wizard can figure
  that stuff out better than a sage, anyway.
Belphanior:  ...of course.  (he holds up a heavy stone)  What about this?
Arvthar:  (examining the thing)  Hmm.
Belphanior:  What?
Arvthar:  I'm working on it.  (he casts a scrying spell, then grimaces)
  Good gods!  (he eyes the elf)  Had any ill fortune lately?
Belphanior:  Uh...could be.  Why?
Arvthar:  This is a stone of ill fortune, also known as a stone of bad
  luck, also known as a lodestone.
Belphanior:  Crap.  Well, I'll be sure to throw it away.  Or maybe give
  it away to someone I don't like.  Or better yet, sell it to some-
Arvthar:  It's not that easy.  If you drop it, it'll come back.  If you
  break it, it'll reform _and_ come back.  No, you have to get a priest
  to cast a dispellation of evil on the cursed thing - that's the only
Belphanior:  A priest?  Like a powerful one?
Arvthar:  (stroking his beard)  Fairly powerful, yeah.  Any high priest
  worth his salt could rid you of this thing.
Belphanior:  No problem.  (he puts some more items on the table)  What
  about these?
Arvthar:  (picks up a ring, rolling it around in his hand, using the
  divination magic he already worked to scry the thing)  Hmm...
Belphanior:  What is it?
Arvthar:  I'm not for sure, but it has something to do with portals.
  I'd say put it on and play around with some doors and windows, see
  what happens.  More than that, I can't be sure of.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  What about this dagger?
Arvthar:  (examines the weapon)  A simple magical weapon, I think.  Is
  that a mace you've got there?
Belphanior:  (nods, handing the thing over)
Arvthar:  Hmm...heavy.  But still just a magical weapon, though almost
  certainly more powerful than the dagger.
Belphanior:  And this robe?
Arvthar:  (sticks his finger through a hole in the garment)  Fallen into
  disrepair.  You've got to take better care of your magical items, kid,
  or they'll die out.  As is, this robe bears a fairly strong protective
  enchantment, like many such robes that wizards wear.
Belphanior:  Crap.  I really don't need most of this stuff - it's of no
  use to me or any of my people.  Maybe I should go have a fire sale.
Arvthar:  I'll give you a fair price on any of these items.
Belphanior:  I'll just bet.

  The elf had one final round of items, a wrapped bundle which he laid
on the table with a loud "thunk."

Arvthar:, swords, I'd bet.
Belphanior:  You bet right.  (he unrolls the wrapping, revealing a half-
  dozen blades)

  The bastard sword had belonged to Torin the Crusader, a self-righteous
warrior who'd led a band to Helgate many years past.  One longsword had
once been the weapon of Dagron Larthos, who had ruled Helgate until
Belphanior showed up.  The other two had been wielded by the ogre Vybool,
while the broadsword had been Omak's and the cutlass had belonged to
Redjack.  Those latter three had been involved in the Sea Princes'
efforts to hunt down and slay Belphanior.
  All of these weapons had one thing in common:  their owners had all
tried to slay Belphanior, and they had all failed - and died.  Of course,
old Arvthar didn't know that.

Arvthar:  (wide-eyed at the array of ordnance spread on the table before
  him)  Good gods, man, what did you do, raid the battlefield of some
  great heroes?
Belphanior:  Well-
Arvthar:  (holds up a hand)  Actually, I'd really rather not know.
Belphanior:  Let's get to it, then.
Arvthar:  This may take a while.
Belphanior:  Fine.  (he helps himself to a flask of wine from a shelf
  full of them)

  The effort did take a while - the better part of the afternoon, in
fact.  Arvthar the sage had to employ several further incantations, and
by the time he was done, a half-dozen old tomes were scattered about,
their arcane knowledge having contributed to the task.  It came down to

  Torin's bastard sword:  wounding powers
  Dagron's longsword:  lightning powers
  Vybool's first longsword:  dancing powers
  Vybool's second longsword:  life-stealing powers
  Omak's broadsword:  defending powers
  Redjack's cutlass:  speed powers

  The main problem with some of these was that Belphanior didn't know
anyone who used or needed that particular type of sword.  As far as the
longswords went, he was far from ready to trade in Blackrazor for any
other weapon, longsword or not.  He decided to hold on to all of these
blades, at least for a while.  After all, one never knew when some item
could come in handy.

Belphanior:  (nods)  Very good.
Arvthar:  I sense that you've got yet more questions for me.
Belphanior:  Maybe.  Ever heard of "Thryxus" or something called a
  "vernal equinox" ?
Arvthar:  No idea about any "Thryxus."  The other thing, I think, has
  something or another to do with the moon.  I'm not really sure.  You
  might talk to someone who's familiar with those things, to be sure.
  I can give you some leads...
Belphanior:  Excellent.

  In a somewhat generous mood, and also wanting to be rid of some of the
excess items, Belphanior made part of his payment to the sage with the
dagger, mace, and robe.  He also handed over quite a hefty sack of coins,
but it was well worth it:  he was pleased with the results.  He knew that
he had a few more magical items scattered about, here and there, but he
couldn't lay his hands on them right now.  Besides, he had other things
to learn about before he could relax and feel like he'd accomplished
  Whistling, in a better state of mind than he'd been for weeks, the elf
strolled down the streets, following the directions given him by Arvthar.
Before dusk fell, he was standing in the study of the astrologer Neera,
an expert in the field of the moons, stars, the sun, and everything else
that inhabited the heavens.  Belphanior had figured that this sage would
be another old man, so he was more than a little surprised to find himself
talking to a tall and shapely young woman.  Her jet-black hair flowed down
to her waist, and green eyes regarded him from above high cheekbones.

Neera:  The Eye of Thryxus?  Just one of the many stars in the night
  sky - the Eye is in fact the central point of the constellation we
  call Thryxus.  I'm tempted to not even charge you for that one.
Belphanior:  (slightly alarmed by the way she's looking at him, he
  actually looks away for a moment)  How can I find it in the sky?
Neera:  By using star charts, or if someone shows you.  I _will_
  charge you for such a chart, as they're not easy to make.  As for
  the other option...tonight will be a clear night, a clear sky, and
  I have no plans.  Perhaps a real demonstration would be more helpful.

  Belphanior couldn't believe it - this woman, barely older than a girl,
was coming on to him!  Ever since meeting Victoria, the elf hadn't taken
much notice of flirting or other female attention; now, however, he was
noticing it more than ever.

Belphanior:  Err...we'll see.  I have one more question.
Neera:  (leans forward, her chin in her hands)  Of course.
Belphanior:  When is the vernal equinox?
Neera:  These are strange questions.
Belphanior:  It's a strange world, and I'm a strange fellow.
Neera:  You're a troubled fellow, that much is obvious.
Belphanior:  That may be, but I require answers.
Neera:  (sighs)  I could give them to you, but without any knowledge
  of the stars, the moons, and such things, the answers would mean
  nothing.  Perhaps it would help if I knew exactly what you wanted
  to find...
Belphanior:  Find?
Neera:  Yes.  It's fairly obvious that you're looking for something.
Belphanior:  (decides to give her some of the truth, but not the
  entire truth)  Assuming that the "baleful glare of Thryxus" is
  that star's light, I need to know exactly what location would be
  directly beneath it at midnight on the vernal equinox.
Neera:  Ah, now that, we can discern.
Belphanior:  We can?
Neera:  Of course.  How do you think trackers and sailors navigate
  using only the stars?  (she walks over to a rack of charts, moving
  several aside until she finds the one she wants)  Ah.

  The young woman spread the paper out on a table, then retrieved some
strange measuring tools from a drawer.  Another scroll, taken out of
another drawer, had some kind of table on it.  As Belphanior watched,
vaguely understanding, Neera calculated, triangulated, and measured.
Eventually, she got a large map of the world and compared it and the
chart, repeatedly.

Neera:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  What?
Neera:  (eyeing him in disbelief)  You're heading to the middle of
  the ocean?!?
Belphanior:  I didn't say that.
Neera:  You did, though not directly.  Given the star you named and
  the date you specified, this-  (she jabs a finger down on the map)
  - is where you want to be.
Belphanior:  I see.
Neera:  The middle of the Solnor Ocean, hundreds of leagues to the
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  If you say so.
Neera:  I don't get the impression that this really surprises you.
Belphanior:  Let's just say I had a feeling.
Neera:  Well, as long as you have a skilled navigator, one who knows
  the stars and how to do what I just did, you'll have no problem
  getting to this spot.  (she frowns)  Except, of course, for the
  fact that it's out in the middle of the ocean, far east of any
  well-sailed routes, and it will take months to sail there.
Belphanior:  Never mind that.  (he thinks about this navigation issue,
  namely the fact that none of his people possess the skills needed)
  Hmm.  How's your history?  Ancient history?
Neera:  Eh?  I'm fairly fluent in the general background of several of
  the old's a hobby of mine.  Why?
Belphanior:  I have a proposition for you...the chance of a lifetime.
Neera:  (raises her eyebrows)

next:      trouble in Rauxes
released:  1/4/01
notes:     The first rant of the new year is up:

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