Chapter #758

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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   +
+   Adolphus        half-ogre warrior                                     +
+   Damien          renegade imp                                          +
+   Peyton          gnome thief                                           +
+   Rogar           human priest of Olidammara                            +
+   Sylus           dark elf warrior/thief                                +
+   Wembly          human wizard                                          +
+   Date:           4/24/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           shortly before dusk                                   +
+   Place:          the town of Harshaak, north of the Troll Fens         +
+   Climate:        moderate                                              +
+   "After all your posturing, all your little're          +
+    nothing but a common thief."                                         +
+   "I am an _exceptional_ thief!"                                        +
+                                                     - from _Die Hard_   +

                    DCCLVIII.  Scouting Report

  Peyton has just come up with a wild idea...

Peyton:  Yeah, we'll just join their army.
Wembly:  What?!?
Sylus:  Hmm.
Peyton:  Look, it makes perfect sense.  We're here, we've got nowhere
  else to be, and it will take us to new adventures.
Wembly:  Or it could get us killed.  Fighting...dying...that's what
  armies do!  I don't want to give up my life for someone else's damn
  war.  Plus, I'm not one to sit around and be commanded by perpetually
  angry people who like to bark orders.
Rogar:  Hear, hear.  I have to agree with Wembly on this.  At least
  we should know what kind of army it is, and what they intend to do.
Peyton:  Agreed.  I didn't mean "army" as much as I meant "opportunity."
  We've yet to find out what exactly is happening here, but it's going
  to be big, and getting in on it now could be a profitable venture.
Rogar:  No marching, no orders.  Beyond that, if the money's good...(he
  shrugs, then drinks the remaining contents of his mug)  Urp.
Sylus:  Technically, we have no proof of the existence of this army,
  much less its purpose.
Adolphus:  Army?  War?  Adolphus do it, if you guys do.
Peyton:  That's the spirit!
Wembly:  Uh...aren't you forgetting something?
Peyton:  Eh?
Wembly:  We have a certain report to make soon...Deryck and Nenya are
  counting on us to complete our end of the deal.
Damien:  Fuck 'em.
Sylus:  Damien has a point.  We were sent to do someone else's dirty
  work, and I doubt that they care overmuch about our safety, as long
  as we deliver the needed intelligence.
Peyton:  Hey, no problem.  We'll do both - make our report and then do
  what we want.  We're under no obligation beyond the assigned mission.
Rogar:  (crosses his thick, hairy arms)  I will not join anything until
  I know what it is and where it's going.
Wembly:  I second that notion.
Damien:  (shakes his head)  You wuss.
Wembly:  And I'll say it again:  if - and only if - the deal's good, I
  could be persuaded to sign up here.
Peyton:  But you admit that it bears further investigation.
Wembly:  (frowns, then nods)
Rogar:  Sounds reasonable to me.
Sylus:  We had best be careful.  If we express interest in this army,
  and then leave the city to contact Nenya, suspicion will be aroused.
Damien:  You think?
Sylus:  Were I to witness such a thing, I would be suspicious.
Peyton:  A good point.  So the operative question becomes this:  when
  do we know enough to satisfy the requirement of our mission?
Sylus:  I say right now.  There is little more that can be learned
  without joining this army, yet to do so renders us unable to report
  anything safely.
Rogar:  You want to tell them what we know and be done with it?
Sylus:  Precisely.
Peyton:  (nods)  It's not like we're lying.
Damien:  Too bad, huh?
Peyton:  Is everyone in agreement?
Sylus:  I am.
Rogar:  Given the conditions we talked about, yes.
Wembly:  Ditto.
Adolphus:  (simply nods)
Damien:  You even have to ask?
Peyton:  Alrighty then.  (to Wembly)  Tonight.
Wembly:  (groans)
Peyton:  Sylus and I will accompany you.  (he regards the others)  The
  idea here is to attract as little attention as possible.  No big ogre-
  kin, no demons.
Rogar:  (looks mildly offended, then refills his mug)
Peyton:  In fact, we should go now, before it gets too late.  I want
  to be back well before midnight.
Wembly:  (grumbling)

  So it was that the group split; three remained in the city while three
headed out into the night.  The latter group got the impression that no
one noticed or cared when they left, probably because it was still early
in the evening and they were leaving, as opposed to arriving.  They went
on foot, Peyton and Wembly moving ahead while Sylus doubled back to make
sure that none followed.  A good half-hour's walk from Harshaak, amidst
some tall grass, Wembly felt comfortable enough to use the talisman given
to him by Nenya.

Wembly:  (working a spell on the item)  Stand back - I'm not sure how this
  will happen.

  The wizard was surprised to feel a buzzing in his head...and then a
voice!  He quickly realized that Nenya was communicating with him from
afar via ESP.  Although Wembly hadn't delved into this particular form
of magic/communication before, he learned fast and was soon carrying on
a conversation that Peyton and Sylus couldn't hear...

  Nenya:  That was quick.
  Wembly:  We work fast...maybe too fast.
  Nenya:  Eh?
  Wembly:  Never mind.  I can't take long for this - we have to get back.
  Nenya:  Understood.  Tell me about Harshaak.
  Wembly:  There's not much to tell.  It's a city providing resources for
    this fortress.
  Nenya:  Tell me about the fortress.
  Wembly:  Hmm...well, I'll tell you everything I know...

  The other two could only watch as the wizard stood, hands on his temples,
slowly rocking back and forth.

Sylus:  What is he doing?
Peyton:  I'm guessing some kind of magical talking to Deryck and Nenya.
  Our role right now is to keep an eye out until he's done.
Sylus:  (nods)

  Shortly, Wembly emerged from his trance...

Wembly:  Well, that's that.
Peyton:  No teleporting here, for them?  No attack tonight?
Wembly:  I didn't get the impression that they were quite ready to do...
  whatever it is they're going to do.
Sylus:  What did they ask?  What did they want to know?
Wembly:  Everything, especially about the fortress itself.  I told her
  what we have seen, but I also made it pretty clear that we can't find
  out more without going deep undercover...a risky and expensive affair,
  to be sure.
Peyton:  (grinning)  You didn't...?
Wembly:  She offered us five thousand coins of gold each if we do that.
Peyton:  Woo hoo.
Sylus:  We can skim from both pots...this is excellent.
Peyton:  It definitely gives us options.
Wembly:  Yeah...but for now, we should get back to the city.
Sylus:  (nods, a gesture which is barely visible since he's practically
  one with the night)  Secrecy and the avoidance of suspicion are most
  critical, now that the game is afoot.
Peyton:  A dangerous game...but a rewarding one, if we play our cards

  They made their way back to Harshaak, merging in amidst a surprisingly
high amount of nighttime traffic.  They used a different gate than the
one they'd first entered the city by, and Peyton was fairly sure that
this tactic, coupled with the crowds, assured their relative anonymity.

Sylus:  This city never sleeps.
Wembly:  Maybe it's never tired.
Peyton:  I'm sure Adolphus will be asleep.  His snoring could wake the
Wembly:  Did you get him his own room again?
Peyton:  I got two rooms.  I trust that Rogar and Damien will be in one
  and Adolphus in the other.
Sylus:  He does smell, you know.
Peyton:  Oh, I know.

  It didn't take them long to return to the inn where they'd purchased
lodgings for the night.  Sleep was important, for there was a lot to do
tomorrow...the seeking of longer-term accomodations, the process of
becoming a citizen of the city, looking into whatever it was that was
being put together here.  Yes, there was a lot ahead of them, for as
Sylus had pointed out, the game was well and truly afoot.

next:      what Belphanior's up to
released:  9/10/01
notes:     The more I write, the more I see this arc as the big bang
  with which to end Epic IV of these writings.  All the elements are
  in place, and I've come to realize that I don't really care about
  the Greyhawk Wars, or the setting-up of them.  I have everything I
  need right here.

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