Chapter #813

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2004 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!                                          +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess of Obad-Hai          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger of Ehlonna                    +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid of Obad-Hai  +
+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+   Date:           3/1/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          Scant, capital of Onnwal                              +
+   Climate:        warm and clear                                        +
+   "Because it is not on the map doesn't mean it does not exist."        +
+                                 - from _Dracula:  Prince of Darkness_   +

                       DCCCXIII.  Odyssey

  The royal shipyards bustled with activity, as scores of sailors and
dockworkers hustled and bustled, occupied with the business of building
and repairing vessels of all sorts.  The pair of adventurers had been
given specific instructions, though, and they searched for a certain dock...

Rillen:  I can't believe we're actually going to do this.
Songa:  Sure you can.  We've talked at length about getting away from
  all the insanity of these lands and their people.
Rillen:  But we're headed for a whole different kind of insanity.  This
  voyage will take months...maybe a year.  We might run out of food...
  get accosted by afoul of a typhoon...
Songa:  Stop whining.  You sound like a little child.  (she frowns)  We
  can do this, or we can keep roaming and getting into trouble with
  morons who need the crap beat out of them.  This is a fresh idea and
  has a lot of potential.
Rillen:  (sighs)  I know, I know.  It's just that-

  His reply ceased abruptly as they rounded a large warehouse and beheld
the largest ship either of them had ever laid eyes on.

Songa:  Holy...
Rillen:  Wow.

  Rillen had been on the maiden voyage of the _Victory_, which had also
been built and departed from these same shipyards more than six years
ago.  At that time, he had been sure that the _Victory_ was by far the
biggest ship to ever sail the seas of Oerth.  Now, as he looked up at
the vessel docked in front of him, he realized the true extent of the
money and power involved in the endeavor that he and Songa had come here
to join.
  The _Victory_ had been just over a hundred and fifty feet from bow to
stern; the ship before them had to be twice that, and a hundred feet
wide.  Rillen's knowledge of contemporary ships wasn't extensive, but
he was sure that this new ship had six or seven through decks.  Multiple
mainmasts, thicker than most trees, held immense sails and lofty crows'
nests.  More than a dozen large ballistae, catapults, and other weapons
were visible on the main deck from where Rillen and Songa stood.

  Their visual examination of the gigantic ship was interrupted by a
familiar, peculiarly-inflected voice.

Peyote:  (dashing over)  Dude!

  The half-elf looked happy and healthy, as if he'd been taking it easy
for all these months.  He was muscular, yet lean - a warrior and a druid,
and quite accomplished at both professions.  They'd last seen him at the
ten-year party in Greyhawk, the previous fall.  Now, like then (and like
always) the half-elf was a hyperactive bundle of energy and enthusiasm.

Peyote:  How's it going, man?  (he claps Songa's hand too)  Damn, woman,
  you're still as strong as ever.
Songa:  Yep.
Rillen:  Is Daffodil here too-
Peyote:  You bet, brother.  She's talking with Velik about supplies...
  you do remember Velik, right?
Rillen:  Vaguely.  Wasn't he the one who designed the other ship?
Peyote:  The _Victory_, yeah.  (he holds his hands out, in the direction
  of the newer and larger ship)  And he's outdone himself again!  Behold
  the _Odyssey_, cousin to the _Victory_!
Songa:  Or successor.
Peyote:  (shrugs)  Could be.  This one's bigger, badder,,
  it'll be just like that quest for the runes.  Well, maybe not, since
  only you and me and Halbarad, from our old adventuring group, were both
  there and here.
Rillen:  Halbarad?  He's already here?
Peyote:  Sure thing.  He's supervising everything having to do with what
  goes on once we find land.
Songa:  Do you think we will?  Find land, I mean?
Peyote:  The one and only Oakly has portended it, and he gets his word
  from the big guy himself, Obad-Hai, so...yeah, there's land out there
  somewhere.  (he frowns)  'Course, we may have to sail for many long
  months to find it.
Rillen:  What's the course?
Peyote:  Well, I'm not the captain - I'll get to the captain and crew
  later - but basically, we'll sail south, into the Azure Sea...then cut
  across the Gulf of Densac and southeast, through the Tilva Strait and
  into the Oljatt Sea.  From there it's the Lordship of the Isles and the
  Lendore Isles, and then to the east and north...into the Solnor Ocean.
Rillen:  Sounds like things are well-planned.
Peyote:  Oh yeah.  There's too much at stake here - the need to explore,
  the cost of the ship and supplies, the lives of the crew and others on
  board, the prestige of the ship itself.  Yeah, every little detail has
  been thought out, rehashed, and changed until the most people are the
Rillen:  Speaking of which...who's actually paying for this expedition?
Peyote:  (rather seriously)  A secret consortium of backers.  No one
  really knows who, or if they do, they're not telling.  Some say it's
  a bunch of kings who want to know what's out there past the Solnor
  Ocean...others say it's merchants in search of new goods and routes...
  and still others think it's a bunch of high priests of various deities
  sponsoring a mission of friendship.  (he smirks)  Personally, I think
  it's likely a mix of all of those, and others too.
Songa:  That's a hell of a ship.
Peyote:  (nods proudly)  Everything, from the big stuff to the tiniest
  details, was done right.  The wood was cut in the winter, curved and
  clamped and steamed with the greatest of care.  Hell, there's actually
  a whole lot about that ship that's _special_...the waterproofing, the
  braces, the hull itself.  Don't tell anyone, but there's a thin sheet
  of metal inside the hull!
Rillen:  (trying to look impressed, as if he knows why this is secret
  information)  Wow.
Songa:  Is it true that the crew will be made up of all sorts of people
  with all sorts of occupations?
Peyote:  Right on, sister.  Besides the crew - sailors and warriors,
  all cross-trained to some extent to know and do the others' jobs - we
  have trackers, priests, magi, cartographers, seasoned explorers, and
  skilled craftsmen...smiths, tanners, masons, tailors, you name it.
Rillen:  And families?  I heard someone talk of that.
Peyote:  (nods)  Most have at least a spouse, if not some kids.
Songa:  (frowns sadly)
Peyote:  And before you point out that this trip's too rough for such
  folks, let me assure you that they've had a couple of months to think
  about it and back out if they want...and some have.  Those who didn't
  have been preparing themselves for the voyage.
Songa:  I see.
Peyote:  (beaming)  Trust me, my friends:  this is gonna be great!
Rillen:  (looking around)  So Halbarad's here...hmm.  How's he coping?
Peyote:  (looks confused)
Songa:  (helpfully)  He got messed up by a beholder and an explosion...?
Peyote:  Oh.  Oh yeah!  (he grins)  He's just fine.  Like he was saying
  that other time, there's pros and cons to his...condition.  Sure, no
  healing spells or items will work on him anymore - but neither will
  harmful magic.  And he's learning other ways to deal with wounds, like
  rare herbs and poultices of natural ingredients.
Songa:  I know a little of such things.  Many scorn them, but they work.
Peyote:  (nods, looking serious)  For Halbarad, they're the only thing
  that _does_ work.  As far as weapons and armor, those are essentially
  the same.  It's only those effects that would affect his actual body
  that don't work on him now.
Rillen:  So against powerful magical foes, he's really stronger?
Peyote:  Yeah, and against normal foes, he's got to rely on his natural
  speed, strength, and skill.  Weird, huh?
Songa:  Could be worse.

  They'd been approaching the ship as they talked; Rillen and Songa
could now see the magnificent vessel in detail, and it was even larger
and more impressive up close.

Rillen:  It's amazing.
Peyote:  And awesome too.
Songa:  I'm not sure what's more amazing:  the ship, or the fact that
  someone built it just for a single mission.
Peyote:  It's the best ship that money can buy...though it's more than
  money that motivates the crew.  You don't just get paid to sail to the
  edge of the world - you've got to want to.
Songa:  Some say the world is flat, and past its edge is an abyss.
Peyote:  Balderdash!  Numerous divinations and calculations have proven
Rillen:  Tell us about the crew.  Who's in charge?  (jokingly)  Anyone
  we know?
Peyote:  (chuckles)  Actually, yeah.  For the captain - the one who has
  to run the ship and its crew, and command their respect as well as
  their actions - it had to be someone experienced sailor,
  someone used to command, who can make hard decisions, and who can be
  entrusted to make the right ones given the purpose of this voyage.
  And a sterling record on previous, similar missions certainly didn't
  hurt.  Remember Kiel Morgan?
Songa:  Never heard of him.
Rillen:  I remember him.  Didn't we rescue him from savages that one
Peyote:  Err...yeah, but that was a strange and special case.  Besides
  that one time, Kiel has accomplished much...mapping the unknown,
  unearthing long-lost civilizations, finding lost treasures.  And he's
  an accomplished seaman too.
Rillen:  Makes sense.
Songa:  (looking doubtful)
Peyote:  The first mate, you also know from times past:  Ged's sister,
  Leila.  She was-
Rillen:  I remember.  She commanded the _Victory_ on the quest for the
  Water Rune.
Songa:  Ged had a sister?
Peyote:  That he did...he actually had six siblings.  Anyway, Leila's
  the second-in-command, and an accomplished wizard too.  Aside from
  those two, we've got several, well, thirds-in-command:  Halbarad, in
  charge of, in charge of druidic functions...the dwarf
  Og, in charge of the warriors-
Rillen:  (absentmindedly)  Og.
Songa:  Warriors?  I thought this was an exploratory voyage?
Peyote:  It is, but it's better to be safe.
Songa:  Oh, don't get me wrong - I prefer there to be warriors, and as
  many as possible.  I just didn't think anyone would have the sense to
  bring them.
Peyote:  Oh, they're coming along...more than a hundred of them.
Songa:  (nods approvingly)
Rillen:  Who else?
Peyote:  A dozen priests - of different religions to keep things evenly
  balanced, of course-
Songa:  Of course.
Peyote:  -and a dozen or so wizards, plus several each of all the major
  and necessary professions...alchemists, blacksmiths, cooks, and so on.
Rillen:  How will we feed all these people?
Peyote:  (winks)  The _Odyssey_ has vast cargo holds, which will all be
  full of food, water, and supplies.  A separate area of the ship will
  contain livestock.  And if all of that fails, the priests can always
  conjure up more food.
Songa:  (looks doubtful)
Peyote:  Plus, when we get there, ones such as I can always work to grow
  new food - vegetables and such.
Rillen:  (nods)  It is odd...that in times like these, someone wants to
  back a peace mission such as this.
Songa:  Well, if we find hostile life there - beasts, or savages - the
  mission won't be so peaceful after all.
Rillen:  True.  (he regards the ship)  It seems to be almost ready.
Peyote:  They're saying a week, tops, until we set sail.
Songa:  A week?  What are we supposed to do around here for a week?
Peyote:  Hell, do what I've been doing:  check it out, offer advice,
  make sure all seems to be in order.  Gotta run, now - have fun!  (he
  heads back toward the ship)
Rillen:  Hmm.
Songa:  (rather crossly)  Trapped in a damned city, for a week.
Rillen:  It could be worse.  At least it's a coastal city.
Songa:  Mm.

  Both warriors couldn't shake the feeling that there was something odd
about this voyage...

Rillen:  I still don't understand why or how this voyage is happening,
  not with so many nations in unheaval right now.
Songa:  (knowing that Rillen refers mainly to the chaos in the northern
  lands, of which they have both kept well-informed)  Some people have
  more money than sense, I guess.
Rillen:  And also, you'd think that this big ship- (he gestures to the
  _Odyssey_ behind them) -would warrant an entire fleet of escorts...
  in case of attack.
Songa:  No doubting someone will attack it at some point.  As for lack
  of escorts, maybe that's why we're here, and Peyote, and Halbarad,
  and wizards and priests.
Rillen:  All the troublemakers on one ship.  Hah.
Songa:  We're not troublemakers.  Besides, the way I see it, our job is
  to safeguard those families who will take this voyage with us.
Rillen:  Until we find the new land.
Songa:  (nods)  That's why we're doing this, after all.  To start over,
  far away from all the war and chaos that's been happening here, and
  also far from civilized lands and their weak ways.

  They decided to find lodgings and explore the city a bit; this kept
them busy for about two days.  After that, they got bored and ended up
near or on the great ship itself, where Peyote soon got them introduced
to all the major people involved.  Work proceeded at a furious pace,
with people laboring day and night to get the vessel ready.  The days
crept by, and crept by...and so it was a great relief to Rillen and
Songa when they finally found themselves in the captain's stateroom on
the eve of the ship's departure.  As Peyote had said, there were only
a handful of high-ranking or special people.  Kiel Morgan, explorer and
adventurer, was the captain.  His first mate, Leila, was also Ged's
older sister, and a wizard as well; she represented the interests of
the dozen magi on board.  The dwarf Og, veteran of countless battles,
was in charge of the force of warriors that would be needed for both
sea-borne battle or land-based security.  Halbarad was the leader of the
half-dozen rangers on the voyage, in charge of all scouting and foraging
once dry land was found.  The high priest Relmar, known to Rillen and
friends from previous meetings, spoke for the half-dozen priests on
board; he wasn't the only one of that group present, though.  The elf
Eyer, a skilled warrior, thief, and archer without peer, had also joined
this expedition.  The ship's sage (and also astrologer) was Validor, a
rather spry older man with a flowing white beard.  Rounding out the
"unusual" people assembled in Kiel's cabin were Rillen and Songa, of
course, as well as Peyote and Daffodil, who represented the druidic

Kiel Morgan:  (raises his glass to the ten others)  This is probably
  the greatest voyage of exploration ever conceived.  We have at our
  disposal the greatest ship ever built, to sail across an ocean that
  has never been crossed, just to see what's on the far side.  We bring
  not only explorers, but warriors, craftsmen...and families.  In our
  leaving, we flee nothing and we have no timeline.  (he regards them
  all)  However...the way will be dangerous, fraught with peril at every
  turn and every day.  There are many who would rather this expedition
  fail utterly, and would like nothing better than for this ship and
  all on board to sink into the depths and be gone forever.
Rillen:  (whispers to Songa)  That will never happen.

next:      the _Odyssey_ gets underway
released:  3/26/04
notes:     As stated, the _Odyssey_ is a supersized galleon, 300' long
  and 100' wide.  By comparison, the _Victory_ was 150' x 40' or so.
  From real life, here are some larger, more modern vessels:
    Bismarck (German dreadnought) = 251 m x 36 m
    Titanic (luxury liner) = 924 ft
    Wisconsin (U.S. battleship) = 887 ft x 108 ft
  I used these and others in my research to choose the dimensions of
  the new ship.  I wanted it to be unique among ships of roughly the
  same level of civilization and technology.
    On another note...if this plotline seems a little disjointed or out
  of focus, remember that prior to episode 800, I truly intended to quit
  writing.  Everything I did in those last dozen episodes was meant to
  bring closure to the series and the characters, so some of the things
  I set up were more exciting in theory that they are now in practice.
  There just isn't that much more for these characters to do in their
  world, especially now that most of them are in their thirties and of
  family-creating age...and that is exactly why I tried to quit at 800.
  I could come up with plotlines all day, but they'd make less sense as
  I wrote them, and there's been too much magic and high-level adventure
    I'm not ready to stop just yet, but the well is running dry as time
  goes on.  I am getting the distinct feeling that it's time for a new
  generation of stories, in a new setting with new characters.

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