Chapter #916

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                                   +   +
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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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       +
+   1991-2005 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 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                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Eyer            13th/16th level wood elven fighter/acrobat            +
+   Leila           12th/12th level female grey elven warrior/mage        +
+   Kiel Morgan     14th level human warrior                              +
+   Og              16th level dwarven warrior                            +
+   Relmar          18th level human high priest of Pelor                 +
+   Thorlok         11th level human war-mage                             +
+   Validor         11th level human wizard (sage/astrologer)             +
+   Date:           7/14/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           early evening                                         +
+   Place:          an undiscovered continent far to the east             +
+   Climate:        cool                                                  +
+   "The only way out is through."                                        +
+                                               - from _Swamp Thing_      +

                    CMXVI.  Realities and Realizations

  With the short-term issues - water, security, and the construction of
a permanent camp - solved or underway, the shipwrecked adventurers have
turned their attention to other matters...

Halbarad:  I want to mount a small expedition into the jungle...further
  into the jungle.
Kiel:  How much further?
Halbarad:  Much.  We've got mysteries, and we need answers.  We've found
  old tracks - almost certainly made by humans or humanoids - but none
  were recent, and what we did find didn't lead anywhere.
Kiel:  (puts his hands up)  You'll hear no argument from me, Halbarad.
  I've done my fair share of exploring, as you know, so I understand.
Halbarad:  This isn't about the urge to explore - it's about the need.
  We have to learn more about this landmass anyway, so it makes sense to
  do that at the same time we search for other answers.
Kiel:  Indeed.  Answers are in short supply these days.

  The captain of the _Odyssey_ spoke the truth.  For several days, the
now-powerless spellcasters from the ship had been working on the dual
problems of the ocean water and the strange, distant barrier.  The wood
from this continent had proven resistant to the decaying properties of
the water, so two small boats had been built (with more to come later.)
Various parties had used these crude vessels to venture out to the anti-
magic wall (and through it, in the case of one boat of non-spellcasters)
but there had been a major problem.  Apparently, in a bizarre parallel
to previous findings, wood native to the continent decayed when exposed
to _normal_ saltwater.  One of the small boats made it through the huge
barrier, only to begin coming apart just outside.  Most of its occupants
were able to swim back through the barrier to the other boat, though two
crewmen were lost in the chaos.  Searching for them would have meant
the sinking of the second boat and the probable drowning of everyone
else, and thus it was a sad group who returned from the first venture
made in boats built on the island.

Leila:  (sighs)  The gods must truly be laughing at us.
Relmar:  Someone is, that's for sure.  (he wonders about this cruel
  twist of fate)
Kiel:  Well, that's that.  We're not going to be able to escape in any
  boat we build here.
Validor:  Not unless we think of something.  Trust me, we're working on
  the problem now.
Eyer:  Why not just build one boat from our "outside" wood, and put it
  inside a larger boat built from "inside" wood?  Then the larger boat
  could make it through the barrier, and the smaller boat could be put
  into the water, and everything would be okay.
Kiel:  Except that no small boat is going to be able to make it all the
  way home...and building a larger one as well as the smaller one will
  take some time.
Leila:  Anything we successfully float out beyond the barrier won't have
  to make it home, but only a certain distance past the barrier.  Then,
  any spellcaster on board would conceivably regain use of their magic-
Relmar:  Which would allow them to escape or call for help or whatever.
Kiel:  Brilliant!  We'll begin work on the necessary vessels shortly.
Validor:  Now as for the water and its wood-eating property...I wish we
  could tell you exactly _why_ this happens, but we can't.  We'd need
  some magic to delve into this further.  We have determined that it's
  a direct-contact sort of thing, meaning thicker pieces of wood take
  longer to decay.  We've also tried immersing samples of almost a dozen
  types of wood in the ocean water; every single one was eaten away.
  There seems to be no one wood that's more or less resistant to this
  effect, either.
Kiel:  Good work.  Keep at it, in case you're able to find something
  new...but for now, we'll proceed under the assumption that all wood
  from outside this landmass will decay near it, and all wood from here
  will decay away from it.
Halbarad:  I'm going to go ahead and start organizing the major inland
Kiel:  (nods)  How many, and who?
Halbarad:  Myself, Songa and Rillen, and maybe one or two of the other
  rangers.  The rest, of course, will remain closer, to continue their
  scouting.  The new expedition will head due east, in the direction of
  those distant mountains we've been able to see on clear mornings.
Peyote:  I'm going on this trip, dude.
Halbarad:  You are?
Kiel:  Is that wise?  There's so much work to be done here with the
  gardening, and-
Peyote:  (waves one hand)  Nah.  We've started the planting and trained
  a whole bunch of people.  They can carry on fine without us.
Daffodil:  Not to mention that having a couple of druids - even without
  spells or divine contact - will help when it comes to identifying
  plants and their properties, woodlore, and so forth.
Halbarad:  That makes sense.
Leila:  I'm going too.
Kiel:  (frowns)  Not a good idea.  You're a wizard-
Leila:  I'm a warrior too, and I can take care of myself.  There's no
  real need for me here, not with the ship destroyed.  You're leading
  the camp, and it doesn't need a second-in-command.
Kiel:  (knowing better than to try to talk the determined young elf out
  of anything she's intent on doing, he sighs)  Very well.  Does anyone
  else feel the need to accompany Halbarad?
Eyer:  I'll go.  There's not much more I can do around here anyway, and
  I've also got plenty of experience in forests and jungles.  Plus, my
  bow will come in handy when we do find game.
Rillen:  My bow works just fine, too.
Halbarad:  As does mine.
Eyer:  (smirks)  Well, when we find something to shoot at, we'll just
  have to have a contest, won't we?
Kiel:  Enough of that - this is serious business.
Leila:  And in that respect, we also have to consider that we may get
  far enough inland to escape the magic-canceling effect, in which case
  we definitely need to have a priest, as well as a wizard, in the group.
Relmar:  I was just thinking the same thing.
Kiel:  Impossible.  You're the leader of the dozen priests for this
Relmar:  (smiles)  And they're all quite competent on their own, thank
  you.  Without our magic, it's sometimes difficult to keep the faith...
  but they will manage just fine.  (he sets his jaw)  I wish to go.
Kiel:  (turns to Halbarad, resigned)  Well, it looks like you'll have a
  diverse group for your expedition.
Halbarad:  (looking around at the other seven who will be going with
  him, he nods approvingly)  Let's hope we don't end up needing it.

next:      the group sets out
released:  4/21/06
notes:     It's time to split this arc's protagonists into two groups.
  One (with most of the named characters) will head inland on a mission
  to explore the unknown and perhaps find animals or people.  The other
  sub-group (with the few other named individuals, plus the several
  hundred anonymous crew and colonists) will remain at the camp and keep
  busy expanding and fortifying it for the winter ahead.

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