Chapter #977

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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       +
+   1991-2010 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                 +
+   Dervan           9th level human ranger                               +
+   Eyer            13th/16th level wood elven fighter/acrobat            +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger of Ehlonna                    +
+   Leila           12th/12th level female grey elven warrior/mage        +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid of Obad-Hai  +
+   Relmar          18th level human high priest of Pelor                 +
+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+   Weaver           8th level human ranger                               +
+   Date:           8/1/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          an undiscovered continent far to the east             +
+   Climate:        warm and humid                                        +
+   "What have you done?"                                                 +
+   "I chose."                                                            +
+                                              - from _Hellboy_ (2004)    +

                   CMLXXVII.  Change of Course

  What has come before:  many weeks ago, the massive ship _Odyssey_ set
sail from the Flanaess, venturing east into the Solnor Ocean.  After a
long and perilous voyage, the explorers encountered and sailed through
a colossal wall of magic-negating mist that stretched from the ocean's
surface all the way up into the clouds.  Beyond, they discovered a huge
landmass, completely surrounded and obscured by the strange barrier as
well as water that gradually destroyed the wooden planking of the ship.
This resulted in the crew being marooned, though fortunately with most
of their supplies intact.  While one group began constructing shelter
and fortifications and another group began analyzing the situation and
figuring out solutions, a third group set out to scout the island to
determine its size and other features.  This team of ten eventually made
their way to the immense mountain range that separated the western end
of the island from whatever lay beyond, to the east.  After befriending
a native warrior named T'Kar, they helped his tribe fend off an assault
from another, cannibalistic tribe.  The tables quickly turned, though,
as a much larger force of cannibals drove the adventurers up into the
mountains.  This running battle led them into a fissure in the side
of one peak, and eventually into a larger cavern with a massive metal
door whose operation was tied to a complex series of cables and pulleys
hidden within the wall.  As a last-ditch effort, these cables had been
severed, causing the huge portal to fall for the last time - and sealing
the ten explorers off from the cannibals, the western end of the island,
and the bulk of the marooned _Odyssey_ crew still on the beach.

  Over the past few days, the ten adventurers had thoroughly explored
the small dungeon complex on the eastern side of the now-sealed portal,
not that there was much to explore.  Just past the huge, fallen metal
slab was a 20' square chamber which continued as a spacious passage of
the same dimensions, curving gently to the right for a short distance
before straightening out.  The dust and cobwebs in this passage meant
that it hadn't been used in a long, long time.  Speaking of long, it
was:  an hour's walk separated the passage's two ends, suggesting that
the passage really did lead beneath/through the mountain range.  Its
far end was a flat stone wall, in which was set an old and rusted metal
door.  Beyond this was a small, heavily-overgrown ledge on the very side
of a mountain.  And after that, there was a great deal to explore.
  Far below the ledge, the base of this mountain leveled off into a
wide and lush valley that extended a long way, eventually opening into
a vast plain that stretched as far as the eye could see.  A massive lake
was visible in the distance, along with several rivers and streams; one
edge of this lake appeared to be a swamp which eventually became a great
forest.  Overall, this entire area was many leagues across, and ringed
on all sides by high, formidable mountain peaks - a huge natural basin
that teemed with wildlife.

Peyote:  (standing on the ledge surveying the scene below and beyond)
  It's like a paradise - a paradise lost.
Rillen:  Only if your idea of paradise includes gigantic, carnivorous

  This was a valid point.  When the adventurers had first emerged onto
the small shelf of rock, they had stared at the breathtakingly beautiful
scene below with wonder.  That wonder had turned to amazement, then awe,
and then fear as they realized that huge monsters roamed the area before
them.  Rillen and Songa - the only ones present who had been to the Isle
of the Ape  - recognized these beasts and what they represented.

Rillen:  Immense danger and a quick death for anyone slow or stupid
  enough to get anywhere near them.  Some are plant-eaters - typically
  the ones you see walking on all fours, with the larger central bodies
  and long necks.  However, even from here I can see some of the faster
  ones roaming around - the ones moving on their two back legs.  Those
  are mostly meat-eaters...the dangerous ones.
Peyote:  (looking around)  Who knew?  I mean, who could have known that
  the interior of this continent - the part _beyond_ the stub where we
  shipwrecked - would be so different?

  Indeed, it was different, and in several ways.  In addition to the
geographical layout of this region, the climate here was cooler than
that on the western peninsula they'd traveled through previously.  Also,
there were no signs of human life, at least none visible from the safety
of the ledge they now stood on.

Halbarad:  Which brings up an important point:  sooner or later, we're
  going to have to venture down there.
Songa:  I was just thinking that.  We'll run out of food and water if we
  remain here.
Dervan:  What about those big monsters down below?  Even from here, I can
  see that they stand twenty, thirty feet high.  We can't fight those,
  not without magic.
Leila:  (shakes her head)  True.
Relmar:  (glances at Rillen and Songa)  This is just my opinion, but it
  seems that we don't need to fight them - just to evade them.
Daffodil:  Is that possible?
Songa:  It is.  They are big, but they're also slow, and not very smart.
  If we're careful, and we plan well, we can survive repeated incursions
  into the area below.
Peyote:  Too bad we can't go back the way we came.
Weaver:  I fear that route is sealed to us, now.  Not to mention overrun
  with cannibals, on the other side.
Dervan:  We barely made it through alive...and not without losses.
Peyote:  Too bad about T'Kar.  That dude seemed okay to me.
Daffodil:  So what now?  Do we just venture forth into that area below,
  and survive as best as we're able?
Halbarad:  There are several aspects to this.  First, the great basin
  below us merits exploring.  We could use this cavern as our base of
  operations, making forays into the valley below, gradually expanding
  their range.  We might very well find a place down there to call our
  home, given time and effort.
Relmar:  Second, there remains the mystery of what the anti-magic barrier
  around this island is, who created it...and why.  Those answers, I'd
  think, lie ahead, rather than behind us.
Leila:  Third, we need to find a way to let Kiel, Og, and the others on
  the beach know what we've found.  If those cannibals surprise them and
  attack them...(she sets her jaw determinedly)  We must warn them.
Daffodil:  Impossible.  We're in a place surrounded by mountains.
Leila:  Which all look the same to me, and which we may eventually have
  to climb and pass through.  (she looks upward)  Given a ring of peaks
  holding us prisoner, I choose to tackle the one between us and what's
  behind us.
Songa:  Let me get this right:  you're going to climb this mountain and
  go _back_ the way we came?
Leila:  I have to try.  For the sake of all those on the beach, unaware
  of their peril.  Besides, I have nothing to offer here, not without my
Halbarad:  That's not true.  You're a fine warrior, who's slain countless
  foes with your blade.
Leila:  That may be, but my true power lies in my magic.  And that's the
  other thing that's been bothering me:  those on the beach will need my
  magic eventually, assuming we can get off this island and through that
  strange barrier.  And the sooner, the better, because for all we know,
  remaining on this island within the anti-magic field might permanently
  nullify magical ability.  I'd rather make a push to escape while we're
  still able.  (she looks upward again, at the mountain above)  Sending
  me out with this scouting party was a good idea when returning to the
  others was just a matter of a march through the wilderness...but now,
  I fear I'm more needed back there.
Songa:  Are you willing to climb this mountain - a dangerous undertaking
  for even myself or Halbarad - by yourself, and risk dying up there, all
Leila:  (nods)  I am.
Weaver:  (nods approvingly, and comments to Dervan)  She's a tough one.
Dervan:  Indeed.

  The elven warrior and archer, Eyer, surprised everyone then as he
stepped forward to stand by Leila's side.

Eyer:  I'll accompany her.  (he nods to Leila while addressing the group)
  I have experience in the climbing and navigation of mountains, and if
  there are unknown menaces up there, two swords will be better than one.
Halbarad:  (not pleased with the idea of losing another skilled warrior,
  one whose bow could be of great use in the dangerous area ahead)  This
Leila:  I've made up my mind.
Eyer:  As Leila said, it's a gamble of our lives - one, now two - versus
  the hundreds back at the beach with the shipwreck.  We have to try, or
  we wouldn't be heroes.
Relmar:  (nods)  How right you are.

  So it was that, despite the misgivings with this idea, Eyer and Leila
made preparations to climb the mountain above.  They bid the others

Relmar:  (clasps hands with Eyer)  Take care, old friend.  We shall meet
Eyer:  Count on it.

  With that, the pair of elves set out to conquer the peak above.  This
was a challenging task, though not impossible; the rocky face was steep
but far from vertical.  Leila was not surprised to find that Eyer had
plenty of rope, as well as the other necessary equipment.  Also to their
advantage were the conditions:  it was early in the day, and the sky was
clear, the sun bright.  This peak promised little in the way of cold or
ice at its higher reaches.  Although Leila had little experience with
mountaineering, she was physically and mentally capable, and a very quick
learner.  That evening's nightfall found them high up, nestled in a small
cave and dining on wildlife snared by Eyer.  Moving by day and resting by
night, they progressed, avoiding close calls on more than one occasion.
They also had to fight - two different times, packs of savage, wolf-like
creatures attacked them.  Only their years of fighting experience (plus
Eyer's skill with the longbow, plus a heavy measure of luck) saw them
make it through these battles alive.  Even then, they both bore wounds
from the beasts' fangs and claws.
  In the end, they succeeded in besting the mountain; three days after
departing, the pair of weary, wounded elves descended the western side
of the mountain.  Eyer noted that they were a goodly distance - half a
league or more - south of the mountainous pass they'd used before while
being chased by the cannibals.  From here, the journey back to the tip
of the landmass and their companions' encampment took a little over a
week.  They made much better time than before, since rather than scout
and explore, they were simply marching (and with a clear destination.)
It was still an arduous journey, however - one that a lot of people,
experience or willpower notwithstanding, would not have been able to
continue.  As before, in the mountains, Eyer kept the pace quick yet
efficient, helping Leila when she faltered or needed encouragement.
And, as each of them had done on many past occasions, they got through
this challenge.
  It was with tremendous relief that - almost two weeks after bidding
farewell to Halbarad, Rillen, and the others - Leila and Eyer spotted
the log palisade in the distance.  This barrier marked the location of
Kiel's main camp near the beach, and it had obviously come a long way
in recent weeks, for it was much larger than when the scouting party
left.  The defensive wall's base now consisted of thinner, pointed logs
and branches, aiming outward from the ground to discourage anyone from
approaching too closely.  The tops of the logs comprising the main wall
were pointed - well-sharpened, to deter climbers.  As they approached,
they saw that the wall now completely surrounded the camp area.  They
also couldn't help but note a complete lack of sentries...or anybody
else.  This was highly unusual, given that it was the middle of the day.

Eyer:  Uh-oh.
Leila:  Agreed.  I've got a bad feeling about this.

  There were no signs of breaching or other damage; the encampment's
main gate was shut and locked from the inside.  Eventually, they had to
climb the log palisade to enter the camp; Eyer did this easily, lowering
a rope down so Leila could join him.  Inside the wall, they neither saw
nor heard any signs of life.  A thorough search confirmed that the camp
contained nobody or nothing living - not a single person, not a single
farm animal.  The place was completely and utterly deserted.

Eyer:  Or abandoned.
Leila:  But why?  Did they leave?  Or were they attacked...defeated?  I
  see no signs of struggle, no blood, nothing.  If there was a battle,
  what could have possibly overcome a couple hundred people, without
  the use of magic, and so suddenly that no signs of struggle were left
Eyer:  I truly have no idea.  (he looks around wistfully)  What do you
  want to do now?  We can't really track them, since there are no signs
  of them departing - or being taken - outside the palisade.
Leila:  (shaking her head)  I'm not sure.
Eyer:  (spots something)  Look there.

  They made their way over to a small boat, about twenty feet long and
fashioned of the dark, grainy wood yielded by the trees in the jungle
east of the camp.  Within this boat's outer structure was a _second_
boat, smaller than the first and fashioned to nestle within the larger
one.  This second vessel was made of a different, more familiar wood:
that of the shipwrecked _Odyssey_ herself.

Eyer:  Brillant!
Leila:'s exactly what you suggested they build:  a boat of the
  native wood, which decays in the water beyond that anti-magic barrier.
  And within that boat, a second boat, of wood from the outside world,
  which is fine outside the barrier but decays within.
Eyer:  The larger boat will convey the smaller one to the barrier, then
  begin to decay...and the smaller one will be fine outside the barrier.
  How odd, though, that they only made it large enough for three or four
Leila:  Maybe there were time and labor considerations.  Something as
  intricate as this isn't easy to build.  And we've only been gone for
  a few weeks.  Maybe they built an earlier version and it had a problem
  of some kind, wasn't watertight and sunk, got swamped by heavy waves,
  something like that.  (she stares toward the ocean, which is blocked
  by the ever-present barrier of mists, reaching up to the sky itself)
Eyer:  Eh?
Leila:  Here's a crazy idea.  Well, probably not so crazy compared to
  everything we've been through lately.  Let's pack what we can and take
  this double-boat out...out there.  (she gestures toward the barrier)
  Let's row like hell and get as far away as we can from this cursed
  island, and hope that my magic comes back.  And assuming it does, I'll
  magically transport us back to civilization.
Eyer:  That sounds great, but what then?
Leila:  Then we'll explain what happened to those who backed the first
  expedition...convince them to send another one, to rescue...
Eyer:  Rescue who?  We don't even know if they're still alive or not.
  Nor where to look for them.  And we could bring back an army of wizards
  and priests, but it wouldn't matter, since they can't use their magic
Leila:  True, but if we had, say, a hundred skilled warriors, we'd be in
  much better shape than right now, with just two of us.
Eyer:  Point.
Leila:  I hate to flee, but it's time to regroup and re-think this.  It
  doesn't mean I'm giving up on Kiel, Og, or the others.

  They gathered as many supplies as the boat could hold - not an overly
difficult task since the camp's supplies were intact - and then moved
the unusual double vessel out of the walled camp and toward the surf,
using a series of round logs as rollers.

Eyer:  Before we put this thing in the water, is there anything we're
Leila:  We've got two sets of oars, one of each type of wood...we have
  plenty of food and water and rope and such...we checked both hulls to
  make sure they're sturdy and leak-free...I think we're as ready as we
  can ever be.

  With that, they set out, rowing the vessel away from the shore and out
toward the barrier of mist.  When they reached the latter, Eyer had to
do all the rowing, for Leila became nearly incapacitated while within
that barrier.  The elf bent his strong back and sinewy arms to the task,
and before he knew it, the boat had burst free of the mists.  Without
missing a beat, he readied the second paid of oars and discarded the
first, though not before snapping off the dry end of one of those made
from wood natural to the land within the barrier.

Eyer:  (pockets the piece of wood, figuring they may need it in the

  Even as he continued to row, steadily moving the vessel away from the
great barrier, Eyer felt a strange drag from the hull beneath him.  He
ignored it and kept pulling the oars, praying that his missing shipmates
designed the boat well, and driving it toward freedom with every stroke
of the oars.  Shortly, there was a strange wrenching sound, and the outer
hull broke free from the inner, its half-dozen pieces bobbing in the wake
of the smaller boat.  Staring at these remnants, Eyer thought that he
could see them decaying in the seawater.
  There was no time for that, however; he wanted to get the boat (and
Leila) as far away from the barrier as possible, as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, the inner boat's construction was sound, and it held up
just fine as Eyer rowed it further and further away from the barrier,
the lost continent, and their mysteries.

Leila:  (stirs, then sits up)
Eyer:  Welcome back.
Leila:  (looking around)  Are we...?  (she turns to regard the barrier
  of mists, several hundred feet behind them)  Whew.
Eyer:  How do you feel?  Is the magic returning?
Leila:  Not yet, but I feel better.  A whole lot better.
Eyer:  Good.  My job is to get you as far away possible.
Leila:  And I thank you.  That's three times you've helped me through
  things I wouldn't have been able to deal with on my own.  Once, in the
  mountains...a second time, marching through the jungle back toward the
  camp...and this third time, as I became too weak while traversing that
  magic-sapping barrier.
Eyer:  (smirks)  The conversation alone was well worth it.  You're quite
  a fascinating woman.
Leila:  (about to retort, she grins suddenly)
Eyer:  What?
Leila:  It's coming back.  (she snaps her fingers suddenly, and a small
  blue flame comes to life in her palm)  Slowly but surely, my magic is
  returning to me.  I'll soon be able to transport us back to Oerik...
  back to our home.

next:       Belphanior's latest plans and deeds
released:   7/16/10
notes:      Let be be clear:  I never should have had to write this
  particular story, nor did I ever intend to.  It became necessary due
  to a planning/continuity error I made.  When I was collecting powerful
  NPCs to be part of the great climactic battle in episode 975, Eyer was
  one who came to mind, as always.  So, with him in it, the story was
  written and published...and then it was pointed out to me that Eyer
  had been one of those stranded on the lost continent in episode 950.
  In other words, he was last seen in 7/580 C.Y. in a faraway place and
  with no apparent means of escape, then mysteriously reappeared prior
  to 2/581 C.Y. as if nothing had happened.
    A bad writer would have ignored this dilemma, perhaps, or found some
  thoroughly illogical way to write himself or herself out of it.  Since
  I've always tried to be a good writer, I opted to go with the solution
  that made the most sense:  simply show how Eyer got from point A to
  point B.  In the end, I figured out how to do this without having the
  other adventurers leave the adventure facing them.
    I've left out the part between them teleporting off of the boat and
  Eyer re-appearing with the group that went to fight the Sleepers, as
  I can possibly use that missing segment in the future.  For those who
  simply must know every detail, rest assured that the two of them did
  indeed return to civilized lands safely.

    So yes, Rillen and the others are technically still in trouble.  Or
  perhaps not in trouble.  What will become of them?  What is the power
  behind everything we've seen on the lost continent?  Perhaps someday
  we'll know, but one thing's for sure between now and then:  none of
  those characters will show up in the outside world the way Eyer did.

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