Chapter #217

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                                +
                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +
                                +

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells,    +
+  and other terms used in these stories are the property of  +
+  TSR, Inc.  However, this does not mean that TSR in any     +
+  way endorses or authorizes their use, and any such items   +
+  contained within these stories should not be considered    +
+  representative of TSR in any way, shape, or form.          +
+    Due to the nature of the Internet, these stories have    +
+  been widely available since 1991.  I have given them to    +
+  the world freely, and have never intended to market them   +
+  or in any way make money.  However, due to TSR, Inc.'s     +
+  copyright restrictions, old episodes of the Adventurers    +
+  are no longer being archived on any ftp site anywhere.     +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The player characters contained in these writings are    +
+  copyright 1994 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                            tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   THE PARTY (or more accurately, a fragment of it):         +
+                                                             +
+   Belphanior    13th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Rillen        17th level human warrior                (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    7/11/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    early evening                                    +
+   Place:   the Barrens, northwest of the Duchy of Tenh      +
+   Climate: chilly                                           +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "I will take you places you've never been.  I will show   +
+    you things that you have never seen and I will see the   +
+    life run out of you."                                    +
+                             - Eva/Alma, from _Ghost Story_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                  CCXVII.  A Small Town...





  Belphanior, Rillen, and the wispy thing, along with their
newfound companion, the ranger Garn, have ridden northward
from the Riftcanyon for a week.  After passing between the
Bandit Kingdoms and the Duchy of Tenh, and skirting the
western edges of the Bluff Hills, they have recently come
into the area inhabited by the Rovers of the Barrens.

Garn:  These are wild lands, and wild people.
Rillen:  (scanning the bleak terrain)  Nomads?
Garn:  Yup.  They used to be able to summon a more unified
  force, but after the battle of Opicm, any hope of a major
  alliance this decade was smashed.  Along with a good many
  of the Rovers, I might add...
Belphanior:  That's good.  We're less likely to encounter
  a large group of them.  Of course, that's what my heavy-
  duty spells are for, really...
Garn:  (looks reassured)  Aye.  Only a few clans, each made
  up of a few small tribes, remain these days.  Times are
  changing...
Rillen:  Indeed.
Belphanior:  That's what times do.

  They continued to head northward, and later that day,
they got their first taste of the Rovers themselves.  It
was a good thing that Belphanior had the spell of Mass
Suggestion, though...

Belphanior:  You really should go back the way you came.
  It also wouldn't be good at all if you told anyone else
  that you saw us.
nomads:  (about a dozen of them, they mill about, pondering
  this valuable advice)  Hmm, yeah...he's got a point...it
  really isn't _that_ important, wherever we were going...
nomad leader:  (his mind rebels somewhat)  But-
Belphanior:  (stares the fellow down, using his red eye's
  suggestion power as well)  You were saying?
nomad leader:  Aie!  Yes, your point is well-taken, good
  fellow.  We were just leaving.  (he signals to his men,
  and the whole band departs hastily)
Garn:  (loosens his grip on his axe)  Whew.
Rillen:  I think Alindyar has that spell too.
Belphanior:  Bah.  I bet he can't cast it the way _I_ can.
Garn:  I'm just glad we didn't have to fight all of those
  warriors.  They're pretty tough, you know.
Belphanior:  Maybe so.  But they're gone for now.  Hmm,
  maybe I should have suggested that they leave any gold
  they were carrying with us.

  They continued northward, stopping only for brief times,
mostly to let the horses eat and rest.  The land they were
riding across was mostly low plains, with occasional areas
of rocky, hilly terrain.  For whatever reason, no more of
the nomadic Rovers were encountered, and dusk found the
adventurers completing their crossing of a misty valley.
A few minutes later, they saw a small village ahead...

Belphanior:  Look there!
Garn:  Ah.  Warm beds to sleep in tonight...
Rillen:  That would be a welcome change.  (all three of
  them listen to a wolf howl, somewhere in the surrounding
  wilderness)
Garn:  Welcome, indeed.  I'm not sure I'd want to be out
  here at night.
Belphanior:  For once, I agree.  There's something...well,
  sinister about these plains.  I can almost feel it.
Rillen:  Well, I can't.  But let's get to the town all
  the same.  It grows dark.

  They rode down a gentle slope, toward the town, and in
about five minutes they were entering it.  The place was
fairly small, as towns went; it appeared to have only a
single inn, and perhaps a dozen small shops.  A smithy
and a furrier were readily visible, and down the street a
bit was a leatherworker's shop, next to a general store.
A few people walked the streets at this semi-late hour,
and a few of those few glanced at the party curiously,
but no one said anything to them.
  The trio tied their horses to a post outside the inn
and entered, pushing the swinging doors open.  Inside was
a spacious dining area, with numerous tables, only some
of which were occupied.  Choosing one near a corner (old
habits die hard), they sat down and waited to order their
dinner.  Presently, a young lass walked over to attend to
that detail.  She didn't appear to be the typical serving
wench, and Belphanior figured her for the innkeeper's
daughter or something.

lass:  Hi there, weary travelers!  Hungry?
Garn:  Famished.
Rillen:  Might you have any roast lamb?
lass:  Aye, that we do.  Shall I bring a leg or two?
Belphanior:  Better bring the whole lamb.
Garn:  Mmm...
lass:  Got it.  How about some hot bread and soup to go
  with that?
Rillen:  Sounds good.
Belphanior:  And some ale.  Three large glasses, if you
  please.
lass:  Coming right up.
wispy thing:  (currently hiding out in a candle holder on
  a nearby shelf) Pss?

  As they waited, the three noticed certain details about
the tavern.  for one thing, all the people in it - town
residents, no doubt - seemed quiet and fearful.  In fact,
a number of them had slipped out after the trio entered.
Another unusual detail was the plethora of holy signs and
symbols worn about the necks of everyone in sight.  None
of the three adventurers were exactly theological experts,
but it was obvious that at least a dozen unrelated deities
were represented in the tavern alone.  Come to think of it,
the few townspeople that they'd seen while riding into
town had also been displaying holy symbols.  There were a
number of such devices hung on the walls of the inn, as
well.  Even now, the bartender straightened one of the
symbols that had tilted to one side.

Belphanior:  Geez...it's as if these people are living
  their lives in fear.
Rillen:  But...fear of what?
Garn:  (to the lass, who has returned with drinks and
  bread)  Say, what's the occasion?
lass:  Pardon?
Garn:  What religious holiday is being observed here?
  (he gestures to all the holy paraphernalia)
lass:  Oh!  (she almost drops her serving tray)  Nothing.
  Nothing is being observed.  It just pays to be cautious
  in these parts.
Belphanior:  Why?
lass:  (gone to another table)
Rillen:  Ah, the plot thickens.
Garn:  You know...come to think of it, I don't even know
  what town this is.  It's not on any map I've ever seen
  or owned.

  Shortly, their food arrived, and all unusual lines of
questioning ceased in favor of the hearty repast.  What-
ever their behavior, the tavern's staff knew how to cook,
and the meal was welcome indeed.  A good hour later, the
group inquired about rooms for the night.

lass:  ...Sure, we've got rooms.  Only three, to be
  exact.  A good many travelers have come into town in
  the last few days, or else today.
Belphanior:  Only three rooms left...what a coincidence...
Garn:  No kidding.
lass:  That'll be-
Rillen:  (hands her a small pouch of gold)  See that the
  horses are well-tended to, please.  We'll be staying
  just tonight.
lass:  Err...you got it.  (she scampers off)

  They cleaned their plates, and retrieved their saddle-
bags and equipment before heading upstairs.  The rooms
were clean, neat, and cozy, and each had a small fireplace
and two basins (one full of hot water, the other full of
warm water) ready.  the three companions bid one another
good night, and retired for the evening.



Rillen:  (in his room, he bars the door, stokes the fire,
  and bathes himself)

Garn:  (in _his_ room, he unpacks his equipment and goes
  to sleep in no time at all)

Belphanior:  (in his own room, he looks out the window,
  noting with interest the full moon in the sky)  Hmm.
  (the elf lies down on the bed, stretching his aching
  muscles, and begins looking over his spellbook)
wispy thing:  (hovering in front of the fire)  Sbbbbth.



  An indeterminate amount of time later, as dark clouds
drifted by the full moon, and the mists crept into the town
from the surrounding lowlands, the silence of the night was
broken by a bloodcurdling scream.  High-pitched, and almost
certainly uttered by a woman, the cry came from some nearby
street...very nearby.  However, it died abruptly after only
a couple of seconds...

Belphanior:  (bolts into the hallway)  What the hell was
  that?!?





next time :  answers...?

notes     :  It's Halloween-time, folks.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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