Chapter #221

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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) +
+                                                             +
+   Otto, a dwarf                                (guest star) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    7/14/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    afternoon                                        +
+   Place:   the northern reaches of the Barrens              +
+   Climate: cool                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards   +
+    speaks according to his actions."                        +
+                                                - Confucius  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                  CCXXI.  The Showdown





  After dispatching a group of bandits who were spoiling for
a fight, Belphanior, Rillen, and the cynical dwarf Otto are
lingering about town, against the advice of a bartender,
numerous patrons in his tavern, and, generally, most of the
other people in town.

fellow:  I wouldn't stay here if I were you.
Belphanior:  Well, you're not.
other fellow:  They're not your problem, really.
Rillen:  They are now - we _made_ them our problem.
first fellow:  Oh.
Belphanior:  Say, do these bandits terrorize your town on a
  regular basis?
other fellow:  Well...err...yes.
Otto:  I knew it!
first fellow:  But you don't have to mix up in-
Rillen:  Of course we do.
Belphanior:  (cynically)  We're heroes.  That's what we do.
other fellow:  I heard that the ones you didn't kill ran
  away, to bring the others...
Rillen:  Fifty bandits?
Otto:  (considering)  Maybe you could wipe most of 'em out
  with your magic.  Then we could deal with the survivors.
Belphanior:  Maybe.
Rillen:  Well, we'd better get ready to do _something_.
Otto:  I could get on top of some building and throw oil at
  them as they rode by.
Rillen:  Sounds good.
Otto:  (counting oil flasks)  Hmm, I'll need more than this.
  (he glances at a supply shop)  Wonder if they'd be willing
  to donate...?
Belphanior:  Well, we have one big advantage.
Rillen:  Superior skill?
Belphanior:  Well, that too.  But I'm actually referring to
  the fact that they don't know I'm a wizard...
Otto:  Ah, yes...there is that.

  For the next few hours, they did a bit of preparation.
Rillen located the tallest building in the city, the church
tower, and stashed a quiver of arrows there.

abbot:  But this is a place of worship!
Rillen:  This is no time for religion.  Get out of my way.
abbot:  But-
Rillen:  You should give us your blessing for this.  No
  pun intended.
abbot:  (stands there, gaping)
Rillen:  (climbs up the tower stairs, disregarding the
  fellow)  Hmm, I'd better put some more arrows up there.

  Atop another building, one closer to where the main road
led into town, Otto set up camp.  The dwarf stood a dozen
flasks of oil up, all in a row.

Otto:  (mumbling to himself)  For maximum throwing ease...

  Next to the bottles, he carefully laid down his light
crossbow, and then prepared some rather special bolts.

Otto:  (whistling as he dips various bolts' heads into small
  jars that he has set out in front of him)  Tweedledee...

  At the town entrance, Belphanior kept a close lookout for
approaching riders.  This was primarily because he didn't
trust any of the villagers to do it for him.  To be sure,
they reminded him of docile sheep, the kind that just stood
around waiting for the wolf to show up.

wispy thing:  Aaaaarp?
Belphanior:  Sure, whatever you say.
wispy thing:  (flies up into the air, and then its eyes
  widen)  Spaaaa!  (it flies back down)  Spaaaa!
Belphanior:  What's that...?  (he peers at the horizon, and
  presently notes some dust trails)  Whoa.  Looks like, oh,
  about...fifty riders.  Imagine that.
wispy thing:  (nods its assent)  Yrrrrrp!

  The elf quickly cast a few spells on himself, then flew
up over the town, followed by the wisp.

Rillen:  (looking up, he waves)  What news?
Belphanior:  We've got riders approaching fast...about ten
  minutes' ride.
wispy thing:  Yrrp.
Rillen:  (test-pulls his bowstring)  Ready.
Belphanior:  Okay.  (he flies toward Otto's building)
Otto:  Hey!
Belphanior:  It's time.
Otto:  I'm ready.  What're you up to?
Belphanior:  I'm going to go out there and...talk with them.
  Just to be sure they're bad guys and we can fight them and
  all that.
Otto:  (muttering)  Not that we need an excuse...so, how
  will we know when you've...talked with them?
Belphanior:  You'll know.

  Belphanior sailed outside the town entrance, then landed,
and walked out a bit, toward the bandits.  It wasn't too
long before they saw him, and approached cautiously.  Well,
not too cautiously...

bandit leader:  (rides forth)  Ho, there, fellow.
other bandit:  Look, it's an elf.
Belphanior:  I'm a "he", not an "it".
bandit leader:  Whatever you are, why are you standing in
  the road to our plunder-hole there?  Shall we kill you
  before-
random bandit:  (one hand bandaged, he steps forth)  Hey!
  That's one of 'em!  His little friend stabbed me in the
  hand!  That's them!
Belphanior:  (throws back his hood)  Recognize me, eh?
bandit leader:  Elf, you picked the wrong town to be in, at
  the wrong time.
Belphanior:  Funny, I was just about to tell you the same
  thing.
bandit leader:  I have fifty men here to back up my point.
  What do you have?  Two, I heard...
random bandits:  (laughing and grasping their sword hilts)
Belphanior:  Two, you heard?  Well, hear this!  (he draws in
  his breath, and utters his Shout spell)

  A tremendous yell issued forth from the elf's mouth, and
numerous bandits fell to the ground, clutching their heads.
Some of these didn't get up, and blood trickled from their
ears.  Small charms and bottles on the various bandits'
persons shattered to bits, spraying glass and cheap stone
around.

Belphanior:  (allows himself the slightest smile)  See?
wispy thing:  Brrp!
bandit leader:  (rubbing his ears)  You'll die for that!
Belphanior:  Maybe I'll die, but not by the hand of ones
  such as you.  (he flies backwards, toward the town)  I
  warn you now - any who come into that town shall die!
bandits:  (those who have recovered, or who weren't in the
  main effect of the Shout, they begin firing arrows and
  bolts at the airborne elf, yelling all the while)
Belphanior:  (laughing as the missiles bounce off of his
  Stoneskin, he recedes into the distance)

  Shortly, Belphanior flew through the town gates, passing
Otto and then Rillen, on their rooftops.

Otto:  Good show out there!  I heard it from here.
Belphanior:  (chuckling)  Think they know I'm a wizard now?
Rillen:  (nocks his first arrow)  Here they come...
Otto:  (lights a small candle and places it on the rooftop
  near the various missiles he has arrayed)
Belphanior:  (flies deeper into town)  I'll be around.
wispy thing:  (sails after the elf)  Yrrrrp!

  As the surviving bandits (about thirty-five, by Otto's
count) charged into town, the dwarf began grabbing flasks
of oil, lighting them on the candle, and hurling them down
among the bandits.  Due to his excellent position and his
also-excellent throwing ability, all of the missiles were
pretty much on target; those that didn't explode in some
bandit's face blew up amidst several of the foes, spraying
flaming oil everywhere.  It wasn't long before some of the
horses, panicked by the fire, rebelled against the whole
business, throwing off their riders and galloping away in
fear.
  As the bandits milled about in chaos, some riding after
Belphanior, others simply burning in place, Otto grabbed
up the first of his special crossbow bolts.

  Meanwhile, Rillen took aim at the first of the bandits
to pass Otto's ambush point.

bandit:  (knocked out of the saddle, twin arrows protruding
  from his armored chest)  Urgh!
other bandits:  (looking around in terror)
Rillen:  (nocks another sheaf arrow)
random bandit:  (aiming his crossbow at rooftops)  Where
  are they?  If I can see 'em, I can shoot 'em...
other bandit:  You sure?
first bandit:  I can put a bolt through a bird at fifty-
  Ghurk!  (he falls, twin arrows sticking from his back)
other bandit:  Oh shit!
bandit leader:  (rides up)  What's going on?
bandit:  Ambush!  Archers!
bandit leader:  Figures...(he surveys his remaining troops)
  Okay, get up to those building-tops.  Find the archers,
  and kill them!
bandits:  (some hasten to obey, and begin kicking down doors
  of nearby buildings)
bandit leader:  (rides further into town with the rest of
  his men)  Let's go find that elf!

  Back at the town entrance, Otto was having a field day...

Otto:  (using the candle, he ignites a bolt dipped in red
  syrup, and quickly nocks and fires it)  Banzai!
bandit:  (reels as the flaming bolt imbeds itself in his
  chest, actually getting blazing jelly inside his armor
  and ribcage)  AAAAAIEEEEEE!  (he falls from his horse and
  runs around...for a short time)
Otto:  (prepares a bolt dipped in black jelly)
large bandit:  (a sergeant, he spots the dwarf atop the
  building)  There he is!  (he points to Otto)  Shoot him!
Otto:  (fires his bolt at the sergeant, hitting him in the
  leg)
bandit sergeant:  Hah!  Aim for the head next time!
Otto:  (muttering)  Doesn't matter...
bandit sergeant:  (suddenly keels over, dead)
bandits:  Aie!  Poison!  (some flee for cover, while others
  fire arrows and bolts at the dwarf)
Otto:  (cursing, he ducks behind the short parapet of his
  building's roof as missiles fly everywhere)

  Meanwhile, the bandit leader and those of his men who had
followed him were in the town's center, looking around.

bandit leader:  Where'd he go?
bandit:  Dunno.
other bandit:  Maybe he flew away.
bandit leader:  I don't think so...well, we'll tear apart
  every single house in this damned town until we find him.
  Start there.  (he points to a small hut)  Kill anyone who
  gets in your way.
bandits:  (move to obey)
Belphanior:  (suddenly appears in the air directly above the
  bandits)  Guess what?
bandit leader:  (looks up)  You!  What...?
wispy thing:  (hovering nearby, it grins toothily at the
  bandit leader)  Nrrrp...
Belphanior:  (finishes casting his Cone of Cold, and the icy
  blast blows down into the group)

  Ice and snow flew rampant, and the frightened villagers
hiding in their homes and shops could feel the cold from the
spell, even through their walls.  A few moments later, when
the dust (frost) had cleared, every bandit who had ridden
into the town square lay dead, frozen to death.

Belphanior:  (lands)  How I love invisibility...it's so
  very useful for arranging ambushes.  (he surveys his
  carnage, pleased)
villager:  (approaches fearfully)  Wh-what will we do with
  the bodies?
Belphanior:  You could eat them, I suppose...(he stares at
  the fellow, his red eye glowing)
fellow:  Aie!  (he runs away)
Belphanior:  A little cannibal humor there...obviously
  unappreciated...

  The elf flew back, toward the rooftop positions of Rillen
and Otto.  He found the former busy tossing bodies from his
rooftop, while the latter was emptying the pockets of the
four corpses which now shared the rooftop with him.

Otto:  (pauses to check the bloodflow from an arrow wound
  in his leg)  Hmph.
Belphanior:  Hurt?
Otto:  Nah.
Rillen:  (kicks another body off the ledge)  Time for you
  to drop off.
Belphanior:  Are you injured?
Rillen:  Not me.  These dolts gave me a decent workout...
  but I managed to avoid getting hurt.
Belphanior:  What were they doing on the rooftops?
Otto:  Well, once they saw us, and figured out that we were
  alone at our sniping-posts, they thought they could charge
  right on up and dispatch us.
Rillen:  They thought wrongly, of course.
Belphanior:  Looks that way...
Otto:  (grabs a gutter-pipe and slides down to street level)
  I've got their loot...(he sets a square of cloth on the
  ground, and dumps a pile of coins, gems, and jewelry onto
  it)  Have a look.  I left the bodies on the roof.
Rillen:  (wondering why he even bothered to push his foes'
  bodies off the rooftop)
Otto:  Let 'em rot, I say!  If these townspeople want their
  trash taken out, let _them_ do it!  (he glances toward
  the town square)  Say, are there any bodies that way?
  Intact bodies, I mean?
Belphanior:  Yeah.  They're kinda in a deep-freeze right
  now, but you can go see what you can find.
Otto:  Yep.  (he dashes away, then stops)  Oh, also, we
  should round up their horses, so we can sell 'em and get
  that money too.  (he runs off, limping slightly from his
  leg wound)
Rillen:  Interesting idea.
Belphanior:  Yeah...I like the way he thinks.

  Within the hour, they had rested, bound wounds, sold some
of the loot (and all of the horses) to the various shops in
town, and re-stocked their road supplies.

Otto:  We should pick up a mule too, to carry some extra
  supplies.
Rillen:  We may need them, where we're going.
Belphanior:  (glancing at Otto's leg wound, which is bound
  but has stopped bleeding)  How's the leg?
Otto:  Fine, thanks.  I'm a quick healer.  (to Rillen)
  Where exactly _are_ we going?
Rillen:  (consulting a marked-up map)  According to my
  notes here - not to disclude a best guess, mind you - we
  are but three days' ride from the ruined temple of K'ai-
  L'un Hing - where I can find out the location of this
  year's great fighting tournament.
Belphanior:  They didn't just send you an invitation?  I
  mean, after the other year when you did so well...?
Rillen:  Hmm, I hadn't considered that.  I doubt that any
  messenger would have been able to find me.  I haven't
  exactly been stationary...
Belphanior:  None of us have.
Otto:  Amen to that.
Rillen:  Also, I missed the last two years in a row, so I
  get the feeling they've forgotten about me.  But not for
  long.





next time :  the temple; the test

notes     :  I'm still compiling the survey results.  They're
  only trickling in now, and besides the members of my direct
  mailing list, I've gotten very few responses...(hint, hint)
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




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