Chapter #278

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

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+    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.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1995 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  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Belphanior  13th/14th/14th level elven warrior/mage/thief (CN/E) +
+     Otto     6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief           (CN)   +
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+  Date:        2/14/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        early evening                                       +
+  Place:       the town of Helgate, within the Clatspur Mountains  +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "You cannot leave someone like that to do what he _wants_        +
+   around here.  He is capable of doing anything."                 +
+                                    - from _A Fistful of Dollars_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CCLXXVIII.  Chance Meetings





  After making their entrance into the mountain town of Helgate (an
entrance that left three aggressive ruffians dead) Belphanior and
Otto have secured lodging, at the Raven's Nest Inn, a sprawling old
hotel of fine quality.

Otto:  (wandering through the suite they just rented)  Hmm, nice.
  Fit to be robbed, you might say.
Belphanior:  Maybe.  (yawns)  I'm tired.  I think I'll get to bed
  early.
Otto:  I'll take the second bedroom, here.  (he examines the window
  and its sill)  Good and high, just like I like it.
Belphanior:  (having dozed off already, he lies sprawled on his own
  king-sized bed, Blackrazor still grasped in one hand)  zzz.
Otto:  Hmph.  Busy day, eh?

  The dwarf wasn't very tired at the moment, so he decided to leave
the room for now, and explore Helgate's night life.  Closing and
locking the door behind him, Otto strolled down the well-decorated
hall, critically eyeing the rich tapestries that adorned the walls.

middle-aged noblewoman:  (walking by)
Otto:  Good evening, miss.
noblewoman:  Eh?  (she looks the dwarf over, somewhat disgustedly)
  Did you say something, peasant?
Otto:  I was just noting the classic design of this tapestry.  Third
  century Baklunish, with trimmings common to the Sar'tang dynasty
  of that era.
noblewoman:  (taken aback, but only for a moment)  Hmph!  (turning
  her nose up at the dwarf, she continues on her way)
Otto:  Heh.  (he heads for the grand stairway, descending the steps
  once he gets there)  Must've been my clothes.  Bloodstains tend to
  make a garment look worn...

  The dwarf soon left the Raven's Nest, and began walking down the
wide street that the inn was on.  He stopped at the first tailor's
shop he saw, entering just as the tailor was preparing to close and
lock his store.

tailor:  Sir!  We are closing!
Otto:  No, you're not.  (he holds up a gold coin)  I need some new
  clothes, and I need them now.
tailor:  (takes the gold piece)  Ah.  But, we haven't the time to
  fit you properly-
Otto:  I don't care about a perfect fit.  Just get me something in
  my size.  Something blue, if you have it.
tailor:  Let me check sir.
Otto:  You do that.  (he strolls casually around the shop, poking
  at the clothes)

shortly...

tailor:  (eyeing the dwarf, who is now garbed in a fine blue coat
  and pantaloons)  Excellent fit, sir.
Otto:  You're not just saying that, are you?
tailor:  Oh, no, sir!
Otto:  Didn't think so.  (turns)  Well, I'll be leaving now.
tailor:  Very well, sir.  Will you be keeping the garments you came
  here in?
Otto:  Yeah.  (leaves)

  Only a few moments later, Otto was in a shadowy side alley throwing
his old, bloodstained clothes into a sewer drain.

Otto:  Ah.  (wipes his hands on a rag, then tosses it after the old
  clothes)  Much better now.

  Heading back onto the main street, Otto quickly resumed his original
course.  Soon reaching an intersection, he took a left onto a larger
street, called the Way of Norebo.

Otto:  Norebo?  God of gambling and luck...this avenue may prove
  fruitful yet.

  Indeed, it appeared so, for the dwarf soon came upon a row of
sordid establishments:  seedy taverns, gambling dens, whorehouses,
and the like.

Otto:  Yeah.  Now we're getting somewhere.  (he eyes the gambling
  houses, sizing them up, finally entering one called the One-Eyed
  Cavalier)

  Within the building, all manner of games were being played, not
all of them involving dice or cards.  Some of the women who clung
to the arms of the gamblers were a bit (or more) on the sleazy side,
the kind whose companions changed as often as the contents of their
moneypouches.  A red-eyed bartender stood behind a bar stained with
untold thousands of spilled drinks.  The man wiped absently at the
stains, as he did every night, though he never made any progress.

Otto:  (hops onto a barstool)  Beer, if you please.  And make it
  cold.
barkeep:  Coming right up.
Otto:  (spins about on his stool, surveying the gambling at the
  various tables)

  At one table, a number of men and women were busy playing craps,
a dice game.  Nearby, at another table, people were playing some
variant of dragonknuckles, an exotic game involving strange dice
with more than six faces.  Other tables, devoid of females, featured
card games, which as Otto recalled was one of Bosco's specialties.

Otto:  Hmm.
barkeep:  Here's your beer, fella.  (he pushes a foaming mug toward
  Otto)  That'll be-
Otto:  (spins back around, flipping the barkeep a silver piece)
barkeep:  (bites on the coin, then nods)  Yeah, you can drink for
  awhile with this.
Otto:  Good.  (he spins around to face the tables again - and comes
  face-to-chest with a smelly, large fellow)
man:  (grunts)  You're in my chair, dwarf.
Otto:  Your chair?  (he examines the stool)  I don't see your name
  on it.
man:  Huh?
Otto:  Just as well.  You can't read, can you?
man:  Read?
Otto:  Barkeep!  Another beer for my friend here!
barkeep:  Gotcha.
man:  (quite confused)
Otto:  It's okay, you can thank me later.  (he gestures toward the
  various gaming tables)  Nice place, eh?
man:  Uh...yeah.  (he takes his beer from the grinning bartender,
  draining most of it in one gulp)  Urp.
Otto:  Good beer, too.
man:  Yup.  (he regards Otto)  You're new here, huh?
Otto:  Just rode in today, from the south.  Nice place, though it
  seems a bit dead.
man:  That's just because the silver mines aren't as rich as in the
  old days.
Otto:  You're a miner, then?
man:  Yeah.  Gunther's the name.  (his brow wrinkles)
Otto:  They call me Otto.  Pleased to meet you.  (he orders another
  round of beers, grinning)
Gunther:  The town isn't such a bad place, really.  Just dangerous,
  for those who can't use a sword.
Otto:  Dagron Larthos, eh?
Gunther:  You know him?
Otto:  Old friend of mine.  I heard he was in these parts, and when
  I chanced upon this town, I figured I'd run into him sooner or
  later.
Gunther:  Yeah, Dagron kinda took over the town, several years back.
Otto:  I'm not surprised.
Gunther:  The people of Helgate were.  Sure, this was a rough place
  before, but Dagron's one mean son-of-a-bitch.
Otto:  Always was, wasn't he?
Gunther:  I wouldn't know.
Otto:  Heh.  Sometimes, I'm not sure I know either.
Gunther:  (just finishing his second beer)  Eh?
Otto:  Nevermind.  (signals for a new round of beers, and flips the
  bartender another coin)  So, how many men does Dagron have this
  time?
Gunther:  Oh, I'd guess around thirty.  (scratches his head)  Though
  I hear that someone killed three of them earlier today, including
  his chief, Kruger.
Otto:  Say it isn't so...
Gunther:  Yeah.  I hear Dagron was plenty pissed, too, lemme tell
  you.
Otto:  I'll bet he was.  What do you think he'll do about it?
Gunther:  Easy.  He'll kill the people responsible.  (he eyes his
  third glass, which is now empty)  'Scuse me a minute, will you?
  Gotta take a whiz.
Otto:  Sure.
Gunther:  (stands, slightly tipsy, and heads toward a back room)
Otto:  Barkeep!  More beers...
barkeep:  (brings two fresh, foaming mugs over)  Nice move, tricking
  him out of a brawl.  Gunther's a nice enough guy, but he picks his
  share of fights.
Otto:  (spreads his hands)  Well, I wouldn't want to make enemies on
  my first day here, now would I?
barkeep:  Hell, no.  Enemies here usually kill a fellow, or else are
  killed themselves.  (he ambles away to take some drunkard's order)
Otto:  (looks around as he slips something from a pocket into his
  hand, whistling a tune all the while)  Sorry about this, Gunther,
  but you've got the tolerance of an ox, and I don't have all night.
  (he covertly drops a pinch of white powder into Gunther's beer,
  while making sure that no one is watching him)
Gunther:  (returns, mere moments later)  I'm back.  Ah, fresh beer!
  (he takes a swig from his drink)  My thanks.
Otto:  Hey, a guy's gotta make friends, right?
Gunther:  Right.  (looks around)
Otto:  You know, I meant to ask you before - what's Dagron up to in
  Helgate?  Mayor?  Governor?  He usually likes to climb the ranks
  of power.
Gunther:  Hell, he doesn't have any official title.  But make no
  mistake, Dargon Larthos is the ruler of Helgate.
Otto:  Figures.
Gunther:  (blinks)  Huh...?
Otto:  What's up?
Gunther:  I'm feeling...very tired...<yawn>
Otto:  (catches the big man as he slumps from his stool)  Whoa, now.

  The dwarf propped Gunther against the bar, turning to the barkeep
with an embarrassed look.

Otto:  (shrugs)
barkeep:  He must've been drinking before he came here...
Otto:  Look on the bright side:  at least he just passed out, instead
  of throwing up all over the place.
barkeep:  There is that.
Otto:  (flips the barkeep another coin, this one a gold crown)  I'll
  take a bottle of that dwarven ale there, for the road.  And make
  sure that Gunther here finds his way home, would you?  I kinda like
  him, even if he is a simpleton.
barkeep:  You got it, pal.  (he passes Otto a sealed bottle of ale)
  Enjoy.
Otto:  Undoubtedly.

  The dwarf left the One-Eyed Cavalier, whistling merrily to himself
as he wandered the busy street.  He had considered taking the meager
contents of Gunther's pockets, but it hadn't seemed worth the risk,
even if the man was half-drunk.  The drug that Otto had slipped into
his beer was far more than a sleeping powder, for it also tended to
magnify the effects of a drinking binge, muddling one's recollections
of recent events and conversations.  Otto certainly didn't want the
fellow to remember all of his questions and claims, even if Gunther
wasn't very bright.  Better to be safe than sorry, he mused to himself
as he took a swig from his bottle of ale.
  A slim, robed figure had followed the dwarf from the tavern, and as
Otto disappeared around a corner, the pursuer sped up to follow, not
wanting to lose its quarry.  Rounding the corner, the figure stopped
cold, for the dwarf was nowhere in sight!

figure:  (looks around, confused)
Otto:  (grabs the robed one from behind, dragging it into the shadows)
  You'll have to do a lot better than that.  (he pulls the figure's
  hood off)

  Revealed was a black-haired human woman, in her early twenties!

woman:  Please spare me!
Otto:  Unlikely, unless you have a good explanation for following me.
woman:  Well...err...(she seems embarrassed)
Otto:  Out with it!
woman:  (almost blushing)  Good sir, I saw you spending your money
  in the tavern back there, and thought that maybe...
Otto:  Maybe what?
woman:  ...well, maybe that you might seek some companionship, one
  to warm your bed tonight.
Otto:  Oh.  (he rubs his chin)  That's odd.
woman:  (quickly)  That is, unless...
Otto:  No, of course not.  (he smiles, slightly)  Sure, why not?
woman:  To your inn, then?
Otto:  Yeah.  Err, wait.  We're going to have to find another room.
woman:  Ah, you have friends then?
Otto:  Not many.  But no, I don't have a room for the night.
woman:  Well, we can take care of that.
Otto:  I'll just bet.  (they wander down the street)



  Late the next morning...

Otto:  (unlocks the door to Belphanior's suite, and enters)
Belphanior:  (busy sorting the numerous and varied contents of his
  backpack and pockets)  Morning.
Otto:  Hi.
Belphanior:  Busy night, eh?
Otto:  Yeah, she damn near wore me out.
Belphanior:  Ah.
Otto:  (shrugs)  It had been a while.
Belphanior:  Yeah, I know what you mean...
Otto:  (staring at all of Belphanior's possessions)  What exactly are
  you up to, here?
Belphanior:  Just reorganizing everything, and deciding what to put
  in the portable hole from now on.  You're welcome, of course, to
  use it if you need to.
Otto:  No, I prefer to stash my bodies somewhere where they can rot
  in peace.
Belphanior:  Eh?
Otto:  Ha-ha, just kidding.  Well, sort of.  (he yawns, and sits down
  on the edge of the bed)  I found out some interesting things last
  night.
Belphanior:  I'll bet.
Otto:  Before that.  I was drinking at a tavern, and pried some good
  information out of a miner.  Dagron Larthos rules this town like
  some kind of lord.  He's got about thirty men-at-arms, at least,
  who serve him directly.
Belphanior:  Does that count the three we killed?
Otto:  Ah.  Twenty-seven, then.  He may have more supporters, though,
  among the townspeople.  Hard to tell, really.
Belphanior:  (nodding)  Hmm.
Otto:  He's also fairly upset about those three idiots we killed
  yesterday.  It seems that he'll come after us.
Belphanior:  I figured that.
Otto:  I don't know what he looks like, but I'll find out.
Belphanior:  Okay.  Excellent intelligence work, by the way.
Otto:  (shrugs)  I've had practice.
Belphanior:  (notices Otto's new clothes, which are only slightly
  wrinkled)  New outift, too?
Otto:  The old one was too obvious.  You should find a change of
  clothes, too.  Blood stands out, even on a red cloak.
Belphanior:  I could have it laundered, I suppose.  But, someone
  might steal it.
Otto:  Then we get it back.
Belphanior:  Good point.

  The elf finished his sorting and reorganizing, and then began
counting his money.  Besides the eleven well-cut rubies from the
tomb in the Cairn Hills (he had broken one down for gold, in some
recent city) he had several dozen gold and silver coins, and then
there was the other treasure, from months and years past:  various
fine gems, all of them at least equal to the rubies in value; an
assortment of jewelry:  rings, amulets, bracelets, pendants, and
the like.

Otto:  (whistles)  Why are we even bothering to seek out more
  treasure in our travels?  With all that, you could settle down
  for life.
Belphanior:  I don't settle down.  Every time I try, people end up
  dead, and I gain new enemies.
Otto:  That sucks.  Maybe you should be more discreet.
Belphanior:  Not if it means buckling under to other people.  And
  it always does.
Otto:  Fair enough.  We should go grab some breakfast.
Belphanior:  You're right.  We'll go in a few moments.  (he takes
  a parchment and quill, and begins making a list of things to buy
  and put in his portable hole)

  A brief time later, when the elf was done (for now) with his list,
he turned to find Otto asleep on the bed.

Belphanior:  Must've been one hell of a night...(he leaves, locking
  the door)  Now to get some of those supplies.

  Belphanior left the Raven's Nest Inn, heading toward the markets
of Helgate.  They weren't really much to speak of, since the town
was fairly small, but the elf was having decent luck filling his
shopping list.

Belphanior:  And four of those heavy spears...
arms merchant:  Very well-
man:  (interrupts the elf's conversation with the merchant)  Elf.
Belphanior:  Yes, I am.
man:  Are you the one who killed Kruger, and the other two?
Belphanior:  Could be.
man:  Don't toy with me.  (he signals, and four other well-armed men
  appear behind him, all bearing crossbows which are aimed at the
  elf)
merchant:  (backs away fearfully)
man:  You killed them, then?
Belphanior:  (cursing himself for not having cast Stoneskin yet this
  morning)  Well, it's hard to say.  I definitely killed the one
  called Kruger, and one of the others.  But not both.  It's really
  rather hard to remember.
man:  Do you know who I am, good fellow?
Belphanior:  I suspect you might be he who is known as Dagron.
Dagron:  Right you are.

  Dagron Larthos was a tall human, several inches taller than the
elf.  Lean and wiry, he sported a drooping moustache whose color
matched his short, grey-black hair.  A vivid scar crossed his right
cheek, from just behind his eye to underneath his chin.  A fine
longsword hung from his belt, and chain mail was visible beneath
his shirt.  The man definitely had the look of an experienced and
skilled professional.

Belphanior:  (sizing the other up, slowly, he finally speaks)  Nice
  scar.
Dagron:  A woman gave that one to me...right before she died a most
  gruesome death.
Belphanior:  (utterly unimpressed)  Anybody can kill.
Dagron:  You're awfully smug for a fellow with four crossbows aimed
  at him.
Belphanior:  I'm not worried.  I daresay that I'll survive the one
  or possibly even two bolts that might hit me, and after that,
  you'll be the first to die.  Because you're closest.
Dagron:  Closest.  Of course.  (his expression belies neither fear
  nor amusement)  I'm not here to make trouble, though.  (he waves
  the crossbows down)  If you slew Kruger, my lieutenant, that means
  you're a warrior of some skill.
Belphanior:  Some, yes.  I've been known to pick up a sword from time
  to time.
Dagron:  Yeah, I'm sure you have.  I could use a warrior like you.
Belphanior:  Hmm, is that a proposition?
Dagron:  Probably.  The pay is good, and in this town, you'll have
  whatever you want.  I rule here.
Belphanior:  (silent)
Dagron:  Think about it for a while.  I'll be in touch.
Belphanior:  (unsure whether to attack Dagron now, or wait until he
  has more advantages)  Hmm.  Okay, I'll think it over.
Dagron:  Farewell, then.  Until next time.
Belphanior:  (muttering)  Can't wait.

  Dagron and his four bodyguards turned and departed, leaving the
elf standing there, arms crossed, frowning.

Belphanior:  So that's Dagron.
merchant:  (appears from wherever he scurried off to)  You're lucky
  to be alive, fellow.
Belphanior:  (snorts)  We'll see.





next:   confrontation
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  What do you think?  A mix of Clint Eastwood, Doc Holliday,
  and westerns in general, with a dash of fantasy thrown in for
  good measure.
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