Chapter #280

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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.                                             +
+    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                    +
+                          +
+  Belphanior  13th/14th/14th level elven warrior/mage/thief (CN/E) +
+     Otto     6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief           (CN)   +
+  Date:        2/15/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        night                                               +
+  Place:       the town of Helgate, within the Clatspur Mountains  +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "The time has come to liquidate our guests."                     +
+                          - Dr. Reinhardt, from _The Black Hole_   +

                 CCLXXX.  Assassins in the Night

  All is quiet in Helgate.  Belphanior, wounded in battle earlier
in the day, has retired to his room in the Raven's Nest Inn.  Otto,
too, is in the inn, standing guard while Belphanior rests.  Things
will not remain quiet for long, though...for, from the shadows,
several dark figures make their way toward the inn.

dark-cloaked one:  (enters the inn)
Eduardo:  (watching from a nearby niche, he wonders what's going on)
Perkins:  (the innkeeper)  Can I help you?
dark-cloaked one:  (whispers something)
Perkins:  Um, I can't-
dark-cloaked one:  (puts a sword's point at the old man's throat)
Perkins:  Ulp.

  Soon, the cloaked one led several others up the stairs of the inn,
to the upper floors.  Meanwhile, outside, other assassins climbed
the balconies, using catwalks, trees, or whatever else was there.
The noise from the street was less than usual, almost as if the
people of Helgate knew that something dire might happen this night.
  Inside the Raven's Nest...

dark-cloaked one:  (creeping along the fourth-floor corridor, toward
  a particular door to a particular room)
other men:  (following the first)

  The shadowy men stopped at the door, grouping silently around it
as they readied their weapons.  Using hand signals, they efficiently
coordinated their movements and attack plan, and one of their number,
a stocky man wielding a huge war-hammer, backed up, then ran toward
the door, kicking it in with a loud crash.  The men spilled into the
room, weapons ready.  At the same time, those outside broke through
the windows, leaping into the room with murder in their hearts.

first man:  (looking around, he quickly points at a shape in one
  bed, under the covers)

  The others converged on the bed, stabbing and bashing with their
various weapons.  Within moments, the air was filled with...feathers?

first man:  Huh?  (pokes at the mangled bedsheets with his warhammer)
other man:  A trap?
Otto:  (from behind them)  You bet.

  They whirled, to find the dwarf hanging upside-down from a rafter,
crossbow in hand.

Otto:  (squints, and fires his weapon)
nearest man:  (dies instantly as the heavy bolt sinks into his left
other man:  Hah!  Now you have to reload!
Otto:  (does a hanging sit-up, pulling himself back atop the rafter
  and out of melee range)
voice:  By the time he reloads, you'll all be dead.

  The disembodied voice seemed to come from one side of the room,
but they were unable to pinpoint its exact source...until, that is,
one fellow reeled, screaming, his back sliced open from neck to rear.

  Belphanior stood in one corner, now visible, the tip of his black
sword stained with blood.

attacker#3:  (the man with the warhammer:  Don't just stand there!
  Get him!
attacker#4:  (a man armed with a sword, he advances toward Belphanior)
attacker#5:  (a man armed with a long, curved knife, he moves toward
  Belphanior as well)
attacker#6:  (the man with the flint & steel, he stays back, readying
  a vial)
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (a wand appears in his right hand)
attacker#7:  (the man with two swords, he moves in from the window
  through which his group came, twin blades held before him)
attacker#8:  (a fellow bearing a short sword, he follows the man who
  wields two swords)
attacker#9:  (the scarred man with the throwing knife, he stays back,
Belphanior:  (backs along the wall, aiming his wand)
attackers:  (moving in, spread out so as not to give the elf any
  grouping of targets)
Belphanior:  (waves his wand, speaking command words)

  A great gout of foam sprayed forth from the wand, covering several
attackers in thick, white goop.

Otto:  (perched atop the rafter, he fires his crossbow again)
attacker#3:  (hit in the shoulder)  Hah!  Missed!
Otto:  It doesn't matter.
attacker#3:  (feels the wound burning)  Agh!  Poison!  (he falls)
Otto:  Heh.
attacker#8:  (having moved around Belphanior, he grabs a heavy chair
  and swings it overhead)
Otto:  (grunts as the wooden chair shatters against him, then falls
  to the floor, knocked from his perch)
attacker#8:  Let's see how you do without that crossbow, dwarf!  (he
  charges at Otto, sword raised once more)
Otto:  Fuck you.  (he rolls aside, grabbing a shard of wood and stab-
  bing the man in the foot as he rushes by)
attacker#8:  AAAARGH!  (he begins hopping around, leaving red stains
  on the floor)
Otto:  (whips out his sword and guts the fellow)  Next time, don't
  waste time talking.  Heck, I never do.  (he ducks as another foe
  slashes at him)  Well, not really.
attacker#7:  (whirling his twin swords faster than the eye can see)
  Get ready to die.
Otto:  You don't scare me.

  Meanwhile, mere feet away...

Belphanior:  (pulls his sword out of a dying foe's chest)  Ahhhh.
attacker#4:  (slumps to the floor)  Glurk...
attacker#5:  (slashes at Belphanior, nicking his side)
Belphanior:  Ouch!  (leaps sideways, then back, landing atop a table)
attacker#5:  (moves in)
attacker#6:  (hurls his vial, which is now aflame at its mouth, at
  the elf)
Belphanior:  Whoa!  (dodges the spinning vial, which hits the wall
  behind him and explodes, showering the immediate area with flames)
attacker#6:  Shit.  (he produces another vial)
Belphanior:  (aims his wand at his own back, which is now on fire,
  and speaks a command word)

  The elf's back was blanketed in foam, and he quickly pointed the
wand at the wall behind him, dousing the flames that had taken hold
there.  However, the foe who was charging him took this opportunity
to attack, and stabbed, burying his knife in Belphanior's stomach.

Belphanior:  Urgh!  (he topples, falling from the table to the floor
  with a loud "thump")
attacker#5:  Hah!  (he bends down, to retrieve his knife)
Belphanior:  (moves suddenly, grabbing the man's head and forcing
  it onto his sword's point)
attacker#5:  Argh....(his head is thoroughly impaled)  Aieeeee.....
  (he quivers for a moment or two before being still)
Belphanior:  Ahhhh...(he pulls the knife from his stomach)  ARGH!
  (tossing the bloody weapon away, he stands weakly, scanning the
  room for the nearest foe)  Who dies next?
attacker#6:  (the man with the fire-vials, he stands there)  Uh.
Belphanior:  (points his sword at the man)  I need your soul.  (he
attacker#6:  (frantically lighting his fire-vials, he quickly and
  triumphantly holds two above his head)  Die, elf!
Belphanior:  (thinking quickly, he grabs a nearby stool and launches
  it at the man)
attacker#6:  (hit in the face with the stool, he drops one of his
  vials, which shatters at his feet, bathing him in searing flames)
  Oh shiiiiit!!!  (he begins lurching around)
Belphanior:  Heh.  (he turns his attention to the other foe, the
  man with the throwing knife)
attacker#9:  (raises his throwing knife)


Otto:  (sparring with the foe who has two swords)
attacker#7:  (fights relentlessly, using one blade to defend while
  the other attacks)  Hah!  You're overmatched!
Otto:  Never...(he yet finds himself being forced back)
Belphanior:  (faces attacker#9, the knife-thrower)
knife-thrower:  (hurls his throwing knife at Belphanior, imbedding
  the blade in the elf's shoulder)
Belphanior:  Argh!  (advances on the foe)
knife-thrower:  (two more knives appear in his hand, and then sail
  toward the oncoming elf)
Belphanior:  (hit in each forearm by a knife)  Urgh!  Argh!  (he
  eyes the wounds, feeling the burn of poison)
knife-thrower:  (whips out two more knives)
Belphanior:  (somewhat shocked)  Fuck this...(he dives behind a big,
  heavy table)  Ugh.
knife-thrower:  (curses as the two knives he just threw imbed them-
  selves in the table)
Belphanior:  (muttering to himself as he pulls the tiny knives from
  his body)  Can't cast spells or aim wands at him, either...not
  with that kind of accuracy...
knife-thrower:  (starts walking around the table, two new knives in
  his hands)
Belphanior:  (sheathes his sword and grabs the table's legs)

  Meanwhile, Otto was finding himself overmatched by his two-sword-
wielding foe.  The man was both strong and quick, not to mention
skilled, and the dwarf was doing his best just to survive.

Otto:  (parries a sword-blow, then leaps aside as the other sword
  hacks a chunk out of a table)  Damn!
swordsman:  Hah.  (he forces the dwarf back, toward a large wardrobe)
Otto:  (drops and rolls to one side as both of his foe's swords bury
  themselves in the cabinet)  Whoa...(he stabs upward, but the crafty
  strike is blocked at the last minute by one sword)
swordsman:  Too slow!  (he begins a new series of attacks)

  Not far away, Belphanior had picked up the table, holding it before
him as he charged at the knife-throwing assassin.

knife-thrower:  (grimaces in frustration as his two knives end up
  stuck in the table)
Belphanior:  (collides table-first with the man, knocking him back
  toward a large window)
knife-thrower:  (crashes through the glass, falling to the street
  below)  Yaaaaaaaa...<thump>
Belphanior:  (drops the heavy table and turns to regard the other,
  flaming opponent)  You're still around?
flaming guy:  (stumbling around)  AAAAAAAA!
Belphanior:  (slashes at the blazing figure, several times, driving
  him in the direction of the shattered window)
flaming guy:  AAAAAAAA-
Belphanior:  (gives the man a final slash, decapitating him and
  knocking him out the window)
flaming body:  <thump>
flaming head:  (still on the inn's floor)
Belphanior:  (punts the head out the window)

  Nearby, Otto was sorely pressed, bleeding from numerous small
wounds as he was driven back.  He had already escaped certain death
several times, rolling or dodging aside at the last possible instant
as his foe went for the killing blow.  Now, the stout dwarf was
backed into a corner, parrying desperately as the swordsman pressed
his attack.

swordsman:  You're finished!
Otto:  (blocks one blow)
swordsman:  (holds the dwarf's sword to one side, with his right-
  hand sword)
Otto:  Uh-oh.
swordsman:  (brings his left-hand sword up above his head, beginning
  the stroke that will end this fight)
Belphanior:  (now behind the man)  Not so fast!  (he lops the man's
  left arm off with a mighty blow)
swordsman:  AAAARGH!  (whirls, his stump spurting blood)
Belphanior:  Here, let me put you out of my misery.  (he slashes once
  more, opening the foe's throat and killing him instantly)  Ahhhh.
Otto:  Our misery.
Belphanior:  Oh yeah.  (flexes his arms, where the wounds inflicted
  by the knife-throwing assassin have all but healed now)  Excellent.
Otto:  (stands, weakly)  Thanks.  I owe you one.
Belphanior:  No, now I only owe _you_ one.  Instead of two.
Otto:  If you say so.  (looks around)  What happened to those other
Belphanior:  Out the window, both of 'em.  One was aflame, too - he
  went up like a torch.
Otto:  That'll teach him to play with fire.  You've gotta be careful
  with that stuff.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Two groups of assassins, in less than one day.
Otto:  I'd say someone wants us out of the way, and bad.
Belphanior:  And I'll bet I know who...

  Later that night, well past the witching hour, Dagron Larthos sat
in his study, wide awake.  He had planned on going to bed long ago,
but then again, he had also planned on his assassins returning to
report success long before now.  Could it be possible that they were
unable to defeat the elf and his companion?  No, even fellows as
deadly as those two couldn't possibly overcome a band of experienced
warriors and assassins such as Dagron had sent.
  Could they?

  At the door to Dagron's mansion (a fairly large house, as houses
went in Helgate) a pair of guards stood alertly.  These men were the
sort who would never fall asleep on duty, never sell out to an enemy,
or otherwise compromise their employer.

guard#1:  Whew, I'll be glad when this night is over.
guard#2:  Really.  Y'know, I heard that someone might be coming for
  the boss.
guard#1:  Yeah, that's why we're here, right?
guard#2:  I guess so.  But still...(shivers at the prospect)
guard#1:  Don't worry.  You know that Dagron's enemies never stay
  alive for long.
guard#2:  Maybe you're right.  Hell, I hope you're right.
Belphanior:  (strolls up to the gate, hand on his sword's pommel)
  Ho, there.  Is Dagron in?
guard#1:  (stands up straight)  No visitors.
Belphanior:  Ah, he _is_ here.
guard#2:  Come back tomorrow.  No one's to be admitted.
Belphanior:  No more games.  (his red eye glows brightly)
guard#1:  (sword drawn now)  Are you deaf?
guard#2:  What's your problem?
Belphanior:  I must talk to Dagron.  You're in the way.
guard#1:  Now look here, you-
guard#2:  (goes down, gurgling silently, a thin cord looped tightly
  around his throat)
Otto:  (standing over the body)
Belphanior:  (bats the other guard's sword aside and grabs his neck,
  crushing both his throat and any cry he might have raised)  Okay,
  then.  The hard way.

  They moved toward the mansion's front door, silent and stealthy as
ghosts.  The door was no problem, and neither were the guards Dagron
had posted.  Belphanior used his sword to alert him to any and all
sentries, and they both took periodic sips from invisibility potions
to help them stay undetected.  Advancing to the second floor, they
moved through the dark halls and rooms, dealing quick and silent
death wherever necessary.  Finally, Otto picked a complicated lock
on a double door, and they both pushed the portals open, entering
a large bedroom.  Dagron sat, facing them from behind a huge oaken
desk; the chamber was lit by several lanterns mounted on the walls.

Dagron:  You.
Otto:  Who else?
Dagron:  How'd you get past all my guards?
Belphanior:  Think of it as a lesson in the way _real_ assassins
  operate.  Unlike, I might add, those men you sent to the Raven's
Dagron:  Pardon?
Belphanior:  We know you tried to have us killed.
Otto:  (holds up his crossbow)  "Tried" being the operative word.
Dagron:  (shrugs)  I half-expected you to be dead by now...
Belphanior:  You were half-right.  (unsheathes his sword)  Okay,
  it's your choice, Dagron.  You can either die like an animal,
  or you can die like an animal.  (he begins to advance, Otto at
  his left side)  It wouldn't be very satisfying to just kill him
  outright, would it?
Otto:  Sure it would.
Dagron:  Not so fast!  (stands)  Did you think I'd just sit here
  unprotected?  (he pulls a cord which hangs from the ceiling, and
  five well-armed guards appear from a secret passage, moving in
  behind Belphanior and Otto)
Belphanior:  (rubs his chin)  Not bad.  (he snaps his fingers, and
  a hulking form enters the room via the double doors - a gigantic
  two-headed troll!)
five guards:  (turn around fearfully)
Dagron:  (looks shocked)
Belphanior:  Did you think I'd just waltz in here, unprotected?
  (to the troll)  Destroy these guards, please.
troll:  (goes into action, grabbing the nearest guard in one huge
  hand, mauling him)  GRAAAAAR!
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  Come on, let's rid the world of this bastard.
Dagron:  (reaches under his desk, grabbing a crossbow and quickly
  aiming it at Belphanior)  You'll die first!  (he fires the weapon,
  and a bolt sails toward Belphanior - then bounces off of his shirt)
Belphanior:  Heh heh.
Dagron:  (looks on in disbelief)  Huh?
Belphanior:  Stoneskin.  I finally had a chance to cast it before a
Otto:  Too bad for you, eh, Dagron?  (he fires his own bolt)
Dagron:  (tries to duck, but he isn't fast enough, and the bolt hits
  him in the chest - and is turned by his chain mail)
Otto:  Well.
Dagron:  (looking down at the hole in his shirt, through which a
  good-sized hole is now visible)  It's no spell, but it does the
Belphanior:  Not against me.  (to Otto)  This one's my fight.
Otto:  (shrugs)  As you will.
Belphanior:  (advances toward the desk)  Prepare to meet your maker,
Dagron:  (draws his longsword)  Very well, then.

  The two met, swords clashing with their first furious strikes.
Otto, in compliance with Belphanior's wishes, stayed out of the
fight, instead turning his lethal attention to one of Dagron's
guards.  Granted, there were only three left, for the monstrous
troll had slain two and wounded another, though it bled from a
few cuts.  As Otto moved in, Belphanior and Dagron carried their
fight across the room...

Belphanior:  You're good.  But I'll end this quickly.  (he swings
  a decapitating stroke)
Dagron:  (blocks the elf's sword with his own)  Not that easily.
  (he counterattacks with a mighty overhead slash)
Belphanior:  (knocks the foe's sword aside with his own, and hits
  Dagron in the face with one gloved fist)
Dagron:  Ugh!  (he kicks the elf back, and leaps behind his desk)
  Sneaky move.
Belphanior:  There is no fair fight.
Dagron:  Too bad I had to send the assassins for you.  It wasn't
Belphanior:  It was to me.  (he charges, slashing in a figure-eight
Dagron:  (blocks, though he is forced to jump back, off the desk)
  Die!  (he stabs at Belphanior's arm, but misses as the agile elf
  dances aside)

  Their duel spanned the entire chamber; at one point, Dagron threw
a pillow at Belphanior in an attempt to distract him; at another
point, Belphanior found himself kicking aside a washbasin in his
attempts to reach Dagron.  They attacked and counterattacked; they
parried and dodged and ducked; they leaped and rolled and cursed.
Both combatants were quickly covered with numerous small cuts and
scrapes, but neither could seem to inflict a lethal wound.

Belphanior:  (nicks Dagron's arm, then leaps back as Dagron slashes
  at his head)  Whoa!
Dagron:  (wipes blood from his eyes and backs up)
Belphanior:  (presses his attack)
Dagron:  (blocks another attack, just in time to avoid having his
  head split in half)  Ungh!
Belphanior:  Getting tired, are we?
Dagron:  Never!
Belphanior:  You shouldn't have tried to have me killed.  I might
  even have allied myself with you.
Dagron:  My rulership of Helgate knows no allies!  (he stabs, but
  Belphanior parries the attack)
Belphanior:  That's why it must end.  (his sword and Dagron's meet
  in the air above their heads, sparks flying from the impact)
Dagron:  You've killed all my men, do you realize that?  (he tries
  a different tactic, swinging his sword toward Belphanior's hip)
Belphanior:  (jumps back and to the side, then tries to pin Dagron's
  sword to the ground with his own)  Hah!  Gotcha!
Dagron:  (pulls his sword back)  Not today.

  They danced around the room, destroying everything that wasn't
part of the wall:  stools, a table, Dagron's poster bed, even one
of the lanterns on the wall.  Otto and the troll had slain all of
Dagron's guards, and Otto ordered the troll to leave the room and
stand guard outside the room.  The big monster obeyed reluctantly,
for it had its orders from Belphanior, and wished only to be done
with its service to the elf.  The power of Belphanior's magical tome
bound it more tightly than any single spell could hope to.

Otto:  (sitting on a chair at the doorway, legs crossed, watching
  the swordfight)
Belphanior:  (knocks Dagron to his knees with a powerful blow)  Fall!
Dagron:  (pushes the elf's sword aside with his own, and leaps to his
  feet)  You're a strong one, indeed - but I have tricks of my own.
  (he speaks a command word, and his sword ignites with a pale blue
Belphanior:  Bah.  Parlor tricks.
Dagron:  Hardly.  (he locks swords with the elf again, and a bluish
  discharge occurs, complete with a loud "ZAP")
Belphanior:  Yeaaaargh!  (knocked back ten feet, his hair stands up
  on end, and he tries to stagger to his feet as Dagron charges)
Dagron:  (brings his sword down)
Belphanior:  (catches the foe's sword at the last possible moment,
  on Blackrazor's hilt; Dagron's sword hits the black metal ring on
  his middle left finger)  AAAARGH!

  A strange thing happened then:  the ring, in the process of saving
one or perhaps more of Belphanior's fingers, was split asunder, and
fell to the floor, a broken "O" of metal from which dark wisps of
vapor issued.  Belphanior used this distraction to plant both feet
in Dagron's chest, kicking outward to send the man hurtling back
into a wall.

Belphanior:  (glances quickly at his sword hand, which bears a deep
  cut on the middle finger and shallow cuts on the two adjacent ones)
  Argh...(he grips Blackrazor's handle with blood-slicked hands, and
  advances on Dagron)  My ring...the Dark Ring...
Dagron:  Forget it.  You're finished now.  Hell, look at you!  You can
  barely hold that sword!  (he charges, sword ready)
Belphanior:  (meets Dagron's attack, and receives another jolt of
  electricity which knocks him over and across the bed, where he falls
  to the floor)  Argh...
Dagron:  Hah!  (he leaps atop the bed)
Belphanior:  (sits up suddenly, slashing at his foe's feet)
Dagron:  Whoa!  (he leaps upward to avoid the elf's blade)
Belphanior:  (gets to his feet, shakily)  Your tricks won't save you,
  Dagron.  (he charges furiously, swinging his sword in powerful arcs
  which drive Dagron off the bed)
Dagron:  How do you have all this energy?  (his blade meets the elf's
  for a moment)
Belphanior:  Rage.  (he stabs at Dagron, nicking his forearm)
Dagron:  Arg!  (backs off, but the elf moves in relentlessly, allowing
  no margin for error)
Belphanior:  Die!  Damn you, die!
Dagron:  (parries Belphanior's sword, and then slashes the elf in the
  leg)  Hah!

  Belphanior backed off, but now Dagron pressed his attack, and mere
moments later, the two combatants were once more engaged in flashing
swordplay, blades moving faster than the eye could see.  To Otto, who
watched from the sidelines only because Belphanior had asked him to
stay out of the fight, it seemed that the duel would never end.

Dagron:  (slashes at Belphanior again, opening a cut on his scalp)
Belphanior:  Argh!  (he counters with a slicing blow to Dagron's arm)
  I'll have to get a helmet someday.
Dagron:  Bah.  (he slashes again, at Belphanior's chest)
Belphanior:  (parries the blow, and grabs the wrist which holds the
Dagron:  (looked mildly surprised)
Belphanior:  (decapitates the man with a swift blow)
Otto:  Whoa!

  Just like that, the battle was over.  Belphanior stood over the
body of his slain opponent, absorbing whatever life force the body
had to offer.

Belphanior:  Ahhhhhh.  (all of his wounds close)
Otto:  Damn, but that's handy.
Belphanior:  Yeah...(he leans against a wall, resting)  Whew.
Otto:  I thought he had you there.  A couple of times, to be sure.
Belphanior:  It was a close one.
Otto:  Why didn't you use your eye's special power on him?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  No sport in it.
Otto:  Hmm.  Well, we've killed about thirty of Dagron's
  that should cut down the possibility of anyone seeking revenge
  on us.
Belphanior:  In theory.  (he looks around)  Everyone really _is_
  dead around here.
Otto:  Yep.  Who'll run Helgate now that Dagron's gone?
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Who, indeed?

next:   another switch, back to Rillen and his search for justice
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  As I write this, I have my car back.  Finally.  It's running
  well, so i may keep it for a while.  I guess the important thing
  is that I could get something else, if I wanted to.
    Also while I wrote this:  OJ not guilty!  The Juice is loose!
  Like I really cared anyway.  I wonder, though, what chaos might
  have happened if he'd been declared guilty.  How many people,
  whatever the color of their skin, get mistried because they're
  not in the national spotlight?

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