Chapter #294

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                                +   +
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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:        3/2/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the town of Helgate, within the Clatspur Mountains  +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Well, he'll have to run for it now...and Hell is where he's     +
+     headed."                                                      +
+  "He'll be waiting there for us."                                 +
+                                  - from _The Outlaw Josey Wales_  +

                   CCXCIV.  The Past Catches Up

  It is a relatively normal day in Helgate.  Merchants hawk their
wares in the marketplace.  Shops and taverns trade goods and services
for money.  In the nearly empty Sword and Cup (the very tavern where
Belphanior and Otto first made their mark in Helgate) Otto is having
a late lunch and chatting with the serving girl, Claudia.

Claudia:  So you two are from the south?
Otto:  Yeah.  From the south.  (he munches on a roll)
Claudia:  Don't want to talk about it, eh?
Otto:  Nope.
Claudia:  Well, I can understand that.  Men with grim pasts usually-
Otto:  Why don't we talk about something else?  Some kid told me a
  long-standing rumor about gold in the hills.  (grabs a juicy leg
  of fowl, sprinkling some pepper on it as he licks his lips)  Any
  truth to this?
Claudia:  Well...yes, every once in a while, some miner will strike
  it rich.  Then he either sells his find, or becomes a rich man in
  town, or leaves Helgate altogether.  Then the vein dries out, and
  things are back to normal.
Otto:  Hmm.  You think there're more live mines up there?
Claudia:  Probably.  Are you inclined toward mining?
Otto:  (tears off a chunk of meat, from the leg)  I've done a bit of
  it, in my time.
Claudia:  Maybe you should find a mine you can claim as your own.
Otto:  Might just do that...
Claudia:  (jokingly)  I'll loan you a pick, and if you strike it
  rich you can give me half of the take.
Otto:  Heh.
Claudia:  (yawns, for she has worked hard today)
Otto:  (gnaws on the roasted chicken leg, which he has quickly reduced
  to a scrap-covered bone)  What about traffic to and from Perrenland?
  How much of that do you see?
Claudia:  Some.  Usually occasional soldiers, on their way to the
  southern lands.  Helgate's set off the beaten path, so the vast
  majority of travelers never see it.  It's usually Perrenlanders who
  stop by, because they know we're here.
Otto:  Ah.
Claudia:  Occasionally, we see people _from_ the south, headed to-

  Just then, there was a loud, irritating bellow from behind the bar.

Rexxus:  (the owner of the tavern, a short, pudgy, ill-tempered man)
Claudia:  (wearily)  Yes, Rexxus?
Rexxus:  What're you doing, there?  Is this what I pay you good coin
  for, to lounge about and talk to customers?
Claudia:  Sorry, I'll-
Otto:  (raises his voice)  She's on her break, Rexxus.
Rexxus:  (looks angry, but lets the matter drop)
Otto:  You were saying?
Claudia:  Oh, sometimes people headed northward stop by, maybe stay
  for the night, grab a hot meal, that sort of thing.
Otto:  (tosses the leg bone aside)  And stop by the Witches' Tit?
Claudia:  (looks disgusted and disdainful)  That whorehouse?
Otto:  (spreads his hands)  Men will be men.
Claudia:  So I've seen.
Otto:  Claudia, what do you know of the mistress of that place, the
  wench Candice?
Claudia:  Her?  She's okay, I guess, given her profession.  But...
Otto:  Go on.
Claudia:  ...well, I guess you know by now that she was shacked up
  with Dagron, in the months before his death.
Otto:  Yeah, so I'd heard.
Claudia:  And now she's latched onto Belphanior.
Otto:  Her funeral.
Claudia:  Is Belphanior that dangerous?
Otto:  Make no mistake, we both are.
Claudia:  (shivers at something in the dwarf's tone)
Otto:  But not right now, anyway.  So Candice was with Dagron in
  the old days.  Hmm.  Did him?
Claudia:  (shrugs)  Who can say, with one like her?  I personally
  think...(she frowns)
Otto:  Keep talking.  This is getting more interesting by the minute.
Claudia:  Well, in my opinion - and it's just my opinion - she seems
  to shack up with whoever's in power at the time.
Otto:  (nods)  What about before Dagron?
Claudia:  Hmm, I wasn't here then, but I've heard that she was close
  friends with the old mayor, before Dagron showed up.
Otto:  The old mayor?  What happened to him?
Claudia:  Supposedly, he left, before Dagron had to officially drive
  him out.
Otto:  Hmm.  So she was good friends with him?
Claudia:  Very good friends, if you know what I mean.
Otto:  Ah.
Claudia:  Yes, Candice...she's probably nothing but trouble...but I
  get the impression that the same could be said for Belphanior.
Otto:  Good call.
Claudia:  (sighs)  If only I could meet a good man, who was strong
  but not a warrior...
Otto:  (stands)  Don't worry, girl.  You'll find the right one, in
Claudia:  You think so?
Otto:  I'm sure of it.  (he drops three golden coins on the table)
Claudia:  B- but the meal only cost half of one of these!
Otto:  (puts his forefinger to his lips)  Shh, I won't tell if you
  won't.  (he turns and leaves)

  The dwarf headed back to the Raven's Nest for a nap, wondering
where that Candice woman might be.  He knew that Belphanior was
in the mountains for the day, by himself.  He also knew that his
friend wouldn't, under any circumstances, have left Candice a key
to his suite.  Otto decided not to worry about it any more, and
arrived at the huge inn, immediately heading up the stairs with
nary a word to old Perkins, in the lobby.

Perkins:  Well, I say!

  About this time, a group of people arrived at the outskirts of
town.  Their leader, a stocky, armored human, had close-cropped
blond hair and a short beard.  The man's face, however, was marred
by a horrific scar, a gash that extended from his scalp down the
right side of his face and ended at his throat.  The wound must
have been inflicted fairly recently, for it still had scab tissue
throughout.  The strange blackish-green color of the wound was
enough to make a casual observer wonder if it was normal, and if
it would ever heal.

warrior:  You're sure they are here, Sarquay?
Sarquay:  (a tall, gaunt human sorcerer)  Positive.  My magic tells
Renoldo:  (a compact warrior, bearing a spiked mace)  Good.  Your
  money's one thing, Torin, but I'm itching for a good fight.
Torin:  (grabs the other's shoulder, furiously)  Patience, until we
  find him.  That damned elf almost finished me, last time, and by
  all the gods, he's not getting away again!
Zacharaiah:  (a tall, gangly warrior bearing a deadly-looking spear)
  Almost finished you, eh?  (smirks)
Torin:  Don't test me, you upstart!  Why, if I didn't need you to
  help carry out my revenge...
Zacharaiah:  (shrugs)  Do what you will.  I just think your stories
  are a bit far-fetched, is all.
Torin:  (explodes in anger)  Damn you, you weren't _there_!  You
  didn't see as the swarms of walking dead took my men, one by one!
  It was a slaughter!  Why, we fought back, even killed all the
  scum in the end, but the price...(he shudders)
Renoldo:  (clearly impressed)
Zacharaiah:  Maybe you should have tried to have your men raised,
  from the dead?
Torin:  Nay, there was no time!  It was all I could to to break free
  of that cursed cairn, and drag myself to a nearby town.  (his eyes
  narrow, as he remembers things which were obviously painful)  For
  weeks I rested...healed...planned my revenge...(he looks up)  This
  town...shall be the grave of Belphanior!  Once we find him...(he
  glares at the wizard Sarquay)
Sarquay:  (shrugs)  He's here, I tell you.  We'll need to ask someone
  here, to learn his exact whereabouts.
Torin:  (obviously only barely impressed)  Bah.  Renoldo!
Renoldo:  Yeah?
Torin:  Are your men ready?
Renoldo:  (glances back at the seven mercenaries, humans one and all)
  Yeah.  Once we know where he is, it'll all be over before you can
Torin:  Well, then.  (he accosts a passing child)  You!  We're here
  to see an old friend.
Eduardo:  Really, sir?  What does he look like, then?
Torin:  An elf, boy.  A tall elf.  With a glowing red eye and a sword
  blacker than a starless night.
Eduardo:  Hmm.  No, sir, I have never seen such a man.
Torin:  Elf, you stupid brat.  Elf.
Eduardo:  (scampers on his way)
Renoldo:  Hmph.
Sarquay:  The boy was lying.
Torin:  Eh?
Sarquay:  I could sense it.
Torin:  Damn him!  How dare he?  If we see him again, I'll break his
  legs to keep him from running away again!
Zacharaiah:  Let's check that tavern, over there.
Torin:  Why?
Zacharaiah:  A town's taverns always contain information.

  They rode to the tavern, which a sign identified as the "Sword and
Cup", and tied their horses to the railing.  Torin led the band into
the place, which wasn't busy.  A single serving girl worked the few
tables that were occupied.

Claudia:  Have a seat, and I'll be with you in a moment.
Torin:  We're not here for food, not yet anyway.
Rexxus:  (eyes the newcomers)  What, then?
Torin:  We seek an elf.  A very powerful and clever elf.
Claudia:  (tries to hide her surprise, biting her lip)
Sarquay:  (to Torin)  They know of the elf.
Torin:  So, where is this elf we seek?
Rexxus:  Err...
Torin:  (strides over, and puts a swordpoint at the man's neck)  I
  said, where?
Rexxus:  R- Raven's Nest!
Renoldo:  What's that, an inn?
Rexxus:  Y- yes, an inn!  Go down...Main Street...a short ways.  He-
  you can find him...there!
Torin:  (tosses the barkeep away contemptuously)  All right, then.
  To the Raven's Nest!

  The men departed in a storm, leaving all within the tavern shocked
yet thankful.

Rexxus:  (gasping)  Bastards...demented bastards!  Did you see that
  big, scarred one?  He's crazy!
Claudia:  (somewhat worried)  Maybe we should try to warn-
Rexxus:  You think you can get there before those ruffians, girl?
  Think again!
Claudia:  (hopefully)  Maybe it won't matter.  Maybe Belphanior and
  Otto will take care of them.
random patron:  You never know.

  Outside, the band, eleven strong, made their way toward the huge,
sprawling building that was the Raven's Nest.

Torin:  (strides in, slamming the door open)
others:  (follow)
Perkins:  Can I help you, sir?
Torin:  The elf.  Where is he?
Perkins:  Elf?
Torin:  You know who I mean, old man.
Perkins:  I'm afraid I d-
Torin:  (cuffs the old man, knocking him to the floor)  No games,
  you old fool!
Perkins:  (shuddering)
Torin:  You have no idea how dangerous that elf is!  You're harboring
  a fugitive from justice!
Perkins:  Whose justice?
Torin:  (waving his arms around, insanely)  Mine!  (he kicks the old
  man in the ribs, with audible results)
Perkins:  Ungh!
Torin:  Renoldo!
Renoldo:  (swaggers forth)
Torin:  (to Perkins)  Renoldo here enjoys breaking fingers.  If you
  don't tell me where the elf is staying - right now - I'm going to
  tell Renoldo to have a field day with you.
Renoldo:  I might not stop at the fingers...
Zacharaiah:  (frowns)

  Soon, they had the information they needed, and headed up the inn's
stairs.  Behind them, in the lobby, was the bruised, bleeding form of

Perkins:  (rolling around in pain)  Ohhhh...
Eduardo:  (dashes into the lobby)  Old sir!  (he tries to help the
  aged man)
Perkins:  (teeth gritted in pain)  Don't worry...about me!  They...
  're after...the elf!
Eduardo:  Okay, sir!  You stay here, I shall fetch help.  (he runs
  out, to find someone who can tend to the old man)

  Meanwhile, silenced by one of Sarquay's spells, the band of men
climbed, reaching the fourth floor.  Weapons were drawn, and they
crept silently toward the end of the hall.

Torin:  (making hand signals to the others, who split into two
  roughly equal groups, one for each suite)
Renoldo:  (gives his men the ready signal, then confirms with Torin)

  At once, both groups hurled themselves at the doors, knocking both
in.  Belphanior's gave in more easily, though the invaders of that
room quickly found it to be empty.  Otto's suite was another case

Otto:  (awakened, he leaps behind his bed)
Renoldo:  Spread out, quickly!  Flank and surround!
men:  (obeying, they ready various weapons, including man-catchers
  and nets)
Otto:  (curses, as his crossbow is on the other side of the room -
  along with his sword)  Fuck!  (he stands, seeing the men moving in
  to surround him, and backs up)
Renoldo:  We've been warned about you and your crossbow, dwarf...(he
  spots the weapon, behind him and safely far from Otto)  Tsk, tsk,
  looks like you don't have it handy!
Otto:  Who the hell are you people?!?
Renoldo:  (ignores the question)  Without your crossbow, you're
  nothing!  Less than nothing!  What are you going to do _now_?
Otto:  (whirls, grabbing several spears from the decorative rack
  behind him)  Only this!  (he hurls one spear, piercing the throat
  of the nearest mercenary)
mercenary:  Glurk!  (falls, bleeding all over the floor)
Renoldo:  (gaping in momentary surprise)
Otto:  And I just had that cleaned...(he hurls another spear at
Renoldo:  (dodges, but is still nicked in the shoulder)  Get him!
  Stop him!
Otto:  (grabs two more spears)
mercenaries:  (throw a net over the dwarf)
Otto:  (goes down, cursing and stabbing at his attackers)
Renoldo:  Struggling with the net will only make it tighter.
Otto:  Go to hell!  When I get out of this thing, you're dog-meat!
Renoldo:  <sigh>  Men...subdue this arrogant little shit.
mercenaries:  (put their swords and axes away, and move in on the
  snared dwarf, with clubs)

  Otto had actually cut through several strands of netting when the
first club fell, striking his head.  He cursed, ignoring the blow,
the stars in his eyes, and the blood from his scalp.  Even trapped
and nearly unable to move, the dwarf almost gutted one of the foes,
before he was disarmed and beaten into unconsciousness.

Torin:  (strides into the room)  The elf isn't here.  Damn it!  (he
  kicks a wooden chair, shattering it)
Zacharaiah:  (follows Torin into the room)  Don't worry, I'm sure
  he'll show.
Sarquay:  (simply appears)  And when he does, we shall have the
  element of surprise.
Torin:  And a hostage.
Renoldo:  Aw, let's just kill him.  (he raises his spiked mace)
Torin:  (blocks the weapon's fall)  NO!
Renoldo:  Okay, okay.  Calm down.
Torin:  The dwarf is bait, _and_ a hostage.  Thus, he lives, until
  we don't need him anymore.  Then, like his lord Belphanior, he
  will die!

next:   Belphanior comes home
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  We're getting there...

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