Chapter #301

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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                    +
+                          +
+  Otto     6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief              (CN)   +
+  Date:        4/13/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        evening                                             +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Who is he?"                                                     +
+  "Who knows?  _Nobody_ knows, that's what I've been trying to     +
+   tell you!"                                                      +
+                                              - from _Slayground_  +

                   CCCI.  Death In the Night

  With Belphanior gone to Greyhawk, Otto is in charge of Helgate.
Admittedly, Belphanior never stays gone for long, given his power
to teleport from place to place.  Still, tonight in Helgate, Otto
is king...

Otto:  (resting at the Cup & Sword, he enjoys another filling, if
  crudely-cooked, meal)
Claudia:  You two sure eat here a lot.
Otto:  (shrugs) besides,
  I enjoy seeing Rexxus' ugly mug.  (he gestures at the scowling
  bartender with a fork)
Claudia:  Shh, he might hear you.
Otto:  So?
Claudia:  Hey, where's Belphanior?  I haven't seen him in two days.
Otto:  Could be anywhere.  I'm sure he'll turn up, sooner or later.
Claudia:  Oh.
Otto:  Besides-

  The conversation was cut short by a blood-curdling scream from
the street outside.

Otto:  Hmm.  (he puts his fork down, loosens his sword in its
  belt-sheath, and heads for the door)
Claudia:  (following, hesitantly)
Otto:  (doesn't even bother to turn around)  Stay here.
Claudia:  Err...right.
Otto:  (leaves the tavern)

  The dwarf wandered out into the street, where a soupy fog clung
to the buildings and streetlamps of Helgate.  Several other people
had also followed the scream, among them the dwarven blacksmith
Ganzer and the old cobbler, Jamaine.

Ganzer:  What the hell was that?
Jamaine:  It came from that alley, over there.
Albion:  (the town's leather worker)  He's right - those of us
  who were walking the street heard it.  (he glances at the dark
Otto:  Let's go.  (he leads the others toward the alley)  You,
  with the lantern!  Come with us.

  The alley was partially filled with more fog, a thin mist that
yet set the dwarf on edge, reminding him of a past adventure.

Otto:  (shivers, muttering)  Don't like this fog...
Albion:  Huh?  It's just fog.
Otto:  (glares at the man)  Not everything is as harmless as it
Jamaine:  Too true.
Ganzer:  Look!  There!

  On the dank, stone floor of the alley was a body; as they moved
closer, they could see that it was the lifeless body of a young
woman.  Her throat had been slit from ear to ear, and blood still
flowed from the horrific wound, into the street.  The dark blood
was warm, causing steam to rise as it met the icy winter air.

Otto:  Fresh kill.  (he spies a drop of blood on the ground next
  to the body)  I believe the killer went this way...
Albion:  We should get some more people and-
Jamaine:  Nonsense!  The trail grows cold even as we speak!
Otto:  I agree.  Whoever's with me, come on.  The rest, find a
  leech, summon the guard...and do something with this body.
  (he begins eyeing the ground, following blood drops)
Ganzer:  (clutching a hammer, he follows)
Jamaine:  Wait for me!  (he follows as well)
Albion:  I shall organize a squad of men...perhaps town guardsmen.
Otto:  (behind his shoulder)  You do that.

  The blood trail quickly grew harder to follow, thinning as it
wound along the alley, across a side street, and into another alley.
Eventually, the small band had found the last evidence, a solitary,
smeared drop of blood next to a puddle in the stony street.

Otto:  That's it...the killer must have stashed the murder weapon
  at this point, or else dropped it.
Ganzer:  Yeah.  (he eyes the intersection)  Could've gone any way.
Jamaine:  There's nowhere here that a weapon could have been hidden
  or dropped.
Otto:  Hmm.  (he looks around, at the fog-enshrouded streets)  Not
  much we can do here.  Let's get back to the corpse.


Desmond:  (a human in his early thirties, and also the town leech/
  doctor/medicine man)  Hmm.  (he is bending over the body)
Herbert:  (a tall, muscular warrior, veteran of many battles and
  the recently-appointed captain of Helgate's town guard)
Bunger:  (one of the local drunkards)  Gee, what d'you think the
  cause of death was?
Herbert:  Quiet, you.
Desmond:  (examining the dead woman's slashed throat)  This is a
  clean wound...the murder weapon was very sharp, and very clean.
Albion:  A knife, perhaps?
Desmond:  Could be any one of a variety of knives or daggers...
  even a sword, maybe.
Otto:  (strolls up, hand on his sword's pommel)  Who was the
Balthaas:  (clutching a scroll in his hand)  Zenobia.  She was a
  common whore.
Otto:  (sighs)  One of those at the Witches' Tit?
Balthaas:  Yep.
Otto:  Great.  Candice's gonna love this.
Candice:  (arrives on the scene, and immediately hides her eyes
  as she screams in horror)  Aaaaaie!
Ganzer:  (looking around)  Damn it, we should have caught the
Jamaine:  I doubt we've seen the end of this.
Candice:  (sobbing loudly)
Otto:  (rubs his temples, then glares at the woman)  Somebody shut
  her up.  Herbert?
Herbert:  Sir?
Otto:  We're going to need to brief the guard.  I'll be in your
  office in a short while.
Herbert:  Right.
Otto:  Desmond...
Desmond:  Eh?
Otto:  Do something with the body.  Whatever it is that gets done
  with bodies.
Desmond:  Of course.
Otto:  And let me know if you find anything else of interest.
Desmond:  (nods)

  Before long, word had spread throughout the town.  Most people
were shocked; though Helgate was far from a peaceful place, any and
all deaths were typically prefaced by a public challenge.  Those
who would kill one another in the name of some cause met face-to-
face...and didn't kill harmless women.  An undercurrent of fear now
permeated the town and all those in it, and the next evening saw a
higher number of bolted doors and locked windows.
  Otto had ordered the town guards to continue their usual vigils
as if nothing had happened.  He, himself, climbed atop a building
in the center of town, armed with his trusty crossbow and a spyglass
Belphanior had purchased from a passing merchant last week.  The
dwarf's plan was simple:  he would move from rooftop to rooftop,
keeping alert for any sign of trouble.  If the killer was of a mind
to strike again this night, Otto hoped, the usual patterns of town
guards would give a false sense of security.  Perhaps the killer
would make some mistake, enabling the dwarf and/or the town guards
to act.
  Dusk became evening, and evening became night, and there was still
no sign of anything untoward.  The hours crept by, and Otto moved
about constantly, to keep awake and alert.  Then, near the stroke
of midnight, the fog appeared, shrouding the streets below in white
clouds.  This wasn't a true fog, being more of a thick mist, but it
had the same effect in the end.

Otto:  (unable to get a good view of the streets now)  Damn!  (he
  heads for the nearest way down, in this case a catwalk with a
  stairway connected to it)

  The dwarf hastily descended, for he would rather be on the street
level if anything happened.  And sure enough, as he climbed down,
something did happen:  a piercing scream cut through the previously
silent night, somewhere to the north and east of the building he was
descending.  A hue and cry rose from that direction, scant moments
later, but Otto was already on his way, sprinting at a pace unusual
for a dwarf.
  He arrived at the body just in time to see a tall, dark-clad figure
vanish into the mists, no more than forty feet away.  Without the
least hesitation, the dwarf gave chase, keeping his crossbow gripped
tightly in one hand as he ran.  They dashed down one alley, pursuer
and pursued, then between two buildings and into a small side avenue.
Always, the shadowy figure kept one step ahead of him, though; Otto
finally managed to get a crossbow bolt in his other hand.  Stopping
suddenly, at a particularly well-lit intersection, the dwarf took
quick but careful aim, and fired.

Otto:  (watches the figure vanish into the dark, misty streets)
  Fuck!  (he runs after the culprit, but the other has surely
  escaped, for the dwarf no longer hears even the slightest foot-
  fall)  I know I hit the bastard...aha!  (he spots several drops
  of fresh blood on the cobbled street)

  Making haste, the dwarf followed this trail.  The wound must not
have been too serious, for there wasn't much blood - just enough to
track the fleeing figure.  This bothered Otto, for he was sure that
his bolt had found the killer's torso, maybe even his head.  The
dwarf seldom missed a target, even given poor firing conditions.
Musing to himself as he followed the blood, Otto wound through a
number of alleys and streets; he decided that he didn't know the
layout of Helgate well enough (unlike the fled killer) and made a
mental note to rectify this at some point in the near future.
  Otto continued, doggedly; the killer had apparently suspected that
this would happen, and thus had to keep on the move, unable to afford
time to stop and bind the wound that kept Otto in this game.  A short
while, and a dozen turns or alleyways, later, Otto stopped at a door
that faced one back alley.  This place was one of the few he knew
really well - for it was the Sword and Cup Tavern!

Otto:  (examines a bloodstain on the doorjamb, looks around for any
  others, then grins in triumph)  Ah.  (eyeing the rear entrance to
  the inn, which is ajar, he proceeds to enter)

  The dwarf closed and locked the door behind him, then took a large
metal pipe from the floor, and broke the door's handle with a single
motion.  Pushing on the now-sealed portal, he was satisfied that it
wasn't easily passable.  Discarding the pipe in favor of his short
sword, Otto made his way through the dark basement of the inn, using
his infravision to scope out any potential ambushes...

  In the tavern's common room, a floor above, business was slow, as
might be expected; even visitors to the town were hesitant to walk
Helgate's streets tonight.  The tavern contained about a dozen
guests, among them three foreigners, Albion the leatherworker, the
miner Gunther, Desmond the leech, the dwarven blacksmith Ganzer,
Jamaine the cobbler, the whores Candice and Leanne, and two town
guardsmen. Rexxus, Claudia, and two serving wenches were working
tonight, as well.
  All of these people were surprised to see Otto burst from a hall
that adjoined the dining room.  The dwarf had his sword in one hand
and a crazed look on his face.

Otto:  (to no one in particular)  Has anyone left this tavern in
  the last few ticks of the clock?
Rexxus:  Huh?
Otto:  You heard me.  Has anyone recently left, or arrived here?
Rexxus:  (thinking)  Just that town guardsman...the rest of us have
  been sitting here for a good while.  Why do you ask?
Otto:  (dashes to the front door of the place)  Hah!  (to the two
  town guards)  Nobody leaves, and nobody enters.  Got it?
guards:  (nod, confused)
Rexxus:  What's this all about?!?
Otto:  (points at the man with his sword)  Quiet.  (he leaves)

  Otto went out onto the front porch of the tavern, and almost
immediately spotted a town guard, walking away quickly.

Otto:  Halt!  You, halt!
guard:  (stops, then slowly turns around)
Otto:  Come here, if you please.
guard:  (does so)  What's going on?
Otto:  Did you just depart this tavern?
guard:  Aye, I did.
Otto:  Come back inside, with me.
guard:  But-
Otto:  No buts.

  The dwarf led the man back into the Sword and Cup, and pushed
him into a chair, then turned to address the seventeen people in
the tavern.

Otto:  Another murder was committed tonight.
crowd:  (gasps, chokes, and mumbles)
Rexxus:  S- so?
Otto:  I just-
Herbert:  (the captain of the town guard, he arrives at the front
  door of the tavern, interrupting the dwarf's explanation)  We found
  the victim's body - 'twas a wench called Priscilla - and also the
  trail of-
Otto:  Good, you're here.  I know about the body...but now, take a
  dozen men, and surround this place.  Cover all the windows, and
  also check that back door, in the alley - it should be shut, firmly.
Herbert:  Yessir...but why?  What's going on here?
Otto:  I just chased the murderer into this tavern.  (he again faces
  the seventeen people in the tavern)  As none of you has left in
  recent moments, I conclude that one of you must be the killer.
crowd:  (looks stunned)
Otto:  Nobody leaves here until we've exposed the killer.  (to the
  nodding Herbert, who finally looks like he understands what's
  going on here)  If anybody tries to leave, shoot them.
Herbert:  You're sure?
Otto:  Positive.  Equip your men with heavy crossbows.
Herbert:  Okay...(turns to leave)
Otto:  Herbert, kindly shut the front door behind you.
angry foreigner:  B- but it could have been _you_!  This could all
  just be a cover-up!
Otto:  True.  (to Herbert)  Don't let me leave, either.
Herbert:  You?
Otto:  Right.  No one leaves, no one enters.  We've got a killer in
  our midst, and before the night is over, we're going to find out
  who it is.

next:   the conclusion
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  A nice little cliffhanger, which also serves as the annual
  Halloween story.  Too bad I couldn't get 302 done by October 31,
  too, but I pushed the envelope to the limit just to get this one
  done in, enjoy.
    Here's some trivia put together by the records department:

        episodes      start     finish      total time     length
          1-100       11/91     4/15/93     17.5 months    1.946 Mb
        101-200       4/16/93   7/94        15.5 months    2.013 Mb
        201-300       8/94      10/95       15.0 months    2.093 Mb

TOTAL       300       11/91     10/95          4 years     6.052 Mb

  It would seem that, over time, I've slowly but inexorably sped up
the pace of my writing, producing more (and longer) episodes in less
time.  The only problem with a trend like this is that it ultimately
has to stop.
  Speaking of which, though I certainly have no plans to stop my
writing anytime soon, it _is_ time for another break.  I cranked
this one out in time for Halloween, but I sense the need for some
sabbatical time.  Thus, this will be the last story for awhile.

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