Chapter #302

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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:        4/14/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late evening                                        +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,      +
+   however improbable, must be truth."                             +
+                                  - Sherlock Holmes, among others  +

                  CCCII.  A Killer Amongst Us

  After tracking a slasher-style murderer to the Cup and Sword
Tavern, Otto has locked the place down, intending to figure out
which of the people inside is the murderer.  Is it one of the
three foreigners...or Albion the leatherworker...or perhaps the
miner Gunther, Desmond the leech, Ganzer the blacksmith...or even
old Jamaine, the cobbler...or one of three three town guardsmen
present...or possibly one of the whores, Candice and Leanne...or
one of those who works at the inn:  Rexxus, Claudia, and the two
serving wenches?
  Only time, and effort, would possibly yield an answer.

Otto:  Time is one thing we've got.
Rexxus:  This is ridiculous!  You can't just keep us all in here
  like this!
Otto:  I can, and I will.  Two innocent women are dead now, and
  one of you is the murderer.
foreigner#1:  (a swarthy Kettite merchant)  Zhis ees unfair!  Eet
  ess eempossible to learn who eet wass.
Otto:  You...just don't talk.
Rexxus:  (still complaining)  Next thing I know, you'll be telling
  me to give everyone free beer.
foreigner#2:  (a tall, lanky Tenh warrior)   That would be nice.
Otto:  Nope, no beer until we figure out who's who and what's what.
  First thing:  who can we eliminate?
foreigner#3:  (a noble from Perrenland)  You can eliminate me-
Otto:  That could be arranged.
foreigner:  Uh...
Otto:  All right, then.
Jamaine:  You're the only one who saw the murderer, you say?
Otto:  That's right, unless someone else knows something and wants
  to share...?  (he looks around the room, and is greeted with
  silence)  That's what I thought.
Jamaine:  Only you saw the you say.  Let's not forget
  that it could have been _you_.
Otto:  If you want to consider that possibility, go right ahead.
  But remember who's got the crossbow with the poisoned bolts.
Jamaine:  You have a point.
foreigner#3:  Bah.
Otto:  (to the dwarf Ganzer)  You, like me, are too short to have
  been the cloaked figure I saw.
Jamaine:  Unless it was one of you!
Otto:  Quiet.  (to Ganzer)  Get over here, by me.
Ganzer:  (complies, glad to be off the suspect list)
Otto:  Okay, who's been in this common room without a break, for
  the last half-hour?

  This question was met with an angry commotion from the others
in the room, and led to a great deal of arguing.

foreigner#1:  (pointing at foreigner#2)  He wass gone for a long
  time!  Eet might have been him!
foreigner#2:  A man's gotta take a leak from time to time, pal.
Jamaine:  I personally remember seeing several of us wander in
  and out of this room, in the last half-hour.
Gunther:  Hell, I for one don't remember who came and went.
Desmond:  (nods)  It's not the kind of thing you think about, if
  you aren't thinking about looking for a murderer.
Albion the leatherworker:  (looks around, confused)
Claudia:  It wasn't me - I haven't had a break since afternoon.
Rexxus:  (frowning)  You took one then?
foreigner#3:  This is outrageous!  Different people are making up
  different stories.  Nobody remembers anything, or at least they
  don't remember _everything_.
foreigner#2:  He's right.  (to Otto)  You can't shoot more than one
  of us, before we take you.
Otto:  (raises his crossbow, aiming it directly at the man's face)
  Then the first one dies.  Got it?
foreigner#2:  (showing no fear)  Sure.
Ganzer:  (to Otto)  Look, this isn't working out.  We've got to
  find a better way.
Otto:  You're right.  (he eyes the people in the room, seeing that
  none of them has a black cloak, like the killer he shot)  Damn.
  Hmm.  Shot!  Aha!
Jamaine:  What now?
Otto:  One of you will be bleeding from a fresh bolt wound.  If we
  find that wound, we've found the killer.
Jamaine:  Now we're getting somewhere.
foreigner#2:  You're demanding to search us?
Otto:  Strip search.
foreigner#2:  What an indignity!  I'd sooner die than suffer such
  an affront-
Otto:  (pointing his crossbow again)  That can be arranged.
foreigner#2:  Hmm.
Jamaine:  Where'd your bolt catch this...killer?
Otto:  I'm not sure.  It was dark, and foggy.  All I know is that
  the wound wasn't fatal.
town guard#1:  Me and him-  (points at town guard#2)  -were here
  the whole time.
town guard#2:  As was he.  (thumbs at town guard#3, the one who
  Otto had to reel back into the tavern)
town guard#3:  Yeah, he's right.
Otto:  You're sure?  Absolutely sure?
town guards:  (nodding)
Jamaine:  For what it's worth, I agree with them.  Those three sat
  at the corner table and shared a few pitchers of beer, for quite
  a while.
Otto:  Okay.  You three get over here, next to Ganzer.
three guards:  (comply)
Otto:  More support for me, should the killer decide to bolt...
foreigner#1:  Zhees ees a conspeeeracy!
Otto:  Nonsense.  We'll get to the bottom of things.
Jamaine:  (stripping off his clothes)
Claudia:  What are you doing?
Jamaine:  Hell, if it's a wound he's looking for, I'll be the
  first to show that I've not got one!
Otto:  (gestures with his crossbow)  You can stop at the under-
  tunic - if you had a wound there you wouldn't be walking around.
Jamaine:  (now naked, save for his crotch area; his wrinkled body
  bears no wounds)  Happy?
Otto:  No, but get dressed and come stand behind these guards.
Jamaine:  About damn time.  (he gathers his clothes and moves as
Candice:  Gee, this is going to get interesting when it's my turn.
Leanne:  No kidding.
Rexxus:  (drools at the very thought)
Candice:  Are you going to search us _everywhere_?
Leanne:  Heh heh.
Otto:  Shut up, both of you.
Claudia:  (Otto)  Look, I can't prove to you that I didn't take any
  breaks, but I know that these other two didn't.  (she points at
  her fellow serving girls)
Otto:  Very well.  You two, get over here.
girls:  (obey, scared yet relieved)

  This left Albion the leatherworker, Gunther the miner, Desmond
the leech, Candice and Leanne the whores, Rexxus the bartender and
Claudia the serving wench, and the three foreigners.

foreigner#3:  You're just suspicious of us because we're not from
Otto:  Everyone gets equal treatment, pal.
foreigner#1:  Thees is a grave-
Otto:  I thought I told you not to talk.
foreigner#2:  I'll talk.  You can't silence our pleas of innocence
  by telling us to shut up.
Otto:  You're right.  Once you prove that you've no wounds, then
  I won't tell you to shut up.
Leanne:  (notices a spot of blood on the back of Gunther's tunic)
Otto:  What?!?
Gunther:  (acting confused as the whore points at him)  What's going
Leanne:  H- he's bleeding!
Otto:  (raises the crossbow)  Lose your shirt, pal.
Gunther:  But...we're friends!
Otto:  Let's see where that blood is coming from.
Gunther:  (strips off his shirt, revealing a barrel chest scored
  with a small wound)  I scraped myself on a sharp spike of rock,
  in the mines today.
foreigner#2:  Sure you did.
Gunther:  (shaking his fist at the man)  It's true!  The wound
  must have re-opened...damned leech's shitty bandaging job...
Desmond:  (growing angry)  Don't you dare blame-
Gunther:  -I'll smash your-
foreigner#2:  -did it-
Albion:  -me out of here-
foreigner#1:  -ees an outrage now-
Otto:  SHUT UP!  All of you!
everyone:  (silent)
Otto:  Gunther, come over here.  Let me have a look at that wound.
Desmond:  No, let _me_ have a look at it.  I'm much more qualified.
Gunther:  (ambles over)
Otto:  Hmm.  (he pokes at the wound)
Desmond:  (to the dwarf)  You'll never make a good leech.  (he has
  a good look at the wound)  This wasn't the work of a bolt.
Otto:  You're right.
foreigner#1:  Ees crazee!  You're all een eet together!
foreigner#2:  Would you shut up?!?
Otto:  Desmond, check Gunther for other wounds.  (he eyes the rest
  of the suspects)
Candice:  Strip search...really...
Otto:  (frowns)
Albion:  (finally offers something useful)  You could have the
  women check each other for wounds.
Jamaine:  Maybe you should check people's packs, instead.
Otto:  There's an idea!  Where else would a person leave a bloody
foreigner#3:  You're not serious!
Otto:  (locks gazes with the man)
foreigner#3:  You are.
Otto:  Yup.
foreigner#3:  I have valuable things in my pack.  Personal things.
foreigner#2:  Like what?
Otto:  Like a bloody cloak, maybe?
Desmond:  He's clean.
Otto:  What?
Desmond:  Gunther here.  He's got no bolt wounds.
Otto:  Okay.
Gunther:  Glad you finally see.
Otto:  Yeah, well, we've got more to see.  Jamaine?
Jamaine:  What?
Otto:  Check Desmond here for wounds.
Desmond:  (alarmed)  But...!
Otto:  Hey, the sooner you check out, the sooner I can use you.
Desmond:  (grumbling)  You surely don't believe that _I_ was the
Otto:  I don't know what to believe.
Otto:  Meanwhile...Candice, Leanne?
Candice:  Yeah?
Otto:  Strip.
Leanne:  But-
Otto:  Do it, now.  We're not gonna see anything that everyone else
  hasn't seen already.
Leanne:  (begins removing her clothes)
Otto:  Come on, Candice.  This is no time for modesty.
Candice:  (shoots Otto a look of pure hatred)
Rexxus:  Y'know, _I_ was behind the bar all night.  It couldn't
  have been me.  I should be standing over there with the others.
Otto:  Claudia?
Claudia:  I think he's right.
Otto:  (to the other two serving wenches)  What do you think?
wench#1:  He never left, except to get some bottles of wine, from
  the closet in the back.
Rexxus:  Heck, it's right back there...(he moves for the back room)
Otto:  Not so fast.  (to one of the town guards)  You go.  Check it
guard:  Right.  (heads for the back room)
Jamaine:  Otto?
Otto:  Eh?
Jamaine:  Desmond's not the murderer, either.
Otto:  Very well.  Desmond, you can check Rexxus, and Albion, and
  these three foreigners.  I suspect that we're closing in on the
  killer, and fast.
Desmond:  (still grumbling)
Rexxus:  What about me?
Otto:  What _about_ you?

  Meanwhile, Candice and Leanne had proven, beyond the shadow of a
doubt, that they bore no wounds of any kind.

foreigner#2:  (nodding)  Not bad.
Otto:  (to the women)  Okay, dress and get over here.  You're clean.
Candice:  I hope you're-

  There was a sudden, muffled cry from the back room, where the lone
guard had gone looking...

Otto:  What the hell...(he dashes that way, then turns back to face
  the town guards)  Watch everyone.  (he leaves through the hallway)

  The closet was right in front of the dwarf, if the body next to
the open door was any indication.  Otto checked the closet to make
sure it was empty, and then bent down to examine the guard's still
form.  The man was dead, from a still-gushing throat wound that was
quickly soaking the wooden floor around the body.
  In the closet was a black cloak, with a hood; a bloody rip in its
back suggested that it was the very cloak worn by whoever Otto had
shot earlier tonight.  The garment was draped over the protruding
necks of some wine bottles.  Other than the cloak, and the wine,
the closet was empty.

Otto:  (looking around)  So the killer _wasn't_ anyone in that room
  back there...(he turns to follow the hallway

  Suddenly, the door was slammed shut, colliding with the dwarf's
head and knocking him out cold.  A dark figure hovered above him, a
bloody knife clutched in its hand...

town guards:  (charging down the hallway, swords raised)  Look!  The
dark figure:  (turns, running down the hall and around the corner)

  The guards stopped to check Otto, then pursued the fleeing killer
down the hall.  However, they quickly came upon a stairway leading
up; at its top was a locked door, probably bolted from the other side.
As they struggled to break down the heavy door, wisps of smoke began
seeping forth from under the portal.

town guard:  (sniffing the air)  Something's burning!
other town guard:  He must've set a fire...come on!  This building's
  old, and it's liable to go up like a barn filled with hay.  (they
  retreat, grabbing Otto's limp form on the way out)

  In the tavern's main lobby...

Rexxus:  (eyeing the prone form of Otto)  What happened to _him_?
town guard:  Never mind that - this place is on fire!
Rexxus:  WHAT?!?
other town guard:  No shit - everyone out.  Now!

  Everyone except Rexxus fled the Cup and Sword; the bartender was
busy gathering his few valuables, cursing loudly all the while.  By
the time he joined the crowd outside, the tavern's entire second
floor was ablaze.  From their vantage point outside, they could see
the burning timbers falling down, into the first floor.  While some
were content to watch the blaze, others had their own agendas...

random townsperson:  (standing over the unconscious Otto)  What do
  we do with him?
Rexxus:  I say we kill him!
town guard:  (hand on sword)  I say we don't.
random ruffian:  This may be the only chance we get...
random miner:  Yeah.
Jamaine:  Have you so quickly forgotten how he and the elf saved
  all those people, that day in the mine?
Ganzer:  Really.
Rexxus:  Who cares?!?
Eduardo:  (appears from nowhere)  Just remember, sirs:  whether you
  do it or not, Belphanior will soon come back.  If his friend is
  dead, you know what will happen then.
random townsperson:  Hmm.
Rexxus:  Uh...good point.
town guard:  (picks Otto up, on his shoulders, and carries him away)
  End of discussion.
Claudia:  Where are you taking him?
town guard:  Somewhere safe.  (he walks away)
Rexxus:  Who was that kid?
Jamaine:  (frowns at the former bartender)
random townsperson:  That was Travis, the guardsman.

  Meanwhile, Otto woke up, on a couch in the town's guard station.

Otto:  Ungh...(looks around)  What the fuck's going on?
Travis:  I pulled you out of the Cup and Sword, after it started
Otto:  Burning?!?  (he stands up)  Let's get over there!

  They hurried back, but the tavern was little more than a hollow,
blackened, smoking shell now.  Its remnants glowed redly in the
night air, and occasionally, a piece of charred debris would fall
from a higher location to a lower one.  Whoever or whatever the
killer was, its identity would accompany it to the grave.

Otto:  Well, damn.
Herbert:  (eyeing the smoking ruin of the Cup and Sword)  What a
Otto:  Yeah...listen, I want you to detail some men to search the
  ashes of this place.
Herbert:  Not a problem...I take it we're looking for bones?
Otto:  Right you are, my good man.  Until I see proof that someone's
  dead, they still count as living.
Herbert:  I'll get right on it.
Otto:  Fine.  Let me know when you find something.

next:   Ged, back in action
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  This was a rather disjointed mystery, but sometimes cliff-
  hangers get like that.

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