Chapter #31

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*****
*  The 8 player characters contained in these writings are copyright
*  1992 by Thomas Miller...copying and distribution of these stories
*  is permissible only under the condition that no part of them will
*  be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them.
*    The dungeons and non-player characters contained herein are from
*  TSR's module, A3, and are copyright 1980 by TSR, Inc.  Specific
*  text and maps from them have been avoided, and I encourage anyone
*  who enjoys reading about them to buy and play the whole "A" series.
*****

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THE PARTY:

Alindyar, 6th level drow elf mage (N)
Belphanior, 5th/4rd/5th level high elf fighter/mage/thief (CN)
Ged, 5th/5th level grey elf priest/mage of Boccob (NG)
Halbarad, 6th level human ranger (NG)
Mongo Thunderhead, 6th level dwarf fighter (CG)
Peldor, 7th level human thief (N)
Peyote, 5th/6th level half-elf fighter/druid of Obad-Hai (N)
Rob, 6th level human priest of Trithereon (LG)
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                 XXXI.  Into the Slavers' City



  The party camped overnight in the throne room of an evil mage/
illusionist.  Since the secret exit they found seemed to be a
long passage leading out of any dungeon-type environment, they
thought it safe to camp in the last room of the place.  Having
rested, healed, rememorized, and prayed, they are now ready to
explore the underground tunnel...

Alindyar:  It has occurred to me that we may end up somewhere in
  the Underdark.
Halbarad:  We had best be careful then.
Rob:  What's an Underdark?
Ged:  Never mind, twit.  Let's go onward...
Mongo:  Yeah!  (opens the door, which Peldor just unlocked again,
  and forges on into a tunnel)

  The party traveled for about half an hour through the underground
passage, and then saw daylight from a barred gate ahead.  Mongo and
Halbarad opened the thing, and the group stepped through the opening
and various shrubs which concealed it.  They were on the slope of a
hill, on a large island, in the center of a lake.  The lake was in
turn inside a huge volcanic crater, which rose high above the lake
and island both, hiding them very effectively from the outside world.

Rob:  Wow!  Neat-O!
Ged:  No wonder all the slaves seem to disappear...
Peyote:  Surely there is some way into this place from the surrounding
  lands.
Halbarad:  Yes...look there. (points to a narrow pass on one inner slope
  of the crater; many guards are visible there, appearing as vague dots
  at this distance)  'Twould seem that there is but one way to enter this
  hideaway.
Ged:  Yea...and a dozen good men could defend that pass against many more
  invaders.
Mongo:  They've got it real good for themselves here, that's for sure.
Belphanior:  I wonder what we can do to change that...
Alindyar:  'Tis fortunate that we are well-concealed in these shrubs.  It
  would not do for us to be seen.
Peldor:  We need some kind of disguise though.
Halbarad:  Let us camp here for a time, and watch.  Maybe something will
  present itself.
Mongo:  I say we charge in there at nightfall and maim the slavers!
Ged:  Wouldn't work.
Peldor:  Stealth is called for here...
Peyote:  Let's watch and wait, dudes.  See what's up, then go down there
  after we've scoped out the place.

  They remained hidden for the rest of the day, planning to do something
at nightfall.  It was noted that there was occasional traffic into the
city.  Guards seemed more plentiful at the northern walls, presumably
since the buildings there were reminiscent of wealthier residents.  At
dusk, the party moved cautiously down the hillside and headed for the
southern gate to the city.  They were still fairly far away when:

Halbarad:  Look yonder!  Some travellers approach...
Alindyar:  There are eight of them.  How very coincidental.
Belphanior:  Rob!  Get that silence spell ready!
Ged:  What are you going to do, mug them?
Belphanior:  Actually, I'd prefer to kill them, but for your sake, we'll
  just talk with them.  If they act up, though, we may have to use some
  force...
Ged:  Well, stop yapping - here they are.
dandy:  (well-dressed and sneering)  Who are YOU people?
other dandy:  Hmph.  They obviously should have come in as slaves, by
  the looks of them.
third dandy:  OB-viously.  Out of our path, peasants.
Mongo:  Hey!  Who are you calling a peasant?!?
dandy:  Eeew!  It's a dwarf.
dandy#2:  Grody!  Away, flea-ridden subhumanoid beast!
dandy#3:  You'd think the guards would have gotten rid of wandering
  louts by now.
Halbarad:  We are but weary travelers, seeking to bed down for the night
  and purchase some slaves on the morrow.  Have you any advice?
dandy#1:  Take baths.  You people are just filthy!
dandy#2:  Horrid!
Alindyar:  How is the slave business?
dandy#3:  I don't talk to _peasants_.  Now step aside, there, there.
Peyote:  What is your problem?!  Lighten up, guys.
dandy#1:  Aside, elfscum.  We have pressing business in Suderham.  What
  would the guards do if we had to report you for obstruction of your
  obvious superiors?
Belphanior:  What would YOU do if I had to cut your ears off and feed
  them to you?  Heh heh.
dandy#2:  Are you THREATENING us?!?
dandy#3:  It can't be!
Ged:  But it is!  Both I and Boccob have had enough of your prattle.  If
  you would, Rob...
Rob:  Huh?  Oh.
Mongo:  And me!  One more insult and I'm ramming this hammer up your-
dandy#1:  Agh!  Terror!  Horror!  Killers!  Guar-
Rob:  (just cast his silence 15' radius on the eight nobles)  Quiet, O
  foppish ones.  Even _I_ am sick of your smart mouths.  And I'm a
  pretty tolerant kind of guy.
Mongo:  Way to go Rob!
Peyote:  Yeah, way!
Halbarad:  Drag them aside, into those bushes, there.
Ged:  But keep them all together, for the spell.
Belphanior:  (close enough to the dandies to also be silenced, but
  draws his sword and menaces them)
Mongo:  (raises his hammer meaningfully)  Just try it.  Go ahead, make
  my day!
Peldor:  (liberating their moneypouches)

  Soon, the eight nobles were bound and gagged, and the silence spell
was cancelled.  Questioning revealed that the city was indeed Suderham,
the City of the Nine.  Most residents were from nearby lands; all were
loyal to one or another of these Slave Lords.  The nine rulers stayed
in a citadel, well-guarded and nigh-impregnable, in the northern region
of the city.  When prompted further, the speaker said no more - until
Belphanior's blade drew a drop of blood from the noble's neck.  Then
the man blabbered about rumored underground passages in the city.

Mongo:  Good enough.  Let's find these tunnels and collapse them or
  something like that.
Peldor:  Hey, these jerks have papers which should get us into the city.
Ged:  Good.  Why don't we take their clothes, too?  Then our armor and
  other gear would be well hidden.
Halbarad:  That sounds like a workable plan.
Ged:  Of course it's a workable plan.  I thought of it.
Peyote:  Way to go, dude!
Mongo:  Do you think they'll have anything that'll fit me?

  After some time, the nobles' garments were in place on the adventurers
(though Mongo had to cut the bottom off of his so it wouldn't drag on
the ground).  The party left the fops unconscious, bound, and gagged
(though Belphanior had killed one before he was stopped by Ged).  By
the time they headed back to the city, the sun was setting; a red glow
lit up the high rim of the crater in a hellish way.

Belphanior:  Cool!

  The party went right up to the city's south gate, as planned.

guard:  Okay, let's see your papers.
Halbarad:  (first in line, hands the stolen papers over to the greasy-
  looking guard)  Certainly.
guard:  Hmm.  What's your business?
Belphanior:  We're here to get some slaves for our master, the great
  and dreaded Iuz.  (he presents his papers as well)
Peldor:  After all, it's mining season, and he wants plenty of new
  ones to dig in his silver mines.
guard:  Okay, go on through.  Buy some for me!  Har har!

Halbarad:  (leading them into the city)  Where shall we start?
Ged:  I don't know, but here comes some bum...
beggar:  Alms!  Alms!  Alms for the poor!
Rob:  Aww.
Ged:  Here, have a gold piece.  (hands the unfortunate a coin)
Peldor:  How generous of you.
Ged:  Boccob often helps the needy, after all.  He is a generous god.
Peldor:  That's Boccob - the paragon of generosity, all right.
beggar:  (whispering)  Hey!  I'm from the lords who hired you!  No
  time for talk now - seek out the ivory paladin!
Halbarad:  Paladin?
beggar:  (scurries off)
Peldor:  (runs after him, looks around, comes back)  Whoever he was,
  he's gone.  Fast little bugger...
Alindyar:  I seem to recall that our employers did mention agents in
  the field...
Halbarad:  Um...so where do we want to go?
Mongo:  Food!  I'm hungry and also sick of road food!  Let's find us a
  tavern.  The paladin can wait.
Peldor:  Sounds good.  I'm also starving.
Belphanior:  Me too, as a matter of fact.
Alindyar:  And I as well.

   < At this point, the players and DM order out for 3 large pizzas! >

Alindyar:  There are some taverns, up ahead and to the right.
Mongo:  (soon after, spying one tavern that seems too quiet)  Forget this
  place!  It's not kickin'!
Belphanior:  That one there - the "Fighting Man's Haven".  Loud, and
  lively too.
Mongo:  Perfect!  (strides right in)
Peldor:  Beer!  (dashes after the dwarf)
Ged:  Wait...damn.

  The party entered the place, to find Mongo and Peldor already hard
at work drinking from a huge pitcher of cheap beer.  The pair had found
a suitably large table, and a suitably cute serving wench as well.

wench:  What'll it be, boys?
Mongo:  Bring us a boar!  A roast boar!
wench:  A leg, or some ribs, or what?
Peldor:  The whole damn boar!
Ged:  I'd like some steamed potatoes, and wine.
Halbarad:  I'll share their boar.  Ale to drink, please.
Peyote:  Ditto for me, babe.
Belphanior:  Do you have pheasant here?
wench:  Sure thing.  You want one?
Belphanior:  Yup.  (guzzling some of the beer)  Urp!
Alindyar:  I should like a loaf of bread, and a flagon of your finest
  wine.
wench:  That's twenty gold for a bottle!  You got that much?
Peldor:  It's on me!  (slaps a pouch full of gold onto the table)  Just
  keep the food and drink coming!
wench:  (laughing in glee as she makes the money disappear)  Sure thing,
  cutie-pie!  (runs off)
Rob:  Hey!  I didn't get to order!
Alindyar:  My thanks, thief.
Peldor:  No problem, heh heh.  (empties his mug)  It was those dandies'
  money, anyway.
Mongo:  They don't take our coins here - they have to be minted in
  this city, see.
Peldor:  Fortunately, we have some coins that WERE minted here...
Mongo:  Urp!
local:  (wandering up)  Hey, friend!  (slaps Belphanior on the back)
Belphanior:  A-hem!  (regarding the man evilly)
local:  'Ow 'bout a song wif' us?!?  (belches)
Belphanior:  I don-
Peldor:  Sure!  (refills his mug and joins in with the nearby table,
  and Mongo follows suit shortly, much to the crowd's approval...)

  Several hours later, the party left the tavern, full of food as
well as drink.  Mongo seemed fairly sober despite the large amount
of beer he had ingested.  But as for Peldor...

Ged:  So what next?  The ivory paladin?
Peldor:  Guess so.  (hails a passing group of guards)  Ho!  My fine
  friends!  What a fine night this is for a stroll!  Could you by any
  chance direct us to the Ivory Paladin?
guard leader:  A drunk, eh?  Let me see your passes.
Peldor:  Passes, passes, kiss my-
Ged:  (kicks the thief in the rear)  Quiet, you fool!
Peldor:  Ow.
Halbarad:  (shows the guard his pass)  Excuse my friend there, he's
  had just a bit too much tonight.
guard leader:  No problem, just keep him quiet.  We have no room for
  troublemakers and drunks here.  And, there is no "Ivory Paladin"
  in the city - but you might try the White Knight, through that
  alleyway there.
Halbarad:  Our thanks.  Good night to you.
guard patrol:  (marches on)

Peldor:  But I want to SING!
Mongo:  Can't hold your liquor, can you?  Heh heh.
Ged:  Maybe we should put a silence spell on him...
Peldor:  The almighty Peldor can never be silenced!
Halbarad:  Quiet, thief.  If you get us thrown in jail, I will pummel
  you soundly.
Peldor:  Pummel, shmummel!  No one wants to have any fun!
Peyote:  (helps to support the drunken thief)
Mongo:  (observing a nearby armor shop with interest; unfortunately
  the place is closed for the night)

  The party followed the guard's directions and found a large tavern,
with a sign depicting a white knight hanging over the door.  They went
inside, and Belphanior and Halbarad went to talk to the barkeep while
the others sat at a table.  The place seemed busy yet not obnoxious.

Halbarad:  Friend barkeep, we seek knowledge.
barkeep:  (a fat, greasy human)  Sure, sonny.  (holds his hand out
  meaningfully)  Don't we all?
Belphanior:  (puts a hundred gold coins into the man's sweaty palm)
  What have you to say now?
barkeep:  Well!  Generous travellers indeed!  Remember this:  Not all
  who lie are resting!  And, furthermore, you can learn from the
  knowledge that never dies!  Here, have a beer!  (pushes two mugs
  out, and waddles over to the other side of the bar to help somebody
  else)
Halbarad:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  Useless.  Let's get the hell out of here before I kill him.

  The party left the tavern, and wandered on.  Next door to the tavern
was a quiet place with a sign over its door.  The wooden sign showed
a cluster of red roses.

Peyote:  (peeking in)  Hmm.
Ged:  What?  What is it?
Peyote:  You'll like this.  It's a whorehouse...
Ged:  Oh really...?
Peldor:  A WHOREhouse?!?  (breaks free of Peyote and disappears through
  the door)
Belphanior:  Hold on.  I'll recover him.  (strides into the brothel)

inside:

Peldor:  Well hello there, madam.
madame:  Greetings, fine sir.  Choose any room you like - business is
  bad tonight and all my rooms are open.
Peldor:  Bad business, eh?  Not for long!
madame:  Oh, you're a handsome one, I see.  Just pick a room and have at
  it!
Peldor:  Don't mind if I do.
Belphanior:  (entering)  Excuse me, miss.
Peldor:  Aw, no!  Just when I was about to score!
madame:  What's this, a chaperone?
Belphanior:  No, I'm just here to keep this fool out of trouble.
madame:  Well, you're welcome to stay, too.  You're awful...big.  For an
  elf.  We could find somebody for you.
Belphanior:  Err....umm...
Peldor:  Come on!  To hell with the others!  Wild women await!  (gestures
  to the hallway of rooms)
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Some other time, maybe.  We really must go.  (grabs
  Peldor by the collar and forcibly drags him out as the thief protests
  loudly)

outside:

Ged:  Aha.  The fool returns.
Peldor:  I'll be back, madam!
Belphanior:  Let's get a move on.  (they continue down the street, passing
  another house of ill repute before taking a series of left turns)
Mongo:  Hey, there's a blacksmith shop!  Aw, they're closed too.  Maybe
  we should come back in the daytime.
Alindyar:  Let us not forget our mission here.  We have no time to tarry
  in this place.
Halbarad:  Aye.  Let the whores wait for another time.
Peldor:  Hmph!
Rob:  (casts neutralize poison on Peldor, rendering him significantly
  more sober)  There.
Peldor:  Hey!  What gives?!
Rob:  We may need your great skills soon.
Peldor:  ...
Ged:  You'll thank us in the morning.

  The adventurers passed another noisy pub, but didn't go inside
(much to Peldor's chagrin).  Soon after, they noticed a stone
building with strange marks and sigils on its doors and walls.

Belphanior:  (raises his eyebrows)
Peldor:  Hey!  Let's move on...that place is a guildhouse of the
  worst kind.
Ged:  What, a thieves' guild?
Peldor:  No, worse.  An assassins' guild!
Peyote:  Move on, let's go.  Assassins aren't nearly mellow enough
  to make good company.  Besides, they tend to kill people.
Halbarad:  Sensible observation.  What's this, homes up ahead?
Belphanior:  Seems like it.
Peldor:  Let's explore them.  Maybe we can get some loot out of
  this night, since you guys won't let me have any fun.
Ged:  Steal nothing.  But we shall explore.
Mongo:  I'm getting bored.  (tries a door, to find it securely
  locked)
Ged:  That place up ahead looks to be another tavern.
Alindyar:  Judging by the clientele, 'tis an upper-scale place.
Mongo:  Then we definitely don't belong there...

  They circled the tavern and headed back in the direction they
came from, as it was obvious that they were getting into the high-
class section of town, and a majority vote determined that they
weren't yet ready to risk a confrontation with someone in power.
Actually, there was a huge castle right next to them - almost
certainly the Slave Lords' keep - and many, many guards patrolled
the high walls.

Halbarad:  Let's move on.  (they walk back southward, into the
  darker shadows away from the citadel)
Mongo:  Hey, there's that blacksmith shop again.  Must be the rear
  door.
Belphanior:  (trying another residential door, which is also locked)
  Damn.
Peldor:  You'd think that SOMEone would be kind enough to leave a
  door open for us.
Ged:  Only if they were utter fools...
Mongo:  Hey, this one's open!  (pushes open the door to someone's
  house)
Halbarad:  I like this not.  Peldor, why don't you go in, since you
  are now able, and scout the place for us?
Rob:  Yeah, why don't you-
Peldor:  Shh!  (sneaks in)

  Before long, the thief came back, reporting that the place was
very well-furnished but apparently abandoned.  They entered the
house, locked the door behind them, and proceeded to rest and search
the premises for clues about the city, the Slave Lords, or anything
else.  Peldor made a point to check everything in every room, but
even he was surprised when Belphanior found a hatch under a rug in
one bedroom...

Belphanior:  Aha!  (the two thieves are the only ones in this room,
  as others are checking other rooms or resting)
Peldor:  How'd you get that?!  How did you know there would be a
  secret door under the rug?
Belphanior:  Always check under the rug.  Surveys have shown that
  it's the number one choice to put something.  Of course, half the
  time they put a trap there instead...
Peldor:  Well done, anyway.
Belphanior:  I don't want to tip them off yet that I'm a thief.
  You take credit for the discovery.
Peldor:  Sure thing...hey, nice jewelry box here.  Nice rings
  inside, too...(they shake hands before cleaning out the room)

  About fifteen minutes later, they finished looking around and
met to discuss options from here.  Peldor informed the others of
the secret hatch that he found.

Halbarad:  It is well after midnight.  Perhaps too far after...
Alindyar:  (looking out a window at the stars)  By my estimation,
  we have no more than an hour until the sun proceeds to rise.
Peldor:  Plenty of time.
Belphanior:  Maybe.
Peyote:  NOT!  We'd get caught in the early morning hubbub.
Ged:  Considering that we don't even know where the damned passage
  leads, I vote that we wait.
Rob:  Yeah!
Mongo:  But what if the owners of this house come back?
Peldor:  Nah.  They're obviously on vacation.  Look at the dust in
  this place!  It's been at least a month since anybody came here.
Belphanior:  Agreed.  There's no chance that they'll decide to come
  back tomorrow, of all days.
Halbarad:  We could sleep here, and check the passage tomorrow night.
Peyote:  Yeah...then we'd have many hours to blow.  Instead of just
  one.
Ged:  Agreed.  Let us sleep.  I, for one, need it.

  Thus, they bedded down for the night, in someone else's house, in
a hidden city on an island in a lake, inside a dead volcano crater
in the middle of hostile lands...





next time:  the guardian; torched; the killer blob; torched again

************************************************************************

  I have gotten practically _no_ mail about these in the last two
weeks (only from a few die-hard fans  :).  Are they not coming often
enough, or do they suck, or is everyone getting them from the ftp
site, or what?
  Seriously, if no one reads them, I'll lose the desire to write
them.  Reader feedback is what keeps me at it when I'm in a slump,
and I'm definitely in a slump right now.  At one time, I had a dozen
email notes each time I posted a new part - total # respondents w/o
repetition was >> 100 !!
  Now, the mighty river has become but a trickle.  What's going on?

tmiller@prism.gatech.edu
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