Chapter #344

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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 1991-6 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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY (or a current splinter of it, anyway):                 +
+                                                                   +
+  Belphanior   14th/14th/14th lvl elven fighter/mage/thief  (CN/E) +
+     Otto       7th/8th level dwarven fighter/thief           (CN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        12/19/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                        +
+  Time:        early evening                                       +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long...      +
+   and you have burned so very, very brightly..."                  +
+                                            - from _Bladerunner_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                CCCXLIV.  With Friends Like These...





Otto:  (riding through the city streets, the mercenaries Kyros and
  Razor Charlie right behind him)  I don't believe this!
Kyros:  (shrugs)  Maybe it's not true.
Otto:  I probably wouldn't have believed it if it hadn't been Herbert
  who told me.
Razor Charlie:  (just sneers)
Kyros:  (looking around him as they ride, he grips his trident)  So
  where _are_ the town guards?  If what you heard is true, we're going
  to need all the help we can get.
Otto:  I told Herbert to keep them out of this.  They wouldn't stand
  much chance against Belphanior anyway.
Kyros:  (muttering to himself)  Is that a vote of confidence, or are
  we just catapult fodder?
Otto:  Yes.

  Shortly, they found Belphanior.  The red-cloaked elf was strolling
down Helgate's main street, Blackrazor held in one hand.  The black
blade was stained with blood, but more alarming was Belphanior's eye.
The thing was glowing bright red, brighter than Otto had ever seen it
shine before.  Belphanior hadn't seen the trio yet; he pointed at a
shouting fellow who stood framed in an open second-floor window.  A
volley of magical bolts sprung from the elf's fingertips, blasting the
unfortunate onlooker, who fell to the street, his body still smoking
from the missiles.

Belphanior:  Hah hah!
Otto:  (levels his crossbow at Belphanior)  That's enough!
Belphanior:  (whirls about)  Eh?
Otto:  (keeps the weapon steadied, prepared to shoot if the elf makes
  any hostile move)  What's gotten into you?
Belphanior:  Into?  Me?  (he throws back his head, laughing)
Otto:  (to the two mercenaries)  Spread out.  Quick.
Kyros:  Right.  (steps away to one side, his trident raised)
Razor Charlie:  (quickly moves to the other side, a frown crossing
  his scarred face)
Belphanior:  (fixes Otto with a stern gaze)  Join me!  There's much
  chaos to be done!
Otto:  What the hell are you talking about?
Belphanior:  After this place, I'll go elsewhere...the Sea Princes
  await, and Greyhawk too.
Otto:  Get ahold of yourself!
Belphanior:  I'm in complete control!  (his eye glows)  And it's about
  damn time.
Otto:  That eye...it's taken over...
Belphanior:  The eye has shown me the way!  For all these years I've
  behaved myself...restrained myself.  But no longer!  (he raises his
  sword)  I'm enlightened.
Otto:  You can't just go around here killing everybody.
Belphanior:  Sure I can.
Otto:  You'd better believe me, we'll stop you if we have to.
Belphanior:  Oh, I believe you.  I just don't care.
Razor Charlie:  (to Otto)  We should attack...
Otto:  No!  Not yet...(to Belphanior)  So you killed Candice?
Belphanior:  (frowns, almost looking normal for a moment)  No, I'm
  afraid it wasn't me.  I've killed some others, lately, but not her.
Otto:  Oh.
Belphanior:  (adopts the maniacal look once more)  Enough banter!
  Time to die!  (he charges at Otto)
Otto:  (taken aback)  Whoa!  (he fires his crossbow)

  Belphanior took the bolt in his sword-hand, the enchanted shaft
passing roughly halfway through before stopping.  The frenzied elf,
however, didn't stop, barreling into Otto with his sword swinging.
The dwarf was a quick fellow, but even he didn't have time to draw
his sword before Belphanior was upon him.

Belphanior:  (his hand spewing blood)  Argh!  (he tries to get his
  sword-arm raised)
Otto:  (bashes Belphanior across the face with his crossbow)  Maybe
  that'll knock some sense into you.
Belphanior:  (laughing, his eye glowing as he locks gazes with Otto)
  Hah!
Otto:  (fully expecting to be reduced to jelly)
Belphanior:  Hah!  (he blinks)  Huh?
Otto:  (takes the brief opportunity to kick outward, knocking the elf
  away)  Crap...(standing, he draws his sword)
Razor Charlie:  (hurls three knives into Belphanior)
Belphanior:  (hit in the chest, shoulder, and sword-arm, he reels)
  Argh!  Ugh!  Ungh!
Otto:  (confused)  Why didn't his eye...?
Belphanior:  Already used it today...(he looks around, drooling blood)
  No matter!  (he charges toward Otto)
Kyros:  (intercepts from the side, stabbing at the crazed elf with
  his trident)
Belphanior:  (faster than the eye can see, he grabs the trident in
  one hand and pulls it from the warrior's grip)  Naughty, naughty.
Kyros:  Ulp.
Belphanior:  Die!  (slashing at the foe, he slices him across the
  stomach)
Kyros:  (falls, clutching his belly)
Razor Charlie:  (throws more knives Belphanior's way)
Belphanior:  (hit in each thigh)  Ouch!  Argh!  (he staggers toward
  Otto, slashing)
Otto:  Hey!  (he meets the elf's blade with his shortsword)  Stop
  this madness!
Belphanior:  Fat chance...(he swings and slashes wildly)
Otto:  Okay, then.  You want it, you've got it!  (he begins weaving
  a deadly web of steel, his sword flashing)

  They danced a deadly dance of steel, each sword darting and leaping
this way and that.  Frequently, one combatant would get nicked by the
other's sword.  Both were skilled warriors, but both were also rather
aggressive ones.

Belphanior:  You can't hold up forever!  I'm the better swordsman!
Otto:  (tries to knock Blackrazor from the elf's hand, but the black
  blade seems glued in place)  Quiet!  (he stabs the elf in the side,
  his sword passing halfway through the armor and flesh)
Belphanior:  ARGH!  (he lashes out and returns the favor, impaling
  Otto in one shoulder, his sword passing through sinew and muscle)
Otto:  AAARGH!

  As both combatants stood in place, their blades stuck through the
other's body, Razor Charlie threw more knives at Belphanior.  The
first one missed by inches, but the next two didn't.

Belphanior:  Ungh!  (staggers, his blade twisting as he does so)
Otto:  ARGH!

  Belphanior looked around, a mad gleam in his eyes; he was clearly
in quite a bit of pain, and not just from the knife-wounds.  Razor
Charlie sometimes used poisoned blades, and all those he had hurled
into Belphanior had been tipped with highly toxic venom.  However,
Belphanior was still standing, for a gem he possessed granted him a
great deal of resistance to poisoning.

Razor Charlie:  (grimaces, not understanding why the elf is still
  breathing)

  Of course, even though the poison didn't kill him, it still hurt
like hell, and Belphanior gritted his teeth as the agonizing toxin
coursed through his body.

Belphanior:  (fixes his crimson gaze on the mercenary)  Grr...
Otto:  (having torn his magical barbed knife from his belt, he draws
  it back, then stabs with all his might)  Yaaaah!
Belphanior:  (looks down just in time to see the point of the knife
  as it stabs his magical eye)

  The elf let out a blood-curdling roar of agony, reeling back as he
fell off of Otto's blade, and vice versa.  The dwarf quickly dropped
to his knees, bleeding from that wound and many others; the barbed
knife, covered in dark ichor, was still in one hand.  Razor Charlie
just stood there, mesmerized, as Belphanior staggered about, dripping
blood from his various injuries and clutching his bleeding eye.  Red
beams sprouted from between his fingers, and he continued to scream
in pain and rage.  To tell the truth, the Eye of Elik was a relic,
and the barbed knife was not capable of destroying it.  However, the
eye could be injured, and took time to regenerate.  With the damage
it had just sustained, its grip on Belphanior's will now flickered,
waxing and waning.

Belphanior:  (comes to his senses, and looks around)  Wh- what...?
Otto:  It's _you_!  You and that damned, thrice-cursed eye!
Belphanior:  Eye?  (he looks at his hand, which is wet with the dark
  ichor of the slashed eye)  Fuck...
Razor Charlie:  (looks at Otto, expecting some sort of order)
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Are you back to normal now?
Belphanior:  (reverts to his insane demeanor, the eye glowing crimson
  despite its damaged state)  Normal?!?  Hah!
Otto:  Oh, hell.
Belphanior:  (reverts to his normal self, the red glow diminishing)
  Whoa...
Otto:  What's happening?
Razor Charlie:  Don't ask me.
Belphanior:  Damned eye...(he begins spellcasting, though he is now
  facing away from Otto)  Got to get...away from here...before I do
  anything...else...!
Otto:  A spell...don't let him!
Razor Charlie:  I won't.  (he hurls a knife, hitting Belphanior at
  the exact moment that he teleports away)
Otto:  He's gone!
Razor Charlie:  Don't worry.  I got him.
Otto:  No, I mean he's _gone_.
Razor Charlie:  (shrugs, flashing a scarred frown)  So?  That's good.
Otto:  Only for now...(he staggers to his feet, and begins binding
  his shoulder wound)
Razor Charlie:  You okay?
Otto:  I'll live.  Come on, let's check Kyros.

  As it turned out, the trident-bearing warrior would live; the sword
of Belphanior hadn't cut as deeply as it had first appeared.  Kyros
would, however, need several days in bed, to rest and regain his
strength.

Kyros:  Fine...but you sound like you've got somewhere to go.
Otto:  I do.  (to Razor Charlie)  We do.
Razor Charlie:  We do?
Otto:  Yup.  See, there's no telling where Belphanior's headed.  If
  we don't find him and stop him, he could go anywhere...do anything.
Herbert:  (arrives, dismounting)  You feel responsible for him?
Otto:  Maybe he can be saved...the eye stopped, or destroyed.
Herbert:  What if you can't stop it, break its control?
Otto:  I've still got to try.  I owe him that much.  He's my friend.
Kyros:  Hell, I have lots of friends.
Otto:  I don't.
Herbert:  How will you find him?
Otto:  I think I know some people who might be able to help.  (to
  Herbert)  You're in charge til I get back.  Deputize citizens, if
  you need to.  Do what you have to do.
Herbert:  Got it.
Otto:  Believe me, I don't _want_ to leave Helgate, not these days.
  But I have to.  (to Razor Charlie)  How long will it take you to
  pack your things?
Razor Charlie:  Not long.  (he checks his stock of blades)  Hmm, I'll
  need to get more knives.
Otto:  We ride in ten minutes.





  Elsewhere (a VERY distant elsewhere) one grossly fat figure threw
back its horned head and laughed for a long, long time.  The beast
was seated on a massive white throne fashioned from countless bones
and skulls, and various lesser demons held court around the ghastly
chair.

Orcus:  ...HAH HAH...
Balor:  (being Balor, only he dares to speak up at this moment)  'Tis
  not that humorous, milord.  (the fearsome demon rubs an empty eye
  socket, from which a thin stream of black ichor flows)
Orcus:  OH, YES, THAT'S RIGHT.  YOU AND THE EYE ARE STILL...LINKED.
Balor:  Not for much longer, I hope.
Orcus:  FEAR NOT.  ERE MUCH LONGER, BELPHANIOR WILL COME OVER TO OUR
  SIDE, TOTALLY AND IRREVOCABLY.  THEN, IT WILL BE TIME TO BRING HIM
  HERE, INTO THE ABYSS.
Balor:  Your plan is bearing its rotten fruit...
Orcus:  INDEED.  NECROS WAS A GREAT LOSS, BUT BELPHANIOR WILL MORE
  THAN COMPENSATE.
Balor:  And the eye will be mine once more.
random demon:  (feeling cocky, since its masters seem to be in such a
  good mood, it speaks up)  But what about the-
Orcus:  (slaps the demon, knocking its jaw loose and sending it back
  into a wall, hard)  QUIET, DOLT!  WOULD YOU REVEAL ALL OUR PLANS
  ALREADY?
Balor:  (faces the demon, its fiery whips snaking with a life all
  their own)  Fool!  You must learn the meaning of patience...true
  patience!
demon:  (unable to do more than blubber due to its shattered jaw, it
  recoils fearfully)  Blbbbglbb...
Orcus:  (to no one in particular)  JUST BECAUSE _I_ AM PLEASED DOES
  NOT MEAN THAT EVERYONE IS PLEASED...LET THIS BE A LESSON!





next:   ...
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:   tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu  (preferred)
        thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu    (emergency)
notes:  Remember that picture in the 1st edition DMG, where the
  wizard is riding through a town, firing magic missiles at random
  people?  It was called "Emrikal the chaotic" or something like
  that.
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