Chapter #408

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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 Company of Nine (visitors in Helgate):                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Abner          5th level human magic-user                   (LN) +
+  Aggro the Axe  4th level human fighter                      (CG) +
+  Arkayn         4th level human cleric                       (LG) +
+  Arlanni        2nd level human female thief                  (N) +
+  Balto          1st level human monk                         (LN) +
+  Barjin         4th/5th level half-elven fighter/magic-user   (N) +
+  Gutboy Barrelhouse  5th level dwarven fighter               (CN) +
+  Blastum        4th level human magic-user                   (CN) +
+  Sarnath        5th level human magic-user                   (NE) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/9/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        a short time before dawn                            +
+  Place:       Helgate, deep within the Yatil Mountains            +
+  Climate:     chilly w/light drizzling rain                       +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "He's a killer, isn't he?                                        +
+  "He's killed some."                                              +
+                                             - from _Wyatt Earp_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                     CDVIII.  Castle-Bound





  The Company of Nine is preparing to set out on its greatest
quest yet...

Abner:  Let's make sure we're ready, before we leave.
Gutboy Barrelhouse:  Damn right I'm ready!  Enough talking, and
  sleeping - time for action!
Aggro:  The way you snore, it's hard to believe you were sleeping.
Gutboy:  Can it, you.
Abner:  That's enough!  (he turns to the older man beside him)
  Arkayn, have you said the necessary prayers?
Arkayn:  (nods)  We're as ready as we shall ever be.
Abner:  Aggro, Gutboy - are we stocked with supplies?
Aggro:  Yeah.  Got a week's worth of food and water.
Gutboy:  And plenty of arrows, bolts, daggers and whatnot.
Abner:  (somewhat surprised that the two actually managed to work
  together to accomplish their task)  Good.
Barjin:  I did my job - we had warm beds last night.
Arlanni:  That Raven's Nest was a good place...if a bit on the empty
  side.
Abner:  (regards her sternly)  Surely you didn't...?
Arlanni:  Of course not!  (she keeps her fingers crossed, behind her
  back)
Abner:  Did you and Balto figure out the best approach to the warlock's
  castle?
Balto:  (nods his shaven head)  A single winding road leads up, to
  the entrance of the place.  Cliffs make the other sides of the
  place unapproachable.  (he regards his companions)  At least for
  our whole party.  I, myself, could-
Arlanni:  We think that, once we get to the castle's front door, we
  might be able to find another way in.  It's hard to tell now,
  because we're not up there, and haven't seen the damned place.
Balto:  In addition, there is only a single carriage-driver who is
  willing to drive up that road...Incus, his name is.
Arlanni:  (nods)  His prices are pretty good...one silver coin per
  passenger.  I don't think his carriage could hold all of us,
  though.
Abner:  No matter - taking the carriage might alert the evil one.
Barjin:  Aye.  We should use horses to get close, then scout from
  a covered position.
Arlanni:  I'll volunteer to scout, when the time comes.
Aggro:  Well, good for you!
Gutboy:  (to the hooded, mounted Sarnath)  How's it hangin', man?
Sarnath:  This talk bores me.  Let us be on our way.
Abner:  Soon, soon.
Barjin:  Abner, what did you and Arkayn learn, as you roamed the
  town last night?
Arkayn:  We gathered a plethora of rumors.
Abner:  Indeed.  Apparently, this warlock Belphanior murdered the
  previous mayor, in cold blood, and took his place.
Arkayn:  He's also killed many in battle, here in Helgate.  All sorts
  of people, ranging from innocent townspeople to bloodthirsty bandits.
Blastum:  An indiscriminate killer, then.
Sarnath:  (trembles for a moment)
Blastum:  No matter...he'll meet his match against my magic!
Abner:  There's more.  This Belphanior is handy with the sword, as
  well as his warlock magic.  And he has servants...fierce warriors
  and demons, some townspeople have said.
Arlanni:  Did the townspeople seem to show any interest in having
  the evil one deposed?  Maybe they'll pay us...finance our quest.
Abner:  Few people here aren't poor, and those with money are most
  likely allies or servants of the foul one.  No, the treasure we
  find in his castle will have to suffice as our reward.
Arlanni:  Darnit.
Balto:  (looking at the cloudy sky)  The sun rises, somewhere above...
  (he frowns)
Abner:  We'd better be going.  That mountain may be steeper than it
  looks.

  Just then, an elderly cobbler walked by, looking the adventurers up
and down as he passed.

cobbler:  What the hell are you kids up to?
Gutboy Barrelhouse:  Who're you callin' a kid?
Abner:  We're mighty adventurers, good sir, bound for the castle of-
Arlanni:  (grits her teeth and grabs Abner's shoulder)  Must you tell
  him _everything_?!?
cobbler:  Hey, half the people in town know what you folks are doing.
Abner:  Fear not, old fellow.  We're experienced in this sort of
  thing.  The warlock shall fall.
cobbler:  (shakes his head)  If I was you kids, I'd just turn back
  and leave Helgate...head home.  While you still can.
Aggro:  What's that supposed to mean?!?
Abner:  (to the cobbler)  Someone has to stop the evil one; we're
  equal to the task.  No foul sorcery will scare us away.
others:  (nodding and muttering in agreement)
cobbler:  (sighs)  Well, don't say no one warned you.
Abner:  (to the others)  Come, let's be on our way.

  With that, the band set out, spurring their horses toward the sole
path leading to the castle.  The few townspeople who were awake at
this early hour watched them go with expressionless faces.  Perhaps
some townspeople secretly hoped that the adventurers would succeed
and roust Belphanior, if he was still up there.  Though Abner's
party hadn't advertised their intentions, it wasn't really that hard
to figure out what they were up to.

  After leaving the limits of the town proper, the nine adventurers
passed the mineshafts.  Miners and guards, the latter mostly hired
muscle, were camped out all around this area, such was the paranoia
that someone else might get into one's mine and steal some as-yet-
undiscovered ore.  A short time after they passed this area and its
inhabitants, Abner and his companions came upon the beginning of the
long, winding path uphill, to the dark castle.  This trail actually
cut through a hardwood forest of average density, which covered the
mountainside.  Before them rested a large carriage of dark, aged
wood; four sick-looking horses rested nearby, grazing halfheartedly
on the sparse grass here.

  A tall, gaunt man in a black hooded robe appeared from somewhere,
approaching slowly and silently.

Incus:  Ho, travelers.  If ye seek passage up this mountain-
Abner:  No thanks, friend.  We'll be riding up the slope here.
Incus:  (stops in his tracks)
Blastum:  Business is slow today, eh?  (he laughs)
Incus:  One might say it's...dead.
Barjin:  Well, lanky one, nice talking to you, but we've places to
  be...things to do...(he and the others ride past the pale figure
  of Incus)
Gutboy Barrelhouse:  (glares at the carriage-driver as he rides by,
  wondering how such a skinny wretch can even survive)  Bah.

  As the nine companions began their ascent, Incus merely chuckled to
himself, a hoarse, wheezing sound that was not at all pleasant.



  A short while later, the party had progressed more than halfway
up the mountain road.  Pleased with their pace, the nine companions
stopped to rest their horses.  The trail was steep indeed, and these
animals, brought in from lower-altitude lands, were winded from the
ascent.

Barjin:  (muttering angrily)  I don't know how that carriage-driver
  ever gets up this road...
Arkayn:  (surveying the town below, and the castle above)  At this
  rate, we'll reach the castle well before midday.
Aggro:  So?
Arkayn:  Well, it's usually better to explore by day.
Arlanni:  No way!  It's so much easier to do things by night.
Arkayn:  Let's hope, for all our sakes, that there aren't any night
  creatures in this vicinity.
Blastum:  What, are you kidding?  I was up half the night, listening
  to the wolves howl outside the town!  (he eyes Gutboy)  Well, that
  and his snoring...
Gutboy:  That's enough about that!
Balto:  Wolves?
Abner:  Some of the townspeople said they've seen bats, as well.
Arkayn:  (frowns)  Wonderful.
Sarnath:  Wolves, bats - these are nothing compared to the warlock
  himself.  Remember this...
Aggro:  Hey, you said something!  And there I thought you'd been
  asleep.
Gutboy:  (wonders why Sarnath isn't eating)
Aggro:  (muttering to himself)  Friggin' weirdo.
Sarnath:  (says nothing, ignoring Aggro's prattling)
Gutboy:  (wonders if Sarnath even eats at all)

  Presently, their repast was completed and they were ready to ride
on.

Abner:  Let's go.  Fame, glory, and treasure await!





next:      to the castle they go
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
www:       http://www.access.digex.net/~dpm
           http://www3.hmc.edu/~kshobaki/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     More from the Olympic Village:  check out the following
  site for a humorous look at life here at Tech during the games:

  http://www.gatech.edu/adam/view/
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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