Chapter #418

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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 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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Belphanior       (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief  (CN) +
+    Otto           8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief        (CN) +
+    Razor Charlie  8th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+  Victoria                   female human fighter             (CN) +
+                                                                   +
+  Unwanted guests...                                               +
+                                                                   +
+  Aggro the Axe       4th level human fighter                 (CG) +
+  Arkayn              4th level human cleric of Trithereon    (LG) +
+  Arlanni             2nd level human female thief             (N) +
+  Gutboy Barrelhouse  6th 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:        late evening                                        +
+  Place:       Belphanior's castle, above Helgate                  +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "All those souls...and you still don't have one of your          +
+   own!  I pity you, sorcerer."                                    +
+  "Save your pity for the weak!"                                   +
+                   - Liu Kang & Shang Tsung, from _Mortal Kombat_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CDXVIII.  Victoria's Secret





  After a number of travels, trials, and tribulations, the surviving
members of the Company of Nine now face - at long last - Belphanior
and his companions!

  The elf took a step forward, speaking in a clear, powerful voice.

Belphanior:  (angrily)  Yes, I am Belphanior.  And you people are
  intruding in my home.  (he draws his sword)
tall, black-haired woman:  (her sword already drawn, she smiles sweetly
  at the intruders)
short-bearded dwarf:  (his crossbow resting easily in his hands, he
  whistles a few bars from some tune)
mean-looking scarred man:  (simply grimaces)
Arkayn:  The evildoers!  (he quaffs a potion that he produced from
  somewhere)
Belphanior:  Evil?  Me?  _I'm_ not the one who came into someone else's
  home with intentions of killing them.
Otto:  (grins, then spits out some black root he was chewing on)
Aggro:  Words, bastard - words!
Arkayn:  Words, indeed.  (he shouts a single, powerful word of magical
  command)  Surrender!

  Belphanior and his three friends, all strong-willed and experienced
individuals, seemed to ignore the spell, for none of them moved to
answer the priest's command.

Belphanior:  (regards his companions, then the priest)  Sorry, can't
  do that.  You'll need more powerful magic...not that you're going to
  get a chance to use it.
Arkayn:  By Trithereon!
Arlanni:  (her heart pounding, she stands, frozen)
Aggro:  (points his axe at Belphanior)  Warlock, you have a lot to pay
  for!
Belphanior:  Warlock?
Otto:  I told you this would happen.
Blastum:  (whispers to Sarnath)  We've got to blast him...
Sarnath:  Careful...don't give him any warning...
Gutboy:  (tensed to leap to the attack, he looks as if a buzzing fly
  would set him off)
Arkayn:  (to Belphanior)  Your castle has slain three of our companions,
  foul one.
Belphanior:  I don't recall _asking_ you to come here.  Whatever happens
  to trespassers in my castle is their own problem.
Otto:  (to Razor Charlie)  So what now?
Razor Charlie:  I say we kill 'em.
Victoria:  (nods, ever-so-slightly)
Belphanior:  Quiet, I'm thinking about it.

  The tense situation was disrupted by a gory, shrieking figure, one of
the ghouls from before.  The undead thing had just regained what little
consciousness it had, and its torn, charred body was in considerable
pain.  Thus, it did what came naturally:  it leapt, hissing, at the
nearest of its former assailants.

Arlanni:  (goes down beneath the foul thing)  Aie!
Aggro:  They mean to slay us all!
Gutboy:  (swinging his warhammer, he yells to his companions)  Attack,
  dammit!  Attack, if you value your lives!
Arkayn:  (moving much faster, thanks to the magical potion he drank,
  he prepares another spell as the warriors sally forth)
Aggro:  (in the blink of an eye, he hurls his throwing axe at Victoria)
Razor Charlie:  It's about time.  (simultaneously, he throws two knives
  at Aggro)

  Everyone joined the fray then, as all-out chaos erupted!

Victoria:  (narrowly dodges the hurled axe, then stands straight,
  slowly walking toward Aggro)  This will be fun.
Aggro:  (gets another throwing axe out)  We'll see.
Sarnath:  Foul Belphanior!
Belphanior:  Eh?
Sarnath:  You shall pay for-
Belphanior:  You sound familiar...but I can't place the voice.
Sarnath:  (throws back his hood, exposing gaunt, dark-skinned features)
  You killed my brother!  Perhaps you remember him...Sarquay?
Belphanior:  Brother?  Sarquay?
Sarnath:  (spellcasting furiously)  My beloved twin brother!  Slain by
  you!  And now, at last, my years-long quest for revenge will be-
Belphanior:  Over.  (points at the wizard, a thin beam of white frost
  jetting from his fingertip)
Sarnath:  Wha-?  (struck in the chest by the magical beam, he dies
  instantly, encased in a thin layer of ice)
Otto:  The doom that came to Sarnath...
Belphanior:  A slight case of overkill, but what the hell - it was
  good for him.
Blastum:  (staring at Sarnath's frosty corpse in horror, as he realizes
  just how powerful Belphanior must be)  ...!
Gutboy:  (barreling toward Belphanior)  You're mine, warlock!
Belphanior:  Damn, I should have killed him already.
Otto:  C'mon, I saw him first.  (he fires his crossbow, hitting the
  dwarf with a bolt)
Gutboy:  (his plate mail turns the bolt's point aside)  Bah!  You'll
  have to do better than that!
Belphanior:  (not having the time to cast a spell, he steels himself
  to meet Gutboy's charge)  Otto, concentrate on the wizards there!
Otto:  Right.
Aggro:  (looks at the throwing knives imbedded in his shoulders)  Argh!
  (he keeps coming, fury in his eyes)
Razor Charlie:  (whips out two more of the tiny yet deadly blades)
Arkayn:  Hold fast, Aggro!  This should stop them! (he casts Hold Person
  on Razor Charlie and Victoria)
Razor Charlie:  (fails to resist the spell, and is held fast, still
  grimacing)
Victoria:  (unaffected)
Aggro:  Die!  (in a blur, he hurls another axe - and hits her squarely
  in the chest)  Hah!
Victoria:  Wha-  (she falls backwards in a gush of blood)
Otto:  (drawing a bead on Blastum, with his next bolt)
Blastum:  (casts Melf's Minute Meteors at Otto, blasting him back into
  a wall)  Not fast enough, dwarf!
Otto:  Ungh!
Arlanni:  (fending off the ghoul's claws and teeth with desperate
  strength and sheer luck, she finally manages to get a dagger aimed
  at its head)  Die, monster!  (she drives the blade into the thing's
  right eye)
ghoul:  Ysssss...!  (it reels, bleeds, falls, quivers, and finally
  dies)
Arlanni:  Whew.  (she gets to her feet shakily)
Gutboy:  (smashes Belphanior on the shoulder with his warhammer)  Hah!
Belphanior:  (ignores the blow, as his stoneskin deflects any damage)
  Invade my home, will you?  (he nicks the dwarf's arm with a swing)
  Try and kill me, will you?  (he scores a slight stab wound in the
  dwarf's leg)
Gutboy:  Argh!  Urgh!  (he jumps back, warhammer swinging)  Yer one
  crafty wizard...but I'll get you!

  Nearby...

Aggro:  (with Razor Charlie out of commission and Otto staggering, he
  approaches the downed Victoria, gloating)  I know I hit this bitch
  with my axe...oh, yeah.
Victoria:  (lying in a pool of blood, the axe imbedded in the center
  of her ample chest)
Razor Charlie:  (magically held in place he can only watch, frustrated
  and grimacing, as Aggro leans over the woman's gory body)
Aggro:  Gotcha, you b-
Victoria:  (standing, just like that)  Oh, I think not.
Aggro:  What the hell...?
Victoria:  (looks down at the axe-handle protruding from her chest,
  then grabs it - and pulls the weapon out!)
Aggro:  Uh-oh.
Victoria:  That...hurt.  (she grabs the warrior's neck with one hand,
  lifting him clear off the floor)
Aggro:  (shaking like a leaf, he drops his battleaxe)  Aieeeeee...
Victoria:  <snap>
Aggro:  (goes limp, blood trickling from his now-slack mouth)
Victoria:  (tosses the body aside contemptuously)
Arkayn:  (approaching from behind)  You!  Hell-spawn!  Turn and face
  me!
Victoria:  (does so)
Arkayn:  (brandishing his holy symbol, he advances forcefully, glowing
  with holy power)  Now I know what my powers detected - I know what
  you are, woman!
Victoria:  (stands her ground, growling)
Belphanior:  Eh?
Arkayn:  (within melee range of the woman now)  Back to Hell with you,
  I say!  Begone, and menace us no-
Victoria:  (reaches out and grabs the holy symbol in one hand, crushing
  it)
Arkayn:  (his eyes wide)  By the gods!
Victoria:  (her voice taking an eerie tone)  In my time, priest, I've
  withstood far more powerful attacks than that...(she tosses the
  crumpled holy symbol over one shoulder, and smiles toothily at the
  shocked priest)
Arkayn:  Eyagh!  (he reaches into his robes, and purely by luck, finds
  a vial of blessed water)  Away, dark one!  (popping the stopper off,
  he dashes the bottle's contents into Victoria's face)
Victoria:  (screams hellishly)  EEYAAAAAAGH!

  Everybody who still lived - Belphanior and Gutboy, locked in combat;
Arlanni, who had backed half-into a corner of the room; Otto, who
was just staggering back to his feet; Blastum, across the hall from
Belphanior; the paralyzed Razor Charlie; and most of all, poor Arkayn -
couldn't help but stop whatever they were (or weren't) doing, to regard
the grisly scene that was unfolding in their presence.
  Victoria, clutching her smoking, bleeding face, was quickly trans-
forming into something less - and yet more - than human.  It happened
so quickly that it was hard to make out exact details, but the thing
that faced the terrified Arkayn didn't seem much like the Victoria that
Belphanior and Otto had known.  Her fingernails were long talons now,
and her beautiful face was locked in a twisted, demonic expression of
sheer, unbridled fury.  Her four incisor teeth (two on the top and two
on the bottom) had grown sharp points, and her eyes shone with a bright
and hellish red glow.  She was covered with blood.

Victoria:  (glares at Arkayn)  Priest...prepare to meet your ancestors.
Arkayn:  (gibbering meaninglessly)

  The Victoria-creature moved so fast that no one present could follow
her motion, though its result was clear to behold:  Arkayn's head was
ripped from his shoulders, sailing messily through the room until a
wall finally stopped its flight.

Arlanni:  (despite herself)  Arkayn!  ARKAYN!
Arkayn:  (his severed head doesn't answer)
Victoria:  Grrrr...(she turns to face Blastum)
Blastum:  Ohhh, fuck.  (he spellcasts, frantically, for his life is on
  the line like never before)
Belphanior:  (just standing there, his mouth agape)
Gutboy:  (also watching Victoria)  Well, I'll be a sonofabitch...
Otto:  (closer than anybody knew, he suddenly and efficiently backstabs
  the other dwarf)  Not for much longer.
Gutboy:  (glares at Belphanior as blood begins to drip from his mouth,
  and turns around, slowly, still gripping his warhammer)  Who-?
Otto:  The name's Otto.
Gutboy:  (staggering now, as a pool of blood grows around him)  Foul
  blow...cowardly...
Otto:  War is hell.
Gutboy:  (in a last unexpected act of defiance, he smashes his warhammer
  into Otto's face, a sucker-blow if there ever was one)  Hah!  <urk>
  (he coughs up blood)
Otto:  Ungh!  (he falls to his knees, his jaw and nose broken, bleeding
  from one ear)  Urg...(he turns, painfully, to face Gutboy)
Gutboy:  Bah, I say...now we're...<ghak>...evennnn...(he crumples)
Otto:  (muttering painfully and incoherently)  Only difference is, I'm
  gonna live.

  Elsewhere in the room...

Blastum:  (tries some last-ditch spell on Victoria, but it fails to
  affect her)  Wh- what _are_ you?
Victoria:  (shrugs)  One who was alive long before you were born, and
  who will be alive long after you are dead and buried.  (she swipes
  at him, again faster than the eye can see)
Razor Charlie:  (still magically held, he simply watches in awe)
Blastum:  (screams in agony as his left arm is torn off)  EAAARGH!
Victoria:  (flips the arm away casually)
Blastum:  (bleeding to death, he cowers on the floor)  Mercy...
Victoria:  I'll give you the same mercy you would have given us, dog!
  (she dispatches the wizard with a single, lethal strike)

  Nearby...

Arlanni:  (finding herself directly behind Belphanior, she tries to
  summon up the courage and willpower to backstab him...but she can't
  do it)
Belphanior:  (sensing someone behind him, he whirls)  Wha-
Otto:  (having already spied Arlanni sneaking up on Belphanior, he
  shoots her from across the room)
Arlanni:  (hit in the stomach by the bolt)  Urgh!  (she collapses to
  her knees)
Belphanior:  (looms over her like a spectre of death, and sheathes his
  sword)  And so it ends...
Arlanni:  (breathing her last words in a confused whisper as she tries
  to make sense of it all)  Wh- what...did I ev- ever do to you?
Belphanior:  (frowns)



Epilogue

  As she slowly, tentatively opened her eyes, the girl's first thought
was that she was looking at an angel.  The white-robed figure that
seemed to tower over her reached out...

middle-aged woman:  You're awake, my child.  Good.
Arlanni:  Wh- where...?
middle-aged woman:  This is the city of Mendeport, my dear.
Arlanni:  Where-
middle-aged woman:  You're in our temple, the temple of Pelor.
Arlanni:  But how-  (she tries to sit up, and is rewarded with a sharp
  pain in her stomach)  Ungh!  (she collapses to the bed)  Ow...
priestess:  Please, be calm.  You've suffered a grievous injury, and
  you've been delirious and half-conscious for days.  To be sure, at
  first we weren't sure whether you'd make it.  But the wound was well-
  treated.  (she smiles)  You'll live, and recover, given time.
Arlanni:  Oh.  (she looks around)
priestess:  (now holding a bowl of soup and a spoon)  Here, try to eat
  something.
Arlanni:  (drinks the broth as the priestess ladles it into her mouth)
priestess:  You're lucky, girl.  The gods have granted you a second
  chance at life, and not many people get that.
Arlanni:  (having had enough broth for now)  Got any water?
priestess:  (fills a cup from a pitcher on a bedside table)  Here.
  Drink slowly.
Arlanni:  (sips the water)  Ahh.
priestess:  Isn't that better?
Arlanni:  (nods weakly)  My thanks, priestess...I owe your temple my
  life.
priestess:  (shakes her head)  No, we didn't save your life - whoever
  brought you here three nights ago did that.  We're only nursing you
  back to health.
Arlanni:  B- brought me here?
priestess:  Left you at the door, like a babe in a cradle.  Along with
  a pouch of golden crowns.
Arlanni:  (speechless)





next:      Belphanior learns a lot about Victoria
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:     Obviously, there are several things that need to be
  followed up on, from this storyline...
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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