Chapter #419

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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         11th level female vampiric human fighter   (NE) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/9/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        the middle of the night                             +
+  Place:       Belphanior's castle, above Helgate                  +
+  Climate:     rather chilly                                       +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "You're a creature of the night, Michael - wait'll Mom           +
+   hears about this!"                                              +
+                                          - from _The Lost Boys_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                 CDXIX.  Interview With A Vampire





  After an interesting turn of events, the invading adventurers have
been eliminated.  Belphanior's side has split up, each to their own
devices...

Otto:  (he sits at a table in the upper dining hall, having a beer
  with Razor Charlie)  Oh, man.  This hurts.
Razor Charlie:  (nods in agreement)  It should.  Your jaw and nose
  got broken.
Otto:  Yeah...(he doesn't comment on how they healed so much, so
  fast)  And this Victoria business...all this time...she's been a
  fuckin' _vampire_!
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)
Otto:  I guess you're surprised too.
Razor Charlie:  Mm-hm.
Otto:  You don't really have much to say about it, do you?
Razor Charlie:  Mm-mm.
Otto:  Or maybe you're still upset about being caught by that spell.
Razor Charlie:  (nods)  You got it.
Otto:  Don't sweat it, pal.  It happens to all of us.  I'm still mad
  that we didn't get to test out more of my traps.  The swinging spike-
  wall would've been nice to see...and the stone sphere on the stairway.
Razor Charlie:  (grunts)
Otto:  Hell, maybe we should have just kept Angus at the front door
  to greet those clowns.  (he shrugs)  The important thing is that we
  sent them to Hell...well, most of 'em...
Razor Charlie:  (twirling a small knife between his fingers)
Otto:  Say, you don't ever cut yourself doing that, do you?
Razor Charlie:  (shakes his head)  Never.
Otto:  Huh.  (he shakes his head)  Poor Belphanior...he's been getting
  intimate with a vampire, this whole time.
Razor Charlie:  (stops flipping the knife)  Yeah, she's a mean one.
Otto:  Hell, I sure don't know what _I'd_ do if-
Belphanior:  (walks into the hall, crossing it in a determined stride)
Otto:  Yo, what's up?
Belphanior:  Just...taking care of some business.
Otto:  The girl?
Belphanior:  (nods briskly, then opens a door leading up to the next
  floor)  I'm going to see Victoria.  Just so you know.
Otto:  Er...right.
Belphanior:  (leaves, closing the door behind him)
Razor Charlie:  Still don't see why we spared the g-
Otto:  Because he said so, that's why.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)
Otto:  (chewing on a piece of black root, thoughtfully)

  Above, Belphanior roamed the hallways and chambers until he reached
his destination:  a particular guest bedroom.  The castle had a number
of such rooms, but this one was different.  This was the one where
Victoria was staying.

Belphanior:  (knocks, lightly but firmly)

  The door opened, this surprising Belphanior once he noticed that
Victoria was standing across the room, by the window.  Then again, he
mused to himself, he shouldn't be surprised by anything anymore.  The
bedchamber smelled faintly of jasmine, undoubtedly some perfume that
she was wearing.  Her back turned to him, Victoria peered through the
paned glass, looking out at the night sky.

Victoria:  I figured you'd be coming by.
Belphanior:  Yup.
Victoria:  I suppose you'll want to know-
Belphanior:  C'mon, let's take a walk.

  Turning from the window, the tall, pale-skinned warrior-woman nodded
and moved to accompany him.  Her dark tresses were freshly combed, and
she had changed into a black dress.  Walking barefoot toward Belphanior,
the woman hardly resembled the same one who had fought in that terrible
battle, mere hours before.

Victoria:  (leaves her room with Belphanior, the door closing itself in
  her wake)  So how far do you want to walk?
Belphanior:  As far as it takes.

  They emerged from the castle and began walking along a battlement,
the night air blowing past them gently.

Belphanior:  Are you okay?
Victoria:  Of course I'm okay.  Why shouldn't I be?
Belphanior:  (grimaces)  Well, that business during the fight...
Victoria:  I knew exactly what I was doing back there.  I just...lost
  my temper, for a moment.
Belphanior:  Yeah, no kidding.
Victoria:  So, what do you want to talk about?
Belphanior:  I've got questions.
Victoria:  I'll have answers, then.  I've kept you in the dark for too
  long.
Belphanior:  So, uh...you're a vampire.
Victoria:  You don't miss much, do you?
Belphanior:  How long?
Victoria:  How long have I been undead?  (she furrows her usually-smooth
  brow in thought, for the briefest of moments)  Three hundred forty-
  three years.
Belphanior:  (whistles)
Victoria:  Yes, sometimes I lose track myself.  After a while, the years
  seem to fly by.
Belphanior:  Three centuries...how the hell have you survived that long?
Victoria:  (smirks)  In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not exactly a slouch
  with the sword.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Oh, I know - no doubt there.  I meant as a vampire.
Victoria:  Oh, that.  Well, to tell you the truth, there are a lot of
  ways - more than you might suspect.
Belphanior:  Try me.
Victoria:  But I'd have to say, overall, the main advantage I've had
  was that I was constantly on the move.
Belphanior:  Oh?
Victoria:  Actually, at first...(she frowns)  After a time, I simply
  began wandering.  It's difficult, and dangerous, but by keeping on
  the move, I've managed to avoid drawing too much attention in any
  one place.
Belphanior:  But what about the sun?  How can you move often?  Some of
  the journeys had to take longer than one night...
Victoria:  You ask too many questions, has anyone ever told you that?
Belphanior:  Sometimes.  But in my line of work, it pays to know as
  much about everything as possible.
Victoria:  The answer to the question is, I've never stayed in any one
  place for long, like more than fifty years or so.
Belphanior:  (shaking his head)  I don't understand.
Victoria:  You can't understand.
Belphanior:  (decides it would be wise to change the subject)  Okay,
  I already know that you're strong, fast, and difficult to surprise.
Victoria:  (nods)  I'm more resilient now than I've ever been.  Living
  up here must agree with me.
Belphanior:  Oh.
Victoria:  You also have to consider that I grow stronger with age.
Belphanior:  So that's true?  About vampires, I mean?  I'd only heard
  myths like that...
Victoria:  (nods)  True, as many learn to their dismay.  Those of us
  who have lived for more than a millennium can challenge giants.
Belphanior:  Wow.
Victoria:  But I'm not there yet.
Belphanior:  Your great swordswomanship - did you learn that before, or
  after...?
Victoria:  (flatly)  I've had decades of practice.
Belphanior:  What about your senses?  Sight, smell, hearing?
Victoria:  All very acute...no, highly acute.  (she pauses for a moment)
  Even now, I can hear the wolves in the forest below...
Belphanior:  What wolves?
Victoria:  My point exactly.
Belphanior:  How about shape-changing?  You can do that, right?
Victoria:  (nods)  A bat...or a wolf.  As often as I desire.
Belphanior:  Oh.  (he frowns)  Useful...
Victoria:  What else do you want to know about?  Climbing up walls like
  a spider?  Changing into mist?  Regenerating wounds at a faster rate?
  Yes, I can do all of those things too.
Belphanior:  I guess weapons bearing no enchantment can't hurt you...
Victoria:  (nods)  That silly hand axe only surprised me, nothing more.
Belphanior:  So the weapons actually do penetrate your skin, they just
  don't hurt you?
Victoria:  You're fascinated with this, aren't you?
Belphanior:  Absolutely.  I could use that kind of immunity.
Victoria:  (regards him carefully)  You're telling the truth.
Belphanior:  Of course.  Why wouldn't I be?
Victoria:  (dismisses her thought)  Oh, it's just that most people who
  take an interest in these things do it so they can better learn how
  to hunt and kill us.  There's this one fellow, a D-
Belphanior:  No, no, no.  I don't want to kill you.  Hell, I don't even
  want to piss you off.
Victoria:  (smiles sweetly)  Well, that's good.
Belphanior:  You can summon and control wild things?  Bats and wolves?
Victoria:  Don't forget rats.
Belphanior:  Who could forget the rats?
Victoria:  (chuckles)  You certainly have a different attitude.  Quite
  refreshing, actually.
Belphanior:  Glad to hear it.
Victoria:  Now normal animals - the ones I have no power over - will
  usually panic in my very presence.  Horses especially.
Belphanior:  How do you ever ride anywhere?
Victoria:  I don't.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  What about undead?
Victoria:  What about them?
Belphanior:  Skeletons, zombies, ghouls...undead.
Victoria:  (frowns with disgust)  Scum, plain and simple!  I never deal
  with those gutter-dwellers.
Belphanior:  You don't wield any power over such creatures, then?
Victoria:  (shakes her head)  Every older vampire has different, and
  sometimes unique, powers.
Belphanior:  How about draining life force by touch?
Victoria:  (smiles)  Oh, yes.  A useful power.  There are those it
  doesn't work on, though.  (she cocks her head at him)  Aren't there?
Belphanior:  There certainly are.  Let's just say I have...protections
  against such things.
Victoria:  I wonder if you'd be immune to my bite as well.
Belphanior:  (looks shocked)
Victoria:  (giggles)  Just joking!
Belphanior:  (astonished at the way a vampire - and a lethal warrior
  besides - can giggle like a little girl)
Victoria:  (adopts a stern face)  Seriously, you're going to have to
  believe me when I say that I don't intend to bite you.
Belphanior:  Uh, right.
Victoria:  (somewhat poutily)  If you don't believe me, I could just
  leave...fly away into the night...
Belphanior:  No, you don't have to do that.
Victoria:  Very well.  (they turn a corner, walking along another
  battlement now)
Belphanior:  (trying to think of what other questions he wants answered)
  What about garlic?
Victoria:  Nasty-smelling stuff, that.
Belphanior:  Mirrors?
Victoria:  I'm not a vain person.
Belphanior:  Holy symbols?
Victoria:  Most...unpleasant, if wielded by one of strong faith.  You
  have already seen what holy water can do to me.
Belphanior:  Yeah...no scarring?
Victoria:  No.  For me, those wounds heal just as fast as any others.
Belphanior:  Can running water hurt you?
Victoria:  (nods)  Worse, it can kill me.  I avoid ocean travel whenever
  possible.
Belphanior:  What about wooden stakes?
Victoria:  Equivalent to death, since anyone who knows enough to use
  the stake will know what to do afterward.  (she shrugs, causing the
  elf to notice the moonlight on her white skin)  Like I said, it's
  not good to stay in one place for too long.  It tends to make one...
  careless.
Belphanior:  Sunlight?
Victoria:  The rays of the sun will quickly and certainly spell doom for
  me.  (she shudders at the mere thought)
Belphanior:  So that's why we've only seen you at night...
Victoria:  (smiles)  I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever figure it
  out.
Belphanior:  I had suspicions, but it's tough to think about things like
  that when it comes to someone who...who...(he takes her hand as they
  walk)
Victoria:  It's okay.  You handled it better than anyone I've ever seen.
Belphanior:  There have been others, then?  Other...
Victoria:  Lovers?  Oh, yes!  I may be a vampire, but I was a human
  before that.  I still have the same needs as anyone.
Belphanior:  I was going to say, for a "creature of the night" your
  skin is awfully warm.
Victoria:  Yes, well...I'm happy right now.  (she frowns)  I find myself
  curious:  you don't shun me, now that you know what I am and what I
  can do?  My form doesn't horrify you?
Belphanior:  Honestly, no.  As with beauty, everything else is skin
  deep.  I met you like this-  (he stands back and looks her over
  approvingly)  -and to me, this is what you are.
Victoria:  (smiles, obviously relieved)
Belphanior:  You don't get too close to anyone, do you?
Victoria:  Not often...not like this...
Belphanior:  (looks up at the night sky, and the moon)  Cool.
Victoria:  I don't have to drink blood from everyone, you know.
Belphanior:  Oh?  How many, then?  And how often?
Victoria:  I prefer to drink every night...but if it's not feasible,
  I'll survive.  I tend to get bitchy then, though.
Belphanior:  Yikes.
Victoria:  Since I arrived in Helgate, I've been careful to choose my
  victims, so that no one will suspect.  I haven't drunk from the same
  mortal twice, and I'm careful never to kill them.
Belphanior:  Oh.
Victoria:  Killing them would create a whole new set of problems...
Belphanior:  I'll just bet.
Victoria:  Also, I've been roving to nearby towns and cities.  It's a
  long flight, but well worth it after a good meal.
Belphanior:  Say, you didn't do any slashing-type murders here in
  Helgate, did you?
Victoria:  (puzzled)  No, why?
Belphanior:  Just a notion...say, can you sustain yourself on the blood
  of animals?
Victoria:  (makes a face)  Ugh!  That would be...egh.  Imagine being
  exceedingly thirsty, and slaking that thirst with sewer water.
Belphanior:  Ech.
Victoria:  Exactly.  You can get by, but why bother, when clean water
  is in ready supply?  Or even wine?
Belphanior:  I see.
Victoria:  (somewhat amused)  This...bothers you?
Belphanior:  No, not really.  It's just strange, that's all.
Victoria:  (shrugs)  I am what I am.  I can't change it, so instead
  I make the most of it.  It's my survival or theirs; I choose mine.
  There's no room for regret, or remorse.
Belphanior:  No, of course not.  So do you have to eat?  Drink?  Sleep?
Victoria:  No, but I enjoy all three.  What, did you suppose we lived
  on blood and blood alone?
Belphanior:  Er, no.
Victoria:  Well, then.  (they arrive back at the window through which
  they went out, and re-enter the castle)
Belphanior:  I guess you don't have to be invited...
Victoria:  Not into a home where I'm already welcome, and was already
  invited once.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Does elven blood taste better than human blood?
Victoria:  I wouldn't know, I haven't had an elf in over a century.
Belphanior:  I...see.
Victoria:  (giggling again)  You look worried.
Belphanior:  Not me.
Victoria:  You don't trust me, do you?
Belphanior:  Well...
Victoria:  You will have to make this decision, but...the nights are
  often lonely.

  They found themselves back at Victoria's bedroom.

Victoria:  (waves the door open)  Come in, please.
Belphanior:  (does so, warily)

  The bedchamber was much the way the elf remembered it (he didn't
spend much time roaming the extra rooms in his castle) but Victoria
had added some touches of her own.  The deep crimson draperies over
the antique canopy bed were new, as were the long, thick curtains that
framed the window.  Belphanior quickly surmised that those curtains,
during the daytime, completely blocked all outside light from entering
the room.  Despite the faint tinge of jasmine in the air, the room
still smelled strange, old...slightly musty, he realized.

Belphanior:  (looking around)  Hey!  Where's the coffin?
Victoria:  Coffin?
Belphanior:  Uh, I thought you had to sleep in a coffin.  You know,
  filled with earth from a graveyard...
Victoria:  (laughs out loud)  You, my friend, still have a lot to learn
  about vampires.

  Belphanior also realized that various of her clothes were hung or
scattered about - including the ones she had just been wearing.

Belphanior:  (turns to his left, and spots her standing next to the
  bed, completely nude)  Whoa.
Victoria:  Are you as tense as I am?
Belphanior:  Uh, probably...
Victoria:  Then do you need to unwind as badly as I do?
Belphanior:  Absolutely.  (he heads that way)





next:      a break from Helgate
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:     What can I say?  Lessee...maybe I can anticipate some of
  the questions now...

Q:  When did you know that Victoria was a vampire?
A:  From day 1.
Q:  Why is she hanging around Belphanior?
A:  Because she likes him.
Q:  Why isn't Belphanior completely revolted by her now that he
    knows her true nature?
A:  Belphanior doesn't exactly think like you and me.
Q:  What will this mean for Otto?
A:  Only time will tell...
Q:  Why'd you create Victoria?

  It all started one day, many months ago, when I was in a comic
store.  I was glancing at various back issues, and one caught my
eye.  It had a slutty-looking black-haired vampire-woman on the
cover:  Vampirella.  Right then and there, I said to myself, "Whoa!
Now that looks like someone Belphanior would like!"
  Of course, I had to be careful not to actually read any of those
comics - I didn't want to emulate that character, or any other.  I
simply wanted to invent a character with that same look, and I did
(if you want, think Tracy Scoggins, the actress, who'll be a regular
character in season five of _Highlander_, incidentally.)  Ten years
ago, vampire protagonists were no big deal, and good vampires and
stories were rare and well-done.  Nowadays, in this era of Anne
Rice and the vampire revolution, it's difficult not to have cheesy,
over-cliched vampires.  I've done my best to mix all the positive
characteristics, and keep out all the negative ones (I'm not talking
about Good and Evil here, mind you) in creating and personalizing
Victoria.
  A bit of trivia:  before I got my sudden inspiration in that comic
store, I had been planning to have a mysterious, shadowy, cloaked,
wide-brimmed-hat-wearing traveler appear in Helgate, circa episode
#329.  This vaguely-defined character fell by the wayside (for now)
when Victoria was born.
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