Chapter #434

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                                  +
                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +
                                  +

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    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:        4/16/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        nighttime                                           +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     cold and raining                                    +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Move and you're dead!"                                          +
+  "I'm dead...and I move."                                         +
+                                               - from _The Crow_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                 CDXXXIV.  Horror In Helgate





  After Victoria single-handedly rescued Herbert's family from the
bandits, she and Belphanior have headed toward the main conflict,
already in progress...

Belphanior:  (scouting from the air)  Hmm, looks like most of the
  fighting's over.
Victoria-bat:  (hovering next to him)
Belphanior:  You can't talk in that form, can you?
Victoria-bat:  (hovering there)
Belphanior:  Oh well.  (he realizes that she still seems to sense his
  presence, despite his invisibility)  I'm going to go down to one
  of the windows and have a look.

  The windows in question belonged to the Sword and Cup tavern, a
place long known for its barfights and bloodbaths.  This time, how-
ever, was worse than ever before, as the elf saw when he descended
to a window.  Inside the tavern's common room, a number of bandits -
perhaps thirty in all - were gathered, along with various customers,
employees, and numerous corpses.  Some of the brigands were crouched
behind the tavern's front windows, exchanging sporadic missile fire
with Otto and Razor Charlie.  These latter two, as well as a handful
of town guardsmen, were crouched behind an overturned wagon outside
the main door of the tavern.  Otto was bleeding from a couple of
wounds, while Razor Charlie had acquired numerous cuts and scrapes.
Although they had the front door covered, Belphanior's companions by
no means had the situation under control.  There were simply too many
bandits, and too many exits from the tavern.
  Indeed, Belphanior wondered why the bandits were stupid enough to
remain in their occupied position, until he realized that they had
slain or driven away almost all of Helgate's authorities, and thus
they probably didn't care one way or the other.  The elf pondered
his options for a moment before casting a quick, simple enchantment
upon himself.  A moment later, the sounds of yelling, cursing, and
missile fire were drowned out by a louder sound:  Belphanior's voice,
magically amplified to an incredible volume.

Belphanior:  YOU IN THERE!

  Bandits and Helgate residents alike, alarmed by the tremendous yet
unseen voice that boomed forth from above, looked around in awe and
apprehension.

Rexxus:  (lying on the floor behind his bar, nursing a broken arm)  I
  know that voice...

Belphanior:  YOUR MAYHEM IS OVER.  NOW.  THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING.
  LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS AND COME OUT, AND YOU WILL BE SPARED.
bandits:  (firing a few arrows and missiles out of the windows)
Belphanior:  AS I SAID, THIS IS YOUR _ONLY_ WARNING.  ANY OF YOU WHO
  CHOOSE TO STAY IN THAT TAVERN WILL MEET AN UNPLEASANT DEMISE.

  Inside the Sword and Cup, the bandits chattered to themselves,
contemplating this offer.  Things had happened swiftly and effectively
since their band had come to Helgate.  After spending a couple of days
scouting the place, they had realized that there were only a handful
of guardsmen and authorities, while they numbered more than forty, all
told.  After looting the mines and slaying anyone who tried to stop
them, they had reconvened at this tavern.  To a man, they were all
warriors of at least excellent skill, and they truly feared no man
or king.  In no hurry to leave the tavern, the bandits had eaten and
guzzled wine as they saw fit, ensuring the non-interference of the few
remaining guardsmen by taking their captain's family hostage.  Whatever
gaps their plans might have possessed were overlooked in the face of
the bandits' bravado and inebriation.
  Still, one or two of the bandits pondered the elf's words with more
than a little interest.  After all, what sort of fellow threatened
a force that had superior numbers, cover and hostages besides?

bandit:  Maybe he's a powerful warlock, and not just some legend...
other bandit:  Quiet, you dolt.  He may be a wizard or a fool, but
  we have a whole bunch of crossbows not to mention-

Belphanior:  THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING.  PREPARE TO MEET YOUR DOOM.

  No bandits emerged from the tavern, and Belphanior swooped around
behind the overturned wagon, landing without a sound.

Belphanior:  I'm not even going to ask how you got this thing turned
  on its side.
Otto:  (looks up, surprised for a moment until he recognizes the
  voice)  Where are you?
Belphanior:  I'm here.
Otto:  Those bandits don't scare easily...
Razor Charlie:  Hmph.
Belphanior:  No, they sure don't.  I bet we can change that, though.
guardsman#1:  (to his companion)  Isn't he supposed to be dead?
guardsman#2:  (nods)  That's what the captain said.
Victoria:  (standing beside Belphanior, just like that)  What's your
  plan?
Belphanior:  Hmm, I'm not sure.  They have innocents in there, and
  any heavy-duty spells are sure to get some of them killed.  On the
  other hand, we can't just waltz in there, swords swinging.
Otto:  See, I told you my gas-bomb idea had merit.
Victoria:  One way or another, it's going to be a bloodbath.  The only
  question is, how will it start, and end?
Razor Charlie:  (sneers)
Belphanior:  I'm thinking...aha.
Otto:  What?
Belphanior:  (digging in his pouches)  Time to make the odds a little
  more even...if, that is, certain entities don't bear a grudge.
Victoria:  What are you talking about?
Belphanior:  (produces a handful of teeth)  Watch this...(he digs a
  shallow trench in the dirt of the street, with his bootheel, and
  places the teeth along it)  Now...(he covers the teeth up with
  another swipe of his boot)
Victoria:  (shrugs)  _My_ teeth are far more useful.
Otto:  Nothing's happening.
Belphanior:  I don't understand-

  Suddenly, the ground beneath their feet quivered...trembled...shifted
slightly...and then, from the earth itself, dirty, bony forms clawed
their way up and out - skeletal warriors!

Belphanior:  (grins)
Otto:  Whoa!
Victoria:  Interesting.
Razor Charlie:  Hnh.
guardsman#1:  (gaping in terror)
guardsman#2:  (slightly more world-wise than his fellow, he gapes in
  awe)

  The things, more than two dozen in number, wore shabby, ill-kept
armor and weapons, but the mere sight of them walking about was enough
to send observers screaming and scrambling for cover.  The skeletal
regiment lined up before Belphanior, obviously awaiting his orders.

Belphanior:  (clearly pleased)  Surround the tavern at a thirty-foot
  distance - five of you to a window, the rest at the front door -
  and wait until bandits start appearing.  When that happens, kill
  them all.
skeletal warriors:  (grinning the grin of the fleshless, they obey,
  shuffling and creaking all the while)
Victoria:  Impressive.
Belphanior:  I always figured it would be...
Otto:  Well, we've been reinforced.  Now what?
Belphanior:  (more to himself than anyone else)  Okay, now what else
  can I do?
Otto:  You still have that wand that shoots foam?
Belphanior:  Yeah...yeah.  (he quickly produces the item)  I could
  fill that tavern with this gunk - that would force them out faster
  than bees from a smoked hive.
Razor Charlie:  (frowns)
Belphanior:  Okay, well, maybe not that fast.
Otto:  Before you do that, light a big fire or something right out
  in the open - distract them while you do the foam thing.
Belphanior:  Good idea.  (he pulls out a second wand, and begins
  looking around)  Hmm.  (to the two guardsmen)  You and you.  Go find
  cover, and wait for the bandits to flee the inn.  When they do, you
  may shoot at will.
guardsman#1:  Good - they killed Rickey and Kenny.
guardsman#2:  Not to mention Otis and Marquis.
Belphanior:  Speed it up, then.  Go!
guardsmen:  (rush to obey)
Belphanior:  (to Otto and Razor Charlie, and Victoria)  I'm about to
  torch this wagon, so run for cover.
Victoria:  (almost frantic with anticipation, she dissipates into mist
  and gets clear)
Otto:  (he and Razor Charlie run for it, straight back away from the
  wagon so that those inside the inn can't fire at them)
Belphanior:  (backs away, twenty feet, then blasts the wagon with a
  fireball from his wand)

  The wagon burst into flame, and Belphanior smiled as he put the wand
away and prepared his other one.

Belphanior:  (flies up, over, and down in a flash, aiming his wand
  through a shattered window)  Now!  (he releases a burst of thick
  foam into the tavern)  Heh...(flying over the tavern and down again,
  he repeats this at an opposite window)

  The effect was as predicted:  the bandits, confused and angered by
the foam, scrambled to escape the inn.  The skeletons, unseen thus far
due to the night, waited with the patience of the dead.  Belphanior,
Otto, Razor Charlie, and the guardsmen waited with the patience of the
living and angry.  Victoria waited with the patience of one perpetually
trapped in-between the two realms.





next:      battle supreme, as the bandits reveal their trump card
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notes:     I'm still reveling in the mightiness of getting my 2nd
  row KISS tickets.  Truly there is no band in the world who does
  a better live show.
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