Chapter #441

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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                    +
+                           +
+  Peldor       20th level human thief                          (N) +
+    Tanya       5th/11th level female human fighter/thief      (N) +
+  Date:        5/2/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        shortly before dusk                                 +
+  Place:       the Mighty Mistress tavern, in Hardby               +
+  Climate:     mild                                                +
+  "We've got a certain way of doing things around here."           +
+  "Right now, I'm not interested in your way of doing things."     +
+                             - Bud & Lt. Coffey, from _The Abyss_  +

                 CDXLI.  Hard Times In Hardby

  After an encounter with bandits and a fairly hefty lie, Peldor and
Tanya have come to the Free City of Hardby.  Unfortunately, their
newfound companion, Reuben the bandit leader, is apparently a wanted
man in these parts...

guardswoman:  (her eyes widen in recognition)  It's Reuben the bandit!
Reuben:  (looking around)  Where?
guardswoman:  (blowing a whistle to summon help, she levels her spear
  at Reuben)  Prepare to die, worm, for crimes against the people of
Reuben:  Oh, how I really hate this city...(twirling his moustache, he
  leaps to one side as the guardswoman stabs at him)
guardswoman:  (curses as her spear-point nicks the man's shoulder)
Reuben:  Yie!  Too close for comfort.  (he draws his sword and backs
  away)  There must be some misunderstanding-
guardswoman:  I think not, dog!  (she lunges again)
Reuben:  (dodges the attack, grabs the spear, and wrestles his foe to
  the ground)
second guardswoman:  (dashes out of the tavern and joins the fray,
  attempting to overpower Reuben)  Stand fast, sister!
first guardswoman:  (still wrestling with Reuben)
Tanya:  (standing to the side, she tries to decide what to do next)
Reuben:  (takes a punch to the jaw)  Ungh!  (to Tanya)  Don't just
  stand there - help me!
Tanya:  Give it a rest.  I don't even like you.
Reuben:  Damn.  (he gets kicked in the gut)  Whoulllf!

  Meanwhile, inside the tavern...

Peldor:  (watching as several guardswomen dash for the door)  What
  in the world's happening out there?
Moxley:  (Reuben's second-in-command)  No telling, but it can't be
  good.  You stay here.  (he rushes toward the door)
Peldor:  Screw that.  (he follows the lieutenant)
guardswoman:  (at the door, she turns)  Hold, you men!  It is against
  the law to interfere in a fight of the Hardby guards-
Peldor:  (TKs the woman back, away, and into two other guardswomen
  who were heading for the door)
guardswomen:  (all three go down in a heap)
Moxley:  What the hell?
Peldor:  Magic, my friend.
Moxley:  Yeah, right.  (he barrels out the door, followed by Peldor)

  The two men stumbled into a miniature battle, as Reuben fought
valiantly against a pair of guardswomen.  Given that the warrior-women
seemed bent on murder, it was a wonder that Reuben was still alive.
To one side stood Tanya, watching in amusement.

Moxley:  Boss!  (he dashes forward and pulls one of the guardswomen
  off of Reuben)
Reuben:  Thanks!  (using his legs, he kicks the remaining foe up and
  away, sending her sailing back through the air and gaining himself
  a brief respite)
Peldor:  What's going on around here?
Tanya:  Apparently Reuben's a wanted man in these parts...

  A shrill whistle-blowing had been steadily increasing in volume,
and now a dozen more guardswomen appeared from various quarters,
their weapons at the ready.

guardswoman captain:  (sword in hand, she surveys the scene haughtily,
  then barks an order)  Arrest them all!
Peldor:  Whoa, there, I'm just a bystander-
guardswoman captain:  Silence, dog!  You can plead your case later,
  if you survive.
Peldor:  Thanks, but I'd much rather survive anyway.  (he unsheathes
  his sword as a charging guardswoman closes in)  Hey, watch it with
  that - you could hurt someone.  Maybe even me.
guardswoman#3:  (ignores him)  Submit, fool!
Peldor:  Reuben, you're right.  This city sucks.
Reuben:  (busy fending off three guardswomen at once, he doesn't offer
  a snappy reply)  I'm to you later, eh?
Tanya:  (backs away as a poleaxe-wielding guardswoman menaces her)
  I'm all for women's power, but this is ridiculous...
guardswoman#7:  Surrender, then!
Tanya:  Nope, can't do that.  (with her magical boots, she easily
  sidesteps the attack, and grabs the poleaxe, using its shaft to
  knock the attacker away)
Peldor:  Now we've done it.  (he skillfully parries an arcing blow,
  meeting his foe's sword with his own)
guardswoman#3:  (her eyes widen in surprise as her blade snaps in two)
Peldor:  Whoa!  (a moment later, he kicks out, knocking the woman
Tanya:  Lucky...(she bashes another guardswoman with the haft of the
guardswoman#8:  Ungh!  (dazed, her sword-slash misses by several feet)
Peldor:  Enough of this foolishness, I say!  (he TKs a nearby barrel
  onto its side, then sends it rolling, right toward a mass of guards-
guardswomen:  (bowled over like tenpins)
Peldor:  (becomes invisible)
guardswoman#13:  (slashing at empty air now)  What?!?
Peldor:  (makes a mighty, magical boot-enhanced leap, and lands right
  behind the captain of the guardswomen)
guardswoman captain:  (trained ears prickling, she whirls - only to
  find Peldor's dagger at her throat)  Uh...
Peldor:  (becomes visible, as all present see that he has the woman in
  a tight headlock, his dagger dangerously close to her bare throat)
  Everyone STOP!
everyone:  (stops)
Moxley:  (having just tripped over a horse-trough and lost his balance,
  he completes his fall to the ground)  Unf.
Peldor:  The fight ends now, or this lady gets it!
guardswomen:  (grumbling, they slowly back away from Reuben, Moxley,
  and Tanya)
guardswoman captain:  (to Peldor)  Vile cur!  You'll pay for this-
Peldor:  Give it a rest, lady.  It was _you_ who attacked _us_.
female voice:  And that is the only reason you shall live to see the
guardswoman captain:  (smiles)

  Before anyone could react, the unknown speaker uttered a single
word of magical power, and Peldor was rendered immobile.

guardswoman captain:  (sensing her captor's arm go rigid, she quickly
  escapes his hold, and turns to regard him)  Hah!  Now you shall die-
female voice:  Hold, I said!

  The speaker had finally appeared, her invisibility negated by her
own spell:  a human woman in crimson robes, hovering perhaps twenty
feet above the street.  Obviously a wizardess, the woman was in her
middle forties, slim and not unattractive.  Long auburn tresses
spilled over her robe's cowl, and bright, intelligent - if somewhat
cruel - eyes regarded the scene below.

Reuben:  (mumbling to himself)  Oh, shit.
Despotrix:  Your Despotrix bids you, cease this conflict immediately!
guardswomen:  (comply, though they slowly move to ring the four foes)
Despotrix:  (hovers around Peldor, scrutinizing the motionless thief)
Tanya:  (not particularly caring for the manner in which the wizardess
  is looking Peldor over)  Now just a damned m-
Despotrix:  (turns to eye Tanya)  Is there a problem?
Tanya:  Damn right there is - we didn't start this fight, and we're not
  affiliated with these bandits who you seem to want so bad.
Reuben:  (smiles sadly to himself)
Despotrix:  (to her captain of guards)  Explain, Deborah.
Deborah, guardswoman captain:  (indicates Reuben and Moxley with one
  contemptuous jerk of her thumb)  Milady, that one is Reuben, a sly,
  notorious bandit and thief in these parts.  The other must be his
  assistant, Moxley - a smaller price is to be had, for his head.
Despotrix:  And these others?  What of the fair-haired fellow who's
  held by my spell, and his fiery-haired companion?
Deborah:  I've never heard of them, or seen them, Milady.  (she pauses
  for a moment, gathering her courage)  But they stood and fought with
Despotrix:  Thank you, Deborah.
Deborah:  (bows her head)  Yes, Milady.
Tanya:  Would you mind releasing my man there?
Despotrix:  Surrender your weapons and he shall be free.
Deborah:  (already taking Peldor's sword from his stiff hand)
Peldor:  (immobilized, his eyes dart this way and that, assessing the
Tanya:  We have your word?
Despotrix:  You are an insolent one.
Tanya:  (raises her sword)  I'd be stupid to surrender blindly.
Despotrix:  You are correct.  (waving her hands, she drops a sticky
  web over Tanya)
Tanya:  You bitch!  (her reflexes and magical boots almost save her
  from entrapment, but one leg still gets stuck)  Shit!  (she hacks
  at the strands, uselessly)
Reuben:  (he and Moxley suddenly find themselves the targets of half
  a dozen crossbows)
Despotrix:  And you?
Reuben:  (unwilling to throw his life away for nothing)  We surrender.
Tanya:  You wimp!  (she continues to slash at the webs pinning her leg)
Despotrix:  What a strong will!  (she frowns)  I believe that you
  would cut your way free, given the time.  I truly do.  (she produces
  a slender wand)  Of course, we can't have that.  (aiming the wand at
  Tanya, she zaps the webbed warrior-woman with a thin blue beam)
Tanya:  Ungh.  (she drops to the ground)
Peldor:  (still held in place, he yet harnesses the power of his TK
  ring, lifting a dagger from a guardswoman's belt)
Despotrix:  (immediately turns on Peldor)  Incredible!  (she zaps him,
Peldor:  (still standing there, he TKs the blade at the floating
  Despotrix, but it deflects off an unseen shield harmlessly)
Despotrix:  (frowns, and fires a second beam at Peldor)
Peldor:  (falls, unconscious)
Despotrix:  How odd.  (she faces to her guard-captain)  Deborah, get
  these two to the castle...and quickly, before they wake up.
Deborah:  With pleasure, Milady.  (she turns to regard Reuben)  And
  these other two?
Despotrix:  I have no need of whatever you like with them.
  If the law mandates punishment for their crimes, then so be it.  I
  trust that you'll do the right thing.
Deborah:  (bows)  It will be done, Milady.
Despotrix:  Excellent.  (she sails away, over the buildings and out
  of sight)

next:      out of the frying pan and into the fire
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Heh.  For a story that I had no prior planning of, and
  ideas for, this one's turning out to be a lot of fun.

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