Chapter #446

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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                    +
+                           +
+  Belphanior     (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief    (CN) +
+    Otto           8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief        (CN) +
+    Victoria        11th level female vampiric human fighter  (NE) +
+  Date:        4/21/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        dinnertime                                          +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "I didn't have any choice."                                      +
+  "We all have a choice."                                          +
+                              - from _The Crow:  City of Angels_   +

                   CDXLVI.  Early Retirement

  Several days have passed since the climactic battle with Helgate's
latest group of greedy bandits.  In Belphanior's dark castle above
the town, he and his companions discuss that and other matters...

Otto:  Wonder what they were after?  I mean, why try what they did?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  Just more fools, fools who don't realize that
  magic exists and is more powerful than steel alone.
Victoria:  As is the supernatural.
Belphanior:  Of course.
Otto:  Best I can figure it, they figured on getting the loot from
  Helgate's mines.  They just ran into the town guardsmen first.
Belphanior:  Then they were stupid.  Killing everyone else, and then
  capturing Herbert's family...what did they think they were doing?
Otto:  Maybe they thought their wizard could take you out.  Hell, I
  don't have the answers.
Victoria:  I've seen bandits come and go for centuries, and they are
  seldom very intelligent.
Belphanior:  And seldom alive for very long, once they step into the
  dangerous arena of true battle.
Otto: you said, they were stupid.
Belphanior:  Yeah.  (he holds up his empty goblet)  More wine.
serving girl:  Certainly, master.  (quickly and efficiently, she
  glides over and refills the glass from a crystal decanter)
Belphanior:  Thank you, Daphne.
Daphne:  (nods, and vanishes into the shadows again, timidly)
Victoria:  Now _this_ is better.

  The vampiress was referring to the servants in general, an idea
which had been conceived and implemented by her.  While she was as
fierce and hardy a warrior as any, Victoria had become accustomed to
a certain standard of living over her many years.  The magical,
unseen servants that Belphanior had been using did not meet her
standards.  Thus, she had gone into town one night, in search of
more appropriate help.
  A poor family, the father an ailing miner and the mother a weary
seamstress in old Rudolph's tailor shoppe, had proven the perfect
solution.  The couple's two young, teenaged daughters had suited
Victoria's tastes perfectly.  Her parents had apparently agreed with
her that it was a good idea to let their daughters live and work in
Belphanior's castle.  The pay was twice what the parents made, and
their daughters would be gainfully employed, while staying out of
trouble all day long while their parents toiled at work.  Whether
the girls' parents had agreed on their own, or required additional
persuasion from Victoria, Belphanior knew not.
  Thus it was that Daphne and Phoebe came to live and work in the
castle.  The deal was simple:  while Belphanior and (or) Victoria
were present, the girls would be as well, preparing and serving
food, cleaning up, dusting, laundering, and so forth.  Every few
weeks, when the castle's masters were away, the girls would have a
few days off, to enjoy in town with their parents as they saw fit.

Otto:  Of course, I told 'em to stay out of my workshop.  I can
  clean up after myself in there, and besides, they might stumble
  upon something that would kill them.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Likewise for certain of my chambers...
Victoria:  Not in my case.  Anything I have that could kill them is
  right here with me.  (she idly contemplates one of her sharp,
  curved fingernails)
Otto:  Oh, come now.
Victoria:  No thanks.
Belphanior:  Eduardo sure gets a kick out of watching those two
  girls run around in maid-suits...hmm, where is Eduardo, anyway?
  (he looks around)  For that matter, where's Razor Charlie?
Otto:  Last I saw, he was practicing his knife-throwing.  He hauled
  a big block of wood up here, and he's been tossing blades at it all
Belphanior:  Too bad about Kyros...we're going to have to find more
  "help" soon.
Otto:  Yeah, I was just thinking about that.  We're in a bad spot
  right now.

  Just then, there was a fateful knock at the front door.  They knew
this because Belphanior had created an enchantment that rang a chime
every time the castle's front door knocker was struck.  This tune
could be heard throughout the castle, a low, soft note that was un-
obtrusive yet distinct.

Victoria:  We'd better find a butler next.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Until then, Angus is greeting guests.
Otto:  Oh, dear.
Belphanior:  Angus is good at what he does, but then, what he does is
  fairly simple.

  Momentarily, the visitor entered the dining hall.  It was Herbert,
captain of Helgate's guards.

Belphanior:  Herb!  What brings you all the way up here?
Herbert:  (looking distinctly uncomfortable)  Um...
Otto:  What is it, man?
Herbert:  (clears his throat)  As you know, my family was recently
  put in danger, while I was about my business.  (he shakes his head)
  I can deal with any foe, or foes; I can uphold the law; I can fight
  brigands with the best of them.  But when Winnie and the kids are
  put in danger...well, nothing else matters.
Belphanior:  The bandits are all gone now, Herbert.  (he sips his wine
Herbert:  This is true, and I thank you, believe me.  But...well, I
  can't take the chance again.
Otto:  What are you saying?
Herbert:  For their safety, and mine...I'm afraid I have to resign
  from my position.
Belphanior:  Resign?
Victoria:  (drinks her wine, amused)
Herbert:  I hope this doesn't put you in a bind.  I've already sold
  my house, and we're leaving for the southern lands tomorrow, on a
  merchant caravan.
Otto:  Damn.
Belphanior:  Is it money?  I could raise your salary-
Herbert:  No, no, it's not a question of money.  I have some saved
  up, not a lot but enough to get started in whatever kingdom we end
  up in.
Otto:  You're sure about this?
Herbert:  I'm sure.
Belphanior:  Well, then...(he stands)  Surely you're entitled to some
  severance pay.  (he snaps his fingers)
Phoebe:  (walks over, to his side)  Master?
Belphanior:  Go to my study.  In the top left-hand drawer you'll find
  a sack of platinum.  Take fifty coins from it, and put them in a
  pouch for Herbert here.
Phoebe:  (scoots away)  Right away.
Herbert:  (looks stunned)  You don't have to-
Belphanior:  Yes, I do.  You've done good work here, under some bad
  conditions, and seldom complained.  The least we can do is ensure
  your well-being in the future.
Herbert:  (salutes)  You have my thanks, and that of my wife as well.
Otto:  Sorry to see you go, man.
Herbert:  I'm sorry to have to go, but it's the most sensible course
  of action, at this point.  I'm truly sorry.
Belphanior:  No big deal.

  A short time later, after Herbert had taken the money and left...

Victoria:  Feeling generous today, are we?
Belphanior:  Yup.
Otto:  He deserved it.  He's singlehandedly built and held together
  Helgate's guard corps.
Belphanior:  (nods)  Not as great a behind-the-scenes worker as that
  Deryck fellow of Ged's...but yet noteworthy.
Victoria:  Well, now we have a problem.
Otto:  What else is new?
Belphanior:  (smiles thinly)  The problem of having a wild town and
  no guards whatsoever?
Victoria:  Exactly.
Belphanior:  Well, that's easily remedied.
Otto:  More guards?
Belphanior:  Daphne, prepare the saddlebags for a week's journey.
  On the morrow, we shall ride to Perrenland, to hire an entirely
  new fighting force!
Daphne:  It will be done, Master.
Belphanior:  (leans back, sipping his wine as unknown visions dance
  in his good eye)

next:      Perrenland, home of the Flanaess' most elite soldiers
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     I know, I'm jumping around from character to character
  again.  But at least it's happening in predictable 5-episode arcs!
    Credit goes to Glen Barnett for pointing out the problems with
  unseen servants, which consequently led to Daphne and Phoebe.

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