Chapter #448

previous chapter (#447)                                                                  next chapter (#449)

                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      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) +
+    Razor Charlie  8th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+  Date:        4/24/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        midmorning                                          +
+  Place:       southern Perrenland                                 +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Blimey!  They're _filthy_!"                                     +
+  "They may be, lady, but they sure do mean well."                 +
+                                        - from _The Dirty Dozen_   +

                     CDXLVIII.  New Recruits

  Belphanior, Otto, and Razor Charlie have departed a walled fort in
southern Perrenland, and now ride for the city of Krestible.

Belphanior:  And you're sure we can find competent fighting men there?
Otto:  I'm sure.  After all, I did come from the place.
Belphanior:  Krestible?
Otto:  No, Perrenland in general.  I served for six years in its
  armies...(he shakes his head, as if unwilling to say more)  That
  was a long time ago.
Belphanior:  Well, if you say they're the finest warriors in the land,
  I believe you.
Razor Charlie:  (talking to himself, or as close as he ever comes to
  it)  Kyros was a good fighter.
Belphanior:  (nods)  I don't want that to happen again.  Ever.  From
  now on, the guardsmen of Helgate - whatever sorts of people they may
  be - will need to be a self-contained, independent fighting force.
Otto:  (cracking his knuckles)  One that doesn't have to wait for
  orders or powerful enough to survive on its own,
  even against several dozen bandits.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  I'd like to have at least one wizard and one priest
  in the group.
Otto:  And they'll likely have to stay in town.
Belphanior:  No big deal - we can annex some building, and create a
  garrison, complete with barracks, training rooms, and an armory...
Otto:  Already working on it.
Belphanior:  Eh?
Otto:  I took the liberty of commandeering the old warehouse next to
  the existing guardhouse, and getting some people working on fixing
  it up.
Belphanior:  (nods in approval)  Good.  When we get back, we'll want
  to implement this whole thing as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Otto:  I'll still retain my rank of town marshal, I guess.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  There's got to be some order.
Otto:  If we're patient enough here, we can find men who require next
  to nothing in the way of training.
Belphanior:  I hope so, because I've got other projects to work on.
Otto:  The Victoria thing?
Belphanior:  Yup.
Otto:  You really think it can be done?  Making her normal again?
Belphanior:  She's already normal.
Otto:  As normal as anybody who drinks blood and turns into a bat can
  get, anyway.
Belphanior:  It's her other persona that  Her ferocity and
  swordswomanship, her skill in battle, her attitude.  The other part
  is just icing on the cake, so to speak.
Otto:  I guess that's why she didn't come along on this little trip.
Belphanior:  Right.  I didn't even try to convince her to accompany
  us.  Sunlight and the open road pose far too much in the way of
  risk for her.
Otto:  I understand.
Belphanior:  Maybe not.  Hell, I'm not sure _I_ understand sometimes.

  They continued along, and after midday they reached the walls of
Krestible.  A fairly large place, home to perhaps fifteen thousand,
the city teemed with fighting men.  That was, after all, the primary
export of Perrenland:  mercenaries, soldiers who put their life on
the line for others' causes - and their money.  The variety of people
here was bound by neither occupation nor race.  Elves and dwarves
mixed freely, if stiffly, with half-orcs and gnolls.  While spell-
casters were significantly under-represented, there were yet a few
to be seen in the crowds.  Unlike many more conventional kingdoms,
Perrenland was a true melting pot in every sense of the word.
  Nearby, a blacksmith's son hawked his father's wares, from a wagon
in front of the smoke-filled smithy.  Even as son sold fine blades,
father was hard at work forging more.  Across the street, a shield
merchant was proving the strength of his merchandise, submitting them
to various missile fire.  Down the street, some kind of knife-hurling
competition was just getting underway.  Serious-looking warriors with
scars and weapons mixed in with the merchants and visitors, and the
city was a bustling center of commerce and trade.

Belphanior:  (looking around)  How to go about this, I wonder?
Otto:  We just have to look around.  Why don't we split up - I'll go
  out and concentrate on warriors and spies, while you deal with any
  prospective wizards and priests?
Belphanior:  Good idea.  We'll meet back here at dusk...(he points at
  a statue of a warrior, in the middle of the four-way intersection
  close by)...there.
Otto:  Gotcha.  See, I know the guilds and training halls here, so I
  won't waste much time getting down to business.
Belphanior:  Sounds like a plan.  Charlie?
Razor Charlie:  (gives a nod and a thumbs-up as he vanishes into the
  constantly-shuffling crowd)
Otto:  Guess we'll just see who or what he comes up with.
Belphanior:  Okay, then.  I'll meet you here at dusk.  (they split
  up, heading in different directions)

  It certainly was an interesting day for everyone.  Otto had feared
that they'd have to venture northward, to Schwartzenbruin, in order
to find the appropriate manpower.  Thankfully, this didn't turn out
to be the case, as everyone learned at dusk.  Belphanior arrived in
the square at the same time as Razor Charlie, and Otto arrived only
moments later.

Belphanior:  (looks over the gathered groups brought by himself and
  Otto)  Maybe we'd better head for a tavern.
Otto:  Yeah...I'm kinda hungry.
Razor Charlie:  (twirling an ornamental silver knife)
Belphanior:  You didn't find anyone?
Razor Charlie:  Nobody worthy.  (sneering to himself)

  They made their way to the nearest local watering-hole, a shabby
but spacious tavern by the name of the Bloody Sword.  Here, their
coin quickly secured them a large, corner table.  All were seated,
and introductions were made as the ale and food began to arrive.

  Belphanior had found only two individuals who fit the bill, but
both had useful talents.  The first was a wizard, garbed in dark
blue robes; this was Skektek, a wizard who specialized in electrical
and lightning magic.  A shaven-headed human of perhaps forty years,
he was tall, slim, and somewhat tempermental - just like his magic.
The other of the new allies Belphanior had rounded up was not only
a woman, but a priestess as well.  The dark star emblem on her robes
marked her as a follower of Wee Jas, an ancient and powerful goddess
of magic and death - two things that Belphanior could appreciate.
Her name was Aja, and she was a human also, in her early thirties,
with shoulder-length brown hair which she kept tied in a ponytail.
She actually wasn't bad-looking, and seemed to have a fascination
with death.  If Belphanior hadn't already had Victoria, he might
well have been attracted to the mysterious priestess.
  It surprised Otto that Belphanior had spent most of the day finding
a mere pair of people who could help him.  The dwarf, on the other
hand, had acquired five mercenaries.  Though he knew that five - or
seven - weren't enough to make a fighting force, it was a start...
and what a start.  A pair of twin humans, ebony-skinned giants who
stood several inches higher than Belphanior, crossed their arms in
unison, grinning.  These were Darrell and Jomo, experienced veterans
who'd seen more than a decade of combat.  Both men fought with long-
swords, and they sometimes utilized a double attack that resembled
a whirlwind in its approach and deadliness.
  Otto's third find was a short, wiry Kettite named Jutokai.  This
yellow-skinned fellow wielded either a shortbow and shortsword in
battle, and was a master of both.  He had a thin, drooping mustache
which matched his straight black hair, and dressed in strange armor
that appeared to be a combination of splint and scale mail.  With
Jutokai was Kinichi, a renegade Paynim who was skilled at tracking
and hunting.  This tall, broad-shouldered man dressed entirely in
skins and hides, and smelled like a thing of the wild.  Yet, it was
obvious that he knew his work, and well, simply by his confident
demeanor.  He and Jutokai had fought together for years, and were
good friends.
  If Belphanior had worried for lack of sheer fighting power, one
look at the fifth member of Otto's recruits would have put his mind
at ease.  No human, elf, or dwarf, this one - no, Ys belonged to
some other species altogether.  More than eight feet tall, he most
resembled a gigantic, powerfully-built human, except with a snake's
head and thick, grey scales from head to toe.  Ys fought with a huge
sword whose blade was about five inches wide and an inch thick.  He
was dressed in thick leather clothing that left his massive arms
exposed, presumably for freedom of movement.  Strange as he might be,
Ys seemed to enjoy eating and drinking readily enough.

Belphanior:  (addresses the entire group)  Okay, here's the deal.
  Some of you know each other, while others don't.  You'll all have
  to work together, though, and co-operate.  Totally.
Otto:  (sips his ale)
Razor Charlie:  (chewing on a piece of chicken, he suddenly spits a
  bone out)
Belphanior:  We've got a little town, to the south of here.  We're
  organizing a corps of guardsmen - and women - to see to its safety
  and law-enforcing.  You'll be responsible for the safety of normal
  people, but it won't stop there, not by a long shot.  From time to
  time, we'll make journeys or undertake special missions, and you
  will be called upon to combat sorcerors, undead, maybe demons.  (he
  pauses)  This is definitely hazardous work, and not for the faint
  at heart.  It's no cushy assignment; your lives will be on the
  line, no less than if you were going to war.
various mercenaries:  (listening and thinking)
Belphanior:  I just want you to know up front, that's all.  If you
  don't think you can hack it, back out now.

  Nobody said anything; all those present obviously thought they had
what it took.

Belphanior:  Otto here will explain the pay and benefits to you now.
Otto:  (chewing on a piece of blackroot)  The salary is twenty-five
  gold per week, plus bonuses for exceptional performance or deeds.
  In addition, any excursions we might go on - dungeon-delving, raids
  on castles, and the like - will offer additional pay.  You'll be
  staying in a barracks in town, and you'll typically operate in
  shifts, such that those who're sleeping are available for whatever
  emergencies might arise.
Skektek:  Food and lodging are taken care of, then?
Otto:  Lodging I just covered.  Food will be provided, you'll store,
  cook, and eat it in your guardhouse.  Of course, if you get sick
  of that standard-issue food...
everyone:  (chuckles)
Ys:  (gurgles)
Otto:  ...then you're free to eat around town, at your own expense.
  On out-of-town journeys we'll pick up the tab for room and board.
Aja:  I'll need a temple to Wee Jas.
Otto:  Hmm.  (he glances to Belphanior)
Belphanior:  We can build one, or you can start one, or whatever.
  (fully aware that he needs a priest, or priestess, the elf makes
  sure to quickly allay any concerns that the woman might have)
Otto:  Hmm...that's about it.  You'll train at your own leisure.
  You're all experienced in your fields - we don't need to hold your
  hands and make sure you stay sharp.
Razor Charlie:  (twirling a knife around in his hand, he sneers to
Kinichi:  (eyes the blade-thrower curiously)
Belphanior:  (stands)  Tell you what.  You've heard the offer, and
  the conditions.  We're leaving here in the morning.  If you wish
  to go with us, we'll be at the west gate at dawn.
Otto:  (nods as the various mercenaries stand up, mutter, or both)
  Good night, all.

next:      we see who makes the cut, and who doesn't
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     This was long overdue, but I didn't have any plans for
  it.  The story, and the structure of the group, and these first
  members, just popped into my head from nowhere.

previous chapter (#447)                                                                  next chapter (#449)