Chapter #449

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                                +   +
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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) +
+    Razor Charlie  8th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+  Date:        4/25/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        dawn                                                +
+  Place:       Krestible, in southern Perrenland                   +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Hey, this place has certain standards!"                         +
+  "I guess I'm here to lower them, then."                          +
+                                  - from the _Highlander_ series   +

                   CDXLIX.  Ten For The Road

  As the sun rose over the walled city of Krestible, Belphanior,
Otto, and Razor Charlie waited at the west gate...

Otto:  Wonder who'll show up?
Belphanior:  Most or all of them, I'd guess.  They seemed a hardy,
  adventurous lot.
Razor Charlie:  (examining the edge of one of his knives, he grimaces
  as he finds a nick)
Otto:  I don't know if they're all ready for the kind of action we
  tend to run into, though...
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  The fit shall survive, and the weak shall
Otto:  Didn't some learned scholar say that once?
Belphanior:  (nodding)  Some old sage, long ago.  Anyway, I think-

  The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of two dark warriors
astride matching tan horses.

Darrell:  Top of the morning to you!
Otto:  Come to join us, then?
Jomo:  (nods)  Sounds like a good deal, mon.
Darrell:  Things were getting kind of boring in these parts.
Belphanior:  Glad to have you with us.  (he detects another soul, and
  turns in time to see Aja arrive, riding a smaller, black horse.
Aja:  I'll be accompanying you as well.
Otto:  (mutters something about someone getting a free temple)
Skektek:  (floats around a corner)  Count me in as well.
Belphanior:  Excellent.  I take it you're not coming along for the
Skektek:  No...actually, I get the feeling that spells and magical
  items will be in abundance.
Belphanior:  It's been known to happen.
Otto:  That leaves those two fellows from the west, Jutokai and
Jutokai:  (rides up on a strange-looking mount, along with the
  plainsman Kinichi)  We'd like to give it a try, as well.
Kinichi:  At least for a while.
Belphanior:  I'm looking for long-term commitments here, guys.  A
  few days or weeks isn't going to help me much.
Jutokai:  Hmm.
Kinichi:  (shrugs)  I cannot know if I want to stay in the town until
  I see it.
Belphanior:  (considers this)  Fair enough.
Otto:  (looking around)  I don't see that snake-man, Ys.
Skektek:  (frowns)  I don't trust him.
Otto:  You don't have to.  He looked like a skilled warrior, and we
  need them just as badly as we need wizards.  (he glances at Aja)
  Or clerics.
Aja:  Time will tell, dwarf.  Time will tell.
Belphanior:  (wondering what exactly Ys _is_, rather than where he is)
  It's a moot point, if he doesn't show.

  There was a strange hissing sound from an adjacent street, and then
the grey-scaled Ys rode into view.  The lizard-man, or whatever he
was, sat astride a huge, powerfully-muscled horse, one of the sort
common in the western plains.  Such horses, as high at the shoulder
as a man was tall, were bred to carry not only an armored warrior but
also barding and supplies.  Even so, the sturdy horse seemed to sag
a bit under the reptilian's immense bulk.

Ys:  (talks in a deep, rumbling voice)  I hope it's not too late to
Otto:  Not at all.
Jomo:  (combs his dreadlocks with his hand, awed at the sheer
  presence of the gigantic humanoid lizard)
Jutokai:  (nods)  Another ally, and a powerful one at that.
Ys:  (grins toothily)
Belphanior:  (surveys the group)  Well, then.  Ten we are.

  Under other circumstances, they would have continued their journey
and ventured to Schwarzenbruin.  However, since the guardhouse wasn't
completed yet, Belphanior didn't want to cram it full of new occupants
who had never worked and fought together.  Besides, he was somewhat
eager to resume certain research he had begun earlier in the week.
They could always return to Schwarzenbruin - or Krestible for that
matter - later, and gather more forces.  Putting too many pieces on
the board would be premature, this early in the game.
  The journey back to Helgate was quick and uneventful, which was too
bad, from Belphanior's point of view.  The elf would have actually
preferred that something - anything - attack the group as they rode
southward.  He wanted, and needed, to see how his new recruits handled
themselves under pressure.  However, it was not to be.  This time
around, no yeti leaped from the shadows to rend and maul.  Several
of the new guardsmen (or guardswomen, or even guardscreatures) did
prove their worth in other ways, however.  Kinichi found and followed
some tracks, and returned with the body of some large, furred deer-
like animal.  Dinner around the campfire that night was fine indeed,
except that Ys ate half of the animal all by himself.

Otto:  Hmm, maybe we'd better double the weekly food budget...

  Jutokai proved a watchful and tireless sentry, and his night vision
was uncanny.  Aja's spells of watching and warding lent credence to
Belphanior's opinion of her powers.  The others didn't yet have a
chance to display their own forms of prowess, but sooner or later, a
fight would come.  It always did.

  As if to illustrate this point, when they returned to the castle
several days later, it was immediately obvious that something was

Belphanior:  (silently regarding the front door of the castle, which
  lies in pieces on the ground)
Otto:  Uh-oh.
Skektek:  Interesting.
Ys:  (nods)  Most interesting.
Belphanior:  I'm going upstairs to find Victoria and the maids.  Look
  around here and see if you can figure out what happened.  (he dashes
  for the spiral stairway)
Otto:  Right.  (to the others)  Everyone stay with me.  There might
  be unactivated traps about.

  The front hallway was a shambles.  Much of the furniture had been
smashed to pieces, and several huge holes dotted the walls and floor.

Skektek:  What has fists that big?
Kinichi:  Giants.
Ys:  (regarding his own fists, each of which is the size of a man's
Otto:  (poking through one of the crack-webbed impact holes)  Angus,
  all right.
Aja:  What is "Angus"?
Otto:  A golem.
Aja:  Aha.

  As they entered the dining room, they found more evidence of recent
battle.  One door was completely off its hinges, and more holes and
cracks decorated the walls.  For some reason, the great organ had been

Otto:  I doubt it was because whoever attacked was a music lover...
Ys:  (eyes the organ, his forked tongue slithering in and out of his
  fanged mouth)
Skektek:  This place is a wreck!
Jutokai:  You didn't mention any old enemies...
Otto:  We don't have any - they're all dead already.
Razor Charlie:  (frowns, twirling a knife in one hand)

  Just then, Belphanior ran into the room, bearing yet more alarming

Belphanior:  Victoria's gone!
Otto:  What?!?
Belphanior:  Gone, I say.
Aja:  Victoria?
Otto:  Any signs of a struggle?
Belphanior:  Yup.  Her room's nearly torn to shreds, and some of the
  furniture in the next room's shattered.  Whoever she fought, she
  didn't go easily.
Otto:  No blood, or...
Belphanior:  No dust, nothing.  Whatever happened to her, she's not
  dead.  Not here, at any rate.
Otto:  What about the monsters you keep up there?
Belphanior:  They're alive and well...and unwounded.  Whoever came
  through the castle didn't bother them.
Otto:  Odd.

  They found Angus in the chapel.  The golem was standing at one of
the multicolored windows, staring out into the courtyard with its
iron eyes.  At their approach, Angus turned about, poised to attack,
but stopped short as it recognized its master.

Belphanior:  Angus!  (he dashes toward the golem)
Aja:  Most impressive.
Belphanior:  (having quickly checked Angus over, head to toe, he
  frowns)  Hell, he's completely unwounded.
Otto:  What?!?
Belphanior:  Not even a scratch on him.
Skektek:  Most passing strange.
Darrell:  You can say that again.
Jomo:  Who invades a haunted castle?
Otto:  (to Belphanior)  I've found no signs of robbery - you?
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  Nope.  Nothing's missing, not even
  the easy and obvious stuff.  Whoever came here and fought Angus
  must have been after only one thing.
Otto:  Victoria.
Belphanior:  (nods, and turns to the seven mercenaries who stand in
  the chapel with him and Otto)  You people ready to earn your pay?
Razor Charlie:  (grins wickedly, and stops twirling his knife)

next:      Victoria's second secret
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     As I suspected I would, I've gotten some mail voicing
  unhappiness about the character-shifts every 5 episodes.
    What happens is that I usually lose interest after 3-5 episodes
  of the same plotline.  If I don't switch for a while, I'll churn
  out smelly and unworthy drek.  Add onto that the fact that I'm
  caught up in a writing frenzy of late, and, well...
    Rest assured:  by #460 both the Peldor/Tanya and Mongo/Peyote
  story arcs will be concluded.  After that I'll settle down a bit.

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