Chapter #456

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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) +
+    Victoria      11th level female vampiric human fighter    (NE) +
+                                                                   +
+  The new mercenaries:                                             +
+    Aja           10th level human priestess of Wee Jas       (LN) +
+    Jutokai        7th level human fighter/archer              (N) +
+    Kinichi        7th level human ranger                     (CG) +
+    Skektek        8th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                 (N) +
+  Date:        5/4/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     cold outdoors, warm indoors                         +
+  "No, the question isn't indiscreet, though the answer could be." +
+                                   - from _For a Few Dollars More_ +

           CDLVI.  Interviews With Everyone BUT the Vampire

  Three days have passed since the battle with the vampire clan, and
things are just settling back to normal...

Belphanior:  (sitting naked in a hot tub full of steaming water)
Victoria:  (rises from the depths)  Now this was a good idea.
Belphanior:  (looks over the side of the tub)  Yeah...the heated
  rocks beneath this thing will keep the water hot for hours.
Victoria:  That's not what I meant.
Belphanior:  (smirks)  Oh.
Victoria:  But yes...the water does feel marvelous.
Belphanior:  I guess you only dislike actual _running_ water?
Victoria:  (nods)  Oceans, seas, rivers, and such.  This is harmless.
  And fun.  (she smiles mischievously)
Belphanior:  No argument here...

  Their conversation, such as it was, was interrupted by a soft but
insistent knocking at the door.

Belphanior:  (somewhat irritated)  What?
young female voice:  It's Daphne, Master.
Belphanior:  (shakes his head)  Whatever it is, it can wait-
Victoria:  Come in, my dear girl.
Daphne:  (enters, several large, fluffy towels in her arms)  The
  towels you wanted...
Belphanior:  (self-consciously glances at the water, to see if his
  privates are visible)
Victoria:  (gestures to a low table beside the hot tub)  You can
  leave them there.
Daphne:  (somewhat embarrassed, she does so)  Yes, Mistress.
Belphanior:  Is that all?
Daphne:  (already backing out of the room, she nods slightly)  Yes.
Victoria:  (smiles at the girl)  Very well.
Daphne:  (leaves, closing the door behind her)
Belphanior:  What's with this "Master" and "Mistress" business?  Not
  that I don't like it, but...
Victoria:  (shrugs and stretches out, sending tiny waves of water
  lapping at the sides of the tub)  I enjoy it...what more reason is
Belphanior:  (distracted by the naked woman in the tub with him)  Oh.
Victoria:  Don't worry, I didn't bite them.
Belphanior:  Heh.  (he looks at the towels on the nearby table)  And
  who ordered towels, anyway?
Victoria:  (laughs)  We can't stay in here forever...
Belphanior:  Oh, yeah?  (he dunks her suddenly)

  About an hour (and a lot of splashing and noise) later, the elf
headed for his study, whistling.  He was in a rather good mood now,
and he had some important appointments to keep.  Today was the day
that he was to meet with each of his new mercenaries, individually,
to learn more about them, and discuss their concerns and needs.
Otto and Razor Charlie had returned to Perrenland (this time as part
of a large, armed caravan that had passed through Helgate) to seek
more common warriors for the town guard.

Belphanior:  (muttering to himself)  We've certainly got enough UN-
  common ones now...

  Sitting in the large, padded chair he had had built, the elf
awaited the first of the mercenaries.  It was Skektek, and as the
blue-garbed mage entered, Belphanior wondered idly if the other
four were all waiting outside together.

Skektek:  You wanted to see me?
Belphanior:  Each of you, actually.  Have a seat.
Skektek:  (has one, across the desk from Belphanior)  So, what's on
  your mind?
Belphanior:  You're here because I want to know what you thought of
  the little mission we went on the other day.  I'm worried that you
  people might not care for this line of work.
Skektek:  (smiles)  You're referring to the fact that two of our band
  met their doom?
Belphanior:  For starters, yeah.
Skektek:  (shrugs)  They knew the risks.  We all did.  Ever since my
  first lightning bolt, when I almost obliterated myself, I've been
  living in danger.
Belphanior:  Hah.
Skektek:  So the answer is, no, it didn't bother me that much.  The
  brothers seemed like nice guys, and good in a fight, but the fact
  that they got waxed isn't going to make me quit.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Where are you from, anyway?
Skektek:  The Hold of the Sea Princes, actually.
Belphanior:  (his eye darkens)  A slaver?
Skektek:  Not at all.  I was a court wizard for many years, but one
  day they found someone who had a wider range of spells than mine,
  and I was let go.
Belphanior:  Fired?
Skektek:  I prefer not to think of it like that.  So, I journeyed
  through the nearby kingdoms, and finally ended up in Perrenland.
  I made a living escorting caravans through the mountains.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Skektek:  They say that strange, hairy beast-men roam these peaks...
  have you ever seen one?
Belphanior:  Not lately.
Skektek:  Oh.
Belphanior:  Well, that's about it.
Skektek:  Heh.  Well, if you were trying to see what my breaking
  point is, you should be aware that I'm pretty far from it.
Belphanior:  Gotcha.
Skektek:  (rises and heads for the door)
Belphanior:  Oh, one more thing.
Skektek:  Eh?
Belphanior:  (tosses the mage a small but heavy pouch)  Your four
  companions will each get this's a bonus, for your work
  the other day.
Skektek:  (pulls a coin from the pouch) thanks.  Glad to
  have been of assistance.  (he leaves)

  Next came Jutokai, whose reactions and responses were much like
those of Skektek.  He was sorry to have seen Darrell and Jomo go,
but war was hell.

Belphanior:  It certainly is.
Jutokai:  But I like this town.  I've already visited most of its
  wonders...particularly the Witch's Tit.
Belphanior:  Heh heh.
Jutokai:  Nothing like that beauty you've got, but good nonetheless.
Belphanior:  (nods)
Jutokai:  You and Otto own that place, right?
Belphanior:  Yup.
Jutokai:  Do we, as town guardsmen, get discounts then?
Belphanior:  (ponders this)  You'll have to argue that with the
  whores.  You get what you pay for, after all.  (he frowns)  This
  possibility may not apply to Ys, though.
Jutokai:  I wouldn't worry about him.  That guy doesn't seem too
  interested in women.  (he pulls at his mustache)  Of course, I've
  never seen a woman of his race...
Belphanior:  Maybe we never will.  To change the subject, why'd you
  leave your homeland of Ket?
Jutokai:  You want the truth or the usual lie?
Belphanior:  The truth would be preferable.
Jutokai:  (grins)  I was caught robbing the king's palace.  I escaped
  the night before my scheduled execution.
Belphanior:  Well...I can certainly respect that.
Jutokai:  Perrenland seemed the perfect place to lose myself, what
  with the melting pot of races and there I was.
Belphanior:  You met Kinichi there?
Jutokai:  Yeah.  We've worked for the same generals, fought the same
  battles for the past two years now.
Belphanior:  Interesting.

  After Belphanior paid the Kettite and bade him good day, Kinichi was
next.  The renegade Paynim didn't seem at all bothered by the fate of
Darrell and Jomo.

Kinichi:  As long as they don't come back as vampires, to get us.
Belphanior:  No need to worry about that - we burned their bodies,
Kinichi:  (a superstitious fellow at heart, he has his doubts)  Hmm.
  What else do you want?
Belphanior:  Why, do you have something important to do?
Kinichi:  Actually, I do.  I was roaming the buildings around the new
  guardhouse, taking note of any positions from which archers could
  fire on it from above.
Belphanior:  I see.
Kinichi:  (smiles thinly)  Years of warfare have taught me to survey
  such things in advance.
Belphanior:  But you think you'll like the job?
Kinichi:  For now.  I have to warn you, I never stay in one place for
Belphanior:  Well, we'll see what happens.  So, you're a Paynim?
Kinichi:  (shrugs)  Still am, least as far as I can figure.  I left
  because of a dispute...over a woman.
Belphanior:  Ah.
Kinichi:  Yeah.  Better to leave than live in endless anger and
  jealousy.  Besides, I might have killed my rival anyway, and then
  the shit would've really hit the grindstone.
Belphanior:  (nods)
Kinichi:  If that's it, I need to get going.  I've already lost too
  much time, and it's almost midday.
Belphanior:  Have fun, then.  Oh, I almost forgot...(he hands the man
  his bonus pouch)
Kinichi:  What's this for?
Belphanior:  Hazardous duty pay.  You ought to be able to buy some
  new clothes or something with that.
Kinichi:  (sniffs his vest)  Hmm, maybe I will.  (he leaves)

  Aja, dark-robed priestess of Wee Jas, entered the study; her brown
hair was bound with a black band.  She seemed to be in good spirits.

Belphanior:  Is something funny?
Aja: just have an aura about you at the moment.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (frowning, he wonders what the hell she's talking
Aja:  The others have been leaving with happy looks on their faces.
  Perhaps you're giving out bonuses, for the vampire battle?
Belphanior:  You're fairly shrewd.  (he slides her coin-pouch across
  the desk, to her)
Aja:  (takes the money)  You wanted to talk to, talk away.
Belphanior:  Have you found a good site for your temple yet?
Aja:  Nothing definite, but I've got a few good prospects.  I should
  have an answer within a week or so.
Belphanior:  Good.  This town needs a temple, and a priesthood.
Aja:  Priestess-hood.
Belphanior:  Sorry.
Aja:  Um...there's something that's been bothering me.
Belphanior:  (genuinely curious)  What's that?
Aja:  During the fight with the vampires, I used my holy power on
  them.  It _should_ have bent their wills to me, but it didn't.
Belphanior:  Explain.
Aja:  Some gods and goddesses grant their priests-
Belphanior:  (grins)  And priestesses...
Aja:  Heh.  Anyway, they grant them the power to turn undead away, and
  in some cases, blast them to dust.
Belphanior:  I'm with you so far.
Aja:  Wee Jas grants a different sort of power...I don't destroy or
  drive the undead away.  Rather, I take control of them.
Belphanior:  Ah...but it didn't happen that time.
Aja:  Exactly.  I need to know why, and Wee Jas has not seen fit to
  share the knowledge.  So, I need you to talk to your lady-friend
  and find out what's going on.
Belphanior:  Deal.  Anything else I can do for you?
Aja:  (thinking)  There is one more thing...
Belphanior:  What's that?
Aja:  That dark elf friend of he committed to his woman?
Belphanior:  Absolutely.  And I doubt Lyra would take kindly to any
  challenge.  Dark elven women are notoriously bad tempered.
Aja:  A shame.
Belphanior:  Just write him off, that's my advice.  Life is tough.
Aja:  Well, if that's all...
Belphanior:  All for today.
Aja:  I'll see you around.  (she leaves)

  The fifth and final appointment was, of course, with the huge grey
man-lizard Ys.

Ys:  (takes a seat, but it shatters right as he gets comfortable)
Belphanior:  Er, maybe you'd better just stand.
Ys:  (grins, his many sharp teeth flashing)  Not a problem.
Belphanior:  Of all the people that we hired, you raise the most
Ys:  I'm used to it.
Belphanior:  I was hoping you could answer those questions.
Ys:  That, I'm not used to.  But ask away.
Belphanior:  (gets the impression that he won't get too many answers
  out of this one, and switches lines of questioning before he can
  give away his true intentions)  Did that battle with the vampires
  disturb you?
Ys:  Why, did I look disturbed?
Belphanior:  No.  In fact, it didn't seem that anything they did was
  really bothering you too much.
Ys:  (shrugs his broad shoulders)  Long ago, I learned that many of
  the things that affect humans and their kin don't affect me.
Belphanior:  Hmm, that's interesting.
Ys:  You don't know the half of it.
Belphanior:  For a big lizard, your Common isn't half-bad.  What's
  the story behind that?
Ys:  Lots of practice.
Belphanior:  I see.
Ys:  (stretches, his arms reaching the ceiling)
Belphanior:  Um...what's an obviously competent fellow like you doing
  looking for work in Perrenland?
Ys:  I wasn't looking.  I was bored.
Belphanior:  Please, explain.
Ys:  (makes a low sound resembling a sigh)  Conventional warfare was
  simply getting old.  Your offer seemed to promise new and exciting I accepted it.
Belphanior:  Let me get this right:  you're here for the thrills?
Ys:  That would be one way to put it.  (he looks concerned)  But you
  needn't worry - I take this very seriously indeed.
Belphanior:  Glad to hear it.
Ys:  I'll risk my life, just as the others will.  I pull my own
Belphanior:  (nods)  Speaking of weight, that's a heavy-looking sword
  you're toting about.
Ys:  (shrugs again)  I've been told it's heavy, but I don't seem to
  have a problem with it.  Must be figments of others' imaginations.
Belphanior:  ...of course.

  For reasons known only to him, Belphanior decided to save the tough
questions for another time, and bid the giant reptilian farewell.

Ys:  My thanks for the bonus.  I don't believe I deserved it, but-
Belphanior:  Nonsense.  You all did.
Ys:  As you say.  (he leaves)
Belphanior:  (contemplates these five conversations)
Victoria:  (materializes next to the elf)  Interesting...especially
  the lizard-man.
Belphanior:  Eh?  Have you been eavesdropping?
Victoria:  I wouldn't use that word...
Belphanior:  (frowns)  Hmph.
Victoria:  (leans in close, rubbing his shoulders)  You don't find
  that priestess attractive, do you?
Belphanior:  No, I don't.  And stop asking.
Victoria:  (smiles)  So sorry.
Belphanior:  Don't even think about biting her.  She's no threat to
  our relationship, and besides, we need her skills here in town.
Victoria:  HMph.  (she looks mildly shocked)  Would I do that?
Belphanior:  I don't know...would you?
Victoria:  No...though I would do...this.
Belphanior:  (wide-eyed)  Hey, I didn't know that dress opened like

next:      Peldor and Tanya go west
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     I told you they were gonna take a bath together.

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