Chapter #457

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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) +
+                                                                   +
+  Deborah, captain of the Despotrix' guardswomen              (CG) +
+  Christina, a guardswoman                                    (NG) +
+  Ellie, a guardswoman                                        (LG) +
+  Monique, a guardswoman                                       (N) +
+  Sarah, a guardswoman                                        (CN) +
+  Date:        5/26/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       somewhere in Bissel                                 +
+  Climate:     pleasant                                            +
+  "Pardon me, but...we don't even know your name."                 +
+  "Names don't count for much out here, ma'am."                    +
+                                 - from _The Quick and the Dead_   +

                   CDLVII.  The Road West

  Three weeks have passed since the battle with the manticores.  In
that time, Peldor, Tanya, and their five surviving escorts have
journeyed westward and northward.  Currently, they are riding through
the kingdom of Bissel.

Peldor:  An interesting series of kingdoms, to be sure.
Deborah:  (nods)  It's a wide, wide world.

  The guard-captain's attitude had improved considerably over the
past weeks, as the group traversed Furyondy and Veluna.  Despite the
death of their companion, Deborah and the others had continued with
their mission.  They now treated Peldor and Tanya as equals and
companions; while this wasn't a huge step for Ellie, Christina, and
the others, it marked a major leap for Deborah.  Perhaps she was
grateful for their help in the battle with the manticores, or maybe
she had finally recognized them for the good people they were.  In
any case, all of their attitudes had improved, and even Peldor and
Tanya had all but forgotten the underlying nature of this trip.

Peldor:  We'll be turning north soon...skirting the Bramblewood as
  we arc through Ket.
Tanya:  And then?
Deborah:  Then, we'll have to cross the Plains of the Paynims to get
  to Zeif.
Peldor:  That's a dangerous place...we'll have to bribe and sneak our
  way through.  Those Paynims are some pretty testy characters.
Ellie:  We'll just have to be extra careful then.

  As it turned out, they got a break - a big one.  A passing caravan,
one of vast size, was parked in Thornwood for a few days.  The city
in northern Bissel was a frequent stop for traffic headed west to the
plains and Zeif, traffic that couldn't negotiate the hills or the

Peldor:  Or traffic that doesn't want to risk the dangers therein...
  that guard told me this caravan's going straight to Zeif.
Monique:  Hmm.
Sarah:  We can just ride along, then?
Peldor:  Yep.  This thing's got more than a hundred guards, and three
  dozen wagons.  Apparently it's a royal baggage-train, under the
  protection of the Sultan himself.  If we stick with it, we'll likely
  have nothing to fear from bandits, or anyone else.
Ellie:  It sounds sensible enough.
Deborah:  (nods)  I'll need to check with the Despotrix, though.

  Soon, in a private tent...

Deborah:  (talking to the crystal ball)  ...and that's what they want
  to do.  It seems to have both good and bad points.
Despotrix:  No matter.  I've...hired those two to get me what I want,
  and how they go about it is entirely up to them.
Deborah:  As you wish.
Despotrix:  Have they shown any inclination of escaping?
Deborah:  No.  They seem ready to go straight to Zeif.  (she frowns)
  They're not really bad people, once you get to know them.  I think-
Despotrix:  (her image looks irritated)  You're not supposed to think.
  Just _do_.
Deborah:  (silent)
Despotrix:  Do whatever it takes to help them recover that item.  I
  don't care how, as long as you have it when you return.
Deborah:  Very well.
Despotrix:  That will be all.  (her image fades)
Deborah:  (sighs)
Peldor:  (invisible, watching through a tent-flap, he retreats without
  a sound)

  They requested permission to accompany the caravan on the remainder
of its trip. The guardmaster, after a suitable period of negotiation
and a bribe appropriate to his station, didn't mind, provided the
companions stayed away from his wagons and their contents, camping
away from the main group at night.  Peldor's hunch was right:  the
size and nature of the caravan kept any would-be brigands at bay.  The
days melted into weeks, and before they knew it, they were crossing
the Paynim plains, heading westward, toward Zeif.
  This was a far different region than any that they had seen before.
More common than horses were the strange, hairy, hump-backed mounts
called "camels."  These things were hardier, on average, than horses,
and apparently their humps (of which there were two, sometimes three)
stored away water and fat, allowing the things extra energy when the
going got rough.  The camels were temperamental beasts, though, prone
to fits of stubbornness and irritability.  Once, during a layover in
a small town, they witnessed a brawny warrior trying to get one of the
animals to move along.  It wouldn't, no matter what the fellow tried;
eventually it spat some regurgitated gunk on the man.

man:  (trembles in rage)  Why, you...(he punches the camel)
camel:  (staggers in place, then topples, dazed)
man:  (walks away, cursing and rubbing his knuckles)

  Another thing of interest was the variety of goods common among the
merchants and buyers of these parts.  Large, lavish rugs of intricate
design and great weight were common, as were fine, silken robes and
veils.  The native women all wore such veils, for their faces were
meant for their husbands alone, and exposing them to other males was
considered a heinous crime.  As it was, many of the native people gave
Tanya, Deborah, and the other women strange looks.  Peldor, for his
part, was quite amused.

Peldor:  Maybe you should get some veils.
Tanya:  Oh, _please_.

  A common practice in these parts was snake-charming.  It seemed that
snakes were not only abundant, but held in near-reverence by the people
of the far West.  A common sight was a wizened old fellow playing a
flute, his music eliciting a coiled snake of some kind to rise from a
pot, weaving to the tune.  This was odd, but it held some fascination
for the nomads; they held frequent competitions between themselves.
  One might have thought that language would be a problem, but the
Despotrix had already prepared them for this.  Mystical amulets, one
each for Peldor and Tanya, enabled them to speak and hear the native
languages of these parts as if they had known them all their lives.
It was strange, but it worked, and well; Deborah also had one of these
  The weapons of the region consisted almost entirely of curved, razor-
sharp scimitars or tulwars.  Fighting with such weapons required a
different kind of talent and technique than fighting with a longsword.
Peldor used some of his spare time to learn the basics of this weapon;
he proved to have quite an aptitude for it.

Peldor:  (sparring with Monique)  I still prefer my longsword, though.
Monique:  Each weapon has its advantages.  These scimitars can dance
  in around typical defenses, scoring hits where there otherwise might
  not have been any.  But, they are somewhat heavier and more difficult
  to wield.
Peldor:  (marveling at this woman's warrior mentality)  Hmm.

  It was rather hot and arid in these parts, and most of the local
warriors compensated by wearing light chain, beneath cloaks or robes.
This was to keep excess sand out of their armor, at least to whatever
degree this was possible.  They weren't in a desert region - that area
was far to the south, in the Dry Steppes - but there was still quite
a bit of grit, whipped about when the wind rose.  Still, the natives
assured them that it got much worse in the southern regions, where
sandstorms were an everyday occurrence.  Peldor remembered well his
adventures in the Sea of Dust, and took heart.  Comparatively, these
plains were lush and fertile, able to support rudimentary crops for
their inhabitants.  The climate was hot, but not intolerably so, and
it still got cold at night.
  It was a refreshing, if crude, break from the luxuries and pressures
of civilization.  All of them found their skin tanning and their hair
lightening, at least a little bit.  Almost a month after they joined
the caravan, the seven companions beheld a huge, sprawling city on the
horizon - a city of pointy-roofed towers and foreign pleasures:  Zeif!

Peldor:  This is where things _really_ get interesting.

next:      the plan takes form
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Yep, the capital of the Sultanate of Zeif is the city
  of Zeif.  I'm not just making this up.

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