Chapter #458

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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  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:        6/17/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       the city of Zeif, capital of the Sultanate of Zeif  +
+  Climate:     pleasant                                            +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "You and me are the kind of people who could get in a lot        +
+   of trouble around here."                                        +
+                                        - from _Streets of Fire_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                    CDLVIII.  A Thief in Zeif





  After a journey of many weeks, some dangers, and a goodly amount of
foreign culture, the group has finally arrived in Zeif.

Peldor:  A long trip, to be sure.  Time to get down to business.

  They did so, first by securing lodgings at an inn frequented by
visitors to the city.  An entire block of the city was devoted to
lodgings for foreigners, and in such an area, they were sure to fit
in quietly, attracting little attention.

Peldor:  (considering the risks posed by the presence of six women,
  all of them at least somewhat attractive)  I really think all of
  you should get veils.
Tanya:  Not a chance.  You're worrying too much about nothing.  This
  city's far too big for anyone to take special notice of a small
  group of foreign women.
Ellie:  Besides, veils won't disguise the fact that we're not _from_
  here.
Deborah:  (smirking)  The next thing you know, he'll be suggesting
  that we pose as concubines in the Sultan's harem.
Peldor:  (rubbing his chin)  Hmm, now there's an idea...
Christina:  (frowns)
Sarah:  (grins)  Hey, it could be fun.
Monique:  To hell with that.
Peldor:  Well, we've got to find _some_ way to infiltrate the royal
  court.
Tanya:  Don't worry, we'll think of something.

  The second thing they did was to begin learning the layout of the
royal city.  Streets, buildings of note, locations of city guardposts,
city gates - all of these and more were noted and compared by various
of the seven companions.  It turned out that the Despotrix' guards
were more than just trained swordswomen - they were all possessed of
above-average intelligence.  Ellie, for example, had a talent for
seeing all facets of any particular situation or plan, and she often
pointed out things that no one else had noticed.  Sarah was one of
those people who could learn a city's layout after being there for
half an hour.  By the time the group had gathered in their rooms to
eat supper, the petite guardswoman was drawing a map of all major
routes in Zeif.

Christina:  What spies we are...
Deborah:  Don't let it go to your head, any of you.  Then you might
  get sloppy...and we mustn't fail in our mission.
Monique:  I still say we charge right in there and just take the damned
  thing.
Sarah:  Heh.
Ellie:  You're joking, of course.
Monique:  (grinning)  Maybe.

  For dinner, they had a fine assortment of the local delicacies and
staples.  They purchased the food in the markets and brought it back
to their room at the inn, since they didn't want to risk being over-
heard in a public place as they planned strategy.  As it turned out,
the local cuisine was a distraction in itself...
  While some of the foods were familiar, others were completely alien
to them.  A leg of lamb figured prominently in the meal, marinated in
olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, then roasted until tender; it dripped
red juices when sliced.  There was an unusual dish of dumplings made
from ground legumes and herbs, and deep fried, which was served with a
slightly sweet tahini dipping sauce. A spongy flat bread accompanied
a bizarre but delicious sauce the locals called "baba ganouj", made
from roasted eggplant pureed with olive oil, parsley and garlic.
  Another regional favorite that was a hit with the group, aberneet
taratar, was a simple dish of deep fried cauliflower, coated with a
spicy tomato paste.  The meat eaters scored with an unusual preparation
of cubed, roasted goat meat, simmered for hours in a velvety deep red,
blazingly hot sauce.  A refreshingly cool salad of yogurt, cucumber,
and mint helped cool down palates unaccustomed to the spiciness of
these exotic dishes.

Peldor:  Damn, but Leonardo would love to be here!
Deborah:  Who's Leonardo?
Tanya:  Our chef.
Ellie:  Chef?  You have your own chef?
Deborah:  We're going to have to come visit you in Greyhawk sometime.
Peldor:  (frowns, then changes the subject to the business at hand)
  How's this for a plan:  I'll pose as a rich merchant from a foreign
  land...
Tanya:  You've got part of that right already.
Peldor:  (makes a face at her)  ...and you can be my associates, or
  my women, or whatever.
Deborah:  Maybe, but how will that get you familiar with the Sultan?
Peldor:  Hmm, I don't know.
Ellie:  What we need to do is find something that he wants, or needs.
Sarah:  And do what with it?
Peldor:  And offer to barter it to him, or even make a gift of it...
  but what such thing exists?
Christina:  We need to learn what sorts of treasures the Sultan likes.
Deborah:  Maybe we should have thought about this before we left our
  own lands.
Tanya:  (glaring)  Yes, maybe we should have.  We can thank your boss
  for that-
Ellie:  Enough of this.  We're not accomplishing anything here.
Peldor:  That's for sure.

  Eventually, they decided that the best approach was for Peldor to
go into the palace, solo, and scout the place out.

Tanya:  I'm going with you.
Peldor:  (shakes his head)  I've got the hat of disguise...the ring
  of telekinesis...the feathers...all of that stuff.  It makes more
  sense for me to go in.  Alone.
Tanya:  (realizes that he's right)  What about us?
Peldor:  Sit tight.  I'll be back in no time.
Deborah:  (nods)  When will you make your move?
Peldor:  Tonight.  And remember, I'm just going to take a look around.
  We're not going into action yet.
Ellie:  Hmm, maybe we can learn more about the city in the meantime.
Tanya:  Another thing...(to Deborah)  Does the Despotrix have a way
  to whisk us all back home, once that time comes and things get hot?
Deborah:  That's my understanding.
Tanya:  (wondering if the guard captainess is beginning to doubt her
  queen)

  Several hours remained before Peldor was to make his move, and they
were able to glean a few bits of information in the meantime.  They
learned that the Sultan, his Omnipotence, the Glory of the West, was
called Murad.  A retired warrior of no small repute, the Sultan had
been in power for more than two decades.  He had inherited the throne
from his father, and his father before him; royal blood flowed through
his veins.  It was said that the Sultan was a large man, of voracious
appetites and capricious whims.
  The palace, which stood at the center of the city, was composed of
a series of high towers, each expanding into a bulbous shape near
the top before ending in a pointy peak.  The towers were brightly
painted in rings of red, blue, and yellow, with guilded tops that
blazed golden in the bright sunlight. These were all interlinked in
their lower regions by a conventional castle, complete with walls
and armed guards.  The place was a marvel of architecture, employing
techniques and styles unheard of in the Eastern lands.

Peldor:  This is going to be interesting.

  The best approach to the royal palace appeared to be along a road
that split from a larger avenue.  This lane didn't offer any trees
or other advantages, but it bordered the high, spiked wall of the
palace, and there was a section here that wasn't as well-lit as the
rest of the wall.  It didn't really matter to Peldor, since he was
planning to scale the wall invisibly, without benefit of grappling
hooks or ropes.  He kept these details to himself, however, not
wanting the others to have to worry.  Tanya, however, wasn't entirely
fooled, as she made known when night had fallen and Peldor was double-
checking his equipment as he prepared to depart.

Tanya:  (slips off a thin golden ring and puts it on Peldor's hand
  after removing his insect-ring)  Here, take this.
Peldor:  What's that?
Tanya:  A ring that allows me greater leverage when dealing with other
  people.  It ought to help you considerably, especially given the
  disguises you'll probably be assuming.
Peldor:  But I've never-  how do I use it?
Tanya:  Just be yourself, and don't worry.
Peldor:  (puts the other ring in a pocket)  I suppose it'll be of more
  use than the anti-insect ring.
Tanya:  Yep.  (she kisses him)
Ellie:  Oh, that's sweet.
Peldor:  (to Tanya)  What was that for?
Tanya:  Good luck...and also because I wanted to.
Peldor:  (holds up a finger as he heads for the door of their room)
  To be continued.

  The thief departed then, embarking upon his scouting trip in the
Sultan's royal palace.





next:      Peldor, roving intruder-at-large
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homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     As I write this, the Braves and Montreal are playing a
  Sunday afternoon game in Atlanta.  If the Braves win this one,
  they'll clinch the division championship.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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