Chapter #519

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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 1991-7 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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Belphanior      (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief   (CN) +
+    Otto            8th/10th level dwarven fighter/thief      (CN) +
+    the wispy thing                                            (N) +
+                                                                   +
+    Aja             9th level human priestess of Wee Jas       (N) +
+    Jutokai         7th level human fighter                   (LN) +
+    Kinichi         7th level human ranger                     (N) +
+    Razor Charlie   9th level human fighter                   (CN) +
+    Skektek        12th level human wizard                    (CN) +
+    Victoria       11th level vampiric human female fighter   (NE) +
+    Ys             13th level reptilian fighter               (LN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        9/21/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I'm not the right kind of person for this shit!"                +
+  "You're _exactly_ the right kind of person."                     +
+                        - _Tales From the Crypt:  Demon Knight_    +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





             DXIX.  The Hills Have Eyes...and Teeth





  Whistling to himself, Otto trekked up the rocky slope above the
mines of Helgate.  Here, at the extreme northern edge of the town,
the silver-laden mineshafts wormed their way into the heart of the
mountain.  Here, too, there had been a recent sighting; thus Otto's
current activity.

Otto:  (muttering to himself)  Now if they just reported this last
  night, there should still be fresh tracks about...

  Having debriefed the miner before coming up here, the dwarf had
a good idea of where to look.  Sure enough, before long he'd found
what were undoubtedly footprints.  These tracks seemed to indicate
a number of people or creatures - it was hard to tell, because the
prints were human in size and shape, but not texture.  The problem
was that this didn't help much; human or otherwise, anything that
was skulking about outside of Helgate - especially in groups - was
a potential threat.  People like Otto and Belphanior hadn't lived
as long as they had by being careless.
  He tracked the prints back to a rocky outcropping, but the trail
was lost there.  Similarly, following the unknown ones' forward
trail was only fruitful until more rocks were reached.  This was
beyond Otto's abilities, so he returned to town to fetch himself
some reinforcements.

  Shortly...

Kinichi:  Tracks?
Otto:  That's right, and I want whoever - or whatever - made them.
  Who else is off-duty for the town right now?
Kinichi:  Skektek...he's asleep in his quarters.  Ys is also here
  somewhere, maybe eating lunch.
Otto:  I'll check it out.  Get your gear together...and make sure
  to pack plenty of weapons.  (he heads for the small hall that
  serves the marshals as a dining chamber)
Kinichi:  Plenty of weapons?  I never leave home without 'em...

  Otto pushed open the double doors to the mess hall, and quickly
spotted Ys (no difficult feat, really, given the reptilian's sheer
size and mass.)  Seated upon a massive steel-banded stool that had
been specially built by the town's woodworkers, Ys was busy eating.
Bread, meat, vegetables, fish, and more were all heaped high upon
a gigantic serving tray, and the huge, grey-skinned warrior was
making short work of his feast.

Ys:  (looks up from his meal, a fish-tail dangling from his mouth)
Otto:  I'd heard rumors of our food budget, but I had my doubts.
  (he shakes his head)  Never again.
Ys:  (shrugs, the tail disappearing as if by magic)  Sorry.
Otto:  No criticism intended.  The cost of feeding you is utterly
  insignificant next to the skills and strength you have to offer.
Ys:  (grins toothily)
Otto:  Anyhow...Kinichi and I are going up into the mountains to
  do some hunting, and I thought you might want to accompany us.
Ys:  (crams an entire loaf of bread into his mouth as he stands)
  What are we hunting?
Otto:  (smiles)  I'm not sure yet, but we're going to find out.

  As the sun rose to the zenith of its midday arc, the trio made
their way to the site of the tracks.  Kinichi got right into the
spirit of things, kneeling down to examine the evidence of strange
doings.

Kinichi:  Hmm.
Otto:  Eh?
Kinichi:  Strange...it's as if these prints were left by injured
  or drunken people.
Ys:  How do you know that?
Kinichi:  The left and right footprints don't always line up, and
  there was a lot of shuffling and dragging too.  Definitely odd.
Otto:  Not to mention suspicious.  What do you recommend we do next?
Kinichi:  Look around this area, the far sides of these rocks, and
  the wooded areas around us.  There have to be more tracks here,
  somewhere - and we've got plenty of daylight left to find them.

  They went to it, and it took less time than expected before a new
slew of tracks was located, about thirty feet to the north and east
beyond some shallow outcroppings of smooth, worn rock.

Kinichi:  Aha!
Otto:  Good news?
Kinichi:  I can follow these a long way.  (he gestures at the peaks
  around them)  Should be all woodland terrain, given our position
  on this mountain slope...meaning that following these prints will
  be a piece of cake.
Ys:  (his stomach rumbles)

  The tracker led the way, through forest and clearing, across hill
and dale.  It quickly became obvious, even to the lesser-experienced
in the small group, that whoever had made these tracks had truly
been wandering.  There was neither rhyme nor reason to the roaming,
random path they'd left.  After perhaps a quarter of an hour, they
halted as Kinichi held up one hand, giving the signal for silence.

Otto:  (throws up his hands in questioning)
Kinichi:  (points at some bushes)
Otto:  (looking closely, he suddenly makes out a cave's mouth, almost
  perfectly concealed by natural vegetation)
Ys:  (grins, but doesn't draw his sword yet)

  They took cover at a range of about fifty feet, and proceeded to
draw up a simple plan, through gestures and drawings in the ground.
Presently...

Otto:  (wanders toward the cave's hidden entrance, whistling loudly,
  hands clasped behind his back)

  Any doubts they had about the chances of this plan succeeding were
dispelled, for a wild ruckus of hooting and growling instantly began
from within the unknown cave.

Otto:  Err...(he stops in his tracks, twenty feet from the cave's
  mouth)  Hello?  Anyone-

  In a flash, grey shapes leapt from the cave, bounding and scurrying
toward the dwarf.  It didn't take an archmage to know that the things
were undead; their fetid smell and rotting flesh betrayed that fact.

Otto:  Whoa!  (he leaps back, pulling his nocked crossbow from its
  strap across his back)  Away, you putrid sacks of shit!  (with a
  smooth, calm motion, he raises his weapon and launches a razor-
  tipped bolt at the nearest of the rushing creatures)  Gotcha!
ghoul:  (hit dead between the eyes, it reels, shrieking, as black
  goo spurts from the hole in its face)  Gyeeeaaah!
Otto:  (dashes away, holding his crossbow in one hand)  Gangway!
ghouls:  (following him, they jeer and snarl)  Grraaar!  Rrrngh!
ghoul:  (the one now closest on Otto's heels, it looks up suddenly
  as something whizzes through the air)  Rrrg?

  A thick cord wrapped itself around the thing's face, heavy metal
weights spinning for only a moment before they collided with the
ghoul's head with a satisfying crunching sound.  Kinichi's bola
would have slain a normal foe, but the ghoul still postured and
clawed the air, though its head had burst like a large grey egg.

Otto:  At least he's off my back...
other ghouls:  (darting around the wounded one, they continue to
  pursue Otto, grimy claws groping and filthy fangs gnashing)
  Grarararrrrrr...
Otto:  Ys?  Ys?!?  Where _are_ you, Ys?  Now would be a good time-
Ys:  (abruptly bursts from behind a small tree, gigantic sword in
  hand)  Right here.
ghouls:  (quickly forget about Otto as they slowly surround the
  hulking reptilian)  Sss...
Ys:  (chuckles roughly at the undead foes)  Prepare to be soundly
  thrashed.

  The ghouls were fierce, and they were savage, but they were also
outmatched.  Their deadly paralyzing touch didn't seem to affect
the huge grey foe, and since every swing of his great sword sheared
one of them in half, they were doomed.  Ys had ghouls (and parts of
ghouls) hanging from his arms, but they were little more than dead
weight to him.  Otto and Kinichi worked to slay those foes at the
edge of the battle, and soon, the fight was over.  Only a bloody
scene of total carnage remained, and amidst it stood the triumphant
Ys, dark ichor dripping from his oversized blade.

Ys:  Black blood.  How interesting.
Otto:  Not all undead bleed red, you know.
Kinichi:  We'd better check that cave.
Otto:  Right.

  Aside from droppings and vague signs of habitation, the cave was
empty - save for one small thing.  A dark passage loomed in its back
wall, and from this crevice reeked a horrible stench.

Ys:  More ghouls, I'd wager...or perhaps something worse.
Kinichi:  (eyeing the tunnel)  Does anyone else know we're here?
Otto:  No, but it won't be a problem.
Kinichi:  How's that?
Otto:  We're going back to inform Belphanior about this.  Any undead
  plague is a bad one, but this reeks of something greater than just
  a rogue pack of ghouls.
Ys:  (nods)

  Outside the cavern...

Kinichi:  What if there are more in that tunnel, and they decide to
  come up from the depths and escape?
Otto:  (rubbing his bearded chin)
Ys:  Allow me.  (wandering over to a nearby boulder, he gets behind
  it, and slowly rolls it over to the cave's mouth)
Kinichi:  (raises his eyebrows)
Ys:  (slams the boulder into place)  That should hold them until our
  return.
Otto:  I'll say.  Nice work.
Ys:  Thanks.  (he uproots a large bush, using it to wipe the gunk from
  his sword)
Kinichi:  (already pondering the best path back to the town)

  Less than an hour later, the trio stood, conferring with Belphanior
and the assembled marshals in the elf's dark castle.

Belphanior:  You did the right thing.  We'll need to go back...find
  out the extent of this infestation.
Jutokai:  Such groups of undead could become a problem for the town-
Kinichi:  -if allowed to multiply.
Victoria:  and multiply they will.
Skektek:  Multiply?  How in the hells do they do _that_?
Victoria:  (smirks)  How do you think?
Razor Charlie:  (cleaning his fingernails with a knife)
Aja:  Ghouls on the fringe of town...how interesting.
Otto:  Interesting or not, it's got to be dealt with.
Belphanior:  And deal with it we will.  All of us.
wispy thing:  (flies out of an urn)  Pffft!
Belphanior:  Yes, even you.
Victoria:  (casts a questioning glance at Belphanior)  What about me?
Belphanior:  Eh?
Victoria:  In here, it might as well be night, but outside, it's
  daytime.
Belphanior:  But we've got to get underway while we still have light?
Victoria:  Not necessarily - and I want to go, too.
Belphanior:  Are you sure?
Victoria:  Trust me, this is something I have a...unique outlook on.
  I'll be of more use than you might suspect.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  (to Kinichi)  Can you find this place again in
  the dark?
Kinichi:  (smirks)  No problem.
Belphanior:  Good.   Everyone get some food and rest, and prepare
  your gear.  We leave as soon as night falls.
Razor Charlie:  (sneers, half to himself and half to Victoria)
Victoria:  (if she notices, she doesn't let on)
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  So much for tonight being another dull night
  spent balancing the town's accounts.





next:      a rotting roundup
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           http://www.shobaki.org/adventurers
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:     I was originally going to end this story arc by this
  episode, and do a Peldor/Greyhawk tangent for the ones leading
  up to 525.  I changed my mind, though - you'll be seeing this
  entire crew, in Helgate and elsewhere, through 525.
    You've already seen the basic stats for the Helgate marshals
  (in this episode's headers) and next time, I'll give you some
  more complete stats.
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