Chapter #524

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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   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    Aja             9th level human priestess of Wee Jas       (N) +
+    Razor Charlie   9th level human fighter                   (CN) +
+    Skektek        12th level human wizard                    (CN) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        9/23/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        early afternoon                                     +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     chilly                                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I'm not saying you're not good at what you do.  I'm just        +
+   saying I'm better."                                             +
+                                 - Hank Hill, _King of the Hill_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                DXXIV.  Defenders of the Realm





  While Belphanior and most of the others are away on a mission in
the far northern region of Blackmoor, a select few remain behind
in Helgate...

Razor Charlie:  (idly flipping playing cards at a dartboard on the
  wall across from his chair)  Dammit.  (he flings another card,
  and it hits the bulls-eye)
Aja:  (sits in a chair, her legs propped up on a footstool)  You
  have quite a talent for throwing things.
Razor Charlie:  (casually flips another card into the dartboard's
  bulls-eye)  Bah.
Skektek:  (strolls into the barracks)  I wonder when they'll be
  back?

  The wizard was more fully recovered from his injuries than Aja
was from hers; more, he was somewhat upset that he'd been left
behind while Belphanior, Otto, and the others went in search of
the enemy.  Aja had always thought Skektek a coward, but the truth
was now clear:  he had quite a temper, and from time to time, he
needed to vent his pent-up frustrations.

Aja:  I thought you were going to the Witches' Tit?
Skektek:  (looks surprised)  Wha- ?  No, no...I've been doing
  research.
Aja:  Enjoying those magical items Belphanior gave you?
Skektek:  (smiles)  Immensely.
Razor Charlie:  (shaking his dark-haired head at this monotony)
  Boring...this town needs a war.
Aja:  Impossible.  Who'd do such a thing?  Hell, this is bound to
  be one of the most boring-
Travis:  (bursts in)  Aghk!

  The young guardsman collapsed, an arrow protruding from his back.
He had already lost a lot of blood, and now, he lay there on the
stone floor, gasping.

Skektek:  (regards the wounded man)
Aja:  Don't just stand there!  Get him up onto one of these couches,
  so that I can try and heal him!
Razor Charlie:  (already in motion, he does that very thing)

  The priestess worked her magic, and shortly, Travis was stabilized
(though fast asleep.)

Razor Charlie:  (to Skektek)  Come with me.
Skektek:  Eh?
Razor Charlie:  We have to find out what happened to him.

  They walked out into the street, only to encounter another town
guardsman.  This one wasn't wounded, and he wasted no time telling
the tale.

guardsman:  -came out of nowhere!  They're just roaming the town
  taking what they want, and fighting anyone who tries to stop
  them!
Skektek:  Oh, they are, are they?
guardsman:  We've tried to stop them, but there are too many!  We
  need Belphanior!
Razor Charlie:  No, we don't.  Where are these people now?
guardsman:  Everywhere!  (he pauses to think for a moment)  But a
  whole bunch of them are hanging around the Sword and Cup.
Skektek:  Perfect!  I'll just blast the tavern into ashes-
Razor Charlie:  No, you won't.
Skektek:  And why not?
Razor Charlie:  Otto owns that place.
Skektek:  Oh.
Razor Charlie:  Let's go get Aja and see if she can walk.

  Momentarily...

Aja:  Of course I can walk!  I healed my legs, and I also have a
  ring that-  (she stops talking as she gets to her feet, then
  collapses against a wall)  Ow.
Razor Charlie:  Are you sure?
Aja:  I can fly around, using my magic.  Just show me where to go.
Razor Charlie:  (ponders, then nods)
Skektek:  (spots the sleeping Travis on a couch)  What about him?
Aja:  He'll be fine.  He's young, and strong.
Skektek:  What about that other guard?  Can't we use his sword in
  our attack?
Razor Charlie:  No.  Here's the plan.

  A short time later, in front of the Sword and Cup...

ruffian#23:  (kicks a wine merchant out of the way, taking a jug
  from the man's cart)  <glug glug>  Urp!  (he hurls the jug aside,
  and it shatters against a wall)
wine merchant:  Aie!
ruffian#16:  (walking around with a torch)  It's about time I used
  this!  (he wanders toward a big cart full of hay)
other ruffians:  (join him, laughing)
booming voice:  PEOPLE OF HELGATE - LEAVE.  NOW.
various townsfolk:  (thinking of Belphanior, they obey without
  either question or hesitation)
booming voice:  BANDITS - CEASE AND DESIST IMMEDIATELY...OR DIE!
ruffians:  What?
ruffian#16:  Desist this!  (he waves his torch)

  Suddenly, a great bolt of lightning came forth from somewhere
nearby, blasting the entire group of troublemakers into charred
powder.  The lightning-bolt ended at the hay-cart, which ignited
with the blast.

ruffian#13:  (having tripped and fallen, and thus avoided the
  spell, he leaps to his feet)  Whew!
other ruffians:  (drawing swords, they spread out)
booming voice:  SURRENDER NOW, OR YOU WILL BE KILLED!
ruffian sergeant:  Find that wizard!  Kill him!

  Just then, a large area of street transformed into a muddy
quagmire, causing another half-dozen of the invaders to sink to
their waists in the muck, unable to fight.

ruffian#13:  (leaps away from the mud)  Ha!  (he suddenly reels,
  a silver knife protruding from his neck)  Urk...

  Razor Charlie came walking through the smoke and chaos, utterly
heedless of the foes scattered around him.  He grasped a gleaming
blade in each hand.

ruffian sergeant:  (points his sword at Charlie)  Him!  Get him!
  Kill him!
Razor Charlie:  (hurls a knife, hitting the man in one eye)
ruffian sergeant:  (drops like a rock)
ruffian archer:  (draws on Charlie)
Razor Charlie:  (whirls, sending another blade into the archer's
  wrist)
ruffian archer:  Aaaargh!  (he drops his bow, clutching his wrist
  as it spurts blood everywhere)  Aaaaagh!
Razor Charlie:  (grabs two more blades from his knife-belt)

  Nearby, a half-dozen ruffians fled the scene, turning down an
alley...

Skektek:  (floating in the air ahead of them, he speaks in the
  booming voice)  STOP!
ruffians:  (turn and flee)
Skektek:  (points one finger at them - the finger on which he wears
  his thunder ring)

  A tremendous thunderclap issued forth, shattering every window
in the alley.  The foes were dropped where they stood, stunned and
deaf, some of their eardrums ruptured.

Skektek:  Ha.

  Elsewhere...

ruffians:  (trying to regroup at the intersection of two major
  streets, they find Aja in their midst, flying along more than
  twenty feet above their heads)
Aja:  Hold it right there...(she waves a black metal rod about)
ruffians:  (stricken with instant, complete terror from the dark
  rod, they either flee wide-eyed or collapse whimpering)
Aja:  Good boys.

  Back in the street in front of the Sword and Cup, more ruffians
emerged from the tavern, weapons in hand.
  Razor Charlie had a knife for each one of them.

Razor Charlie:  (hurls one blade into a charging foe's crotch,
  then ducks, spinning on one knee to fling another blade at a
  second attacker, the knife piercing his throat)
ruffian#26:  (falls, gurgling and spitting blood)
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces as he pulls out two more knives)

  To the foes, Charlie must have seemed like a demon from Hell,
such was his accuracy and casual manner as he dispatched enemies
with his blades.  Still, the inevitable outcome was apparent to
some...

ruffian sergeant #2:  Surround him!  Get him!  He'll run out of
  knives sometime!
Razor Charlie:  (sends a knife into the man's belly)
ruffian sergeant #2:  Aghk!  (he falls, clutching his bleeding
  gut)

  To tell the truth, Charlie _was_ running out of knives.  His
foes seemed to realize this, and surged forward in desperation,
sensing a chance to bring down this lethal maniac.

ruffian#11:  (screaming in rage as he sprints toward Charlie)
  Dieeeee-  ACK!  (he falls, the shaft of an arrow protruding
  from his back)
town guardsman:  (standing on a second-floor balcony, he gives
  Charlie a nod as he nocks another arrow)
Razor Charlie:  (returns the nod)
ruffian#24:  (slashes at Charlie with a shortsword)
Razor Charlie:  (dodges the attack, then brings his booted foot
  up into the man's stomach, kicking him away)
ruffian#24:  (sails backward)
Razor Charlie:  (whirls, his last knife finding the knee of
  another nearby would-be attacker)
ruffian#7:  (falls, screaming in agony)
ruffian#17:  There - he's out!  Get him!

  A half-dozen foes charged as one, certain of a long-awaited and
much-anticipated kill.

Razor Charlie:  (grabs the heavy bullwhip that hangs from his belt,
  and lets loose)
ruffian#3:  (hit in the face by the whip's tail, he recoils, hands
  to his bleeding face)  YeeeaaAARGH!
Razor Charlie:  (brings the whip around and lets the second-closest
  attacker have it)
ruffian#6:  (hit on the hand, his skin is laid open, and he drops
  his sword)  Aaargh!
town guardsman with bow:  (takes down another foe from afar, this
  one's neck transfixed by an arrow)  Heh.
Razor Charlie:  (whips a third opponent, ripping a wound through
  the man's leggings)
ruffian#15:  Aaagh!  (he stumbles about in pain)

  Razor Charlie was a whirlwind of action; his whip ensured that no
foe got too close, and every time he swung the thing, it tore cloth
and skin.  Skektek floated around a corner and simply watched in
awe.

ruffian#22:  (falls back, his ear ripped off by the whip)  AAARGH!
Skektek:  (winces)  Ow, I bet that hurt.  (he spies an enemy with
  a crossbow, preparing to shoot Charlie)  Uh-uh.  (he works a
  quick spell, and a volley of tiny lightning-bolts issue from his
  fingertips)
ruffian#22:  (pelted about the head and shoulders, he falls to the
  street, twitching and smoking)
Skektek:  (smiles thinly)

  It wasn't just Razor Charlie, Skektek, and the occasional town
guards who were fighting, either.  Several townspeople, among them
the cobbler Jamaine and the dwarven blacksmith Ganzer, had taken
up weapons and were joining together to attack those ruffians who
had strayed from the main battle.
  By the coming of dusk that evening, it was over.  It turned out
that all the town guards on duty (and many who weren't) had been
fighting the foes all across town - often in ones and twos.  While
they hadn't been successful in every case, it had still been a
noteworthy effort.  By all accounts, the marshals had come out far
ahead.  Charlie was even able to recover all of his knives.

Razor Charlie:  It's not hard when the enemy is all dead.
Aja:  We'll need to busy these corpses before they start to rot.
  (she looks around)  I'll get some of these townspeople on it.
Razor Charlie:  (nods)  No job for a soldier.
Skektek:  (realizes that several of the town guardsmen were slain
  in the battle, in addition to the many wounded)  We're going to
  need to replenish our guards' ranks.
Razor Charlie:  And get them organized better.
Aja:  (still hovering above the street)  About a half-dozen of
  the scum still live.  I've had them locked away in the jail.
Razor Charlie:  Good.  Belphanior will want to talk to them.

  Amazingly, and as if on cue, the elf - and the other marshals
of Helgate - blinked into existence outside the barracks!

Skektek:  Ah, there you are!  We've had a bit of a problem-
Belphanior:  Later.  (he stalks away, in the direction of his
  castle)
Aja:  (surveying the battered, beaten group)  What happened to
  you?
Ys:  (surveying the carnage all around)  And what happened to
  _you_?
Razor Charlie:  (counting his knives)  Long story.
Jutokai:  As, I suspect, is ours.
Otto:  (watching Belphanior's retreating back, he surmises that
  the group won't have long to rest until the next mission)
  Everybody inside...we need to compare notes and prepare for
  the next step.  (he frowns)  Whatever that is.





next:      Belphanior's decision
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           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     Nah.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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