Chapter #574

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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 1991-8 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) +
+    Aja          9th level human priestess of Wee Jas          (N) +
+    Jutokai      7th level human archer                       (LN) +
+    Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+    Skektek       12th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Ys          13th level reptilian fighter                  (LN) +
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+  Date:        1/25/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       the galley _Shark's Tooth_, on the Azure Sea        +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Before setting out on revenge, you first dig two graves."       +
+                                          - _For Your Eyes Only_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                    DLXXIV.  Dogged Pursuit





  The galley's bow broke the water smoothly, efficiently, cleaving
through the ocean as the wind carried in her sails.  On the ship's
deck, Belphanior stood, eyeing the water ahead in the hope that his
quarry would somehow, suddenly appear on the horizon.

Captain Redjack:  Ease up there, lad.  We'll spot him just as soon
  as he's close enough.
Belphanior:  (says nothing)

  They had been so close!  After tracking Omak all the way to his
own doorstep, back in Monmurg, Belphanior and his marshals had been
foiled.  It turned out that the warrior was gone - departed to parts
unknown via an official ship of his kingdom.  Some of Belphanior's
people had urged him to use his magical folding boat to give swift
chase, but the elf knew that the craft was simply too small.  It
would never be able to match the speed of any true ship, and a good
storm would capsize it in an instant.  There was also the matter of
Belphanior's group having no real seafaring skills among them.
  The very next morning, they'd headed to the docks, seeking a good
vessel and a captain who'd ask no questions.  Redjack and his swift
galley, the _Shark's Tooth_, had proven ideal.  The captain was a
huge bull of a man with a greying red beard, an eyepatch concealing
one missing eye, and a pipe that always seemed to be lit.  He was
technically a free merchant, but Belphanior knew a smuggler when he
saw one.  He also knew a rogue when he saw one, and Redjack was not
a pleasant character.  Hairy, smelly, almost bestial in demeanor,
he had given Aja a leer that promised despicable thoughts.  It was
a fortunate thing that Belphanior and Otto, rather than Aja herself,
had caught that look.
  Belphanior had little doubt that Redjack was a looter, a pillager,
and a slave-trader; for these things, he took an instant dislike to
the sea-captain.  Yet, the man commanded a good ship and a competent
crew, and had no compunctions about where he sailed or why.  Redjack
and the _Shark's Tooth_ had seemed like the best hope of catching up
to Omak, and for that reason, Belphanior had hired his ship and his
services.
  That had been a week ago.  Now, after leaving Monmurg and passing
Jetsom and Fairwind Isles, the _Shark's Tooth_ was far from the sight
of land, heading out into the depths of the Azure Sea.  Aja's magic
kept them on course; she made daily reports to Captain Redjack, and
he adjusted his course accordingly.  The man barely knew his newest
passengers, but he had been around long enough to know that those who
used magic were forces to be reckoned with.  Of course, Redjack had
his own spellcaster, a dark-skinned wizard who called himself Anak.
This wizard was neither weak nor skinny, like most of his profession;
indeed, he had the build of a warrior.  Otto surmised that the man
was from Tenh or thereabouts, based on his skin tone and his accent.
Belphanior didn't care; he told Skektek not to get too friendly with
his fellow mage, just in case.
  The elf trusted neither Redjack nor his men in the slightest.  He
constantly reminded his people to watch their backs and to travel in
groups of more than one.  They knew their business, however, and
didn't need to be told these things.  Redjack had tried to split them
into several cabins, but Belphanior had requested, and gotten, group
quarters in a storeroom instead.  There, he and his marshals could
have some privacy, not to mention some security.
  Aja also kept Belphanior updated on the progress and distance of
Omak.  They hadn't told Redjack exactly who they were chasing or why;
unknown to them, the wily captain already knew.  He had long ago made
it his business to track significant arrivals and departures in any
port his ship was in.  When Omak, a local hero and licensed agent of
the Sea Princes, had set out in a large galley under cover of night
and without any of the usual procedures, Redjack had taken note.
When foreigners had come seeking passage and a chase, not one full
day afterward, Redjack had put it all together.
  He didn't care, though, because for what these strangers were paying
him, he could buy provisions for ten such voyages, and refit his ship
and crew besides.  Of course, that didn't stop him from planning to
subdue the foreigners and sell them into slavery at some point.  He
just didn't know when he'd make his move; he had to admit, he was
more than a little curious about where Omak was headed and why these
others were chasing him.  Perhaps there was even more gold and loot
to be had...who could know?  Redjack's spirits were high, for this was
a win-win situation for him no matter what transpired in the coming
weeks.
  For his part, Belphanior wasn't taking any chances.  He used his
powerful tome, the Book of Beasts, to summon a huge two-headed troll.
This brute was ordered to guard the door to the group's quarters; woe
indeed would befall any sailor who tried to sneak in for any reason.
Aja wanted to play this game too, but Otto and Jutokai pointed out
that anything she summoned would likely be rotting, and such a stench
could bring no good.  Aja had nodded, which was why everyone (even the
troll) was surprised to see a half-dozen skeletons the next day, their
skulls grinning maniacally at the living who they'd been brought to
protect.

Aja:  (shrugs)  They don't smell.
Skektek:  Speak for yourself.  (he covers his nose)

  There was no trouble, though, for Belphanior had worked privacy into
the deal he cut with Captain Redjack.  No nosy crew member came near
their chamber only to be smashed by troll fists or cut to bits by the
swords of the undead.  They sailed for another three days, and by Aja's
divinations they were closing the gap on their quarry.

Redjack:  Bloody right we are!  This is the fastest ship in Monmurg!
Belphanior:  I hope so, because if we don't catch him soon, we'll be
  in uncharted water.
Redjack:  (shakes his head)  You don't know your seas, lad.  To the
  south lie the Amedio Jungles - a source of many slaves, to be sure -
  and to the far east lie the lands south of Aerdy.  Your quarry may
  be heading southeast, though...which _is_ uncharted territory for
  the most part.
Belphanior:  You're not afraid, are you?
Redjack:  Not a bit, but it may affect the cost of this passage-
Belphanior:  You'll get what's coming to you.  Just catch that ship.
  (he strolls away)
Redjack:  Hmph.

  The sea-captain decided then and there to make his move that night.
He had had enough of this elf and his strange companions, and he wanted
them off his ship, preferably in chains back in Monmurg.  Except for
that black-haired priestess...no, that beauty would grace Redjack's
own bedroom before it was all over.  The old sea dog grinned to himself
as he barked orders to his crew.  After all, he wanted it to look like
he was planning to catch the other ship.
  Everything changed, though, later that day.  The first weed-cloaked
claw came over the starboard railing, pulling a massive, green, fanged
form with it.

lookout:  (screaming in terror)  Scrag!  Scrag on the starboard deck!
Skektek:  (atop the main deck, with the others)  Scrag?
Otto:  Sea troll.  (he draws his sword)  They travel in packs.

  Indeed they did.  As the sailors and adventurers watched, more than
a dozen of the creatures clawed their way onto the ship, seawater
dripping from their scaly bodies.

Captain Redjack:  Repel boarders!
sailors:  (brandishing weapons, they charge to the defense of their
  ship)

  The first of the sea trolls swatted an attacker aside, casually; the
poor man was knocked overboard, where other scrags quickly ripped him
to shreds, feasting.  The other sailors pressed the attack; they were
brave men, but these were fearsome foes.

scrag:  (looms over a young sailor)  Raaargh!
sailor:  (having lost his sword, he has nowhere to run)  Aaaaaaa!
scrag:  (stops suddenly)  Rgh?  (it reaches behind its head, grabbing
  at the bolt that just sunk into the back of its thick, misshapen
  skull)  Aaaargh!
Otto:  Heh.  (he reloads)

  The others leapt to the attack, not needing to wait on a word from
Belphanior.  Jutokai began peppering the attacking sea trolls with
deadly arrows.  Rushing boldly at the scrag nearest to him, Skektek
sent a sheet of flame right at the thing, knocking it overboard.  Aja
brought a spiritual sickle into being, slashing at foes from a longer
range and scoring deep wounds.  Razor Charlie, not wanting to waste
his knives on foes who were tending to fall overboard when gravely
wounded, instead grabbed a long pole, tipped with a thick, sharp spike.
Charging to the attack, he used this to poke and stab at a scrag's
eyes, which distracted the monster enough to let a group of sailors
cut its legs out from beneath it.
  Ys burst from the decks below, his huge sword ready; a nearby scrag
dropped the sailor it had just torn in half and charged the reptilian.
Ys timed his attack perfectly, the heavy weapon slashing sideways as
the sea troll rushed in.

scrag #8:  (cut in two, its halves fall to the deck)  RAAARGH!
Ys:  (kicks the upper half, sending it overboard)

  As for Belphanior, he was urged on by Blackrazor, which hadn't fed
for a long time.  A scrag clawed at the elf, but the wounds thus
inflicted were nothing compared to Belphanior's slice.  The scrag's
left ear, along with some of the flesh beneath, was sheared off,
spraying the deck with gore.

scrag #2:  AAAARGH!
Belphanior:  (reverses his cut, spinning about and slicing the thing's
  stomach open)
scrag #2:  (backpedals, dazed)  Urrrgh...
Belphanior:  (leaps forth, unexpectedly, his sword flashing darkly)
scrag #2:  (its neck is opened, spewing the slayer with dark blood)
Belphanior:  (his wounds healed, as the black blade does its work)
  Ahhhhh.  (he kicks the teetering troll-corpse, knocking it over the
  railing)

  The scrags were a savage, determined lot, but the resistance was
just too fierce.  Taking some unseen, unheard cue, they broke off
their attack.  Those who were able returned to the water; the others
were dead, dying, or quickly cut to bits by the sailors.

Otto:  We've got to burn the bodies!
Captain Redjack:  We can't have a fire on this ship!
Otto:  They're gonna regenerate...(he spies a twitching scrag hand,
  and chops at it with his sword, slicing it in half)
Belphanior:  (to Redjack)  It's not a problem.  I'll create a disc
  of force, we'll pile the bodies on top of it, then move it out
  over the water and torch it.

  When this happened, the "torch" wasn't quite what Redjack and his
crewmen expected.  Skektek's fireball burned the scrag corpses to a
crisp, but also (as intended) showed the sailors more of the power
that their passengers possessed.  Privately, Redjack cancelled his
earlier plans to subdue Belphanior's company that night.  He would
have to think some more, and plan some more; these adventurers were
more capable - and more dangerous - than he'd first thought.
  Two days later, thanks to Aja's magic and the skill of Redjack's
crew, Omak's ship was spotted on the horizon.  This didn't mean that
they'd catch it anytime soon - that could take days, unless their
quarry cut its speed for some reason - but at least they could see
the other ship now.

Belphanior:  Not good enough.  (he casts a spell, taking to the air)
Otto:  What are you up to?
Belphanior:  I'm going to stop them, dead in the water.  Sit back
  and enjoy the show.

  As the elf soared away, he vanished from sight, invisible.  All
they could do was watch and wait...and in some cases, speculate.

Captain Redjack:  (worried, both outwardly and inwardly)  Does he
  mean to destroy them outright?
Otto:  Hard to tell...depends on his mood today.

  A short time later, there was an orange blossom in the distance,
and the lookout reported fires on the other ship.  An even shorter
time later, Belphanior came back, a satisfied look on his face.

Skektek:  Burned them to a crisp, did you?
Belphanior:  I tried...got their sails, but something negated my
  fireball right after that.  (to Captain Redjack)  Make haste.  I
  don't know how long they'll be out of commission.
Redjack:  Right.  (he barks orders to his men)

  The _Shark's Tooth_ sped up, its sails now fully deployed.  The
ship skimmed across the water, slicing through the waves as it
closed with the other ship.  The lookout reported that the quarry
was moving again, under oar-power as its crew frantically tried to
get new sails rigged and raised.

Aja:  Why didn't you move in for the kill?
Belphanior:  I'm not used to seeing my fireballs fizzle out...we're
  dealing with an unknown quantity here.  Besides, I lost my sheath
  of invisibility after my attack, and they started firing at me.
Skektek:  Let's go back.  I've got a lightning bolt-
Belphanior:  We'll catch them soon enough.  Just hold on and hang
  in there.

  As they drew nearer and nearer to the other ship, Redjack became
more and more nervous.  Agreeing to chase Omak's ship had been one
thing, but now the bluff had been called, and action was imminent.
He'd have to choose a side, and then stand by his choice in the
face of battle.  This would be no trivial battle, either - there
was nowhere to run or hide.  The fish would feed well this day.
  However, Redjack's worries were rapidly overshadowed by something
else, something unexpected.  The sky was quickly darkening.  It had
been grey all day, but the grey had given way to dark grey, and it
would soon be black.  Thunderheads danced in the clouds, their low
rumblings heard by all on both ships.  The ocean waves were getting
choppy, slapping against the ships' hulls as they bobbed in the
turbulent water.
  This was a startling - and perhaps unnatural - development, and
it changed everything.  Battle plans now changed to thoughts of
keeping the ship intact through a bad storm.

Belphanior:  What are you doing?  We have to catch them!
Redjack:  We have to drop the sails and batten down the hatches,
  else we're sunk for sure!
Belphanior:  (grumbling)
Redjack:  If you want to fight, fly on out there again and fight.
  My men and I are going to secure the ship!  (he begins dashing
  about, giving orders and directing his crew)

  The rain came then, hard and cold sheets of driving rain that
thoroughly soaked those still on deck.  Belphanior's people were
not among that lot; on deck, they were only in the way during a
crisis like this.  They had gone below-decks to their hold, and
there they waited, uneasy as the ship bobbed like a cork amidst
the storm.
  Above, Redjack and his men worked frantically as the waves got
higher, smashing over the rails, threatening to wash the crewmen
overboard.  The other ship couldn't even be seen anymore, and
even if it was visible, no one would care.  This was a time to
keep from drowning, not to fight.
  Below, Belphanior and his people were tossed about, smashing
into the bulkheads and each other.  There was, quite simply,
nothing they could do.  It was impossible to cast spells right
now - hell, it was impossible even to stand upright!  They now
knew that, despite whatever great powers they commanded at other
times, the fury of a storm at sea was even more powerful.

Belphanior:  (slammed against the roof of their hold)  Ungh!
  Everyone, draw together!  I'm going to use my cube of force
  to protect us, in case the ship goes under or breaks up!

  They obeyed the frantic command, as best as they were able,
anyway.  There was one little problem, though:  Ys was too big
to fit inside the field that would be created.  He knew it, and
Belphanior knew it.

Belphanior:  Dammit!
Ys:  Forget about me - I will be fine.
Belphanior:  But-
Ys:  Do it!
Belphanior:  You could drown!
Ys:  I won't drown!  Do it anyway!

  There was little choice, and the decision was sped along by the
water which sloshed around, having leaked in from the storm-ridden
decks above.  Cursing, Belphanior activated his item's magical
field, and everyone but Ys was protected - at least from drowning.
They still bounced about within the cubic force-field, taking quite
a beating.  As for Ys, the big reptilian stood his ground, enduring
the battering and ignoring the water.

  The storm got worse, as did the bouncing and battering.  In the
end, even the hardiest of the adventurers succumbed to the combined
effects of the storm and fatigue.  Eventually, they all slipped into
dazed half-consciousness and then unconsciousness at varying points
during the night.  And still, the storm raged on...

  Morning found the transparent cube of force bobbing in calm but
wreckage-strewn seas, its living cargo intact if a bit bruised.  A
half-dozen crewmen, as well as Captain Redjack and the wizard Anak,
clung to pieces of the destroyed ship.  Of Ys, there was no sign.

Belphanior:  (looks around)  Great.  Just fucking great.





next:      certain situations are dealt with
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.intertex.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/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     I was recently visiting Washington, DC and I had one
  uniform impression:  the people working security at the tourist
  attractions were almost all rude, arrogant, and pushy.  I came
  away with a very negative impression.
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