Chapter #589

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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 1991-8 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                    +
+                           +
+  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) +
+  Date:           7/11/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+  Time:           evening                                          +
+  Place:          the remote mountain town of Helgate              +
+  Climate:        cold                                             +
+  "I don't want a job.  I want a business."                        +
+                                                     - unknown     +

                     DLXXXIX.  New Blood

  More than five months had passed since the battle with Redjack and
Omak, on the haunted island in the southern ocean.  Much had happened
in that time, and much had been accomplished as well.  For one thing,
Helgate's silver mines were beginning to show signs of leveling off;
this wasn't a big problem, though, for several reasons.  Belphanior
and Balthaas had made sure to invest the town's share of the profits
wisely.  Rather than going to waste or ending up in the elf's coffers,
the funds had been directed into new buildings and businesses.  This
also tied in directly to another positive change:  people had been
flowing into the town at a higher rate than those who left.  Many who
came to mine had decided to settle down, at least for a year or two.
Helgate's population was growing, slowly but surely, and many of the
additions were honest, hard-working people as opposed to the scum
who'd lived there during the reign of Dagron Larthos.
  Belphanior had found it necessary to appoint a land commissioner,
and his choice for this position had been Tomlinson, a lean fellow
in his forties.  There had been a few disagreements lately among new
arrivals over land claims at the outskirts of town, and some of them
had turned violent.  Belphanior had little tolerance for disorder in
his small town and was quick to enforce his will.  Tomlinson now kept
track of property - who owned it, who rented it, what businesses
were on it, and so forth.  He also tracked the populace of the town,
though those latter records were more for Belphanior's purposes than
anything else.  Tomlinson's appointment meant a cutback in Balthaas'
job duties, but the taxes were getting more and more complicated
anyway, with the increase in population and business in Helgate, so
Balthaas had plenty to keep him busy.
  The silver boom, which had lasted for several years and remained in
the background of daily activities, had stimulated Helgate's economy
and helped it to change...ever so slightly.  While it was still a dark
and foggy place, perpetually cold and definitely unpleasant, there
were still some things that could be relied upon:  fair laws, rewards
for hard work, and justice that was dispatched swiftly and fairly.
Belphanior was feared by his people, but he was also respected; it was
an odd relationship, but perhaps the best for both sides.
  Of course, maintaining a quiet peace required people of great power
and courage, people who could deal with stress and dish out pain when
necessary...people like Belphanior's marshals.

  There was Aja...high priestess of Wee Jas, goddess of death and
magic...Aja, whose temple abutted the town graveyard.  There, deep
within the cold, moist earth, the priestess' undead servants waited,
patiently, as only they could.  They waited for the call of their
dark mistress, a call that would come only if she had some dire need
of them.  Besides occupying herself with the deceased in the town,
Aja had been charged with learning more of Omak's motivations.  She
had tried to accomplish this by bringing one of the warrior's slain
guardsmen back to Helgate, then speaking with the dead man via her
fearsome powers.  This had been fruitless, however, for the soldier
had known nothing of Omak's plans.  He'd been able to tell Aja
that Omak reported only to one person, someone high within the ranks
of the Sea Princes...but that had been all the animated corpse knew,
and Aja had consigned him to the moldy earth.
  Aja had received several magical items from Omak's group, the most
directly useful of which was Ixlin's magical ring of protection.
She'd also, at Belphanior's suggestion, inherited a variety of
beads, incenses, and such from the priest Grub.  These would take
some time to figure out, though.  Less complicated was the enchanted
dagger that Omak had carried; Aja could use edged weapons, and the
blade made a good backup to her sickle.

  Aja's sometime-nemesis, the destructive mage Skektek, was like the
others in that he knew nothing of the priestess' deeds.  Skektek had
spent most of his time since returning on his scroll-copying, making
sure he would be able to cover himself no matter what sort of mission
he was called into.  This long-term, general goal was also assisted
by the two magical items that had been Skektek's share of the loot
from Omak's crew.  The ring of spell storing held four spells of
varying use to the mage, the most powerful of which was _very_ useful
indeed:  the spell of disintegration.  Skektek's other prize was a
small, carven figurine:  an obsidian bat.  With a single command word,
this statuette would transform into a large black bat, able to swoop
about to scout things out.  It was also capable of carrying a single
person of average weight for some distance - a rather useful servant
in the big scheme of things.  Almost as a bonus, Skektek had gotten
Rykooda's magical ring of protection.  Hell, he was even getting
along with Aja these days; all in all, Skektek was quite pleased.

  The archer Jutokai was less content.  He'd gotten over the death
of his friend, the tracker Kinichi, but he was becoming unsure of his
role here in Helgate.  The work was good, as was the pay; more, a man
could not ask for more adventure and thrills than Belphanior provided.
Still, Jutokai generally wasn't in a good mood, and he often wondered
how his native land of Ket was faring.  Jutokai had initially gotten
two magical items from the recent battles:  a ring that offered him
some slight protective charms, and an enchanted dagger that Canis had
held.  Belphanior had made it known that he would try to divide up
the magical treasure as fairly as possible, while also giving his
people the items that were best suited to them.  Had the group come
into possession of, say, the legendary Bow of the Wild Huntsman, this
arrangement might have meant something to Jutokai.  His spirits were
lifted, however, by the late addition of another useful item to his
share:  the monk Kenso Adon's boots of jumping.  No longer would
the archer be helpless once his arrows were spent; now, he could leap
to safety in an instant if he so desired.

  Ys was neither happy nor sad.  He cared little for items, even ones
of magical caliber, because so few of them were actually useful to
him.  His sole prize was the massive battleaxe that his kinsman Ug
had wielded.  Though Ys was fully capable of using this weapon, he
preferred his sword.  Thus, the big axe ended up on the wall in his
quarters, a battle trophy.  It also served to remind Ys of all that
he had fled...and all that he'd left behind, too.  As usual, though,
the big reptilian's thoughts were his own.

  Razor Charlie had received an unusual magical weapon found on the
body of the ogre mage Vybool:  an enchanted net of some sort.  No one
had wanted the thing anyway, and Charlie had surprised the others yet
again by demonstrating amazing skill with an unusual weapon.  No one
was sure what the net's exact properties were, but Razor Charlie would
learn in way or the other.

  Despite not even being present, Victoria had gotten perhaps the
best item of all:  Omak's ring of recall.  Belphanior had explained
to her that the ring could, in an instant, transport her from wherever
she was back to a place of safety.  Despite the possibility of darkness
globes and other sun-proof ideas, this ring provided Victoria with
something critical:  a guaranteed means of escaping sunlight (or any
other danger unique to vampires) and returning to a place of safety.
The ring worked by being keyed to another item, a small obelisk of
gold, with an inset ruby.  Belphanior had teleported himself back to
Omak's house, searching it thoroughly; thanks only to his magical
vision, he had located a hidden room, a redoubt.  This chamber had
contained the obelisk as well as a variety of healing potions, cures
for poisoning, and such.  One thing had escaped the elf:  whatever
means the ring had of transporting more than one person, as Omak had
done after their first encounter.  Belphanior figured that there was
some command word, something arcane that had been known only to Omak
and that had died with him.  No matter; the ring still worked for a
single user, and with it, Victoria could at last consider journeying
with the others.  This made her quite happy, and Belphanior reaped
the benefits of her good mood for the better part of a month.  It was
quite a weary month for the elf.

  Belphanior had made out well, but then again, he was the leader.
He now wore the summoner Klark's ring of control, which assisted him
greatly when dealing with summoned monsters.  Belphanior had done
some minor experiments, using the Book of Beasts in conjunction with
this ring, and he was pleased with the results.  The elf had also taken
the monk Kenso Adon's ring, a powerful item that granted immunity to
non-magical missile attacks.  This presented a problem, though, for
with these two new rings, Belphanior now had _four_ magical rings but
could only wear and use two at a time.  The previous two were both
spell-related; one held six spells, much like Skektek's new ring,
while the other simply increased the wearer's spellcasting capability.
Belphanior now had to choose which two of these four rings he would
wear on a daily basis.  This was his only real, immediate challenge;
the other items he'd acquired were all weapons from various slain
foes.  Vybool's twin longswords, Omak's broadsword, and Redjack's
cutlass, all magical, were now part of an ever-growing trove of
magical weaponry that included Dagron's longsword and Torin's bastard
  The spellbooks of Rykooda, Klark, and Vybool had been put aside, to
be studied at a later time.  Ixlin's spellbooks hadn't been on his
person, though.  Anak's spellbooks - along with everything else he
and Redjack had carried - hadn't survived the fireball on the island,
and were now ash.  All of the dao Aeson's items had suffered the same
fate, thanks to Skektek.  The assassin Xylus had carried a few items
of magic as well, but these had been secreted away by Victoria until
a later time.  A similar fate had befallen the various other magical
weapons and armor gathered from Omak's mercenaries and warriors; these
items were now the community property of the marshals, to be used as
they saw fit, or given out to the "regular" town guards.  This cache
included Vybool's ogre-sized chain mail, several of Omak's javelins,
Omak's chain mail, Canis' shortsword and crossbow, and Ixlin's darts.
Nobody desired any of these weapons at the moment, so they were locked
in a storeroom in the marshals' barracks, in town.

  The golem Angus was well, as were the young servant girls Daphne and
Phoebe.  The latter two had been retrieved by Victoria after Omak's
initial attack; the vampiress had used her powers to repress the girls'
memories of the incident.  Helgate had another new resident, the young
sailor Jordy.  Five months ago, before leaving the island, Belphanior
had had a little talk with the kid; as it turned out, Jordy no longer
wanted any part of life in the Holds of the Sea Princes.  He was of
the opinion that the chaos wouldn't end once he got back home; since
he had no family or real friends there, he accepted Belphanior's offer
to head north and begin a new life.  Otto had suggested that the youth
head further north, to Lake Quag, where his skills might come in handy.

  The wispy thing was alive, or what passed for alive anyway, and
happy as usual.  It seemed to enjoy flying around Helgate, watching
the townspeople go about their daily lives.  Occasionally it would
swoop forth to spook someone's cat or lead the occasional stray dog
on a chase of its own, but such pursuits kept it busy, which was just
as well.

  Otto had gotten an unusual ring worn by the monk, Kenso Adon.  This
item enabled the wearer to attack - and more importantly, continue to
attack - while invisible.  Belphanior felt that this was a good item
for Otto to have, and Otto wasn't about to argue with that.  Since he
already wore two magical rings, he decided to use the new one only
when necessary, but he was still glad to have it.  He'd also come
into possession of some more magical bolts, thanks to Canis.
  Additionally, Otto had been given a more important task in the last
few months, independent of anything else that was going on.  He'd
taken Razor Charlie and Jutokai (who'd volunteered) and headed north,
to Perrenland.  Young Jordy had accompanied them simply so that he'd
survive the long and perilous trip; upon arriving, he'd bid them a
brief farewell and parted ways.  There had been some drinking and
carousing, but Otto had also had a mission, which had been dealt
with fairly quickly:  find, evaluate, and recruit new marshals.
  He'd found two, plus a third who didn't quite qualify.  Neko was
a fierce, lithe young woman, a skilled thief.  Zhao hailed from an
unnamed land to the far west; he was a rather acrobatic swordsman
with the fastest moves and highest jumps they had ever seen.  Kern
was a gnomish miner, and a very good one at that; Otto had picked
him not as much for his combat prowess but for his potential use in
the town's many mines.  Belphanior had never minded when Otto made
command decisions and changed plans on the fly, and Otto hadn't
thought he'd mind this time, either.
  It had turned out to be a good decision.  Kern had been shown the
mines, and he'd taken to them like the mining pro he was.  Already,
in a relatively short span of time, he'd shored up sagging shafts
and mapped out almost every tunnel and passage that had been made.
In addition, he'd identified potential new veins of ore (including
copper, which opened up a whole new world for the town if it panned
out).  As intended, Kern wasn't a real marshal - simply someone to
handle an important function in Helgate while Belphanior was busy,
and to give him a pair of eyes in the hidden underworld that was
the town's mines.
  There had been a fourth, a young priest of some war-god, but the
man hadn't lasted a week.  Apparently, the realization that he'd
be working with a gigantic talking lizard and a death-priestess had
driven him away quickly and for good.  It was, of course, fortunate
quite fortunate that he'd never had the chance to learn of Victoria's
presence in the town, since then he would have posed a potential
threat.  Otto had been surprised, as he'd thought the man would
have made a good marshal, but life was just full of little twists
and turns that way.

  Such was life in Helgate, these days...and into this rather complex
situation teleported Alindyar, seeking help on behalf of Peyote.  The
dark elf materialized outside the dark castle, proceeding directly to
the front gates, not fearful in the least.

next:      discussions ensue
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     This is what I call a lynchpin episode; it transitioned
  this group of people from one phase to another.
    Thanks to Bob Ericksen, Matt Hurd, Frank Mills, Heather Wiencko,
  Mitch Reeves, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting, for their ideas
  that made it into this episode.
    Be aware that although you and I know that the ring of recall
  worked on multiple people via a special spell, Belphanior doesn't
  know this, and he never will.  His assumptions don't necessarily
  match reality.  Just a note, to avoid getting nitpicking email.

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