Chapter #602

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2000 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+   Otto             8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+   Date:           1/2/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late evening                                          +
+   Place:          the remote mountain town of Helgate                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "I don't feel I have to wipe everybody out...just my enemies.         +
+    That's all."                                                         +
+                      - Michael Corleone, from _The Godfather part II_   +

                      DCII.  Revenge is a Dish...

  It was freezing outside, but in the castle's den, a roaring fire kept
things warm and cozy.  The two individuals seated at the table shared a
bottle of fiery gnomish brandy, so powerful that it could only be
consumed in small sips.  As they often did, the two were discussing
strategy and politics, though their discussion had more than one rather
unusual slant.

Belphanior:  I'm sure of it:  both Perrenland and Ket know of this
  town's existence and prosperity.
Otto:  Define 'know.'
Belphanior:  Their officials are planning to take some action with
  regards to Helgate.
Otto:  How can you be sure?
Belphanior:  Large numbers of outsiders, acting unusual.
Otto:  Casing the town?
Belphanior:  Right.
Otto:  It's good to have eyes and ears on the street.  (he takes a
  sip from his glass, wincing)  Whew.
Belphanior:  This was inevitable, I suppose.  After all the silver
  and the mining, someone was bound to take notice.  (he frowns)  Not
  to mention all of the undead, the fights, and so on.
Otto:  You know why _I'd_ be interested in this place, really?
Belphanior:  Gold?  Silver?  The nice weather?  The brothel?
Otto:  Get real.  (he spreads his hands)  Military significance.
Belphanior:  (looks vaguely puzzled)
Otto:  Ah, I keep forgetting that you're not from around here.  See,
  Perrenland is a military kingdom, a kingdom of mercenaries.  As
  such, it must always keep clear, direct paths to other regions of
  the world.  (he produces a map and spreads it out on the table)
Belphanior:  (leans over, then slams his fist on the table)  The
Otto:  Yep.  We're right off of a major pass from Perrenland down
  south to Ket, and vice versa.  This is an ideal spot for a fort...
  and a staging area.
Belphanior:  But such a thing would only matter...
Otto:  In times of war, yes.  Did you know that just over a year ago,
  there was a seaborne skirmish between Aerdy and Nyrond?  Right there
  in Relmor Bay.
Belphanior:  Uh, that's nowhere close to us.
Otto:  True, but it's also unprecedented.  And then we have the recent
  alliance between the Horned Society and the Bandit Kingdoms.
Belphanior:  How come you know so much?
Otto:  I pay attention to things outside of much as we want
  to be, we aren't living in isolation.  Besides, I used to do some
  soldiering to the northeast, and I still have contacts who keep tabs
  on things up there.  My gut instinct tells me that a storm is coming.
Belphanior:  War?
Otto:  (nods, then slams down the rest of his tiny glass of brandy)
  Damn, but that's fiery stuff!
Belphanior:  (slides the bottle toward his lieutenant)  War?  Of what
Otto:  It could be big.  Again, it's just a hunch...but my hunches are
  seldom wrong.  War may be hell, but it's good business.  (he refills
  his glass)
Belphanior:  I don't know what we can do about any of this right now.
  It's not like an enemy we can fight, or outwit.  It's just...bad
Otto:  Probably so.
Belphanior:  However, bad circumstances or not, we need to make sure
  that anyone coming here to bother us regrets it...badly enough that
  they leave us alone.
Otto:  If you want to bloody a nose, I think that we need to bring in a
  troop or two of soldiers.  The marshals are great, but sometimes for
  grunt work you need grunts.  Maybe a group of fifty or so, as a
  standing garrison.
Belphanior:  Good idea.  We won't want to get them from Perrenland or
  any other nearby place, though - too obvious a move.
Otto:  Lemme think on this.  I'll come up with something, and soon.
Belphanior:  Excellent.  (he notes the full moon outside the window)
Otto:  Good thing that none of us caught lycanthropy in that battle
  against those bastards from the Sea Princes.
Belphanior:  The tiger-man?
Otto:  Yeah.  Me and Charlie and Jutokai all got a taste of his claws.
  We were kind of worried about it for a while, but nothing ever
Belphanior:  Hmm.  I myself got bitten by a wererat, way back in one
  of my first adventures with Mongo and Alindyar and Peldor and those
  guys...all I could think was, "Why a rat?  Why not something worth-
  while, like a bear?"
Otto:  I once heard a story about a were-shark.  A _shark_!  (he has
  a good long laugh)
Belphanior:  (chuckles)  Talk about a monster you just can't take
Otto:  Okay, back to business.
Belphanior:  Yeah.
Otto:  Do you ever wonder who hired Omak and those others?
Belphanior:  I always wonder about things like that...and other foes
  we may still hear from.  Like that Baron Albert.
Otto:  Who?
Belphanior:  Oh, right.  That was before your time.  Albert was a
  vampire who lived in Blackmoor.  We ran into him right after we got
  out of the Underdark.
Otto:  Sounds like a bad day.
Belphanior:  (recalling those events)  It was.  (he drains his glass
  and takes the bottle back)  Want to hear something really scary?
  What if all of these enemies - our enemies, other peoples' enemies,
  just all-around nasty ones, whatever - what if they all got together
  and joined forces?
Otto:  Without killing each other?
Belphanior:  It could happen.
Otto:  It already has - recall the isle of Necros.
Belphanior:  Yeah, but we killed all those enemies.  I was thinking
  of new enemies.
Otto:  Do we have that many?
Belphanior:  Sometimes I wonder.
Otto:  The smart move would be to take the battle to them, instead of
  waiting for them to come after us.
Belphanior:  (nods)  I've had a year now, to plan something like that.
  Oh, sure, I've made a list...checked it twice.  But no plan of real
  action.  Instead, I've been absorbed in my magic, my tomes...
Otto:  Victoria?
Belphanior:  Her, too.
Otto:  Well, look at the bright side:  she's not mad anymore.
Belphanior:  She never talked much about it.  I don't think she saw
  it the way I did.
Otto:  How could she?  Remember what she is-
Belphanior:  (glares at the dwarf)
Otto:  Sorry.
Belphanior:  I guess I understand.  It's hard to think of her as a
  vampire...tearing people's throats open, sleeping in the dirt, and
  all that.
Otto:  Apparently, they're not all like that.  (he takes the brandy
  bottle and fills his glass once more)
Belphanior:  From what I understand, it's really a matter of personal
  preference.  She was born and raised a noblewoman, of high birth,
  so she tends to want to sleep in nice, comfortable beds, eat fine
  food, have servants, and such.
Otto:  Are you saying that a noble human makes for a noble vampire?
Belphanior:  And a common human makes for a common vampire?  I guess
  that's the impression I've gotten.  It kinda makes sense if you
  think about it.
Otto:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  All that aside, my enchanted amulet renders me immune
  to her deadly powers.
Otto:  (wondering if that amulet also might be compelling the elf to
  desire the vampiress in the first place)  Um.
Belphanior:  Not to mention that she's far from homely...
Otto:  I'll grant you that.
Belphanior:  She's really got it made here - she can stay in during
  the day, and roam freely at night.
Otto:  Still, it can't be an ideal existence.
Belphanior:  (nods)  True, which is why I was trying to find a way
  to cure her.
Otto:  "Cure?"  I'm not sure it works like that.
Belphanior:  Well, I've got the time and resources to find out.
Otto:  Don't take this the wrong way, but I think you should also
  think about whether she wants such help or not.  I mean, maybe
  she's happy the way she is.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Otto:  I suggest, instead, devoting some time to tracking down the
  foes we were talking about.
Belphanior:  Whoever hired Omak to come get us?
Otto:  And this Baron Albert character you were talking about...
  and there have got to be more.
Belphanior:  I always did wonder what happened to Cynder...
Otto:  I'd bet he's dog meat by now.
Belphanior:  Demon meat.
Otto:  Whatever.
Belphanior:  And even if he's not, well...I'd guess that he's currently
  suffering for all eternity in the Abyss.
Otto:  That's too bad.  I kind of liked that old wyrm.
Belphanior:  I didn't.
Otto:  As for that other, the one who probably beat Cynder-
Belphanior:  Definitely beat Cynder.  There's no way that Cynder could
  have escaped, much less won.  That makes him guaranteed dead meat.
Otto:  Hmm.  (wondering if the dragon might have cut some kind of deal)
Belphanior:  I've really had it with demon lords.  I'm never going to
  be rid of that bastard.
Otto:  I thought the gods were seeing to it that you-know-who didn't
  interfere in worldly affairs anymore?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  Who knows?  Who can understand the ways of gods?
  We're talking about obscene levels of power.  Anyway, he'll still find
  a way.  That's what he's best at.  My guess is that he'll employ agents
  of some that lich.
Otto:  At least you got that one's hand.
Belphanior:  For what little use it's worth.  Too bad there's no spell to
  track someone down via a severed body part...(he grins)  Now there's an
Otto:  They all need to die.
Belphanior:  (nods)  For Ged, if nothing else.
Otto:  You're still moping about that?
Belphanior:  I can't say that the smartass was the best of friends, but
  the fact remains that he took that disintegration beam for me.  The
  demon lord intended to destroy me, but he got Ged instead.  (muttering)
  We should have attacked him when Cynder made his own move...piled it on,
  maybe killed him in his own domain...
Otto:  You're feeling guilty about this?
Belphanior:  I don't know what I feel.  All I know is that the whole thing
  feels...unfinished.  I won't really be happy until there's some kind of
Otto:  Well, you did kill that Elik demon on its own plane.
Belphanior:  (smiles)  True.  (frowns)  Of course, you realize that some
  lucky lesser demon just got mutated into a balor when that balor was
Otto:  You can't have it all. Besides, the new one would need years to
  become as powerful and experienced as the one you decapitated, so there
  was _something_ gained.
Belphanior:  What we need is a pre-emptive strike against someone...
Otto:  (sits up straight)  Let's do it.  But let's know who, where, and
  why first.  I assume you weren't joking about having made up a list of
  enemies and loose ends.
Belphanior:  I never joke when it comes to enemies.  Pass that bottle
  again, would you?

next:      Belphanior's list
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
released:  1/6/2000
notes:     Trivia:  my original concept for Otto was a lycanthrope.  When
  he first appeared in episode 219, I still intended for him to be one,
  but the idea faded as the character's personality grew past the point
  of needing such a crutch.
    Three days ago, I added 29 people to the mailing list and then sent
  out episode 601.  Since then, I have added 21 more subscribers, as well
  as removed 16 whose addresses were no longer valid.
    If you haven't checked them out yet, you should take a look at the
  modules and accessories to be found on in the "Modules"
  section.  These include Greyspire and Helgate.
    Also, the "Characters" section now features up-to-date and newly-
  formatted entries for all major protagonists.  But wait, there's more:
  the "Rogue's Gallery" section has also been updated, with imbedded
  links throughout and correct information through episode 600.  Thanks
  to David Murphy and Lance Dooly for all the research and coding they
  did to make these latter two possible.
    And now, it's...

                            SURVEY TIME!

    Yes, SURVEY TIME.  Here's the brief:  I just want a simple count
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