Chapter #658

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                                   +   +
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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   +
+   Otto             8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Eduardo        3rd level human thief                                +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+   Victoria        11th level human vampiress/fighter                    +
+   Date:           2/20/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           night                                                 +
+   Place:          the remote mountain town of Helgate                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "I knew you were cruel, but I didn't know how far you could go."      +
+   "Well, you still don't."                                              +
+                                          - from _High Plains Drifter_   +

                     DCLVIII.  A Quiet Night Off

  While Belphanior and most of the others have ventured to faraway lands
in search of an oracle, Otto and a select few remain behind in Helgate...

Jutokai:  Select few, my ass!  Splitting me up from Aja serves no purpose
  at all.
Otto:  (shrugs)  She's a priestess, and this part of the mission might call
  for such skills.
Jutokai:  That's easy for you to say - you never get left behind like this.
Otto:  I'm here now.
Jutokai:  (still fuming)
Ys:  Besides, it might be good for you and Aja to spend some time apart.
Jutokai:  (tenses suddenly)

  For a moment, Otto thought that the archer might actually charge the big
reptilian, maybe even attack him.  Fortunately, Jutokai settled down almost

Razor Charlie:  (pours a shot of brandy, sliding it over)
Jutokai:  (takes the small glass, regarding it for a minute before gulping
  its contents)  Whoa!  What the hell is that stuff?
Razor Charlie:  They call it "devils' fire."
Jutokai:  (coughing)  I can see why...
Victoria:  (holds out her hand)  Give me that.
Razor Charlie:  (hands over the bottle)
Victoria:  (fills a rather large glass with the brandy and caps the bottle)
  Devils' fire, eh?  (she drains the entire glass in one long draught)
Ys:  (gaping, a rare expression for him)
Razor Charlie:  Hnf.
Otto:  Thirsty?
Victoria:  Indeed.  (she stands, then strides out of the guardhouse, the
  door slamming behind her)
Jutokai:  What the hell's eating her?
Otto:  No telling.  Women can be strange...but you know that.
Jutokai:  (sighs)  Yep.
Razor Charlie:  (thinking about why he prefers whores to relationships)
Otto:  (cracking his knuckles)  Figures...a long week like this one, ended
  by a quiet night, and people're acting weird.

  It had indeed been a busy week.  It had started with Otto listening to
complaints about bums in town.  A bit of investigation had turned up a
half-dozen such wretches, most of whom couldn't even remember where they'd
come from or how they'd gotten here.  The problem was that a lot of towns-
people didn't care for such homeless, aimless people roaming about or
sleeping in the alleys.  Otto's solution had been simple and direct...

  Otto:  (addressing the lineup of tousle-haired, stinking vagrants)  I'll
    tell you this once and once alone, because this is my law:  I'll get
    all of you a haircut, a shave, clean clothes, hot food, and a warm
    place to sleep.
  bums:  (grinning and cackling)
  Otto:  In return, you'll report to Strontus the digger every morning,
    after breakfast.  We've got a bunch of ditches around the edge of town
    that need cleaning, and you're going to do it.  The work won't be easy,
    but you'll get rest breaks and meals.  The ground is hard and frozen,
    but you'll get sharp picks and shovels, and thick gloves.  The wind
    is freezing, but you'll have good coats.
  bums:  (not so pleased now)
  Otto:  This is my law.  If you want to stay in Helgate, you'll work for
    a living.  If you don't like it, leave - your problem is not Helgate's
    problem.  If you don't want to work and you don't want to leave, or if
    you fuck this chance up in any way, you'll be executed.  It's that
    simple.  We're not like the big cities, where you can just sleep in
    the streets and beg for food and charity and waste everyone's time and
    money.  Here, you work, you leave, or you die - it makes no difference
    to me.

  Otto had laid down the law, and perhaps given the vagrants a chance that
they wouldn't have gotten anywhere else.  Things seemed to be working out,
and the ditches were being dug - probably a testament to Otto's serious
demeanor more than anything else.
  The next problem, not two days later, had been more serious.  A small
delegation of officials from Perrenland had come to pay a visit to those
who ruled Helgate.  Their mission was simple:  the kingdom to the north
wished to place a contingent of their soldiers in the town, as a first
alert/defense against any military "problems" that might come from the
south.  Otto had explained to them, calmly at first and then with a bit
more harshness, that the town was free and independent and would tolerate
no outside interference.  The head delegate hadn't liked being talked to
like this, but that wasn't Otto's problem.  Two days ago, the visitors had
left, heading back to the north, their mission unfulfilled.

  Even now, Otto was still thinking about that meeting.  He was sure that
Belphanior would back his decision - hell, the elf would have made the
exact same decision - but still, the whole situation didn't promise to
lead to good things for Helgate.  Perrenland was a kingdom of warriors,
mercenaries - the finest in the continent, most would say.  Its rulers
wouldn't back down easily, and Otto was sure that the matter was far from

Otto:  I wonder when those dolts from Perrenland will be back.
Razor Charlie:  Fuck 'em.  We told 'em no, and we meant it.
Ys:  They will return...and in greater numbers.  Kingdoms tend to push
  free cities and towns around.
Otto:  Well, we push back.
Jutokai:  (frowns, not sure if he wants to get involved in such a civil
  conflict, but also not sure if he doesn't)

  The thoughtful silence was broken by the entry of Eduardo.  The lad
had obviously been running, and was gasping for air as he dashed into
the barracks.

Otto:  (stands up)  What's going on?
Eduardo:  Big fight at the Sword and Cup!
Razor Charlie:  (also stands, instinctively checking his various knives)
  How big?
Eduardo:  Big enough to have magic and killing.  I think they killed a
  couple of the town guards, too.  Looks like outlanders from the south
  started everything.
Otto:  Great.  (he checks his sword's edge)  It fucking figures.
Jutokai:  Let me get my bow and arrows.  (he darts into the back hallway)
Ys:  (grimly)  I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of whoever we're about
  to fight.
Otto:  You can say that again.  A fight would be one thing, but a fight
  where town guards are getting killed...well, all I can say is that the
  coffin-maker's gonna be busy tomorrow.

next:      violence
released:  7/20/00
notes:     Well, now you know my solution to the homeless/jobless problem.
  I think they should get a jumpstart to put them back on track, and if
  they waste the chance, they shouldn't get another one.  Of course, being
  able to tell someone "this is your one chance - take it or die" isn't
  something that will ever happen in this society, but Otto can surely do
  it in Helgate.
    As for this upcoming fight...well, the last one (the barfight that
  Belphanior's group participated in) was okay, but this kind - the kind
  with lethal results - is just as common, especially in a place like

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