Chapter #672

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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   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas                 +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Neko           7th level human female thief                         +
+     Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+     Zhao           8th level human swordsman (currently petrified)      +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                          +
+                                                                         +
+   unwanted visitors:                                                    +
+     Bram          enigmatic vampire hunter                              +
+     Boltar        high priest of Pholtus                                +
+     Drak          rather cultured barbarian warrior                     +
+     Ghuust        weird necromantic medium                              +
+     Marko         grizzled warrior                                      +
+     Parekh        dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+                                                                         +
+   unwanted visitors from Perrenland:                                    +
+     Nigel Bloodstone, general                                           +
+     400 heavy cavalry                                                   +
+                                                                         +
+   unwanted visitors from Ket:                                           +
+     Tonga Dun, general                                                  +
+     600 light cavalry & mounted infantry                                +
+   Date:           3/2/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the remote mountain town of Helgate                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "You're bluffing."                                                    +
+   "You seem to have me confused with someone who NEEDS to bluff."       +
+                                                 - the Incredible Hulk   +

                       DCLXXII.  Things Fall Apart

  All of those present - Perrenlanders, Kettites, marshals, townspeople,
and other visitors - watched as the elf descended to the ground, his red
cape billowing around him.  The cold wind didn't seem to bother him any
more than the hundreds of potentially hostile people who now surrounded
him.  The angry expression on Belphanior's face spoke volumes.

Belphanior:  Now would somebody please explain to me what in the hell's
  going on here?

  Having made his grand entrance, he refrained from using his magically-
amplified voice simply to be heard.  There wasn't much noise anyway,
aside from the low muttering amongst the various parties who stood
gathered around.  The elf knew that his sudden appearance, along with
his boldness in confronting all of these potential foes, had taken them
by surprise.  He capitalized on this advantage by speaking before anyone
else had a chance.

Belphanior:  I see two different kingdoms represented here, so I'm going
  to assume that Helgate is in the middle of a fight for land or something
  of that sort?
Nigel Bloodstone:  A good summation.
Tonga Dun:  (simply scowls)
Belphanior:  I should have known that someday it would come to this.
Nigel Bloodstone:  Better now than in the middle of a war.
Belphanior:  I guarantee you, it won't be any easier today than it would
  during a war.
Tonga Dun:  (addresses Nigel Bloodstone, ignoring Belphanior)  I don't
  see how this elf affects any of-
Belphanior:  Who the hell are you?
Tonga Dun:  (sticks his chin out)  I am Tonga Dun, High General of Ket!
Belphanior:  Stick that chin up a little more and I'll knock it off,
  along with the head it's attached to.
Tonga Dun:  How dare you?!?
Nigel Bloodstone:  (to Tonga Dun)  There's no need to provoke anyone.
Belphanior:  (grimaces)  Thanks but no thanks.  I don't need any help to
  make my point.
Nigel Bloodstone:  (shrugs)
Tonga Dun:  I don't care who he is-
Belphanior:  I'm getting sick of listening to your mouth.  (he turns his
  gaze from one general to the other, then back to the massed soldiers,
  speaking once more with the magical voice)  I'LL SAY THIS NOW, AND I'LL
  LIVES.  THOSE ARE MY TERMS.  (he floats back up into the air)
Tonga Dun:  Wait!  You can't just fly away from this!
Belphanior:  Sure I can.
Tonga Dun:  (grabs his magical javelin from the subordinate who holds it)
  Give me that.
Nigel Bloodstone:  I wouldn't-
Tonga Dun:  Nobody talks to me like that, and nobody denies Ket her
  imperial right.  (he draws his arm back to hurl the javelin at the
  elf above)

  Several things then happened simultaneously.  An arrow whizzed toward
Tonga Dun, but it was deflected by the general's magical protections, so
it bounced away at an angle and instead hit the soldier standing next to
its intended target.  The man shrieked, the shaft's point sticking through
his head, giving a whole new meaning to the expression "in one ear and out
the other."  Tonga Dun turned, incredulous that some sniper had dared to
attack him, and then took aim again, hurling his javelin at Belphanior.
Nigel Bloodstone, having taken a step back, swept his own force with his
gaze, wondering what idiot had just tried to kill the enemy general.
  Airborne, Belphanior had seen and anticipated the attack.  His magical
field of shielding, however, was only proof against missiles that bore
no enchantment; Tonga Dun's javelin did, and its razor-sharp point sliced
the elf's side, cutting through his tunic.  However, he had other forms
of protection, and his stoneskin kept the weapon from penetrating his

Belphanior:  Well, that's that.  (he rises higher into the air)

  Below, Tonga Dun had watched all of this with fury...

Tonga Dun:  Aaaargh!  (he suddenly regards Nigel Bloodstone)  Try to have
  me shot, will you?  (he raises a hand)
Nigel Bloodstone:  (realizes that the arrow must have come from an unseen
  sniper)  No, wait-
Tonga Dun:  (yelling in the Ket tongue)  Forward, men!  To the death!

  Just like that, the battle was joined.  All throughout the streets of
Helgate, Kettite and Perrenlander went to war, swords flashing and shields
taking terrible blows.  Arrows flew everywhere.  The town's natives, for
the most part, had enough sense to get out of the way and stay there.  As
for the two generals, they found a mixed horde of combatants between them,
foiling Tonga Dun's plan to take on his counterpart in personal combat.
  Of course, both sides had made a grave mistake:  they'd forgotten about
Belphanior and his allies.  The elf hadn't had time to find Otto and learn
more about what was going on, so the two groups were still separate.  For
Otto's part, he and Ys were in the town guardhouse, along with most of the
town guardsmen.  They had been discussing options until the fighting broke
out, and now, they prepared to venture out into the streets.  As for Razor
Charlie, he had dashed off to the building whose top floor Jutokai was
hiding out on.  Jutokai hadn't seen or talked to Belphanior in weeks, much
less today, and hadn't been sure if he should provide cover fire.  However,
when Tonga Dun had raised that javelin, Jutokai had acted instinctively.
The only problem was that his target had been more heavily protected than
he had anticipated.
  The other group had been placed hastily but strategically atop the Sword
and Cup tavern.  Thus it was that Aja and Skektek - along with Mongo,
Gorgo, Bosco, and Neko - witnessed the beginning of what promised to be a
bloody battle indeed.  Anyway, the elf was actually the distraction, and
Skektek was the crux of the if-we-can't-avoid-it offense...

Skektek:  (leering at the massed, fighting soldiers below)  Say goodbye.

  The wizard launched a lightning bolt, the mighty blast of electricity
burning the air as it tore through the soldiers of both sides.  Men and
horses alike - most of both sides' cavalry, in fact - were decimated right
then and there.  Following Belphanior's orders, Skektek had used a bolt
of lightning because it could clear the street of foes without seriously
damaging the buildings to either side.  Of course, in their ignorance,
the occupants of said buildings didn't quite get this, as they watched
soldiers roast outside their windows...

Felix:  (inside the Scoundrel's Den)  Damn!  They mean to destroy us all!
other patrons:  (milling about in fear and confusion)

  Nigel Bloodstone, for his part, was more than a little angry.  He'd had
it all planned out:  he'd have waited until things calmed down, and then
mounted a sneak attack and takeover of the town.  Now, thanks to the quick
temper of Tonga Dun, all of that was shot to hell.

Nigel Bloodstone:  (sighs...and then sees that he's at the end of the
  lightning bolt's path)  Uh-oh.

  Before he could react, the general was engulfed by the great bolt of
lightning, as were Tonga Dun and about a hundred soldiers and horses -
of both sides - who were in the immediate vicinity.  It was quickly
obvious that Skektek had done well; blackened, smoking skeletons lay
scattered throughout the main street of Helgate.  The very dirt of the
street had been fused into glass in some spots.  The stench was horrible,
even worse than the sight.

  Inside the Sword and Cup...

Parekh:  Well, well, well.  (she crosses her arms, staring out the window)
  At last, someone had the sense to deal with this situation in the manner
  it deserves.
Bram:  So the town's ruler has a mage amongst his ranks.
Parekh:  The town's ruler may _be_ a mage.  (she recalls Belphanior's
  flying entrance just a short time ago)  He certainly had the look of
Boltar:  It shouldn't matter much.  What will matter is this conflict that
  now brews all around us.
Ghuust:  (looking around)  Slaughter.
Marko:  What?
Ghuust:  Many more will meet their maker this day...many.
Drak:  Wonderful.  (to Parekh)  Let's just be sure that we're not among
  the dead when all's said and done.
Parekh:  Absolutely.

  Just then, the front door of the tavern burst open, admitting a
horde of Kettite soldiers whose only purpose seemed to be death and

Kettite sergeant:  (yelling to his men)  Kill them all and torch this

next:      all hell REALLY breaks loose
released:  9/7/00
notes:     This is an ideal situation for me.  Both outlander forces
  were warned, loudly and clearly, not to fight.  In my mind, they are
  now fair game for Belphanior et al.  In real life, this is the way
  things should be, too.

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