Chapter #757

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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       +
+   1991-2001 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   +
+   Adolphus        half-ogre warrior                                     +
+   Damien          rogue imp                                             +
+   Peyton          gnome thief                                           +
+   Rogar           human priest of Olidammara                            +
+   Sylus           dark elf warrior/thief                                +
+   Wembly          human wizard                                          +
+   Date:           4/24/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           shortly before dusk                                   +
+   Place:          the town of Harshaak, north of the Troll Fens         +
+   Climate:        moderate                                              +
+   "Never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."      +
+                                        - Ben Kenobi, from _Star Wars_   +

                    DCCLVII.  City of Evil

  After a half-day of slogging through the swamps, which would have been
much more miserable if Nenya hadn't brought them in with teleportation -
the party had defeated a troll and now makes its way into Harshaak.

Peyton:  Dangerous-looking place.
Sylus:  Aye.

  They had been in some rough places before, but this small city took
the cake.  Humanoids of all sorts milled about - everything from orcs
to ogres, goblins to giants.  Every single one of these individuals
looked tough and mean.  Peyton realized right away that one such as
Deryck wouldn't have lasted long in Harshaak without some sort of
  As it was, they got their share of looks as they entered the city,
both from the guards at the gate and assorted citizens nearby.  There
appeared to be several such gates, and the tactician in Peyton wondered
how secure the city would be if attacked.  Then again, the attitude of
the city's inhabitants was blatant - an air of distant superiority, as
if nothing and no one could cause them any harm.
  The reason for this towered above the entire city:  the fortress.  It
was more natural than fashioned; in fact, its only points of note were
the twin towers carven from the rock of the mountain itself.  These
were some 200' high, each containing a number of windows and arrow
slits.  They framed a pair of gigantic metal doors, each 40' high and
20' wide.  Above these was a row of small windows which connected the
twin towers.  The ground before this entire facade sloped gently upward,
affording little in the way of natural defense via terrain.  However,
after looking at the fortress, the city, and the surrounding area, it
became apparent that this was a superior site to build a power base.

Peyton:  Just think:  mountains to the north, east, and west and the
  swamp to the south.  This is one of those areas where nobody wants
  to live.
Sylus:  Unless they seek to quietly amass an army.
Rogar:  Nobody can get close to the fortress without passing right by
  this city, either.  If there were defenders in and around it, that
  would make a good line of defense - with no risk or access to the
Peyton:  I'm guessing that this entire region is a gold mine as far as
  raw troops...bandits, humanoids, and such.
Wembly:  And trolls, from the swamp.
Peyton:  (nods)

  As they wandered through Harshaak, they took note of other things.
Aside from a bustling (if smelly) marketplace, there was an entire
section of the city set aside for livestock and gardening.

Peyton:  That's how they feed all these people, and the ones in the
  fortress too.  This area must connect with that outside the city,
  to let the animals graze and roam.
Sylus:  An interesting scheme...collect all that is necessary for
  foodstuffs, in mass quantities, and then breed or grow a
  perpetual circle, always replenishing what was consumed.  If done
  correctly, such a plan can feed thousands on a regular basis.
Damien:  All I care about is feeding _me_.
Rogar:  Yeah, it's suppertime, and my belly's rumbling.
Wembly:  Your belly's always rumbling.
Rogar:  (shrugs)
Peyton:  I've also seen a number of wagons here - maybe there are
  caravans bringing in supplies too.
Sylus:  A risky proposition, that.
Peyton:  Not if those in the fortress control the area and allow
  safe passage.
Sylus:  Hmm.  (he wonders how far the fortress' influence actually

  As they continued to roam the city, in search of food and lodging
as well as information, it became more and more apparent that Harshaak
had one simple purpose...

Peyton:    It's a staging ground for everything the fortress needs...
  food, drink, supplies, weapons, armor.
Sylus:  The large number of merchants here lead me to agree with you.
Peyton:  I've also noticed taverns, gambling dens, whorehouses...all
  of the sort to accommodate grunts.
Adolphus:  Grunts?
Peyton:  Soldiers.
Adolphus:  (grins happily)  Okay.
Sylus:  This is a military city if ever I saw one.  It has none of the
  accoutrements found in civilized cities that sprung up on their own,
  over time.
Peyton:  Yup.  I think it exists solely because of - and for - that big
  fortress up there.

  Shortly, they were able to procure lodgings in a seedy tavern called,
simply, "The Pit."  After stashing their possessions in the two rooms
they'd rented for the night, they seated themselves at a table in the
establishment's common room.  Adolphus' appearance and smell quickly
ensured that nobody was close enough to overhear their conversation,
save when it came to getting food and drink...

sleazy barmaid:  What'll it be?
Rogar:  How much for a night-
Peyton:  (interrupts the priest)  A pitcher of your finest beer.
Rogar:  Wah.
sleazy barmaid:  (chuckles)  Our finest beer?  Our very finest beer?
Peyton:  Nothing less will do.
sleazy barmaid:  Coming right up.
Rogar:  (grumbling)  And some food...mutton, fowl, whatever.
Adolphus:  (smiles at the barmaid, revealing his somewhat less-than-
  perfect teeth)  I hungry for a mule or cow.
sleazy barmaid:  (wrinkles her nose in disgust)  I'll see what I can

  Peyton headed away to talk with the barkeep, leaving the others to
make conversation among themselves...

Wembly:  I hope we don't have to stay here long.  This really isn't
  my kind of-
Rogar:  Lad, don't you worry about a thing.  Just stick close and we'll
  see that no harm befalls you.
Sylus:  Surely.
Adolphus:  Nobody hurt anybody when Adolphus around!
Damien:  (perched atop a chair, he draws his share of curious stares)
  I like this place.  For once, no stupid priests are banging down the
  door to have me removed, or worse.
Rogar:  (eyes the imp)
Damien:  No insult intended, of course.  I did say _stupid_ priests.
Rogar:  None taken, my fine fiendish friend.
Damien:  The last time some priests tried to kick me out of someplace,
  I immolated...burned one of them to a crisp.  Then I ate his cooked
Sylus:  How pleasant.
sleazy barmaid:  (brings a large pitcher of beer and sets it down, along
  with six grimy tankards)  Food's coming later - it's being slaughtered
  now.  (she walks away)
Wembly:  (horrified)
Adolphus:  Mmm.
Sylus:  (wondering if the distant sound he hears is some animal making
  noise behind this tavern, he decides not to say anything)
Wembly:  Who picked this place, anyway?
Adolphus:  Not me, but good place!  (he bangs his fist on the table)
Rogar:  (pours some of the dark, foamy beer into a tankard and chugs it)
Sylus:  Eh?
Rogar:  Not the finest of beers...<URP>...but it'll do, I suppose.
Adolphus:  (grabs the pitcher in one huge hand, lifts it to his mouth,
  and drains it)  UUUUUURP!
Rogar:  Hmm, I suppose this means we need more beer.
Adolphus:  (grinning)  Not thirsty now.

  The half-ogre was in a good mood; to his simple mind, the mere act
of relaxing with traveling companions was cause for happiness.  He
hoped that his friends were as happy as he was.

Adolphus:  Drink more, and they bring food!
Sylus:  Of course.
Peyton:  (returns from the bar)  I take it by the empty pitcher in
  Adolphus' hand that we're temporarily out of beer.
Rogar:  That may be a good thing.
Sylus:  What have you been up to?
Peyton:  As my dear old uncle always said...when you want the straight
  scoop, talk to the bartender.  It's good advice, and it always works.
Wembly:  What did you learn?
Peyton:  Well, basically...almost everyone in or around this city is
  either a soldier or could be one.  Not crack troops, necessarily,
  just ones willing to fight.
Sylus:  Militia, then - not soldiers.
Peyton:  (nods, then continues)  There are thousands here, and maybe
  more up there in the fortress - it was hard to get a straight answer
  even if anyone knows for sure.  It looks like the army's always
  recruiting, and then the select few get to actually live in the
  fortress.  Just a guess.
Sylus:  What about this city - its government, its law?
Peyton:  It actually has a mayor of sorts, known as "Guvnor."  Sounds
  like a big, mean sort given the way the bartender talked about him.
  Ruthless, too - it's his job to keep this place running, which means
  keeping the peace while keeping the soldiers happy.  The watchmen
  here - and I'm sure I've seen a few walk by - are all big, nasty
Adolphus:  Like Adolphus!
Peyton:  Of course.  Anyhow, this city is "of and for" the troops,
  and I'd not want to be a civilian here.  A rough place, all in all.
Damien:  (rubbing his little hands together)  Sounds like fun.
Wembly:  Sounds dangerous.
Sylus:  Apparently it works well.
Rogar:  Well, we're here and we're settled in.  What next?
Peyton:  This place, this whole place - the city, the fortress, all of
  it - it's not just here for no reason.  Something big is going down
  here, and I for one want to know what it is.  It occurs to me that
  the best way to do that is to join their army.

next:      will they do it?  will it work?
released:  9/6/01
notes:     There was something I worded poorly in episode 755 that needs
  clarification now.  I wrote:

>>  Nenya:  I have to agree with Rob, simply because any goal of a demon
>>    can't be a good thing.  One of them is no better than any other.

  This could be taken as Nenya saying that neither ROB nor the DEMON are
better than the other.  The intended use was that no DEMON is better than
any other DEMON.

  Now, that aside, there is a logical issue, namely that the two goals
are the same and Rob shouldn't be acting like this.  I was trying to
illustrate how blindly "good" some good heroes can be, but it may not
have been the best demonstration.

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