Chapter #805

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2004 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!                                          +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Belphanior      15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+   Angus           iron golem                                            +
+   Sir Dremel      11th level human paladin of Heironeous                +
+   Elgon           8th/9th/11th level gnomish priest/illusionist/thief   +
+   Jenna           9th level human female priestess of Istus             +
+   Otto            10th/12th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+   Razor Charlie   10th level human fighter                              +
+   Skektek         13th level human wizard                               +
+   wispy thing     strange, intangible sentient being                    +
+   Ys              14th level reptilian fighter                          +
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+   Date:           4/5/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          the galleon _Liberty_, sailing the Azure Sea          +
+   Climate:        chilly                                                +
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+   "I'm a businessman...I don't like violence.  Blood is a big expense." +
+                                                  - from _The Godfather_ +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                      DCCCV.  Blood on the Water





  The adventurers have become victims of treachery, as the crew of the
ironically-named _Liberty_ have revealed their true intentions to sell
all passengers to the pirate slavers whose ship approaches even now.

Captain Plunkett:  The first thing I want now is for that big metal man
  to walk over the side of the ship.  And then-  (he looks around)  Where
  is the elf?
Otto:  Beats me.

  The dwarf was running scenarios through his head, but none were very
workable because of the crossbow bolt that was pressed against Skektek's
neck.  The wizard was their best hope for a flashy, distractive attack,
but he was currently helpless.  Angus could take out the entire ship's
complement of warriors, but Skektek would be killed.  And Belphanior was
somewhere near the other ship, invisible, and there was no telling what
he would do or when.  Otto figured the best thing to do was just wait
and seize whatever opportunity they could.

Razor Charlie:  (catches Otto's eye, motioning toward Skektek and back
  with his own eyes)
Otto:  (thinking about it, he runs some quick odds, then nods almost
  imperceptibly)

  As his allies knew but the traitorous crew didn't, Razor Charlie always
carried a number of small throwing knives on his person.  The sailors
seemed to have disregarded him, as he hadn't had a sword or other weapon
to drop, and they were barely paying him any attention, as Angus and Ys
were the dangerous ones even without any weapons.  Charlie had measured
the short distance between himself and Skektek, and had gotten an idea...
and now, with Otto's consent, that idea was about to be implemented.

Razor Charlie:  (eases a throwing knife out of a hidden pocket on his
  pants, tenses himself, and then acts)

  The magical blade flashed through the air, ending up exactly where he
had aimed it.  Captain Plunkett's crossbow string was sliced through,
snapping with a loud "twang" and instantly relieving the tension that
held the sharp bolt on Skektek's neck.

Skektek:  Aie!  (he falls back, landing on the deck in a sprawl)
Captain Plunkett:  What?!?  (he whirls, disbelieving, and points at Razor
  Charlie)
Otto:  (yells)  Angus!  Clear the deck!

  The golem immediately lumbered forth, one great arm sweeping wide and
sending five foes over the rail and into the water.  No one else had to
be told what to do next...

Ys:  (picks up a sailor and hurls him into a cluster of bowmen, knocking
  them all down in a heap)  Yaaaaaah!
other sailors:  (fall back, terrified, as the gigantic reptilian picks
  up his sword)
Otto:  To me, people!  Let's take them!  (he retrieves his crossbow,
  shoots a nearby archer, then draws his sword and charges)
Jenna:  (picks up her quarterstaff just in time to be attacked by a fat
  sailor)  Away, dolt.  (she whirls the staff around, one metal-shod
  end hitting the foe in the head and splitting his helm and skull)
fat sailor:  Aieeeee!  (he falls, blood spurting from his head)
Elgon:  Wow, well-done.  (he sends a trio of ghostly snakes flying through
  the air at the remainder of the ship's archers)
archers:  (beset by these illusional beasts, they swipe and dodge instead
  of shooting)
wispy thing:  (spots the ghostly snakes)  pfsss?  (he heads that way)
Sir Dremel:  (kicks a sailor in the chest, knocking him overboard)  Base
  villains...the time has come!  (his holy sword suddenly flies into his
  hand)  Now, by Trithereon, you base scoundrels shall PAY!

  The paladin just happened to be surrounded by a knot of foes, but he
didn't hesitate for a moment, charging the nearest sailor and driving
the man back with a fearsome blow that cleft his skull.  Another enemy
thought to charge in and take advantage, but Dremel swung his shield
around, smashing the man away before he could swing his axe.  A third
foe was dispatched with a sword-thrust to the stomach, and by now, the
paladin's sword was glowing brightly.  The sailors realized that some
more of them would have to die to bring this man down, and none wanted
to be the one to pay that price.  While they thought about it, Dremel
slew one more and wounded a fifth man.
  Nearby...

Razor Charlie:  (throwing knives like mad, he kills or wounds several
  more people before having to pick up someone's dropped sword to face
  a charging foe with an axe)
sailor with axe:  Enough of those puny knives -- now face a real weapon!
Razor Charlie:  (parries the blow, but still gets a slice on one arm from
  the foe's long knife...and then brings his sword back around to lop the
  man's head from his shoulders)  Okay.  (he regards the wound on his arm
  and wonders if the magical healing amulet he got from the last big
  adventure is really going to work)
Angus:  (having knocked a dozen or so sailors out of the fight while all
  their weapons bounced off of his iron body, he finds that no foes remain
  anywhere near him)
Captain Plunkett:  (sword in hand, he yells and curses as the battle
  rages)  Damn it, you scurvy dogs, fight!
Skektek:  (behind the captain)  Excuse me.
Captain Plunkett:  (whirls about to face the wizard)

  Skektek was livid with rage, his face so red that it bordered on a shade
of purple.  His fists were clenched and he began to yell at the captain.

Skektek:  Stick a pointy weapon at my neck, will you?  Use me as hostage
  to make the others disarm, will you?  THREATEN ME, will you?
Captain Plunkett:  Er-
Skektek:  (holds his fist out, a ring on one finger glowing brightly)
  Have you ever seen what happens when a lightning bolt is completely
  wasted on a single foe?
Captain Plunkett:  Uh-
Skektek:  Enjoy the ride, asshole.  (he uses his thunder ring to launch
  a bolt of bright lightning directly at the man, knocking him off the
  ship and into the sky even as it fries him to a cinder)  Ah, I feel so
  much better now.



  Meanwhile, on the attacking ship, the captain was watching in confusion
as the events unfolded aboard his intended prey...

pirate captain:  What the hell are they doing?  The agreement was to-

  His rantings were interrupted as the mainsail came billowing down atop
several dozen of his pirates' heads.  Unbeknownst to them all, the sail
had been cut from the mast above by an invisible Belphanior.  As their
ship slowed to a crawl in the water, the captain bellowed orders angrily
as he paced about.

Belphanior:  (flies down and lands on the deck behind the captain and his
  men, black blade ready)

  The elf slew the captain with a single, savage blow, his dark sword
absorbing the dying man's life force even as the next victim fell.  By
now, the other foes had turned around and began defending themselves.
Belphanior, however, was a whirlwind of death.  No slouch to begin with,
he was bolstered in speed, strength, and skill with every foe he killed.
Every wound he suffered went ignored, seemingly unfelt.  Every blow he
landed was mighty, crippling if not killing a foe.  The elf appeared
possessed, such was the fury with which he fought.  After he had slain
a half dozen pirates and showed no signs of slowing down, the others
turned and fled, understandably not wanting to die.

Belphanior:  (comes out of his battle-daze)  Yes, Blackrazor, it _had_
  been quite some time...(he spots a lightning bolt arc off in a random
  direction from the other ship)  Ah.  (with a great leap, he flies back
  into the air and heads for the _Liberty_)

  Aboard that vessel, the others had things well in hand.  After the
archers had been killed or incapacitated, the remaining sailors had faced
odds they didn't care for.  Aside from the fact that Skektek wielded magic
that could take dozens of them out at a time, there was Angus, who was
unstoppable, and Ys, who was almost unstoppable.  By the time Belphanior
flew over, Otto was directing the binding of prisoners and the dumping of
corpses over the side.

Jenna:  (watches as Otto and Razor Charlie toss a bloody body over the
  ship's rail)
Otto:  (shrugs)  Sharks gotta eat too.

  As far as wounds went, the party had made off very well, perhaps even
luckily so.  Skektek had a small, superficial cut on his neck from the
bolt's tip, and Ys and Otto had a couple of minor scrapes.  Jenna tended
to all of these.  Elgon had taken a swordpoint through one leg but was
busy tending to it.  Razor Charlie was almost smiling - almost.  In any
case, he was as happy as anyone had ever seen him, thanks to the mighty
healing powers conferred by his amulet.

Razor Charlie:  (regards the red line on his arm where, just moments ago,
  there had been a deep, bleeding gash)  Damn thing really does work...

  Charlie had picked up a couple of other cuts and scrapes during the
fight, and they too were now all closed up.  Of course, the new recruits
couldn't possibly know why this was...

Elgon:  Say, you sure came away from that fight unscathed.
Razor Charlie:  (glares menacingly at the gnome)
Elgon:  Uh, right.  Well, I'll go and see if there're any wounds that
  need tending to.
Jenna:  (smirks)

  Belphanior, for his part, saw that the _Liberty_ was taken care of, so
he conferred with Skektek briefly.  Both of them then flew back toward
the pirate ship, which was crippled and whose decks were practically awash
with the blood of slain pirates.

Belphanior:  (using a spell to amplify his voice)  LISTEN UP DOWN THERE.
  YOUR SHIP IS STUCK, WE'VE TAKEN THE OTHER SHIP, AND WE CAN TAKE YOURS
  WHETHER OR NOT WE KILL YOU IN THE PROCESS.  SURRENDER AND LIVE, OR-

  The elf was greeted by a hail of arrows, most of which either missed or
bounced off of a magical barrier.

Belphanior:  Right.  (to Skektek)  Let 'em have it.
Skektek:  With pleasure.  (gauging the wind carefully, he works a spell)

  A huge cloud of noxious, dark green gas appeared at the bow of the ship,
and slowly rolled down its length toward the stern.  Once there, it sunk
into the hold, presumably to slay all who worked or hid below.

Skektek:  There you have it:  one warship, intact, entire hostile crew
  eliminated.  Damn, I'm good.
Belphanior:  (eyeing the now-quiet ship)  That's going to take a while to
  air out.
Skektek:  Say, we didn't stop to think, what if there were prisoners or
  other non-hostiles down in the hold?
Belphanior:  Yeah, I did.  This whole thing was a set-up, so it was all
  planned out ahead of time.  That pirate ship wouldn't have had time or
  reason to bring any excess people.  Besides, its hold was probably empty
  to leave space for all those people it was going to capture from the
  _Liberty_ and sell to the slavers.
Skektek:  Mm.
Belphanior:  Of course, the question now is, what are we going to do with
  the surviving crew of the _Liberty_?
Skektek:  I'd say the question is, what are you going to do with two big
  ships?



  Shortly, Belphanior had assembled the surviving foes - a good eighty
or so sailors - and gave them the "do or die" speech.

Belphanior:  Okay, listen up.  You've seen what we can do, and since
  you're alive, I assume you'd prefer to stay that way.  Understand:  all
  we wanted to do was sail across this sea to the far side.  This fight
  and all the death so far...was completely unnecessary.  Since we need
  you to man this ship - err, these ships - here's the deal I'm offering:
  we'll split you people up and man both ships.  It'll be less crew than
  you're used to, but life's tough.  You'll get us where we want to go,
  and then I'll release all of you and one of the ships.  (he pauses to
  let this all sink in and gauge their reactions)  This isn't a "take it
  or leave it" deal - it's a "take it or die" deal.
Sir Dremel:  (looks as though he's about to say something)
Otto:  (hushes the man with a gesture)
Belphanior:  So, if you choose to live, let's get these ships going.  If
  you choose to die, well...whoever it is, just speak up...

  By dusk that day, the two ships were fully repaired and underway once
more.  Belphanior split his people up between the two vessels, just in
case someone changed their mind.  One ship had himself, Angus, Charlie,
and Jenna.  The other ship had Otto, Skektek, Ys, Elgon, and Sir Dremel.
The wispy thing spent an hour or so flitting back and forth between the
two ships, as if unsure which was preferable, before settling on the one
Belphanior was on.
  As for the people in the hold, those unwitting passengers who had paid
the late Captain Plunkett to take this voyage, Belphanior went down and
explained everything to them.  In general, they seemed pleased, if not
grateful; Belphanior asked them to stay out of the way as best as they
could.

  The next two weeks were very strange for everyone.  The defeated sailors
had to labor under implied penalty of death, while wondering if Belphanior
might kill them all anyway.  The adventurers had to trust these men to do
what was needed to get them to their destination, without a mutiny or
uprising.  The poor folks in the hold had absolutely no control over what
was going on, and had to just watch both sides and worry.

  But nothing happened.  Perhaps Trithereon or some other benevolent god
was smiling upon them this month, but the days passed without any further
piracy attempts, sea monsters, or even bad weather.  It might have been
the strict discipline Belphanior was practicing - stalking the decks to
show the prisoners that he was keeping tabs on things, yet staying out of
their way and encouraging others to do so.  He also met with the man who
had taken command of the foes after Plunkett was slain, and reminded him
once every few days that they were that much closer to their destination
and that this voyage was thus almost over.  In any case, there came a day
when the lookout cried "Land ho!" and the navigator informed Belphanior
that they were nearing the shores of the kingdom of Idee.

Otto:  Which ship are you going to let them keep?
Belphanior:  The _Liberty_, I suppose.  I bet it's worth more, but it's
  also not set up for piracy, which brings me to the final speech for
  them.

  Shortly, when the ships were docked and the innocent passengers safely
disembarked, Belphanior had the sailors collect their belongings and then
gather again on the deck of the _Liberty_...

Belphanior:  You have seen that I kept my word.  I'm even giving you this
  ship, which is better and worth more...unless you're a pirate.  And that
  is what I really want to talk about here.  I'm letting you all go, but
  if I ever run across any vessel that's practicing piracy and I recognize
  any of you, that ship will be sunk immediately with all hands, and no
  questions asked.  Do not doubt for an instant that I have the magic to
  find you, know the truth, and carry out my threat.  (he surveys the men)
  Truthfully, you've been given a second chance when you should be dead.
  It's up to you what you do with it.

  With that, the elf and his group left the _Liberty_, heading into town
to see how much they could get for the other, formerly-pirate vessel.  The
next order of business after that was to re-supply and choose a route east
for the final leg of the journey.

Sir Dremel:  Well done.
Razor Charlie:  (wonders if Belphanior's getting soft over time)



  Despite the prevalent chaos in Ahlissa to its north, Idee was a calm
and peaceful kingdom.  They got their supplies, rested, and better yet,
made a small fortune from selling the ship.

Belphanior:  You know, this whole business with the ships gives me an
  idea.
Otto:  Eh?
Belphanior:  Okay, picture this:  we sail out on one ship, wait for
  someone to fuck with us, destroy them and take their ship, then we've
  got two ships.  Repeat as desired.  End result:  our own private fleet.
Otto:  We'd never find the crew - real, competent crew - to man them all.
Belphanior:  But if we did, we'd rule the seas.  I'll have to do some
  thinking on this.

  As decided previously, the group would trek overland, cutting right
across the Tilvanot Peninsula.  This meant traveling across hills and
marshes, but it was a direct route that would save weeks compared to
the seaborne option of sailing around the peninsula.

Otto:  I'll take the unknown dangers in those hills and swamps over the
  Scarlet Brotherhood, any day of the week.
Jenna:  The Brotherhood is a dangerous lot...my goddess has been watching
  them closely.  Nothing good will come from that land.
Belphanior:  Yeah, and that's one reason we're avoiding it.  Everyone
  listen up:  rest up for two days, get yourselves some horses and enough
  food, water, and supplies for a month's journey.  The going will likely
  be slow and tough, and there will probably be monsters all over the
  place.
Elgon:  (frowns)  Then I'll definitely enjoy some fine food here in the
  city tonight...fine food and drink, and other entertainment.  Enjoy
  every day as if it might be the last.
Belphanior:  Makes sense.  Cut loose all you want tonight, but just be
  ready and able to set out the morning after tomorrow.





next:      Elgon's revelation
ftp:       ftp.peldor.com
www:       http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:  http://www.peldor.com/
email:     tmiller@peldor.com
released:  1/30/04
notes:     I had some debate about what was best:  5 episodes of these
  guys, then 5 of some other adventurers, and so on...but I decided it
  was best to finish out each arc separately.  I realize that this makes
  the one arc last all of January and some-to-all of February, but that
  shouldn't be a big deal (once a week is better than nothing, I suspect.)
    Two things to be aware of:
  1) there is a new mailing list for these new stories, but you have to
     subscribe fresh.  Send email to publisher@peldor.com from the exact
     email address to which each chapter should be sent; the subject line
     should be "new ADVENTURERS mailing list".  No body is necessary.
  2) I still post rants, every Friday along with a new story; you can
     find them at http://www.peldor.com/news/2004.html
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