Chapter #831

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
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                               +           +
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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        +
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+   Date:          unknown                                                +
+   Time:          unknown                                                +
+   Place:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       chilly                                                 +
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+   "Life is a storm...you will bask in the sunlight one moment, be       +
+    shattered on the rocks the next.  What makes you a man is what       +
+    you do when that storm comes."                                       +
+                                    - from _The Count of Monte Cristo_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                     DCCCXXXI.  Rude Awakening





  Belphanior had lived for well over a century, and contrary to what some
people said, elves did dream...and have nightmares.  To be sure, the mad
elf had certainly experienced some of the latter in his time.  The series
of horrific nightmares that he was having now - now, and for as long as
he could remember, in his dream-state - were by far the worst he'd ever
suffered through.  Every bad thing he'd ever seen or heard or done, or
even fought against, was part of one or more of these grim dreams.  In
some way, he knew that they were just nightmares and that he would wake
up at any moment...but that didn't make them less realistic, or less
terrifying.
  And then, just like that, it was over.  He felt cold, and realized that
it was sweat, beaded on his clammy skin.  He didn't open his eyes, since
he wasn't sure where he was or why.  He felt sick, as if he'd eaten some
bad food and then retched it all up - repeatedly.  His mouth was dry and
tasted foul, his stomach was queasy, his limbs were weak, and his head
throbbed as if some evil, miniature drummer was pounding out a beat atop
his skull.
  The last thing he remembered - aside from the long, arduous sequence
of nightmares - was the group opting for the "crystal" or "gem" rune in
the plant-infested gateway.  He'd been the first to enter the swirling,
magical mists of teleportation, and he'd known that something was wrong
even as he realized that it was too late to go back or warn the others.
Of course, that seemed like eons ago, which now made the elf wonder just
where he was, where the others were, and what the hell had happened.
  As he slowly and quietly regained his senses, he realized a few other
things.  For one, his cold sweat was partially due to the fact that
wherever he was, it was quite chilly.  For another, he didn't sense the
familiar presence of Blackrazor; the dark sword was no longer at his
side, or anywhere else near him.  His next realization was even worse:
all of his magical items were gone.  No spell-enhancing rings adorned
his fingers; no wound-closing amulet remained around his neck; no belt of
strength girdled his waist.  It was all gone.
  A lesser individual would have been overtaken with panic, perhaps even
screaming or moving about suddenly.  Belphanior was made of far stronger
stuff than that, and he knew that he could accomplish much by simply
doing nothing.  The fact that his weapons and items had been stripped
from him meant that he was probably in hostile hands, and perhaps being
watched.  The longer anyone thought him asleep, the better; maybe he
could listen and learn something advantageous.
  Unfortunately, there was no noise at all, and after a short time that
seemed like an eternity, he came to the conclusion that he was probably
alone.  He also realized that his right, crystal eye was intact, which
meant that whoever had taken his other possessions hadn't been a wizard
or other such spell-wielder.  They hadn't been looking for magic items,
but just items.  The question was, had he simply been robbed and left
somewhere, or was he a prisoner?
  Presented with these questions, he finally opened his eyes.  He was in
a dark room - no, not a room, for it was made of wood and had a small,
barred window.  A cage, then?  The size certainly matched, for whatever
held him was only ten feet on a side, and maybe half that in height.
The barred window afforded a bit more light, and he crawled painfully
across to have a look.  He didn't think he'd been beaten, but unknown
hours of lying unconscious had cramped his muscles and joints.
  As soon as he looked out the window, a few more things became clear.
He was outdoors, and directly across from him was another barred window;
a closer look revealed that it was actually a wagon - a cell on wheels.
Despite the magical properties of his right eye, he couldn't get a good
look to the left or right because of the angle and the small size of the
window.  However, it looked like the wagon was just one member of a much
larger train of such wagons.  He half-jokingly wondered whether his eye
would function if he popped it out of its socket and held it outside the
barred window.  A cold breeze blew gently, bringing chilly air through
the wagon windows.  Belphanior realized that he had clothes, at least...
though not much:  his pants and shirt.  He shivered, and it occurred to
him that if he was cold, it must _really_ be cold, since he'd always had
a higher tolerance for cold than most people.
  A half-moon shone overhead, and the sky seemed to be partly cloudy,
though again it was hard to tell given his limited visibility.  The elf
decided that he was done looking, and now was the time to act.  A couple
of quick attempts to recall and cast some basic spells confirmed what he
already feared:  he was out of spells, and could cast nothing without
consulting one of his spellbooks.  Belphanior gave up and went for the
next-best option.  He got a good, firm grip on the iron bars of the small
window, braced himself with both feet, and pulled with all his strength.
  Nothing happened.  The bars didn't give at all, and he realized that
they were not only high-quality iron, but deeply set within the frame
of the wagon or cage or whatever held him.  Obviously, the door of this
container - and its lock - were on the exterior side and beyond his
reach, so the window was his only option.  After another failed try, he
turned his attention to the prison itself, checking all of its seams and
corners for any weaknesses.  The news was bad:  the thing was as solid
as it was simple.  Struggling to control his building temper, Belphanior
thought about his options.  He was tempted to make some noise and see
what happened, but discretion seemed to be a better idea.  He turned his
thinking to the possibilities of how he ended up here.  Obviously, the
gateway had been either malfunctioning or else a trap.  He didn't know
why Xusia would have set such a trap within his gateway system; after
all, the lich had never intended for any foes to use the teleporters.
No, the safer bet was that, for some unknown reason, either the gateway
they'd left through or else the one they were headed to was broken or
damaged.  He wondered if the others were in wagon-cells nearby his own.
Then he wondered if there existed a cell sturdy enough to hold Ys, once
the big reptilian woke up.  No, he decided it was best to wait and see
what happened.  For all he knew, Ys would break out of his cell at any
time, and quickly free the rest of them.
  The other logical conclusion, of course, was that his captors, whoever
they were and whatever their motivations, didn't realize how much the elf
had been carrying in the way of magical weapons and other devices.  In
all likelihood, they were just common brigands who had found him sprawled
out somewhere, unconscious after the space-distorting trip through the
errant gateway.  Maybe he could even talk his way out of this, or offer
some reward.  Of course, if he was freed, he fully intended to then turn
on his former captors and destroy them all.
  With nothing else to do, he leaned back against one wall and lapsed
into a light dozing sleep, conserving his energy for whatever the morning
brought.

  He was awakened by laughing and yelling, as well as normal morning
sounds.  Moving to the barred window, he saw a fat, bald man nearby, a
large bucket of water held in each hand.

Belphanior:  Hey!  You out there!
fat, bald man:  (turns to regard the elf)
Belphanior:  Where am I, and why am I in here?
fat, bald man:  (chuckles to himself)
Belphanior:  (glares at the man)

  Despite the fact of who was in the cell and who was free outside,
there was something in the elf's look that caused the captor to stop
grinning and unconsciously take a step back.

fat, bald man:  That's enough out of you!  (he puts down one of the
  buckets of water, hefts the other one, and dumps the whole thing at
  the window to Belphanior's cell)
Belphanior:  (hit in the face by the ice-cold water, he instantly begins
  to shiver despite himself)
fat, bald man:  Hah, hah, hah!  Now that's funny!
Belphanior:  Look, dammit.  You'd better answer my questions-
fat, bald man:  The boss told me to clean you up, and I did.  He wants to
  talk to you, so you can ask him your stupid questions.

  Without another word, the man picked up the other bucket, turned, and
walked away.  Belphanior yelled after him, but there was no point.  On
the bright side, it didn't take long before the next opportunity for
some answers came along.  A large, brutish man with an eyepatch and
numerous scars was heading right for Belphanior's cell.  He was flanked
by four tough-looking thugs, all of whom carried large clubs or whips.

Belphanior:  I'm betting you'd be the boss.
scarred, one-eyed man:  You bet right.
Belphanior:  Oh yeah?  What do I win?
scarred, one-eyed man:  (turns to his thugs)  Boys, we've got a smart-ass
  here.
Belphanior:  Where are my companions?
scarred, one-eyed man:  (looks confused)  Companions?  You don't have any
  companions, unless they're the kind who leave you knocked out in the
  middle of nowhere, like you were when we found you.
Belphanior:  What?
scarred, one-eyed man:  Don't play dumb with me.  How the hell did you
  get there like that, and why?
Belphanior:  I don't remember.
scarred, one-eyed man:  If you say so.  (to his thugs)  Get him out of
  there.

  An unseen bolt was thrown, and a small section of the cell's wall then
opened outward.  As soon as this happened, Belphanior was ready; he leapt
out, propelled by the rage he'd been saving up all night; his plan was to
get hold of the leader and buy himself a safe exit with the threat of a
broken neck.  Unfortunately, the thugs had been expecting such a move,
and they were faster than they looked.  A whip cracked, wrapping itself
around the elf's feet and tripping him.  A moment later, a club descended
on his head, and he saw stars.

thug with club:  That ought to knock some sense into you.
scarred, one-eyed man:  Good try.  I expected something like that from
  someone who was carrying all that nice stuff around.
Belphanior:  (struggling to rise to his knees)  I want my weapons back-
thug with whip:  (yanks his whip, knocking the elf to the ground, where
  his face lands in a mud-puddle)  Quiet!
Belphanior:  (coughing and sputtering)
scarred, one-eyed man:  Friend, you don't have any weapons anymore.  In
  fact, you don't have anything anymore.  And once we get through these
  mountains after another week, you're going up for sale on the auction
  block just like everyone else.
Belphanior:  (grits his teeth)  Slavers.
scarred, one-eyed man:  What were you expecting?  (to his thugs)  Beat
  some sense into him, to pay him back for jumping out of there like
  that, then get him chained with the others.  No sense making the
  horses work pulling the wagons, when these slaves can walk just fine.
  (he walks away, leaving Belphanior with the four leering thugs)
thug #1:  (raises his whip)  Time to teach you some-
Belphanior:  (lashes out, catching the man in the groin with a balled
  fist)
thug #2:  (smashes the elf across the back with his club, knocking him
  back down)  Dumbass.

  Belphanior didn't stay conscious for much longer, mercifully sparing
him most of the direct pain from the beating.





next:       things get worse
gateways:   http://www.peldor.com/misc/gateways.php?chapter=831
ftp:        ftp.peldor.com
www:        http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:   http://www.peldor.com/
email:      tmiller@peldor.com
released:   7/30/04
notes:      Well, I finally did it:  I managed to remove all of the high-
  power magic and such from a plotline.  Now I can focus on one character
  at a time, beginning with my favorite one.  It should be good; before
  he can worry about the gateways, or where the others are, or getting his
  items back, or even getting some revenge...Belphanior must first find a
  way to get free.
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