Chapter #846

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                                   +   +
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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        +
+   Date:          6/17/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes        +
+   Climate:       mild                                                   +
+   "I doubt if you measure danger the way I do."                         +
+        -Allan Quatermain, from _The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen_  +

                      DCCCXLVI.  Machinations

  More than a week after outwitting and then slaying the slaver/wizard
Elkazaar in the city of Hokar, Belphanior has journeyed north and east
to the capital city of Monmurg.  There, he intends to find the powerful
wizard known as Tyros the Red and reclaim his stolen possessions.

Belphanior:  (riding into the city, he notes everything and watches

  After all the blood he'd spilled in Hokar, and given his history in
these lands and the challenge that surely lay ahead, the elf had thought
it prudent to undertake a bit of disguise.  His clothes were padded a
bit, so that he didn't appear to be lean and fit.  His skin was darkened
with a paste made from soot and oil.  Though he couldn't truly disguise
his pointed ears, he wore a nondescript hat that hid them from view.
Blackrazor was out of sight beneath a voluminous cloak, and a new horse
had been acquired.
  Belphanior knew that he was playing a very dangerous game, and he had
no desire to prolong his stay in Monmurg.  Still, patience was necessary
here, as he had a lot to scout and learn before planning and executing
the recovery of his items.  His last adventure in these parts had been
a great one:  joined by Mongo, Rillen, and other adventuring companions,
Belphanior had embarked upon a crusade to free slaves in Westkeep, the
kingdom's second-largest city.  They had targeted the two largest slavers
in that city, Ranulf and Nobb, and hatched a cunning plan, gradually
buying two hundred of the toughest, angriest male slaves they could find.
Immediately freeing and arming these men, the adventurers had led them in
a riot which was helped along by arson and summoned monsters.  Eventually,
a thousand slaves - most of all of Westkeep's slave population - had been
freed and armed.  In a day of glorious chaos, the adventurers and the
thousand slaves had run rampant in the city's streets, finally breaking
out of the city and fleeing to the north.  The city's rulers, along with
a number of soldiers and a trio of wizard brothers, had given chase, and
been dealt with harshly.  After that, the Sea Princes had mobilized a
seaborne force to head the escapees off and round them up; this plan had
failed when Rob had brought down a terrible winter storm upon the waters,
preventing any force from landing and intercepting the ex-slaves.
  The chase hadn't ended there, however, as a second party of adventurers
was hired by the Sea Princes and tracked the horde of slaves down.  Both
Belphanior's group and the pursuers had been shocked to meet, as the
second group contained Halbarad and Peyote, among others.  Realizing that
they'd been tricked, the second group made a truce and let the ex-slaves
escape to Keoland.  There, they were all granted asylum by Kimbertos
Skotti, the king of Keoland, who had decided to take a bold stand against
his slave-holding neighbors.
  Belphanior had been younger and more naive at that time, assuming that
the matter ended then and there, in Keoland.  Months later, he was chased
down by a small and powerful group of mercenaries led by the warrior Omak.
That, too, had been a great pursuit and battle, with Belphanior and his
new companions winning the day and forcing Omak and his surviving force
to flee by magical means.  Not content to let the attack go unanswered,
Belphanior had pursued the soldier across the ocean, eventually ending up
shipwrecked on a small island where the two met again for the last time.
Omak and his allies had died on the island, and that had been the last
Belphanior had heard from the vengeful Sea Princes.

  And now, more than three years later, the elf had returned to this most
hated kingdom.  His mission was simple:  find the slaver-wizard known as
Tyros the Red and get all of his items back.  Belphanior imagined that
he'd have to kill the wizard, since Tyros was unlikely to voluntarily
return the elf's possessions.  It also wouldn't do to leave a loose end,
especially in a hostile land; better to kill a foe now and get it over
with than risk a long-term problem.
  Things would have been a lot easier if Belphanior had been able to use
the thick spellbook he'd taken from Elkazaar.  Unfortunately, the tome
was protected by magical wards, which Belphanior couldn't defeat since
he currently had no spells.  It was a classic chicken-and-egg situation
with an ironic (and most frustrating) twist.
  The first order of business was surveillance:  finding out where in
Monmurg the wizard made his home, how it was guarded, what his habits
were, and so forth.  While he had to be cautious, Belphanior also knew
that time was of the essence.  Every day that he waited - and it had been
far too long already - increased the chance of the items being split up
and traded or sold to other people, who would then also have to be found.
The elf vowed to spend no more than three days gathering intelligence
and scouting out his target.  After that, he would act.

  The next three days passed rather uneventfully, as far as problems or
confrontations went, but Belphanior kept busy.  He didn't take the risky
approach of blatantly asking - that had worked in Hokar but wouldn't work
here, in the much larger city and with his quarry close at hand.  More,
the wizard Tyros was sure to be more powerful and better-protected than
the lackey Belphanior had found and slain in Hokar.  The elf took a more
subtle and cautious approach:  covertly snooping, spending time walking
and looking, sitting in taverns listening, and making small talk at the
marketplaces.  He observed the habits of random wizards, noted the times
and patterns and strengths of the city guard, and talked with street
people.  At the end of each day, he retreated to his rented room at a
low-class inn and made extensive notes on everyone and everything he'd
seen and heard.  By the third day, he was beginning to formulate his
  The first step was figuring out what Tyros the Red actually _looked_
like.  After all, Belphanior had never seen the wizard, since the latter
had taken his items and departed while Belphanior was unconscious.  This
was a significant disadvantage; Tyros could (and most probably would)
recognize the elf if given the chance, while Belphanior couldn't do the
same.  Fortunately, Tyros had a major weakness which Belphanior quickly
found:  he was arrogant and flashy.  It didn't take more than a couple
of public appearances - whether at the Guild of Wizardry, the city's
marketplace, or a find tavern - for the tall, red-cloaked mage to give
his appearance and habits away to Belphanior, who skulked in the shadows
and quietly, efficiently learned the patterns of the man.
  Tyros was a middle-aged aristocrat of tall, thin build.  He never,
ever seemed to appear in public without his billowing, bright red cloak.
It occurred to Belphanior that he, too, used to wear a recognizable red
cloak, which was oddly humorous at this place and time.  Anyhow, Tyros
was haughty to a fault:  he obviously enjoyed great standing and prestige
in the city, and also enjoyed using that to lord it over other people.
From what Belphanior could see, the wizard was both feared and disliked;
he was quick to anger, quicker still to criticize.  From a disgruntled
serving girl, the elf learned all these things (and also that Tyros was
a poor tipper).
  The slaver-wizard kept himself surrounded by a retinue of minions and
bodyguards at all times, at least in public.  Two hulking warrior-types
in leather armor served to keep away the riffraff, and to clear a wider
path on the street for Tyros to walk.  Two wizards, obviously disciples
and assistants, also accompanied the red-cloaked aristocrat everywhere.
The group was rounded out by a weak-looking, sniveling accountant-type.
This man seemed to be in charge of setting up all appointments, paying
for things, and so on.
  By following Tyros and his entourage, Belphanior was able to learn
where the wizard lived:  an old and stately manor in the wealthier
district of Monmurg.  It appeared that the minions also lived in this
house, though probably in much less lavish chambers than Tyros himself.
The one thing that wasn't clear from any amount of surveillance was the
amount of magical power that Tyros commanded.  It was difficult to know
such things until one actually faced a magic-wielding foe in true and
deadly battle.  Only when blood was about to be spilled could the foe's
true abilities and strength be known.

  Belphanior intended to get to that point before too much longer.

next:      putting on the pressure
released:  11/12/04
notes:     If you want to refresh your memory of the slave-freeing
  story arc, check out episodes 178-194.

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