Chapter #847

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                                   +   +
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                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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:          6/20/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          late evening                                           +
+   Place:         Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes        +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "You'll never make it."                                               +
+   "Maybe, but I gotta try.  It's something that stems from my           +
+    childhood.  I just gotta play against the house."                    +
+                     - Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, from _The A-Team_  +

                  DCCCXLVII.  The Manor of Tyros

  After hours of planning, Belphanior was now ready to make his move.
In normal times, he wouldn't have attempted to break into a powerful
wizard's home, in the capital of a hostile kingdom, without his full
complement of spells and magic items.  However, those were indeed the
goal of this mission, as they'd been stolen from him recently, and the
trail led to the manor of Tyros the Red, wizard and slaver in the upper
echelon of the Sea Princes.  He'd considered other options, the easiest
being a long and undoubtedly arduous trek back to Greyhawk or any other
place where he had friends.  That would be a sure way to re-stock on
spells and perhaps even items and allies...but it would also consume
precious weeks, during which his possessions might be sold or traded,
or otherwise split up, by the wizard who currently possessed them.  A
second alternative course of action would have been to continue his
scouting and surveillance of Tyros and his home, searching for further
clues and perhaps weaknesses.
  However, three days of watching - yet doing nothing - had sorely
tried the elf's patience.  He wanted his possessions back, the sooner
the better, and he was tired of waiting.  He'd always had a bit of a
reckless, daring streak and this situation was no exception.  While his
best odds of surviving meant waiting quite a bit longer, his best odds
of regaining his stolen items meant striking soon - tonight!  Besides,
he had his magical eye (which would help him find, disarm, or avoid
traps) and his dark sword, which would let him gain power from slain
foes.  He also had all of his skills, cunning, fearlessness...and last
but not least, a grim determination to succeed no matter what the cost.
  Of course, Belphanior was one to stack the deck in his favor whenever
possible, and this was a good time.  In his spare time over the last
few days, he'd filched some assorted valuables at the marketplace - both
from customers and vendors.  These items, while hardly worth a fortune,
had been converted into coin, which he'd applied toward some different
purposes.  Posing as a thief with a bad limp, he'd enlisted the services
of a small gang of young, skilled rogues.  It had been easy to convince
them of a large hoard of treasure hidden within Tyros' mansion, this
wealth protected more by the wizard's reputation than actual traps and
guards.  Belphanior had claimed to have a bad leg that prevented him
from actually doing the footwork himself, but he was willing to give
the details and mastermind the theft, if only he had helpers who would
go in and find the treasure.  It had been relatively easy to convince
them, for this was a common situation in large cities, and a common
dream of young thugs.  The elf had even let the gang talk him into
giving them a large share of the profits in return for his information,
so they came out feeling that they'd won in the negotiations.
  Belphanior had worked out the distraction that would assist their
break-in:  the nearby city guardhouse would mysteriously catch fire
at a designated time.  This would serve two purposes:  there would be
no guards to potentially spot the thieves breaking into Tyros' home,
and the people actually within the home would be distracted as well.
In actuality, Belphanior didn't know whether or not there was any loot
in the section of the house where he'd sent the young thieves.  Their
purpose - live or die - was merely to draw attention away from his own
covert entry into the part of the mansion where he believed his lost
possessions would most likely be kept.  He figured he'd probably come
face-to-face with Tyros as well, but such was life.  Naturally, being
Belphanior, he had a couple of other aces up his sleeve...just in case.

  And so it was that sometime before midnight, as a guardhouse went up
in blazes and dozens of people watched in terror or rushed to help, a
group of five defiant young thieves snuck onto Tyros' property.  In
short order, they had bypassed a spiked wall, several guard dogs, and
a locked window...and were inside the mansion.  Belphanior knew nothing
of that, however; at about the same time, he entered the house through
a third-story window on the opposite side.  As he stood in the darkened
room, he could see the glow of the nearby fire, and hear the cries of
those forced to deal with the blaze.  There were even muffled shouts
and footsteps on the floor beneath him, as the mansion's residents or
servants undoubtedly rushed to gawk at the flames...or perhaps the band
of young thieves had been discovered.  Either distraction would work for
his purposes, though he had to make haste.  The elf wasted no time in
beginning his own exploration, using his crystal eye to scan the halls
and rooms for the familiar auras of his powerful magical items.  After
all, he'd carried most of them for years, and he was counting on this
first-hand experience to help guide him to whatever room or vault they
might be stored in.  He was not disappointed, for the enchanted eye
quickly detected a strong aura from a chamber in the center of the floor
above.  He immediately headed in that direction, using the eye's powers
to not only see in the dark, but also to help discern the fastest way
of reaching his intended destination.
  Two hallways and one set of stairs later, he stood before a large door
of thick, rare wood.  It was unlocked, but he had already detected a wire
leading from the handle to a mechanism embedded in the wall.  This trap
was completely non-magical and also undetectable by normal means; only
his x-ray vision had revealed it...and the means to bypass it.  One of
the floorboards to the right of the door was loose, and beneath it was
a trigger to disarm the trap.  Thus it was that Belphanior entered the
study of Tyros without being crushed by the spring-loaded floorboard
spike trap.  He also avoided stepping on the doormat-carpet, which held
a magical fire trap for anyone who touched it.  Past this enchanted rug
was a twenty-foot antechamber leading into the study proper.  A number
of thin filaments, undetectable to the naked eye, dangled from the high
ceiling; each of these held a powerful electrical charge that would kill
(or at least stun) anyone who came into contact with it.  Impressed as
always by both the power and the usefulness of the crystal eye given to
him by the deep gnomes, Belphanior ducked and sidestepped these deadly
protections.  The elf trod carefully, constantly on the alert for further
traps, magical or otherwise.  He'd concluded by now that Tyros not only
liked his magic, but relied on it exclusively.  With the exception of the
thick wooden entry door, all of the traps had been magical in nature,
intended to deter common thieves or perhaps uncommon ones who couldn't
match the red wizard's magic.  If this had been Belphanior's home, he
would have added a few conventional traps, such as poisoned caltrops on
the hallway floor, a swinging blade from the ceiling, a loose floorboard
triggering a barrage of darts, animal guardians, perhaps a spiked pit.
  None of these presented themselves, however, and moments later, the elf
walked into the plush, expansive study...and smiled.

next:      Tyros
released:  11/19/04
notes:     This has been a difficult episode to write; the previous four
  were all written in a one-day period, and then I waited almost two
  weeks to do this one.  The reason has to do with how Belphanior acts
  as opposed to how normal people might act.  I think a lot of people
  would have avoided the higher risk by returning to Greyhawk to build
  up their strength.  But that's not Belphanior; recall his recklessness
  of the early days, and also his lust for magic and power.
    On an entirely unrelated topic, since some of you wondered what
  fuels a writer's imagination, I direct you to the pages listing my
  most recently-processed books and movies:

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