Chapter #849

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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:          6/21/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          early afternoon                                        +
+   Place:         Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes        +
+   Climate:       cool                                                   +
+   "Some people think you're already dead...some say you never will be." +
+                                               - from _Escape From L.A._ +

                 DCCCXLIX.  Court of the Sea Princes

  The meeting had been going on for hours, consuming the better part of
the working day.  Gathered here, in the main audience hall of the royal
palace of Monmurg, were several dozen of the most powerful people in
the capital city, not to mention the kingdom itself.  A dozen armored
elite guards protected the doors to this hall, and none but the rulers
of the city sat around the table now.  The topic of the discussion was
as recent as it was pertinent.

Tyros:  -the elf invaded my house, killed my guards, pillaged my study,
  demolished my mansion, killed _more_ of my guards, demolished _more_
  of my mansion, and brutalized me!  (he slaps his thickly-bandaged
  shoulder and immediately regrets it)  Argh!  See?!?
stocky warrior-type:  Don't forget the savage slaying of twoscore of
  my city guardsmen, too.
tall, gaunt aristocrat-type:  Of course, Captain Rorgard, we mustn't
  forget the random but efficient act of arson which completely gutted
  the city guardpost near poor Tyros' mansion.
Captain Rorgard:  (shakes his head)  Oh yeah.  I guess that makes the
  total death-toll of my guardsmen closer to threescore.
short, pudgy wizard-type:  One must admit that more than half of those
  were slain by the demon-dog summoned by the evil elf.  A nasty trick,
tall, gaunt aristocrat-type:  All too true, High Wizard Beekus, all too
  true.  Lest we not forget, though, the heavy damage inflicted upon the
  abandoned warehouse building across the street from Tyros' mansion...
  as well as the melted street, damaged signposts, and such.  All that
  repair work...sigh.  (he wrings his hands)  We'll have to raise taxes.
High Wizard Beekus:  I agree, Lord Mayor, the property damage was just
  as horrific as the human casualties.  A heavy toll.
Lord Mayor Kordigan:  (wrings his hands again, and joins the others in
  glaring at Tyros)  Good Tyros...explain to us, again, why you sought
  to do battle with this murderous hooligan, right here in the middle of
  our fine city?
Tyros:  (sighs painfully)  I didn't _choose_ to do anything.  The evil
  bastard invaded my home, seeking to reclaim his items of destruction,
  no doubt to then wreak even greater havoc on our city.  Why, we're
  lucky I stopped him in time - who knows what would have happened?
Lord Mayor Kordigan:  And these...items, they were rightfully taken
  from him in the first place?
Tyros:  (nods)  As laid down in our covenants of slavery, when he was
  taken captive, his items became my property.  (he watches the others
Captain Rorgard:  Clearly, his actions after that point were unlawful
  and unjustified.
High Wizard Beekus:  Still, one would think it somewhat dangerous to
  bring those items here, to Monmurg.
Tyros:  (spreads his hands)  Who knew that the fool would break free,
  murder an entire caravan of our slavers - as well as untold others,
  innocents unfortunate enough to be in his path - and then come here,
  seeking to reclaim that which had been rightfully taken?
High Wizard Beekus:  Mm, good point.
Tyros:  And of course, there was no way of knowing how powerful, not to
  mention determined, the elf would be in this matter.
Lord Mayor Kordigan:  Well, we're all settled on that, then.  The elf
  is completely at fault for his actions and their consequences.
Captain Rorgard:  (raises a fist in the air)  And that is exactly why
  he should be executed, immediately!  His crimes are many and great,
  the proof indisputable.  The death penalty is called for, by both our
  law and by common sense.
Tyros:  Hear, hear.
High Wizard Beekus:  (chuckles)  Frankly, Tyros, I'm surprised the elf
  yet lives.  You must be getting rusty with your magic, in your old
Tyros:  (goes livid)  I _tried_ to kill him!  Somehow he soaked up all
  the damage I inflicted on him...shocks, ice, smashing.  He's a demon!
  And yet, after we excavated him from the dent I made in the street-
Lord Mayor Kordigan:  (winces)
Tyros:  -he was still alive!  I ordered the bastard slain on the spot,
  by sword and for certain...but the guards refused!  (he turns on
  Captain Rorgard, almost spitting his words out, such is his rage)
  How is it that your guardsmen refused to obey my orders, and threw the
  elf in a cell instead?  Who _dared_ to defy me?!?
voice:  I did.
Tyros:  (pales)

  The speaker had just entered the hall from an unseen door, and that
very fact could only mean one thing...

Lord Mayor Kordigan:  (bows)  Your Excellency!
Tyros:  (pales)  P- prince Creon!
Prince Creon:  It was I who ordered the elf imprisoned, not slain
  outright.  (he looks around the hall, at the gathered officials who
  rule this city under him)  I shall now explain why, so take heed.

  The chamber was dead silent.  Those present - mostly high-ranking city
officials or their cronies - were used to doing as they pleased without
guidance from their ruler.  Now, though, it was clear that the ruler was
taking a personal interest in this situation.

Prince Creon:  In addition to all of his crimes of late, this elf who
  lies imprisoned in our dungeon is also guilty of engineering a mass
  revolt several years ago, right here in our very kingdom.  Perhaps
  you have heard of the notorious Westkeep uprising?  (he looks around
  the room, noting with satisfaction the gasps and looks of shock from
  many of those present)  Yes.  That was _also_ the work of the elf.
  He led a group of spies - base ruffians all! - who used arson, magic,
  trickery, and gods know what else to free a thousand slaves and lay
  waste to much of Westkeep.  All who gave chase, to bring these scum
  to justice, were land or by sea, it mattered not to
  the elf or the horde he led out of Westkeep.  (he begins pacing back
  and forth)  And then - though few people know this - we sent special
  parties out to pursue the elf.  The second of these actually caught
  up with him and his allies, but didn't survive.

  The prince looked around the hall, asserting his authority with his
gaze as much as with his words.  None present wanted to risk his wrath
if it could be avoided; Creon had proven to be much more temperamental
and far less forgiving than his older brother whom he'd succeeded to
rulership of the Hold.  Of course, it couldn't be proven that Jeon II
had been murdered more than two years ago.  Since he'd been a powerful
and skilled warrior in the prime of his life, however, people tended to
draw their own conclusions on the matter.  In any case, the other nobles
within the lands of the Hold had been happy to see Jeon II ousted, for
he'd indirectly tried to abolish slavery within the land several times
in the last decade.  Prince Creon had his faults, but he wasn't going
to rock the boat as far as the local culture went.  Under him, slavery
had flourished and the rich had become richer.

Prince Creon:  And that was the end of it, for other matters of politics
  and such diverted my attention.  Fortunately, I was notified of last
  night's chaos even as it was happening, and the description of the
  perpetrator struck a chord in my memory.  (he folds his arms)  It is
  in the best interests of myself, you people, this city, and our entire
  kingdom to see the elf stand trial, in public, for his crimes.
Lord Mayor Kordigan:  (clears his throat)  Er...I mean no disrespect,
  Your Excellency, but...well, we already _know_ that the elf is guilty
  of these crimes, and deserving of the death sentence.
Captain Rorgard:  (nods)  He's lived too long already.  If we're smart,
  we'll kill him immediately.  No pomp, no circumstance, no formalities.
  Just a sword to the throat, and his menace is ended forever.
Lord Mayor Kordigan:  Agreed.  What stands to be gained by showing the
  entire city what we already know?
Prince Creon:  (growing annoyed)  What stands to be gained, you ask?
  I'll tell you:  the confidence of the people, and our standing among
  them.  (he shakes his head)  Between the depressed economy and the
  pressures from Keoland, our kingdom's mood is cautious, somber, even
  touchy.  Small things have large repercussions.  People talk, and in
  time, act.  We need a public-relations coup, something to show them
  that their leaders are doing the right thing, and doing it well.  (he
  nods, more to himself than anyone else present)  It would go a long
  way if we gave the people an arch-villain...and then executed him, in
Lord Mayor Kordigan:  Hmmm.
Captain Rorgard:  (looks dubious)
Prince Creon:  What is it, Captain?
Captain Rorgard:  I just think we should kill the elf right now, with no
  delay.  He's too dangerous.
Prince Creon:  Possibly, but he's also imprisoned...completely helpless.
  (he turns to Tyros)  He _is_ imprisoned and helpless, right?
Tyros:  (nods)  He is, Your Excellency.  Rest assured, there is not one
  single magical item on his person, not even that false eye.  Nor is
  there a single spell remaining active upon him, or contingencies, or
  such.  (he frowns)  Not to mention that he's badly wounded from the
  battle last night, with no tending-to of wounds or food or drink.
High Wizard Beekus:  (frowns)  It's amazing, actually, that he's still
  alive.  (he glances at Tyros)  Especially considering how much magic
  was thrown at him.
Tyros:  (angrily)  He's not normal!  He's a demon or something!  He-
Prince Creon:  Enough.  I have made my decision, and it is the right
  decision.  My scribes have prepared an address to the people, which I
  shall deliver later today.  (he turns his head, eyeing the assembled
  leaders of his capital city)  After all, we want as many people there
  as possible.

  Hours later, a crowd of thousands was assembled at the steps of the
royal palace.  Their prince, flanked by dozens of guards and officials,
stepped forth to speak to them, his voice amplified by magical means
so that everyone could hear what he had to say.  Behind him, some large
object was shrouded beneath a large tarp.  The ruler surveyed the huge
crowd, pleased with the results of a hastily-assembled message which
had been conveyed by dozens of criers and messengers.  Whatever he chose
to say here today would be heard by more than enough of his subjects.

Prince Creon:  People of Monmurg, wards of the Sea you no
  doubt know, our great city came under attack last night.  Bold Tyros,
  one of our most upstanding magi, suffered an invasion of his home that
  led to a great battle in the streets of Monmurg.  Many of our brave
  guardsmen were slain, and there was much damage, but we have captured
  the villain responsible.  (he lets a murmur ripple through the crowd
  for a moment before continuing)  But wait!  We have identified this
  person as the foul evildoer responsible for the Westkeep uprising and
  riot, more than three years ago!

  The crowd went wild.  That notorious deed was legend in this land,
even moreso because the perpetrator had never been caught.  Now, here,
today, their ruler was telling them that not only had the one behind
the Westkeep incident returned to cause more destruction, but he'd then
been caught.  Apprehension grew quickly as the thousands of outraged
citizens eyed the tarp, wanting to see if the evildoer was beneath it.

Prince Creon:  Yes, this base villain has been captured after his insane
  murder spree last night...captured, tried, and sentenced!  Sentenced
  to death!

  With this verbal cue, guards yanked the large cloth tarp off of the
hidden object, giving the people of Monmurg what they wanted to see...

Belphanior:  Urk.

  The elf had been bound to a large, wooden X-shaped frame, which was
mounted on a platform.  This design was intentional, as it displayed the
prisoner while also rendering him helpless.  It was also quite painful,
though at this point Belphanior had a lot to feel painful about.  The
fact that his jailers had been ordered to keep him alive didn't prevent
them from knocking him around a bit.  Aside from the gaping eye-socket
where his enchanted crystal eye had once rested, Belphanior had a broken
nose, a split lip, some cracked teeth, and possibly a broken jaw.  His
remaining eye was blackened and almost swollen shut, and blood matted his
hair from numerous cuts on his face and scalp.  His body had also been
worked over with clubs, to the point where the cuts and bruises were
uncountable and he spit up blood every time he coughed, which was often.

Prince Creon:  (gestures to the prisoner while addressing the crowd
  again)  Here, then, is this evildoer who has caused so much terror in
  our lands...(he takes a parchment handed to him by an assistant)  Oh,
  yes...more than a hundred confirmed murders and attempted murders,
  multiple counts of arson, property damage, breaking and entering,
  conspiracy to free slaves and incite revolt, illegally fleeing the
  scene of a crime - twice!  (he eyes Belphanior, smirking)
Belphanior:  (spits blood at the prince, but the effort is pathetically
  weak)  Pfah.
Prince Creon:  Hah.
Belphanior:  (raises his head weakly)  Go...fuck...yourself.  (he glares
  at the other with as much hate as he can muster in his one swollen eye)
  You'd...better...make kill me...this time...(his head drops
  with the effort of even saying these few words)
Prince Creon:  (frowns, then turns back toward the crowd, looking quite
  pleased)  But rest assured, my people, that this criminal shall not
  live past the morrow.  (he stands there confidently, exulting in the
  growing cheers which justify his decision for this public display of
  justice)  Yes, that's right:  at noon tomorrow, right here, this vile
  wretch will be publicly executed!

  Deep within the roaring, jubilant crowd, two hooded figures stood there
listening to this announcement.

hooded figure #1:  (about four feet tall, he speaks in a gruff voice)
  Hell.  Now we have a deadline.
hooded figure #2:  (just over five feet tall, she speaks in a soft but
  powerful tone)  This won't be easy.
hooded figure #1:  Nothing worth doing ever is.

next:      execution day
released:  12/3/04
notes:     I originally had a paragraph here explaining some of the
  satirical content of this episode.  Then I deleted the explanation.
  Some things should just be figured out on their own.

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