Chapter #904

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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       +
+   1991-2006 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        +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level drow wizard                                 +
+   Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Parekh         18th level human female wizard                         +
+   Drak           14th level human barbarian warrior                     +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Pallin         17th level grey elven wizard of Celestian              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:          8/20/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes        +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "It's not necessary."                                                 +
+   "It is for me."                                                       +
+                                                - from _Death Wish 2_    +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





              CMIV.  The Beginning of the End of Monmurg





  The Monmurg Slavers' Council convened its weekly meeting, which took
place in a grand, well-furnished meeting hall within one of the capital
city's oldest buildings.  This three-story structure also happened to
be the working headquarters of the richest and most famous of Monmurg's
slavers, one Publius Gallus.  Of course, they were all rich, but of the
eleven people on the Commission, Publius was the richest, as well as
the oldest and the most powerful.  These people controlled not only
the slave trade in Monmurg, but influenced it in most of the Hold as
well.  Money and politics had ensured that the system worked this way
for many long years, and these men took great pains to keep things
running smoothly and just as they always had before.  This was one
reason for these once-a-week gatherings...to keep things under firm
control.  The slave trade had to be regulated, with certain attention
given to various aspects of the operation.  The sharing of information
and the making of decisions necessitated a regular meeting, and so here
they were on this fateful morning.
  Dozens of bodyguards waited outside the meeting hall, but they would
prove to be useless against today's danger...for it was to come from
within.  Several days ago, Belphanior had quietly and efficiently
captured one of the weaker of the eleven slave-lords and spirited him
away to a place where nobody would find him.  Through interrogation
and the use of magic, the elf had learned everything he needed to know:
the weekly meeting-place and procedures for getting there, the rules
about bodyguards, even the items on the agenda.  Of course, he'd also
learned all of the daily habits and mannerisms of the slaver.  These
efforts had a purpose; after Belphanior learned everything he needed to
know, he immediately executed the prisoner and used the hat of disguise
to assume the man's identity.
  For the last three days, Belphanior had posed as Tergard, tenth-most
powerful slaver in Monmurg and member of the Slavers' Commission.  He
had learned much, and quickly, and used what he learned to finalize
his master plan and its most critical date.  So it was that the other
ten slave-lords of Monmurg met their end this morning, while debating
the merits of an increase in taxation on imported slaves from other
lands.  None would ever know how it happened...did the elf perhaps
poison the drinking water in that room?  Or maybe he used a spell to
immobilize the others before slaying them?  Or perhaps he simply
unsheathed his dark blade and began dispatching them, one by one, as
the others cringed in terror?  It probably wasn't quite _that_ simple,
as some of the slave-lords of Monmurg were retired thieves or wizards.
Whatever the case, and however Belphanior dealt with them, the die was
irrevocably cast once the fiery explosion consumed the three floors of
Publius Gallus' headquarters, destroying it utterly.



  As planned (previously and in great detail) this explosion was the "go"
signal for all other aspects of the attack...all save one.  During the
night, the home of High Wizard Kordaak had been quietly infiltrated by
a very special, very lethal visitor.  Kordaak had taken over as Monmurg's
head mage after the recent death of High Wizard Beekus, and was now the
most powerful wizard in the capital city, and the temporary leader of the
other magi there.
  Unfortunately for High Wizard Kordaak, even his magical prowess and
defenses had not been enough to save him from the notoriously lethal
assassin Whisper.  Less than two weeks ago, Belphanior had contracted
that dark slayer to eliminate Monmurg's High Wizard on a particular day
and time (actually, before dawn on this day) and the assassin had done
the job.  Belphanior didn't think that this assassination would make a
critical difference in the battle to come; Kordaak hadn't been the only
wizard in the city, but he had been the most powerful, and in a key role
besides.  With him out of the way, confusion would reign a little more
supreme today.  The Guild of Wizardry in Monmurg had never been large
or particularly well-organized, and with the recent death of High Wizard
Beekus, only the ascent of new High Wizard Kordaak had held the Guild
together.  His slaying would add to the overall confusion in the hours
to come, and Belphanior knew that every little bit counted in today's
fight.
  By the time the inferno raged in Publius Gallus' headquarters, the
head of High Wizard Kordaak had been severed from his body.  Whisper
employed his usual methods to dispose of the body, ensuring that no
trace of it would ever be found.  Some legends held that the master
assassin used acid to melt his victims' corpses into nothingness, while
others claimed that he used an extradimensional portal to feed bodies
to some horrible monster.  Only Whisper knew for sure, in much the same
way as he was the only one who knew exactly how he'd gotten past the
magical defenses of the High Wizard.



  Across the city, Skektek and Ys had arrived, and now stood ready just
outside the city council building.  This squat, five-floor structure
housed virtually the entire city government of Monmurg, as well as those
parts of it that held sway over the overall Hold of the Sea Princes.  Its
front door - actually a large double set of iron gates - was a mere fifty
feet from the two invaders.

Skektek:  (sends a volley of magical missiles at the gates, knocking
  them open and causing all nearby people to begin screaming and running
  around)
Ys:  That wasn't a very powerful attack, certainly not what I would have
  expected-
Skektek:  (already working another spell)  That wasn't the attack, that
  was just a way to open the doors.  Remember to be ready for any city
  guards who come to deal with me.
Ys:  (eyeing several such individuals near the blasted gates, who are
  drawing swords and pointing in their direction)  No problem.  (he pops
  a clasp on his oversized cloak, preparing to cast it away once the
  fighting starts)
Skektek:  Alrighty then.  (he launches a small streak of flame through
  the open doorway)

  Moments later, the fireball reached maturity, exploding in a tremendous
blast that shook the city and sent miniature gouts of fire through dozens
of windows in the building.

Skektek:  Well, that ought to do it.
Ys:  Here they come.  (he hurls his cloak aside and draws his great
  sword)

  The very sight of the gigantic reptilian gave the city guards pause,
but only until a half-dozen others arrived to bolster their force.  Of
course, this delay gave Skektek the time to launch a bolt of lightning
at the entire group.

city guards:  (incinerated and/or blasted aside as the bolt arcs onward
  and destroys a small guard shack)
Skektek:  Yeah!
Ys:  (looks around)  We should get moving, to the designated meeting
  point.
Skektek:  In a second.  (he points his elemental conduit at the council
  building, which is aflame on the inside with smoke billowing from its
  lower floors)

  Another fireball shot up into the air, its path curving back downward
as it impacted the _roof_ of the council building, shattering the stone
from above and causing flames to spray throughout the top floor.

Skektek:  Now that's better.
Ys:  I hope there weren't too many innocent people in there.
Skektek:  Few in this city are innocent.
Ys:  I meant slaves.
Skektek:  We've been over this:  there's no way to liberate every slave
  in Monmurg without harming a single one.  (he points to some guards who
  are headed their way)  You're up.
Ys:  (lumbers toward the charging guards, sword ready)



  Meanwhile, at the city's shipyards, another invading force neared the
docks...

Elgon:  Damn, they must have two dozen war galleys.
Mongo:  Not for long.  (he hurls Stormcrest at the nearest berthed ship,
  hitting it right below the waterline and punching a hole in its hull)
Elgon:  (watching as the vessel immediately begins taking on water and
  listing to one side)  Wow.
Jenna:  What can we do to help?
Mongo:  Keep me covered...keep any attackers at bay, or at least warn
  me that they're coming.  (he throws his hammer again, holing another
  warship)  Belphanior was right, and Skektek was wrong.  This _is_ more
  effective than fireballs.
Elgon:  Faster, at any rate.



  From a place far away, several observers witnessed the various stages
of the attack...

Parekh:  So far, so good.
Neera:  Do you really think he'll pull it off?
Parekh:  I think he's got a better chance than anyone else who'll ever
  try something like this.
Pallin:  Which is why we aided him.
Drak:  (itching for some battle)  Too bad we can't help him some more...
Pallin:  We've done enough.
Parekh:  Speaking of which...



  Back in Monmurg, Belphanior, Otto, and Razor Charlie had reached the
next stop on their planned path:  the temple district.  While there was
no single section of Monmurg that contained all deities' temples, it
just so happened that most of them could be found in one general area.
Here there were temples of various gods and goddesses...Procan, Hextor,
Erythnul, Kurell, Ralishaz, Xerbo...each temple worshipped by its share
of different residents in the capital city, and each temple situated
fairly close to the others.

Belphanior:  How convenient.  (he arranges a braided black cord into a
  rough circle)
Otto:  (keeping watch, as they are standing in an alleyway that opens
  onto a major street)  Hurry.
Razor Charlie:  (knives in hand, he grimaces at the series of temples)
Belphanior:  Done.  (he speaks an arcane command word, then steps back
  as the loop of cord glows, the space within it shimmering)

  Moments later, golems began emerging from the gateway...three huge
constructs of stone, and two of iron.  Each was almost ten feet tall
and was capable of leveling a building while ignoring swords and arrows
from its defenders.  Five of them, working in concert, represented a
force capable of defeating an army.

wispy thing:  (flying in circles around an iron golem's head)  spaaa!
Belphanior:  (holding the control-rod for the golems, found in the same
  gateway)  Okay.  (he addresses the five constructs)  Your orders are
  simple:  destroy this entire city block.  Ignore all people, unless
  they stand in your way; knock down as many buildings as you can,
  without being buried in rubble.  When it is done, march that way...
  (he points northward)...until you reach that large spired building,
  the city armory.  Then, stop and wait there.

  Without hesitation, the quintet of golems began lumbering toward the
temples.  Belphanior and Otto closed the portable gateway and sprinted
toward their next destination.  These key targets, and the fastest ways
to get from one to another, had been studied and memorized by the pair
over the course of the last week.  Before long, they had reached the
city guardhouse, which was the primary concentration of city guardsmen
not on duty elsewhere.  While Otto readied the portable teleportation
gateway, Belphanior launched a fireball at the building, just to add
more panic to the city's situation.  By the time guards started to
emerge from the damaged, partially-burning building, three more stone
golems were headed that way, with orders to level the entire place.
  This left Belphanior and Otto with one iron golem, which came along
with them to their next destination:  the city's slave pens.  These
were actually a series of underground chambers and passages, beneath
a sprawling auction building.  This was the entry and storage point
for the vast majority of the slaves in Monmurg.  All slaves captured
and taken from the Amedio Jungle, for example, spent a week or two here
before their sale at auction.  In addition, there were other slaves,
those from this country or others who had fallen upon misfortune and
ended up in the Hold of the Sea Princes.
  Belphanior had been concerned that his other targets would require
too much time, delaying his arrival and effectiveness at this one...
but he needn't have worried...for Alindyar and Lyra had already arrived
at the auction building and begun the work.

Razor Charlie:  (frowns)  Huh.
Otto:  Looks like they're ahead of schedule.
Belphanior:  It almost looks like they don't need us.

  Alindyar was on the ground, working his magic on the building before
him, while Lyra hovered in the air, covering him.  The roof of the
auction house had been peeled off, as if by some giant, and cast aside.
The exterior walls had then been pulled away, and their remains littered
the ground on all four sides of the building.  Alindyar was now occupied
with dismantling the interior, taking the place apart wall by wall and
brick by brick with powerful magic that warped reality and moved vast
quantities of stone like a child might play with clay.  Lyra used magic
missiles (and occasionally, a bolt of lightning) from the air, keeping
guards or foes away from her mate.

Belphanior:  Come on, let's get over there and help.  He's just about
  exposed the floor beneath, which means we can go in and free all the
  slaves down there.  (he turns to the iron golem)  Come with us, and
  attack anybody who attacks me or Otto.

  With that, they headed toward Alindyar and the slave pens beneath...
for there were untold captives down there who would see freedom this
day.





next:       some resistance
gateways:   http://www.peldor.com/misc/gateways.php?chapter=904
ftp:        ftp.peldor.com
www:        http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:   http://www.peldor.com/
email:      tmiller@peldor.com
released:   1/27/06
notes:      There were a lot of guest-stars who could have appeared in
  this arc, most notably the Misadventurers (Peyton Farquhar, Adolphus
  Delphi, et al) but I had to keep it from getting too complicated...
  not to mention that Belphanior doesn't know the Misadventurers well
  enough to trust them, and wouldn't bring untrusted people into this
  particular plan.
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