Chapter #925

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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       +
+   1991-2006 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                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+   Date:          9/6/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          evening                                                +
+   Place:         the city of Stoink, capital of the Bandit Kingdoms     +
+   Climate:       moderate                                               +
+   "They fight the system...any system."                                 +
+                   - from _The Dukes of Hazzard_ pilot episode, 1979     +

                   CMXXV.  Mission of Mercy

  Belphanior's nice, quiet mission has abruptly turned loud and violent...

Skektek:  (nearly jumps out of his boots as the explosion from the
  adjacent building showers the street in burning rubble)  Holy shit!
Otto:  Okay, we rehearsed this.  Let's move, people - you know the plan.

  The plan was simple; there were three teams.  Skektek and Otto headed
for the building's roof, the former flying and carrying the latter.  Ys,
Razor Charlie, and Jenna headed straight for the newly-blasted hole in
the building's outside wall, facing east.  Mongo and Elgon headed for the
building's main door, which was on its southern face, around the corner
from the damaged side.  The first team's purpose was to take up a high
defensive position on the rooftop, while the second and third teams had
a more direct purpose.  Although they were heading into the building via
two different routes, both of the teams were on the same basic mission:
to eliminate all opposition while Belphanior found and took what he had
come here for.

Belphanior:  (inside the building, he scans the room whose wall he just
surviving guard:  (trying to get to his feet, which is proving difficult
  due to his shattered right leg)  Urgh...
Belphanior:  (grabs the man by the collar, lifting him one-handed, off
  the rubble-strewn floor)  Where's the prisoner?
surviving guard:  (wincing in pain)  Prisoner?
Belphanior:  Tell me, or I'll break your other leg.

  The guard whispered something, quickly and fearfully; Belphanior
tossed the man aside, and he hit an interior wall hard, sliding to the

Belphanior:  (whirls as Ys, Charlie, and Jenna step through the gaping
  hold in the outer wall)  Glad you could make it.
Ys:  I assume from this...destruction that the covert plan didn't work
Belphanior:  No, it didn't.  Now we use brute force.  (he heads toward
  a door)  We're going down to the basement, this way.
Razor Charlie:  (notices the wounded guard trying to load a crossbow)
  You left one alive.  (he dispatches the man with a thrown knife)
Belphanior:  So I did.  I must be getting rusty.
Jenna:  We'd better hurry.
Belphanior:  (kicks the door open)  Right.  We don't have time to waste
  on every single person who gets in our way.

  Meanwhile, at the front door on the old building's southern side, two
others had come knocking...

Mongo:  (beats on the thick, iron-banded door with one armored fist)

  A slit opened, five feet above the street level, and a pair of eyes
looked out at the dwarf and Elgon.

sentry:  What the hell do you want?
Mongo:  We need to come through this door.
sentry:  No one gets in, especially right now.  Go away.  (he slams the
  slit's cover closed)
Mongo:  (to Elgon)  Heh.
Elgon:  I don't think he got it.
Mongo:  That's for sure.  (be takes a few paces away from the massive
  door)  You might want to step back a bit.

  Moments later, the thick iron-banded door - along with its hinges and
some chunks of stone - exploded inward, propelled by Stormcrest and all
the power its thrower could muster.  In Mongo's case, this was quite a

Mongo:  (catches his hammer and strolls into the building)
Elgon:  (points to a pair of feet sticking out from the shattered door,
  which now rests twenty feet into the entry room, against a back wall)
Mongo:  He should have opened the door.

  Rapid footsteps announced the arrival of more guards; four armed men
burst into the entry room, facing the intruders.

guard #1:  You there!  Stop-  (he looks around)  What the hell...?
Mongo:  (shrugs)  What can I say?  I did knock.
guard #2:  Get them!  (they all charge)
Mongo:  (steps toward the men)

  The dwarf didn't even waste time throwing his hammer; his immense
strength was more than enough to deal with these guards.  A casual swing
of Stormcrest knocked one attacker away, while a backhand sent another
crashing into a wall.  The third landed a sword-blow on Mongo's armor,
the steel snapping against the powerfully-enchanted breastplate.

Mongo:  Ow.  (he punches the foe, sending him flying back into the last
  of the four and causing both to go down in a heap of broken bones and
  smashed flesh)  Let's go see what else is going on in here.
Elgon:  Uh...right.  (he follows the dwarf, wondering if he'll even have
  to use any magic tonight)

  As the two teams of adventurers moved through the ground floor of the
building, confronting and defeating anyone who got in their way, those
on the roof did their share as well...

Otto:  (points)  Here come some troops...looks like city guards.
Skektek:  Southwest corner, got 'em.

  Skektek's job was to keep his allies in this building from being
overwhelmed by large numbers of foes, but Belphanior had stressed to
him that there was no need to execute men who were just doing their
jobs and responding to a crisis.  Accordingly, Skektek launched his
first lightning bolt not at the guards themselves, but rather at the
abandoned building across the street.  The blast shook the structure,
the electricity lighting up a number of its windows.

Otto:  (smiles as he watches the guards in the street stop their march
  and mill about in confusion)  That should delay them for a while.
Skektek:  Let's distract them some more.  (he sends a fireball high up
  into the air and off to the south, where it explodes far above the
  city in a massive burst of flames)

  Within the building below, Belphanior and the others had dispatched
another small group of guards, and now faced a small, locked iron door.

Belphanior:  I could pick it, but that would take too long...perhaps a
  spell of knocking-
Ys:  Allow me.  (he grabs the door by the handle and pulls)

  The reptilian had the sheer strength to rip the door from its hinges,
but unfortunately, the handle was the weak link...

Ys:  (falls backward, the broken door handle grasped in his hands)  How
Belphanior:  Heh.  (he works a quick spell, and the door pops open)
  Aha.  (he leans down to move through the small doorway)
Razor Charlie:  (looks around at the five corpses in the main room)
  Won't be long before more of them show up.
Jenna:  Hopefully Belphanior will hurry, then.
Ys:  We should follow him, for backup.
Belphanior:  No need.  (he emerges from the doorway, pulling a sleepy-
  looking man after him)  All that's behind the door is a cell, and this
  guy was its occupant.
wispy thing:  (hovers near the man's face)  pffft?
prisoner:  Huh?
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the confused man)
prisoner:  Is this a rescue?
Belphanior:  It certainly is.
Ys:  (to Belphanior)  So we're leaving?
Belphanior:  Yep.  (he winces as he hears crashing sounds from somewhere
  nearby)  Mongo must be in here too.

  Before long, the two parties found each other and regrouped...

Mongo:  Is that who we came here for?
Belphanior:  (nods)  Everyone, meet Sarek.
Sarek: do you know who I am?
Belphanior:  To be honest, a vam-  (he shakes his head)  Never mind.
  Trust me, you'd never believe me if I told you.
Sarek:  (wonders if he's dreaming)
Elgon:  (to Belphanior)  He doesn't look like a fighting type.  We'd
  better do something to protect him.
Belphanior:  Agreed.  (he begins working a spell)
guards:  (two of them, they step into the adventurers' path)  Hold it-
Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest at the ceiling above the men, collapsing some
  rubble on them)

  The dwarf's attack was too much; the entire corridor collapsed, neatly
cutting off their intended exit.

Mongo:  Shit.
Elgon:  Nice going.
Mongo:  (angrily)  It's not my fault if I don't know my own strength.  (he
  catches his hammer as it returns)
Sarek:  (bewildered by all of this)
Belphanior:  (completes his spell, and touches Sarek)
Sarek:  (feels a slight tingle)  Whoa!  What?!?
Belphanior:  Stoneskin, to protect you from harm.  I'd hate to have come
  all this way, and done all this, only to have you slain by a stray
  arrow or something.
Sarek:  Err...right.
Jenna:  That's smart thinking.
Belphanior:  That's one difference between me now and in my youth:  these
  days, I plan ahead.
Razor Charlie:  (glaring at the collapsed hallway)  Did you plan another
  way out of here?
Belphanior:  Not directly, but I bet Mongo can help us out with that.
Mongo:  (smirks)

  On the roof, Skektek and Otto  heard - and felt - an impact from within
the building...and then another, and another.  The third of these caused
a new section of the eastern wall to explode outward, showering the nearby
street with bricks and dust.

Otto:  What the hell?  (he peers over that edge of the roof, and spots
  Mongo on the street below, dusting himself off)  Well, I'll be...
Skektek:  What's going on?  Are they out?
Otto:  They're out.  Time to go.
Skektek:  Right.  (he stashes his wand and grabs the dwarf, and they fly
  down to join the others)

  Once the group was all together again, Belphanior gathered them close
and began the casting of his teleportation spell.  The others stood in a
circle, half-expecting some battalion of troops to come charging toward
them at the last instant...but it didn't happen.  Apparently Skektek's
distractions had done their job, masking the less apparent attack on the
building with the cell, whose occupant had joined their group.

Sarek:  I wish I knew what was going on.
Skektek:  (working a spell)  Waste of a good spell, if you ask me.
  (he finishes the spell)
Sarek:  What's-  (he falls asleep standing)  Zzzz.
Ys:  (catches the man as he falls)  Pleasant dreams.
Jenna:  Why?
Belphanior:  Because we can't have him telling people about our skyship,
  and how we get to and from it.  (he finishes his spell)  Here we go.

  A moment later, they all stood on the deck of the skyship, far above.

Belphanior:  Outstanding.  (he glances at the unconscious Sarek)
Elgon:  Who is this man, exactly?
Belphanior:  His name's Sarek.  He's the brother of Sental Nurev, the
  Captain-General of the Watch in the city of Greyhawk.  Sarek here has
  a wife and three children, who along with his brother have been worried
  sick about him for the past two-plus years.  He was kidnapped, you see,
  by agents of the Bandit Kingdoms.  He's been held hostage here all that
Elgon: that they could milk secrets out of Sental, in Greyhawk!
Belphanior:  Very good.  Almost no one knows of this - just a few agents
  in Stoink, plus a single one in Greyhawk itself.  Most of those who
  were guarding him didn't even know who he was.  That's the way it has
  to be in situations like this.
Ys:  But if no one knew about him...then how did you know?
Otto:  Drusilla's journal.  It's full of stuff like this.
Belphanior:  (smiles)  Which enables me to right some wrongs, as well as
  gain another ally within Greyhawk.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at the unconscious Sarek)
Ys:  You intend to simply return this fellow to his brother?
Belphanior:  That, plus the head of Skandar Gundersson, the Bandit
  Kingdoms' agent in Greyhawk.  Those two things should build me - all of
  us - some goodwill there, at long last.

next:       a new mission
released:   6/23/06
notes:      Sometimes I worry that episodes like this, while containing
  a decent amount of battle and banter, don't live up to the expectations
  generated from other big battle episodes.  Please try to remember that
  my goal isn't to outdo myself with a bigger and better episode every
  single time; my goal is simply to entertain the reader.  Not every big
  fight will be on par with big fights of the past.
    Anyway, I wanted to wrap up this loose end, which really appeared in
  the last 2nd edition Greyhawk supplement (the City of Greyhawk boxed
  set.)  When I was deciding the contents of Drusilla's journal, more
  than a hundred episodes ago, I knew that this would be one of them.

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