Chapter #329

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic II      +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1991-6 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons   +
+  or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  +
+  Copying and/or distribution of these tales is permissible only   +
+  under the sole condition that no part of them will be used or    +
+  sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them...         +
+                                                                   +
+                                  Thomas Miller                    +
+                          +
+  THE PARTY (or a current splinter of it, anyway):                 +
+                                                                   +
+  Belphanior   14th/14th/14th lvl elven fighter/mage/thief  (CN/E) +
+  Otto         7th/8th level dwarven fighter/thief            (CN) +
+  Date:        12/13/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                        +
+  Time:        late evening                                        +
+  Place:       the mountain town of Helgate                        +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+  "You look as though this place suits you very well...but if      +
+   you go on like this, you will soon be here permanently."        +
+                         - from _The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly_  +

                   CCCXXIX.  Dark Thoughts

  Within his castle atop Helgate, Belphanior busies himself exploring
the oddities of magic...

Belphanior:  (pours some blood over a brazier full of smoldering,
  red-hot coals)  Now for the dust...(he takes a pinch of yellow
  powder from a tube and sprinkles it over the steaming coals)  Time
  to see if that-

  There was a flash and a bang, and the brazier was gone!

Belphanior:  Well, fuck worked!  (he looks around)  Hmm.
  (he looks up)  Oh.

  Actually, the small metal container was on the ceiling - more
correctly, imbedded _in_ the ceiling.  The force of the blast had
blown the brazier into the grey stone, hard enough to keep it in
place there.  The metal frame of the thing was twisted and bent,
a testament to the power of the forces that had affected it.

Belphanior:  Damn.  The thing should have been destroyed.  (for the
  first time, he notices that shards of metal and stone are lodged
  in his body)  Ow.

  Turning to a nearby worktable, the elf pondered for a moment, then
selected a small pair of tongs.  Barely grimacing, he began to pull
the shrapnel from his body.  Blood soon dripped to the floor, but he
wasn't concerned about the wounds, for they would heal.  By morning,
they would only be scars, joining the dozens that were scattered
about Belphanior's tall, lean body.
  Mentally declaring the experiment a success - after all, the spell
only needed a bit of fine-tuning - Belphanior turned his attention
back to the great, hide-bound tome that had once been Kronos'.  No
matter how often he studied the thing, the elf never ceased to be
amazed by the secrets within.  New spells, old spells, new variants
on old spells - the book had them all, and more besides.  In fact, a
number of the issues and formulae discussed within the tome were
beyond Belphanior's comprehension; he almost wanted to seek help by
taking the thing to Alindyar.  Almost.
  No, whatever its depth, the knowledge in Kronos' tome was his and
his alone to decipher.  Belphanior had plenty of time to study its
mysteries, and he was confident that the answers would come to him
eventually.  If, that was, he had enough spare time to hunt for them.
Running Helgate was no trivial task, and there were also several
miscellaneous unsolved matters that disturbed him.  For one thing,
Otto's account of being whisked to Greyhawk to join the rescue party
six months ago disturbed Belphanior.  It meant that someone - most
likely one of the Circle of Eight - had been able to magically find
and move Otto, independent of the dwarf's knowledge or consent.
That in turn meant that the responsible party knew where Helgate
was, and _that_ in turn meant that Belphanior would always have to
look out for Greyhawk law enforcement officials.
  Or did it?  The elf was fairly certain that most or all of the
Circle knew that he had helped save the city once.  Wizards were
smarter than guardsmen and officials when it came to things like
this, and it was entirely possible that Belphanior had one or more
quiet allies in the great city.  Oh well, he mused to himself - no
sense worrying about it now; there wasn't anything he could do to
further hide himself.  Not yet, anyway.
  Another issue of concern centered around the strange artifacts
and relics Belphanior had recovered from the Earth trip, several
years ago.  He had deciphered the secrets and mechanisms of a few
of the damned things, but the majority of the items still remained
mysteries.  Again, time would probably see this "problem" solve
itself, but still, the elf felt as if he was sitting atop a cache
of mighty weapons - and not making use of them.  Any fool knew that
weapons were meant to be used...
  Belphanior was also in the process of determining the best way to
stock his castle with guards.  After all, every such home needed a
force to handle security.  To be sure, the idea that wizards relied
exclusively on magical wards and guardians was more of an urban
legend than a reality.  Only the most reclusive - or least human -
wizards didn't keep other people around, to guard and defend their
lairs.  Least human or least elven, Belphanior corrected himself
silently.  In any case, this was another thing he'd have to look
into; in truth, he actually preferred to have other people around.
Some who thought they knew him well wouldn't have believed this, but
the truth was the truth.
  Shutting the tome, the elf stood and stretched, and then decided
to go into town first thing in the morning.  He had heard talk of a
band of brigands that had recently arrived in Helgate, and it had
been more than a week since Blackrazor had feasted.  That was yet
another thing that had Belphanior concerned - after about two weeks
without drinking, the dark sword began to exhibit certain unusual
properties.  The last time this had happened, Belphanior ended up
in a swordfight which he hadn't chosen.  The three dead goons whom
he had slain didn't particularly bother him, but the fact that the
sword had tried to impose its own will upon his did bother him.
Blackrazor had its own needs, and they involved a fairly steady
supply of dead foes.  Or innocents, even.  In a place like Helgate,
though, there were only so many of the former...and then Belphanior
might well find himself preying on random innocents.  While he was
no paladin - far from it! - the elf took great pride in his own
personal code of ethics.  People who weren't asking for it didn't
get it, and that was that.  No sword, or other item, was going to
persuade Belphanior otherwise.
  Of course, this entire problem could be shelved for a time, since
the gold rush had brought a fresh crop of ne'er-do-wells to Helgate.
With that thought, Belphanior grabbed his swordbelt (he was never
found without it) and trotted wearily to his bedchambers.  Despite
his troubled thoughts, the elf was asleep within mere moments.

  Nearby, the dark sword pulsed within its sheath, for it had been
almost too long since Blackrazor had fed.  The consciousness that
resided within the weapon was content to wait, though, for it knew
most of the things that its master knew.  Besides, it had never
before had an owner whose will was as strong as this elf's.  Had
the sword somehow been given a choice of masters, it wouldn't have
settled for any other.  In the years that Belphanior had wielded
it, Blackrazor had slain an incredible number of sentients; somehow
the elf attracted violence to himself, almost like a gift - or a
curse.  Whichever it was, the dark blade didn't care, for it fed
off of that violence, and waxed in the power that resulted from
Belphanior's plentiful battles.  Blackrazor was better off now than
ever before, and it fully intended to do whatever was necessary to
keep things that way.
  In its own bizarre, incomprehensible way, the black blade slept,

next:   Belphanior goes to town and enforces his own laws
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  After more than a week of slackness (chiefly due to cold
  weather and a hectic work schedule) I've managed to actually sit
  down and write some episodes.  Hmm...someone recently asked me
  if I was sick of writing, and telling these stories.  Though I'm
  tired, and fast becoming overworked, I still have a lot of tales
  to tell.  Try as I might to turn all of my ideas into stories,
  I can't - new ideas just materialize in my head.  Before the big
  plotline was being wrapped up in #325, I had no idea what to do
  with any of the characters afterwards.  Now, though, a number of
  ideas have popped into my head (some were put there by you, the
  readers) and I've got a rough idea of what will happen, through
  #350 at least.
    I will say this, though:  that "Epic III" which I mention from
  time to time has to begin at some point.  The question is, where
  and when?  Should a human character be 30 to have reached "middle
  age" - or 40?  Or 50?  And what about those who don't age at the
  same rates?  Tough questions, right?  I think I'll start Epic III
  about the time the Greyhawk Wars begin, which is roughly C.Y. 582,
  which is six game years from now.  To put it another way, even
  after everything the Adventurers have done, won, slain, and beaten,
  they're only chronologically halfway to the beginning of the Wars!
    These things worry me.  Let's see, Epic I was 143 episodes long,
  and Epic II has been 186 so far, and could easily take another 186
  (or even 329) to chronicle...
    What to do?  Good question.  I may skip some years, putting them
  in the background, and advance the adventurers by several years.
  Or, if I continue to have/get ideas, I may just keep at it and let
  the years chronicle themselves.

    In other news, guess what time it is again?  Yep, it's Mardi
   Gras time!  This Friday (Feb. 16th) a band of merry fellows will
  be heading to New Orleans for fine food, finer drink, and still
  finer female companionship.  This year's crew includes Peldor,
  Ged, and Rillen's players, plus a carefully selected assortment
  of ne'er-do-wells.  We will have a blast, I'm sure.

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