Chapter #330

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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:        12/14/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                        +
+  Time:        early evening                                       +
+  Place:       the mountain town of Helgate                        +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+  "I don't get angry - I'm a professional."                        +
+                                      - Peck, from _Hard Target_   +

                     CCCXXX.  Faceoff

  The small lad dashed through the street, dodging carts, riders,
and pedestrians alike.  No one paid him much attention, for the boy
appeared no different from any other lad in Helgate.  However, he
_was_ different, for this was Eduardo, and despite his age, he knew
all sorts of things.  Right now, for example, he knew where the
infamous bandit Nerg was - valuable information that Otto would want
to know.
  Therein lay Eduardo's strength:  he had the patience to sit around
for long minutes, even hours, just to learn one scrap of information.
He had the intelligence to know when to act stupid, when to act smart,
even when to run away.  He had the cunning to know where to be, who
to listen to, and who to avoid.  All of these things, coupled with a
naturally curious mind, made Eduardo a useful lad indeed, to someone
who had the sense to use him.
  Belphanior and Otto had, and did.  In fact, Otto trusted Eduardo
more than most adults he knew, or had known.  He used the kid to help
gather intelligence, to find things out.  Most of these things would
have gone unnoticed by adults, who had their minds on other matters,
but young Eduardo tended to notice things that others didn't.  Otto
didn't know exactly how Eduardo learned and saw the things he did
(though he had an idea) but methods didn't matter as much as results.
Both Otto and Belphanior had a notion that Eduardo would make a very
good thief when he grew up.
  For now, though, he was merely an anonymous spy - but he possessed
a valuable bit of information, one which he had to get to Otto or
Belphanior as quickly as possible.  With that goal in mind, the lad
bolted through the swinging, wooden double doors of the Sword and Cup
tavern - and right into the leg of a huge bandit!

Eduardo:  Ungh!  (he bounces off of the man's thigh and hits the
  floor, dazed)
bandit:  Huh?  (he turns and looks down at the boy)  What the hell?
Eduardo:  (getting to his feet, he rubs his head)  Oops...
bandit:  (grabs the boy by the collar, hoisting him into the air)
  You spilled my drink, you little shit!
Eduardo:  So sorry, sir-
bandit:  Too late for that, punk!  Maybe I should boot you across
  the street.
voice:  Maybe you should put the kid down and stop causing trouble.
bandit:  Eh?  (he begins to turn around)

  The airborne form of the large man hurtled through the double doors
and landed with a WHOUMP in the street.  Snow and frozen chunks of
dirt sprayed everywhere as the man got to his feet.  A tall, lean
fellow strode out of the tavern, one hand resting casually on the
pommel of the longsword at his side.

bandit:  (pointing to the red armband he wears)  Fool!  Do you know
  what this means?
Belphanior:  (leaning against a post)  Yep.  It means that you're a
  stupid, deluded fool who thinks he can do whatever he wants.
bandit:  Heh.  (he grabs the axe at his belt, swinging it easily)
  You think so, eh?
Belphanior:  Yup.  (he eyes the flashing axe)  Ignoring the weapons
  laws, I see.
bandit:  Bah!  Laws like that don't apply to people like me.
Belphanior:  Not when you're dead.
bandit:  I don't think so.

  As they spoke, a second bandit had moved from the bar, and now
stalked toward the elf, a dagger clutched in one hand.

Belphanior:  (suddenly spins, catching the other's wrist with one
bandit#2:  Arrrrgh!  (he drops his dagger as Belphanior's grip
  crushes his wrist)
Belphanior:  (casually flings the man around, sending him sailing
  off the tavern's steps toward the first bandit)
bandit#1:  (catches his groaning companion before he can fall)  That
  elf thinks he runs this place, I guess.
Belphanior:  Actually, I do.
bandit#1:  Right.  Sure.
bandit#2:  Hey, man, he's pretty strong-
bandit#1:  Doesn't matter.  (he moves toward Belphanior, axe raised)
Belphanior:  (whips out his sword for the first time, smiling)  If
  this is how you want to play it...
bandit:  Quit talking and fight!  (he charges up the steps)

  The crowd that had gathered at the tavern's door backed up a bit
as the lumbering bandit attacked.  However, it was no accident that
Belphanior had quietly remained on the higher ground - the steps -
and now he used this to his advantage, easily dodging the foe's
clumsy swing.  By the time the bandit had realized his mistake, the
elf's sword-point had pierced his heart.

Belphanior:  Told you.
bandit#1:  (falls, dying, on the tavern steps)
bandit#2:  You killed him!  (he charges, another dagger in his hand)
Belphanior:  (sighs)

  With a mighty leap, the elf launched himself into the air; he came
down right in front of the second foe.  The man was surprised, though
he still managed to slash at the elf with his dagger.  This blow was
a shallow one, without much force, but it should have still ripped a
shallow gash across the elf's chest and slowed him down.  Instead,
Belphanior laughed, and his sword sliced the bandit's head cleanly
off his body.

Belphanior:  Ahh...(his sword pulses as the foe's body falls to the

  The elf's shirt was ripped where the dagger had hit, but there was
no wound.  The onlookers attributed this to foul sorcery, though in
actuality it was simple, quite neutral sorcery:  the stoneskin spell.
Whatever the case, a number of witnesses would later whisper that
Belphanior couldn't be harmed by weapons, and this rumor would serve
to reinforce his reputation.  Indeed, that was why the elf had let
the dagger hit him.

Belphanior:  (turns to face the crowd)  Let this be an example, and
  spread the word.  (he regards his captivated audience, and sheathes
  his sword)  Red armbands or not, no one runs rampant in Helgate!
crowd:  (nodding and whispering)
Belphanior:  (turns back to regard the gory remains of his brief but
  entertaining battle)  Someone fetch the coffin-maker.  I don't want
  that trash on the streets.  (he strides into the tavern)

  Taking a seat at a small, round table, Belphanior joined those who
were already seated there:  Jamaine (the town cobbler) and Ganzer (a
dwarven blacksmith.)  The trio was soon joined by young Eduardo, who
had recovered, as all young children seem to do.

Ganzer:  Damn good fight.  (he raises his glass)
Belphanior:  (looking around for a waitress and, thus, a drink)  A
  fellow's got to stay sharp...frequent practice.
Jamaine:  Those damn red-bands have been strutting around town like
  they own the place.  (he sneers at the very thought)  Dolts.
Belphanior:  Don't worry, that's all about to end.
Eduardo:  Sir, that's why I've been running around!  I know-
Belphanior:  (puts his fingers to his lips) need to let
  everyone in the tavern know.
Eduardo:  (speaking at a significantly lower volume)  Right, sorry.
  What I was going to say was that I-
Claudia:  (arrives with a serving tray)  What'll it be, swordsman?
Belphanior:  (smiles)  Really, Claudia, you overestimate me.  I'm
  no different from any other warrior who's killed five hundred foes.
Claudia:  (looks mildly shocked)
Ganzer:  (grins widely)
Jamaine:  (snorts)
Belphanior:  To answer the question, I'll have some of that Kettish
  stout that you've been serving of late.
Ganzer:  (looking deeply into his empty mug, as if it might hold the
  answer to some great question)  And more ale, too!
Claudia:  Coming right up.  (she wanders away)
Eduardo:  And a beer for me!
Claudia:  (over her shoulder)  You're too young to drink, kiddo.
Eduardo:  Darn.
Belphanior:  (smirks as he turns in his chair, taking a quick mental
  survey of the patrons in the tavern)
Ganzer:  (to Eduardo)  Don't sweat it, kid - you can have some of my
  drink when it gets here.
Belphanior:  (eyeing a dark-haired woman at the far end of the room) had news for me?
Eduardo:  Oh.  Yes...I found the one they call Nerg.
Belphanior:  (whirls about)  You did?  Why didn't you tell me?
Eduardo:  (shrugs)  Things kept happening, sir.
Belphanior:  Oh.
Jamaine:  Nerg, as in Nerg the leader of all these red-armbanded
Eduardo:  (nods happily)
Belphanior:  Maybe I should pay him a visit.  (to Eduardo)  So where
  is he?
Eduardo:  He's staying in The Pit.
Ganzer:  That roach-infested hole-in-the-ground?
Jamaine:  Crappiest inn in town, without a doubt.
Belphanior:  So I've heard.  (to Eduardo, again)  How many men are
  with him?
Eduardo:  I counted ten.  There may be up to three others staying
  there, but I couldn't tell for sure.  Some of them wore helmets,
  and they all look alike anyway.
Belphanior:  Good work, Eduardo.  (to Jamaine)  Think they'll get
  the point, once I've slain them all?
Jamaine:  Is this a trick question?
Claudia:  (brings the previously-ordered drinks, setting them down
  on the worn table)  Here you go.
Belphanior:  Thanks.  (he flips her a golden coin)
Claudia:  (executes a mock bow)
Ganzer:  Nice-looking chick.  (to Belphanior)  Ever thought about-
Belphanior:  No.  She's not my type.
Ganzer:  (sees the look in Belphanior's eyes)  Sorry, man.
Belphanior:  (drains half his mug in one gulp)  Whew!  (he wipes his
  eyes)  Those damn Kettites sure know how to brew strong stuff - it
  really clears your head!
Eduardo:  Why do you drink it, then?
Belphanior:  Kid, there's nothing I won't drink, or eat-

  Just then, there was a commotion at the front doors, as a group of
rough-looking, armed bandit-types made their entrance.  These dozen-
plus new arrivals were mostly humans, though a couple were dwarves or
elves and one was a half-orc.  Every one of them wore a crimson band
on his arm.

Belphanior:  (muttering under his breath)  I knew I should've taken
  this fight to their leader by now...where's Otto when I need him?
Ganzer:  I'm sure he's around here somewhere.
Jamaine:  I'm not.  He was saying something about going north to
  hire some help...
Belphanior:  Oh, yeah, that's right, he did.
Ganzer:  (eyeing the bandits uncomfortably)  Shit, there's a whole
  bunch of 'em.  And at least half have crossbows.
Eduardo:  (seems to disappear into his chair)

  The rough-looking warriors spread out into the tavern's main room,
casting menacing looks at patrons and employees alike.  In some cases
they did more than look...

bandit:  (grabs Claudia)  Hey, baby, wanna party?
Claudia:  Not with you.
bandit:  Too bad, 'cause we're here, and you're here, and-
Rexxus:  Sir, perhaps you seek the Witches' Tit, just down the street
other bandit:  Quiet, pops.  (he aims a loaded crossbow at the owner)
  We'll do what we want, where we want, got it?
Rexxus:  Ulp.
third bandit:  (lowers his own crossbow and grabs a bottle of wine
  off the bartop, pops the cork with his thumb, and guzzles the red
  liquid, spilling some of it on his face and shirt)  Urp!
fourth bandit:  (hooks a chair with his booted foot, pulling it over
  to him, and sits down)  Nice place.  Boys, I think we'll have a
  drink or ten here...our own little party!
fifth bandit:  Now _that's_ the spirit!  (he points a crooked finger
  at Rexxus)  You'd better get us something to drink, and I don't
  mean that donkey piss you usually serve!
sixth bandit:  We want _real_ piss!  (he begins laughing hysterically)
other bandits:  (join in the mirth)
Belphanior:  (still muttering quietly)  I kinda like these guys.  Too
  bad I'm going to have to kill them...
Jamaine:  I told you they were nothing but trouble.
Belphanior:  Fortunately, they have no idea who I am or what I can
  do - the element of surprise is ours.
Ganzer:  Maybe it's getting time to use it, then, eh?
Belphanior:  It'll be tough - there are a lot of civilians about, and
  a lot of loaded crossbows...
random bandit:  (eyes the table)  Hey, what the hell do you people
  have to talk about?
Ganzer:  (makes an idiotic face)  Nothin', pal.
other bandit:  It better be nothing.  We wouldn't want to have to
  toss you out that window, there.
third bandit:  Before we start our little party, we have some minor finding out who killed our two friends outside!
  (he smashes his heavy axe into a table, shattering it)

next:   a barfight with a twist
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  I saw _Broken Arrow_ - good film.  Travolta's really making
  a comeback.  Of course, he owes much of it to Mr. Tarantino.  And
  there's another person whose star is on the rise.  Anything he
  writes a script for seems to turn to gold:  _Reservoir Dogs_,
  _True Romance_, _Pulp Fiction_, _From Dusk Till Dawn_.  He was
  also involved in _Desperado_ which is another fine film.  I tell
  you, I've seen more good films in the last couple of years than
  in my entire previous lifetime.

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