Chapter #443

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    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                    +
+                           +
+  Peldor       20th level human thief                          (N) +
+    Tanya       5th/11th level female human fighter/thief      (N) +
+  Date:        5/4/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       the plains just outside of Hardby                   +
+  Climate:     mild                                                +
+  "You don't have to like it - you just have to do it."            +
+                                               - Richard Marcinko  +

                CDXLIII.  Reluctant Volunteers

  Peldor and Tanya have been strong-armed into undertaking a quest
for that powerful yet deplorable wizardess, the Despotrix of Hardby.
They have just left the city, along with a half-dozen of the ruler's
finest guards...

Deborah:  (flings a rock from her saddle, hitting a nearby bush)  I
  can't _believe_ she made me go with you two!
Peldor:  (grins cannily)  Oh, come now - aren't you ever-eager to
  serve your mistress?
Deborah:  Shut up.
Peldor:  Or what?  You'll kill me?  Run me through with your sword,
  maybe?  (he looks to the sky)  I think not...
Deborah:  (fuming, she spurs her horse ahead, to the lead position
  within the group)
Tanya:  (to Peldor)  Was that really necessary?
Peldor:  Absolutely.  The angrier she gets, the more careless she'll
  get.  We'll need that when we make our escape.  (he doesn't bother
  to add on the 'plus, she's a bitch' part)
Tanya:  Ah.  I was wondering about that.
Peldor:  Wonder no more, m'dear.
Tanya:  I figured maybe it was because you had your knife to her
  throat the other day.
Peldor:  That too.  (he smiles)  Don't worry.  As soon as an opportune
  moment comes along, we're outta here.

  Their course would take them northwest at first, between the Wild
Coast and Furyondy.  After that, they would turn due west, passing
through Furyondy and Veluna before entering Bissel.  From that far
western kingdom, they would then turn northward, passing through the
formidable mountains to the north and south, and enter Ket.

Peldor:  (scanning the fine maps given to them by the Despotrix)  And
  then we're only halfway there.
Tanya:  Hmm, I haven't heard much of the lands beyond Ket.
Peldor:  Wild places...wide plains, roamed by hooded nomads who move
  for weeks, then camp for more weeks...arid climes, dry air, thirsty
  days...strange yet potent wines, and dancing girls...weird weapons
  of rope and iron, and odd mounts that are far sturdier than horses...
Tanya:  How do you know all that?
Peldor:  (snaps out of it)  Eh?
Tanya:  (makes a face as Deborah rides up to them once more)  Never
Deborah:  (glares at them both)
Tanya:  Is there something we can do for you?
Deborah:  (wordlessly drops her horse back, joining those guardswomen
  who accompany the pack horses, at the tail end of the small band)
Peldor:  Guess not.

  They rode for most of the day, stopping only for a lunchtime meal
and rest.  The mounts that the Despotrix had provided seemed in the
best of health and spirits; for all they knew, the animals had been

Deborah:  Quite possibly.  The Mistress' power is great
  I'm sure you know.
Peldor:  Everyone has a weak point.
Deborah:  Not the Despotrix.
Tanya:  We'll see...(to Deborah)  Do they raise you women to be she-
  warriors from birth?
Deborah:  What?
Tanya:  Your loyalty seems steadfast; I was wondering how a ruler can
  inspire such morale and devotion.
Peldor:  (to Tanya)  Maybe she doesn't think we'd understand.
Deborah:  Feh!  Of course you wouldn't, but I'll explain it to you
  anyway, and I'll even use small words so you'll be sure to understand.
Peldor:  Don't revert to your natural mode of speech on _my_ account.
  (he reins his horse in and drops back, not wishing to listen to the
Tanya:  Hmm.
Deborah:  (looking Tanya up and down)  It's too bad you're in cahoots
  with such a knave.  We could use one like you...
Tanya:  No thanks, I've got a life.
Deborah:  And a cause?
Tanya:  My causes are my own, and they vary at my whim.
Deborah:  Hmph.  (obviously feeling scorned, she rides forward to talk
  with her guardswomen)
Tanya:  Good riddance.

  By nightfall, they had reached the junction of the Selintan and Neen
rivers, and here they set up camp.  Among the provided equipment were
a number of two-man (or woman) tents; Peldor and Tanya set one of these
up for themselves.

Deborah:  (watching with interest as the couple erect the tent, in
  a most un-military, though effective manner)  Not a bad job...for
Tanya:  (shrugs)  Who knows, we might want some privacy later.
Peldor:  (smirks)
Tanya:  It must be tough on the open man around to share
  one's bed with...(she frowns sadly)
Deborah:  (turns away angrily, stomping off into the night)
Peldor:  Don't you feel sorry for her?
Tanya:  (shakes her head)
Peldor:  Not one little bit?
Tanya:  (shakes her head)
Peldor:  Hmm.  Oh well...I want to try something.
Tanya:  (looks mildly amused)  Already?
Peldor:  (grins)  You sure do have a dirty mind.
Tanya:  (shrugs)  I am what I am.

  The Despotrix had given them several magical items to assist them
on their journey; Peldor now produced one of these, a six-inch wide
ball of opaque crystal.

Peldor:  She said we could contact her using this...
Tanya:  Should we?
Peldor:  Why not?  (he shakes the ball)  Heck, it's not working.
Tanya:  Just grasp the thing, and concentrate, like she said.
Peldor:  I'm trying-  whoa!

  The small globe was now illuminated from within, its smooth curves
shining with a bright, translucent glow.

Despotrix-image:  (flickering over the sphere of glass, she appears
  to be rather perturbed)  What is it?
Peldor:  Oh, nothing, just testing the equipment.
Tanya:  We didn't interrupt anything, did we?
Despotrix-image:  Where is Deborah?
Tanya:  (looks away to one side)  She's around, somewhere.
Despotrix-image:  (irritated)  Do not summon me unless you have
  something of note to report.  I am far too busy for such trivial
Peldor:  So sorry.  (he considers smashing the crystal ball into tiny
  fragments)  Won't happen again, I promise.
Tanya:  (glares at the flickering image)
Despotrix-image:  Oh, one more thing:  doubtless, you are planning your
  escape even now...perhaps thinking of sneaking away into the night,
  never to return.  (she smiles thinly)  That would be an exercise in
  futility.  I have placed an enchantment upon you two; any attempt
  to deviate from your mission will cause weakness...cramping...and
  eventually unconsciousness.
Tanya:  (grits her teeth)  You lying bitch!  I'll-
Despotrix-image:  Lying?  I think not - I never said I wouldn't keep
  you on your proper course of action.
Peldor:  (sighs)
Despotrix-image:  Now, good night, and sleep tight.  (her image dies
  out, and the crystal ball goes dark)
Tanya:  How I loathe that woman...
Peldor:  (massages her neck and shoulders)  Don't worry, babe.  We're
  still going to turn this to our advantage.
Tanya:  Mmm...I think you already are...

  Later, much later, things were quiet in the camp.  Deborah kept
two guards posted at all times, each pair taking a shift during the
night.  Hers was the third shift, and she didn't complain; after all,
her job was to protect and assist Peldor and Tanya.  Such were her
Mistress' orders, and Deborah took her duty very seriously indeed.
If the Despotrix wanted these two adventurers to reach Zeif safe and
sound, then they would.  That was just the way it was.

next:      their escorts are really put to the test
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Q&A time:

  Q:  What kind of wand did the Despotrix use on Peldor and Tanya?
  A:  It was a wand similar to, but not the same as, a wand of
      paralyzation.  It causes unconsciousness.

  Q:  What level is the Despotrix?
  A:  High enough to cast 7th level mage spells, at least.

  Q:  Why'd you kill Reuben?
  A:  These days, I've got enough supporting characters to flesh
      out as it is.  Reuben was intended to be just interesting
      enough to make readers flinch when he met his end.  If it
      makes you feel any better, though, it hasn't been proven
      that Reuben and Moxley were executed.  They could, for all
      we know, be serving life sentences in the Despotrix' mines...

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