Chapter #573

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                                +   +
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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 1991-8 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                    +
+                           +
+  Belphanior   (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief      (CN) +
+    Otto         8th/10th level dwarven fighter/thief         (CN) +
+    Aja          9th level human priestess of Wee Jas          (N) +
+    Jutokai      7th level human archer                       (LN) +
+    Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                    (CN) +
+    Skektek       12th level human wizard                     (CN) +
+    Ys          13th level reptilian fighter                  (LN) +
+  Date:        1/8/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        dawn                                                +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+  "I am not aware of any such operation or mission."               +
+                                         - from _Apocalypse Now_   +

                    DLXXIII.  Infiltration

  Belphanior was troubled as he walked through Helgate's streets,
which were just now brightening due to the coming of the sun's rays.
He was trying to concentrate on the trip he was about to take, but
the discussion he'd had with Victoria a short while ago was wearing
heavily on him.

Belphanior:  (kicks a loose stone)  Dammit.

  The problem, of course, was simple:  he and Victoria didn't have
a normal relationship at all.  There was really no way they could,
given her vampiric nature and his roving ways.  The elf wasn't one
to dwell on such things, as he wasn't one to let a woman interfere
in his life.  Still, Victoria was as close to the ideal woman as
Belphanior ever figured he'd find, and he wanted her to remain in
Helgate.  He resolved to find a way to solve the problem - just as
soon as he got back from this mission.
  She had seemed unhappy to always be left out of the action, but
there didn't seem to be many alternatives.  Belphanior had pointed
out that they could always take her coffin - with her in it - and
put it in his portable hole.  Since she didn't need to breathe, and
since the hole was closed to the outside world, she would be in no
danger and could come out at night.  Victoria, however, instantly
vetoed this idea; she cited something about not having survived
this long by taking foolish chances.  Belphanior had dropped it,
and that was that.

  When the elf walked into the marshals' barracks, he found his
people ready for action.  Nobody had overslept; nobody was running
late; nobody was still packing their items.

Otto:  How are we going to get there?
Belphanior:  Teleportation.
Skektek:  You've been to the Holds of the Sea Princes before?
  For purposes of being able to teleport there with accuracy, I
Belphanior:  (smiles as he recalls the past)  Yeah...I've had an
  adventure or two in that kingdom.

  Wasting no time, the elf prepared his spell, while Otto and
Jutokai secured the barracks from the inside.  As was typical
in situations like this, the regular town guards were in charge
of things.  Belphanior had been thinking about finding someone
whose full-time job would be Helgate's law enforcement - a fully-
empowered marshal who didn't get tapped to go on side adventures.
  That, however, was a matter for another time.  The room was lit
by a pale glow, and the adventurers began to shimmer...and then
they were elsewhere!

Ys:  (looks around)  Warmer.
Otto:  At least compared to where we came from.
Aja:  A plain...
Belphanior:  Yeah, this is one of the spots we camped at during
  the...ah, never mind that.
Skektek:  Is that a city I see over there?
Belphanior:  That would be Westkeep.  We'll make our way to Monmurg
  from there.
Jutokai:  How far is it?
Belphanior:  A few days' journey.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at no one in particular)
Otto:  (notices that the wispy thing's nowhere to be found)  Hmm.

  Before making their way to Westkeep, some of the party would have
to take certain precautions.  Belphanior couldn't risk someone
recognizing him, even though it had been years, so he used a hooded
cloak to conceal his features.  As for Ys, well, there wasn't much
he could do to conceal his great size.  Belphanior found himself
wishing that he'd either borrowed Peldor's prized hat of disguise
or gotten Alindyar to teach him a good illusion spell.  He'd thought
about simply leaving Ys in Helgate, but he preferred to have the
reptilian's sword arm on this particular escapade.

Ys:  (dons a large cloak which hides his features, if not his size)
Otto:  (looks up, down, and then up again)  Maybe we should just
  skip Westkeep altogether...head right for Monmurg.
Belphanior:  I was just thinking about that.  We've no need to go
  into Westkeep...and that's a bigger city anyway, not to mention
  the place I'm most likely to be recognized.  (he shakes his head)
  Change of plan.
Jutokai:  Do we have any maps?
Belphanior:  I've always got maps.  (he produces one, spreading it
  out on the low grass)  Okay...we need to head south...ah.  Here's
  a road.
Aja:  We ought to be able to find that within an hour, if this map
  is accurate.
Skektek:  Let's get going.  The longer we wait around here, the more
  likely we are to draw attention.
Belphanior:  Right you are.

  They got moving, marching away from Westkeep in a southwesterly
direction as they sought the paved road shown on the map.  It didn't
take long, either - the path they wanted branched away from another
leading westward from Westkeep.

Otto:  What a poorly-laid-out kingdom this is.
Belphanior:  This road should take us right to Monmurg.  It'll take
  a few days, but it's a straight shot.
Skektek:  Maybe I should fly ahead...scout?
Belphanior:  No, we don't want to draw any attention.
Skektek:  (thinking about his sore feet)  Maybe we'll find a horse
  merchant on the side of the road.

  The next week was the safest and easiest leg of this adventure.
They saw frequent traffic on the road, though they were generally
ignored.  Often, they found caravans or other traveling groups that
had camped right off the road, at night.  There were neither bandits
nor monsters to worry about here.  On the third day, they were able
to buy horses from a passing merchant.  This was a difficult process
in Ys' case, as most horses buckled under the reptilian's immense
weight.  However, the merchant had a couple of big, stout animals of
rugged northern stock, and one of these proved suitable, if barely.
The trip's pace was now sped up considerably, and almost before they
were ready, the towers of Monmurg loomed ahead.  It seemed like no
time at all had passed, yet here they were.  Somewhere in the city
ahead, amidst the hustle and bustle, their enemies waited, hopefully

Belphanior:  All I can say is, if he's smart enough to be expecting
  us, then he'd have already come back to Helgate.
Otto:  Now that'd be interesting.
Belphanior:  I doubt it.  Victoria's been looking for an excuse to
  rip someone apart.

  They had long since concluded that the wispy thing had remained
behind in Helgate, for reasons unknown.  Belphanior didn't consider
the wisp to be a fully sentient being, but at the same time, he
didn't regard it as unintelligent, either.  If it had wanted to be
here, it would have; since it wasn't here, he had to believe that
there was some reason.  This was a mystery for another time, however,
for Monmurg lay ahead!
  They waited until dusk that day to enter the city; there wasn't
much security to speak of.  After all, this was the center of a
kingdom that held little regard for personal freedom; its people
could generally care less who came and went.  Belphanior meant to
see them regret that attitude before it was all over.
  The seven adventurers found lodgings at a run-down inn on a street
full of shabby buildings.  Their rooms were cheap and dirty, but
that was fine.  In a place like this, they would attract little
attention while they scoped things out.  Belphanior, Otto, and
Skektek took one room, while Aja, Ys, Razor Charlie, and Jutokai
took the other.  They got hot meals and renewed their supplies as
necessary, then got a good night's sleep.
  The next morning, the process of information-gathering began.  The
group broke up into smaller teams, each with a different assignment.
Jutokai and Razor Charlie were to find and note positions of military
strength, such as guardposts, barracks, garrisons, and so forth.  Aja
and Otto were tasked with locating Omak and any of his companions who
were still about.  Skektek and Belphanior went to look for any places
of magical power, such as wizards' guilds or homes.  Ys, due to his
unusual size, got to stay behind and watch the rooms.
  After two days' time, they had gathered all the intelligence they
needed.  There was indeed a guild of wizardry, but it was small and
shabby, with no organization and no policies.  Unlike Greyhawk's
wizard-guild, this one wasn't set up to react if something major
happened elsewhere in the city.  As for city guards, they had posts
in numerous places, but there appeared to be no priests or wizards
among their ranks.  These forces would be easy to deal with if they
became a problem.
  Omak was the easiest to find; he had his own house, a rather large
and spacious two-story affair in the higher-class district.  From
what they had learned, Omak was a ranking officer in the kingdom's
armies, though he chose to live here in Monmurg rather than in the
land's capital city.  He had recently returned from some great but
unknown campaign, and was apparently in his house recuperating.
Some of the king's advisors had been to see him two days past, and
it was anticipated that Omak would ride to Westkeep sometime soon.

Belphanior:  It sounds like he's a local hero or something.
Otto:  He is, from what we've gathered.  A celebrity in their midst.
Belphanior:  (frowns)  He'll soon be a dead celebrity.  We strike
Jutokai:  (to Razor Charlie)  Does this make us assassins?
Razor Charlie:  (shrugs)  Maybe.  So what?
Jutokai:  Not that I care...this Omak character deserves whatever
  he gets.
Ys:  Are we going to just march into his house?
Belphanior:  Something like that.  Otto?
Otto:  (produces a rough sketch he made earlier that day)  The
  house has multiple weak points...these windows here, here, and
  here.  And the roof's easy to get to, as well.
Belphanior:  Here's what we'll do...

  That night, as darkness cloaked the city, the band split up and
converged on Omak's house separately.  Locks were picked, guards
were silenced, spells were worked, and windows were forced.  There
was only one problem:  the house was empty!  It contained no Omak,
nor signs that he'd been there recently.  His dishes were clean,
his bed was made, no notes littered his desk.  There weren't any
clues, either, that might lead to his whereabouts...

Belphanior:  I don't like this.
Otto:  (returns from upstairs, dragging a thin, frail servant girl)
  You're not going to believe this...Omak's taken another trip!
Skektek:  He has?  To where?
Otto:  (shakes the girl, slightly)  Talk.
servant girl:  (scared out of her wits)  He...his friends and he
  left this they sailed southward...(she shakes)
Belphanior:  (holds her head steady, locking gazes with her as his
  eyes bore into hers)  Where did he go?
servant girl:  I- I don't know...really...
Belphanior:  Why did he go?
servant girl:  I don't know...(she breaks down, sobbing)
Otto:  Dammit.
Belphanior:  (lets the girl go)  We're going to have to chase him
Aja:  How?
Belphanior:  Divination...and a ship.  We'll buy, steal, or hijack
  a ship and find that bastard.
Jutokai:  (eyes the servant girl)  What about her?
Otto:  Hmm.
Ys:  There is no need to kill her.
Otto:  I wasn't going to suggest that...but we can't let her free-
Aja:  Allow me.  (she begins working a spell)

  The priestess touched the girl's forehead as she finished her
spell, and the girl collapsed.

Ys:  What's this?
Aja:  She's asleep for now, but more importantly, she won't recall
  the last moments...ever.
Belphanior:  Neat spell.
Aja:  But she will wake up soon, so we need to be gone.
Otto:  To the docks?
Belphanior:  Crap...we'll never get going at night like this...
  we'll need to set out in the morning.  (he slams his fist into
  his palm)  Which means Omak will have almost a full day's lead
  on us...

next:      the chase is on, as they go waterborne
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Thanks to Andy Hurd for the Victoria coffin-in-portable-
  hole idea.  It would be the easiest way, but I don't think she's
  ready to be carted around like that, with no control over her own
  safety, just yet.

    Belphanior's new ring (the "band of darkest metal") is the ring
  he took from Klark.  It aids with monster-summoning/controlling
  efforts but I have not decided the specifics yet.  A lot of people
  have been wondering about this.

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