Chapter #1013

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                                   +   +
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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       +
+   1991-2017 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     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+   Irina          7th/14th level female human warrior/priestess          +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Date:          unknown                                                +
+   Time:          daytime                                                +
+   Place:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       chilly and overcast                                    +
+   "Think we're going to run into any trouble?"                          +
+   "Probably."                                                           +
+   "Trying to scare me?"                                                 +
+   "No.  Just trying to prepare you."                                    +
+                       - from unknown issue of an old _Punisher_ comic   +

                   MXIII.  The More Things Change...

  The six adventurers made their way toward the small town ahead, their
freshly healed and bandaged wounds still noticeably painful.  Skektek
wasn't even conscious or mobile, but rather being carried along atop a
magical floating disc.

Belphanior:  (flying through the air fifty feet above the others, to
  make sure nothing else sneaks up on them, he sighs)

  It had not been a good day.  After the companions had triggered some
sort of trap in the lair of the slain purple dragon Mesoloth, a strange
and powerful magical explosion had hurled these six into an unknown land.
Not only were they missing every single one of their magical items, and
not only did they have no idea where they were or what had happened to
the other party members, but a pack of huge, vicious wolf-like animals
had attacked them.  Unused to fighting without their magical weapons,
armor, and other items, the adventurers had been seriously challenged,
coming out of the fight with numerous wounds and a sense of dread that
hadn't diminished much as their march brought them closer to the town.

  Of course, shortly after the recent battle, it had been pointed out
that someone should simply teleport the entire group to safety.  This
had then been tried, but without success.  Wherever they currently were,
it was either too far for teleportation or - more likely - there was
some other force in play, blocking the magic.

  The elf had never been one to waste time worrying about things he
couldn't control, but his approach to such problems differed from that
of the average person.  Some people might have just remained exactly
where they were, whimpering, until eaten by wolves or something worse.
Others might have realized that they didn't know what was going on and
couldn't control that, and then shrugged and moved on as best as they
could.  In Belphanior's case, he was not only moving on, but was also
determined to _take_ control of this situation.  For him, everything
lined up in an ordered set of priorities:  get the party to safety, rest
and recuperate, acquire weapons, figure out where they were, and then
get home.

  As the adventurers neared the town, they did several things to lower
their profile and appear less conspicuous to anyone who might have been
watching their approach.  Belphanior ceased his airborne scouting, and
the unconscious Skektek (and the floating disc that bore him at the
moment) were covered with a large blanket.  Fortunately, the town didn't
seem any different from a hundred such towns that the group had visited
in the past.  Its walls and gate would keep out wild animals, but would
likely be of little help against an invading army.

Otto:  That means there's no open conflict in this area...
Belphanior:  (nods)  And also, maybe, that this town is part of some
  larger state or governing body.  We'll soon find out.

  As they walked through the crude gate, the couple of guards there just
looked at them disinterestedly; one nodded grudgingly, as if to welcome
them to the town without actually having to say or do anything.  Once
inside, they quickly saw that the town was a bit run-down, but otherwise
bustling with activity.  People went about their business, children clung
to their mothers, horses drew wagons and carriages, and so on.

Hope:  (looking around)  Everything seems normal enough.
Irina:  And I heard someone speaking Common, so that's a good sign.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)  Getting some knives...THAT would be a good
Belphanior:  Yeah, we need to acquire weapons and supplies.  (he hefts
  a small pouch)  Fortunately, our walking-around money didn't meet the
  same unknown fate as our magic items, so unless gold and silver have
  no value here, we can get what we need, within reason.  Let's split up
  so we can work twice as efficiently.  Otto, Irina, Hope - head to that
  inn across the street, and secure us some lodgings.  Charlie, you're
  with me - we're going shopping for sharp things.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces slightly less menacingly)  Good.

  As the others headed for the inn, Belphanior and Razor Charlie walked
in the other direction, toward an area that seemed likely to have what
they sought.  Already visible were a blacksmith's shop, a neighboring
shop where some weapons were on display, and some sort of general store

Belphanior:  This should actually be pretty easy...a longsword for me,
  a shortsword and maybe a crossbow for Otto, some knives for you, and
  some sort of mace for Irina.  The other two don't really use weapons.
Razor Charlie:  Nothing is easy.

  The two warriors walked over to the shop and climbed the few stairs
leading up to it, the old wooden boards creaking under their weight.  A
grizzled old fellow, clearly excited at the prospect of some business,
greeted them.

old armorer:  How can I help you boys?
Belphanior:  We need some weapons.
old armorer:  Everybody does.  (he chuckles, which quickly escalates
  into a brief but intense coughing fit)  Only way to survive around
  here.  (he points to a gigantic sword mounted on the back wall)  That
  one,, that doesn't really seem like your style.
Belphanior:  Let me see that longsword, there...and that other one, with
  the black stone in the pommel.  Yeah.
old armorer:  (moves to get the selected weapons, mumbling to himself)
Razor Charlie:  (somewhat disappointed that he doesn't see any throwing
  knives, he frowns, shaking his head)
old armorer:  (hands the swords to Belphanior to inspect, then turns his
  attention to Charlie)  Eh?
Razor Charlie:  Knives?  
old armorer:  Oh, yes, we have plenty of knives...daggers, smaller blades
  suitable for skinning game...
Razor Charlie:  (leans in, grimacing)  No.  Throwing knives.
old armorer:  Ah!  Not much business for those, not with bows and such.
  (he steps back, opens an old chest, and begins rummaging around inside)
  Who throws knives anyway?  (he glances at Razor Charlie, who looks more
  than a little agitated)  Well, you, of course.
Belphanior:  (moves away, swinging each of the swords experimentally but
  expertly)  Hm.
old armorer:  (carries a small cloth-wrapped bundle back to Razor Charlie,
  laying it down on the counter)  Try these.
Razor Charlie:  (opens the bundle, revealing a dozen old, rusty knives)
old armorer:  How about that, huh?
Razor Charlie:  (picks up one of the knives, checking its balance)
old armorer:  I know they're old, but with some cleaning and sharpening,
  they could be good as new.
Razor Charlie:  (suddenly draws his arm back, then hurls the knife at a
  nearby post, imbedding it point-first)
old armorer:  Whoa.
Razor Charlie:  (smirks)  These will do.
Belphanior:  (holds up the longsword with the black stone in its pommel)
  And I'll take this sword.
old armorer:  Very good!
Belphanior:  How much?
old armorer:  (eyes the elf's tattered but fine clothing, pondering)
Belphanior:  I'm not in the mood to haggle.  If the price is right, I'll
  get some more weapons, right here, right now.  If not, well, we can go
  and find another shop.
old armorer:  (sees the look in the elf's eye, begins wondering exactly
  what happened to the other, covered eye...and decides not to push his

  Shortly thereafter, the pair made their way toward the inn where the
others had gone... 

Belphanior:  (slaps the scabbard that now rests at his side)  It was nice
  of that old guy to throw in a few extras.  Damn, I'd forgotten what it
  was like to buy weapons. regular old weapons.
Razor Charlie:  Cost more than it should have.
Belphanior:  For sure...a couple dozen gold pieces was more than half the
  coinage I had.  Armor will have to come later.
Razor Charlie:  If at all.
Belphanior:  It's funny how one's perspective on prices and value can
  change, depending on the situation.  Still, we got decent weapons, for
  those of us who need them, and-

  The conversation was interrupted by the shattering of one of the inn's
front windows, courtesy of the fellow who'd just been thrown through it.

Belphanior:  Really?  I send Otto - who's probably the calmest of us
  all - and the two women, and an unconscious Skektek, and STILL they
  manage to find trouble?
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)

next:       we see who started it
released:   6/30/2017
notes:      When episode 1012 was released, way back on January 2017, I
  said at the time that it had taken far too long to write.  And then
  came a five-month time of no writing, which may be a record for any
  period in which I wasn't officially on sabbatical.  I have some health
  and personal problems, and that's all I want to say about that.  But
  as I type this, it's late June and the fact that I'm making notes at
  the end means that episode 1013 got written.
    There was actually another challenge that delayed this one:  I had
  to decide exactly what was going on in the town they found.  Sounds
  simple, but it's not...because I know what the overarching plot is,
  and the town (and its contents) had to be worthy of that big overall
  idea.  To be honest, I'm not quite there yet, with all the details,
  but I feel that I'm moving in the right direction.  Kind of like that
  person who got thrown through that window near the end of this episode.
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