Chapter #1015

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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       +
+   1991-2020 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:          early evening                                          +
+   Place:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       chilly and overcast                                    +
+   "When's the last time anything went according to plan?"               +
+   "I don't think there was a last time."                                +
+              - from _Legends of Tomorrow_ episode 1.12 _Last Refuge_    +

                   MXV.  Hostile Climes

  After Irina engaged in a brief bar fight, the group has reunited in
the inn...

Irina:  I wouldn't call it much of a fight.
Razor Charlie:  (eyeing the three men who now lie unconscious or semi-
  conscious in the street outside)  Heh.
Otto:  (frowns, looking concerned)  Damn.
Hope:  What's wrong?  She just beat three idiots senseless, without any
  weapons or spells.  (she looks around at the carnage)  That was great!
Otto:  Yeah, but it was also an attention-getter.
Hope:  From who?
Belphanior:  We don't know yet.  More goons maybe, if those guys had any
  friends.  Or local law, hired thugs...whoever's in charge here.  (he
  looks around the common room, noting that the few customers still
  remaining are finishing up and heading out)  I'm figuring that someone
  will show up soon, wanting to talk with us.
Irina:  Sorry about that.  But there was no way I was going to let some-
Belphanior:  (holds up his hands)  It's okay.  If I'd been here, I'd
  probably have done something much more violent.  (he sighs)  Anyway.
  We have to be ready now, so let's get to it.
Hope:  Why don't we just leave before anyone shows up?
Belphanior:  There's no sense in having to look over our shoulders from
  now on, always, we need to deal with this now.  (he
  surveys the inn briefly)  This is how I want to play it.  Charlie,
  you're on lookout duty - stay by that front window and keep an eye
  out for anyone we should be worried about.
Razor Charlie:  (nods, and immediately stations himself at the window)
Belphanior:  (handing out the new weapons as he talks to the others)

  In addition to the fairly well-balanced longsword he'd bought for
himself and the rusty knives for Razor Charlie, Belphanior had obtained
a sturdy footman's mace for Irina, a shortsword for Otto, and a couple
of small boot daggers as backup weapons for anyone who wanted them.

Irina:  (hefts the mace, pleased to be armed once more)  This'll do.
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  Sorry, but a crossbow will be a little tougher
  to find.
Otto:  (shrugs)  You can only do what you can do.  (he waves the short-
  sword around experimentally)  Good choice.  Solid, but simple.  Where
  do you want me?
Belphanior:  Off to the side there.  No sense bunching ourselves up to
  make easier targets.
Hope:  Are you sure there's going to be that kind of confrontation?  All
  we did - Irina did - was knock out some people and take them outside.
Irina:  (smirks as she sidesteps the remains of the chair smashed in the
  brief scuffle)
Belphanior:  Something's going to happen, otherwise that old bartender
  wouldn't have disappeared along with every other customer in this
  place.  (to Hope)  I want you hidden behind the bar there...(he gives
  her some specific instructions involving certain outcomes and spells)
Hope:  Got it.  (she heads around the bar)
Razor Charlie:  (looking out the window, he squints and grimaces as he
  sees something in the distance)
Belphanior:  (looks around, suddenly realizing something)  Uh...where's
Otto:  Well, we-
Razor Charlie:  (turns from the window, addressing the others)  Guards
  coming down the street, in a hurry.  Looks like they're headed here.
Belphanior:  (leans against a wooden beam, one hand on the pommel of his
  sheathed longsword)  Now we'll get some way or another.

  The elf's simple but accurate statement was borne out by the sound of
several people charging up wooden steps, which immediately preceded them
bursting noisily into the inn.  Six in number, these were no drunken louts
but rather burly, dangerous-looking men in leather armor and armed with
swords or crossbows.  While they lacked the matching uniforms and insignia
of their counterparts in larger, more prosperous cities, these men were
undoubtedly town guards - or whatever passed for such in this place.  In
addition to moving and acting as a team, they were also rather hostile...

town guard:  (aims his crossbow at Belphanior)  Nobody move!
Belphanior:  (glancing around, he sizes up the situation, hands held up)
  We don't want any trouble.
second town guard:  (fires a bolt into the beam, the missile sinking into
  the wood just above Belphanior's hand)  Then stay where you are!  And
  don't try anything funny.
Belphanior:  (glances up at the quivering bolt imbedded in the beam above
  his fingers)  What do you want with us?
second town guard:  (begins the process of reloading his crossbow, as
  another guard moves up to take his place, his own weapon aimed at the
third town guard:  Public fighting is against the law.  You're coming in
  for questioning, and probably fines and jail time.
Belphanior:  What?  I didn't do any fighting.  (he points to Irina)  It
  was her!
Irina:  (somewhat indignantly)  I'd hardly call that a fight.
Belphanior:  (sighs, dropping his gaze to the floor)
first town guard:  I don't much care.  We can figure it out at the-  (he
  recoils as a sudden burst of glowing, multicolored sparks explodes
  from a nearby lantern mounted on the wall)

  Belphanior had been stalling for time, to try and gauge the intentions
of the guards, but at this point he had seen everything he needed to see,
and he was done waiting.  He didn't consider the guards hostile in the
same way as someone actively trying to kill him - they were just doing
their job - but he'd be damned if he was going to let himself and his
companions be arrested and thrown in jail.  This was doubly true now that
they now had some weapons, in addition to their remaining spells - not to
mention some advance planning, like they'd done right before these guards
showed up.
  With a prearranged signal - the verbal blaming of Irina followed by the
slight dip of his head - Belphanior had let Hope know to cast her spell
of pyrotechnics.  (There had been a second, more lethal option which would
have been signaled by an outburst of profanity from Belphanior, had the
opponents been more direct in their hostility.)  The show of sparks and
noise wasn't dangerous, but it was a hell of a distraction for anyone not
aware that it was going to happen.  As the town guards recoiled, their
vision temporarily filled with dancing bright spots, the adventurers moved
into action like the combat veterans they were.  The dazed guardsmen were
easy targets, and sword pommels rather than blades were employed to subdue
the foes; in short order, the six guardsmen were all lying on the floor

Otto:  (picks up a crossbow)  And now we have ranged weapons.  (he grins)
Hope:  (emerges from behind the bar)  I'll take my magic any day of the
  week, but whatever.
Belphanior:  Tie them up and collect their weapons.  Forget the armor;
  it probably won't fit and we don't have time to find out anyway.  We
  need to get out of here before more guards show up.  We don't need to
  end up in a siege situation.

  It occurred to the elf that there was a time when the six guards would
have been dead and he'd have been blasting his way out of this situation.
However, circumstances were different now:  his team lacked all of their
magical items, bore wounds from earlier today, and in fact they still
didn't even know where they were.  Although they had a number of their
spells still memorized, there was no way to renew those after casting,
not without spellbooks.  No...a cautious retreat coupled with avoidance
of needless fighting were the best courses of action at this point.  After
the guards were secured and disarmed, the group headed out the inn under
cover of a thick bank of fog conjured forth by Belphanior.  The plan was
to retreat from the scene of the fighting and regroup elsewhere, and it
was working out well...until suddenly, it was not.

thundering voice:  (booms from beyond the cloud of fog)  ENOUGH.

  The mists were swept away by a sudden cold wind that rose from nowhere;
in moments, the adventurers found themselves standing in the middle of
the street, surrounded by a dozen more armed guards.  These latter men
wore the same style of leather armor as the group just defeated within
the inn, and several of them held loaded crossbows...which were aimed at
the adventurers.

Otto:  (muttering)  They tricked us to leave the cover of the
  inn, then sprung their trap.  (he mutters matter-of-factly)  Nice move.

  Behind some of the guards was a plump, well-dressed man on horseback.
The fellow, who was eyeing the group with obvious disdain, was clearly
both the owner of the loud voice as well as the one in charge of the

well-dressed, plump, disdainful fellow:  I don't know where you people
  came from, but you have defied my laws here...and you shall answer for

next:       some answers...finally...I promise!
released:   3/13/20
notes:      What a journey it's been to get this episode written.  Let's
  review the backstory:

  11/24/17 - the last episode (1014) is published
  11/16/18 - intended publish date for the first draft of this one
  02/29/20 - I revised that old version and wrote the one you just read

    For the original version's original 11/16/18 release date, I wrote
  some comments about how I had a lot of trouble writing that episode,
  making the general ideas come together as coherent words, how it had
  been the first writing I'd done in a year, how it was basically a
  filler episode, and how I was hopeful for a fresh burst of writing
  after the long-delayed new episode.

    That was November 2018.  Now it's more than a year later and here we
  are, finally, with episode 1015 published to the world.  It feels like
  I've tied off a wound that's bled for a very long time.  I imagine that
  you're probably wondering what happened, to cause a 27-month writing
  hiatus - by far the longest I've ever had since I started doing this
  way back in 1991.  I could tell you a lot of different stories/excuses that I went through a very trying personal problem that
  dragged out for years and only recently ended...or that I dealt with
  sudden and advanced cancer in an immediate family member...or that I
  moved to a place that turned out to be not at all conducive to writing
  these stories...or that I really stepped it up at work which resulted
  in a recent and huge promotion.
    In truth, all of those things did actually happen.  And this past week
  I was thinking about how the leap year February 29th was coming up and
  how it was a rare day that happened only once every four years, and I
  became determined to knock this story out on that odd day.  And despite
  having a number of errands and other things to do, I did.
    At this point, I'm extremely busy and stressed (due only to my new
  job and its greater responsibility) but I'm  also happy...and optimistic
  about future writing output.  More importantly, I finally got this whole
  plotline settled in my mind, which means I can actually write it now.

    Hang in there!

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