Chapter #1018

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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        +
+   Irina          7th/14th level female human warrior/priestess          +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Date:          unknown                                                +
+   Time:          nighttime                                              +
+   Place:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       chilly                                                 +
+   "We all gotta accept death.  It gives us the edge."                   +
+     -B.A. Baracus, from _The A-Team_ episode _Children of Jamestown_    +

                   MXVIII.  Dungeons, and a Realization

  Worgenfeld was a fairly small town, as towns went...barely a speck on
the landscape, consisting of perhaps a hundred buildings.  It had a half-
dozen taverns, fewer inns, and a small if functional marketplace.  No
structure in the place rose higher than two or three floors, with one
exception.  At the approximate center of the town, rising over twice the
height of the surrounding structures, loomed a square keep.  Fifty feet
across at the base, it tapered to a mere twenty feet at its top, a hundred
feet above ground level.  The small windows that dotted its four faces were
sparse and well-protected with bars.  Entry was afforded by a large double
door set at street level, and protected on its outer side by a portcullis
of thick iron bars.  No guards stood watch outside this keep, and none
were necessary; the mere reputation of the wizard known as Vorkos the Red
was sufficient to keep intruders and thieves away.  None dared approach
the keep unless invited, and none wanted to be invited.  The wizard's
reputation as a cruel and vicious ruler was reinforced by the occasional
screams (and other, even stranger) sounds that could be heard from within
his home.
  By and large, the wizard was content to remain in his domicile, which
doubled as his seat of power.  He had others to dispense his rulings and
enforce his laws, and only ventured outside when it was necessary.  One
such endeavor, only hours earlier today, had resulted in a difficult and
dangerous situation for a quartet of new prisoners who even now found
themselves locked within a cell at the tower's base...

  After an unplanned magical accident caused most of the group to be
transported to an unknown land, the adventurers had had to contend with
a pack of savage wolves, multiple groups of town guards, and eventually,
two different wizards.  Finally, this unpleasantly eventful day had
concluded with several of them being subdued and taken away as prisoners.

Otto:  (tests the chain that connects his manacles to a ring mounted in
  the cell wall)  Damn.
Belphanior:  I knew it looked sturdy.
Razor Charlie:  (having already tried to rip his chain from the wall
  ring, he just grimaces)
Irina:  (unable to help but smirk as she realizes that her manacles and
  chains are identical to theirs)

  They had woken up in a cell that was actually fairly spacious, perhaps
thirty feet by twenty.  Each of them was manacled, with that device then
secured to its own ring in the wall.  The spacing of the rings and length
of the chains was such that nobody could quite reach anyone else's chain,
to apply multiple peoples' strength to a single bond.  A small window was
set into one wall, far enough that even the closest prisoner to it (which
was Irina) was still a good five feet from it if she pulled her chain to
its limit.
  There were actually six rings set into the wall for prisoners; the first
was not in use, with Otto chained to the second, then Razor Charlie.  The
fourth held a long-dead skeleton still confined in its manacles, tatters
of rotted clothes clinging to the dry bones.  The fifth ring and chain
held Belphanior, and Irina occupied the sixth spot, closest to the small
barred window.  The cell's door, a solid wooden slab reinforced with thick
iron bands, was on the end closest to Otto.
  The captives still had their clothes, but all of their other equipment
and weapons had been taken.

Belphanior:  (eyes the skeleton)  That fellow died in here, and given the
  state of his clothes, he'd been here a while.  (he nudges the thing with
  one foot, causing brittle bones to shatter)  Damn.
Razor Charlie:  (glares at the ruined skeleton impassively)
Otto:  (glares at the ruined skeleton, wondering if the fragments are too
  brittle to be used as lockpicks)
Irina:  (idly rattling her chains)  I'd wager that we're not getting out
  of here until someone comes to get us.  (she nods at the skeleton)  Or
  until we rot away like that one.
Otto:  That doesn't mean we give up.  Someone pass me some of the smallest
  fragments from that skeleton.  (he also begins carefully checking the
  floor of the cell for anything he might be able to use to pick the lock
  on the manacles)
Belphanior:  Agreed.  I want everyone to look over everything here - the
  floor, the walls, the manacles, the chains, the rings.  Maybe we'll
  find some weakness, something that we can exploit.

  The elf was trying to stay positive, and keep the others that way, but
his mind was racing with the ever-growing list of problems they faced.
He still didn't know what exactly had happened in the dragon's lair.  He
didn't know if Neera, Mongo, and Ys were alive or not.  He didn't know
what had happened to all of the magic items that he'd spent over a decade
finding and amassing.  He didn't know where he and the others were right
now - what kingdom, what town, anything.  And now he had to wonder what
had become of Hope (and for that matter, Skektek.)  Fortunately, everyone
had the sense not to mention their two missing companions, just in case
the cell was under covert observation.

Belphanior:  (frowns)  So many things to worry about.
Irina:  Which is why I really hate to bring this up, but we have another
Belphanior:  (sighs)  What's that?
Irina:  Move to your step back, one step...there.  Stop.
Belphanior:  Explain.
Irina:  Now, look out the cell window.
Belphanior:  (squints with his single eye)  What-  oh.  Well.

  Only a small bit of the night sky was visible outside the window, but
as luck would have it, this particular cell window afforded a direct view
of the nearly-full moon, gleaming far above and bathing the land in its
pale light.  The problem was, there were two additional moons visible
beyond the first; one was small and dark, while the other was larger and,
more prominently, tinged crimson.

Belphanior:  (wide-eyed)  Just where the hell ARE we?

next:       jailers
released:   4/17/20
notes:      Well, previously I promised you dungeons in this episode, and
  you got them!

    I'll say it:  the COVID-19 outbreak has apparently been good for the
  Adventurers.  While I work remotely anywhere from 9-12 hours, Monday
  through Friday, I've now got my weekends pretty much free.  All those
  mostly-meaningless things I used to do on Friday night and the weekend
  are pretty much impossible to do now, so except for my long walks on
  the weekend mornings, I currently find myself staying indoors all day.
  That time is spent cooking my own meals, reading from my sizable undead
  stash of books, watching movies or shows...and writing!  I seem to have
  settled into a pattern that looks like this:
    1) start thinking about the next story during the week
    2) start writing Friday night or Saturday during the day
    3) finish it Saturday night or Sunday during the day
    4) get it ready for release the upcoming Friday

    I will say that a couple years back, I made it my intention to write
  much longer stories and have multiple significant things happen in each
  of them.  That model is great but won't work so well right now, as more
  frequent but smaller stories, each with a clear ending point that teases
  the next story, are flowing better for me.
    After my problems of the last few years, I'm happy and excited to be
  producing new material again.  (It's always nagged at me that I let my
  writing go for such a long period of time.)  And the idea that perhaps
  these new stories may provide some entertainment during a bad time...
  well, that makes me want to write more!
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