Chapter #1019

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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:         a dark cell in an unknown place                        +
+   Climate:       chilly                                                 +
+   "Do you think I'm losing my grip?"                                    +
+   "No, it's just the opposite, really.  You seem calm.  Scary calm."    +
+           - Oliver Queen and John Diggle, from unknown _Arrow_ episode  +

                   MXIX.  Plots and Captors

  The prisoners have just come to the realization that wherever they now
find's not Oerth.

Belphanior:  (staring at the three different moons in the night sky)  Just
  where the hell ARE we?
Irina:  (listens to wolves howl in the wilderness, somewhere beyond the
  town)  I can't say, but it sure as hell isn't our own world.
Belphanior:  I was kind of afraid of this.  The combination of Mesoloth's
  wards and our own magic to try and break free from them...must have torn
  some kind of rift in interdimensional space, and we got sucked into it.
Razor Charlie:  (confronted with this possibility, he simply grunts, and
  then turns his attention to the damaged skeleton, looking for any small
  fragments that might be suitable for Otto to use for lockpicking)
Otto:  (nods)  The bone may be too brittle, but we won't know unless we
Belphanior:  (glances at the triple moons again)  Dammit.
Irina:  Your theory makes sense.  I've felt as if something was...well,
  just _wrong_ ever since we appeared in the grasslands earlier today.
Belphanior:  Hard to believe that all this has happened in the same day.
  It feels like it's been a lot longer.
Irina:  I'll tell you what else.  We need to be using our-
Belphanior:  (holds up a hand)
Irina:  (stops talking, a bit confused)
Belphanior:  Trust me.

  Irina quickly realized something that Otto had already figured out on
his own:  although both the elf and the priestess had some spells still
available to cast, Belphanior didn't want to employ that tactic at this
time.  As a non-spellcaster, Otto's interest in the reasoning (and the
point where magic would finally be put into play) was strategic, rather
than tactical.  When the time came for spells, he simply wanted to be
ready to contribute with whatever weapons he had at the time.  As for
Razor Charlie, he hadn't even thought twice about the matter; instead,
he was focusing on the task of finding shards of bone amidst the damaged
skeleton.  Otto knew that without this to occupy his attention, the lean,
scarred warrior would probably be sitting against the cell wall, resting
to conserve his strength for when it was needed.

Razor Charlie:  (collects the handful of bone splinters that he found,
  then hands them to the dwarf)
Otto:  Good job.  Let me see what I can do here.  (he gets to work trying
  to pick the lock of his manacles)
Irina:  (to Belphanior)  So...(she nods in Otto's direction)  Aside from
  that, we wait?
Belphanior:  We wait.  (he stands and stretches, then leans back against
  the cold stone wall, staring out the cell window)

  The elf was thinking about several things at once.  First and foremost,
he was reviewing the spells he had remaining - a quantity that was much
lower than normal, due to him lacking several potent magical items which
bolstered the number of spells he could cast during any given day.  The
second, and related, issue was that once those spells _were_ finally cast,
he would not be able to re-memorize them (or any other spells) without a
spellbook.  Hope and Skektek, wherever they were, would be in the same
situation.  It went without saying that Belphanior fully intended to
murder the red-robed wizard at some point (preferably sooner rather than
later) and then appropriate any spellbooks that the man had.

Belphanior:  (smiles thinly at that thought)

  But there was also the question of whether their captors knew that some
of the prisoners were capable of casting spells.  If so, then they were
stupid for putting them here in a cell that they could surely find a way
out of.  And if not, then...they were also stupid, for not checking with
witnesses.  Either way, Belphanior had to assume that the cell was somehow
being watched or monitored, and he didn't want to reveal his and Irina's
full capabilities just yet.  Better to hold that trump card as long as
they could get away with it; in the meantime, they could better assess
the abilities of their foes.
  It also stood to reason that the group's captors might simply be less
powerful than their captives; after all, Vorkos' most effective attack in
the previous conflict had come with the aid of a magical rod.  While that
item had cast a powerful spell, its use didn't mean that Vorkos himself
was able to command such magic on his own.  The more he thought about it,
the more Belphanior suspected that his own wizardly experience (and, for
that matter, that of Skektek and Hope) was far greater than that of the
crimson-garbed foe.
  And that was another thing:  his other two wizards were still out there
somewhere, possibly wounded but also possibly planning some sort of rescue
attempt.  While Belphanior couldn't be sure exactly what their captors did
know, he was fairly certain that they didn't know _everything_.  The best
play right now was to wait and see what happened next.

Otto:  (breaks another splinter of bone trying to unlock his manacles)
  Damn!  (he tosses away broken bits of pale bone)  It's no use - these
  shackles are too well-made and I can't get the leverage-

  The conversation was interrupted suddenly by someone approaching the
cell door from the other side.  Several someones, actually; the sound of
a keyring preceded the noises of the lock mechanism turning, and then a
trio of men entered the cell.  Two of them were well-equipped, holding
crossbows ready, with shortswords sheathed at their sides.  Their armor
bore the insignia of the red fist, like the soldiers from the earlier

short, rat-faced man:  (bows mockingly)  I am Skeevil, head jailer for
  Vorkos the Red.
Irina:  (snorts)  Yeah, you look like a Skeevil.
Skeevil:  (without hesitation, he strides over and backhands her across
  the face)  Quiet!
Irina:  (stumbles, but keeps her footing, and looks up, blood trickling
  from a freshly-split lip)
Skeevil:  You will learn.
Belphanior:  Why don't you try that with me, you little-
Skeevil:  (pulls a wooden club from his belt and suddenly bashes the elf
  with it, knocking him back)
Belphanior:  (staggers in place, his chain clinking as it's pulled taut)

  Belphanior wasn't hurt too badly - just a knot atop his head, and the
pain that accompanied it - but he acted as if the blow had affected him
more.  He'd also noted that the diminutive jailer had kept out of range,
avoiding a situation where the elf could have grabbed him and gained a
hostage.  The man was smarter and faster than he looked...not unlike some
sort of rat, Belphanior decided.

Skeevil:  (nods)  You will all learn, or else you will bleed.
Razor Charlie:  (just grimaces at him and the other two men, who are both
  holding crossbows at the ready)
Otto:  (thinking about the chances that the four of them can somehow
  overpower these three captors)

  Just then, four more soldiers, all bearing crossbows as well, moved into
the cell and joined the first three men.

Skeevil:  Now we are going to remove your manacles from the wall chains,
  one at a time.  (he sneers)  If any of you so much as raises an arm,
  you'll get a bolt through that arm.  It's been a long day, and I'm not
  in the mood to be trifled with.
Belphanior:  Are we to be questioned?
Skeevil:  Oh, yes.  You will appear before Vorkos the Red, and you will
  answer his questions.  (he holds up a long, needle-like dagger)  You
  are going to tell him _everything_.

next:       interrogation
released:   4/24/20
notes:      It occurred to me, while writing this one, that whatever I
  may have done in the early days of these stories, I no longer really
  think about material components for spellcasting.  I should, but it's
  kind of just faded away over the years.  Since I can't go back and
  change the past, and to be consistent with that past, I'm not really
  going to worry about them now either.  I say all this because someone
  will likely wonder about the matter.
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