Chapter #1020

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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 keep in the town of Worgenfeld, in lands unknown     +
+   Climate:       chilly                                                 +
+   "There is a fundamental difference between you and I."                +
+   "Yeah.  You're a psychopath."                                         +
+                         - from _Chronicles of Riddick:  Dark Fury_      +

                   MXX.  Vorkos the Red

  The four prisoners, their hands manacled in front of them, were marched
through a series of darkened hallways.  They walked single file, a soldier
with a loaded and aimed crossbow between each captive, with two more at
the tail end of the procession.  At its head were the last soldier and the
short, rodentlike jailer who was in charge for the moment.

Skeevil:  No lagging behind, now, or I'll whip you until you bleed.

  After a short flight of ascending stairs, the passageways grew wider,
their ceilings higher.  The group stopped at a large set of ornate doors,
flanked on either side by a soldier identical to the rest except for the
fact that they didn't bear crossbows.  Without a word, these two each took
hold of a finely-worked handle and pulled the gilded doors open, revealing
a small but lavish chamber about forty feet deep and thirty in width.  The
room was decorated by tapestries on its walls and carpets on its floors,
and dozens of torches were set in sconces spaced along the walls, between
tapestries.  Two windows were set into the walls, one to the right and one
to the left; these were larger than the ones in the cell but also barred,
and the night sky was visible outside the thick bars.
  At the far end of this chamber was a large carved wooden chair, upon
which sat the red-robed wizard from the earlier battle.  On his left, a
servant girl stood meekly, holding a platter of fruits and cheeses.  On
his right stood a gigantic figure, closer to seven feet tall than six.
The man was massive, easily dwarfing anybody else in the room; his arms
were thicker than an average man's legs, and his torso was so large that
no suit of armor could cover it.  While rolls of fat were visible across
the man's body, there were also thick, dense slabs of muscle behind it.
The fellow was shirtless, his prodigious size and strength evident to all,
and his pants were secured by a simple belt and tucked into his massive
boots.  His large, round head was shaven bald and rested atop the giant
torso; no neck was visible.  The fact that the enormous man was unarmed
didn't do very much to lessen his intimidating presence.

red-robed wizard:  Enter.
Skeevil:  Your Excellency, I present the prisoners.
Vorkos the Red:  (gestures)  Bring them in, and arrange them so that I
  may see them all.

  The four captives were positioned according to the wizard's directions,
lined up perhaps twenty feet from the throne-like chair; one
crossbow-wielding soldier moved to stand behind each of them.

Skeevil:  (walks in front of the row of prisoners, sneering haughtily)
Irina:  (glares at the small man angrily)
Skeevil:  Still have some fight left in you, eh?
Irina:  Well, I can smell your breath from here.
Skeevil:  (grits his teeth, then uncoils a short whip)  Perhaps this will
  change your attitude.
Irina:  Come a little closer, and I'll shove that thing up your ass.
Belphanior:  (not wanting to provoke anyone right now)  Irina-
Irina:  The whole whip, handle and all.  I'm not sure it will fit, but
  there's only one way to find out.
Skeevil:  (fuming)  How dare you?
Irina:  I dare because you're a weak little runt who's parading around in
  front of your master, like a dog.  Remove these bonds, and everyone can
  watch me beat the crap out of you.
Skeevil:  You-  (red in the face now, he sputters, raising the whip)
Irina:  (actually takes a step forward toward the man)
Skeevil:  (steps back fearfully, his whip-arm still raised)

  Before Irina could decide whether to attack the rat-faced man (which
she was seriously considering)...and as the soldier standing behind her
waited for the order to fire and put a bolt through either her leg or
her heart...and as Skeevil prepared to employ his whip...someone else

gigantic man:  (having crossed the distance rather quicky for one of his
  size, he moves between Irina and Skeevil)
Irina:  (still furious, she looks up at the huge man who now towers over
  her impassively...then suddenly unleashes a savage and perfectly-aimed
  kick directly to his crotch)
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)
Otto:  (winces, muttering)  Ohhhh, that's gotta hurt.
gigantic man:  (still standing there, as if nothing had happened, he folds
  his massive arms across his even-more-massive chest)
Vorkos the Red:  (stands up, clapping lightly)  How amusing this is.  (to
  Irina)  My dear, that will have no effect on him.  He's a eunuch.  He's
  also brutishly strong, and fiercely loyal, so I'd suggest you step back.
  I really don't need four prisoners to question, as long as one can still
gigantic man:  (glares down at her silently)
Irina:  (faced with this human wall, she sighs and backs off, grumbling)
gigantic man:  (resumes his position to the right of Vorkos)
Skeevil:  (approaches Irina, the whip clutched in his hand)
Vorkos the Red:  (smirks slightly)  And Skeevil...heel.
Skeevil:  B- but-
Vorkos the Red:  (irritated)  I said back down.  Now.
Skeevil:  (does so, still fuming, and casts an angry glance at Irina, one
  that promises revenge as soon as possible for being upbraided)
Vorkos the Red:  I won't apologize for Skeevil.  He gets a bit...zealous
  at times.  And in addition to serving as jailer, he's quite a capable
  torturer, as you may soon learn.
Belphanior:  What exactly is it you want from us?
Vorkos the Red:  (sits back down in the large wooden chair)  Are you the
  leader of this band?
Belphanior:  I am.  I will speak for them, and if you wish to torture or
  beat anyone, that is also my burden to bear.
Otto:  (glances sharply at the elf)
Belphanior:  (just stands there, chin high, regarding the wizard)
Vorkos the Red:  We shall see.  For now, however, let us start with who
  you are and how you came to be here in Tarkus.  And no more wisecracks,
  or someone's tongue gets removed.
Skeevil:  (brandishes his needlelike dagger, grinning)
Vorkos the Red:  (to Belphanior)  And it won't be you...(he nods at Otto)
  Or this dwarf who has not yet chosen to speak.  (he glances at Razor
  Charlie)  Or this warrior, who I doubt would even flinch.  (he nods at
  Irina)  No, the young lady with the sharp tongue will be the first to
  lose hers, if I am not satisfied with your answers.
Belphanior:  No problem.  I'll tell you everything you want to know.

  The elf had to assume that some sort of magic was in play to detect any
lies, and even if that wasn't the case, he didn't want to gamble with the
wizard's temper and risk anyone's tongue being cut out.  Accordingly, he
resolved to tell the truth...but he would do it his own way, by weaving a
series of truths, telling so much that hopefully the wizard would be too
busy listening to pose specific questions which the elf might not want to
  Also, of course, the longer he talked, the longer it gave him to think
of a plan, and the longer it gave the others to act once he did.

Belphanior:  I am Belphanior, and these others are Otto, Razor Charlie,
  and Irina.  We come from a land called the Flanaess, on a world called
  Oerth.  We were attempting to escape from some sort of unknown magical
  trap, and something went wrong - I have no idea what - and somehow we
  were transported here.  We arrived in the grasslands a fair distance
  away from this town, whose name we still don't know.  After surviving
  an attack by wolves, we made our way here, sought food and lodging, and
  then had an escalating series of battles with various parties, until
  the one in which you intervened.  (he shrugs)  And here we are.
Vorkos the Red:  (nods)  How fortunate for you that everything you have
  spoken is truth.
Belphanior:  As I said, there would be no problem.
Vorkos the Red:  (musing)  You truly have no idea where you are, do you?
Belphanior:  I do not.  I only know that, given the three moons in the
  night sky, this is not our own world.
Vorkos the Red:  Indeed, it is not.  You're not the first strangers from
  a faraway land to appear at random in the wilderness, and you won't be
  the last.  But what I really need to know now is...why do none of you
  possess a single item of magic, not so much as a ring or a sword or some
  boots or a helmet?  I find that exceedingly odd, especially considering
  that you came here from elsewhere.
Belphanior:  I have no idea.  Our magical items did not make the journey
  with us.  If the fights and battles would ever stop for a bit, I intend
  to find out why, and then get back home.
Vorkos the Red:  (chuckles)
Belphanior:  Eh?
Vorkos the Red:  You truly do know nothing.  (sighs)  As I said...odd.
Belphanior:  (glancing around at the wizard, his minions, the soldiers,
  and the room in general)  So what now?
Vorkos the Red:  Now?  (he rubs his chin absently)  Since you have nothing
  in the way of magical treasure for me, and apparently don't know where
  to find it...I suppose I'll try and sell you to a neighboring town as
  slave labor, or else throw you in the dungeons to rot.  (he looks up
  suddenly, as if inspired, then points to Irina)  But not you.  You're
  not quite concubine material, but poor Skeevil has been through a lot
  today, so I'll give you to him to use as he sees fit.
Belphanior:  And that's it?  No chance to earn our freedom, no deals in
  which we do something for you?  I suppose just turning us loose is out
  of the question entirely?
Vorkos the Red:  You are hardly in any position to speak thus.  And now
  I've changed my mind.  (he gestures)  Skeevil, remove all their tongues.

next:       blood and guts
released:   5/1/20
notes:      I wrote this one during what I call Day 28.  For me, the big
  changes all came on Day 1 which was Monday March 16, 2020.  That was
  when the working-from-home began, and toilet paper was already scarce.
  By day 5, my gyms and favorite restaurants were closed.  And then even
  more changed.  But my point is, this is the end of week four, as my own
  personal clock goes.  In that time, I've written and released five new
  episodes, and I feel good about writing again.
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