Chapter #1021

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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 of 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                                                 +
+   "Think defense."                                                      +
+   "No.  There's someone I need to kill."                                +
+                                                 - from _Death Race_     +

                   MXXI.  Turning the Tables

  Manacled and under armed guard, four of the adventurers - Belphanior,
Otto, Razor Charlie, and Irina - have been brought before the malicious
wizard Vorkos the Red.  Unfortunately for them, the questioning appears
to be over...

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.
Skeevil:  (grins, exposing a number of rotten teeth)  Heh heh. 
Belphanior:  (glances around, eyeing various things - the others in the
  room, their positions and readiness, the nearest window - then grits
  his teeth)

  The elf had finally reached his breaking point.  He felt that he now
had a good idea of the numbers and strength of those arrayed against him
and his companions.  If Vorkos had known that Belphanior and Irina could
wield magic, he surely would have done something about it by now, simply
because there was no reason not to.  In any event, the elf was tired of
waiting; the time had come to utilize some of the spells he had remaining
in his arsenal.

Belphanior:  (muttering quietly, he recites a couple of magical syllables)

  The elf wasn't taking any chances; the spell he was about to cast was
fast, simple, and effective.  It would target only Vorkos, and guarantee
that he was blasted with a barrage of magical missiles.  The red-garbed
wizard was clearly the most dangerous foe in the room (although the huge
eunuch was potentially a close second) and Belphanior wanted Vorkos hurt
and distracted for any spellcasting efforts he might make after the fight
began.  The soldiers with their crossbows could be dealt with afterward,
as could the massive bodyguard; the elf had to assume that his people
would spring into action once the battle's first blow was struck.

Belphanior:  (subtly points his fingers at Vorkos, a mere twenty feet

  Unfortunately, nothing spell sprung forth from the elf's
fingers, not even the faintest little fizzle of magical energy.

Belphanior:  (his eye widens)
Vorkos the Red:  (smirks)  Is something wrong?
Skeevil:  (cackles menacingly in a demented tone)
Vorkos the Red:  Did you really think that I would somehow miss the fact
  that you and the young lady were capable of working magic?  (he waves
  a bony hand dismissively)  Hardly.  And that is why you are now bound
  only with manacles, and why I needed only a handful of guards here.
Belphanior:  (sighs)
Vorkos the Red:  While you were all unconscious, you received a dose of
  a most special concoction...a potion that temporarily neutralizes all
  spellcasting abilities.
Belphanior:  For how long?
Vorkos the Red:  Long enough, don't you worry.  By the time you can cast
  spells once more, you will no longer have a tongue with which to cast
Skeevil:  (still brandishing his dagger, he grins maliciously)
Vorkos the Red:  As you can see, I left nothing to chance.

  Two things happened in the next few moments, one right after the other.
Firstly, and probably most important, the manacles on all four of the
captive adventurers loosened and opened with faint metallic clinking

Razor Charlie:  (grins, ever so slightly)

  Secondly, a volley of magic missiles - ironically, the same spell that
Belphanior had intended to employ - blazed from just outside one of the
barred windows.  Five missiles streaked unerringly toward, and then hit,
five of the soldiers (including all four who stood behind the prisoners.)

Belphanior:  (to Vorkos the Red)  I'm sorry to break it to you, but I
  also left nothing to chance.
Vorkos the Red:  (sputtering)  What-

  Every one of the adventurers had already sprung into motion, for speed
was needed to leverage the advantage of surprise....speed, plus a strong
measure of efficient brutality.

Belphanior:  (leaps forward, smashing the nearest soldier across the
  helmet with his manacles)
Otto:  (whirls, charging the soldier behind him, and sweeps the man's
  feet out from under him, sending him to the floor with a loud metallic
  crash as his armor hits the stone)

  That wasn't the last metallic crash of the day, either.  Razor Charlie
drew his arm back, and then hurled his manacles at Vorkos.  Although they
weren't as easy to aim or throw as a knife, the heavy restraints proved
sufficient to distract the wizard for just a few valuable moments.  The
gigantic eunuch moved to protect his master, placing his sizable body
between the red-robed mage and the attackers.

Vorkos:  You dolt!  I can't aim spells with you in the way!
gigantic eunuch:  (frowns)
Irina:  (grabbing the soldier behind her, who was still off-balance from
  the magic missile, she spins him around and then releases him, sending
  him crashing into another soldier, causing both to go down in a heap)
Belphanior:  (standing over the soldier he hit, he pulls the man's sword
  from its sheath, expertly whirls it around, then sends the point right
  into the eye-hole in the man's helm)
Otto:  (having grabbed the crossbow from the soldier he knocked down, he
  turns and fires a bolt into the chest of another nearby soldier)
Razor Charlie:  (having been backed against a wall by a sword-wielding
  soldier, he grabs a torch from its wall sconce)
Hope:  (quietly appears within the chamber, having opened a dimensional
  door to bypass the keep's wall)
Skektek:  (the other surprise attacker, floating outside the other barred
  window, he sees Vorkos busy working a new spell, and launches his own
  volley of magic missiles, which home in on Vorkos the Red in his wooden

  Unfortunately, every one of Skektek's enchanted projectiles vanished
just a few feet before hitting their target.

Skektek:  (hovering outside the window, he begins cursing)  Fuck!  Could
  be an anti-magic shell?  Or more likely a globe of inv-
Vorkos the Red:  (now eyeing Skektek, he works a spell)
Skektek:  Uh-oh.

  A great bolt of lightning arced from the crimson wizard's outstretched
hands, blasting away a large section of the stone wall around the barred
window where Skektek had just been hovering, sending large chunks of rock
falling to the ground outside the keep and exposing the night sky.

Belphanior:  (ducking a sword, he takes advantage of this newly-created
  and much larger window, grabbing the soldier and flinging him out the
  ragged opening in the keep's wall)
soldier #6:  (falling)  AAAAAaaaaa...(his journey ends in a loud crunch of
  metal on stone)
Irina:  (circling around to head for Vorkos, she finds Skeevil in her way,
  staring at the various combatants and looking confused and scared)
Skeevil:  (having been in the process of seeking an exit or hiding place
  but having problems due to the constantly-changing battle, he turns to
  face Irina)  Aaah!  You!  (he uncoils his whip)
Irina:  (strides forward, grabbing the raised whip-arm in one hand)
Skeevil:  No!  Stay away from me-
Irina:  (brings her other arm around and forward with all her might, her
  clenched fist hitting the man's face like a warhammer)
Skeevil:  <crack>  (he falls to the floor, his neck broken)
Irina:  Wow, that felt good.
Razor Charlie:  (feinting with his torch against the soldier and his sword,
  he finds himself standing next to one of the wall tapestries, and pulls
  it down on top of the foe)
soldier #5:  (surprised and half-covered by the heavy cloth, he struggles
  to remove it)
Razor Charlie:  (lines himself up, then charges, driving the man back and
  toward the gaping hole in the wall, then letting him go near the edge)
soldier #5:  (teetering a foot from the large opening, he finally gets
  the tapestry off of his face, just in time to receive a boot planted
  on his chest)
Razor Charlie:  (kicks the soldier out of the keep)
soldier #5:  AAAAAaaaaa...(like his fellow soldier a short time before,
  his impact on the ground below produces a loud metallic crunching sound)
Razor Charlie:  (spots another, wounded soldier getting to his feet, and
  rams the torch into the front of the man's helmet)
soldier #4:  AAARGH!!!
Otto:  (having reloaded his crossbow, he fires another bolt at Vorkos,
  who is now spellcasting again)
Vorkos the Red:  (laughs as the bolt bounces off of some unseen barrier)
  Fools!  These weapons cannot harm me!  (he continues to work his next
  spell, the bolt from Otto having served its secondary purpose if not
  its primary one, as it distracted the wizard from noticing another
  impending threat)
Hope:  (silently approaching, keeping to the very perimeter of the room)
gigantic eunuch:  (turns to face her, and frowns)
Hope:  Oh, shit.  (she releases the spell she was working, and the air all
  around Vorkos shimmers slightly, for just an instant)
Vorkos the Red:  What?!?

  Belphanior didn't yet know it, but his earlier theory about the true
skill and prowess of Vorkos the Red was correct.  Hope was the superior
wizard, and her magic-nullifying spell easily overcame those of the foe.
Not only were the wizard's previously-cast barriers against magic and
physical attacks dispelled, but the new spell he was in the process of
working was also ruined.

Vorkos the Red:  Blast it!

  The wizard was immediately knocked back against the keep's wall by a
fresh barrage of magical missiles.  Without the protections he'd had in
place before, Vorkos was severely wounded this time.

Skektek:  You asked for it...and I'm happy to oblige.  (he floats into
  the chamber through the gaping hole in the wall)  I'm back!
Belphanior:  (joins his companion, as they advance toward the staggering
  Vorkos)  Oh, good.  I was worried that his lightning bolt had knocked
  you out of the fight.
Skektek:  Hah.  It's a good thing that spells of flying allow for decent
Belphanior:  Good to have you back, by the way.  When I saw you floating
  outside that window, I knew it was time to make my move.
Skektek:  Happy to help.  Sorry it took so long.  (he turns to regard
  the dozen soldiers who just burst into the chamber, then casually hits
  them all with a massive lightning bolt, frying them all)  Oh, that felt
Otto:  (having reloaded again, he steps forth, his crossbow aimed right
  at Vorkos)  Make a move and I fire...don't even open your mouth.
Vorkos the Red:  (struggling to his feet, unable to accept that these
  seemingly unremarkable people are defeating him, he raises his magical
  rod in one shaky hand)
Otto:  I told you.  (he fires, his aim perfect, and puts the razor-sharp
  bolt through the foe's wrist, causing him to drop the rod)  I fucking
  told you.
Vorkos the Red:  Aieeee!  (he clutches his mangled hand, from which blood
  now spurts)
Hope:  (to the gigantic eunuch)  You.  Give it up, or I'll have to use
  another spell.

  Oddly enough, the huge man was crouched down and facing the wall, which
didn't seem at all right.  They approached cautiously, Hope and Skektek
with spells ready, Otto with his reloaded crossbow, and Belphanior with
his sword.

Hope:  Is he cowering?
Belphanior:  Is he hurt?  Maybe someone hit him or blasted him and we
  just missed it.  (he frowns)  It is possible...there's a lot going on
gigantic eunuch:  (stands slowly, and turns around)

  As he stood up to his full height, they could now see that between his
massive body and the wall was the young serving girl who had been next
to Vorkos when the four prisoners were first marched into the room.  Her
platter of fruits and cheeses was nowhere to be seen now, and her slender
form trembled with fear.

gigantic eunuch:  (folds his arms, then speaks in a deep voice)  I was
  protecting her from the fight.  Do with me what you will, but spare
  her.  She's done nothing wrong.
Vorkos the Red:  (stands, still clutching his ruined arm with his other,
  grimacing as blood continues to flow from the wound) idiot!
  Protect me!  Crush these fools and-
gigantic eunuch:  (turns, takes two long steps, grabs the wizard, and
  lifts him off the floor)
Vorkos the Red:  (begins flailing, a pointless effort given the iron grip
  of the other)  No!  No!  What are you doing?
gigantic eunuch:  (raises the other high above his head)
Vorkos the Red:  (in desperation, he uses the magical ring he claimed from
  Hermis earlier, sending a powerful jolt of electricity through the huge
gigantic eunuch:  (takes the pain with a clenched jaw, then suddenly drops
  the skinny wizard down across his knee, snapping his spine with a loud
  cracking sound)
Vorkos the Red:  (expires with a long, drawn-out death rattle)
gigantic eunuch:  (drops the lifeless body and turns to Belphanior)  You
  have no idea how long I've been waiting to do that.
Belphanior:  Honestly, I was going to question him, but...I guess that's
  fine.  I definitely understand why you'd feel that way.  (he surveys
  the chamber, then turns back to the huge fellow)  This battle is over
  now.  No more fighting.  You understand this, correct?
gigantic eunuch:  (stares impassively at the wizard's twisted corpse on
  the floor)  Absolutely.
young serving girl:  (also staring at her former master's body)  It's all
  over's really over!  (she cries tears of joy)
gigantic eunuch:  (pauses awkwardly, then hugs her)  Hm.  (to Belphanior)
  You have to understand, Vorkos was a harsh and unforgiving ruler, and
  the days were not easy.
Belphanior:  That time is over.  (to his companions)  It's been a long,
  long day, but also a good one.  We've finally taken some measure of
  control over our situation.  We've got weapons...we've got a keep...
  (he glances at the massive eunuch and the serving girl)  And we have
  new allies who can give us the background we need about where we are,
  which is the first step to figuring out how to get home.
Otto:  As you said, a good day.  A damn good day.
Belphanior:  Yes.  but it's not over just yet.  We need to secure this
  keep before we can get some rest.  Hopefully, on the morrow, we can
  start fresh and figure out our next move.

next:       some answers
released:   5/8/20
notes:      This one was fun.  I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as
  I enjoyed writing it.
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