Chapter #1035

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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                         +
+     Poulos       gigantic, beefy former slave with scimitar             +
+   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 (two weeks since arrival)                      +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         the City of Fellban                                    +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "Time to stop playing defense and get back on offense."               +
+      - Agent May, from _Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D._ episode _Emancipation_  +

                   MXXXV.  Recovery and Loose Ends

  After a climactic battle with the forces of Baron Tarkus, the party has
been resting and recuperating in the city of Fellban...

Belphanior:  (walks around, stretching and testing his recently-battered
  body)  Ah, much better.  I think we'll leave today.  (he regards the
  others)  Hard to believe we've been recovering here for almost a week.
Irina:  You needed it.

  They were in the guest quarters of Jaron Mendenhall's manor, and had
been for the last six days.  As far as wounds went, it had been all or
none for the adventurers, with Otto in particular at the former end of
that spectrum.  The dwarf was still bedridden, his cleaned and bandaged
shoulder wound needing daily attention as well as time if it was to heal

Belphanior:  Will he be okay?
Irina:  (nods)  The bite was deep, but we tended to it quickly and got
  him back here in time.  He should be thankful that your friend the mayor
  was holding onto a couple of healing elixirs, else the torn flesh would
  not have knitted itself together quite so well.  As it is, Otto may have
  to live with an aching shoulder for the rest of his days.
Belphanior:  You did a great job, and I thank you.
Irina:  I did the best I could, given that Istus' divine magic yet eludes
  me.  Speaking of, what's our next move here?
Belphanior:  I'd like to go see about these mists...but first, there's
  somewhere else we need to go.  In fact, I've already made the necessary
  arrangements.  (he buckles on his sword-belt)
Razor Charlie:  (pacing about the chamber, he grimaces, bored and ready
  for some action)
Skektek:  Where are we going?
Belphanior:  You'll see.  Let's go speak with Jaron.

  Soon, they stood in the courtyard of the mayor's manor, inspecting a
pair of large wagons.

Jaron Mendenhall:  As you requested, two fine wagons.  And you'll have the
  horses to pull them, too.
Belphanior:  Much appreciated.
Jaron Mendenhall:  No, thank YOU.  You've rid this land of a menace that
  loomed over it for a century.
Belphanior:  Not without your help...the supplies you provided played a
  key part in winning that battle.
Jaron Mendenhall:  (grins)   Although we're running short on silver here
  now, after you coated every dagger, bolt, and sharp stick you had in
  the stuff.
Belphanior:  Well, at least you know where all that silver is, so you can
  send people to go collect it.
Jaron Mendenhall:  I already have.
Belphanior:  Your blacksmith did an excellent job helping us.  Everyone
  did.  So, will you rename the entire Barony?
Jaron Mendenhall:  I'm still considering that.  But one way or another,
  the Barony of Tarkus is no more.  Whatever we call it going forward,
  and however we rule it...needs to be in the best way for the people.
  That includes helping Worgenfeld become a better, safer place to live.
  (he frowns)  Are you sure you want to make this journey now?
Belphanior:  Absolutely.  If we don't, it will be a loose end...and I've
  learned not to leave loose ends.  Whoever's left behind in Tarkus' fort
  up north needs to know that things have changed.

  The elf didn't mention his other reason for wanting to search the slain
baron's lair:  treasure, specifically the possibility of finding any
information that might help them find a way back to their own world.  It
didn't seem wise, or prudent, to simply leave the fort uninvestigated.

Jaron Mendenhall:  Tempting as it is, please don't destroy the place.  A
  good fort takes time and money to build, and we'll eventually need it
  manned as a guard post.
Belphanior:  (nods)  I won't burn it down, I promise.
Jaron Mendenhall:  You're leaving today?
Belphanior:  Within the hour.  The dwarf and priestess will remain here
  as he continues to recover.  I'll take the rest, ride to Worgenfeld and
  then on to the fort.  We should be back within two weeks.
Jaron Mendenhall:  Very well.  I'll see to it that your people here have
  everything they need.
Belphanior:  (thinking about how upset Otto will be when he finds out he
  got left behind)  Heh.

  In short order, the elf had briefed the others.  Irina wasn't too happy
about being left behind either, but she understood.  She also had another
task, aside from overseeing Otto's involving another thing
that Belphanior had decided he wanted from the mayor.  That new initiative
was already under way, and the elf had explained it to Irina.

Irina:  That...makes sense.
Belphanior:  We'll need it when we head south to depart this land.  Now
  that we've discussed the general idea, I just need you to make sure it
  proceeds on schedule and is ready when we get back.
Irina:  How long do you plan to be gone?
Belphanior:  I figure it'll take four or five days to get to Worgenfeld,
  since we have these wagons and they'll slow us down a bit.  Another two
  days past the town, to the fort...a day at the we should be
  back in about two weeks.  (he nods)  At which time Otto will be healed
  and ready, and we can head south for the land of mists and whatever
  awaits us there.
Irina:  I heard that the lad wants to join us?
Belphanior:  Williamson?  Yes, he does.  I get the impression he's at a
  sort of crossroads in his life...he grew up without a father, and also
  hating Tarkus.  Getting rid of the Baron not only solved his need for
  revenge, it also made his homeland suddenly a lot more quiet and boring.
  He seems to want to see what's out there in the world, since he has no
  ties here anymore.  (he shrugs)  Feel free to talk to him if he comes
  around while we're away.  I've got no objection to him leaving with us
  when we head out for good.  The kid certainly held his own in the fight,
  that's for sure; he was calm under pressure.
Irina:  And he can shoot.  I'll get Otto's opinion, when he's well enough
  to talk about things.
Belphanior:  Very well.

  The five adventurers heading to the fort (Belphanior, Skektek, Razor
Charlie, Hope, and Poulos) left within the hour.  They rode separately in
order to reduce the load in the wagons, each of which was pulled by a team
of four horses.  The pair of wagons only held supplies for now, but would
soon also contain whatever of value was found in Baron Tarkus' fort to the
north.  Belphanior didn't think they would have any problems with wolves
or men on this journey, and he was right.  Whatever wolves or other beasts
remained between settled areas, they apparently no longer stalked at the
behest of some greater power.  It was always possible that in due time -
perhaps a few weeks, perhaps longer - they would once again be truly wild
and willing to attack people.  However, that possibility was a problem for
Jaron Mendenhall or someone else to solve.  Belphanior had no intention or
interest in being in this land for much longer.
  His estimate had been right on the mark; it took them five days to reach
Worgenfeld.  The town looked, in every respect, as it had when they left
it previously; they didn't even bother to stop this time.

Belphanior:  We'll go around.  I don't see any reason to dally there, and
  we've got plenty of supplies.
Poulos:  Fine with me.  (he regards the town)  My only memories there are
Hope:  Except for that time we killed Vorkos.
Poulos:  (smiles thinly)  Ah, yes.  My mistake.  One pleasant memory.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)

  They simply went around the town and continued north, toward the immense
mountain range that was easily visible in the distance.  Belphanior felt
that they had to be more cautious now; despite Tarkus' defeat, these were
still his lands.  There was no way of knowing what wolves or other beasts
roamed in the vicinity of his fort.  Accordingly, the group took multiple
defensive measures, of both the physical and magical sort.  It was easier
to defend a campsite built around two sturdy wagons, and the party's three
wizards were back at near-full strength now, with a wide variety of spells
available to them thanks to Jaron Mendenhall's resources.
  The preparations proved unnecessary; it seemed that the demise of the
one who'd ruled the land for the last century had already brought about
changes.  The next day saw the group riding hard and stopping infrequently
for breaks.  A well-used trail connected Worgenfeld with the fort to the
north, and the journey was an easy one.  By late afternoon they passed the
first of what they assumed to be the fort's remote guardposts.

Belphanior:  (regards the small hut just to one side of the road)  We'd
  better search it.

  The building was empty, and would have been sparse even if it had been
occupied.  There were four cots, a small wood-burning stove, and a lot of
empty shelves.  A crude latrine was outside, at the back of the building
facing away from the road.

Hope:  I wonder if these guards all fled?
Poulos:  Or they might have been with the force Tarkus brought south.
Skektek:  (just itching to blast something, whether it's people or just
  an empty building)  Dammit.
Belphanior:  Remember, I promised Jaron we'd leave the fort intact.

  They pressed onward, finding a second vacant guardpost about a half hour
later.  Shortly after that, the outline of a small fort took shape in the

Hope:  It's unfortunate that we got here just before dark...might it be
  better to wait until tomorrow?
Belphanior:  With the Baron gone, along with any forces worth bringing to
  the recent battle, it's worth taking the chance.  Let's be quick, but
  careful.  This place doesn't look that big, so this shouldn't take long.

  As they approached, they were able to make out more details of the fort.
It rose perhaps fifty feet above the surrounding terrain, and appeared to
have three floors (assuming that its windows were an accurate indicator.)
The fort itself was constructed of massive, well-worn stone blocks; it was
square and roughly a hundred feet on a side.  The palisade around it was
fashioned of logs and stood about ten feet high.

Belphanior:  (regarding the fort, as daylight fades with each passing
  moment)  Okay, I've changed my mind.  We'll retreat to that last guard
  post, camp there, and then enter and explore this fort tomorrow.

next:       inside the keep of Tarkus
released:   8/14/20
notes:      I'm writing this one at the end of May 2020, the day after a
  series of riots inflamed America.  In the past, I'd have most likely
  filled this section with a heated diatribe about stupid people and the
  need for proactive force.  But now I'm old enough and seasoned enough
  to realize what actually happened:  the ranks of the truly nonviolent
  protestors were infiltrated by a few people who planned to run amok and
  burn and loot and destroy.  Any real solution needs to address those
  few troublemakers.  So far, there doesn't appear to be a push for such
  a's like the authorities would rather say the right things
  to the nonviolent 90% instead of warning the violent 10% against doing
  what they do, and then enforcing consequences for doing it.
    Anyway, the events of that weekend (May 29-31 2020) upset me so much
  that I ended up not writing at all, the entire weekend.  I just fumed
  and thought about how much different things might be if, say, I was an
  archmage, or Superman, or something like that.
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