Chapter #1037

previous chapter (#1036)                                                                  next chapter (#1038)

                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      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             +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Date:          unknown (three weeks since arrival)                    +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         a fort at the foot of the mountains to the north       +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "Members of your curious profession are few in number."               +
+                                                 - from _Goldfinger_     +

                   MXXXVII.  Clearing the Fort

  Using diplomacy rather than direct violence, the adventurers have
cleared the former Baron Tarkus' fort of guards and servants, and made
their way through the first two floors.  They now stand poised to ascend
to the third floor - the personal chambers of the late ruler.

Belphanior:  (he draws his sword once more)  Time to see what the good
  Baron left for us.

  Despite the departed archer's reassurance that there were no traps in
store, the elf was still cautious as he led the way up the stairs.  It
occurred to him that normally, Otto would have been the point person for
this exploration.  Belphanior hoped his companion would be recovered and
back to full strength soon.

Belphanior:  (maintains a slow pace as he checks the steps and the area

  Behind him, the others knew to be patient and remain alert.  The elf
was the only one present who had real experience finding, avoiding, and
disarming traps.  While he most often used his magic and his sword to
accomplish things, Belphanior had always kept his thieving skills well-
honed through regular training and practice.  At any rate, those skills
didn't find any traps as he moved up into the third floor proper.
  The stairs led to a small foyer-like area, with the right side opening
into an adjacent chamber:

          |                    |
          |                    |
          |                    |
          |                    |
          |                    |
          |______    __________|
          |#     ----   \|.   =|
          |#             |:   =|  <-- stairway up from 2nd floor
          |   #  ###  #        |

  The foyer had some wooden pegs mounted in its largest wall; two of these
were currently in use to hang heavy coats.  The second area appeared to be
a sitting chamber of some sort, containing two large couches, a couple of
chairs, and a tall cabinet which held a variety of liquors and glasses.
From the sitting chamber, a pair of sturdy wooden doors presumably led
into another area - and it was here that Belphanior finally detected some
sort of defensive measure.

Belphanior:  (muttering to himself)
Hope:  What is it?
Belphanior:  Clever...the handles of these doors have tiny spurs on the
  insides.  I mean really tiny...just enough to break the skin and, I'd
  assume, deliver some sort of contact poison.
Poulos:  So none but the Baron could safely enter.
Skektek:  I guess he wasn't worried about ever forgetting and poisoning
Belphanior:  It's entirely possible that being a werewolf made him immune
  to poisons.
Hope:  Or maybe he just wore really thick gloves.
Belphanior:  Either way, we caught it, and now we have a number of options
  to gain entrance.  (he goes to work on the lock, using a couple of small

  The lock was complex, but the elf had been doing this for a very long
time, and within moments the door opened with a soft "click."

Belphanior:  (holds a hand up while he carefully checks the slightly-open
  door for further traps)

  Finding none, he carefully pushed the right-hand door open, revealing a
lavish bedchamber which took up most of this third floor of the fort.

    well -->  |O       %%%%        |  <-- fireplace
              |___                @|
     tub -->  |   |            ####|
              |______          ####|  <-- bed
              |                   @|
  closet -->  |______    __________|
              |#     ----   \|.   =|
              |#             |:   =|  <-- stairway up from 2nd floor
              |   #  ###  #        |

  The room was dominated by a large oaken bed to the right, its expansive
surface covered with piled furs.

Skektek:  Ugh.  (he covers his nose)  It reeks in here.
Hope:  (considers that this means something coming from the wizard, who
  she always thought had a slightly stale body odor himself)
Belphanior:  Well, he WAS a werewolf.

  The head of the large bed was flanked by heavy wooden nightstands, and
the wall opposite the entry door featured a massive stone fireplace.  In
the far left corner were a large, round wooden tub and what appeared to
be a well with a crank and bucket at its top.  Finally, just to the left
as one entered this room, a sizable closet held both hanging items and a
series of shelves.

Belphanior:  Let's have a look around...but be cautious.  I doubt even he
  would have set traps in his own bedchamber, but you never know.  (he
  heads for the closet)
Poulos:  (draws his sword and pokes the furs atop the bed)
Hope:  We should burn those.
Skektek:  As long as we do it somewhere where we can't smell them.
Hope:  (wandering toward the fireplace)
Belphanior:  A well...on a higher floor...unusual.  Maybe he liked to draw
  his own water.
Razor Charlie:  (wanders over to the well and looks down, grimacing as he
  determines that it's far too narrow for anyone to hide inside)  Hmph.
Skektek:  (eyes the large tub)  Looks like he hadn't had any servants do
  any cleaning recently.
Hope:  (nearby)  Oh...gross.
Belphanior:  What?
Hope:  (makes a face)  There are bones in the fireplace.
Belphanior:  (grabs one, examining it)  Hmm...gnawed.  Based on what that
  archer said, I think we now know what happened to the women who Tarkus
  took from the town.
Skektek:  He ate them?  (shakes his head)  Guess it makes sense.
Hope:  I don't even want to think about what he did to them before that.
Poulos:  (looking around)  It was a good thing we did, ridding the land
  of this one.

  Despite the generally dirty appearance of the Baron's bedchambers, the
adventurers found a modest amount of things worth taking.  In one of the
nightstands was a magical ring of some sort, and one of the cloaks hanging
in the closet was also enchanted.  Elsewhere in the closet, hidden behind
some other clothes and thus not readily visible, was a medium-sized chest.
After Belphanior defeated its poison-needle trap and picked the lock, he
recovered some other treasures:  three potion bottles wrapped in an old
sack, several hundred gold pieces, a pouch full of small gemstones, and
an old book.

Belphanior:  (flipping through the dusty tome)  Well, this could come in
Skektek:  What's that?  A spellbook?  Or maybe a treatise that will boost
  the reader's powers?
Belphanior:  Actually, it appears to be an ancient reference book dealing
  with the history and nature of werewolves.
Skektek:  (disappointed)  Oh.
Belphanior:  (to everyone)  Let's do another sweep of this place, and then
  we're leaving.  I was expecting more resistance here, or maybe some sort
  of ferocious guardian monster, or something...but whatever.  If we get
  underway soon, we'll be back at Fellban a half day early.

  Even when they mounted up and departed the fort a short time later - the
wagons a fair bit lighter than the elf had anticipated - he half-expected
some sort of last-ditch resistance.  It wouldn't have surprised him to see
survivors of the battle, or other stragglers, return to the fort, perhaps
to try and take power for themselves.  However, no one had showed up; any
loose remnants of Tarkus' force were either afraid or else word had gotten
around.  To reinforce the general point, Belphanior moved the head-on-a-
stake to the main entrance to the keep's grounds, so that anyone entering
would have to walk right past it.

Belphanior:  So that's that.  (he gazes to the south)  Let's get back to
  the others, and then get the hell out of this forsaken land.

next:       the secret project
released:   8/28/20
notes:      Anticlimactic, perhaps...but it's important to remember that
  not every step in a process (or story arc) will top the one that came
previous chapter (#1036)                                                                  next chapter (#1038)