Chapter #289

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                                +   +
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                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic II      +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1995 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons     +
+  or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  +
+  Copying and/or distribution of these tales is permissible only   +
+  under the sole condition that no part of them will be used or    +
+  sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them...         +
+                                                                   +
+                                  Thomas Miller                    +
+                          +
+  Belphanior  13th/14th/14th level elven warrior/mage/thief (CN/E) +
+     Otto     6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief           (CN)   +
+  Date:        2/17/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        early evening                                       +
+  Place:       the town of Helgate, within the Clatspur Mountains  +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Now it's my will against yours...and you _will_ lose."          +
+                  - Gunnery Sgt. Highway, from _Heartbreak Ridge_  +

                 CCLXXXIX.  The Balance of Power

  Two days ago, Belphanior and Otto dispatched Dagron and all of his
men, which pretty much eliminated all those who had previously been
in power in Helgate.

Belphanior:  (draws his cloak about himself)  They are ready?
Otto:  Just like you asked.  They're all gathered in the dining hall
Belphanior:  Good.  Come, let's go.

  The pair left their suite in the Raven's Nest Inn, descending the
staircase to the lower floors.  Once there, they found a gathered
crowd, perhaps a hundred strong, waiting in the inn's spacious dining
hall.  Walking up to a bannister that overlooked the dining hall, the
elf addressed the crowd.

Belphanior:  (speaks using a voice amplified by a recently-cast Shout
  spell)  Attention!
crowd:  (silences almost instantly)
Otto:  (standing at the elf's side, arms crossed)
Belphanior:  Good evening, citizens of Helgate.  You represent the
  more wealthy people in this town - the merchants, the tradesmen,
  the businesspeople.  One could almost say that you're the most
  powerful people in Helgate.
crowd:  (silent)
Belphanior:  Almost.

  As the elf spoke, none could deny his commanding presence; the
force of will he projected was almost tangible, and sent a chill of
awe, perhaps even fear, running along the spines of the assembled
townspeople.  His red cloak swirled about him as he talked and
gestured, and the hellish glow from his enchanted eye cast crimson
tinges across those nearest to him.

Belphanior:  (spreads his arms)  You're probably wondering why I've
  gathered you here tonight.  The time has come for all to be made
crowd:  (murmuring)
Belphanior:  As you know, Dagron Larthos controlled many interests
  in this town.  As you also know, he is now dead, slain by me after
  he made an attempt on my life.
crowd:  (muttering now)
Belphanior:  With Dagron - and all his henchmen, I might add - gone,
  his considerable stake in this town would seem to be wasted.  But
  it's my pleasure to inform you that it _won't_ be wasted.
crowd:  (whispering quietly amongst itself)
Belphanior:  As of today, _I_ am assuming all of Dagron's duties.
crowd:  (muttering again)
Belphanior:  Fear not - I don't intend to interfere in your day-to-
  day operations.  I'm simply taking over everything that Dagron
  did - but I'll do things my way.  (pauses, surveying the crowd)
  You'll find me a better ruler than Dagron was - fairer, perhaps -
  but also a more merciless one than you could ever imagine, should
  you cross me.
crowd:  (watching in disbelief)
Otto:  (watching the crowd for reactions, as previously instructed
  by Belphanior)
Belphanior:  As Dagron was mayor, so shall I be.  As he was sheriff,
  so am I.  As he was collector of taxes, so am I.  His financial
  interests in certain of your businesses...are now mine.  (pauses
  again, for a moment)  My demands are simple:  pay your taxes on
  time.  Uphold the laws, even if I choose to modify them.  I tend
  to avoid meddling in daily affairs - but again, make NO mistake.
  (his red eye glows, brightly)  Those who try to cheat me, or to
  betray me, will regret it for the remainder of their short lives.
crowd:  (silent)
Belphanior:  That is all.  (with a wave of his hand, he dismisses

  The crowd stood there for a few moments, before someone had the
sense to turn and leave.  This sparked a mass exodus of people who
suddenly remembered that they had somewhere else to be.  Before too
long, the dining hall was empty.

Otto:  I don't think they took it too well.
Belphanior:  I could care less.  Come on, we've got work to do.

  Earlier that day (and the previous day, to be sure) they had pored
over the late Dagron's records, learning of his various investments,
business dealings, stakes...and now, armed with this information,
they were ready to take over.  They made ready to walk the town...

Belphanior:  (to Perkins, owner of the Raven's Nest, who is hiding
  behind a wall below)  Perkins!  Out with you, man.
Perkins:  (emerges from his hiding place)  Y- yes, sir?
Belphanior:  Perkins, you of all people have the least to worry
  about.  After all, how often is it that a man has the town's lord
  staying in his inn?
Perkins:  Um...
Belphanior:  Of course, my room is now free of charge.  Isn't it?
Perkins:  ulp...of course, sir.
Otto:  _Your_ room?
Belphanior:  Oh, yeah.  Perkins, I want you to set up the suite next
  to mine, for Otto here.  His lodgings will be free as well.
Perkins:  B- but sir!
Belphanior:  (somewhat irritated)  What _is_ it?
Perkins:  There's someone...staying there already.
Belphanior:  Not any more.  Put them in another room, or throw them
  out.  I don't care which.
Perkins:  O- of course, sir.
Belphanior:  (walking by, he stops and glares at the old fellow)
  Another thing.
Perkins:  Sir?
Belphanior:  Like Dagron, I now own one-fourth of this inn.  (he
  tosses a heavy pouch to Perkins, who fails to catch it; the pouch
  hits the oaken floor with a "clink")  Invest this money wisely.
  Fix the place up.  Parts of it are practically rotting, you know.
Perkins:  Oh.  (picks up the pouch)  Of course, sir.
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  Let's leave.
Otto:  Right.  (they leave the inn and enter the street)

  The Raven's Nest was on Main Street, a wide paved road which ran
the length of Helgate.  It was an old road, but an important one;
all of the town's major businesses were situated somewhere along its
length.  The pair's first stop was the Scoundrel's Den, a tavern of
most vile reputation.  As grizzled and aggressive as its patrons
were, they fell into hushed silence as Belphanior entered the place.

Belphanior:  (reading from a scroll he marked up earlier in the day)
  I'm looking for Felix Halfadner.
rough-looking man:  (steps forth bravely)  That'd be me.
Belphanior:  You-  (eyes his scroll)  -didn't pay your taxes which
  were due yesterday.
Felix:  Ulp.  Err, Dagron was a buddy of mine, and he usually let
  me pay up a little late-
Belphanior:  Since I just took over, I'll treat the last two days
  as a grace period...
Felix:  (grinning)  Sure, whatever you-
Belphanior:  ...a grace period which ends tomorrow.  Are we seeing
  on the same level here?
Felix:  Yes, yep, uh, absolutely.
Belphanior:  Good.  The tax office is, as you probably know, right
  across the street from the Raven's Nest.  Make sure to stop by.
Felix:  You got it.  Anything you say, pal.
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  Come.  We've got places to go and important
  people to see...(he leaves, Otto following)

  After the pair had left, the conversation in the tavern returned
to normal levels...

ruffian:  (to Felix)  You sure you want to put put up with that
Felix:  (grabs the man by the collar)  Listen, Bunger!  Have you
  remained deaf to what's going on in this town?  That elf rules
Bunger:  But...he's just one person.
Felix:  Yeah, just one person who _singlehandedly_
  took apart Dagron's entire operation.  One person who, they say,
  laughs at wounds...who fights on after he should have died...who
  hurls fire and lightning from his hands...
crowd in tavern:  (silent now, listening to these tales they've all
  heard many times in the last few days)
Felix:  This elf may be ruthless, but so was Dagron.  Let's see how
  things go for awhile.  Hell, he may run Helgate _better_ then
  Dagron ever did...
Bunger:  (shaking his head, though in truth he fears Belphanior as
  much as any man in the Scoundrel's Den)

  Meanwhile, Belphanior and Otto continued their rounds, arriving
in short order at the home of the town's banker.  This place was no
more than a second floor, built atop the bank itself.  Belphanior
didn't bother knocking at the closed and locked front door, instead
floating up to the banker's bedroom window.

Belphanior:  (raps on the window with his sword)
banker:  (a skinny, middle-aged gnome named Norman)  Eh?  (he opens
  the window)  Aie!
Norman's wife:  What is it, dear?  A vampire?
Norman:  Worse...
Belphanior:  Relax, Norman.  I've just come to query you about the
Norman:  Bank?
Belphanior:  Yeah, you know, the one downstairs.
Norman:  Oh.  Of course!  Err...what is it you want to know?
Belphanior:  Tell me about your total much have the
  townspeople stored away for safekeeping?
Norman:  You're not thinking of robbing the place?
Belphanior:  Oh, no.  If I wanted to do that, I'd have done it by
  now.  No, Norman, I'm here to make sure that the townspeoples'
  riches are properly safeguarded.  I wouldn't want to have to cope
  with a robbery, now would I?
Norman:  Of course not...
Belphanior:  Well, then.  (hovering in the air outside the window,
  he eyes Norman)  Total worth of the bank?
Norman:  Uh, that's a private matter-
Belphanior:  Oh, you can tell me, Norman.

  As this dialogue continued, Otto waited in the streets below.  He
couldn't fly like Belphanior, but then again, he had no desire to.

Otto:  (scanning the town, and the people watching him and Belphanior
  from behind curtained windows)
Eduardo:  (dashes up)  Master Otto!
Otto:  Eh?  Oh, it's you.
Eduardo:  Just wanted to tell you, sir, that I for one am happy to
  see that you have made a name for yourself in our town!
Otto:  Happy?
Eduardo:  Yes, oh, yes!
Otto:  Let me guess:  Dagron fired you from a job, and now you want
  it back?
Eduardo:  No, sir.  (he lowers his voice)  But you need eyes and ears
  on the streets, no?
Otto:  Hmm.  It's possible, though only the very best eyes and ears
  will do.  (he recalls a necklace he once made, and smirks)
Eduardo:  The best eyes and ears?  They belong to me, sir!
Otto:  Do they, now?  (flips the boy a silver coin)  Deal, kid.
Eduardo:  (delighted, he chews on the coin)
Otto:  You don't eat that, kid, you spend it.  Go get yourself a nice
  meal or something.
Eduardo:  Yes!  (bows)  Many thanks, master!
Otto:  I'll be in touch.
Eduardo:  (scampers off)
Belphanior:  (lands on the street's stone surface)  What was that
  all about?
Otto:  I just gained us a little spy on the streets...
Belphanior:  We're going to have to beef up the security at the bank
  before too long.
Otto:  Make it thief-proof, eh?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  A good town's got to have a safe bank...

  They continued their rounds, learning the major places in Helgate
and meeting important people:  the aforementioned Norman, the town's
banker; the crusty dwarf Ganzer, the only decent blacksmith in the
entire town; the sly human Balthaas, head of the thieves' guild...

Belphanior:  That ends now.
Balthaas:  What?  How?  I don't believe you!
Belphanior:  You don't have to.  How many thieves did you account
  for here?
Balthaas:  Five.  Including myself.
Belphanior:  Where are they now?
Balthaas:  Two of the other four worked for Dagron, and thus you
  killed them.  The other two...out and about, I suppose.
Belphanior:  Find them.  They - and you - now work for me.
Balthaas:  But...
Belphanior:  The pay is ten gold per week.  Twenty for you.
Balthaas:  (clearly and pleasantly surprised)  Oh.
Belphanior:  More than you made before, eh?
Balthaas:  A bit, yes.
Otto:  (eyeing the decorations on the walls, the rare artworks on
  the tables)  Balthaas.
Balthaas:  Yes?
Otto:  You're more than the guildmaster, aren't you?
Balthaas:  Err...
Otto:  I know a fence when I see one.
Balthaas:  The town's only fence.  (shrugs)  A man's gotta eat.
Belphanior:  Well, you will eat, my friend.  And well.  Just stay
  loyal to me and you'll be well taken care of.
Balthaas:  I can deal with that.  Uh, what exactly will the boys
  and me be doing?
Belphanior:  If I'm not mistaken, you have a sharp and keen mind,
  and are skilled with numbers, no?
Balthaas:  (looks a little embarrassed)  I've always had a knack for
  these things.
Belphanior:  Good, because I'm putting you in charge of the town's
  records.  You now control the tax collection, the land bureau...
  and oh yes, a census would be nice.
Balthaas:  Sure, whatever you say.
Belphanior:  Bring your two men and come talk with me tomorrow.
Balthaas:  You got it.
Belphanior:  (walking out)
Balthaas:  Pleasure doing business with you...boss.
Belphanior:  Likewise, Balthaas.
Otto:  (smirks as he and Belphanior leave)

  Thus it was that the pair made their way around Helgate, setting
up the important things.  By the time they returned to the Raven's
Nest, the hour was late, and they were quite tired.  Perkins met
them at the great hotel's lobby; the old man looked thoroughly

Belphanior:  What's going on?
Perkins:  It's the second suite upstairs, sir.  The one you asked
  me to empty and clean up.
Belphanior:  What of it?
Perkins:  The occupant is proving...difficult.
Otto:  (sighs)  What's it gonna take for me to get a decent place
  to sleep around here?
Belphanior:  Not much.  Come on.  (they head upstairs)

next:   more of this
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  I hope Belphanior's takeover of Helgate amuses you, since
  it'll be fairly long-lasting.

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