Chapter #291

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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:        2/21/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       the town of Helgate, within the Clatspur Mountains  +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "One man really _can_ make a difference."                        +
+                                 - from the _Knight Rider_ pilot   +

                   CCXCI.  A Miner Disaster

  After taking over Helgate, Belphanior has instituted rules and
regulations, and has been getting things organized for several days.
He has transformed the former thieves' guild into his own personal
information-gathering network.  He has strengthened the security
and defenses of the town's only bank.  He has consolidated various
taxes and interests which were owed to his predecessor, the late
and unlamented Dagron.
  Currently, the elf rested in his room, whittling away at a block
of wood with a small knife.  Suddenly, he heard a commotion of some
sort, outside.  He set down the vaguely formed block of wood and
stood, walking briskly over to the window to have a look.  It seemed
that something was happening somewhere to Helgate's northern end.

Belphanior:  (cursing, he leaves his room, locking the door behind
  him)  What the hell's going on now?  (he raps on Otto's suite's
  door, but there is no answer)

  The elf descended to the lobby, where he was met by his dwarven

Belphanior:  What's happening out there?
Otto:  The mine...a mineshaft just collapsed, trapping a number of
Belphanior:  How far?
Otto:  Not far at all, I guess.  I think we'd better go check it out.
Belphanior:  Absolutely.  (they leave the inn)
Perkins:  Take care, sir.
Belphanior:  Not to worry, Perkins.

  Belphanior and Otto headed for the mines; along the way they passed
milling townspeople.

crying lady:  Mayor!  Mayor!
Belphanior:  (not quite used to that title)  What?
lady:  (nearly hysterical)  My husband was in that mine!  Someone's
  got to get him out...!
Belphanior:  We'll see.
lady:  But...what if he's dead?  Crushed by rocks...(she begins to
  sob again)
Otto:  Lady, we'll see what we can do.  Now go home or something.

  Arriving at the mines' mouth, at the northern edge of town, they
were greeted by a throng of people.

Belphanior:  What a crowd.  No, they're not a crowd, they're a mob.
Otto:  No, a mob would be out to get someone.  These people are just
  milling about uselessly.
Belphanior:  (to a nearby miner)  Where's the collapsed mineshaft?
miner:  (points)  Over there, m'lord.  They were just working as
  usual, and the shaft fell in on itself.
Otto:  Take us there.

  The fellow did, and upon arriving at the specific mine entrance,
they saw that there was indeed a serious problem.  The affected
shaft had collapsed completely, chunks of rubble and mounds of dirt
flowing out of the mine's entrance.  The tunnel was quite completely

Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Ideas?
Belphanior:  (concentrating, hand on his sword-hilt)  Can't tell if
  anyone's in there...but the distance could be too great...
Otto:  Well, we need to dig.  Break out the spells for it.
Belphanior:  Err...I don't have any.
Otto:  No digging magic?
Belphanior:  Nope.
miner:  Aie!  What can we do, then?  It could take days to move all
  that debris!
Belphanior:  (gets a gleam in his eye)  Ah.
Otto:  Huh?
Belphanior:  Not to fear.  I've got a solution.  (to various of the
  workers standing around)  You, you, and you.  Start moving those
  small boulders away.  You four - get picks and shovels.  You!
woman:  (looks confused)
Belphanior:  Yes, you.  Go fetch some water and rags.  Bring more
  women, children, anyone who can't dig.  And get them to carry
  more water and rags.  (he produces a black hide-bound tome from
woman:  (runs away to find water, rags, and help)
miner:  What about me?
Belphanior:  Quiet, I'm spellcasting.
Otto:  (instructs the miner to go find other miners, to help)
Belphanior:  (chanting mystic incantations from his tome)

  Before Belphanior, a wisp of smoke appeared...then more...and then
a huge scorpion appeared!

miners:  Aaa!  (scattering)
Belphanior:  Oops.  (using the power of the Book of Beasts, he orders
  the scorpion to move away and go to sleep)
scorpion:  (obeys)
Otto:  Understand that I don't mean any insult, but why did you
  summon a giant scorpion?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  You don't always control what you get...(he
  begins another incantation)

  Momentarily, a three-foot wide land urchin appeared next to the
elf, wobbling on its spindly legs.

Belphanior:  <sigh>

  Shortly, the odd thing had moved over next to the scorpion, and
Belphanior was summoning once more.  Meanwhile, the miners toiled
to begin clearing the rubble; under Otto's direction, they quickly
and systematically started this job, piling dirt and rocks to one
side.  The scorpion and the land urchin milled about, far away from
all the action.

Belphanior:  (summons a ten-foot long stag beetle)  Hmm.
Otto:  (looks bewildered and amused at the same time)

  Before the huge, slow-moving stag beetle had made its way over to
the scorpion and land urchin, Belphanior had succeeded in summoning
a phenomenally better helper:  an enormous ankheg, more than twenty
feet long.

Belphanior:  (smiling at last, he speaks to the thing using the
  power of the magical book)  Go tunnel mouth.  Dig.  Not eat ANY
  flesh there.  Or anywhere else.
ankheg:  (moves to obey)
miners:  (quickly getting out of the way)  Aaa!

  The miners had made a good, spirited start on the blocked mineshaft.
However, with the ankheg now at work, the rubble really began to fly.
The huge creature burrowed into the shaft, spraying rocks, dirt, and
splintered wooden beam-pieces behind it.

Belphanior:  Move in behind it!  Shore up the tunnel!
miners:  (understandably hesitant)
Belphanior:  Damn it, I'll follow the worm!  You go behind me to fix
  the passage.  You other men - follow me in case we find any bodies.
  You women, stand ready to help any wounded.  (he grabs a lantern
  from a spectator, and lights it)
Otto:  What about me?
Belphanior:  Naturally, you'll go with me.

  With that, the elf moved into the ankheg's burrow, Otto behind him
and the various others in a string after that.  As it turned out,
the mine was blocked back to a hundred feet or so.  The ankheg wasn't
too careful about its mining efforts, as Belphanior saw when he found
a ragged, bloody body part in the thing's stead.

Belphanior:  Must've been a body, wedged in amidst the rubble.
Otto:  The poor sap was probably dead already, from the cave-in.  I
  wouldn't worry about it.
Belphanior:  I'm not.  I just need to be sure that my monsters are
  doing what I tell them.

  Just then, there were yells and shrieks from the area ahead, on
the other side of the blockage.  The two adventurers dashed in that
direction, and soon found the ankheg facing about a dozen miners,
weaving back and forth like a cobra.  Trapped in the terminus of a
mineshaft, the miners were covered with dirt and grime, and several
of them appeared injured, but they were alive.  Their only problem
was that they were terrified, facing the giant ankheg which had just
burrowed into the cavity.

Otto:  Hi there.
Belphanior:  (to the ankheg)  See if can smell more flesh.  Then go
  find, but not eat!
ankheg:  (begins sniffing at the walls around it)
Otto:  (to the miners)  Out.  Leave through that tunnel - you'll
  find people waiting to help you.
miners:  (begin leaving, carrying their wounded fellows in some
Belphanior:  Otto, I'm going this way.  (he follows the ankheg as
  it burrows off in a new direction)
Otto:  Right.

  By now, Belphanior could sense any live people trapped nearby, via
their souls.  This was possible because he was far enough away from
the crowd outside the mine, and their extranneous souls didn't affect
his concentration.  Using the ankheg, he was able to reach four more
trapped miners, two of whom were wounded; these were taken out, to
the surface, where their wounds were tended to.  The elf also found
five corpses, unfortunate miners who had been crushed to death during
the cave-in.
  Soon enough, all that could be done had been, and Belphanior leaned
against a wall outside the mine, watching some miners shore up the
passage while others helped tend to the wounded.  Nearby, the ankheg
hissed at the giant scorpion, while the land urchin puffed out its
spikes and ignored both of the other monsters.  The huge stag beetle
had wandered away, toward the center of town.

Otto:  (to a nearby man)  You.  Keep an eye on that beetle.  If it
  gets to any crops, it'll ruin them.
man:  Uh...okay.  (he follows the ten-foot beetle, wondering how he
  can possibly affect its meandering)
miner:  (walks up to Belphanior)  I am Gunther.
Belphanior:  Gunther?
Otto:  Gunther!
Gunther:  It's me.  (he eyes Belphanior)  You know, you saved the
  lives of fifteen men here.
Belphanior:  Someone had to do it.
Gunther:  But it was you.
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  Gotta protect and serve the people.
Gunther:  The town won't soon forget this, my friend.
Otto:  (eyes the carnage, nodding)  A good day's work.
Belphanior:  It didn't take that long.
other miner:  (appears)  We've got six bodies, and another guy's
  still missing.
Belphanior:  He's dead.
other miner:  How...?
Belphanior:  My magic would have found him if he wasn't.  Trust me
  on this.
other miner:  (looks dubious)
Gunther:  We'll get a search party together, and comb the mines for
  that guy.  Just in case.
Belphanior:  (recognizes this not as an affront to his authority,
  but rather an attempt to give the other miners hope of finding
  the lost one)  Very well.

  Soon, the elf, accompanied by Otto, headed back into town, for
they had done all they could here.  Though Belphanior had left the
scene, the people of Helgate kept discussing his feat for hours.
By evening, the story had outlasted the summoned monsters (which
had simply vanished, a short time after appearing) and Belphanior's
popularity had risen considerably.  Though he was a firm ruler, he
also seemed to be a responsible one, a fact which did not escape
the townspeople.

next:   ...
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  Thanks to Lance Dooly for the idea that led to this story.

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