Chapter #343

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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 1991-6 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                    +
+                           +
+  THE PARTY (or a current splinter of it, anyway):                 +
+                                                                   +
+  Belphanior   14th/14th/14th lvl elven fighter/mage/thief  (CN/E) +
+     Otto       7th/8th level dwarven fighter/thief           (CN) +
+  Date:        12/19/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                        +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the remote mountain town of Helgate                 +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+  "Let he who is without sin try to survive."                      +
+                                                  - from _Seven_   +

                   CCCXLIII.  Over the Line

  After hiring two professional mercenaries to assist with the law-
keeping in Helgate, Belphanior has remained cooped up in his castle's
study for days.  Even thoughts of his new acquaintance, Victoria,
have escaped his mind, and not even Otto knows what thoughts run amok
through the elf's mind.

Otto:  (pauses at the door to the study, reluctant to knock)
Belphanior:  (opens the door from the inside, suddenly, startling the
  dwarf)  What is it?
Otto:  I bring...bad news.
Belphanior:  Come in.  (he turns and walks back to his desk, leaving
  the door wide open)

  Otto didn't see anything out of place, any signs that Belphanior
was sane or otherwise.  To be sure, though, he was worried; the elf
had been acting strange for awhile, and now he had isolated himself
in here.  If Otto hadn't had important news to tell, he wouldn't be

Belphanior:  So what is it?  More bandits?  Treachery on the part of
  our new mercenaries?  No more gold?  A fire, perhaps?
Otto:  Candice has been murdered.
Belphanior:  (stands)  What?!?
Otto:  One of her girls found her just a short while ago.  She was
  in her room at the Witches' Tit.
Belphanior:  What happened?
Otto:  Slit throat.  Ear to ear - a jagged, ruthless job.  The bed,
  the sheets, and the floor were covered with blood.
Belphanior:  Who would have...why?

  The elf had already recovered from his initial shock.  Being one
who had seen hundreds of people die (many at his own hands) he had
reverted into that stoic state of indifference which all natural-born
killers possess.  Otto, too, knew that look, and its mindset, well.

Otto:  We're not sure.  Desmond is doing a complete examination of
  the body and the room, and Herbert's helping.  (he looks concerned) other thing...
Belphanior:  Eh?
Otto:  While searching her clothes-chests, they found a red armband
  and a lot of money.  Gold, mostly.
Belphanior:  The gold I understand, given her occupation.  But the
  armband?  What's going on here?
Otto:  Well, it was apparently a helluva lot more gold than a whore,
  even a good one, could possibly accumulate in the time she's been
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Maybe she, it couldn't be...
Otto:  That's what I was thinking.  I figured that maybe someone was
  trying to set her up, make it look like she had allied with Nerg's
  gang.  So I talked to some of the other whores, and also Eduardo.
Belphanior:  And?
Otto:  It would seem that Candice spent a lot of time with Nerg in
  recent days.
Belphanior:  (remembering something)  Right when that last fight
  started, one of the bandits said something like "there he is...
  just like she said."
Otto:  Man, oh man.  She wanted you dead?
Belphanior:  I can believe that.  We didn't exactly get along toward
  the end.  (he frowns)  Sometimes I think she was just using me for
Otto:  Oh.
Belphanior:  The question is, was she really guilty, or does someone
  just want us to _think_ that?
Otto:  Well, based on the people I've talked with - who I don't
  automatically believe - and Eduardo - who I do - I'd have to say
  she probably really was guilty.
Belphanior:'s a moot point now.
Otto:  Yep.
Belphanior:  Hmm...when does Desmond think she was killed?  Was the
  blood warm?
Otto:  Nope - cold and congealed.  He believes she died sometime
  last night.
Belphanior:  I wonder who killed her?  Gang members out for revenge
  or something else?  Or...(he glances at Otto)  Where were our two
  new mercenaries last night?
Otto:  Already checked.  Neither of them left the inn after dusk
Belphanior:  Hmm.
Otto:  Besides, I already asked them what they thought of this.
  Kyros said something about it being a waste.
Belphanior:  And Razor Charlie?
Otto:  He said that if he'd wanted to kill her, he would've done a
  neater and more professional job.
Belphanior:  He said that many words at one time?
Otto:  Actually, no.  I'm paraphrasing.
Belphanior:  So you don't think either of them did it?
Otto:  I really don't.
Belphanior:  Strange.  How're the people taking it?
Otto:  Scared...most of them are scared.  Hell, even the out-of-
  towners are spooked.
Belphanior:  Figures.  Funny...
Otto:  What?
Belphanior:  You stab someone in the throat or cut their head off
  in a fight, and it's no big deal.  But if someone's just _found_
  dead, everyone gets nervous.
Otto:  Hmm, I never thought about it like that before.
Belphanior:  Well...I'm going into town.  (he begins muttering words
  of magical import)
Otto:  What about-
Belphanior:  (vanishes, teleported away)
Otto:  Damn, I wish he wouldn't _do_ that.

  In town...

Belphanior:  (appears suddenly, in Candice's room within the Witches'
Herbert:  (examining the floor, he leaps back, startled, as the elf
  appears)  Yie!
Belphanior:  Sorry.  (he turns to Desmond, who crouches over a sheet-
  covered form)  Is that her?
Desmond:  Yeah.
Belphanior:  (walks over and reaches for the sheet)
Desmond:  (stops him)  Uh, it isn't pretty.
Belphanior:  Don't worry, I've seen worse.
Desmond:  Okay...I just know that you two were close.
Belphanior:  Once, perhaps.  (he lifts the sheet)  Whoa.
Desmond:  Told ya.
Belphanior:  She's awfully pale.  (he lets the bloody sheet drop back
  onto the body)
Desmond:  That's because most of her blood was all over the bed and
Belphanior:  (to Herbert, who has resumed his examination)  Anything
Herbert:  Nope.  No real clues.  No one saw anybody come or go, to
  or from this room, all night.  She went to bed early...
Belphanior:  ...and never woke up.  (he addresses the sheet-covered
  body)  Rest in peace, Candice.
Desmond:  (silent for several moments)  Unfortunately, it doesn't
  look like we'll find any real clues.
Belphanior:  Yeah...(thanks to his magical eye, he spots something
  on one wall, and carefully removes it, unseen by the other two in
  the room)  Hmm.  (he looks around, then turns and heads for the
Desmond:  Where are you off to?
Belphanior:  I'm not quite sure.  (he departs)

  The elf walked through town, entering some establishments, then
others, but never finding the person whom he sought.  On one street,
as he strolled by engrossed in his own thoughts, a drunken woman
staggered out of a tavern and ambled into the street.  In her mid-
thirties, perhaps, and somewhat comely, the woman was barely able
to stand up.  As soon as she saw the elf before her, however, she
began screaming and yelling like a madwoman...

Belphanior:  Pardon?
near-hysterical woman:  You heard me!  Why'd you kill her?!?
Belphanior:  What the fuck are you talking about, lady?  (he notes
  clinically that this woman was one of Candice's whores at the
  Witches' Tit)  Why would _I_ kill her?
whore:  Everyone knows that you and she hated each other, in recent
Belphanior:  Maybe she killed herself in a fit of despair.  I don't
  know.  Look, I don't have to justify or defend myself to you.
woman:  You _did_ do it!  (she begins yelling and screaming anew)
others:  (gathering)

  Belphanior didn't like the looks of this crowd.  No, it wasn't a
crowd, it was a mob.  Though most of them probably didn't really
think he killed Candice, they still muttered and milled about.  It
seemed that the people of Helgate had some guts, after all - a good
thing, under different circumstances.  Another person would probably
have left, or even flown or teleported away, but Belphanior was in a
dark mood, one that was growing worse with each passing moment.  His
magical eye was pulsing now, more strongly than even Blackrazor; it
spoke to him again, and the words were louder and more commanding
than the first time, days ago.  Though he hardly trembled outwardly,
Belphanior waged a fierce inner battle, struggling to avoid giving
in to the desires of the eye, which were nearly a mirror of some of
his own thoughts.

whore:  (picks up a handful of wet, slimy horse droppings from the
  street)  Liar!  (she throws the stuff at Belphanior, hitting him
  in the face and neck)

  That simple, technically harmless act was the straw that broke the
demon's back.  The Eye of Elik pulsed with power, raising Belphanior's
own heartbeat, and it glowed more brightly than ever before, bathing
the crowd in its ghastly crimson light.  Veins throughout the elf's
body throbbed and beat, one such vessel on his temple standing out
with the force of the blood flowing through it.  His vision swam, and
he saw red in a way he never had before.  Blackrazor was out of its
sheath and in his hand, and all rational thought had fled; he felt
like he could take on an entire army right now.
  Instead, he lunged out, the black sword flashing, and decapitated
the woman who had started the incident and thrown the dung, spraying
himself and the crowd with bright, hot blood.

next:   Belphanior and Otto - fighting for real!
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:  (preferred)    (emergency)
notes:  This begins the story you've all been asking for.

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