Chapter #670

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                                   +   +
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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2000 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!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Otto             8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Eduardo        3rd level human thief                                +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+                                                                         +
+   unwanted visitors:                                                    +
+     Bram          enigmatic vampire hunter                              +
+     Boltar        high priest of Pholtus                                +
+     Drak          rather cultured barbarian warrior                     +
+     Ghuust        weird necromantic medium                              +
+     Marko         grizzled warrior                                      +
+     Parekh        dark-skinned female wizard                            +
+                                                                         +
+   unwanted visitors from Perrenland:                                    +
+     Nigel Bloodstone, general                                           +
+     400 heavy cavalry                                                   +
+                                                                         +
+   unwanted soon-to-be-visitors from Ket:                                +
+     Tonga Dun, general                                                  +
+     600 light cavalry & infantry                                        +
+   Date:           3/2/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          the remote mountain town of Helgate                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Timing is everything."                                               +
+                                                            - unknown    +

                       DCLXX.  Opposites Attract

  The cavalry slowed their pace as they rode into Helgate.  On all sides,
the townspeople eyed them, awed and more than a little fearful.  In his
cobbler's shop, which was closer than any other building to the entrance
of town, Jamaine watched the military force come into town.  He was quite
worried - this couldn't be good, and these men looked like they knew their
trade.  Jamaine had spent enough time in and around armies to know a good
one when he saw it.
  Across the street, the ladies of ill repute leaned on the wooden rail of
the Witches' Tit, beckoning and catcalling to the soldiers.  More out of
discipline than moral fortitude, the riders all but ignored the wenches,
much to the dismay of the latter.  Still, some of the women thought, you
never knew...the soldiers might get done with their business, and there
was always demand for those who practiced the world's oldest profession.
  Next to Jamaine's shop, the patrons of the Scoundrel's Den watched the
soldiers through the windows, not sure what to think.  Felix, the scurvy
owner and proprietor of the tavern, began to wonder if he shouldn't have
sold his establishment and left town last month, like he had been thinking
about doing now for a year.
  Desmond the town leech stood in front of his store, next to the Witches'
Tit, nodding to himself.  Over the years, he'd gained a good sense for
times of prosperity for his business.  Right now, he knew that he'd have
no shortage of patients for the forseeable future.  Whistling, he headed
back inside to take inventory of his supplies.
  In general, it seemed as if all activity had slowed, almost stopped.
Helgate's main street was devoid of townsfolk, and a cold wind whipped
amongst the mounted warriors, stirring up small clouds of dust.

Nigel Bloodstone:  Quiet place.  Overrated, even.  (he turns to a captain)
  Custos, take a squad and find the seat of government in this place.  I
  would speak directly with those in charge.
Captain Custos:  Right away, sir.
Otto:  That won't be necessary, Bloodstone.  (he steps out into the open)
  It's been a long time.
Nigel Bloodstone:  (blinks, twice)  Damned if it hasn't.
Captain Custos:  You know this dwarf, sir?
Nigel Bloodstone:  (nods)  He used to be one of Perrenland's finest...a
  long time ago.
Ys:  (to Otto)  I had been told that you once served with Greyspire's
  army, but I had no idea that you had ties to Perrenland's as well.
Otto:  Where do you think I learned what I needed in order to be worthy
  of Greyspire?

  By this time, Otto had walked forward, though Nigel hadn't dismounted.
This wasn't a show of disrespect toward Otto; rather, the general's chain
mail made mounting and dismounting somewhat tedious.  However, he wanted
to maintain as much perceived superiority as possible in front of his men.
For Otto's part, he was accompanied by Razor Charlie and Ys, the latter
drawing incredulous stares from many of the soldiers in the front ranks,
even as they trained crossbows and other weapons at the dwarf.  Of course,
Otto had his own back covered, to an extent:  Jutokai was behind a window
on the third floor of the town guardhouse, a short way down the street.
He rested and watched, easily in position to launch arrows at Bloodstone
should it become necessary.
  In the street below, the parley began...

Nigel Bloodstone:  Well, I must assume that you hold some sort of power
  here.  (to Captain Custos)  Ones such as him never remain amongst the
Captain Custos:  Of course not, sir.
Otto:  I sure do, and since that's the case, I have to ask you what your
  business here is, even though I'm pretty sure I won't like the answer.
Nigel Bloodstone:  There is more at stake here than a single town that's
  not even on the map...much more.
Otto:  Meaning?
Nigel Bloodstone:  You may not have been following current events, but
  all around the world, skirmishes - many with humanoids and evil lands -
  are on the rise.  War is on the way.  It may be a year, or it may be
  five, but it is coming.  Perrenland will, as always, play a critical
  role in such events as they unfold.
Otto:  So?
Nigel Bloodstone:  Perrenland must fortify her borders, even the less
  likely to come under attack.
Otto:  The pass through the mountains...
Nigel Bloodstone:  Yes.  This town is more perfectly situated to be an
  outpost than any other in these peaks.
Otto:  We don't want to be an outpost, not for Perrenland or anyone else.
Nigel Bloodstone:  As I said, there is more at stake here than one small
  town and what its ruler wants.  (he shrugs)  I have my orders.
Otto:  And I have mine.
Nigel Bloodstone:  So you're not in charge here.
Otto:  Not hardly, though if you came here to annex the town, you've got
  to know that already.  (he sighs)  Look, I'll get right to it.  Helgate
  is its own place, not a holding of some other kingdom...even a good one.
Nigel Bloodstone:  I understand, but sometimes these things happen.
Otto:  (eyes the massed soldiers, wishing that Skektek was in town)  Any
  fight of any kind will only result in one thing:  a lot of bloodshed.
Nigel Bloodstone:  (regarding the dwarf, plus Ys and Razor Charlie behind
  him)  Is that a fact?
Otto:  That's a fact.  (he coughs)  You're welcome to stay here a while,
  get your men something to eat, give them a chance to rest.  By dusk
  tonight, though, I don't want to see you here.  (he turns and walks

  The utter preposterousness of the dwarf's statement, delivered with such
confidence and clarity, shocked the general as well as his men.  By the
time he had thought of something fitting to say, Otto and his two marshals
were down the street, out of earshot and heading into a small building.

Captain Custos:  Shall we run them down, sir?
Nigel Bloodstone:  That won't be necessary.
Captain Custos:  But sir-
Nigel Bloodstone:  If he had some surprise planned for us, he'd have sprung
  it by now.  Whatever game he's playing, he won't win.  He can't.  (he
  looks around)  Form squads and have them spread out around the town.  I
  want to know about any other roads leading out of here...any fortified
  buildings...any weapons shops or armories...that kind of thing.
Captain Custos:  Right away, sir.
Nigel Bloodstone:  By the time dusk comes, we'll have this place secured
  and locked down.  I'd like to see someone try and dislodge us then.

  As the troops went about their tasks, quickly dispersing into every
corner of Helgate, six figures huddled outside the town, having watched
the drama unfold through the magical crystal ball possessed by Parekh.

Bram:  Well, well, well.
Parekh:  Our vampire certainly chose a strange little town to run to.
Boltar:  A town not on any by a dwarf who's not afraid of an
  army of hundreds...most intriguing.
Marko:  That dwarf's got to have _some_ hidden edge.
Drak:  Maybe he's a spellcaster...him or one of the other two...(he
  regards Parekh, fully aware of what a good spellcaster is capable
Parekh:  (shakes her head)  No.  I would have known.  None of those
  three were wizards.
Boltar:  Or priests, I'd wager.
Drak:  I didn't know you gambled.
Boltar:  (smirks)
Bram:  What about it, Ghuust?  Is the vampiress in this town, still?
Ghuust:  (nods, his skin pallid under the sun's rays)  She is here...
  not at the center of town, but she is here.
Bram:  Then we're going in, right now.  We'll find ourselves a room
  somewhere, get a feel for what's happening, and then go seek and
  destroy the vampire.
Boltar:  Smart.  We've still got many hours of daylight left...that
  should be plenty of time.
Parekh:  (somewhat agitated that she wasn't able to scry the vampiress
  with her crystal ball)  It should be...
Drak:  Somehow, I get the feeling that this little town's never seen
  so much action, before today.
Marko:  The day's still young.

  As the six riders headed into town, they were only moments too late
to witness the second dustcloud - and the second army - to arrive that
day.  A short time after Bram's group entered Helgate proper, the army
from Ket - six hundred strong - reined in just outside of town.

Keechak:  (a scout, he points at the trampled road leading into the
  town)  A large mounted force passed this way, and recently.
Tonga Dun:  Damn!  We're going to have to do this the hard way, then.

  The Kettite general knew that Perrenland's soldiers were top-notch,
but his own force contained two hundred each of light cavalry, heavy
infantry, and archers.  On top of that, he had a half-dozen experienced
spellcasters among his troops.  Tonga had complete confidence that the
town would be theirs before the sun set this day.

next:      faceoff
released:  8/31/00
notes:     You may find the Helgate accessory useful as a reference in
  this and the upcoming episodes.  It can still be found on

  IMPORTANT:  I will be out of town til the night of Monday 9/3, so that
day's episode, 671, won't be mailed out in the morning, but rather in the

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