Chapter #671

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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 visitors from Ket:                                           +
+     Tonga Dun, general                                                  +
+     600 light cavalry & infantry                                        +
+   Date:           3/2/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the remote mountain town of Helgate                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Kill a few people, they call you a murderer.  Kill a million, and    +
+    you're a conqueror."                            - from _Cliffhanger_ +

                          DCLXXI.  Convergence

  Helgate's population had more than doubled in the last hour, though the
duration of this change had yet to be seen.  The Perrenland forces were
dispersed throughout the town, covering all major intersections as well
as the main road into town...

Perrenlander guard #1:  (shades his eyes with his hand)  Huh?  What's that
  in the distance?
Perrenlander guard #2:  Looks like a column of riders.
Captain Custos:  (to another guard)  Quickly!  Inform the general!
Perrenlander guard #3:  Right away!  (he leaps on his horse and thunders
  toward the heart of town)


Perrenland guard #337:  (chatting with Perkins)  All I'm saying is, if it
  comes to it, I want dibs on a room in your inn here.
Perkins:  And all _I'm_ saying is, I don't have enough rooms for all of
Perrenland guard #252:  (leaning on a wall, his arm wrapped around one of
  the ladies from the Witches' Tit)  Aaaaaah.
wench:  I bet you soldiers have all kinds of money.
Perrenland guard #107:  I'll double his coins if we can both have you at
wench:  Deal-
Perrenland guard #252:  (pushes the other away)  Hey, get your own.
Perrenland guard #107:  Aw, come on!  Last town we went through, I didn't
  get a chance-
other wench:  (slides into the discussion)  Not to worry, big boy.
Perrenland guard #107:  All _right_!
Bunger:  (one of the town drunks, he staggers by)  Eyyyyyyyy...
Kernal:  (stumbles after the other, a bottle clutched in each hand)  Wait
first wench:  What the hell are you two doing?
Bunger:  What's it look like?
Kernal:  This's the most exciting time the town's ever seen!  We're gonna
  get hammered!
second wench:  Looks like you're damn well on your way...

  Elsewhere, in the Sword and Cup tavern, the vampire hunters had gathered
to get some food and drink while staying out of the way of the Perrenland
forces.  Bram had purposely chosen a table directly in front of a window,
the better to watch the events unfolding outside...

Marko:  What the hell are all those people running around for?  Something
  must be going on out there.
Bram:  (sips his brandy)  We'll just wait it out in here.  There's no point
  in getting mixed up in someone else's fight.
Boltar:  We're here for one reason, and it has nothing to do with those
Ghuust:  (shaking his head slowly)  We have no choice.
Bram:  What's that?
Ghuust:  This place...this town is heavy with death.  Many have met their
  end here, and many more will follow.
Drak:  You are sure of this?
Ghuust:  Quite sure.
Parekh:  (begins making a mental list of which spells she'll use in a mass
  combat situation)  Aha.
Ghuust:  Eh?
Parekh:  Nothing...just preparing to justify your prediction.
Ghuust:  Ah.
Claudia:  More brandy, sir?
Bram:  Yes, please.  (he hands her his empty glass)  Thank you, miss.
Drak:  Shouldn't we be tracking the wherever she-
Bram:  It.
Drak:  ..._it_ is sleeping now, during the day?
Ghuust:  There is too much death...potential our vicinity right
  now.  I cannot focus on a single death, or undeath.
Drak:  What in the hells are you talking about?!?
Boltar:  (shakes his head)  Perhaps I should use my magic to-
Bram:  Whoa.  Heads up, people - something's happening out there.
Marko:  Well, duh.  I already pointed that out.

  In the street, the forces of Perrenland and Ket had finally met, after a
fashion.  Since the Perrenland troops were spread out, they didn't have the
sheer numbers to block the Kettite forces; without explicit orders to engage
in combat with non-Helgate forces, they weren't about to start a battle -
especially one they couldn't win.  Thus, the Perrenland soldiers gave way,
weapons bristling, their ranks swelling with every passing moment as the
Kettite force made slow but steady progress into the town.
  This unusual impasse ended when the two leaders came face to face, each
one's experienced eye picking his counterpart out from amidst the soldiers
around him.

Nigel Bloodstone:  Truce?
Tonga Dun:  (nods)  Truce.

  The two generals rode forward to meet each other and parley, right there
in the center of Helgate's main street.  Meanwhile, inside the Sword and

Rexxus:  (watching through a window)  Man, oh, man.
Marko:  (shaking his head)  There's no way those two are going to come to
  any peaceful sort of agreement.  No damn way.
Ghuust:  You are correct.
Parekh:  (to Bram)  I realize that we don't need to get involved in this
  or attract attention, but we may have to defend ourselves.
Drak:  Then we shall.
Boltar:  I'm getting the feeling that our vampire hunt may be delayed.
Bram:  We'll see.  Just be ready, in case something happens.
Marko:  (smirks)  You mean _when_ something happens.

  Meanwhile, inside the marshals' barracks...

Ys:  What are we going to do?
Otto:  I'm not sure.  The four of us can't take on a whole army, much less
  two armies.  It looks like both sides are ready to take over Helgate,
  whether we want them to or not.
Jutokai:  I could try and shoot the two generals from here...kill them,
  maybe the others will back down?
Otto:  Probably won't get rid of Nigel, at least.  He's bound to have all
  kinds of magical protections.
Ys:  What do we know of this Nigel Bloodstone?
Otto:  He's dedicated and determined, and won't back down from this mission
  or any mission.  If that means he has to beat down those Kettite forces,
  then he will.
Jutokai:  I wonder if Ket sent those other clowns here to cause trouble,
  last week?
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces)  Probably.
Otto:  (shakes his head)  There's just no telling.
Ys:  So...back to the original question:  what are we going to do?

  In the street...

Nigel Bloodstone:  I have heard of you, Tonga Dun...the most feared war
  chief in Ket, they say.  I always figured I'd come up against you one
  of these days.
Tonga Dun:  (nods)  And we in Ket have heard of Nigel Bloodstone...slayer
  of the Wyrm of the Fell Swamp...conqueror of Hierarchs...and so on.
Nigel Bloodstone:  So we respect each other.  Still, I cannot and will not
  leave this town.
Tonga Dun:  Nor will I.
Nigel Bloodstone:  Are we willing to go to war over this?  That's what has
  to come of any conflict, you know.
Tonga Dun:  (shrugs)  Mine are the greater numbers.
Nigel Bloodstone:  I'll put my lesser force against your greater force any
Tonga Dun:  Today is as good a day as any.
Nigel Bloodstone:  (clenches his fist, the big knuckles cracking)

  Suddenly, all talk was interrupted - no, silenced - by a loud, booming
voice...the magically-amplified voice of a new arrival to this situation.

Belphanior:  (flies over the Sword and Cup, landing in the street near the
  two generals, completely ignoring the weapons and arrows that both sides

next:      it begins
released:  9/4/00
notes:     Are you kidding?  This is no time for words!

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