Chapter #673

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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   +
+   Belphanior      14th/14th/14th level elven fighter/wizard/thief       +
+     Aja            9th level human priestess of Wee Jas                 +
+     Jutokai        8th level human archer                               +
+     Neko           7th level human female thief                         +
+     Otto           8th/11th level dwarven fighter/thief                 +
+     Razor Charlie  9th level human fighter                              +
+     Skektek       12th level human wizard                               +
+     Ys            13th level reptilian fighter                          +
+     Zhao           8th level human swordsman (currently petrified)      +
+   Bosco           12th level halfling thief                             +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+     Gorgo          9th level dwarven berserker                          +
+                                                                         +
+   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 & mounted infantry                                +
+   Date:           3/2/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          the remote mountain town of Helgate                   +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Anything you do to any one of my do to me."           +
+                                                    - from _Sleepers_    +

                      DCLXXIII.  Sum of the Parts

  Inside the Sword and Cup, all hell had broken loose as the Kettites
burst into the tavern, intent on destruction...

Humphrey the census-taker:  Don't kill me!  (he makes a dash for the door)
Kettite soldier #211:  (stabs the man through the side)  Sorry, pal.  This
  town is ours now.
Kettite soldier #103:  (slashes at a barmaid, nearly decapitating her)
Rexxus:  Shit!  They mean business!
Claudia:  (leaps behind the bar)
Kettite soldier #211:  (spots Parekh)  You're not from around here...too
  bad, 'cause you picked the wrong day to come visit this place.
Parekh:  I think not.
Kettite soldier #211:  (pauses, somewhat surprised to hear a reply in his
  native tongue)
Kettite soldier #340:  Troublemakers, eh...let's get 'em!
Drak:  (steps forth, intending to move between Parekh and the soldiers)
  I'll handle this-
Parekh:  Don't be foolish.  (with a few mumbled words, she waves a hand
  in the direction of the rushing soldiers)

  It was as if an invisible hand swatted the foes back.  Nothing else
was affected...neither innocent tavern patrons nor furniture, just the
Kettite soldiers.  They were thrown back hard, some crashing through the
remains of the large window, others smashing into the interior wall with
bone-crushing force.

Drak:  (nods, impressed)  That's a new one.
Parekh:  (smirks)  It sure is.  I call it "Hands Off!"
Bram:  Good work...but what about them?  (he points with his cane to the
  other dozen soldiers who are storming into the tavern)
Boltar:  What about them?  (he raises a clenched fist, invoking the power
  of his deity, Pholtus)

  Beams of bright light shot from the priest's fist, striking a number of
the foes directly in the eyes.  Every man so afflicted fell to the ground,
hands clutched over eyes that were filled with stars at the moment.

Marko:  Impressive, but I prefer the old-fashioned way.  (he meets the
  blade of a rushing, unblinded foe, parrying the sword with ease before
  burying his long dagger in the man's heart)
Kettite soldier #508:  Urgh...(he falls)
Kettite soldier #542:  (finds himself face-to-face with Ghuust)  Weirdos
  all over town...(he chops at the other with his axe)
Ghuust:  (simply stands there as the weapon passes through his immaterial
Kettite soldier #542:  Huh?
Ghuust:  (points at the soldier, his eyes burning with a black flame)
Kettite soldier:  (falls to the floor)
Drak:  Freaky.  (he whirls to face a trio of foes who have wisely skirted
  the ghostly form of Ghuust)
Kettite soldiers:  (charging, confident that their numbers can overcome
  this single foe)
Drak:  (laughs heartily)

  Outside, the Kettite reinforcements were stopped in their tracks as
first one, then another of the previous attack squad came flying through
the tavern's door, headfirst.  The third man smashed through the wall
right next to the door.  None of the three moved after landing.

Kettite soldier #332:  What the hell?!?
Kettite soldier #485:  I think I see why they called for more men here.

  The warrior who stepped out into the street was big to start with, but
he was getting bigger!  As the awestruck soldiers watched in awe, backing
away, Drak grew to ten feet in height...then fifteen...then twenty!  In
his hands was a gigantic mallet, almost ten feet in length.  Outside the
confines of the tavern, Drak was able to employ both his giant-size and
the enchanted maul effectively, as the soldiers learned to their dismay.
The oversized foe's reach was surprising, and every one of his blows took
out several of the Kettites.  One blow which missed any foes connected
with a building, caving in its entire street-facing side.

Albion the leatherworker:  (emerges from the wreckage, screaming)  My
  shop!  My poor shop!
Kettite soldier #379:  (shoots the man with a crossbow)
Albion:  (falls, the bolt lodged in his throat)
Kettite soldier #379:  Hah!
Bram:  (standing behind the man)  There was no call for that.  (he whacks
  the soldier across the face with his black cane)
Kettite soldier #379:  (falls, his face caved in and his neck snapped)
Boltar:  This town needs help.
Parekh:  It certainly does.  (she animates a pile of wreckage that used to
  be a building, causing the stone and wood to swirl about in a dangerous
  vortex that quickly finds some Kettite soldiers to mangle)
Marko:  What about the vampire?
Bram:  We'll find her too...but we can't do it with all of this fighting
  going on.
Drak:  (nearby, he mashes a Kettite wizard into paste)  Die!
Parekh:  We'd better stick with Drak.
Marko:  Because he's bigger and stronger now and nobody can stand before
Parekh:  Well, that too, know how he becomes a bigger target
  when he's like this.
Marko:  Ah.

  Further down Helgate's main street, amid the charred skeletons of the
numerous soldiers and horses blasted by Skektek's lightning bolt,
something stirred...

Nigel Bloodstone:  (stands, brushing soot from his face)  WOuch.

  The general had risen to his rank thanks to vast amounts of experience
and ability, but that didn't mean he lacked numerous and powerful magic
items.  It would take more than a lightning bolt - a lot more - to put him
out of commission.

Nigel Bloodstone:  (looks around, surveying the obvious path of the bolt
  and then the general area from which it must have emanated)
Perrenland soldier:  (runs over to the general)  Are you all right, sir?
Nigel Bloodstone:  I'm fine.  What's our status?  Where are my wizards?
Perrenland soldier:  Two of them are over on the next street, with us,
  and I think I saw another down in-
Nigel Bloodstone:  (spots a bright flash from one of the rooftops in the
  block he was just looking at)  Get the wizards, and have them focus
  their attacks on that building.
Perrenland soldier:  Right away!  (he dashes off)
burned Kettite soldier:  (staggers by, his half-melted sword fused to his
  burned, oozing hand)  Aaaaarrr...
Nigel Bloodstone:  (dispatches the wretch with a single blow)

  Elsewhere, Otto's group burst from the marshals' barracks.  About a
dozen strong, plus the dwarf and Ys, the small force formed a perfect
wedge as it plowing into a mixed horde of soldiers who were fighting in
the street...

Ys:  (leading the wedge-shaped charge, he swings his huge blade in great
  arcs, lopping off heads, arms, and legs with every stroke)
dozen town guards:  (working efficiently, they back up Ys, finishing off
  those foes who aren't killed outright by the reptilian's brutal attack)
Otto:  (stays back in the rear of the formation, taking careful shots
  with his crossbow, every poisoned bolt finding a worthy victim)

  In truth, they were dispatching both Kettite and Perrenland troops.
Although Otto had a soft spot in his heart for his former kingdom, this
was war, and both the chains of command and communication had totally
collapsed here.  The entire town was a free-for-all, with most of the two
kingdoms' soldiers fighting each other.  However, in some cases, smaller
groups of soldiers were roaming about, seeking to fortify strategic
positions such as tall and/or sturdy buildings.  Otto's only concern
right now was to regroup with Belphanior and the others.

  Still elsewhere, a band of Kettite soldiers had spotted Jutokai, perched
in the third-story window of the guardhouse.  The archer had taken out
five of the foes, but another half-dozen had safely reached the lower
floor of the building and were moving in to eliminate the sniper.

Razor Charlie:  (concealed in the shadows, he lets the men run by, then
  dashes after them, a knife in each hand)
Kettite soldier #006:  (hears the noise, and turns around)  Hey-
Razor Charlie:  (tosses one knife, effortlessly imbedding it in the man's
  left eye)
Kettite soldier #006:  Arghk!  (he falls, screaming)
Razor Charlie:  (throws another blade, hitting a soldier in the shoulder,
  and then ducks behind a column as a crossbow bolt whizzes past)

  At the terminus of Skektek's lightning bolt, amidst the ruins of a
wooden one-story building, Tonga Dun got to his feet.  His flesh was
blackened and burned, but like Nigel Bloodstone, Tonga had certain
protections against harm.  Already, his burns were beginning to heal;
the pain didn't stop him from proceeding with his mission of conquest.
Tonga had long ago gained a reputation as a fearless warrior who couldn't
be stopped in battle, and it was well-deserved.

Tonga Dun:  (drinks a potion of invulnerability, then tosses the empty
  vial aside, charging back toward the main battle)
random Perrenland soldier:  (seeing an opportunity, he intercepts the
  enemy general, sword flashing)
Tonga Dun:  (swings his battleaxe, smashing through the other's weapon
  and then his chest with a single blow)  Out of my way!

  Last but certainly not least, Belphanior had just landed on Vergis the
stonemason's rooftop, where the others waited.

Belphanior:  Good work with that lightning, Skektek.
Skektek:  I aim to please.
Belphanior:  (looking around)  Where's Aja?
Skektek:  (shrugs)  She took off right when the fighting started...I'm
  not sure where, though.
Belphanior:  Fuck.  This is no time to be running off - we're going to
  need her.
Neko:  Are we staying up here all day, or going down to join the battle,
  or what?
Belphanior:  I'm still working on that-
Mongo:  Hey, enough talk!  What the hell's going on around here?  Who are
  all these bozos?
Belphanior:  It looks like a couple of different kingdoms want this town,
  and sent the armies to back their claims up.  Don't worry about this,
  it's my fight.
Mongo:  Fuck that!  If you think I'm just gonna sit around on my ass while
  you put your life on the line, think again!
Belphanior:  But-
Mongo:  Good, I'm glad that's settled.  Now let's go kick some ass.
Gorgo:  (stomping the roof in rage, eager to get into the fight)  Yeah!
  What he said!
Belphanior:  Very well.
Neko:  (silently checking the edge on her blade)
Belphanior:  (turns to Bosco)
Bosco:  (raises his shortsword into the air)  You can count on Bosco for
Skektek:  Well, I feel better already.
Neko:  (spots something out of the corner of her eye)  Oh, my.
Belphanior:  What...whoa.

  The gigantic form of Drak, across the street, had just demolished the
shop of Fritz the butcher.  A Kettite wizard was bombarding the warrior
with green bolts of magical power, but they weren't having much of an
effect.  As the adventurers watched, someone else blasted the wizard and
a knot of soldiers around him with a cloud of ghastly yellowish vapors,
dropping the entire group of Kettites.  Nearby, another unknown combatant
was doing something that caused bright beams of light to lance out in
various directions.  Meanwhile, the giant-sized warrior pulverized another
three foes with a single blow of his huge mallet.

Belphanior:  What now?  Who the fuck are these people?

next:      more of the same
released:  9/11/00
notes:     Whee!

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