Chapter #223

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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.          +
+    Due to the nature of the Internet, these stories have    +
+  been widely available since 1991.  I have given them to    +
+  the world freely, and have never intended to market them   +
+  or in any way make money.  However, due to TSR, Inc.'s     +
+  copyright restrictions, old episodes of the Adventurers    +
+  are no longer being archived on any ftp site anywhere.     +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The player characters contained in these writings are    +
+  copyright 1994 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                    +
+                            tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   THE PARTY (or more accurately, a fragment of it):         +
+                                                             +
+   Belphanior    13th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Rillen        17th level human warrior                (N) +
+                                                             +
+   Otto, a dwarf                                (guest star) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    7/18/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    late morning                                     +
+   Place:   the northernmost reaches of the Barrens          +
+   Climate: cool                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "Fear not the weapon.  Fear the man."                     +
+                                         - from Rapid Fire   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





              CCXXIII.  The Trials of Rillen





  Rillen, along with Belphanior, Otto, and the wispy thing,
has journeyed to a remote temple of a forgotten warrior clan.
There, he has been presented with a simple offer:  if he can
pass three tests of worthiness, he will be given the location
of (and permission to compete in) this year's great fighting
tournament.  Even now, Rillen stands within a large under-
ground arena, awaiting whatever the first test is.  From the
stands above, Belphanior and Otto, as well as the wispy
thing, look on with interest.  Across from them are seated
several old monks, also observing with interest.  An unseen
door has just been opened, and heavy footsteps herald the
approach of something big.

wizened old man:  The first trial is one of strength.

  From one of the tunnels leading out of the arena's center,
underneath the stands, emerged a large armored warrior.  He
(it?) was at least eight feet tall, and clad from head to
toe in plate mail.  A large halberd, its blade glinting in
the torchlight, was grasped in both hands.

Otto:  Holy shit.
Belphanior:  Wonder if it's an ogre, or a giant...?
wispy thing:  Aaaarp?

  Below, the hulking figure had spotted Rillen, and its head
swiveled in his direction.

huge armored warrior:  (points at Rillen, and then lumbers
  in his direction)
Rillen:  (stands fast)  Come, then.

  The foe swung its halberd in a deadly arc, but Rillen was
already in motion, leaping back and swinging his staff.

Rillen:  (catches the foe's halberd with his staff, pinning
  it to the floor)  Hai!  (he launches a spinning back kick
  which hits the armored warrior in the side)
huge armored warrior:  (lets go of its halberd and steps
  back)
Rillen:  (flips the halberd away, and advances on his foe,
  twirling his staff)
huge armored warrior:  (charges forth, its arms swinging)
Rillen:  Hai!  Yai!  (he rains a flurry of blows upon the
  warrior's helmeted head)  Sai!  Kai!  Dai!
huge armored warrior:  (staggers a bit, then punches at
  Rillen, clumsily)
Rillen:  (ducks the blow, and lands another kick to the
  warrior's head)  Hai!
huge armored warrior:  (reels backward)

wizened old men:  (nodding and murmuring appreciatively)

huge armored warrior:  (grazes Rillen with a swinging
  fist)
Rillen:  Urgh!  (kicks the warrior again, hoping to drive
  it back and gain some space)
huge armored warrior:  (seizes this opportunity to smash
  Rillen in the chest)
Rillen:  Argh!  (he drops his staff, and staggers)
huge armored warrior:  (grabs Rillen in a deadly bearhug)
Rillen:  Ghaaahk!

wispy thing:  Sprrrd.
Belphanior:  Uh-oh.
Otto:  Uh...what if it kills him?
Belphanior:  Well, then, we'll kill it.  All of 'em.
wispy thing:  (nods)  Yrrp.

huge armored warrior:  (lifts Rillen off the ground and
  begins crushing him)
Rillen:  ARGH!  (he punches at the warrior's head and
  shoulders, to no avail)
huge armored warrior:  (squeezes harder)
Rillen:  This...fight...is to the...death?
huge armored warrior:  (remains impassively silent, but
  doesn't let up on the bearhug)
Rillen:  Urgh...(he forces himself to concentrate, and
  raises one balled fist)  Hii-
huge armored warrior:  (still crushing Rillen)
Rillen:  -yaaaAA!  (he rams his fist into the armored
  warrior's helmet, creating a very deep dent)
huge armored warrior:  ...(lets go, and staggers back
  slowly)
Rillen:  (coughing)  Whew...
huge armored warrior:  (blood begins oozing from beneath
  its helmet)  ...(it teeters, then falls to the arena
  floor with a loud crash of metal on stone, causing a
  number of small cracks to appear in the floor)

Rillen:  (staggers about, breathing deeply)
Otto:  Whoa!  How'd he punch through its armor?
Belphanior:  Rillen does things like that, from time to
  time.
wispy thing:  (grinning)  Fspaaa!

wizened old man:  (stands up and addresses Rillen)  The
  first test is over.

  Two shaven-headed monk-types scurried out and dragged
the fallen warrior away, causing a loud scraping sound as
its armor scraped across the stone floor.

Rillen:  Hmm.  (he flexes his muscles, stretching pains
  out of them)
wizened old man:  Now for the second trial...the test of
  speed.  (again, he gestures to an unseen lackey)

  Suddenly, from all directions, a group of black-robed
warriors with shaven heads surrounded Rillen.

Rillen:  (quickly picks up his staff, and begins twirling
  it in lightning-fast arcs)
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  Guess that means he needs speed
  in order to avoid getting dragged down by superior
  numbers.
Otto:  Yep.

  There were eight of the robed foes; each produced a
quarterstaff, and they began moving in from all sides.

Rillen:  (decides to take the offensive)  Hai!  (he whips
  his staff out, knocking a monk back)
monk:  Argh!  (he falls, bleeding)
Rillen:  (crouches, then leaps to one side as two staves
  smash the floor he just vacated)  Sa!  (he wallops two
  monks at once, behind their knees, knocking them to the
  floor)  Waugh!

wizened old man:  Excellent speed.  Excellent.
other wizened old man:  (nods)  Superior form, as well.
third wizened old man:  His style is marked with the
  pragmatism of many life and death struggles.  This will
  be interesting.

monk:  (bashes Rillen across the back with his staff)
Rillen:  (being well-muscled, he shrugs off the blow, and
  retaliates by kicking backward with great force)  Hai-
  YA!
monk:  Urgh!  (he gets knocked back into another monk,
  sending both crashing to the floor)
Rillen:  (whirls about, just in time to block two other
  attacks at once, with his staff)
monks:  (both press down, attempting to force Rillen to bow
  under their strength)

Otto:  How strong did you say he was, again?
Belphanior:  Pretty strong.

Rillen:  (bending before the pressure of the two monks'
  strength)  No...NO!  (he pushes back, lifting one of
  the monks from his feet)
monk:  What...?
Rillen:  (kicks to the side, catching that monk in the
  groinal area)  Hai!
monk:  (collapses)  Urgh...
Rillen:  (flips his staff's end around, popping the other
  monk in the face)  Yah!
monk:  <crunch>  (he reels back, blood gushing from his now-
  broken nose)  Aie!
other monk:  (charges forth, his staff spinning)  Ayayayay-
Rillen:  (lashes out with his own staff, from whose end the
  blade appears)  Hai-
other monk:  (stares in amazement as his staff is cut into
  halves)  Wau?
Rillen:  -yah!  (bashes the foe in the stomach with his
  staff's blunt end)

wizened old man:  Extra-ordinary.

monk:  (doubles over, gasping)
Rillen:  (hurls the man away, into the path of another foe)
other monk:  (forced to sidestep his fellow)
Rillen:  (moves in, smashing his staff across the back of
  the man's head)  Kai!
monk:  (falls)
Rillen:  (dashes about, using short, efficient punches to
  silence any of the monks who are still moving)

Otto:  All right!  He killed 'em!
Belphanior:  (looking on with great interest, he shakes
  his head)  He wouldn't.
wispy thing:  Aarp?

wizened old man:  (stands up)  What are you doing?
Rillen:  (surveys the eight still forms around him)  They
  are all unconscious.  None are dead, though.  It wasn't
  necessary.
other wizened old man:  Excellent.  You must be aware,
  however, that some others in the contest will not be as
  forgiving...
Rillen:  I'll deal with that when the time comes.  Now...
  what of the third trial?

  A whole group of monks scurried out, dragging the eight
unconscious ones away.

wizened old man:  The final test will measure your skill...
  your reaction time...your co-ordination...are you ready?
Rillen:  (standing in the center of the arena)  I am.

  Then, the very stone of the arena floor began rumbling
and trembling.  The floor cracked, chipped, and finally
shattered, revealing an iron grille underneath.

Otto:  Huh.  Why?
Rillen:  (leaps aside, as a long, sharp steel spike, some
  three feet long, pops up from the floor next to him)
  Whoa!
Belphanior:  (to Otto)  That's why.

  Throughout the grille/floor, such spikes began appearing.
Some stayed up, while others slid back into the grille and
then up again, totally unpredictable.  It was now that small
gouts of flame began shooting upward as well!

Otto:  Damn...
Belphanior:  The place is a deathtrap!
wispy thing:  Yrrrrp.  (it looks around smugly)

  As Rillen did his best to leap and dance about, avoiding
these dangers, the circular area of grille he was standing
on (about sixty feet in diameter) suddenly began spinning
and teetering.  It was now apparent that the whole iron
grille rested on its own axis (or axes), and could tilt to
a steep angle in any direction.

Rillen:  (begins falling, toward the darkness below the edge
  of the raised platform)  Aie!  (he grabs a steel spike with
  one hand, arresting his fall)

  Suddenly, the steel spike retracted, but it didn't matter,
for the floor was level again, though it was slowly tilting
the other way now...

wizened old man:  (to Rillen)  You simply have to make your
  way over to the floor beneath us, to pass this test.
other wizened old men:  (nod in assent)
Otto:  (cynically)  Is that all he has to do?  (he looks at
  Belphanior)
Belphanior:  (frowns as he watches Rillen)
Rillen:  (realizes that there are more traps on the area of
  the platform closer to the seated, wizened old men)  Hmm.
  (he makes a dash for that end of the platform, but is
  forced to leap back as spikes and flames appear in heavy
  concentration)  Whoa!

  Using his staff, Rillen moved about, evading the deadly
traps with a combination of agility, pole-vaulting, and
luck.

Rillen:  (jumps up, trying to avoid twin gouts of flame from
  either side)  Argh!  (a flame burns his hand, causing him
  to drop his staff, which slides toward the brink of the
  moving platform)  No!

  As he was forced to jump in the other direction to avoid
an emerging spike, Rillen watched his staff slide over the
edge of the platform, disappearing into the darkness beneath.

Rillen:  Damn!

  As the arena's grille section spun and tilted about, spikes
and flames emerging at random intervals and locations, about
a dozen ropes descended from the ceiling, over various parts
of the platform.

Belphanior:  (to Otto)  What's this?

  Rillen forgot about the lost staff as he eyed the ropes...

Rillen:  Aha!  (he grabs one of the ropes, and lifts himself
  from the deadly arena floor)

  Suddenly, the rope broke, sending the surprised warrior
falling down toward numerous spikes...

Rillen:  (spins in midair, and slams down...right between
  several spikes)  Whew!  (he leaps up again, as a new spike
  suddenly juts forth from the floor)  Ouch!  (he looks at
  a shallow cut on one leg, then realizes that he has others
  like it)  Near misses...better than a good hit, though...

wizened old man:  Some ropes are safe...others are not.  You
  must exercise caution.

  As Rillen began making his way toward the group of wizened
old men, the whole platform spun around, placing him on the
far side.

Rillen:  Damn!  (trying to think this through while avoiding
  impalement, burning, falling off, or all three)

  Large rocks began falling from the ceiling now, pelting
the platform and the warrior on it.

Rillen:  (hit by a falling rock)  Argh!  (he leaps aside as
  another lands nearby)  Whoa!  (he jumps into the air to
  avoid a gout of flame)

Belphanior:  (wondering if he could pass this test without
  magic)  By the gods...this is more brutal than I ever
  suspected.
wizened old man:  (somehow hears the elf across the arena)
  Wait until the tournament...if, that is, your friend
  survives the third test.

Rillen:  (bleeding, burned, and beaten in two dozen places
  now, he gasps and pants, but there is no time to rest)
  Aie!  (he jumps to one side as twin spikes pop up)  Hai!
  (he narrowly dodges a small rock)  Whoa-  (another rock
  conks him on the head, landing nearby with a metallic
  CLANG)  Ouch!

wizened old man:  (shaking his head)  This is not promising.
other wizened old man:  Few pass this test with ease.  He
  is still alive.  He has a chance.

Rillen:  (suddenly has an idea, and grabs up the rock)
wizened old man:  Attacking us won't do you any good.
Rillen:  (ignores the old fellow, and smashes the rock into
  a protruding spike, from the side)

  The spike bent somewhat, and then, as it attempted to
retract, there was a screeching sound of protest from the
crisscrossed iron grate below.

Otto:  Jammed!
Belphanior:  Yeah!  Go for it!

Rillen:  (begins smashing all spikes in sight, denting their
  sharp tips and preventing them from retracting)

wizened old man:  Aie!

Rillen:  (smashes one spike particularly hard, breaking it
  off)  Hmm...(he grabs up the spike, eyes the floor, hefts
  the spike, and then stabs it into one of the flame-holes
  with all his might)  Hah!  (he backs away hastily, yet
  carefully)

  There was a loud hissing sound, and then, tiny tongues
of flame shot up around the spike.  Other flame-holes in
the floor began sputtering and popping forth small rings
of fire.  Rillen took this opportunity to make a dash for
the old men, using jammed spikes for leverage as the floor
continued to tilt.  He was careful to avoid whatever spikes
he hadn't jammed, and the flame-holes still seemed to be
having problems.  By ignoring the dangling ropes and instead
focusing on the trap-laden floor ahead of him, Rillen was
able to work his way to an outer edge of the circular floor-
section.

wizened old men:  (babbling excitedly in some forgotten
  tongue)

  As the platform spun, Rillen waited until the precise
best moment, then leaped away, using the centrifugal force
of the platform to boost his jump.

Rillen:  (lands before the group of wizened old men)  Hai!

  All was silent for a time, as both the old fellows and
Rillen's companions gaped in awe.  The rotating, shifting
floor ceased its chaotic movements, and the spikes, fire,
et al halted as well.

wizened old man:  Ah!  You are indeed worthy!
Rillen:  I should hope so...(he wipes sweat from his eyes)
  I told you that when I came here.  You should have believed
  me.
other wizened old man:  (gestures to Belphanior and Otto)
  You may come help him now.

  They retreated to a small antechamber, where Rillen's
companions helped him bind his wounds.  Shortly, the wizened
old man entered, bearing a medallion of some silvery metal
tinged with purple streaks.  A simple thong was strung
through a hole in the thing.

wizened old man:  This is your token of admission to the
  tournament.
Rillen:  (he takes the medallion)  This?
wispy thing:  Aarp?
Belphanior:  What's to stop impostors from duplicating it?
wizened old man:  (flatly)  Impossible.  These medallions
  are highly magical.  No imitations are possible.
Otto:  Well, if you say so.
Belphanior:  (staring at the medallion with his red eye)
  That aura is unlike any magic I've ever seen.
Rillen:  (dons the medallion)  Hmm.
wizened old man:  (gestures, and a monk appears, a short
  length of wood held before him)
Otto:  What's this?
monk:  (presents the stick to Rillen)

  The thing was actually about a foot long, and perhaps
an inch in diameter.  It was fashioned of smooth wood, of
a type unknown to the warrior.

wizened old man:  A gift, to replace your last one, which
  was of course just destroyed.
Rillen:  Don't remind me.
wizened old man:  Fear not, great warrior.  This weapon
  is highly magical.  Upon command, it will shorten to
  the length you now see...or lengthen to the height of
  a man.
Rillen:  Interesting.
Belphanior:  (still singularly unimpressed)
wizened old man:  It is also a magical weapon, of course,
  able to strike with great accuracy and power.
Belphanior:  (nods with some approval)
wizened old man:  It is also virtually indestructible,
  while remaining lightweight.
Belphanior:  Cool.
Rillen:  (takes the staff, and simply thinks about it
  lengthening, upon which it does so instantly)  Whoa!
Otto:  Neat trick.
wizened old man:  You may find that the staff has...
  other powers, ones which you might learn over time.
Belphanior:  (pondering this)
Rillen:  My thanks.  I shall treasure this always.
Otto:  But you still haven't told us _where_ this great
  tournament is to be held.
Belphanior:  Or when.
wizened old man:  Ah.  "When" is easy - two months hence.
  "Where" is more...unusual.  Are you familiar with the
  Chakyik peoples?
Belphanior:  Err...not really.
Otto:  Sure we are!  They're the Tiger Nomads, to the far
  west.
wizened old man:  Correct, dwarf.  The northernmost lands
  claimed by the Chakyik meet the mighty Burneal Forest.
  To the west is the great Dramidj Ocean.
Rillen:  (rather confused by these unfamiliar lands and
  geographical features)
Otto:  Yeah, I know the area.  What of it?
wizened old man:  Approximately thirty leagues' space from
  the town of Nix, on the western shore, there is a small
  island.
Otto:  Bullshit.
wizened old man:  Not quite.  This island is the domain of
  the Kokkru Chai, Lao Khan.
Otto:  Huh?
wizened old man:  "Kokkru Chai" translates into...hmm...
  "Imperial Mystic Lord" in your common tongue.
wispy thing:  Brrrrp.
Belphanior:  Sounds like a fun guy.
wizened old man:  He is one of the greatest warriors who
  has ever lived.  His power is...legendary, even among
  kings.
Belphanior:  Power?
wizened old man:  In any case, he is hosting the fighting
  tournament on his island.  You should have plenty of time
  to journey there.  Be warned - the way will be difficult,
  the perils many.  However, any warrior worthy of the great
  contest should be powerful enough to survive the trip.
Rillen:  I agree wholeheartedly.
Otto:  (wondering about this upcoming trip)  That's a long
  way...
wizened old man:  The ends of the earth, literally.  But to
  fight in this tournament...
Rillen:  I know.
Belphanior:  Will this...Imperial Mystic Lord permit non-
  combatants, like the dwarf and I, to watch the tournament?
wizened old man:  Perhaps.  In years past, the right to
  view the combats could be purchased.  This year, though,
  it will be up to Lao Khan.  It is said he prizes power
  over wealth.  Gold may not be enough.
Otto:  Great.
Belphanior:  Hmm.
wizened old man:  We have outfitted your horses with magical
  horseshoes, to speed you on your way.  (servants now bring
  the three mounts)
Belphanior:  Excellent.
Rillen:  My thanks for this additional gift.
wizened old man:  Oh, you earned it.  Now, be off.

  The trio of adventurers, plus the wispy thing, were soon
headed away, westward.

wizened old man:  Farewell, and good fortune!  (he watches
  the trio ride away, and mutters)  You'll need it, this
  year...





next time :  the great journey

notes     :  It's mid-November, and we're still having daily
  highs in the 70s...insane.  If I could control the weather,
  we'd all freeze.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



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