Chapter #275

previous chapter (#274)                                                                  next chapter (#276)






                                  +
                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      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 1995 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  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Rillen       17th level human warrior                       (N)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        1/15/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       the shores of the Nyr Dyv, northeast of Greyhawk    +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Most people have a full measure of life, and most people watch  +
+   it slowly drip away....but if you can summon it all up in one   +
+   place, you can accomplish something glorious."                  +
+                             - Ramirez, from (sic) _Highlander 2_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                      CCLXXV.  Journeys





  Several days after departing the city of Greyhawk, Rillen has
arrived at his first and only detour.

Rillen:  Ah.

  The big warrior, astride an equally gigantic horse, rested in his
saddle, taking in the view before him.  On the southern shores of
the great Nyr Dyv, standing proudly atop a rocky promontory, was the
castle of one Tenser, archmage and noted personage in these parts.
Rillen eyed the rough outcropping, realizing that there was no way
he would be able to ride his horse across the broken rock.  Indeed,
the crossing would be difficult even on foot; nonetheless, Rillen
had a rather urgent need to get to this castle.  He dismounted, not
bothering to tie his horse to anything.  On the off chance that some
beast should come along, the warrior wanted his mount to have its
freedom; besides, the animal was well-trained, and not likely to
trot off in some random direction like most horses.

Rillen:  (patting the horse's neck)  Good boy.  Now you just stay
  right here until-  eh?

  From the waters at the rocky shoreline, not ten feet from the
warrior and his horse, there had silently risen a beautiful girl.
Clad only in diaphrenous (and very wet) garments, she glistened
wetly, her body dripping with the icy waters of Oerik's greatest
lake.

girl:  (smiling)  Well, I certainly never thought to see _you_
  again!
Rillen:  Sylvie...

  Rillen hadn't seen the siren in years, ever since he and his
companions had rescued her from the tomb of an ancient demi-lich.
After a short journey, Rillen had brought the girl here, to the
Nyr Dyv, that she might return to some semblance of her natural
environment.  Of course, that had been a long time ago...

Sylvie:  What brings you to these parts?
Rillen:  Er...actually, I was hoping to find the mage Tenser here.
Sylvie:  Really?  Now that's interesting.
Rillen:  Indeed it is.
Sylvie:  You know the Blue One personally?
Rillen:  Yes.  In fact, I really need to talk with him.
Sylvie:  (seemingly ignoring the warrior)  The lord Tenser is quite
  a man, and a good liege besides.
Rillen:  Liege?
Sylvie:  (smiling)  Yes.  He is the master of all who live and play
  in this part of the Nyr Dyv.
Rillen:  Oh.  I didn't know that.
Sylvie:  The local people and water creatures owe much to Tenser.
  He protects them, and cares for them, and in return, they watch
  over his domain and assist him in certain endeavors.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Sylvie:  Do you plan to cross the rock-path to reach his castle?
Rillen:  Is there any other way?
Sylvie:  Always.  (she looks out to the still waters, smiling)
Rillen:  What madness are you up to?
Sylvie:  Why, no madness at all.  Watch.

  As they stood there, the waters nearby churned and frothed, soon
forming into a solid mass, shaped very much like a large disc.  The
flat, watery surface moved up to the shore, gently bumping against
the rocks.

Rillen:  What is _that_?
Sylvie:  Don't be alarmed.
Rillen:  I am not alarmed, just curious.
Sylvie:  This is one of my water-friends.  He'll take us to the
  castle.
Rillen:  He?
Sylvie:  Trust me.
Rillen:  (eyeing the water-disc dubiously)  My horse too?
Sylvie:  (adopting a scolding look)  Yes, silly.

  Rillen gave up his questioning, for such things were better left
to wizards; he led his horse to the disc.

Rillen:  (touches the disc with one foot, and finds it solid and
  stable)
Sylvie:  Don't worry.
Rillen:  (leads his somewhat-reluctant horse onto the disc, where
  they are joined by the siren)  Now what?
Sylvie:  Now we go.  (she speaks a few words in some bubbly language
  and the disc begins moving, neither slowly nor rapidly, toward the
  castle of Tenser)
horse:  Neigh!
Rillen:  Calm down, boy.

  The horse, well-trained as it was, kept from panicking, and before
long, the disc had arrived at the rocky point that served as the base
of the mage's castle.

Sylvie:  (proudly)  Everybody off.
Rillen:  (leads his mount onto solid land)
Rillen:  (staring up at the tall, thin, but still impressive castle)
  What now?
Sylvie:  Now, if the great one wishes, he shall see you.  (she eyes
  Rillen)  I _am_ assuming that he knows you well enough to grant an
  audience on such short notice.
Rillen:  He simply must.  (walks up to the massive double doors of
  the castle, still leading his horse)  Hmm, what to do next?
voice:  What indeed?
Rillen:  Eh?
Sylvie:  (bows in deference, as a blue-clad figure appears in the
  air above them)
Tenser:  (to Rillen)  I remember you.
Rillen:  And I you.
Tenser:  What brings you to my humble abode?  (he looks behind him,
  at his towering castle, amused)
Rillen:  Once, I loaned you a certain item, that you might examine
  it, scrutinize it with your spells, and perhaps learn its origin
  and purpose.
Tenser:  Ah!  The pyramid of blue crystal.
Rillen:  Yes.  I have need of it once more, especially if you have
  learned its powers.  I am going on a quest from which I may not
  return, and I need all the help I can get.
Tenser:  Hmm.  Well, by all means, come inside.  (he waves a hand,
  and his castle's double doors open)
Rillen:  (leads his horse inside)

  A young fellow took the horse, to feed and water it; this was odd,
since the animal usually became agitated around strangers.  Rillen
and Sylvie (the warrior wasn't sure why she was still following him,
but this didn't seem to be the time to ask about it) were led up
several flights of stairs.  The interior of the castle was decorated
in all shades of blue, light hues dominating over dark ones.  They
saw a variety of servants and others, mostly humans or demi-humans
though a few were benevolent sorts of creatures - centaurs, sprites,
and the like.
  Shortly, they were seated at a table, carved from a single gigantic
piece of agate.  A mild-mannered servant brought them tall glasses of
blue liquid; trying the stuff, Rillen found it to be quite cool and
refreshing.

Tenser:  Please wait here.
Rillen:  We shall, thank you.
Tenser:  (vanishes through a doorway)
Sylvie:  Isn't this exciting?  We're in the castle of the great one
  himself!
Rillen:  It's not boring, I'll grant you that.
Sylvie:  So, you haven't yet told me where you're going.
Rillen:  No, I haven't.  (he rubs his stubbled chin)
Sylvie:  (not taking the hint)  Where are you headed that sounds so
  dangerous?
Rillen:  (sighs)  Well...far from here, hidden within some mountains,
  is the place I was raised from childhood, and the man who raised
  me...(he looks into the glass of blue liquid, its strange sinking
  bubbles looking much like falling snow)





  The warrior's thoughts turned to another time and place, many years
ago.  It was deep winter, and heavy snow was falling, piling high in
the mountain passes and making visibility almost nonexistent.  Amidst
high snowdrifts and white-carpeted trees, a wooden structure peered
out, almost hidden between the mountains and the thick snow.

monk:  (walks through the doors of the monastery, a blanketed bundle
  cradled in his arms)  Agh...
other monks:  (close the doors behind their fellow)  What have you
  found in the snow, Brother Darius?
first monk:  (sets the bundle down, gently, although his hands are
  numb and trembling from the cold)  Behold, brothers.  (he opens a
  flap of the thick blanket, exposing a tiny black face)
baby:  Waaaaaa!
second monk:  An infant!
third monk:  Have you never seen a baby before, Brother Paul?
second monk:  Of course I have, Brother Timon.  But never one whose
  skin looked like this.
Brother Darius:  (the first monk, he sits on the wooden floor, in
  some pain, shivering)
Brother Timon:  (the third monk)  It-  (examines the infant)  -err,
  he must have Flannae blood in him.
Brother Paul:  (the second monk)  Brother Darius, where did you find
  this infant?
Brother Darius:  I was returning from my pilgrimage to the Valley of
  Light, but I had timed my departure poorly.  The snows came in a
  bit more quickly than expected, and I was forced to brave the snow
  and ice.  Amidst some random mountain pass, hours from here, I
  heard the cries of this child.
Brother Paul:  (wide-eyed)  Amazing.
Brother Timon:  An understatement, to be sure.
Brother Darius:  Anyhow, I then took the child, wrapping it in my
  blanket, and made my way back here.  I barely made the trip.
Brother Paul:  Hmm.  (having found another blanket, he covers his
  fellow monk with it)
Brother Timon:  And the baby survived?
Brother Darius:  Aye.  He's quite a strong one.  He made very few
  cries and wails after I found him.
Brother Paul:  And look here - he's not even frostbitten, not at all.
Brother Darius:  Well, I _did_ shield him from the elements with my
  own body, and my blanket.
Brother Timon:  Still...
Brother Paul:  The Master will no doubt want to see this infant.
Brother Darius:  No doubt...





Sylvie:  Rillen?
Rillen:  (awakens from his reverie)  Eh?
Sylvie:  I said, why do you have to go back there?
Rillen:  Oh.  I sensed that something was amiss there, and I fear
  the worst.  I don't quite know why, but I must find out, and soon.
Sylvie:  That sounds dire.
Rillen:  I fear that it is.
Tenser:  (appears)  Well, I hope then that I can provide some help.
  (he holds forth Rillen's blue crystal pyramid, the tiny flame at
  its center still blazing away wondrously)  Look familiar?
Rillen:  Yes.  (he takes the item)  Did you learn anything?
Tenser:  Did I ever...that, my friend, is a repository for the
  spirit of a fire elemental king.
Rillen:  King?
Tenser:  Yep.  To shatter it releases the spirit, which will gladly
  return to the Elemental Plane of Fire - after, that is, it performs
  one service of your choosing.
Rillen:  Amazing!  All this time...
Tenser:  Neat little toy, isn't it?  I'd suggest that you use it
  wisely, and also soon - the spirit is trapped within against its
  will.
Rillen:  You didn't release it, then?
Tenser:  That wouldn't have been very polite, would it?  It's your
  toy, not mine.  Though if you'd like to trade it...
Rillen:  (pockets the pyramid)  No thanks.  This thing might come in
  handy soon.
Tenser:  As you wish.  (he eyes some invisible timepiece)  Have you
  had supper yet?
Rillen:  No.
Tenser:  Why not stay here, and dine with me, then?
Rillen:  Well...
Tenser:  (claps his hands)  Splendid, then!  I'll have a nice feast
  prepared in no time!  Please relax here for a time.  (he departs)
Rillen:  (reclines in his chair)  Supper it is, I guess.
Sylvie:  He's probably bored of dining with wizards and water-
  creatures.  I'd just bet that your tales will be a welcome break
  for him.
Rillen:  Is that so?

  Indeed, the warrior dined with the archmage that evening, and they
discussed many great adventures and quests, talking long into the
night.  Rillen then accepted the hospitality of his host and stayed
the night as a guest.  Morning saw him extremely well-rested, despite
the long night before; his horse seemed in good spirits as well.
Tenser's stableboy had washed and brushed the animal from head to
tail; its horseshoes were as clean as its mane.

stableboy:  I fixed your magical horseshoes for you while I was at
  it, sir.
Rillen:  Eh?
stableboy:  The horseshoes, sir.  They are very powerful, and will
  allow your horse here to gallop over the surface of the ground,
  and at great speeds besides.
Rillen:  Oh.  My thanks, lad.
stableboy:  No bother at all, sir.
Rillen:  (leads his horse out into the open air, where he is met by
  the blue-robed Tenser)
Tenser:  Now you take care, warrior.  I sense great peril on the path
  ahead of you.
Rillen:  I shall try.

  Thanking Tenser one more time for his generosity, Rillen set out
on his way, taken to shore by a strange, unmanned raft.

Sylvie:  I guess I won't be seeing you again for a while...
Rillen:  No.  I have a long journey ahead.
Sylvie:  Well, it was nice to spend some time with you again.  (she
  impulsively kisses the warrior on the cheek)  A lady's favor, going
  into battle, and all that...
Rillen:  (at a loss for words)  Uh...thanks.
Sylvie:  (half-in, half-out of the water, she watches him ride away)

  Rillen spurred his mount on to great speeds, and shortly, as the
horse's magical shoes empowered it to do, the animal was galloping
along, several inches above the ground.  Besides enabling the steed
to cross water effortlessly and leave no tracks, the magical horse-
shoes bestowed extra stamina upon the horse.  Thus, Rillen was able
to reach the misty peaks he sought without incident, and within two
weeks.

Rillen:  (glancing ahead at the towering, snow-covered mountaintops)
  Ah, home at last.

  It had stopped snowing for the time being, and the skies above were
clear.  As he stared up at the sun, blazing in the blue winter sky,
Rillen's was reminded of another time he had been looking up at the
sun...





young, dark-skinned child:  (squinting as he gazes upward at the sun)
old robed man:  The sun is the source of all light, and heat.  It is
  the symbol of life, my son.
child:  Yes, master.

  Although he was only eight or nine years old, the boy was already
tall, as tall as his aged teacher.  He was also lean, and had just
begun to put wiry muscles on his lanky frame.  His black hair was
cut short, as with most monks, and he was garbed in a robe.  His feet
were bare.

Grand Master:  The sun is the personification of fire, one of the
  four natural elements.
young Rillen:  Natural?
Grand Master:  Yes.  The others are water, air, and earth.
young Rillen:  What do these things mean, master?  What do they have
  to do with us, and the teachings of the ancients?
Grand Master:  (obviously pleased)  Ah!  Already you begin to see
  the great scheme of things.  Already you begin to ask sensible
  questions.  There may be hope for you yet.
young Rillen:  (just sits there, confused)
Grand Master:  Four elements, which are also four basic fighting
  styles, not to mention four ways to wend one's way through the
  trials and mazes of life.
young Rillen:  I am confused, master.  Please explain.
Grand Master:  Water:  a powerful force, which can erode mountains,
  yet fits into any container.  Warriors who fight like the water
  are always in motion, yet meld with the foe's attacks, using his
  own strength against him.
young Rillen:  (wide-eyed)  Oh.
Grand Master:  Fire:  the primal force, it seeks out and destroys
  all things without hesitation.  The warrior of fire is aggressive
  and will press all attacks to their fullest, intending to defeat
  a foe before he has a chance to fight back.
young Rillen:  Fire...
Grand Master:  Earth:  the foundation of all life, solid and strong
  as it resists all.  A warrior who uses the style of the earth is
  powerful and durable, often bearing the brunt of a foe's attacks
  until the chance comes to strike - and then, a powerful strike it
  will be.
young Rillen:  Hmm.
Grand Master:  Air:  it surrounds all, touches all, yet has no firm
  substance or form.  A warrior who emulates air is aware of all
  things around him, and will strive to avoid all attacks, letting
  the foe waste his energy.
young Rillen:  Four elements...
Grand Master:  Remember this well, pupil.  All things in life are
  based on this idea.
young Rillen:  Yes, master.
Grand Master:  There are, of course, the para-elements, and even the
  quasi-elements...but such things are beyond you for now.
young Rillen:  (awed)  How do you know all of this, master?
Grand Master:  I know all things, my son.  (he smiles, gazing wist-
  fully into the sky)





  Rillen was gazing into the sky as he ceased his reminiscence; he
looked around, realizing that his horse was awaiting the pull of the
rein, to guide it in some direction.

Rillen:  Hmm...(to the animal)  Sorry about that.  Hiya!

  Wasting no time, he led his horse into the icy mountains.  He knew
exactly where he was going, and as he traveled, familiar landmarks
became apparent, guiding his path through narrow gorges and deep, icy
passes.  Within four days, Rillen sensed that the monastery he sought
was near, although certain mountain denizens saw fit to question his
passing...

horse:  (whinnying nervously)
Rillen:  What is it?

  Suddenly, a disembodied growl came from the snow-covered bushes to
the warrior's left.  A huge, white-furred form loped from its cover,
leaping at the mounted warrior!

Rillen:  Whoaaaa-  (tackled from his horse, he and the attacker fall
  to the ground)

  The creature was taller and broader than Rillen, though it lacked
his fighting skill.  Claws raked at the warrior's back and arms, as
the foe growled and snarled.  The foe's body was ice-cold, and seemed
to absorb Rillen's body heat; he realized that he had to break free,
and quickly.

Rillen:  Ungh...argh!  (he elbows the opponent in the face, breaking
  its nose)
yeti:  (howls in pain, pausing for a moment in its attack)
Rillen:  (takes advantage of this opening, planting both feet in the
  creature's stomach)
yeti:  Urngh?
Rillen:  Hai!  (kicks outward with all his might, sending the thing
  sailing back and away)
yeti:  (lands roughly, then gets to its feet, turning to face Rillen)

  However, the warrior was ready this time, facing the yeti in a
defensive stance.

Rillen:  (unmoving, he watches the creature)
yeti:  Raaargh!  (charges)
Rillen:  (waits until the last moment to move; when he finally does,
  he punches the yeti in the upper arm as he trips it, then leaps
  back)  Sa!
yeti:  (yells in pain, clutching its arm as it stumbles around to
  face Rillen once more)
Rillen:  (already airborne, his flying kick takes the creature in
  the face, knocking it down)  Ha!
yeti:  (on its knees, it shakes its head, then looks up at Rillen)
Rillen:  (back in his defensive stance)  Waaaaa...
yeti:  (turns, fleeing into the snowy trees to one side of the pass)
Rillen:  Hmm.  (he sees to his horse, which has moved away a ways,
  but is still present)  Easy, boy.

  Rillen was alarmed, for the appearance of the yeti had confirmed
his suspicions that something was wrong here.  Never before had the
dangerous creatures of the mountains roamed freely like this, not
in midday at least.  If the cunning and carnivorous yeti were loose
in the area, it did not bode well for the state of the monastery.

Rillen:  (frowns)

  The warrior urged his horse onward, but the going was slow and
treacherous in the rocky pass.  In the last few hours, dusk had
crept up on Rillen, and there was still no sign of the monastery.
He decided that he needed to camp for the night, and began seeking
a suitable place to bed down and make camp.  In this respect, he
got lucky, quickly finding a small niche in an outcropping of rock.
Barely ten feet deep, and perhaps five in height, the pseudo-cave
was about eight feet wide.  Easing his horse into the shelter, the
warrior built a large fire in front of the niche, gathering an ample
supply of firewood and tinder.  Later, after the fire was blazing
high, a simple meal of dried meat, hard bread, and water rounded
out Rillen's evening.
  Before going to sleep, he called upon the mystical power of his
onyx figurine, summoning the large black dog which was the tiny
statuette's alter-ego.  Commanding the dog to stand watch by the
fire, and wake him before it reverted to its smaller form, Rillen
went to sleep.

onyx dog:  (silently watches the snow fall outside the cave)

  The night was uneventful, and the dog woke Rillen with a nudge,
several hours before dawn.  It then changed back into its statuette
form, leaving Rillen to prepare his meager breakfast.  While he was
at it, he took some feed from his horse's saddlebags, so that the
animal might have breakfast too.  A while later, as the first rays
of dawn penetrated the mountain slopes, the warrior resumed his
journey.  Rested and newly determined, he resumed the search for
his old home, the monastery that was nestled deep within these peaks
somewhere.  Mists filled the lower areas, the valleys and gorges
between the mountains; when riding through these places, Rillen had
to be extra-cautious against possible ambushes.
  Around noon, he arrived at the final landmark to the monastery,
a small grove of sablewood trees.  A certain tree among them had a
certain crooked branch, one that was totally ordinary to the casual
observer but had special meaning to the monks from Rillen's hidden
monastery.

Rillen:  (judging directions, he dismounts, walking as he counts off
  paces)

  Soon, he was standing before a small, nearly obscured wooden door,
seemingly set into a mountainside.

Rillen:  (tentatively pushes the door, which swings open slowly)

  This was a bad sign, for this door was one of those which should
have been guarded.  Leading his horse, Rillen entered the monastery,
frowning all the while.  Once he was inside, he had even more reason
to frown...

Rillen:  Aie!  (dashes over to a body, the nearest of many which are
  scattered about)

  Indeed, the monastery was a slaughterhouse, for there were several
dozen bodies lying around - about the number of monks and acolytes
that had inhabited the place at any given time.  All had died violent
deaths; some still clutched staves in lifeless hands, while others
had met their ends without the benefit of weapons.  Rillen was no
priest or necromancer, but even he could tell that the bodies had
been here for awhile, perhaps three weeks.
  Everywhere, there were signs of struggle; the monks hadn't gone
quietly.  The ricefields and gardens, open to the sky above through
a massive natural chimney, were demolished; some were reduced to
ashes.  It appeared that several monks had perished while defending
the gardens.  Bending down, Rillen examined a strange black smear
in the dirt; it was roughly man-shaped.

Rillen:  Hmm.  (frowns)  But...if everyone else is dead...(alarmed,
  he stands, and then runs toward the inner chambers, specifically
  those of the Grand Master)

  At breakneck speed, he made his way through the monastery's inner
chambers, frantic in his search.  Passing through the great common
room which served as a dining hall, he entered the training rooms,
which were lined with various weapons and training aids.  Finding a
few more corpses here - but no sign of the Grand Master - he went
on, entering the temple.  At the base of the short steps leading to
the pedestal, there rested a frail form.

Rillen:  Master!  (he sprints toward the pedestal)

  Bending down, he took the lifeless body of his teacher and mentor
in his arms.

Rillen:  NOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo...

  All at once, the many fond memories of his youth came back...the
memories of growing up here, training here, under the watchful eye
of the wizened Grand Master...





young Rillen:  (actually a teenager now, he skillfully parries the
  attacks of another monk, with a simple staff of wood)
Grand Master:  Stop!  (he trots over)  Hold the staff like _this_.
  You fight well, but a master will see through your defenses and
  defeat you.
Rillen:  I do not understand.
Grand Master:  Give me that.  (he takes the other monk's staff)
other monk:  (bows, and backs away)
Grand Master:  Prepare yourself.  (he unleashes a flurry of strikes)
Rillen:  (defends himself, and well)
Grand Master:  (feints to one side, then swings his staff to the
  other)
Rillen:  (blocks, but barely)
Grand Master:  (reverses his attack, sweeping Rillen's feet out from
  beneath him)  See?
Rillen:  (on the ground)  How?!?  That was too fast-
Grand Master:  Nothing is too fast.  You simply have to train, until
  you can see everything.  You and the staff must become one.
Rillen:  (somewhat dubious)
Grand Master:  But enough for now.  Come, it is lunchtime.  (they
  walk over to a table, and sit on opposite sides, cross-legged)
Rillen:  (pours herbal tea for both of them)  You were telling me
  this morning about fighting styles, Master...?
Grand Master:  Ah.  You wish to know more.  (he sips his tea, which
  is quite hot)
Rillen:  I wish to know more as it pertains to me.  What style is
  mine to command?  What manner of warrior am I destined to become?
Grand Master:  Every man is his own warrior, with his own style and
  form.
Rillen:  (frowns)
Grand Master:  But you are no doubt asking about the four elemental
  extremes, which I once told you about.
Rillen:  Aye.
Grand Master:  Fire.  Air.  Earth.  Water.  And you wish to know your
  place amongst these measures of power.  (leans forward)  What do
  _you_ think?
Rillen:  ...fire?
Grand Master:  Close.  Actually, your technique seems naturally akin
  to those of Earth.  (raises one finger)  But with a dash of Fire
  thrown in.
Rillen:  (looking confused)
Grand Master:  My son, you came to us from afar...a foundling.  Your
  foreign blood has given you extraordinary size, and strength.  (he
  gazes into the sky)  Why, already you tower above all of us here,
  and you are not yet full-grown.  (he looks right at Rillen)  From
  your youth, I have trained you to use that size and strength as you
  fight.  I do not think you shall ever be as fast, or as graceful,
  as certain others.  But you can still be fast enough to defeat any
  contemporary foe.  What you lack in speed, or even flexibility,
  you can make up for with sheer strength.  Your fighting style must
  _utilize_ that strength, that extra reach, to its fullest.
Rillen:  Earth, then?
Grand Master:  Yes, essentially.  But your natural form seems a bit
  like that of the Fire style.  Aggressive...powerful...forceful.
Rillen:  Ah!  So they can be mixed and combined, as suits each given
  warrior.
Grand Master:  (sits back)  Yesssss.  At last you see.
Rillen:  Hmm.

  After lunch, the young monk's training resumed.  He spent some time
on the Sky Bars - metal poles set into a vertical stone wall.  Their
purpose was to strengthen one's climbing skill, not to mention upper
body strength.  Later, he faced the Arms of the Spider - a rotating
dummy, mounted on a pole in the ground.  The thing had eight arms,
each outfitted with a pole or weighted bludgeon; the idea was that
one sparred with it, causing random arms to swing forth.  It sounded
easy, but there was a line in the ground, a few feet behind the one
who faced the dummy; falling back over this line was a sure sign that
one had not yet mastered the test.
  Besides these training aids, there were other, more natural ones.
Every morning, upon awakening at dawn (as opposed to before dawn -
sufficient rest was important for proper training) Rillen would spend
ten or fifteen minutes jumping up, next to a small bush.  Such bushes
were common here; they were slow-growing, and suited for a particular
purpose.  One was planted upon a warrior's birth, and from his early
youth, he began jumping next to the tiny bush.  As it grew, so did
the warrior, and the idea was that he would always be able to reach
the bush's height with his vertical jumps.
  The bush was green, even at this time of year, and its interwoven
branches were their own intricate, natural maze...





  Rillen looked away from the depths of the bush, turning to gaze
upon the freshly-covered grave he had just finished.  Tossing the
shovel aside, he walked over and picked up a worn staff - the Grand
Master's ancient quarterstaff.

Rillen:  Rest in peace, teacher.  (with one mighty swing, he buries
  the staff several feet in the earth of the grave)

  This task done, the warrior proceeded to bury the other monks,
all of them.  This was no trivial task, and took many hours; Rillen
worked tirelessly, driven by an anger more primal than any other.
By the time he had lain all the monks to rest, his hands were torn
and bleeding, covered with blisters.  The rage that drove him now
masked this pain, though, as he walked over to a basin of seawater,
beside which rested his quarterstaff.  Resting atop the magical
weapon was a small, metal medallion, an arcane symbol engraved in
its surface.  This same symbol had been clutched in the dead hand
of the Grand Master.

Rillen:  (buries his hands in the basin of seawater, clenching his
  teeth but uttering no cries of pain; all the while, he stares at
  the medallion)

  The next day, Rillen prepared to depart.  All the dead were now
properly laid to rest, and he had other business to attend to.  The
strange medallion, whatever its symbol meant, was the sole clue he
had to the identity of those who had destroyed the monastery, and
all within.  It was a clue that he would follow to the ends of the
world, if need be.
  Astride his horse, he passed through the doors of the monastery,
alone, this action rekindling memories of the last time he had done
so...





Rillen:  (bearing only a staff, a longbow, a quiver, and a small
  pack)
Grand Master:  Fear not, my pupil.  The time comes when all men must
  go forth, to find their way in the world.
Rillen:  But...what if I'm not ready?
Grand Master:  (puts a hand on his student's shoulder)  For almost
  nineteen years, you have toiled here, perfecting your skills in
  the arts of combat.  You have become a master with the staff, and
  in unarmed combat...and nearly so with the longbow.
Rillen:  (beams with something akin to pride)
Grand Master:  Also, you are familiar with all weapons, save the one
  which we are forbidden to use:  the sword.  You have superior speed
  and strength and stamina.  You know how to track, to hunt and fish,
  to-
Rillen:  I get the point.  What are you leading up to?
Grand Master:  All that skill...all that you possess...now you must
  go forth into the great, vast world and learn what the gods above
  intended you to _do_ with all your skill.
Rillen:  (feeling foolish)
Grand Master:  My son, we all have some purpose.  Even the lowest of
  men can accomplish something great.  You, far from the lowest of
  men, can accomplish something wondrous.  But you will never learn
  what it is, unless you venture forth and discover.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Grand Master:  Now go.  I have no more to teach you.  Go.  Go forth
  and seek your destiny!
Rillen:  (rides out)
monks:  (closing the great doors behind the lone warrior)
Rillen:  (looks ahead, at the snowy mountain pass)  My destiny...





Rillen:  (watching the pass ahead as he rides out, away from the dead
  monastery and its memories)  My destiny, at least for the moment,
  is clear to me.

  As the warrior headed into the mountain pass, away from the death
and destruction that his childhood home had become, a single tear
rolled down one cheek.





next:   ?
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  Hey, this is kind like _The Empire Strikes Back_, isn't
  it?

  I've been thinking for awhile about exactly what style Rillen
practices.  I prefer to think that the Grand Master was proficient
in a variety of styles, and trained his students according to their
individual talents, as mentioned in the story above.  One of the
better real-life analogues to Rillen's style is the Chinese kung-fu
approach called wei chia chuan.  This is an "external" approach,
more aggressive and muscular than the "internal" approaches such
as tai chi.  It is typified by power strikes as well as hand and
body conditioning.  Attacks tend to direct force in a straight
line, with a certain emphasis on kicking techniques.
  I think this is a good template for his style.  No fancy aerial
acrobatics, no aikido-like holds and locks, no tai chi-like use
of chi to mysteriously repel attackers, no breaking boards, ice,
or rocks.  Not that I'm denouncing these things - they all happen,
and they're all effective, maybe moreso than Rillen.  But he has
to have some core system and strategy when fighting, so I'll try
to set that foundation here and now.  He's an immensely strong,
faster-than-average, and aggressive fighter who is very efficient,
very controlled, and very lethal, when necessary.
  I suppose we'll see "necessary" the next time we see Rillen, eh?

  Movie to see:  _Desperado_ (bloody western, rated R)
  Fall TV shows to watch:  _Nowhere Man_ (Mondays, 9 pm EST, UPN)
                           _Highlander_ (Sundays, 1:30 pm, ABC)
                           _American Gothic_ (Fridays, 10 pm, CBS)
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




previous chapter (#274)                                                                  next chapter (#276)