Chapter #276

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                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic II      +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +
                                  +

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+    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  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Arnold       12th level human barbarian warrior            (NG)  +
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+  Date:        1/25/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       Ged's lands, to the west of the city of Greyhawk    +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
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+  "You're not a cook."                                             +
+  "Yeah, well...I also cook."                                      +
+                                            - from _Under Siege_   +
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                     CCLXXVI.  Filling In





  Two weeks have passed since Ged departed for parts unknown...two
weeks in which Arnold has done his best to handle affairs of state.

Arnold:  (looming over a short, skinny priest)  I don't have time
  for this!  If Ged wanted new tembles built, he would have told me
  aboud it.  (he points one thick finger at the other man)  And he
  did not.
priest:  We must go ahead with the expansion-
Arnold:  I don't think so.
priest:  But...
Arnold:  No buts.  Go away.
priest:  (backs away, slowly)
Arnold:  (turns to Nenya)  What else today?
Nenya:  (reading from a long scroll she carries)  Well, that agent
  from Greyhawk City came back last night.  I believe he wants to
  talk about the plains to the south.  Something about a land claim
  for some official.  (she holds up an ink-tipped quill, obviously
  ready to do some writing)  I can handle this one if you want.
Arnold:  Yah.  I wouldn't know what to tell the Greyhawk peoble.
  You take care of id.
Nenya:  Okay.  Let's see, what else?  Oh, some merchants from the
  town of Silfen to the west are here.
Arnold:  (frowns)
Nenya:  They need to buy some food - fruits, vegetables, bread,
  that sort of thing.  They had a bad insect infestation last week
  and are consequently short on food.
Arnold:  (shrugs)  Yah.  Insegts will do that.  (nods)  See to it.
Nenya:  There's also some guy here from Dyvers.  I have no idea what
  _he_ wants.
Arnold:  Maybe he doesn't either.
Nenya:  Ah, you read my mind.
Arnold:  The man from Dyvbers can wait, then.  Anythink else that's
  important?
Nenya:  Scotty has some questions about the buildings he's working
  on, outside and near this castle.
Arnold:  (nodding)  He probably wants to spend more money.  (frowns)
  That, or build a secret door.  Okay, I'll go talk width him.
Nenya:  (appears apprehensive)
Arnold:  You look like you have somethink else to say.  What is it?
Nenya:  Well, the farmers in our southeastern lands are quarreling
  amongst themselves.  I just heard this one secondhand, so I'm not
  sure exactly what's going on.
Arnold:  (sighs)  This court bores me.  I wish Geb would come back.
  (he begins walking away)
Nenya:  Where are you going?
Arnold:  Out.  (he leaves)
priest:  (turns to Nenya)  Err...what about my temp-
Nenya:  Save it, friend.  I'm not interested.

  Arnold strolled out of the castle, whistling; he had already
forgotten the first dozen problems he had dealt with this morning.
He hadn't been kidding when he'd wished that Ged would return;
affairs of state weren't his specialty.  He almost considered
sending a messenger to go summon Ged, before he remembered that
no one knew _where_ the elf had gone.  He had taken only a small
pack, his feline familiar, and his morningstar with him.  Arnold
and Nenya had debated for some time the possible destinations of
their lord, to no avail.  All that was certain was that when he
wished to return, he would - and not a moment before.
  The big warrior was clad in cloth leggings and an open-necked
woolen shirt, and his two-handed sword was strapped snugly in its
sheath, across his broad back.  Some people might have been rather
cold, as the weather was just above freezing, but Arnold had long
since become used to far colder climes, and the current weather
barely raised goosebumps on his massive arms.
  Leaving the grounds of Ged's castle, Arnold walked toward the new
construction, that which Scotty was occupied with these days.  It
was actually a large barn, one that the nearby farmers could keep
their farm animals in during cold weather and storms.  Ged and his
helpers had planned well years ago, when his castle was first built,
but the rate of farmstead expansion had increased by leaps and bounds
in recent times.  Humming to himself as he thought about a long-past
battle, Arnold approached Scotty.  The engineer was busy barking
orders at several bricklayers, his red hair and beard moving as the
wind blew.

Scotty:  An' make it snappy, lads!  We don' have all bloody day!
  (he turns, seeing Arnold)  Ah.
Arnold:  Hi, Sgotty.  I heard you needed to talk to me.
Scotty:  Damned right, boyo.  We need to be thinkin' about the outer
  wall, there.  (points)  D'ya want it to circle around the other
  building, like so?  Or maybe split it, here, here, and there.  (he
  points to the areas)
Arnold:  Aaa.
Scotty:  The boss did nae tell me what he wanted, and I understand
  you're in charge.
Arnold:  (shrugs)  Yah.
Scotty:  Well, then.  What'll it be?
Arnold:  (vague thoughts of battle still in his head, he makes the
  decision)  Make a slobed wall, across this hill.  No breaks - they
  can walk around it if they wand.
Scotty:  Ah, the defensible approach, ye say?
Arnold:  Ridght.
Scotty:  Very well, then.  We'll be needin' some more cash, to get
  the supplies and hire diggers.
Arnold:  Nenya will see to it.  Anythink else?
Scotty:  Nah, not for now.  (he grins)
Arnold:  O-kay.  (he walks away, toward the southeastern borders of
  Ged's land)

  The warrior wasn't quite sure that Ged would have made the same
decision, but what could the elf expect after leaving in a hurry?
Arnold wasn't much worried as he strode along, and the sun in the
winter sky warmed his skin, putting him in a fine mood.  Shortly,
he arrived at a series of huts, and was quickly assured that this
was the trouble Nenya had spoken of.  A loud and rather profane
argument was in progress, with perhaps a dozen farmers on either
side.

Arnold:  Ahem.
farmers:  (all turn to face the warrior)
Arnold:  What in the name of Boggob is going on here?
farmer:  Who the hell are you?
other farmer:  Hey, man, I wouldn't mess with him.  That's Arnold,
  Ged's right-hand man.
third farmer:  Is that true, fella?
Arnold:  (shrugs)  Yah.
farmer:  And do you carry our lord's authority with you?
Arnold:  I speak for him.  (he surveys the situation)  Whad is goink
  on here?
other farmer:  They've been stealing our cattle!
farmer on other side:  He lies!  It's in fact _them_ who've been
  stealing _our_ cattle!
farmers:  (begin yelling at each other)
Arnold:  Whew.  For a minute there, I was thinking that I'd have to
  split a giant pumpgin into egual halves, or something stupid like
  thad...
all farmers present:  (still yelling at each other)
Arnold:  When did it habben?
farmers:  (ignoring him as they argue)
Arnold:  (steps forth, grabbing the two opposing farmers closest to
  each other and lifting them a foot off the ground)
all farmers:  (stop their argument to gape at the warrior)
Arnold:  When?  When did the caddle disappear?
farmer:  Err...mine vanished two days ago.  Though some did last
  night too.
opposing farmer:  Same here.  Clever, those-
farmer:  Quiet, you-
Arnold:  SHUD UP!  (drops the two men he was holding)  Where did the
  caddle vandish from?
farmer:  The pasture between our farmsteads.
other farmer:  We've always shared that grazing area.
Arnold:  And you will again.  Take me there, now.

  The band of men led him through the plains, and a while later, he
was staring at...nothing.  An empty patch of land.

Arnold:  I don't see anythink.
farmer:  Yep, 'cause our cattle disappeared from this very spot.
other farmer:  And ours as well.
Arnold:  (examining the ground)  Lods of movemend here.
farmer:  Uh...yeah.
Arnold:  (begins searching for tracks, roaming the area slowly and
  methodically)
other farmer:  What are you, some kind of hunter?
Arnold:  Something like that.  (he walks off to the south)
farmer:  Where're you going?
Arnold:  (kneeling down, he brushes some trampled grass away)  Aaa.
other farmers:  (rush forth to see)
farmer:  Aie.

  They were staring at a three-toed, clawed footprint, faded and only
vaguely evident.  Most of the farmers recoiled, their worst fears
floating to the surface of their thoughts.

farmer:  A wolf...stalking the hards.  A wolf!
Arnold:  Too small.
other farmer:  Wild dog, then.
Arnold:  Too big.
third farmer:  A wild tiger?
Arnold:  (eyes the fellow strangely)  Naa, I think not.  (he looks
  southward, muttering)  Whatever took the caddle was careful not to
  leave evidendce.
farmer:  You think whatever made that footprint took our cattle?
Arnold:  Yaa.  Yaa, I do.
other farmer:  What to do, then?
Arnold:  Simble.  We let it take more caddle.
farmers:  (look shocked)

  Later, long after the sun had vanished and the stars had appeared,
the cattle milled about, chewing on grass, making cow noises to each
other, and doing other things that cows did at night.  The truth was,
no one had ever really watched them.  Anyhow, they suddenly became
agitated, and begun to mill about nervously.  Unseen, a dark shape
parted from the shadows, moving slowly, cautiously toward the cattle.

small cow:  (isolated from the rest, it is closest to the shadowy
  figure)
shadowy figure:  (snarling in a low, savage tone)  Rrr...
other cows:  (watching the small one, glad that they're not it)
shadowy figure:  (moves closer)
Arnold:  NOW!

  The night suddenly became as day; first one, then another, and then
a third torch lighting, driving away the darkness.  The farmers who
held the torches formed a rough half-circle to the north of the thing
they had exposed.  The creature was humanoid, though small, much like
a goblin.  It was covered with thick brown fur; frothing fangs and
glaring red eyes seemed to confirm its murderous intentions.

monster:  Grrrr...
Arnold:  (stands behind the monster, covered in dirt, possibly dung)
  You can'd smell me like this, monsder.  And the wind is blowing
  nordthward.  (he draws his sword)
monster:  Grrrr...(eyes the scared, torch-bearing farmers to the
  north, and the lone warrior who blocks its escape to the south)
Arnold:  Come and get me.
monster:  (turns, and charges at Arnold)
Arnold:  (having foregone his plate mail, to increase mobility and
  help him hide, he wears only dirty leather clothes)  Aaa.  (he
  strides toward the loping, growling foe)
monster:  (leaps at the warrior)
Arnold:  (deftly slashes at the airborne opponent as he sidesteps)
monster:  GRAAAR!  (hits the ground, rolling, a deep gash in its
  side)
Arnold:  Haah.  Enchanded sword...hurt you, as I thought it midght.
monster:  (yelping in pain, it runs off to the south, and is quickly
  out of sight, melted into the shadows, though they can hear its
  enraged howling)
farmer:  (finally dares to speak)  It got away!
Arnold:  I think not.  Get more tordches...and some weabons.  We're
  going for a walk.

  Soon, the crude militia that Arnold had organized was ready to
march.  Earlier today, he had made sure that he recruited farmers
who at least knew how to hold a sword; these were the ones he used
to set his little trap.  Now the trap had worked, and the band of
farmers, a dozen strong, was ready to move.

farmer:  We're gonna catch this thing, then?
Arnold:  Maybde.  No tellink, but we mudst chase it.
farmer:  Why didn't you kill it?
Arnold:  Why didn't you?
farmer:  (gapes)
Arnold:  I meandt to kill it, but it was too fadst.  So now we chase
  it.  It can't run forever, not even if it's whad I think it is.

  They moved out, following by torchlight the blood trail that the
wounded monster had made.  As dawn crept over the horizon, they were
still marching, but a small town was visible in the distance.  The
trail of blood led there, so they followed it.  Soon after, the group
of farmers, led by Arnold, entered the sleepy town.  The blood was
less frequent by now, of course, and there were only occasional drops
on the ground, but still enough to follow.  The blood led right up to
one window of a small house, a house like any other in the town.

Arnold:  You three - cover thad window.  You, and you, and you too -
  guard the other window.  I don'd want this think esgabing again.
  The rest of you, follow me.  (he walks to the house's door, knocking
  loudly)  Hel-lo in there!  Please oben up!

  Presently, a tired-looking woman opened the door, recoiling in fear
at the sight of the armed men outside.

woman:  (puts her hands to her mouth, terrified)
Arnold:  Don't be alarmed, miss - we're not here to hurd you.  But
  there may be a werewolf in your house.
woman:  (faints)
Arnold:  Diblomacy.  It's not my strong point.
farmer:  (staring at the prone woman)
Arnold:  Well, _she's_ not the werewolf.  Someone move her oud of the
  way.  We need to seardch this house.
man:  (appears)  Who the hell are you people?!?  What'd you do to my
  wife?!?
Arnold:  She's okay, she just fainded.  (looks around)  How many
  peoble are in this place?
man:  What?
Arnold:  How many?
man:  Just my wife and I, and our son Timmy.
Arnold:  (eyes the half-asleep man, whose white clothes are devoid of
  any bloodstains)  Son?
man:  Timmy.  He's asleep in the back room.  (he checks his wife, and
  finds her to be unharmed)
Arnold:  The room on the wesdern side of the house?
man:  That's right, why?
Arnold:  Sir, please take us to Timby.
man:  (obeys, reluctantly, probably just because he wants his son
  with him right now)  I hope you've got authorization from the mayor,
  pal.  By...uh...by whose authority are you...um...here?

  He had opened the door to little Timmy's room...revealing a sleeping,
bloodstained tot!

man:  Timmy!  (he starts rushing forward)
Arnold:  (restrains the fellow)  Hold on, there - he midght still be
  dandgerous.

  Curled up in his sleep Timmy appeared to be a child of about five.
Except for the blood that stained part of his bed, he also appeared
to be normal.

Arnold:  (sword drawn, he approaches)
father:  Don't you hurt my Timmy!
mother:  (appears, rubbing the back of her head)  Timmy!
Arnold:  (slowly, cautiously, shakes the sleeping child)
Timmy:  (stirs, then sits up)  Huh?
Arnold:  Are you wounbded, boy?
Timmy:  Mommy!  Daddy!  Where'd all this blood come from?!?  (he runs
  around Arnold and into his parents' arms)
parents:  (overjoyed)
Arnold:  (walks over)  We need to check him.
father:  For what?
Arnold:  (pulls Timmy's nightshirt up)  For that.

  The left side of the boy's torso bore a long, shallow gash!

mother:  Timmy!  Have you been playing on the fence-posts again?!?
  Those things are sharp!  I thought I told you to stay away from
  there!
farmer:  (to other farmer)  I don't think she gets it...
Timmy:  (crying now)
Arnold:  (rubs his aching head)  This boy needs help.  If he can'd
  be cured, he may go wild tonight, when the moon comes out.
father:  (nods, a blank stare in his eyes)
Arnold:  Don'd worry, we'll help the boy.
father:  (hopefully)  Do you know a good healer, maybe even a priest?
Arnold:  Yah, I think I might be able to find one.



  Four days later, Arnold ate dinner with Nenya, discussing recent
events.

Nenya:  -so then you said, "there may be a werewolf in your house?"
Arnold:  Yah.  It was the trudth.
Nenya:  (laughing)
Arnold:  Whaat?
Nenya:  Nothing...heh heh.
Arnold:  At leadst it all turned out okay.
Nenya:  Yes, I understand that the boy was successfully cured.
Arnold:  Thandks to Geb's underlinks.  He will recover and go back
  to his normal life.
Nenya:  Glad to hear it.  Say, why didn't you ask for my help, when
  you were setting your trap several nights ago?
Arnold:  (shrugs)  Didn't think I'd need any helb.
Nenya:  You are independent, aren't you?
Arnold:  Yah, but I get the job done.
Nenya:  Well, that's good, because tomorrow...(she stops)
Arnold:  Tomborrow, what?
Nenya:  Tomorrow we have to greet the delegates from Dyvers.
Arnold:  (groans)





next:   we revisit a pair of very dangerous individuals
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  Arnold's dialogue is always the most difficult to write,
  and the normal spell checking process has to be bypassed for it.
  Well, by now you've probably realized that my writing slowed down
  to a crawl.  Why?  I don't know, probably the same reasons as
  before.  I did get my _Highlander_ first season set in the mail
  about a week ago, so that might have something to do with it.
  It's a great show, and a great premise for stories/adventures/
  what-have-you.  I almost wish I could integrate the concept of
  immortals into my stories, but I can't.  That would be way too
  cheesy.  Any such project would be set in a parallel world, and
  its stories would not be canon.  I have been known to do "what
  if" types of stories, though, so you never know...
    As of last Friday, the first hint of winter weather is here,
  and that always means an improvement in my mood.  I like fall and
  winter an awful lot.  I suspect that within a few days of reading
  this, you'll see three or four new episodes, all at once.
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