Chapter #282

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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.                                             +
+    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:        3/3/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        early morning                                       +
+  Place:       the base of the Dark Mountain                       +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "I can be anyone you want me to be..."                           +
+  "You don't want to be who I'm looking for."                      +
+                                 - from _Highlander_, the series   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CCLXXXII.  Dark Mountain





  Rillen has just begun the long, and surely arduous, trip up the
Dark Mountain.  At the peak, he hopes to find whoever or whatever
was responsible for the massacre and destruction of the monastery
in which he was raised.

Rillen:  (takes one last look at the small village behind him, and
  then sets out)

  The warrior walked with long strides, breathing easily despite
the thin mountain air.  He made good time, losing sight of the
village within mere minutes.  The steep mountain slope was well-
covered with trees, mostly pines and firs but with a few other
types in scattered clumps.  The fresh, clean smell of the trees
permeated Rillen's lungs, and he had seldom if ever tasted air so
pure.
  The hours passed as Rillen continued his ascent.  Morning became
day, and day became evening - and still the intrepid warrior marched.
He took only occasional breaks, and even these were short, lasting
just long enough for him to stretch his legs and eat some food.
There were no unusual animals or other creatures in these lower
reaches of the mountain, just birds, squirrels, insects, and the
like.  For a place so feared by the locals, Dark Mountain seemed
normal enough.
  Fortunately, Rillen was still wary, and when the night fell and
he made camp, he called upon the power of his magical figurine to
summon the great onyx dog.  When the ebon animal appeared, Rillen
instructed it to guard the camp while he slept.  The enchanted dog
obeyed, and Rillen settled down in his bedroll, near the fire he
had built.  Despite his great stamina, a decent amount of rest was
important, and that meant knowing he could fall asleep without fear
of being attacked.
  However, nothing intruded on the camp that night, and the dog
returned to its stony form early in the morning.  Rillen enjoyed a
quick and simple breakfast before breaking camp and resuming his
march up the mountain.  Again, he made good time, despite his sore
legs and shoulders; by midday he was far enough up that the lands
to the south appeared as vaguely outlined shapes.  It was after
today's lunch that the warrior had his first memorable encounter
on the mountain.

Rillen:  (hears a twig snap from behind some nearby trees)  Eh?
  (he unslings his bow, quickly stringing it)

  The fact that he wasn't attacked while stringing the weapon told
him that whatever lurked nearby wasn't very intelligent; he wasted
no time nocking an arrow.

Rillen:  (stands dead still as he concentrates to hear some sound
  that will give away the watcher's position)

  Suddenly, a large animal trotted from the trees - a mountain lion!
The thing was fairly large, about as long as Rillen was tall, and
great bands of muscle and sinew rippled beneath its tawny hide.

Rillen:  (somewhat surprised)  Hmm.  What do you want?

  Some people would have attacked the lion, which would have been an
exercise in stupidity, since a single arrow was unlikely to kill it
before it ripped the archer to shreds.  There was also the fact that
the lion was probably too close for a good, powerful, accurate shot.
Realizing these things, Rillen slowly put his bow down and readied
his staff; he felt more comfortable with the heavy piece of magical
wood.  It would be easier to fend the animal away with the staff
than with the thinner, weaker bow.

mountain lion:  (growls as it pads around Rillen)
Rillen:  Easy, there.  I don't mean you any harm.

  The warrior found himself wondering, absurdly, how it was that
those such as Halbarad talked to wild animals.  The lion watched
him, but did not come any closer than it stood now.  Perhaps it
sensed that the man before it was no easy prey; Rillen kept one
end of his staff pointed at the big cat at all times.  Finally,
the lion growled to itself and turned away, padding away into the
forest.

Rillen:  Whew.

  Somewhat cautiously, the warrior stowed the bow away and resumed
his march, though he now kept his staff at the ready.  The lion,
though, must have been the master of this particular region, for
nothing else larger than a rabbit showed itself.  For long hours
Rillen went, tirelessly covering ground with his huge strides; by
dusk, he was so far up the mountain that he could no longer see its
base.  The time had come to make camp again, and as he spoke the
command word for the onyx dog, Rillen was surprised indeed when
nothing happened!
  Either the magical dog couldn't be summoned daily, or the magic
of the figurine had faded.  The warrior sighed, stowing the small
statuette away in a pouch.  He would now have to find some other
way to guard his sleep.  Rillen began searching for any sort of
natural cover, a rocky outcropping perhaps, or better yet, a cave.
It took him half an hour, during which he had to move onward and
upward, in the dark.  However, he eventually found a small niche in
the slope of the mountain, a seven-foot long, two-foot deep natural
fissure in the rock.  It was no cave, but it offered more protection
that a camp out in the open, surrounded by darkness.  Rillen quickly
built a large fire, constructing it in a line so that it blocked
most of the open side of the rocky niche.  Gathering enough wood to
keep the fire burning for a long while, the warrior crept into the
bedroll and covered himself with blankets, going to sleep with his
staff in his hands.
  Rillen dreamed again, dreams of fire and destruction which always
ended with the destruction of his beloved monastery and all within.
Several times during the night, he awoke, soaked in sweat and with
vaguely unpleasant memories.  It seemed that, after years of being
so confident and fearless, the warrior had finally found his own
personal demons...

  Morning saw Rillen poorly rested, small bags of skin visible under
his eyes.  Yet, he pressed on, for he was now closer to the top of
Dark Mountain than the bottom, and he had to see this through.  If
his master's killers were up here, Rillen would deal out justice or
die in the trying.  Gritting his teeth, he broke camp and set out,
eating his breakfast as he marched.
  He couldn't help but notice that there were fewer and fewer wild
animals as he went higher.  He now only saw the occasional squirrel
or bird, and even these small animals seemed timid and fearful.  By
midday, there were simply no animals to be seen, and a dark fear
began to grow in the pit of Rillen's stomach.  He took out the
medallion, gripping it so tightly that his knuckles turned white.
Anger and a lust for revenge began to burn within him, dispelling
the fear, and he turned his gaze upward moments before his legs
and feet began to take him upward once more.
  Perhaps an hour later, he came upon a bizarre sight.  A thick
wooden pole had been set in the middle of the worn trail; atop its
sharpened end had been mounted a severed head.  This had obviously
happened some time ago, for the head was shrunken a bit, mummified
by the elements and eaten by insects.  Only a few tatters of flesh
and wispy hair hung from the white bones now.  Rillen stared at this
strange totem for a time; it was obviously a warning of some kind.
Of course, nothing was going to stop the determined warrior from
continuing, but the severed head caused him to stop and think.
What exactly was he dealing with here?  What sort of weird foe
awaited him at the summit of Dark Mountain?
  Grimly, he pressed onward.





next:   what lurks atop Dark Mountain
ftp:    ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:    http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html
notes:  As I write this, Atlanta is being pounded by rain, which
  is a refreshing, if wet, change from the normal pace.  I like
  rain.  I like walking through it, without an umbrella.  Heck,
  I even like driving in the rain.  The only problem is that it
  tends to knock out the power, which sucks if I'm sitting here
  typing.  It's happened before.  And so, you've been forced to
  wait until the next episode to learn what's on top of the
  mountain.
    If any of you reading this are die-hard _Highlander_ fans, let
  me know.  I've got a little project in the works and could sure
  use some help.
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