Chapter #317

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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 1991-5 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                    +
+                          +
+  THE PARTY (or a portion of it):                                  +
+                                                                   +
+  Rillen        17th level human warrior monk                  (N) +
+  Date:        6/7/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        afternoon                                           +
+  Place:       the wilderness northwest of Greyhawk                +
+  Climate:     mild                                                +
+  "I think I should do what they do best."                         +
+                                                 - from _Telefon_  +

                 CCCXVII.  Last, But Not Least

  While most of his companions have been attacked by sinister foes
over the course of the last few days, Rillen has remained free from
assault and unaware of their tribulations.  Indeed, he is far from
Greyhawk and the chaos that was ensuing there, for he has departed
the great city some two days before.  Riding alone, through the
wilderness, he seeks only to escape for a time, to be rid of the
oppressive, enclosed feeling that cities inevitably give him.  He
has a destination in mind, one unknown to anyone else on Oerth.

  As he spurred his mount on to greater speeds, the gigantic warrior
enjoyed the feel of the wind blowing through his robe.  Fresh grass
marked the trail on either side, and the sun shone brightly through
the clear sky.  There was no finer day for a ride through the wild-
erness, and he was exuberant with the freedom of the road.  Smiling
to himself, he topped a small hillock - and stopped his horse cold.

Rillen:  Whoa!  Whoa, girl!

  The warrior frowned and put one hand on his staff, and with good
reason:  the path ahead was blocked by a line of armed men.  About
two dozen in number, they appeared to be mercenaries of some sort.
The men, while not mounted, wore leather or chain mail, and wielded
swords, axes, or spears.  Some had shields, while others apparently
trusted to their skill at arms to protect them from blows.  They had
one thing in common:  all looked dangerous.

Rillen:  (cautiously)  Ho, there.
mercenary:  (steps forth)  Halt.
Rillen:  I might as well tell you now, I've been having a rather good
  day.  I honestly hope you don't intend to ruin it, since that would
  make me very, very angry.
mercenary:  Tough luck, pal.  You're gonna have to come with us-
Rillen:  I think not.  (he spurs his horse once more, speaking a
  mystical syllable as he does so)

  His horse didn't much care to ride directly toward a wall of
unyielding men, but it was well-trained, and besides, its hooves
left the ground a moment later!

Rillen:  Hiya!  (he urges his mount to faster speeds)
horse:  (complies)

  They were now fully a foot off the ground, and this took his foes
by surprise, allowing Rillen to break through the blockade.  That,
and the warrior's quarterstaff, which had knocked three mercenaries
aside before they could bring their weapons to bear.  Rillen, astride
his horse, was past the mercenaries and departing quickly by the time
their leader could begin yelling at them.

Rillen:  (riding away, he looks back)  Hmm.  Only a fool stays to
  fight twenty times his number.

  Smiling to himself, the warrior spurred his mount onward, and the
animal complied.  They were fairly whistling along, outdistancing
any possibility of pursuit, even by fast horses.

  Meanwhile, back at the blockade, a short, pudgy man had appeared
from somewhere, and was busily berating the mercenaries...

short man:  Where do they _get_ you people?
mercenary captain:  B- but-
short man:  No matter.  Begin your march; I will go after the warrior
  and stop his flight.  (he leaps, and amazingly enough, flies into
  the air, zooming away)
mercenaries:  (staring)
mercenary captain:  Men!  You heard him, so get the lead out and
  let's go!  (they begin jogging eastward, after Rillen and the short
  pudgy fellow)  Hup, hup, hup!

  A very short time later, Rillen's flight was interrupted by a huge
disembodied hand, which appeared from thin air directly in front of
him and his horse!

Rillen:  Whoa!  (he reins his mount in, hard, for the second time in
  the last hour)  What in the-

  The hand groped, trapping the horse; Rillen was able to leap free
before the hand could grab him, as well.  Landing on the ground, he
quickly pulled a horn from his belt, winding a long, somber note on
it.  Instantly, five thickly-muscled warriors appeared around him -
berserkers summoned by the horn's arcane power!

berserkers:  (looking around)  Where is thy foe, master?
Rillen:  I'm not sure, yet - but be ready.
berserkers:  (anxious to fight, they gnash their teeth and grip
  their weapons)

  Moments later, Rillen spotted the green-cloaked man flying toward
him.  The fellow was short, slightly overweight, and looked like a
wizard, without a doubt.

green-cloaked wizard:  (spying the five berserkers, he frowns, then
  begins spellcasting)
Rillen:  (unable to see every detail, he yet recognizes the motions
  the man is making)  Wrong move.  (he unslings his bow and addresses
  the berserkers)  Spread out!  That fool in the sky is about to
  attack us all!
berserkers:  (obey)

  As the airborne fellow plied his magic, Rillen worked some of his
own, sending an enchanted arrow speeding toward the foe.  The mage
recoiled, trying to dodge, but Rillen's aim was true, and the arrow
lodged in the wizard's shoulder.

green-robed wizard:  Argh!  Shit!  (he eyes the missile sticking
  from his shoulder)  Should've listened to...(he produces a small
  cube, and presses one of its faces, muttering something)

  A cubical, vaguely shimmering field appeared, surrounding the
wizard; though Rillen didn't see it at first, he learned of its
existence the hard way, as his next two missiles rebounded from
the barrier.

Rillen:  Damn.  Magic!
berserker:  (cocks an ear)  Brothers!  Listen!

  There was a cacophony of war cries, as the two dozen mercenaries
arrived on the scene.  Weapons bristling, they charged toward the
berserkers and Rillen.

Rillen:  Those are your foes!  Stop them!
berserkers:  (begin singing and chanting songs of glory as they
  charge directly at the superior force)

  The berserkers met the mercenaries in a bloody clash of weapons
and bodies.  The summoned Valhallans, however, did not go unaided,
for Rillen drew and fired arrows, his magical bow doubling every
missile he fired.  A number of mercenaries went down, thick arrows
imbedded in their heads or hearts.  The berserkers, as well, were
not to be taken lightly; though outnumbered and surely destined to
meet their maker, they fought with a savagery unknown in these
parts of the world.  Each took at least one of his foes with him
before dying, singing songs of battle all the while.
  Eventually, though, the berserkers were no more, and a dozen foes
charged toward Rillen.  He dropped two with arrows before he was
forced to toss away his bow and fight with his staff.  The attacking
mercenaries, only too happy to see the deadly bow out of the fray,
moved in confidently, sure of a quick victory.
  They were, of course, sadly disappointed.  Rillen's quarterstaff,
forged of a mystical wood that was harder than steel, swung in great
blows, all about the huge warrior.  More often than not, these blows
shattered a foe's arm of leg, or else knocked him senseless.  Above
the battle, the wizard hovered within his force-shell, studying the
situation intently and with more than a little awe.

green-robed wizard:  Incredible...simply incredible!  His fighting
  skills are without peer!  (he begins spellcasting)  It will take
  more...unusual means to bring him down.

  Meanwhile, on the plain below, Rillen wasn't concerned with the
wizard at the moment.  He had his hands full with the foes around
him, and one of them had used a strange, knotted rope to ensnare
his staff.  Two mercenaries now struggled to wrest the weapon from
the warrior's grip, while four others pressed their attack.

Rillen:  Ungh...(he suddenly lets the staff go, and the pair of foes
  who were tugging at it go down, off-balance)
third mercenary:  Hah!  We've got you now!  (he becomes the first
  to charge in)
Rillen:  If you really believe that, then you're a greater fool than
  I first thought.  (he deftly sidesteps the attack, grabbing the
  man's forearm and twisting)
mercenary#3:  (screams as his elbow is snapped)  ARGH!
Rillen:  Bad break, eh?  (he goes with the momentum of the man's
  charge, spinning him around and sending him into another attacker)
mercenary#4:  (falls)  Ungh.
mercenary#5:  Die!  (he moves in, sword raised)
Rillen:  (slides forward, catching the raised arm before it can
  descend)  Hai!  (he kicks outward, behind himself, and knocks the
  remaining foe away)
mercenary#6:  Arghk!  (he reels back, several ribs snapped)
Rillen:  (knees mercenary#5 in the face, hearing a loud SNAP)  Ah.
  (he tosses the body aside, just in time to meet another foe's gut
  with a fist)
mercenary#1:  Whouuulf!  (he doubles over)
Rillen:  Hi-yai!  (chops the fellow in the back of the neck with his
  other hand, knocking him to the ground where he lies, unmoving)
mercenary#2:  (hits the warrior in the back, with a shield)
Rillen:  Argh!  (staggers)
mercenary#4:  (tackles the warrior, bringing him to his knees)  Now
  we've got you!
mercenary#3:  (ruined arm dangling at his side, he moves in)  Hold
  him!  (he punches Rillen in the face, once, twice)
Rillen:  Urgh!  Ungh!  (he lashes out, kicking the fellow in the
mercenary#3:  Ghak-  (falls, blood streaming from his ear and nose)
mercenary#4:  Shit!  He's breaking free-
Rillen:  (flips the man over his back, into mercenary#6; both fall
  to the ground)
mercenary#2:  (looks at the shield in his hands, then at Rillen)
Rillen:  (sweeps the foe's feet out from under him, then lands an
  elbow in his throat as he falls)
mercenary#2:  (lies there, gasping for breath through a crushed
Rillen:  Ahh...yai!  (he leaps at the remaining two foes)
mercenary#4:  Ungh!  (kicked in the face, he falls)
mercenary#6:  (tries to grab Rillen's arm and pin it behind his back)
Rillen:  (easily twists free of the pin, reversing it)  Here, try it
  this way...
mercenary#6:  (screams as his arm is dislocated)
Rillen:  (knees the man in the stomach, then elbows him in the back
  of the head, knocking him down)
mercenary#6:  (unmoving)
mercenary#4:  Die, bastard!  (he lunges with a spear)
Rillen:  Argh!  (he takes the spearpoint along one side - a shallow
  gash, thanks to his reflexes and a bit of luck)
mercenary#4:  (his smile turns to a grimace as he sees that he only
  wounded his opponent)  Oh, shi-
Rillen:  (punches the foe in the nose, dropping him like a stone)
  So much for you...(he looks about)  Hmm.  Time flies when you're
  having fun...

  Gasping, tired and bleeding from a dozen minor cuts and bruises,
Rillen rested...for a brief moment.  The high-pitched, irritating
voice of the airborne wizard caused Rillen to look skyward once more.

wizard:  Is your practice over, warrior?
Rillen:  Almost.  (he starts thinking of some stalling tactic to use
  while he figures out a way to attack or escape)  Are you so eager
  to meet the same fate as your incompetent servants, wizard?
wizard:  I think not.  (he utters a single arcane syllable as he
  points at the warrior below him)

  The word, a very powerful incantation in its own right, froze
Rillen on the spot.  He found himself unable to move, or even think
about moving.  The chubby wizard floated down, producing a small
vial and holding it to the warrior's mouth.

wizard:  (looking rather apologetic, or perhaps needing to explain)
  You look like a hardy sort, and I suspect that my word of power
  won't hold you for long.  Thus...a sleeping poison.  (he pours the
  liquid into the helpless warrior's mouth)
Rillen:  (seeing stars dance before his eyes)
wizard:  Goodbye, for now.

  The last thing that Rillen would later remember seeing was the
grinning face of the green-robed wizard.  Strangely enough, he found
himself wondering, in the moments before a great sleep overtook him,
what had become of his horse.

next:   prisoners
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  As I was putting the finishing touches on this episode, I
  heard one of my most favorite sounds in the whole world, from
  the parking lot outside:  the distinctive, booming sound of bass-
  heavy rap music.
    I'm being sarcastic, I'll have you know.  I absolutely hate rap
  music.  It has no useful purpose at all.  Anyway, I took a look
  outside, and lo and behold, here at 10 pm, my new neighbors were
  moving in next door.  This is the apartment which is directly
  adjacent to my bedroom wall.  The only question that remains is
  whether I'll wake up in the middle of the night to the music of
  my new neighbors...or not.  That's the beauty of just
  never know.

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