Chapter #338

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                                +   +
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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                    +
+                           +
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Rillen       17th level human monk                          (N)  +
+  Date:        7/1/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the far reaches of the Frost Barbarian icelands     +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "It's not my career choice!"                                     +
+  "Sometimes the career chooses the man."                          +
+                                                 - from _Sniper_   +

                       CCCXXXVIII.  Exodus

  Rillen has ventured to the far northeast, alone, to visit someone
who is an old friend, and might become more.  Even now, he rides
across the snow-covered grasslands, atop a gigantic warhorse.

horse:  (shuffles nervously)  Neigh!
Rillen:  Shh...(he scans the landscape)  Easy, girl.
horse:  (still on edge)

  Rillen continued to eye the surrounding area, his gaze noting every
hillock, every rock.  Suddenly, the warrior saw something that was
out of place - a pointed metal spike, of the sort often found atop
pointed metal helmets.

Rillen:  (strings his bow, bending the thick wood as he loops the
  string into place)

  At that moment, a number of figures rose from their hiding places
amidst the snow!  All were armed, obviously warriors...or bandits.
Such villany was not unheard of here, even in these distant, nearly-
empty lands.

Rillen:  (holding a thick arrow in one hand, he spins the missile
  around with his fingers)
man:  What have we here?  (he turns to address Rillen)  Long way from
  home, aren't you, friend?
Rillen:  (holds the barbed point of the arrow up to his eye)  You're
  not my friend.
other man:  Now that's no way to act.
first man:  You're a rude fellow.
Rillen:  (shrugs)  I am who I am.  And who might _you_ be?
first man:  Wanderers...
Rillen:  You look like bandits to me.  No tribes live in this area,
  not Fruztii, not Schnai, not even Cruski.
second man:  Smart one, this rider.
third man:  Not too smart.  (he chuckles to himself)
Rillen:  (glancing over the dozen or so armed men who now ring him
  at a distance of perhaps forty feet)  You men aren't even local to
  this area.
first man:  What makes you say that?
Rillen:  You're not tall and broad enough, and your hair and skin
  color's all wrong.
third man:  Look who's talking.
Rillen:  I'm not the one who accosted you...
first man:  What's your business here?
Rillen:  Just that:  my business.
first man:  (hand on his sword-hilt)  What if we are bandits?  What
  will you do about it?
Rillen:  (calmly nocks his arrow)  I deal in steel.  And you don't
  scare me.
first man:  Maybe we can change that.  (he unsheathes his sword, and
  all of his men follow suit)

  The bandits weren't using ranged weapons; perhaps they coveted
Rillen's huge warhorse, or perhaps they simply didn't have any bows.
Whatever the case, they clearly intended to take Rillen on foot -
a grave mistake, though they didn't know that yet.  With a blur of
hands and arms, Rillen exploded into action, raising his bow and
firing an arrow before anyone could so much as blink.  The closest
bandit went down, Rillen's arrow imbedded in one eye; before the
body hit the snowy ground, a second arrow had slain a second foe,
and Rillen had a third missile nocked.
  Despite this unexpected chaos, the bandits were a well-disciplined
lot, and they spread out and charged, realizing that once they reached
Rillen, they would be safe from his bow.  A third attacker fell en
route, with an arrow in his gut, but then bandits had closed, and
Rillen dropped the bow.  His magical quarterstaff appeared in his
hands, as if from nowhere, extending to its full length at the big
warrior's mental command.  The first bandit to try his luck fell back
with a shattered jaw, spitting blood and teeth as he screamed in
agony.  Another foe attacked from the other side, but Rillen's mount
was well-trained, being a heavy warhorse.  The animal reared up on
its hind legs, pummeling the foe with its steel-shod front hooves.
The unfortunate attacker was knocked away, his skull crushed, and
the warhorse charged, punching through the bandits.  Of course,
Rillen helped this process along, his heavy staff lashing out at
any within range.  The weapon looked like wood, but was as hard and
strong as the finest enchanted steel, and every blow it dealt dented
armor or shattered bones.
  Riding out from amidst the foes, Rillen wheeled his snorting mount
around.  The warrior had sustained a couple of superficial sword-
blows; his enchanted robe had protected him from the sharp edges of
the weapons, and instead of deep cuts he had only bruises.  Facing
the remaining bandits, Rillen noted that there were five left, one
of whom was the apparent leader of the group, he who had done most
of the talking earlier.

leader:  (looking around in stunned disbelief)
Rillen:  Surprised?  Having second thoughts, perhaps?
leader:  (turns back to Rillen, hate and fury filling his eyes)
Rillen:  (spurs his horse, heading right toward the foes)

  The men prepared themselves, intending to knock the warrior from
his mount, but Rillen outwitted them.  Leaping from his saddle, the
warrior tackled the bandits' leader, knocking the man to the snow-
covered ground in a blast of white powder.

bandit leader:  (pinned, he tries to bring a dagger to bear)
Rillen:  (gripping his staff in its center, he punches the foe in
  the face, then leaps to his feet, dodging the sword-blow of a
  charging foe)  Whoa!
bandit:  (rushes by, off-balance)
Rillen:  (spins his staff around, catching the attacker in the
  knee)  Yai!
bandit:  (drops his weapon and falls, clutching his smashed knee and
bandit leader:  (struggling to stand)
Rillen:  (whips his staff down, knocking the man back to the ground,
  where he lies, unmoving)  Hai!
other bandit:  (tackles Rillen from behind)

  Garbed as Rillen was in a heavy brown robe, the bandits (save those
who had experienced his blows) had no idea of his size or strength.
At first confident that he had the victim in a solid choke-hold, the
bandit quickly learned the error of his ways as Rillen muscled out of
the hold and hurled the man into another rushing foe.  Both bandits
went down, dazed, while Rillen spun about to face the last attacker,
a scared lad of no more than eighteen winters.

last bandit:  (stops in his tracks)  Uh...
Rillen:  Come on!  Fight!
last bandit:  (looking around)
Rillen:  (takes a step toward the foe, quarterstaff spinning before
last bandit:  Aie!  (he turns and flees)
Rillen:  Bah.  Go!  (looking around, he stalks over to the dazed foes
  and gives one a swift kick in the face)  Damn!
other dazed bandit:  (looks up, fearful)
Rillen:  Don't worry.  I won't kick you.
bandit:  (breathes a sigh of relief)
Rillen:  (bashes the man across the head with his staff)
bandit:  (falls face-first in the snow)

  Walking back to his warhorse (which was standing about fifty feet
away, seemingly without a care in the world) Rillen retrieved his long-
bow before climbing back into the saddle.  With a final contemptuous
look at the unmoving bandit force, the warrior spurred his mount and
rode away.  He cared not whether the bandits lived or died, though he
was fairly certain that whichever of their number did survive would
think twice before accosting another traveler.
  The fight had done little to bolster Rillen's faith in his fellow
man.  Indeed, that was why he had ridden away from Greyhawk in the
first place:  he was tired of riding, flying, or teleporting across
the face of Oerth, making enemies.  Never again did he want to be the
victim of sneak attacks or kidnap attempts.  One would think that, by
keeping the company of a powerful group like his fellow adventurers,
he would have been _safer_.  Such was obviously not the case, and the
usually-dauntless warrior had made a decision, and soon after left to
enforce it.
  And now this!  Attacked by men who probably would have killed him,
and for no other reason than simple greed!  Clenching his teeth hard,
Rillen reminded himself of where he was going, and why, and gradually
his expression (and demeanor) softened.  There was no guarantee that
he could live peacefully with Songa, far from civilization and its
countless wars, but it was an idea worth trying.

next:   to the village
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:  (preferred)    (emergency)
notes:  Somehow I get the idea that I'm beginning to deal with more
  mature, adult, challenging concepts in these stories.

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