Chapter #421

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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 1991-6 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                    +
+                           +
+  Rillen       17th level human monk                           (N) +
+     Songa     13th level human huntress                       (N) +
+  Date:        4/10/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the southern reaches of the Frost Barbarian lands   +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+  "To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about           +
+   other countries."                                               +
+                                                 - Aldous Huxley   +

                CDXXI.  Roaming The Barbarian Plains

  After receiving an invitation to Peldor and Tanya's wedding, Rillen
and Songa have departed their village and are riding southwest...

Songa:  I still don't understand.  How did they find you?
Rillen:  (shrugs)  Several of my friends are powerful wizards, able
  to work some mighty magic.  They can do most anything they set
  their minds to.
Songa:  Magic...bah.
Rillen:  It can be very useful sometimes.
Songa:  Perhaps, though I doubt it.  (she frowns)  Still, it bothers
  me.  What good is seclusion if people can find you?
Rillen:  Hmm, good point.  Maybe we should move on when we get back,
  and build our own place.
Songa:  A worthy idea, though it won't really solve the problem.
Rillen:  Just something I've been thinking about for a while...

  The couple rode two of the fastest horses from their village.  This
was an even more noteworthy fact since the horses of the barbarians
tended to be somewhat larger and stronger than animals from more
civilized lands.  It might have been good breeding stock, or perhaps
the rugged treatment the barbarians put them through from birth, or
maybe it was just the thin air in the northlands.  Whatever the case,
as they headed southward, the two horses seemed to almost fly across
the grasslands, and the pair of adventurers made good time.

Rillen:  If we make haste and don't dally, we'll arrive in Greyhawk
  with just enough time to spare.
Songa:  A wedding, eh?  A so-called civilized wedding...complete with
  all the trappings and rituals.  Bah! The gods don't require such
Rillen:  Maybe, maybe not.  Peldor and Tanya may be civilized, but
  they're also practical.  This should be a quick, quiet affair.
Songa:  We'll have to pick up some supplies on the way back to the
  village.  Some of the things that we can't easily get back at home.
  Oil, spices, cloth...the roving merchants charge an arm and a leg
  for those things.
Rillen:  (nods)  I'm sure we can find everything we need in Greyhawk.
Songa:  And things we don't need if we're not careful.
Rillen:  Don't worry.  My days of finding trouble are done.
Songa:  You wouldn't find it if you didn't look for it, though.
Rillen:  Usually.  But all these years of roaming, fighting villains,
  making enemies who come back more.
Songa:  (smiles)  Good.
Rillen:  (frowns)  Not that we're not able to deal with trouble, if
  it does come calling.
Songa:  (pats the heavy spear tied to her saddle)  More than able.
Rillen:  I just-  after that kidnapping business, and some of the
  things that happened during it...(he shakes his head)  No more.
  That was the last straw.
Songa:  I guess the destruction of your old monastery didn't help.
Rillen:  No.  And some secrets died with that place...secrets that
  I'll never know.  (he shakes his head sadly)
Songa:  Don't worry.  It can only bother you if you let it.
Rillen:  You're right.
Songa:  (punches him playfully)  I'm always right.
Rillen:  Usually.  Ow...
Songa:  Getting soft, old man?
Rillen:  Bah.

  They continued on, only stopping to make camp when dusk had fallen.
The horses, hardy as they were, still needed rest, and so did their
riders.  After finding a suitable campsite, about fifty feet off the
trail, they prepared their camp.  Songa had a fire going in no time;
they needed this for both cooking and warmth.  Although most parts of
the world were fairly warm at this time of year, it still approached
freezing in these regions, especially at night.

Songa:  (cooking some dried meat)
Rillen:  No fresh meat for us tonight?
Songa:  What was that?
Rillen:  You're not going to hunt, catch, kill, and cook an animal?
Songa:  Why should I?
Rillen:  (smirks)  Lazy girl.
Songa:  Woman.  (looks offended)  Don't force me to tackle you and
  teach you a lesson.
Rillen:  (remembering the last time this happened, he grins)  That
  could be fun.
Songa:  You know, you can cook your own dinner if you want.
Rillen:  (walks over)  Sorry, I was just joking.  (he begins to
  massage her neck)
Songa:  Ooh.  You have strong hands.
Rillen:  So do you, you know.
Songa:  Heh.  We'll see-

  Their conversation was interrupted as a caravan approached, on the
trail.  At first, they thought it would simply pass their campsite,
but the horse-driven wagons stopped, and a fellow came over to talk
with them.  The man was short and rotund, and was swathed in several
layers of green and blue robes and cloaks.  He looked friendly, and
smiled as he approached.

fellow:  (spreads his hands)  Good evening!
Songa:  Greetings, and well-met.
fellow:  My name is Clespus.
Songa:  So?
Clespus:  I'm a merchant from the southwest.
Rillen:  Passing through?
Clespus:  (nods)  Southbound.  Could I interest you in some wares?
  Fresh fruits, perhaps?  Or some two look like the
  fighting sort.  Barbarians, eh?
Rillen:  Well, sort of-
Songa:  (to Clespus)  What of it?
Clespus:  Oh, nothing.
Rillen:  No thanks, we're well-provisioned.
Songa:  (nods, her arms crossed)
Clespus:  Oh, well then I'll just be on my way.  But I came here to
  warn you.
Songa:  (suddenly paying more attention to the rather stupid-looking
  fellow)  Warn us of what?
Clespus:  I've heard tell of a bandit who's roaming this trail...a
  huge renegade of a barbarian.
Songa:  That's foolish.  No barbarian would raid in these lands!
Clespus:  You're a Frost Barbarian, aren't you?  Well, this raider is
  a Snow Barbarian, a Schnai.
Songa:  (angry)  Aha.  Those scum!  Now your story makes a little
  more sense.
Rillen:  Schnai?  Aren't those the tribes even further north than your
Songa:  Yes.  We've been at war with them, and the Ice Barbarians,
  on and off for decades.
Rillen:  Oh.
Clespus:  Well, like I said, watch out for him.  He's traveling with
  a pack of wild dogs - uses them to track his victims, then run them
  to ground before he closes in to butcher them.
Rillen:  (holds up his great bow)  I'll finish off half a dozen such
  dogs before the seventh can reach me.
Songa:  (nods)  This bandit, whoever he is, had better pray that he
  doesn't find us.
Clespus:  Just trying to help out.  We've been lucky enough not to
  encounter him, thus far, but we're using double guard shifts and
  traveling by night, just the same.  No danger in being overly
Songa:  No, there isn't.
Rillen:  Where was this rogue last seen?
Clespus:  A small village, about a day's ride to the northwest.  He
  killed several people there, including two children.  (he shakes
  his head sadly)  Bloody butcher.
Songa:  (grits her teeth)  Those are my people!
Rillen:  Could it be...
Songa:  Our village?  No, that's to the northeast.  But still...the
  people in question are my people.  (she examines her spear's tip)
  This fellow is dead if I find him...
Clespus:  Be careful - I understand that he's a dangerous sort.
Rillen:  He wouldn't be the only one.
Songa:  What does this killer look like?
Clespus:  He's big - tall, taller than you, I think.  Reports vary,
  as few have seen his face and lived to tell of it.  They say he has
  long blond hair and beard.  He also wields a huge sword in battle.
Songa:  Bah.
Rillen:  Well, Clespus, we certainly thank you for the travel tip.
Clespus:  Anytime.  And have a good journey, wherever it is you're
Songa:  We will.
Clespus:  (returns to his caravan)

  Rillen and Songa watched him go, and moments later, the caravan
was on its way once more.  Before long, they could no longer hear the
squeaking of the wagon-wheels or the whinnying of the horses.

Rillen:  You think this bandit may find us?
Songa:  He'd better hope not, for his sake.
Rillen:  Your battles are my battles...but what's all this about the
  three barbarian tribes at war?
Songa:  Frost, Snow, and Ice...three tribes, three nations.  We war
  for about half the year, then forge alliances and raid south, in
  the civilized lands.  Then, by midseason, the truces and treaties
  dissolve and melt, like snow.  And the whole cycle repeats.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Songa:  It's tradition.

  They ate their dinner, and then Songa set a few traps - just in
case.  Building the fire high, they retreated into their stacks of
blankets; they needed to be on the road at dawn, and both were tired
from the day's travel.

  It was well past midnight when Songa nudged Rillen sharply.

Rillen:  (instantly awake, he looks around, then at her, whispering)
Songa:  Shh.  (she nods her head, slightly, to the right)  Something
  is out there.
Rillen:  (looks alarmed)

  Just then, the horses sensed whatever it was, for they began to
whine and fret.  A moment later, the barking began.

Songa:  Dogs!
Rillen:  (leaps to his feet, in one motion kicking a log into the
  fire, causing it to blaze back to life, and standing, his bow in
  hand)  Back, curs!  Only death awaits you here!
Songa:  (at his side in an instant, her eyes and ears detecting a
  number of intruders outside the fire's light)  Damned dogs...
dogs:  (several in number, judging from the barks and growls that
  seem to come from all directions, they stay at the camp's edge)

  A huge figure, perhaps a giant, approached then, from the direction
opposite the trail.  Long, shaggy blond hair and a full beard framed
a huge head, atop an equally huge body.

fellow:  Ho, there.  It seems my dogs have found you...

next:      part two of three
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     As I write this, the Olympics are on their way out.  By
  August 10th they're supposed to be gone.  I haven't paid much
  attention to the media, but it seems like the games weren't as
  bad (in any and every way) as we expected.

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