Chapter #422

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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Rillen       17th level human monk                           (N) +
+     Songa     13th level human huntress                       (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/10/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        the middle of the night                             +
+  Place:       the southern reaches of the Frost Barbarian lands   +
+  Climate:     very cold                                           +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "If you're looking for him, I think that you're looking for      +
+   a dead man."                                                    +
+                                    - from _Cast A Deadly Spell_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                    CDXXII.  The Bitter Truth





  While riding to Greyhawk for Peldor and Tanya's wedding, Rillen
and Songa have learned of a merciless bandit who roams the area.
Now, it seems, that very person has come to their campsite, complete
with the pack of wild dogs that the pair were warned about.

dogs:  (more than half a dozen in number, they stay at the camp's
  edge, growling menacingly)

  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.

huge fellow:  Ho, there.  It seems my dogs have found you...
Rillen:  That's too bad, for you and them.
Songa:  (hefts her great war spear)  We'll not go easily, bandit scum!
huge fellow:  (utterly surprised)  Bandit?
Rillen:  Yes, that would be you.
Songa:  You and your damned dogs.
huge fellow:  (spreads his hands)  Whoa.
Rillen:  (keeping an arrow nocked)  Pardon?
huge fellow:  Methinks you have been misled.
Songa:  Methinks not.
huge fellow:  (scratches at his blond beard)  Let me guess...a short,
  smiling, jovial butterball of a man, dressed perhaps in merchant's
  clothing, and traveling with a caravan of wagons?
Rillen:  (glances at Songa)
Songa:  Speak, or else.
huge fellow:  You two, I think, are in no position to set terms.  My
  dogs could take you down at the snap of a finger.
dogs:  (growling, as if they share their master's thoughts)
huge fellow:  (sighs)  But, I'm not one to start trouble, and if I
  must earn your trust, so be it.  (he sheathes his sword, which is
  so long that the sheath rides crosswise across the man's broad back)
  Let us talk.
Songa:  (whispering to Rillen)  I don't trust this Schnai scum...
Rillen:  This is no time for neighborly disputes-
Songa:  (about to retort, most angrily)
Rillen:  -and besides, he's right about the dogs.
Songa:  (shaking her head)
huge fellow:  May I share your fire?
Rillen:  Well, since I don't much feel like sleeping at the moment...
  (he points with his bow)  Once those dogs are safely within view.
huge fellow:  Oh...of course.  (he whistles, and all the dogs move
  to one spot, sitting down on their haunches)  Better?
Songa:  A bit.  Now speak.
huge fellow:  I am called Tarl.

  A typical barbarian name, this was, and Tarl was a typical barbarian,
fair-skinned, long-haired, rugged, and tall.  Well, honestly, perhaps
"tall" was an understatement.  Seldom had Rillen had to look up to
meet someone's gaze, but the Snow Barbarian stood a full head above
him, surely no less than seven feet in height.  His gigantic frame was
covered with powerful bands of corded muscle - the man was larger, in
proportion, than Arnold.  His broad shoulders were greater than two
feet apart, and his upper arms were as thick as Songa's thigh.  Tarl
appeared to be in his early thirties, though it was hard to tell with
the beard.  His eyes glinted with intelligence and experience beyond
what one would expect from such a fierce warrior.
  The barbarian wore no armor, merely thick clothing and boots.  A
large pack was strapped to his back, and atop this was a wide strap
of worn leather.  Songa recognized this as the sheath (of sorts) for
the huge man's heavy two-handed sword.

Tarl:  This man I described to you...
Songa:  What makes you think we know him?
Tarl:  It was in your eyes.  I don't know what his name is, but he
  is surely a villain of the darkest kind.
Rillen:  I think you'd better explain.
Songa:  (nods)  That would help.
Tarl:  Ah, ever the loyal daughter of Fruzti, eh?
Songa:  (almost rises to battle)  Do not mock me, Schnai dog!
Tarl:  (sadly)  Ah, if only more of our Suel brethren would realize
  the futility of these tribal wars.
Songa:  Death and battle do not count as futility!
Tarl:  In my many years of traveling, questing, and fighting, I've
  come to realize that there are more important things than tribal
  feuds.
Rillen:  Quite the philosopher, you are.
Tarl:  (shrugs his huge shoulders)  Sorry.  Anyhow, my point is that
  it's not fair to damn me, no matter what land I hail from.  (he
  glares meaningfully at Songa)  After all, we are not amidst times
  of war.
Songa:  (grits her teeth)  Your words make sense.
Rillen:  Enough of this talk - what do you have to say about Clespus?
Tarl:  Clespus was his name?
Songa:  Aye.  He said he was a merchant.
Tarl:  (laughs bitterly)  Hah!
Rillen:  So he's _not_ a merchant?
Tarl:  Hardly.  He and his band came through one of our villages, a
  week ago.  They began by dealing in simple products, but they must
  have heard about the gems...
Songa:  What gems?  This tale grows complicated, and you may recall
  that we were fast asleep.
Tarl:  I'm sorry about that.  We'd unearthed a small mine of gemstones
  in recent weeks, and word must have spread.  This...Clespus decided
  to take by force what he wasn't able to barter or steal.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Tarl:  He, and some of his companions, are wizards.
Songa:  (spits onto the ground)
Tarl:  (nods)  Foul sorcery, mummery.  I hardly like it, either.  The
  wizard got away with our gems, and left nine dead in his wake.  (he
  grimaces, his jaw set)  Three of them were children...
Songa:  (realizes that the man is seriously upset)  I am...sorry to
  hear of this.
Tarl:  (looks up, fury burning in his eyes)  Not as sorry as that
  damned wizard will be, once I find him.
Rillen:  That's why you have these dogs?
Tarl:  (shakes his head)  That's not why I have them, but they do come
  in handy.  (he whistles, and one of the dogs pads over, putting its
  head on his knee)

  The dog was a magnificent animal, large, mean-looking, and well-
trained.  It sat there, tongue lolling from its mouth as it grinned
at Rillen and Songa.

Tarl:  These are my babies...all nine of them.
Songa:  (surprised, for she only saw seven at most)  Nine?
Tarl:  Aye.  I raised the litter, from pups.  They're the best-trained
  war dogs in the land, I assure you.
Rillen:  (nods in appreciation)
Songa:  The Clespus fellow told us a different story, wherein you
  were a murdering bandit.
Tarl:  Bah.  Most likely seeking to slow me down.  Maybe he figured
  you two could take me out.
Songa:  How can he know you're chasing him?
Tarl:  (shrugs, kicking an ember back into the fire)  You know how
  wizards are...
Songa:  True.
Rillen:  He's only got a few hours' lead on you, you know.
Tarl:  Yes, but he has the horses, which give him more speed.
Songa:  And the wagons, which slow him down...
Rillen:  You're following him on foot?
Tarl:  I have no choice.  He slew all the horses in the village.
Songa:  Why weren't you able to stop him then?
Tarl:  I was out hunting when it happened...(he pats the massive
  sword strapped across his back)  Had I been there, he would not
  have left the village alive.
Rillen:  How can you hope to catch him on foot?
Tarl:  Willpower.  I only stop for short rests, while the caravan
  must stop often.
Songa:  (nods in appreciation)
Rillen:  Still, his lead will grow.
Tarl:  I think he thought he'd lost me, five days or so ago.  (he
  looks around)  But here I am.  As long as my dogs can catch his
  scent, I will be on his trail.
Songa:  I hope you catch him.
Rillen:  We need to get some sleep...(he exchanges glances with Songa,
  who nods slightly)  You're welcome to share our camp if you wish.
Tarl:  My thanks, and I accept.  (he pets his dog)  Needless to say,
  the dogs will stand watch.
Songa:  Fine by me.

  Tarl pulled a thick blanket from the pack on his back, tossed it
to the ground, and plopped down, asleep within moments.  Across the
campfire, the other two talked in hushed, close whispers.

Songa:  Do you think this is wise?
Rillen:  If he was going to attack us, he'd have done it already.
Songa:  (nods)  Hmm.
Rillen:  Besides, I believe him.  I don't know why, but I do.  And I
  think you do, too.
Songa:  Yes...though I hate to admit it, I do.

  Still, they both slept with one eye open, so to speak - just in
case.  However, despite a restless remainder of the night, nothing
happened.  Tarl and his dogs slept, and nobody else visited their
camp.

  Morning saw the three weary, tall people prepare to resume their
respective journeys.

Rillen:  We're riding southwest.
Tarl:  I'll go across the plains - I can gain more time that way,
  and cut his lead.
Songa:  I hope you find him.
Rillen:  And I hope that you and those dogs can handle a pack of
  wizards.
Tarl:  Heh, not to worry.  I have ways of dealing with wizards...
Songa:  Hmm.
Rillen:  Farewell.
Tarl:  Perhaps we will meet again.
Songa:  Anything can happen.

  With that, the pair and the lone traveler parted ways, the latter's
nine war dogs running at his side.

Rillen:  (watching Tarl depart)  Do you think we'll ever see him
  again?
Songa:  Maybe.  I almost feel bad for him...as if we should have
  offered one of our horses, to speed him on his way...
Rillen:  I thought about it, too, but...(he shakes his head)  He'll
  get where he's going.  And we'd better get going, too.
Songa:  (nods)  If we should happen to run into Clespus again, he'll
  have some explaining to do.
Rillen:  I get the feeling that Tarl will take care of Clespus.





next:      part three of three
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
www:       http://www.access.digex.net/~dpm
           http://www3.hmc.edu/~kshobaki/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     As I write this (8/8/96) the Olympic Village is breaking
  down.  This morning I drove in, even though we're not supposed
  to be able to until next week.  Yesterday I went in the Q-Zar
  games tent and played racing and shooting games for awhile.
  We're talking top-of-the-line new expensive games here...all set
  to free play.  You can just play over and over and over again.
    I'd never tried turning my race car around and going the wrong
  way before, but since the games are all set for free play...my
  co-workers were introduced to a new game, racetrack demolition
  derby!
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