Chapter #423

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                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic II      +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +
                                  +

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+    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) +
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+  Date:        4/11/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       the southern reaches of the Frost Barbarian lands   +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
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+  "I thought someone had...taken care of him."                     +
+  "It's just a matter of time."                                    +
+                                        - from _The Killer Elite_  +
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               CDXXIII.  Death On The Frozen Plains





  On their way to Greyhawk for Peldor and Tanya's wedding, Rillen
and Songa have encountered a couple of unusual characters.  Even
now, after spending a good hour cooking and eating breakfast, and
packing the horses, they still find themselves wondering what the
hell was going on between Clespus and Tarl.

Songa:  My money's on Tarl.
Rillen:  Tarl being in the right?  But I thought you didn't trust
  him.
Songa:  No, I didn't _like_ him, and that's not the same thing.
Rillen:  Didn't?
Songa:  His words...were well-spoken.  He had - has - a point.  (she
  frowns)  I shudder to think of what the barbarian kingdoms could do,
  if they put aside their differences and united in common cause.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Songa:  We've talked long enough - if we're to keep our pace, we ought
  to get moving.
Rillen:  You're right.

  They broke camp and resumed their journey, spurring their rested
horses into a fair gallop.  The day was pleasant, if a bit chilly, and
it seemed as though it would be a quiet, peaceful one.
  Until, that is, a massive explosion rocked the grasslands to the
southwest.

Songa:  Oh, what now?
Rillen:  We've barely been on our way for an hour...come on!  (they
  both spur their horses to a full gallop, charging down the road)

  Shortly, they arrived upon a scene of complete chaos.  A caravan -
the same one that Clespus had ridden with - was stopped in the road.
The reason for this quickly became obvious:  the lead wagon lay in
the center of the road, shattered and blazing with flame.  Most of
the horses that pulled the other wagons had panicked, and terrified
wagon-drivers milled about, trying to get the wagons moving again.
In the approximate center of the train, a lone figure was doing battle
with a number of guardsmen - a rather large lone figure.

Rillen:  That's that Tarl fellow.
Songa:  (nods)  And look there!

  Tarl's dogs were wreaking havoc amidst the wagons of the caravan,
leaping, clawing, and biting at guards and wagon-drivers alike.  The
animals were more savage than any human warrior, and even those foes
who wore armor recoiled in terror.
  From atop of the nearby wagons, another familiar person was up to
some trick.

Clespus:  Now you die, barbarian scum!  (he fires a volley of blazing
  orange missiles at the huge man)
Tarl:  Not so fast, wizard!  (he raises his sword, in a futile attempt
  to block the magical missiles)

  Amazingly enough, not a single bolt struck the barbarian!  As they
whizzed toward him, the missiles suddenly fizzled, arcing off in odd
directions.

Clespus:  (looks on, amazed)
Tarl:  Hah!
Clespus:  (to his guardsmen)  Don't just stand there, you fools!  Get
  him!
guardsmen:  (charge back to the attack)

  Although he was outnumbered five to one, Tarl was far from daunted,
as the first of the attackers learned when the barbarian's six-foot
sword cleft his head in two.

guardsman:  Glahk...(he goes down, dying)
Tarl:  (rips his blade from the slain man's carcass and reverses his
  swing, meeting another foe's sword in midair)
guardsman#2:  (staggers and falls as his sword breaks beneath the blow)
  Argh!

  Rival tribe or not, Songa and Rillen had seen enough.  They made
their way toward the fray, their horses charging at full tilt.

Songa:  Yaaaah!  (she casts a spear, taking down one of Tarl's foes)
Tarl:  (looks up, surprised)  You!
Songa:  (leaps off of her horse, tackling a second guardsman)  Yes, it
  is I.
Rillen:  And I as well.  (he shoots a guardsman who was about to
  shoot Tarl with a crossbow, from the cover of a wagon)
guardsman:  (falls back, off the wagon)  WhoaaaUMPH!
Tarl:  (raises his eyebrows)  Ya-HAH!  (whirling, he slashes another
  guard out of his way)
war dog:  (rises from a mangled corpse, eyeing Rillen)
Rillen:  Whoa...
war dog:  (wags its tail at Rillen, then leaps toward a fleeing guard)
Rillen:  Amazing!
Clespus:  Arrrgh!  Get them!  Kill them, you fools!  What am I paying
  you for?!?

  Heeding the commands of the furious Clespus, more guards rushed from
other wagons, coming forth to do battle with the barbarian and his
allies.  However, Tarl had worked himself into a red fury, something
that Rillen had only heard rumors about.  Seemingly heedless of his
own safety, the huge man swung and chopped all around himself, each
blow sending a foe to his doom.  Somehow, he dodged and sidestepped
every blow that came his way, at times avoiding death by mere inches.
He suffered nicks and scrapes, but no serious wounds.
  Of course, Rillen and Songa's assistance helped immensely.  No longer
could the guards merely surround Tarl; now they had to watch out for
his allies as well.

Rillen:  (having closed to melee range, he whips his quarterstaff
  around, knocking aside any who dare to approach)
Songa:  (working similar mayhem with her spear)
Rillen:  (nods admiringly, but resolves to show her a thing or two
  at some more practical time)
Clespus:  (spellcasting)  Stupid barbarian dogs!  You'll pay for this
  interfer-
Rillen:  (makes a decision, and leaps at the wizard, using his staff
  to vault over a staggering guardsman)  Hai!
Clespus:  (reels back into the wagon's side as Rillen's staff hits
  his arm, breaking it)  Aaargh!  (he whimpers in pain)
Rillen:  Stop your nonsense, wizard.  Or else.
Clespus:  (his spell wasted, he growls in anger)  Interfering fool!
Rillen:  (spins about, bashing a guard who thought he was sneaking
  up on the big warrior)
Clespus:  (takes the opportunity to jump off the other side of the
  wagon and dash away)

  However, it was not the wizard's fate to escape today; he found
his retreat blocked by Tarl.  Stained with blood, most of it not his
own, the massive barbarian had defeated all the guardsmen who had
attacked him, and now he glared at Clespus, murder in his eyes.

Clespus:  Aie!  (he begins working a quick spell)
Tarl:  (strides meaningfully toward the wizard)

  Most of the guards were slain, and the rest were unconscious or
incapacitated.  Thus, Songa and Rillen were able to work their way
around to get a look at this battle.  Yet, neither of them interfered
in the duel, for it was Tarl's fight.  Several of the war dogs, their
muzzles and claws bloodied, circled the combatants, but like Rillen
and Songa, they didn't move in.

Rillen:  (gets his bow and nocks an arrow, just in case the need to
  shoot Clespus arises)
Tarl:  (holding his sword before him as if the heavy blade was a twig)
  Prepare to greet your dark gods, dog.
Clespus:  Bah!  (he unleashes some great fiery spell, right in Tarl's
  face)  Eat that-
Tarl:  (grins triumphantly as the flames arc away from him at the last
  minute)  Your tricks won't work against me, wizard!
Clespus:  No!  Nooooo-
Tarl:  (steps in, and with a single blow, he relieves the man's body
  of its head)
Clespus:  (crumples)
Tarl:  Rot in hell.

  With the wizard dead, the battle was most definitely over.  Those
few of Clespus' allies who still lived surrendered, despite the fact
that they outnumbered the victors.  After these men were all lined
up and bound, Tarl rounded up his war dogs with a whistle, and was
pleased to find that all nine lived.  A couple had suffered minor
wounds, but the barbarian quickly tended to these, as the animals
wagged their tails and panted happily, their bloodlust vanished.
  Tarl suffered from a number of minor wounds as well; Rillen had a
gash on his arm, and a cracked fingerbone.  Songa bandaged a stab
wound on her thigh, as well as a cut across one shoulder.

Rillen:  Not bad...a good workout,
Songa:  They had no morale to speak of.
Rillen:  True...I did see several of them flee during the battle.
Songa:  Heh.  Let's see how long they survive here, without horses
  or food.
Tarl:  Or a wizard to lead them.  (he walks toward them)  I thank you
  for your help.
Songa:  (shrugs)  We would have helped anyone who was beset as you
  were.
Tarl:  Right.
Rillen:  How did you end up fighting the caravan?  I didn't think you
  could catch it.
Tarl:  I went through the grasslands, then re-entered the road, which
  brought me a lot closer to the caravan.  Apparently, Clespus-  (he
  turns and spits on the gory body)  -changed his mind, and decided
  to set an ambush for me and get the battle over with.  However, the
  dogs I'd sent ahead to scout smelled the foes out.  A fortunate
  thing.
Songa:  Indeed.
Rillen:  What caused that explosion we heard?
Tarl:  Oh, that?  It was the wizard's fireball bouncing off of me.
Songa:  How is this?!?
Tarl:  (hefts his sword)  This blade, an ancient one with much power,
  is called Spellbreaker.  Magic rolls from it like water off a duck's
  back.
Songa:  How very useful.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Tarl:  So, you see, I have no cause to fear wizards.  Or priests.  Or
  anyone else who lives by magic.
Songa:  A mighty weapon!  (she eyes the sword, jealous)
Rillen:  Come, let's search the wagons.
Tarl:  (nods)  I've got gems to return.

  Tarl found his gems, and other valuables besides.  He only took
what he could carry, but then changed his mind and commandeered one
of the wagons, along with four of the stronger horses.  The other
horses he freed from their harnesses, instead roping their reins to
the back of his new wagon.

Songa:  What's this?
Tarl:  The extra gold will go to the families of those he killed.
  And the town can use the horses.  (he also loads the dead body of
  Clespus into his wagon)  They'll want to see his body.
Songa:  (nods)  You're not even from the town, are you?
Tarl:  No.
Songa:  Then why?  Why such an interest in this affair?
Tarl:  (checks the horses' reins)  I'm something of a local...hero.
  I was there, and they needed help, so...
Rillen:  (emerges from one wagon, a heavy tome in his hands)
Songa:  What in the hells is _that_?
Rillen:  Clespus' spellbook.
Songa:  (looks on in disapproval)
Tarl:  (also frowns)
Songa:  Why must you take that accursed thing?
Rillen:  I can sell it to Ged, or the drow.  Or trade it.
Songa:  Hmm.  (she shakes her head)  Cursed money, if you ask me.
Rillen:  Don't worry, I'll take care of it.
wagon-driver:  But what about us?
Tarl:  (turns)  What _about_ you?
wagon-driver:  (looking worried)  Must we walk to civilization?
Tarl:  Without horses, you would seem to have no other choice.
wagon-driver:  Aie.
Tarl:  Remember this, the next time you choose to ally yourself with
  scum like Clespus.
wagon-driver:  (looks down)
Tarl:  You should be thankful that you still draw breath.  (he cuts
  that one man's bonds)  there yet remains plenty of food - and rags,
  for the wounded - in these wagons.  Do what you will, but don't
  ever come to these lands again.  (he leans in)  Do you understand?
wagon-driver:  (nods fearfully)

  Tarl ushered his dogs into the wagon, and prepared to depart for
the north.

Rillen:  This time, I think, we really _won't_ meet you again.
Tarl:  Not on this road, but it's a small world.  (he clasps hands
  with the monk)  You have my thanks, again.  I will pay this debt,
  someday - I swear it.
Rillen:  Oh, don't worry about-
Tarl:  I swear it.
Songa:  (also clasps hands with the big warrior)  Take care.
Tarl:  And you.
Songa:  You fight well...for a Schnai.
Tarl:  (grins, then climbs into his appropriated wagon)

  Momentarily, the barbarian was northbound once more, leaving Rillen
and Songa to contemplate recent events as they rode to the southwest.

Rillen:  Not a bad fellow, that Tarl.
Songa:  No, I guess not, at that.  I guess not.





next:      that certain event that always precedes a wedding
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:     The current must-see would seem to be _Escape From L.A._
  which opens this weekend.  You will hear from me again on this
  topic.
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