Chapter #445

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    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                    +
+                           +
+  Peldor       20th level human thief                          (N) +
+    Tanya       5th/11th level female human fighter/thief      (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Deborah, captain of the Despotrix' guardswomen              (CG) +
+  Christina, a guardswoman                                    (NG) +
+  Ellie, a guardswoman                                        (LG) +
+  Monique, a guardswoman                                       (N) +
+  Sarah, a guardswoman                                        (CN) +
+  Virginia, a guardswoman                                     (LN) +
+  Date:        5/5/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midafternoon                                        +
+  Place:       near the northern edge of the Suss Forest           +
+  Climate:     mild                                                +
+  "You don't care whether you live or die, right?"                 +
+  "Of course we do.  It's in the manner of living - and of         +
+   dying - that one finds relevance."                              +
+                                       - from _The Killer Elite_   +

                   CDXLV.  Death from the Skies

  While skirting the dangerous reaches of the Suss Forest, the not-
so-merry band has just been attacked by manticores...

Deborah:  (curses as a fired tail-spike nails her horse in the eye)
  Dammit!  To arms, everyone!
Deborah's horse:  (shrieking in agony, it bucks, hurling its rider
  from the saddle)
Deborah:  (flung to the ground, hard)  Ungh!
guardswomen:  (form a protective ring around their fallen commander,
  weapons bristling)

  These manticores were even more fearsome than Peldor remembered
from his last fight with such things.  Fully as tall as a man at the
shoulder, they were a good fifteen feet long, with the bodies of
huge lions, the wings of giant bats, and the heads of wild, bearded
humans.  Even the guardswomen, veterans that they were, were taken
aback by the terrible beasts.

manticore#2:  (fires its tail-spikes at the conveniently-grouped
  guardswomen, hitting several of them)  Graahahah!
Monique:  (nicked by a spike, she ignores the cut across her bicep)
Christina:  (hit in the upper leg)  Argh!
Sarah:  (hit in the shoulder, a grazing wound, really)  Ow.
manticore#1:  Rrar.  (it prepares to fire its own tail spikes)
Peldor:  (takes the offensive, TK-ing a nearby log into the air)
manticore#1:  Grnh?  (it gets hit by the jagged, splinter-filled end
  of the log)  Graargh!
Peldor:  Chew on that, ugly.
manticore#1:  Arrrgh!  (wobbling in the air, it fires several tail-
  spikes blindly, the deadly projectiles imbedding themselves in the
  ground around Peldor)
Tanya:  Good move!  (she swings at the second of the monnsters as it
  sails by, but misses, due to the creature's agility)  Hell!  We've
  got to find a way to ground them!
Sarah:  No problem.  (she lashes out, her whip snaring the third of
  the hideous foes by one of its rear legs)  Hah!  (pulling mightily,
  she tries to drag the thing down to earth)
Tanya:  No-
manticore#3:  (flaps its wings, and rises, taking the determined
  Sarah with it)  Graar!
Sarah:  Whoa!
Ellie:  Take heart, good Sarah.  (she fires an arrow, hitting the
  manticore at the base of one wing)
manticore#3:  (grunts as the pain of the wound immediately begins
  to impair its flying ability)  Grrrrg!
Ellie:  (nocks another arrow)
Tanya:  Nice shot.
Ellie:  Sheaf arrows...for superior penetrating power.
Tanya:  Ah.
Ellie:  (hits the manticore in the wing with her second arrow)
Sarah:  (rising, she clings to her whip's handle as the manticore
  dips in the air)  Help!
Virginia:  (moves to help Sarah, as she and the third manticore
  slowly fall from the sky)  Hang on!

  However, these manticores were an experienced bunch, well-used to
hunting and fighting together.  The second manticore sensed an opening
and struck...

manticore#2:  (fires its volley of tail-spikes, hitting Virginia, whose
  back is turned, with four of the deadly, iron-hard missiles)
Virginia:  Arrrgh!  (she falls, bleeding from several terrible wounds)
Monique:  No!  (furious, she leaps at the second manticore, grabbing
  one of its forelegs)  Get down here, you!
manticore#2:  Graar?  (it growls in irritation, preparing to rip this
  gnat's throat out with its teeth)
Monique:  Die!  (she buries her battle-axe in the beast's face)
manticore#2:  (howls in agony)  AAAARGH!  (flinging the warrior-woman
  away, it plummets to the ground)
Christina:  (right there waiting, she plies her longsword upon the
  fallen monster)  Bastard!

  Meanwhile, Sarah was busy stabbing at the third manticore as she
dangled from her whip's hold on its rear leg, and it sunk from the

Sarah:  (stabbing wildly, she slashes the monster's hindquarter to
  ribbons)  Fall, monster!
manticore#3:  Raargh!  (sinking to the ground, it quickly finds itself
  within reach of the others)
Ellie:  (lops one of the creature's ears off, along with a sizable
  chunk of its face)  That's for Virginia!
Tanya:  (to Peldor)  The first one's still up there.
Peldor:  Not for long.  (he TKs a small boulder up into the air, like
  a catapult-stone)
manticore#1:  (shrieks as the missile smashes through its wing, bones
  snapping with the impact)  Arrrgh!
Tanya:  (readies her sword, as the thing falls to the ground)
Peldor:  (regards the bloody body of Virginia for a moment)  Damn it!
  (rather angry, he leaps upon the back of the manticore)
manticore#1:  (still groggy with pain)  Grr?
Peldor:  You bastard.  (he stabs the thing, right in the back of its
  neck, between spine and skull)
manticore#1:  (dies instantly)
Peldor:  (hops off, spitting on the corpse contemptuously)
Tanya:  A well-placed strike...where'd you learn that one?
Peldor:  Org taught me.

  The other manticores were just about finished; Monique and Christina
were slicing the second one to pulp, while Sarah and Ellie had slain
the third monster.

Sarah:  (re-coils her whip, after wiping the blood from it)  Ugh.  A
  disgusting beast.
Ellie:  (dashes over to check on Virginia)
Christina:  (deals the second manticore its death-blow)  A deserved
  fate if there ever was one...
Monique:  (glares at the carcass)  Fucking monster.
Peldor:  (to Tanya, in a low tone)  Wonder why Deborah didn't help us
  out any?

  Momentarily, they learned the reason why:  the guard-captain had
suffered a broken leg in the fall, and was sitting on the ground,
wincing in pain as a chunk of bone protruded from her leggings and

Deborah:  Argh.  Damn monsters...cost us a horse, and a leg.
Christina:  Better than an arm and a leg, no?
Ellie:  (approaches, sheathing her sword)  This is no time for jokes.
  Virginia's dead.
Deborah:  No...oh, no...
Monique:  Shit.  (she swings her axe in rage, shattering a small, dead
Sarah:  Oh, hell.  (she looks away sadly)
Peldor:  (checking the body)  Maybe a healing salve, or a potion...
Tanya:  (rests a hand upon his shoulder, gently)  She's gone.
Peldor:  Damn.
Deborah:  (shakes her head)

  Not much was said as they dug a grave and buried their companion,
covering the loose earth with rocks to keep the vermin away.  The
manticores were simply dragged into a pile and left, as they were
much more deserving of predators.  Afterward, Deborah's injured leg
was splinted - Ellie was knowledgeable in such matters - and Peldor
gave her his horse to ride.

Peldor:  I'll double up with Tanya until we get to a town or city.
Deborah:  My thanks...and good fighting back there.  I may not like
  you, but you helped us out back there.
Monique:  Proved yourself in battle.  You've earned my respect.
Christina:  (nods, as do Ellie and even the quiet Sarah)
Peldor:  I'd rather have Virginia back, all the same.  Hell.
Deborah:  I'm sad and upset, too - I don't like losing a soldier and
  friend - but we must continue onward.
Tanya:  (shaking her head)  I'm so sorry...
Deborah:  It's not your fault.  Don't worry about it.

next:      back to Belphanior for a while
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Miscellaneous updates on various topics:  _The Island
  of Dr. Moreau_ was pretty entertaining, if not a classic.  But
  _The Crow:  City of Angels_ completely sucked.
    Kudos to Image Comics for getting rid of Rob Liefield, who may
  be a hot young artist but by all accounts is also unprofessional
  and unfair.
    R.I.P. Mark Gruenwald, recently dead of a heart attack at age
  43.  Mark wrote a shitload of comics for Marvel, mostly, in the
  70s, 80s, and 90s.  He was one of those guys who silently wrote
  high-quality, entertaining runs for a number of titles, primarily
  the Avengers.  He took the Squadron Supreme, which started as a
  parody of DC's Justice League, and made them into interesting
  characters in their own right.  But that was just one of his many
  accomplishments.  Mark will be missed.

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