Chapter #513

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                                +   +
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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 1991-7 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                    +
+                           +
+  Mongo        18th level dwarven warrior                     (CG) +
+    Gorin      10th level dwarven warrior                     (NG) +
+  Date:        7/20/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the northern border of the County of Urnst          +
+  Climate:     surprisingly cool and windy                         +
+  "We're outnumbered!                                              +
+  "Yeah, but we're not outclassed.                                 +
+                                  - from _The Gory and Defeated_   +

               DXIII.  Perils of the Riftcanyon

  More than a week has passed since Mongo and Gorin split from
the others, journeying to the mist-shrouded Riftcanyon to find
the fortress of Greyspire.  After a brief stop in Radigast City,
they have crossed the Artonsamay River, and now find themselves
on the edge of a bleak, flat, dry region which stretches away
to the north.

Gorin:  Thataway?
Mongo:  Yeah.  Greyspire's in the Riftcanyon, to the north, and
  the Riftcanyon is surrounded by this harsh, dead terrain.
Gorin:  Riftcanyon?  What exactly is this Riftcanyon?
Mongo:  It's a huge crevasse...more than fifty leagues long, and
  several leagues across at its widest.  They say it goes down
  quite a ways into the earth.  (he shrugs)  I can't say for sure
  what's what in there, but I do know that it's pretty dangerous.
Gorin:  I wouldn't mind having Belphanior along for this.
Mongo:  Maybe...(he frowns at the memory of his recent tirade
  against the elf)  Maybe not.
Gorin:  (decides to change the subject)  And this Greyspire place
  is in the Riftcanyon?
Mongo:  (nods)  Pretty close to the western end of the canyon, if
  my map here is right.
Gorin:  Map?  you've got a map?
Mongo:  Yeah, Yod gave it to me awhile back.  (he glances at the
  map he's just unrolled)  I'm thinking we'll trek westward once
  we find the canyon's edge...keep our distance and close in on
Gorin:  Sounds good.  Anything that crawls out of the canyon will
  have to approach us on flat ground.
Mongo:  Also remember that we're pretty much in the Bandit Kingdoms
Gorin:  Pretty rough area, from what I've heard.
Mongo:  Yeah.  We'll have to be careful - real careful.

  Into the flatlands they went, their small but stout ponies taking
them farther from civilization and safety with every passing moment.
The Bandit Kingdoms were, as Mongo said, not to be taken lightly.
This loose confederation of brigands and ne'er-do-wells, while
generally disorganized, were still viciously territorial and rather
hostile.  This held doubly true when it came to small bands of

Gorin:  (points to the horizon)  Look there...could be trouble.
Mongo:  Yeah, I see 'em.

  Two dozen in number, the people riding toward the two dwarves
were undoubtedly local bandits, and hostile ones at that.  Weapons
glinted in the midday sun as the group approached at a rapid trot.
Mongo kept his hand on Stormcrest's handle, ready for action should
the need arise.  For his part, Gorin sat in the saddle, arms crossed
but ready to grasp his axe in a flash.

bandit:  (rides forth, a few feet ahead of the others)  Ho, there.
  What's your business in these lands?
Gorin:  None of yours.
bandit chief:  You dwarves are trespassing, you know.  Nobody
  rides through here for free.
Mongo:  (calmly)  We're bound for Greyspire, under the protection
  of Lord Marcus.
bandit chief:  You're a long way from Greyspire...
other bandits:  (shifting and shuffling in place, wicked grins on
  their faces)
Mongo:  (hefts his hammer and points it at the chief)  Are you so
  eager to throw your life away?
bandit chief:  (laughs)  Two against twenty-something?  You're
  sadly mistaken, dwarf - it's not us who have a problem.
Mongo:  You do now.  (with a mighty throw, he sends Stormcrest
  hurtling toward the man)
bandit chief:  Wha-

  There was a sound not unlike that of a large, ripe fruit being
smashed as the chief's head was pulverized, turned into a bright
red mist.  The hammer continued on its path, smashing two others
behind the chief from their saddles.  In the few moments it took
the hammer to return to Mongo's hand, Gorin's axe was unslung and
held ready.  The bandits simply sat there in shock.

Mongo:  There's more where that came from.  This is my first and
  last warning to you bastards:  leave or die.

  About half of the foes, their morale slipping, backed away or
turned their horses around.  Others, however, were confident of
a victory, and spurred their mounts toward the pair.

bandit#2:  Yaaaaah!
Mongo:  (tosses Stormcrest at the attacker, knocking both him and
  his horse over with a bone-crunching blow)  Death, then!
Gorin:  (not one to await attack, he spurs his pony toward the
  oncoming foes)

  The younger dwarf's enchanted chain mail absorbed a sword-blow
from the nearest bandit; a breath later, Gorin's battleaxe swung
around in a deadly arc, lopping the foe's head from his shoulders.
As the grisly trophy fell, Gorin whirled about, chopping at another
bandit who thought he was executing a surprise attack.  That man's
sword was shattered by the harder steel of Gorin's magical axe,
whose keen edge continued until it was buried in the foe's chest.
  Meanwhile, Mongo had been overborne, knocked from his saddle by
a trio of tackling bandits.  However, their folly quickly became
apparent; they could not have known of the dwarf's sheer, prodigious

Mongo:  (grabs one bandit by the leg and whirls him around, batting
  two others away)  Hah!  (with a contemptuous wave of an arm, he
  flings the foe away, spinning just in time to grab a descending
bandit#7:  Huh?
Mongo:  (twists, snapping the arm at elbow and shoulder)
bandit#7:  AAAARGH!
bandit#8:  (stabs Mongo in the back, but gasps in surprise as his
  dagger snaps at the hilt)  What the hell?!?
Mongo:  (elbows the attacker in the face, snapping his neck)
  BACK!  (he catches Stormcrest, immediately putting it back to
  good use by walloping another bandit in the stomach)
bandit#11:  (knocked away with a broken back)  EYARGH!

  If the bandits' morale had been shaky initially, it was shattered
now.  Fully a dozen of their number lay dead or dying, and the two
dwarves had only suffered scratches and flesh wounds - and seemed
unfazed by those!

bandit sub-chief:  RETREAT!  RETREAT!
Mongo:  (draws his arm back, then hurls Stormcrest at the main mass
  of fleeing bandits)  Not so fast!
bandits:  (three more go down, the one who took the blow dead with
  a broken skull)
Gorin:  (finishes off a fallen foe whose entrails are leaking out
  onto the dry, dusty ground)
Mongo:  (catches Stormcrest, then tosses it toward the fleeing
  foes again)  DIE!
bandit sub-chief:  (falls, his back snapped by the force of the blow)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer as it returns, smirking in satisfaction)
Gorin:  (watches the ragged remains of the band as they scatter away
  into the wastelands)  Wasn't that a little over the top?
Mongo:  What, smashing them as they run?  No fuckin' way.  War is
  hell, and they declared it.
Gorin:  I guess we've got to get used to it, considering where we're
  headed and what we're going to do when we get there.
Mongo:  You're growing up, kid.

  They bound their wounds, recovered Mongo's pony (which, being a
fairly level-headed animal, was chewing on a bush about thirty yards
uphill from the battle-site) and made haste for the west.  The few
surviving bandits had headed north, which was good since they would
no doubt bring more and seek revenge.  Though they were fairly sure
that they could fend off small packs of bandits, a hundred was a
different matter.
    For whatever reason, whether the sheer ferocity of the dwarves'
defense or the prospect of insufficient return for the risk of taking
them down, the local scum never returned in force to pick another
fight.  The pair of dwarves rode westward, driving their mounts to
the verge of exhaustion; they kept within several bowshots of the
Riftcanyon's edge.  At night, strange sounds issued from the huge
crevasse, sounds unlike any man or beast they had ever heard before.
Whatever lurked in those dark depths kept its distance, however, a
fact which the dwarves were glad for.
  The terrain was still uniformly flat, if rather dry and parched,
and they made good time.  A mere two days after the skirmish with
the bandits, Mongo and Gorin spotted more strangers on the horizon,
and readied their weapons.  However, as the others approached, it
became obvious that, whatever they were, they weren't bandits...

dwarves:  (a company of twenty, several of them raise their weapon-
  less hands in greeting)
Gorin:  Who're these guys?
Mongo:  No idea.  Keep alert.

  A large dwarf, both taller and wider than most of his race, rode
forth toward the two outlanders.  A large battleaxe hung at his
side, and his other arm bore a huge shield made from some strange
monster's hide.  His brown beard, shot through with grey, combined
with the lines of his face to suggest years of age and experience.

large dwarf:  Ho, there!  You must surely be Mongo Thunderhead!
Mongo:  Who wants to know?
large dwarf:  I'm Noggin, commander of Greyspire's dwarven forces.
  Lord Marcus heard of your troubles with bandits, and sent us out
  to find you.
Gorin:  Bandits?
Mongo:  No trouble at all.
Noggin:  (grins broadly)  Fits what I've heard about you.  (he
  turns and looks to the northwest)  The fortress is pretty close;
  we can be there by nightfall.
Mongo:  (nods)  Let's go, then.  (they spur their ponies up to join
  the mounts of the other dwarves)
Gorin:  (to Noggin)  How'd you know about our fight with those
Noggin:  Lord Marcus has eyes and ears everywhere...even in the
  lands of the bandits.
Gorin:  Hmm.

  On the way to Greyspire, there was one incident, so to speak.  A
large, multi-horned creature broke through the rocky ground about
a hundred feet from the group.  A thick, tough-looking shell covered
most of its body, and powerful claws tipped its squat limbs.

Mongo:  (eyes the thing, then grabs his hammer)  I think I can get
  it from here-
Noggin:  Don't bother.
Mongo:  What's this?
Noggin:  That's a land-shark.  (he raises his shield)  Same hide
  this thing's made from.  But the thing won't attack a group this
Gorin:  (notes the readiness of the other dwarves in the company)
  Are you sure about that?
Noggin:  Sure I'm sure.  Besides, their meat isn't that good for
  eating, and we're pretty well laid-out with provisions at the
Mongo:  Oh.

  Sure enough, the beast regarded them for only a few moments more
before retreating back into the earth.  Shaking their heads, Mongo
and Gorin continued northwest with the others.
  Shortly before dusk, they spotted a massive shape on the horizon,
something that was too raw, too massive to be fashioned by the
hands of mortals.  Gorin whistled, impressed, as Mongo turned to

Mongo:  I guess that's Greyspire?
Noggin:  Yep.

  As they drew nearer, they could make out details.  Greyspire was
a massive place, as self-standing towers of solid rock went.
Roughly square in shape, it was more than three hundred feet thick,
and perhaps a thousand in height.  The pillar rose from the depths
of the canyon, and was offset about a hundred feet from the lands
just outside the canyon.  A massive, natural stone bridge spanned
this gap; on the mainland side of the bridge stood a wide, two-story
gatehouse.  Even at this distance, they could see that it was well-
manned.  Several charred fire-pits were set into the ground nearby
this gatehouse.
  The bridge was devoid of guardrails or ropes, and ended at the
vertical southern face of Greyspire.  A large tower, hewn from the
rock itself, stood to either side of the bridge-tower intersection.
Smaller towers - five were visible from this angle - were built
into the outer walls of Greyspire at higher points.  Aside from the
small, barred windows set into these towers, there were no windows
on Greyspire's exterior.
  Mists from the depths below constantly wafted upward, sheathing
the fortress in a dense fog.

Noggin:  To the gatehouse.
Mongo:  (to Gorin)  Impressive place.  Wonder if dwarves built it?
Gorin:  Who can say?
random dwarven soldier:  It's hard to tell, but we don't think so.
  There's a lot of architecture on the lower levels that-
Noggin:  Enough, Gaspar.  They'll learn all of these things in due

  The gatehouse was opened for the dwarven company, and as they
passed through its arch, they saw a dozen armored, armed guards
in strategic positions.  Beyond the gatehouse was the bridge; it
was even more massive than it appeared from afar.

Gorin:  Damn, but this thing's got to be twenty feet thick.
Mongo:  No way can something like this stand freely.  Magic's
  involved somewhere...
Noggin:  (helpfully)  Greyspire's more than a bunch of soldiers.
  We've got some priests and wizards too.
Gorin:  Yeah, we kinda figured that.

  They set out across the gigantic bridge, and as they neared the
great gate of Greyspire, they were even more impressed by the sheer
size of the fortress.  It loomed above, a pillar of black rock that
seemed to reach up into the heavens.
  Ahead were a pair of massive, metallic doors; these were framed
by the two large towers that the visitors had noted before.  Upon
Noggin's company's approach, a deep grinding sound shook the stone
bridge.  Before them, the huge gates drew open, and a bright light
shone out through the ever-widening gap.  Beyond could be heard
the cranking of massive winches, the sound of orders being given,
and the slap of steel on leather.

Mongo:  (turns to Gorin)  I think we're gonna like it here.

next:      we follow Rillen and Songa for a while (and Arnold too!)
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     I have a lot of detailed work I've done on Greyspire.
  The idea was to submit it to TSR, but several readers told me
  horror stories of such attempts.  These stories often featured
  delays of almost a year, outright lies, and once, partial use
  without compensation.  And now, as I write this, TSR has been
  bought by Wizards of the Coast, so who knows what'll happen to
    Anyway...perhaps someday you'll see the complete Greyspire
  accessory on my web page.

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