Chapter #532

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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 1991-8 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:        8/2/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midafternoon                                        +
+  Place:       the fortress of Greyspire, in the Riftcanyon        +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "To survive a war, you gotta _become_ war."                      +
+                                                    - John Rambo   +

      DXXXII.  Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer

  A little more than a week ago, Mongo and Gorin arrived in the
great fortress known as Greyspire.  Ever since, they have been
learning the ways of the military life...

Mongo:  (stacking large, square blocks of stone, he sweats quite
  profusely)  Gods be damned!  This isn't what I thought it would
Gorin:  (passes Mongo as he completes another lap around the huge
  cavern's edge)  Whew!  Me neither...(he runs off)

  They were in a large natural cavern that was Greyspire's training
room.  Roughly circular in shape, the chamber was about two hundred
feet across.  Its perimeter was clear, but toward its center were
all kinds of devices - ropes, pulleys, weights, sets of bars, pits,
hurdles, practice dummies, and yet more.  These things were here to
test speed, endurance, strength, reaction time, weapon skill, and so
forth.  The setup would have done Greyhawk's thieves' guild proud.
Then again, Lord Marcus had several thieves among his inner circle.
  As Mongo wiped sweat from his brow and rested briefly, he recalled
the incident that had led to this particular exercise...

Lord Marcus:  Is that a girdle of giant strength?
Mongo:  (looks down at his belt, as if the question were a stupid one)
  Sure is.
Marcus:  (smiles)  Would you remove it, please?
Mongo:  Huh?
Marcus:  This is a combat demonstration.
Mongo:  Oh.  Okay, then.  (he takes the belt off and hands it to
  Gorin, then turns back to Marcus)  Whose ass do you want me to
Marcus:  Mine.
Mongo:  What?!?
Marcus:  (motions Mongo to approach)  Just tackle me...knock me down
  as hard as you can.
Mongo:  Hey, now, I don't want to hurt you-
Marcus:  You _can_ knock me down, can't you?  If you can't, maybe
  Gorin there can give it a try.
Mongo:  Grr...
Marcus:  You won't hurt me, don't worry.
Mongo:  Okay then...(he braces himself, then charges at the man)

  Marcus stood his ground, only moving at the last possible moment.
When he moved, though, Gorin wasn't able to follow exactly what took
place.  Marcus shifted his feet slightly, crouched down...and the
next thing anyone knew, Mongo was sailing through the air!  The
dwarf spun around, landing face-down on the stony floor.

Mongo:  Ow!  (he leaps to his feet, ignoring the scrapes he just
  suffered)  Dammit!  What's the big idea?!?
Marcus:  Calm down.
Mongo:  Huh?  (he looks around, sees that nobody's laughing at him,
  and quiets somewhat)
Marcus:  Let me guess:  you haven't taken that magic belt of yours
  off in a while.
Mongo:  Uh...well, of course not.  Why would I?
Marcus:  So that you don't get too accustomed to its power.  Think
  about it:  if you rely on the belt all the time, your own natural
  strength will slowly deteriorate.  When the belt's not there, you
Mongo:  Could you stop using those big words?  If you've got some-
  thing to say, just say it.
Marcus:  Sorry.  Your strength right now, without the belt on, is
  probably a lot less than it used to be.
Mongo:  I see what you're saying, but still, what does it matter?
  If I'm _always_ wearing the belt...(he shrugs)
Marcus:  But someday you may not have the belt, or maybe you'll be
  someplace where it doesn't work you see?
Mongo:  (recalls certain past adventures)  Well...yeah...
Marcus:  The belt is fine for battle and such, but you need to rely
  on your _own_ strength - on yourself, not some magical item.  (he
  frowns)  Unless that's what you want?
Mongo:  No way!  (he scratches his beard)  Okay, I think I get it
Marcus:  Good.  The first thing, then, will be to get you used to
  functioning without your belt.
Mongo:  How?
Marcus:  Heavy exercise.
Mongo:  (watching Marcus depart)  Shit.

  That was why Mongo stood here now, shifting heavy blocks of stone.
Marcus required all of his men - no matter how experienced or how many
magical items they had - to exercise several times a week.  Mongo
now believed that the general had a point; when he'd started hefting
rocks, he'd quickly realized that he wasn't as strong - without his
belt - as he'd used to be.  As for Gorin, he'd been declared to have
a little too much flab on him; thus, the running around this cavern's

Gorin:  (passes by again, panting and sweating profusely)  You're
  slacking off!  Ha!  Get to work!  (he dashes away again)
Mongo:  (grumbles)

  This exercise wasn't, however, the only thing the dwarves had done
since they arrived.  They had, of course, met Greyspire's master the
very night they arrived, and the newcomers had dined with Marcus and
his top officers. Marcus had taken the opportunity to explain the
purpose, layout, and organization of the fortress and its troops.
  Tall, broad, dark-skinned, and world-wise, Lord Marcus was a true
warrior's general.  He led by example, not by giving orders; he had
been a soldier, an adventurer, a pirate, and more - and all of his
men knew it.  When the big, dark-maned general walked by, his troops
saluted - and were proud to.  Mongo and Gorin had noticed this right
away:  the men and dwarves of Greyspire truly _respected_ their
leader.  Mongo got the impression that many of the soldiers would
probably have served even if there wasn't pay involved.
  The new arrivals had seen the exterior of the fortress when they
arrived.  For the past week, they'd had a chance to see the interior
as well.  It was truly spectacular:  a dozen distinct levels, each
connected to the nearest others by stairways, ramps, and shafts.
The complex had obviously been built with the intention of being a
fortress, for it was highly defensible should the outer gates be
breached.  That was highly unlikely, though, since they were heavy
enough to require a dozen men on the inside to open each one.  With
the anchor bars lowered, Mongo figured it would take a force of
giants to break in.
  If physical force was the only thing needed to get into Greyspire,
of course, the fortress might have been attacked on a regular basis.
To guard against this, Marcus had among his ranks several wizards
and priests, as well as a vigilant, well-trained sentry rotation.
Anyone coming anywhere near the spire of rock would have to contend
with spells, boiling oil, falling boulders, acid, arrows, bolts,
catapults, and so forth.  Not even the men on watch, either in the
guardhouse or within any of the twenty guard-towers built into the
fortress' faces, knew how many magical wards and alerts protected
the fortress at any given time.
  Mongo had wondered how Marcus avoided infiltration of his ranks
by spies and covert agents of hostile powers.  However, asking this
question had merely brought a smile from the general, along with an
assurance that such enemies might enter Greyspire, but they never
left.  Marcus had added that he usually didn't take people into his
ranks as quickly as he'd let Mongo and Gorin join; apparently the
recommendation of Yod Ironbeard carried a lot of weight with Lord

  Though Mongo hadn't quite figured out who all of Marcus' key
people were, there were a few who stood out even after a mere week.
One was a tiny little man from the West, a man named Wu.  Wu looked
like he could hardly snap a twig, but he was actually a wizard who
could summon enough force to obliterate a forest, and easily.  The
wizened old man was in charge of all the wizards in the fortress,
and was also one of Marcus' oldest and most trusted friends.
  What Wu lacked in size, the one called Rasta made up for.  Rasta
wasn't just another soldier; in fact, he was a gargoyle - a big,
humanoid with stone for flesh and wings that somehow enabled him to
fly.  Gargoyles were typically evil, chaotic creatures; for whatever
reason, Rasta not only served Marcus, but he was a rather pleasant
fellow to be around.  He had his own unique viewpoints on a variety
of different subjects.
  Mongo had already met Noggin, the dwarf who ultimately commanded
all the other dwarves in Greyspire.  The fortress contained mostly
humans, but the dwarves put in the strongest non-human showing.  The
friendly and battle-wise Noggin was well-liked among his troops.
  Marcus had another friend from the far West, a lean, yellow-skinned
fellow named Dhakab.  Dhakab didn't talk much, but he looked like he
was really good at something; Gorin suspected his profession to be
similar to Peldor's.  There were others among Marcus' inner circle,
naturally, but these were the only ones that Mongo and Gorin knew of
at this point.

  As for the deployment of troops in Greyspire, it was hard to count
exact numbers, since the entire army couldn't assemble in one place
at one time.  Mongo had a rough idea, though, from what he'd seen and
heard thus far.
  The forces of Greyspire were organized using the basic company
unit, each company consisting of about 20 men (the exact numbers
varied too regularly to be of supreme importance.)  Each of the
companies generally had the same armor, weapons, and purpose.
Each company had a sergeant and two corporals; these latter two
each commanded a 10-person squad.  In addition to the standard
number of soldiers, two corporals, and sergeant, each company also
had a medic and a wizard.  The medics were priests who tended to
the wounded, but could also fight if necessary.  The wizards were
there for magical support and advice before, during, and after
  Thus, each company generally contained twenty soldiers, three
enlisted leaders and two spellcasters.  The various companies were
arrayed as follows:

company    type              armor     ranged     melee
A,B        archers           leather   longbow    shortsword
C          mounted archers   leather   longbow    longsword
D,E        light cavalry     chain     -          lance, longsword
F          heavy cavalry     plate     -          lance, heavy
                                                    sword or axe
G,H,I,J,K  light infantry    various   -          various
L,M        heavy infantry    plate     -          pikes, heavy
                                                    sword or axe
N,O        dwarven infantry  chain     -          longsword, axe
P          dwarven archers   chain     crossbow   various

  Four companies made a battalion, led by a lieutenant; there were
four battalions, the fourth being mostly dwarven in content.  In
time, the forces of Greyspire would grow to a size that would allow
for nice, neat large-scale organization, but Marcus wasn't quite
there yet and he had to work with what he had.
  At any given time, one battalion was garrisoned (meaning its
troops manned the fortress) while the other three stood ready if
needed.  Marcus never left the fortress with less than an entire
battalion, even in his largest campaigns.
  Though the total troop strength was small compared to a "real"
army, Marcus' forces were fairly elite.  Each man was a skilled
veteran, proficient in several weapons.  Many of them had a magical
weapon or shield, and some had magical armor.  Marcus sometimes
got some or all of his payment in such items, and then distributed
them as fairly and efficiently as possible.
  In addition to its conventional forces, Greyspire's army contained
one special unit.  Designated Company X, this group dealt with more
unusual tasks such as scouting and sabotage.  Mongo was still trying
to learn more about this special unit, but hadn't had any success so
  This brought the total military population of Greyspire to sixteen
companies, each containing about twenty-five people, plus various
officers and special troops.  Mongo got the impression that Marcus
was always in need of more spell-casters.

  Naturally, Greyspire's troop strength wasn't something that was
easily tallied and monitored.  The population was in a state of
constant change, especially after each new conflict was over.  The
strengths of the different units never stayed stable for long.  And
speaking of stables, Mongo had wondered about the cavalry's horses
and where (and how) they got out to exercise.  He'd been given the
tour, walking through the stables (which were indoors with smaller-
than-halfling-sized air vents to the outside.)  Every so often, the
horses were taken across the bridge of stone, to gallop about in a
true outdoor environment.
  Another major concern for Greyspire and its population was food.
There were some pens, for holding and breeding animals; in one of
the upper areas of the fortress, a large garden provided vegetables
and fruits.  However, even Mongo knew that this wasn't enough food
to feed the entire force.  Marcus' answer wasn't complete, though;
he mentioned frequent supply caravans, augmented by "another source."
  When it came to water, however, Mongo completely understood how
the fortress was supplied.  It was a trick he'd seen used in some
dwarven cities underground:  a magical water-spewing decanter was
buried in a deep shaft, creating an ever-flowing well of clean
water that could be used for anything.  Yes, indeed - a good one,
that.  Marcus, however, took it one step further, storing excess
water (of which there was a lot) in various reservoirs and barrels
just in case something ever happened to the magical decanter.

  Mongo shook off these thoughts as he hefted another block of stone.
Staggering back across the hall, he recalled the end of his dinner
with Marcus, that first night...

  Mongo:  How do you pick and choose your battles?
  Marcus:  No alliances with evil leaders.  No massacres.  No major
    campaigns in lands farther than a week's march.
  Mongo:  Damn...can you really pick and choose like that?
  Marcus:  Lately, yes.  The level of conflict has been high in the
    last year, and I don't see this ceasing.  There's a lot of unrest
    in the Flanaess, especially to the south and east.
  Mongo:  War means guaranteed income, I guess.
  Marcus:  (nods)  At times, I wish Greyspire wasn't in the middle of
    a wasteland.  I don't like marching most of the troops away, thus
    leaving the fortress with a skeleton crew.
  Mongo:  Must be quite a skeleton crew, though.  I've heard about
    the monsters in these parts.
  Marcus:  A great coincidental asset, actually.  Those monsters tend
    to keep hostile visitors to a minimum.
  Mongo:  I'll bet.  (he scratches his beard)  Well, I'm off to talk
    to Noggin about where I'll fit in.
  Marcus:  Until later, then.
  Mongo:  Seeya.  (he wanders away)

  Mongo frowned again.  There still hadn't been any decision about
where he and Gorin would fit in; for now, they were treading water,
while improving their physical conditioning.

Gorin:  (runs past)  Come on, old one!  You'll gather cobwebs if you
  keep gathering wool like that!  (he dashes away)
Mongo:  (muttering)  That damned Bosco.  Gorin used to be so well-

  Yes, Mongo thought to himself, Greyspire was an interesting and
worthwhile place.  The only thing now was to figure out exactly what
_his_ place in it was.

next:      Mongo and Gorin's exact role in Greyspire
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     In episode 513, I told you that the next episode would
  deal more with Mongo and Gorin's acclimation to Greyspire.  For
  some reason that I don't recall now, I did a Rillen arc instead.
  The story you just read was what I _meant_ to do after 513.

  It's 2/18/98 as I mail this one out.  In two days, I will be
headed to Mardi Gras '98 in New Orleans, along with eight hand-
picked, top-notch operatives.  Our mission:  chaos.

  In case you're not on the mailing list, here's an announcement
that was mailed out on 2/13/98:

  Three announcements:

  1)  The Sneak Previews section of the web page has been updated
      through April 1998 (episode 542 & lost tales 21)

  2)  The Lost Tales series will conclude with #25.  This series
      was never intended to be permanent, only a supplement, and
      after 25 of them, I'll have told almost every untold story
      I wanted to.  The 25 stories will be collected in a unique
      book:  the book of lost tales (as opposed to book 23, etc.)

  3)  Epic III will end with episode 550, and Epic IV will begin
      with episode 551.  Corollaries to this:

      a)  I am almost certain that there will be a fast-forwarding
          of 2-3 game years between 550 and 551, to put us closer
          to the Greyhawk Wars timeframe.
      b)  As far as writing the main Adventurers series goes, I am
          thinking about taking the second half of 1998 off, in
          order to get something else started.  This would tie in
          well with the fast-forwarding I just mentioned, and it
          would allow me to finally get my new series launched.
          I'll have to think on this further over the coming months.

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