Chapter #535

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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:        8/10/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        shortly after dawn                                  +
+  Place:       just southwest of the Riftcanyon's western end      +
+  Climate:     mild                                                +
+  "Soldiers win battles, and generals get the credit."             +
+                                           - Napoleon Bonaparte    +

                  DXXXV.  The March to Battle

  Mongo and Gorin, as part of Greyspire's dwarven attack force, are
marching to the southwest on their way to battle...

Mongo:  Goblins.  It figures.
Gorin:  They're always up to something, those goblins.
Mongo:  Preying on farms at the edge of a kingdom...that's what they
Noggin:  (rides up beside the other two dwarves)  That's what we're
  here for, boys - to end the preying.
Mongo:  It'll be fun.
Noggin:  It's never fun, but it's our job.  (he rides on)
Gorin:  What was that all about?
Mongo:  (shrugs)  Pep talk, I'd guess.  Or maybe he thinks we don't
  know what we're doing.
Gorin:  And what's with this weather?  It was cool yesterday, in the
  fortress, but today it's mild...almost warm.
Mongo:  Well, we _are_ heading south.
Gorin:  Not that fast.
Mongo:  The Riftcanyon, maybe.  It's a weird place.

  They continued along for hours, staying on the move.  Meals were
simple and rushed, as were rest and feeding breaks for the pack
animals.  This, then, was life in a military force:  a fast, basic
existence, with no time to enjoy life's conventional pleasures.
Mongo didn't mind - in fact, he had already decided that it "made
him a better dwarf" - but Gorin wasn't totally thrilled.  Still,
both were too tough to complain or quit, and as the hours turned
into days, the force neared its destination.

Noggin:  Behold - those hills.  Now we need to find this little city
  on the fringes of the hills.  Scouts!
dwarven scout:  (steps forth)  Sir!
other dwarven scout:  (also steps forth)  Sir!
Noggin:  The city of Fergor is supposed to be on the southern edge
  of these hills.  Ride ahead and find it.
scouts:  Yessir!  (they immediately head out to do that very thing)
Harvis:  (rides up)  Are we almost there?
Noggin:  Almost.

  Harvis was the sergeant in charge of the two dozen human troops,
these being the escort to the dwarven force.  Lord Marcus often
put small forces of one type with larger forces of another type,
to crosstrain and allow the men to gain experience they wouldn't
otherwise get.  In this case, he also wanted an escort for the
dwarves, someone to stay behind when the latter entered the hills
and warrens of the goblins - a rear guard, supply line, and backup
force, all in one.

  By nightfall of that same day, they'd found the town and set up
camp.  Of course, the camp wasn't a big deal, since the troops
were soon to venture out to the goblin-infested area of the hills.
Noggin's contact on this end was the city's head councillor, an
elderly diplomat named Chauncebar.

Chauncebar:  Tomorrow, you say?
Noggin:  Right.  My forces are tired, and need some rest.  Not to
  mention food and drink.  We'll go take a look in the morning.
Chauncebar:  Very well.  I have taken the liberty of securing you
  quarters in an old barn.
Mongo:  Gee, thanks.
Noggin:  (glares at Mongo)  I'll handle the negotiations here,
  thank you.
Mongo:  (fumes)
Noggin:  (to Chauncebar)  Speaking of securing things, do you have
  our fee?
Chauncebar:  I've got it secured in my office.
Noggin:  Good.  Harvis and some of his men will collect it now,
  and keep it safe while we're in the hills fighting.

  This was yet another purpose of Harvis and his men:  keeping the
money secure while the campaign was underway.  After all, nobody
wanted thieves to come and take away the wages of the troops.

Noggin:  I'll see you in the morning, then?  First light?
Chauncebar:  Uh...I don't get up that early.  The captain of our
  city guard will handle the actual details of showing you where
  we believe the goblins are laired.
Noggin:  Believe?
Chauncebar:  Well, we're not totally sure where they are coming
  from - we just have a best guess at this point...
Noggin:  (shakes his head)  Okay, okay.  Who's this captain of
  the guard that I'll need to talk to?
Chauncebar:  His name's Rendar.  He'll be here at dawn.
Noggin:  Okay.
Chauncebar:  Very good, then.  (he leaves)
Mongo:  "Very good, then"...?  What a wimp!
Noggin:  (shakes his head)  Clangeddin save us from diplomats and

  Harvis and a few of his men had followed Chauncebar to get the
money.  Meanwhile, the rest of the soldiers followed Chauncebar's
assistant (who was conveniently waiting outside) to their quarters
for the night.  It was a barn, but it was warm, and dry, and clean.

Gorin:  We've seen worse.
dwarven soldier:  We all have.  There was one time, in the wild,
  when we were in a mudpit during a rainstorm.
Mongo:  Goblins...
other dwarven soldier:  Nervous, eh?
Mongo:  Hell, no!  I want to fight!  I want to smash!  I've been
  cooped up for too long.
Gorin:  I'm sure we'll get our chance tomorrow...

  Dawn saw them heading out to the hills, led by Rendar and a half-
dozen of his men.  The captain of Fergor's guards was a slightly
chubby, grizzled veteran, and he definitely knew his stuff.

Rendar:  It's an hour's ride from the city.  We've tracked small
  numbers of them to a certain area of the hills, and my guess is
  that they're all living beneath there, in burrows and warrens.
  I just don't have any experience in that kind of place - hell, I
  probably wouldn't even fit in the tunnels!
Noggin:  Shouldn't be a problem.
Rendar:  I can take you right to the farthest place we've ever
  been able to track them.  (he rubs his grey-stubbled chin)  Of
  course, we haven't exactly tried that hard - didn't want to
  spook them, for the time when we'd finally fight them.
Noggin:  (claps the other on the back)  You did exactly the right
  thing, good fellow.  We'll be able to handle it from here.
Rendar:  Listen, I really appreciate you guys coming to help us
  like this.
Noggin:  Don't sweat it - we're being paid well.  Just point us
  to where you think the goblin lair is, and we'll take over.
Rendar:  Gotcha.

  When the combined force (Harvis' squad stayed behind, save for
one man whose purpose was to survey the site that Noggin's troops
were heading to) neared the hills, they kept to the ground and
behind cover.  Goblins were lazy and slack, as a rule, but they
still might have had sentries posted.

  From their cover, behind scrub bushes and small boulders, the
dwarves could see no less than a dozen tunnel entrances in the
hills before them.  These might be connected, or they might be
individual passages, but one thing was sure:  this area was the
farthest that Rendar had ever tracked the goblins.

  With the battleground located, the recon part of the mission
came next.  Noggin spread out his troops, ringing the suspect
area with sets of eyes and ears.  If even one goblin showed its
pointy little green head, the entire force would know within a
moment or two, and be ready to act.

  Meanwhile, Noggin and those troops most experienced in tunnel
warfare - Mongo among them - stayed back, working up a plan of
attack for when the time came.  It was a little easier since the
majority of the dwarves weren't using missile weapons - this
would be a frontal melee, the dwarves counting on their greater
size and strength to drive the goblins back.  Still, there were
few solid plans and answers; the exact tactics to use wouldn't
be decided until the dwarves were actually in the tunnels.

  As it turned out, things didn't quite go as planned, for any
of the forces present.

goblin:  (walks out of some bushes, from the region _behind_
  the dwarves, whistling as he walks toward the hills)

  The small humanoid came to a complete stop as he spotted
several dozen dwarves lying low in the bushes and rocks that
overlooked his home.

goblin:  Ack!  (he turns around and runs away, screaming)  Aaa!
Noggin:  Oh, for crying...where's an archer when you need one?
Mongo:  (in one quick motion, he hefts and hurls his hammer,
  bringing the fleeing goblin down messily)
Noggin:  Whoa!  Nice shot.
other dwarves:  (muttering to themselves)
Mongo:  If any goblins in those tunnels heard him...
Noggin:  I know, I know.

  It was already too late.  From within the tunnels, a clamor
had gone up - a screeching and hooting that was most definitely
goblin in origin.  Already, the observing dwarves could see
boulders being rolled into place in the mouths of the tunnels,
blocking them against entry and missile fire.

Noggin:  Okay, so we do this the hard way.

next:      plan B
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Nah.

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