Chapter #558

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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                    +
+                           +
+  Rillen       18th level human monk                           (N) +
+  Songa        13th level human huntress                       (N) +
+  Date:        4/8/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       somewhere in the barbarian lands to the northeast   +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Do you know how to fight?"                                      +
+  "Do _you_ know how to _die_?"                                    +
+                              - from _The Crow:  City of Angels_   +

                   DLVIII.  Drastic Changes

  Rillen's breath clouded before his face as he jogged back to the
cabin, a trio of small rabbits in the pouch at his side.  Songa had
been teaching him the craft of traps, and Rillen was a diligent
student at anything he put his mind to.  Of course, the game he'd
caught this morning wouldn't feed the two of them for more than a
day, but at least his skills were showing improvement.  More than
that, his mood was showing improvement.  Ever since they'd departed
Songa's village, more than half a year ago, both of their moods had
changed markedly.  Here, in the true untamed wilderness, the couple
enjoyed freedom unlike any other.  No laws governed them; no people
bothered them.  They did only what they wanted, and what they needed,
and they were truly free.
  However, things were soon to change, for Songa was with child.
She had been, in fact, for several months now; before it was obvious
in a physical way, they had suspected it based on other symptoms.
When the huntress, who'd hardly been sick a day in her life, began
vomiting at random times, they'd known something was amiss.  Finally,
they'd verified their suspicions with a trip to Songa's village, two
weeks' march to the south and west.  There, the small community's old
midwife had listened, asked some questions, and then given them the
  They were, of course, happy.  They hadn't exactly planned for this
to happen, but given the numerous and vigorous attempts, the outcome
was inevitable.  Privately, Rillen had hoped for at least a year or
two of quiet, peaceful living with Songa before they had to think
about children.  He was not displeased, though, to learn that he
would be a father before the year was out.  True, this situation
would require some adjustments, but they were both capable of making
the necessary changes.
  For example, Songa wasn't doing much hard work these days; she
instead focused on lighter (but still necessary) work, such as
building and planting the garden.  She'd also produced a number of
clay jars and woven garments, and collected many roots, herbs, and
other useful flora.  Rillen dealt with more strenuous tasks, such
as finding, moving, and splitting wood.  He had also been working
to fortify their home - "just in case" as he put it.  From various
places directly outside the cabin, he'd used his bow to sight lines
of fire.  Then he'd roamed the woodlands around the cabin and removed
rocks, dead trees, and anything else that could potentially be used
for cover against missile fire from the cabin.
  Further, Rillen used a bore, knife, and saw to cut one arrow-slit
into each of the three main walls, plus a peep-hole in the cabin's
door.  The three slits allowed effective arrow-fire from the cabin
while providing nearly-perfect cover against similar attacks.  Three
wedges of heavy wood rested near these openings, inside the cabin,
so that if necessary the arrow-slits could be blocked totally.
  Rillen had considered digging an emergency escape passage through
the floor of the cabin, but Songa would have none of it.  She also
pointed out that the ground was cold, frozen solid more than half
of the year.  The benefits wouldn't have been worth the work, and
when Rillen realized this, he settled for digging a mere cellar, a
six-foot wide, six-foot long, four-foot deep hole in one corner of
the cabin.  He covered this cavity with a trellis of thin logs (or
thick branches, depending on one's point of view) bound together
with rope.  This man-made hatch-cover was in turn covered beneath
a large rug, such that nobody but the two of them knew it was there
at all.
  These precautions did seem foolish at times, but Rillen had seen
enough of the world to know that proper prior planning often came
in handy and helped avert problems down the road.  The concept was
to be put to the test, and soon; one day not long after they'd seen
the village midwife and returned to their cabin, they had their
first visitors since building the cabin...

Rillen:  (busy chopping wood, he glances up as he hears the sound
  of approaching people)

  Some - especially the sort of people who preferred to live in
wilderness isolation - might have fled into their cabin at that
moment.  Not Rillen; he stood where he was, the huge double-bladed
axe held easily in one hand.

Rillen:  (loudly, but not loudly enough that whoever is coming will
  hear)  Songa.
Songa:  (pokes her head out the door)  Eh?
Rillen:  We have company.  You should take my bow and stay out of
  sight and listen.
Songa:  (vanishes from sight)

  It didn't take long for the visitors to come into sight; they
marched into the clearing, leaving footprints in the shallow snow.
They were five in number; all were human, and all were males.  The
strangers were clad in winter clothing of the type favored by out-
landers, though their garments were tattered and worn as if they'd
been on the move for a long time.  They were also weighed down by
a number of sacks and bags, most of which were tied onto a crude
wooden sled.
  All of the men bore swords, and Rillen's grip on his axe tightened

man #1:  Ho, there!
Rillen:  You're a long way from home.
man #1:  Indeed we are...we were hoping you could help with that.
Rillen:  You were?
man #1:  (gestures to the cabin's chimney)  We saw the smoke.
Rillen:  Ah.  (he eyes the five men)  Who are you, and what is your
  business in ou-  in my forest?
man #1:  _Your_ forest?  (he smiles)  No matter.  We're just passing
  through, but our horses were killed by predators.  We're down to
  our last day's worth of food and water, and we were hoping that you
  could help us out.
Rillen:  (realizes that the other didn't really answer his questions)
  Predators?  What kind of predators took five horses but no men?
  And how did you miss the stream that runs nearby this place?
man #2:  (looks like he wants to say something, but at a glance from
  the first man, he keeps quiet)
man #1:  (sighs)

  At this obviously pre-arranged signal from their leader, the others
sprung into action.  Three of the four produced loaded crossbows from
beneath their cloaks, aiming these deadly weapons at Rillen.  The other
man made a wide circle around his companions' field of fire - as well
as Rillen - and headed toward the cabin door.

man #5:  You don't have a woman in there, do you?
Rillen:  Of course not.  I live here alone.
man #5:  It's been a long, long time since I've had a woman.  Even a
  barbarian woman would do me just fine right now.
Rillen:  (scowls at the visitors)
man #1:  Drop the axe, or we'll shoot.
Rillen:  (eyes the door, considering the distance and the angles of
man #3:  Don't even think about it - you'll never make it.

  The foe was right, and Rillen knew it.  Reluctantly, he dropped the
axe, as the invaders leered and jeered.

man #2:  Hah.
man #3:  What good's a barbarian without his axe?
man #4:  Maybe we should shoot him anyway.
man #1:  No.  Later, maybe, but not now.  (to one of the crossbowmen)
  Tie him up.  We'll deal with him in a bit.
Rillen:  Who are you people?
man #1:  Not that it matters to you, but we're on the run from someone
  we recently robbed.  (he nods at the tied bundles on the sled)  As
  you can see, we made off with quite a haul.
Rillen:  And they're chasing you?
man #1:  We're being chased, yes, but I'm figuring we can use you to
  help throw off the trail.  First, though, we'll be needing some
  fresh supplies.  I'm sure you have some, eh?
man #5:  (getting dangerously close to the cabin's door, which is
  slightly ajar)  Food, water...maybe some booze?

next:      comeuppance
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
email:       (preferred)
notes:     Two pregnancies revealed in five episodes, you ask?
  Well, understand that my younger brother's son is now two years
  old, and as I sit here in Hilton Head writing, I have gotten much
  exposure to the ways of infants.  Now that I think about it, I've
  gotten glimpses into most of the facets of the pregnancy/birth/
  infant/toddler cycle over the last two years.  As most things do,
  this got me to thinking.
    For more than five hundred episodes, I've written stories about
  things that, although I will never experience, I could at least
  understand through the basic building blocks and conventions of
  fantasy literature.  Then the Adventurers by and large began to
  settle down - something which was also new to me, but that I could
  project and write with some realism.
    Now, however, they must logically enter a new phase - one which
  I have _no_ experience with:  babies and child-raising.  I will
  have to proceed slowly, with caution...and I still may choose not
  to delve into the gory details.

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