Chapter #579

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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                    +
+                           +
+  Rillen       18th level human monk                           (N) +
+  Songa        13th level human huntress                       (N) +
+  Date:        7/2/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        daytime                                             +
+  Place:       somewhere in the barbarian lands to the northeast   +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "The only easy day was yesterday."                               +
+                                      - Navy SEAL training motto   +

                    DLXXIX.  Conditioning

  Several months had passed since Rillen and Songa defeated the
bandits and encountered the silver dragon Araxi Argenti.  Songa's
belly had swollen considerably, getting bigger and bigger as the
days and weeks were counted.  Of course, she wasn't exactly pleased
about every aspect of this...

Songa:  I look like a big fat chicken!
Rillen:  No, you don't.
Songa:  Are you sure?
Rillen:  Of course.  Chickens have feathers.
Songa:  (swatting at him)  Well, I _feel_ like a big fat chicken.
Rillen:  Chickens don't talk or walk like you do.
Songa:  Thanks a lot.

  Rillen had been busy nearly every day of late, despite Songa
still doing most of her normal activities.  She clearly did not
intend to let her pregnancy stop her from carrying on, just like
before.  However, Rillen was busier than ever, for in addition to
hunting, he was training hard for the upcoming tournament.  Ever
since Songa had given him her blessing - newborn baby or no - he'd
thrown himself into his training.  Daily, the big monk practiced
punches, kicks, blocks, flips, and many other aspects of unarmed
combat.  He also worked with his staff, going through strikes and
parries, practicing on thick trees and thin dangling limbs alike.
There was nothing to be done with the longbow, for such weapons had
no place in fighting tournaments.
  They hadn't planned the details out yet, but the basic idea was
that the baby was due about a month before the tournament.  Songa
planned to have her child and then recover and journey with Rillen
to watch him test himself.  This defied all logic, especially that
of old Helga, the village midwife who they went to visit every two
weeks or so.  Helga, a stout woman who was a grandmother herself,
tried over and over again to convince Songa to give up thoughts of
making such a journey so soon after giving birth.  It wouldn't be
good for the new mother or the baby, she said; Songa had no reply,
but the look in her eyes made her unspoken reply known.
  Rillen now admired his chosen mate more than ever, and it made
him happy to see her so determined to accompany him and lend her
support.  He wasn't sure that a newborn baby should make such a
journey either, but he figured he'd wait until the time came and
address such issues then.  In the meantime, he trained, and he did
the necessary chores.
  The latter included building a large, fenced-in area, a task which
the warrior had completed a month ago.  Now, after a trip to the
barbarian village, this area held a number of chickens.  As a result,
the couple had fresh eggs from time to time, and once in a while, if
they felt like it, they could have chicken for dinner.  Of course,
such livestock - chickens, or whatever else they might get - would
be hard-pressed to survive in the colder seasons.  Songa, knowing
as always, had pointed out that they could simply _eat_ the chickens
when the cold weather came, and get new ones in the spring.
  On one of her scouting missions, many months ago, Songa had found
a small lake nearby.  Now, Rillen went there once a week, and he
always returned with a string of fresh-caught fish.  So successful
was the warrior, with Songa's training for all these months, that
he began to wonder if he could bring down airborne fowl with his
great bow.  Of course, that would necessitate owning hunting dogs,
which could also serve as guard dogs and provide them with some
companionship.  With the abundance of game in the area, there would
be no worry about feeding them.
  There were no young puppies to be had in the village, not right
now at least, and it occurred to them to talk to Tarl if they ever
saw him again.  The big barbarian had been accompanied by a pack of
trained dogs last time, and he probably knew all about breeding and
raising the animals.
  In the meantime, Rillen had put one of his seldom-used magical
items to work, for he wished to know and understand its properties.
The tiny onyx figurine, when a certain word was spoken, transformed
into an ebon hound of large size.  This dog proved to be rather
friendly, quickly endearing itself to Rillen and Songa.  The animal
was smart, too - it seemed to know who to growl at and who to be
friendly to.  The dog could only "stay" for about six hours each day,
before reverting to statuette form, but they found it to be a welcome
and faithful companion.  All that remained, it seemed, was to give
the magical hound a name.

  Thus it was that Rillen and Songa passed their summer, isolated
from civilization and other people in their day-to-day life.  They
lived well off the land, its game and soil, and they prospered.
When the point came where Songa was within two months of having her
child, old Helga moved into their hut.  Rillen knew that some in
the village wouldn't be happy about this, but Helga had known Songa
since the latter had been born herself, and the older woman had
insisted.  Besides, there were other midwives in the village, all
trained well by Helga over the years.
  With Helga around to take care of Songa, Rillen was able to devote
even more time to his training.  He didn't want to, at first; he was
spending half the daylight hours on this as it was.  Songa basically
forced him to stop worrying about her and get on with his exercises.
Between her and Helga, she insisted, everything would be fine.  With
that reinforcement, Rillen increased his training pace - a pace that
was already grueling enough to drive a seasoned young warrior into
the ground.
  The warrior began each day with a series of stretches to loosen
his muscles and joints.  After that, he went for a long run, dashing
along the countryside (or sometimes the woods or hills or mountain)
at a rapid pace, using the natural obstacles in his way to test his
speed and reaction time.  Next was breakfast, a wide assortment of
foods that ensured that Rillen would have plenty of strength through-
out the day.  After this meal, he did more stretches, then practiced
his stances and forms for an hour.  After that, another snack was
had, and then he went for a swim in the cold waters of the lake.
This was followed by striking practice - kicks, punches, and such -
with an training dummy Rillen had made from a dead tree's thick trunk.
On a typical day, all of this kept the warrior busy from dawn to dusk,
and he then would return to the cabin, exhausted, to eat and talk with
Songa, and recently, Helga.  One or two days out of each week, he'd
take a day off from his regimen and seek food, hunting or gardening
as their needs necessitated.
  It was grueling, but he had been at it for more than a month, and
it was paying off.  His body was strong, his mind stronger.  He was
as fast and limber as he'd ever been, and for one of his significant
stature, this was truly astonishing.  Rillen was highly pleased, as
he told them one night after a particularly good workout.

Rillen:  I am in the best shape of my life.
Songa:  Believe me, I can tell.
Helga:  Is this...contest so important?
Rillen:  (nods)  It is.  Past contests of this sort have been marred
  by all sorts of problems, from greed to sorcery.  This one will not
  be anything less than a pure test of skill and talent, and I intend
  to make the most of the opportunity.
Songa:  Where is it going to be held?
Rillen:  Not far, actually.  This year, it is in a mountain arena in
  the southern region of the kingdom called Tenh.
Songa:  Ah.
Rillen:  Don't worry about those details.  Your task is far greater,
  and more important, than mine could ever be.  (he places a hand on
  her distended stomach)

next:      an angry Mongo revisited
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
email:       (preferred)
notes:     Official correction:  previously, I mentioned the trip
  time from Rillen and Songa's remote cabin to the barbarian
  village as two weeks.  This was and is incorrect; the actual
  travel time is about two days, on a horse in no hurry.
    This episode was meant to wrap up some loose ends, alert you
  to others, and generally bring up some Rillen- and Songa-related
  topics and ideas that I'd either forgotten about or never thought
  of in the first place.  It's a direct setup to the episode in
  which the baby will be born, but the time's not right just yet.
  We need to revisit some other old friends first.

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