Chapter #582

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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                    +
+                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Mongo        18th level dwarven warrior                     (CG) +
+    Gorin      10th level dwarven warrior                     (NG) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/9/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the fortress of Greyspire, in the Riftcanyon        +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Some birds aren't meant to be caged.  Their feathers are        +
+   just too bright."                                               +
+                               - from _The Shawshank Redemption_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





             DLXXXII.  Getting to the Bottom of Things





  After a short but very fierce battle, the forces of Greyspire have
emerged victorious!

Noggin:  (to the dwarves around him)  Good work, everyone!

  The dwarven companies, along with all the other Greyspire infantry
and cavalry, were but a short distance outside the huge bridge of
natural stone that connected the fortress with the mainland.  Without
being told to by Lord Marcus, who was overseeing the entire battle
from the back of a huge warhorse, the men of Greyspire had formed a
half-circle to guard the bridge and gatehouse.  Reports now came in
from scouts:  several hundred enemy soldiers, those who had fled
rather than surrender, were massed a league or so to the west, on
the great barren plain of dirt.
  As for the gatehouse, its small compliment of men had been slain;
somehow, the enemy had snuck up on these guards and slain them before
they could sound an alarm to warn those in the fortress.

Wu:  Magic, no doubt.

  The wizard, Lord Marcus, and all the commanders were gathered in
a war tent, holding conference on the battle just fought.

Lord Marcus:  This attack was too inefficient to be serious - I just
  don't believe it.
Jason:  (the commander of the First Regiment, consisting of eight
  companies of infantry)  It was a test.
Lord Marcus:  Eh?
Jason:  Someone wanted to see how fast and how well we'd react to
  an apparent siege situation.  Thus, they ringed Greyspire and
  forced our hand.

  Jason was short, only a bit over five feet, but he was stocky and
well-muscled, as strong and tough as any soldier in Greyspire.  He
hailed from the Lands of the Sea Princes; an escaped slave, he had
carved a name for himself as a pirate captain before coming to Lord
Marcus several years ago.  Some figured the man to be running from
something, but Jason wasn't telling.  He was a conservative leader
whose regiment consistently had the lowest casualty rate; he was
also an expert on seaborne warfare and an above-average infantry
commander.

Jason:  Now, they know how we will react to a mass attack.
Lord Marcus:  (nods)  Or they think they know...still, whatever the
  case, this is troubling.
Rin:  It had to be the bandits.  Perhaps the Bandit Kingdoms are
  uniting, preparing to move en masse.

  The gigantic warrior, commander of the Second Regiment of infantry,
sheathed his two-handed sword, the weapon now resting diagonally
across his broad shoulders and back.  Rin was a native of the Ratik
region, the bastard son of an unnamed barbarian raider and a settler
woman.  He had been blessed with his father's physique and strength
while at the same time gaining his mother's intelligence and shrewd
wit.  Rin was one of the more ferocious warriors in the entire army,
his prowess in battle the source of many legends, some of them true.

Rin:  We had best be on our guard.  The Bandit Kingdoms, if they put
  aside their differences, could take the fortress with ease.
Lord Marcus:  If they commit enough blood to it, yes, they could
  take Greyspire.  (he sighs)  It was bound to come to this, after
  all these years of building and training and forming this army,
  here amidst these forsaken lands.
Ortho:  (rides up, expertly stopping his mount just short of the
  other commanders)  The enemy is fully routed and in full retreat.
Lord Marcus:  Or so it would seem.
Ortho:  Whatever do you mean?

  The cavalier led a battalion (half a regiment) of cavalry, a mix of
light and heavy mounted forces.  He was easily the most experienced
mounted combatant in Greyspire; it was said that he had some mystical
rapport with horses, such was his skill and knowledge.  The man had
been born and raised a foppish noble in Urnst, but his fighting edge
had been honed in countless border skirmishes.  He had once led a
force of a mere hundred cavalry to a crushing triumph over a band of
five hundred orcs.  Ortho was a master with the lance as well as the
mounted use of longsword and longbow; despite his high-born nature
and the attitude that came with it, he was well-liked and respected
in Greyspire.

Ortho:  (sharp, as always)  You suspect a re-formation and a second
  attack?
Lord Marcus:  Actually, I hadn't...but that is a possibility as well.
Ortho:  Shall I send some fast riders out to check on this?
Lord Marcus:  (nods)
Ortho:  By your command.  (he salutes, then spurs his warhorse and
  rides away)
Lord Marcus:  (to Noggin)  I am hearing favorable reports about your
  companies, especially Mongo Thunderhead in particular.
Noggin:  (nods, wearily)  It's true.  That one is a whirlwind on the
  battlefield!  The enemy was falling left and right before him, for
  he has great skill and bravery, as well as great power.
Lord Marcus:  I suspected as much.
Noggin:  I have to say, though, that trying to get him to follow any
  orders in the heat of combat was a lost cause.  He's much like a
  berserker, a loner - a good weapon to hurl against foes, but
  uncontrollable.
Lord Marcus:  Again, I suspected as much.

  In addition to Lord Marcus, Wu, and the commanders, several others
were also present.  Dhakab, the yellow-skinned warrior from the far
West, stood at Marcus' side as always, his magical tulwar gleaming
despite its sheath.  Friar Cas, the priest of Fharlanghn, was here,
resting for a while after the initial healing of the most gravely
wounded.  The fiesty wood elf O'Finnegan and the halfling rogue
Qesfen were still in Greyspire, with a small hand-picked force that
included several "monster" allies, just in case everything went
terribly wrong in the battle.  Also missing was Gnerkil, commander
of the seldom-seen "Company X", the secret group that undertook
covert missions such as infiltration and sabotage.  Then again,
they never participated in battles such as this anyway.

Lord Marcus:  We shall have to be careful, very careful indeed, in
  the days and weeks to come.  I'll have the scouts and spies double
  their efforts - if some bandit plot is afoot, we need to know as
  much as possible.  Even bits of information that appear to be
  useless might in fact be very important.
others:  (nodding to themselves and each other)

  Elsewhere, Gorin was chatting with his fellow dwarves.  Overall,
the dwarven companies under Noggin had made a good accounting of
themselves, slaying many foes and incurring no casualties, only
wounds.  Of course, most of the dwarves knew that they had Mongo to
thank for putting the fear of gods into their foes, paving the way
for an easier battle.

random dwarven warrior:  That one's the greatest warrior I've ever
  seen!  The enemy fell like wheat before him...
other dwarf:  Bah.  I didn't see anything - I was too busy fighting
  myself.
Gorin:  It's true, every word.  I've fought alongside Mongo for
  awhile now, and he's not afraid of man or beast.
other dwarf:  Huh.
Gorin:  We owe him a great deal of thanks...(he privately wonders
  whether Mongo will be at Greyspire much longer)



  Ortho's scouts found no trace of the enemy regrouping; they had
scattered across the plain, and riding after them was pointless and
a waste of time and resources.  The Greyspire forces filtered back
into the fortress, one company at a time, the day won.  New guards,
a double force plus a wizard and a priest this time, were stationed
at the gatehouse.  The great fire-pits were built up high and lit,
their flames casting a bright glow out into the darkness.  Within
Greyspire, each soldier now attended to the binding of wounds, the
cleaning of weapons, or perhaps a good night's slumber.
  Mongo had delayed his departure for at least the night, for he was
exhausted from the battle and didn't feel like setting out into the
hostile lands at night.  He was dozing in his quarters, halfway into
a dream about some great battle, when he was awakened by a knock at
the door.

Mongo:  (sits up)  Zzz- Huh?  What?
voice:  It is Lord Marcus.
Mongo:  Oh.  (he rubs his eyes)  Come in.
Lord Marcus:  (enters, closing the door behind him)  We should talk.

  Despite his mood and resentment, Mongo was impressed.  In all his
time in the fortress, he'd neither seen nor heard of the general
ever visiting anyone personally, in their quarters.  Soldiers went
to see Lord Marcus, not the other way around.

Mongo:  So, Lord Marcus, what can I do for you?
Marcus:  Drop that "Lord" bit - I never cared much for it anyway.
  (he sits on a chair, turning it around so that he's facing the
  dwarf)
Mongo:  What's going on?  I suppose you're here to tell me what a
  bad job I did with that scouting mission into the depths of the
  fortress.
Marcus:  Well-
Mongo:  Don't worry, I know I screwed up.  I'm not happy about it
  either.
Marcus:  Actually, you did a good job.  Those turned to stone have
  since been restored to life, thanks to Wu's efforts.
Mongo:  Really?!?  (nods)  I'm glad to hear it.
Marcus:  As for the mission, well...you did as well as any fighting
  man - or adventurer - could ask for, coming up against multiple
  medusae and winning.  I'm glad that they're cleared out, even if
  explorations into that area have stopped.
Mongo:  Oh.
Marcus:  As for the hole you punched in the bottom of the fortress,
  I've already had Wu and some dwarves fly down there.  The breach
  is sealed - stronger than before, too.  Nothing will be sneaking
  up our dungeons.
Mongo:  Whew.  You don't stay idle for long.
Marcus:  I can't afford to.
Mongo:  Hmm.  So...why are you here?  I'm guessing this isn't just
  a social visit.
Marcus:  I'll get right to the point.  I've watched you train, and
  I've watched you fight.  You have incredible drive and power -
  the stuff of legends - but I'm not sure that it's best applied
  to the military life.  Or at least not the organized military
  life.
Mongo:  Oh.
Marcus:  You aren't prepared to take orders.  That I understand,
  for a long time ago, I too was a wandering adventurer.  As I
  got older, my perspective broadened, and I learned to follow
  leaders and work as part of a greater unit.  Battles added up,
  and eventually, I became a captain, and then a commander, and
  then a general.  It has been a long, hard road, filled with the
  deaths of friends and fellow soldiers.
Mongo:  What does this mean for me?
Marcus:  I believe - I honestly do - that you will one day walk
  the same long, hard road, and rise to lead others.  Now is not
  the time, though, I don't think.
Mongo:  You're right about that.  (he cracks his neck)  So you're
  telling me that I have no place here, and that I need to go?
Marcus:  No.  You're hearing the words and not the meaning. I
  don't want you to go, unless you want to: you are too good a
  warrior.  We can still try to work at it, and if we choose to
  do that, you will be a company commander under Noggin.  I've
  got some more dwarven soldiers on the way, as part of a deal
  I worked out with a certain dwarven king we both know.  The
  dwarves here will soon number enough for an entire battalion,
  perhaps someday a regiment.  The opportunities are limitless -
  if you choose to stay.
Mongo:  You're giving me a choice?
Marcus:  (nods)  Everyone here has faced the same choice at some
  point.  You just don't see those who chose other ways.  Like I
  said, we can try to work at this.  You have the potential, just
  as I did...and just as Yod Ironbeard did, too.
Mongo:  Hmm.
Marcus:  (stands)  You must decide.  There's no hurry...just let
  me know by the end of the week.  And remember, if you choose to
  go, you are always welcome in the future.  Perhaps you will learn
  something out there, on the road, that will set the foundation
  for a military career.  Only the fates know, but I believe that
  your destiny doesn't include fighting alone forever.  (he extends
  his hand)
Mongo:  (shakes the general's hand)  Thanks...for everything.  I'll
  let you know my decision.
Marcus:  I'm sure you'll make the right one...the one you're most
  comfortable with.  If you leave, Greyspire shall still be here
  to take you in again. And if you stay, we will start work at it
  afresh.

  With that, Lord Marcus departed, leaving Mongo at a crossroads in
his life.  He had two roads ahead, and he had to take one of them.
Either would be challenging, but Mongo had to figure out which road
was the best one for him to take.





next:      we revisit a dude we haven't seen in a long, long time
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.intertex.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           http://www.shobaki.org/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv/adv.html
email:     tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     Mongo's conflict here was inevitable, and writing it up
  has been more enjoyable than I thought it would be.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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