Chapter #597

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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:        8/20/577 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       somewhere in the barbarian lands to the northeast   +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "Every problem has a gift for you in its hands."                 +
+                                                 - Richard Bach    +

                     DXCVII.  Labor Pains

  Rillen completed his twentieth lap around the lake.  Or was it his
twenty-first?  It was really hard to say at this point.  He'd been
running for the better part of an hour, his muscles propelling him
along in a nearly-constant sprint.  Deciding to call it a day, he
stopped, now walking, his blood pumping and his skin sweating.
Practicing had been a bit easier lately, as Songa hadn't been in as
much discomfort and the baby had stopped thrashing around so much.
Still, they would both be glad for the child to be born.
  Damn, this felt good!  The warrior was in the best shape of his
life, and he was ready for the tournament, which was a month away.
Unlike a lot of big, strong guys, he actually had muscle tone, some
semblance of definition to his body.  Better, his speed and reflexes
were as good as they'd ever been.  Yes, he felt that he was as ready
as he could possibly be.
  But would the tournament be worthwhile?  Rillen had already said
that this year, there would be no evil plots, no ulterior motives,
no nasty surprises - just a pure fighting tournament.  He could only
hope that it would actually turn out that way, for one never knew
what was amiss behind the scenes.  With any luck, the other fighters
in the competition would help police the thing if necessary.  Then
again, that had been the case at Lao Khan's tournament, three long
years ago, and chaos had still prevailed there.
  Rillen thought about past competitors.  There was Bruce, a fighter
with honor as well as skill, who had helped Rillen and the others
against the sinister machinations of Lao Khan.  There was Norg, the
hulking fellow who beat almost every foe he fought.  There was Torm,
another towering hulk who'd lasted only a short time less than Norg.
There was Sonja, the blond warrior-woman, and the seven-foot amazon
she'd teamed with to defeat the two-headed Gornak.  There was the
wizened Mirimoto, whose odd defensive style had incapacitated the
wild-man Kubala.  There was Sumoa, the huge blubberball of a man
who Bruce had finally beaten.  There were others, both with names
and anonymous; they all varied greatly in appearance and style.
Rillen wondered which of them he'd see at the tournament.  There
would also be some new faces, fighters that Rillen and some of the
others had never seen before.
  The styles of the competitors would vary.  Some would merely be
brawlers, and these would typically be eliminated quickly.  Others
would be fast strikers, relying on speed and agility to win.  Yet
others would be grapplers, using close-quarter wrestling moves to
defeat opponents.  Rillen was also sure that there'd be other types
of fighters...even some he'd never seen or heard or dreamed of.
All he could do was what he had done:  train and practice and be
the best he could be.
  There were likely to be seven or eight matches, for those who
went all the way.  Typically, the "finals" began when there were
only sixteen or thirty-two fighters left; this still meant four or
five tough matches for he who would win the tournament.  Of course,
there were the preliminary matches, as well - those which weeded
out the lesser fighters from the hundreds who began the contest.
Rillen intended to go all the way; he'd have to pace himself, be
efficient, and save his strength and his best moves for the later
matches.  He had not taken this approach in previous tournaments,
but it was a good general strategy, and he was hoping it would
make the difference this time.

  Walking briskly, the big warrior headed away from the lake and
toward the cabin.  Across the body of water, a deer stood, watching
Rillen but not fleeing.  That was one of the pleasant things about
living out here in the middle of nowhere:  they could watch and
interact with nature on a daily basis.  Rillen didn't know what he
would do if their home here was ever discovered by outsiders, or
something of that sort.  This baby business was going to change
everything.  It already had, of course, but more change was yet to
come - Rillen was sure of it.
  A soft, nearly-undetectable padding caused the warrior to turn,
but it was only the black dog, that magical hound that he'd recently
discovered.  The animal was admittedly handy; it could be summoned
from statuette form when needed, it was smart, it was fast, and it
was friendly.  Just the other day, it had caught and killed a snake
outside the cabin.  Rillen was glad for this strange but trusty
companion, and he was planning to bring the animal along to the
tournament in Tenh when he and Songa went.
  As he approached the cabin, he quickly knew that something was
going on, for Songa was screaming in pain!  Rillen forgot all else
as he broke into an all-out run; he reached the cabin in only a
few moments, the black dog at his side.  He burst into the cabin
and beheld an odd sight:  Songa was lying on the floor on a pile
of furs, her knees bent and her feet flat against the furs.  The
midwife Helga was at the huntress' side, along with several pots
of water and clean rags.

Rillen:  What the hell's going on in here?!?  Is it-
Helga:  Yes, it's time.
Rillen:  Why didn't you come and find me?!?
Helga:  And leave her?  (she returns her attention to the prone
Rillen:  (calms down suddenly as he realizes that finally, at last,
  the time has come)  Aie.
Helga:  (to Songa)  Breathe easily...deeply.
Songa:  I'm...trying!
Helga:  Shh.  Relax.
Songa:  Easy...for say...
Rillen:  (realizes that he should be helping out here)  Uh...what
  can I do?
Helga:  Put some water on to boil, get some blankets and furs out,
  then come over here and hold Songa's hand, to keep her calm and
  help her breathe and push.
Rillen:  (before attending to the other things, he moves over and
  takes Songa's hand in his own)  I'm here now.
Songa:  It's...about damn time.
black dog:  (sits down in the doorway, watching the area outside
  the cabin)

  This continued, not for moments or minutes, but for what seemed
like hours.  There were many things to worry about, only a few of
which were obvious.  Rillen found himself greatly thankful for the
presence and experience of Helga.  She knew what she was doing,
and it showed, and Rillen's mind was muchly eased.
  Later - after a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears had been
shed - Helga finally had the baby in her hands.

Rillen:  Why isn't it crying or moving?
Helga:  (frowns, then grimaces, shaking her head)  Stillborn.
Songa:  What?!?  (she tries to sit up, instinctively, but can't)
Rillen:  What do you mean?!?
Helga:  (examining the tiny body sadly)  There's nothing I can do.
  This happens sometimes.
Songa:  Y- you mean...
Rillen:  (wide-eyed)
Helga:  I am sorry.
Songa:  (turns her head to the side, her jaw clenched)
Rillen:  (grits his teeth)

  The warrior had a sudden idea, then - one that was so simple and
so spontaneous that he wondered if this was all some kind of dream.

Rillen:  I have a ring!
Helga:  Eh?
Songa:  What?
Rillen:  Ged's final gift to me...a jade ring which his will claimed
  held a single wish.
Songa:  Wish?
Rillen:  The most powerful to bring back the dead, even.
Songa:  Magic?!?  You know how I feel about magic.
Rillen:  (frowns)  But-
Songa:  What value is a life...any life...that was only made possible
  by magic?

next:      the decision
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
email:       (preferred)
notes:     For those who would have preferred to witness the birth
  in every gory detail:  sorry.  I don't do births.  No need to go
  into those kind of specifics; if you've been there, you already
  know, and if you haven't, hopefully you will someday.
    As far as the fate of the stillborn baby, well, it's tough.  I
  had my own plans, but unfortunately for those plans, Rillen did
  have that wish, as set down by Ged's will.  It's a tough dilemma
  for a writer.  Anyway.  As I type this, I have yet to write 598,
  which means that I don't know for sure what will happen with the
  baby.  This was a painful story - and concept - to write.
    However...don't write me with votes or anything, because by
  the time you read this, 598 will be written and final.  I just
  wanted you to follow my thought processes as they were "live."

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