Chapter #598

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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                                                +
+  "There are no mistakes, no coincidences.  All events are         +
+   blessings given to us to learn from."                           +
+                                         - Elizabeth Kubler-Ross   +

                     DXCVIII.  Soul-Searching

  Songa and Rillen have just received some stunning and absolutely
heartbreaking news:  their newborn child has been born dead.  Rillen
possesses a jade ring, a gift from Ged's will, that supposedly holds
the power of a single wish - a wish that can save the baby.  However,
Songa's lifelong dislike of magic and all things magical has caused
her to question this course of action.

Rillen:  (frowns)
Songa:  What value is a life...any life...that was only made possible
  by magic?
Rillen:  But it's our baby - our child - we're talking about.
Songa:  It's magic we're talking about.
Rillen:  I...I just don't understand this.
Songa:  That is because you aren't Fruzti!
Helga:  (unable to believe that Songa is having this conversation,
  much less in her condition, she remains silent, stunned)
Rillen:  But it's our baby!
Songa:  (shaking her head)  In our village, and many others, there
  are sometimes babies born dead, or weak.  We have not tampered with
  their fates, not for long as there have been
Rillen:  (sighs, eyeing the tiny corpse)  Can we not see eye-to-eye on
Songa:  It's just _wrong_!  The dead deserve more respect.  I couldn't
  live with myself, knowing that my child was alive only by some
  wizard's trick.
Rillen:  And I couldn't live with myself, knowing that I hadn't tried.
Songa:  It's my decision too.  (she shakes her head)  If it wasn't
  born alive and well, maybe - just maybe - it wasn't meant to be.
  The gods are wise in such matters.
Helga:  (about to leave the cabin, she changes her mind)  Songa, we
  must clean you up.  (to Rillen)  Please leave.
Rillen:  But-
Helga:  Out.
Songa:  (nods to him, gently)  We'll talk later.

  Rillen left the cabin, walking out into the wooded mountainside by
himself.  Even the black dog didn't accompany him; it seemed to know
that its place was in front of the cabin, guarding the women.  Rillen
shook as he walked...shook with anger, with remorse, with love.  He
was caught in a no-win situation here.  If he acceded to Songa's
wishes, he knew he'd regret it for the rest of his life.  If he used
the wish, used the power he had, the baby would live, but Songa would
be upset with him for a long time, maybe forever.
  He walked, alone, soul-searching.  Did he have the right to use the
wish?  Did Songa have the right to demand that he _not_ use it?  What
would the others, his friends and former companions, say if they were
here?  But they weren't, and he had to make his own decision, choose
his own path.
  It took him a long while, but finally, he made his decision, one
emotion winning out over another.

Rillen:  (reaches in a pouch and retrieves the jade ring, staring at
  it for what seems like an eternity)  Forgive me, Songa.  (removing
  one of the other rings he usually wears, he puts the jade ring on,
  clears his throat, then speaks without hesitation, drawing upon
  his memories of all the times he's witnessed such magic at work,
  striving for simplicity while covering all possible contingencies)
  I wish...that my and Songa's newborn baby was alive and healthy.

  Nothing happened, but then again, he hadn't exactly expected to see
the effects of the ring's magic right then and there.

Rillen:  I'm sorry, my love.  It's done.  (he turns, heading back to
  the cabin)

  For the second time this day, Rillen entered the cabin with his
heart pounding like a smith's hammer.  He expected to hear the wails
of an infant, and the yells of Songa.  Nothing could have prepared him
for the scene inside the cabin, though:  there was nothing going on.
Songa was asleep, to one side; Helga was putting a tiny corpse into a
pile of skins and furs, preparing to wrap the tiny bundle and tie it
with cords.

Rillen:  (his eyes widen, and his jaw drops)
Helga:  (holds a finger to her lips)
Rillen:  (dashes over to the baby's body, regarding it incredulously)

  There was no doubt about it:  the baby was still dead.  In fact, it
looked as it had when Helga had first taken it from the womb, which
meant that the magic hadn't worked - or had never been within the
ring in the first place!  All of that soul-searching had been for

Rillen:  (nearly collapses)
Helga:  (steadies the big warrior, totally unaware that he'd walked
  into the cabin expecting to see his son alive)

  A boy it was, or would have been.  A son...the son Rillen would not
have now...or perhaps ever.

Helga:  (grimacing with sorrow, she steadies Rillen)
Rillen:  (nods dazedly, motioning for her to come outside)

  Moments later...

Helga:  It would be best if you buried the body.
Rillen:  But won't Songa want to-
Helga:  She already has.
Rillen:  How the hell can she sleep at a time like this?
Helga:  I gave her some herbs to help her along her way.  She needs
  rest, badly.
Rillen:  Oh.
black dog:  (sits outside the door, looking sad)
Rillen:  (buries his head in his hands)
Helga:  (puts a hand on his shoulder)  I know this is painful.
Rillen:  You have no idea.
Helga:  Yes, I do.  I've seen dozens of babies born: at least a
  quarter of them die, if not at birth, then in the first year.
Rillen:  But he never even had a chance.
Helga:  In some way that we cannot understand, he probably did.  You
  have to think positive now, and in the future.  You are both young,
  and can have many more children.
Rillen:  (shaking his head)
Helga:  Things could be worse.  Very easily, Songa could have died
  in labor, too.  Think about that.
Rillen:  (sobers somewhat)
Helga:  I'll bring the body.  (she goes back inside)

  The task that followed was easily the most difficult thing Rillen
had ever done.  He chose a remote, unmarked spot about a quarter-
hour's walk from the cabin.  It didn't take him very long to dig
the grave, but it seemed to take forever.  His arms seemed leaden,
the ground seemed as hard as rock, the dirt seemed to weigh a ton.
The warrior lined the grave with rocks, to protect it against wild
animals; more rocks went on top of the bundle.  After the dirt had
been replaced, he smoothed it down and left the site unmarked,
knowing that he'd be able to find it again whenever he wanted.

  After the grim task was done, Rillen stopped by the lake, removing
the ring of jade from his finger.  He hurled it with all his might,
sending it out into the middle of the lake, where it made a little
splash and then sank.  Satisfied with this deed, he was headed back
to the cabin when he suddenly remembered the upcoming tournament.
It was only a month away, and he had been training for it over the
last months...but now it meant nothing to him.  Less than nothing.
He no longer had the motivation, the desire, the will, the fire to
travel there and compete.  In fact, he didn't want to do anything
right now except curl up in a ball and sleep.

  He hoped he'd be able to sleep.  Somehow, he doubted it.

next:      will Rillen go to the tournament?
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
email:       (preferred)
notes:     This was not an easy story to write, any way I looked
  at it.  In fact, it may have been the most difficult story I've
  ever written.  There was no way to "win" - whatever I did would
  be sure to bother or upset some readers.  However, I long ago set
  out to try and tackle the major adult issues that make life more
  than just a game for children.  This was simply the latest - and
  probably not the last - such issue.
    And, please, don't make this into an abortion or pro-life issue.
  It just isn't, at least not to me.

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