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+ THE ADVENTURERS +
+ Epic IV +
+ Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other +
+ terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc. However, +
+ TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such +
+ items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR +
+ in any fashion. +
+ The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright +
+ 1991-2000 by Thomas A. Miller. Any resemblance to any persons +
+ or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental. +
+ Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under +
+ the sole condition that no money is made in the process. In that +
+ case, I hope you enjoy them! +
+ Thomas A. Miller +
+ Gorin 11th level dwarven warrior +
+ Date: 1/21/579 C.Y. (Common Year) +
+ Time: dawn +
+ Place: the northern reaches of the Shield Lands +
+ Climate: cold +
+ "Heroes die once, cowards every day." +
+ - Ugur Mumcu +
DCXV. For Honor and Glory
The sun rose slowly, a bit at a time, slowly bathing the rugged plains
in its glow. That glow did little to provide warmth, but still, it was
Also bathed in the sun's light were dozens of vague shapes, wrapped in
thick blankets. The cold night had made their joints and muscles cold
and stiff, despite the blankets and campfires and tents. Waking up was
almost a painful process, but these people did it quickly and efficiently.
Breakfast was had cold and eaten fast, for these men were on a schedule.
These men were soldiers.
Approximately eighty of Greyspire's finest, they were comprised of about
twenty dwarves and sixty humans - four companies, all told, one of them a
dwarven force. They were returning from a campaign in the Shield Lands,
in which they had aided those forces in skirmishes against humanoids from
the Horned Society. Of late, the humanoids - orcs, mostly, but sometimes
augmented by gnolls or ogres - had become more daring, their raids coming
dangerously close to parts of the Shield Lands that had never before had
to fear such invasions.
Oh, the ruler of the Shield Lands considered this an attack - an act of
war, even. But there was nothing to be done by emissaries or politicians,
for the Horned Society was made up of a score of separate baronies, each
ruled by a Hierarch. They had little to no order as a whole, cohesive
geographic region. Indeed, it was not unheard of for Hierarch A to mount
an attack on a neighboring land, then stand by and watch as Hierarch B
was blamed and retaliated against.
However, all of this was merely an aside to the military mind. It
mattered not which Hierarch was responsible for the attacking forces.
What mattered was that when you looked across the top of your shield at
an orc, or raised your sword at an ogre, those were the enemies. Right
there before you, they waited to do battle and be killed.
When politics failed, kings called upon generals. And when generals
needed help, they called upon the mercenaries of Greyspire.
From Lord Marcus all the way down the chain of command, the soldiers
of Greyspire possessed training and discipline greater than any other
organized force in the world. Better still, Marcus made sure that his
units were augmented by war-priests and magi. This alone gave them an
advantage over many of the foes they met on the battlefield.
Within half an hour of dawn, the soldiers were ready to march. They
would have preferred to bed down in a town, where the sheets were warmer,
the food better, and the need for vigilance less important. Sometimes
they found a town or city; sometimes they didn't. They were always
prepared for the worst case, and being tough, they survived and went
on to the next battle.
dwarf: (stretching as he finishes his breakfast) Another glorious day
on the road, eh, Gorin?
Gorin: (rolls his bedroll up, tying it and then securing it atop his
pack) You know you like it. You wouldn't be here if you didn't.
dwarf: Sometimes I wonder.
Gorin: (laughs) Don't talk crap, Dwain. It's a great life.
Dwain: (shakes his head, grinning)
Dwain was the dwarven company's war-priest. A stout dwarf who did
battle with a warhammer, Dwain was as known for his command of clerical
magic as he was for his infamous many-notched shield. The running joke
was that one day, the old round shield would simply split in two and
leave Dwain holding two leather straps. For his part, the war-priest
didn't seem to care, and actually enjoyed watching the other dwarves
wager on the remaining lifespan of the shield.
Gorin was actually on good terms with many of the dwarves of Greyspire,
both in this company and back in the fortress. He had wisdom and battle
experience far beyond his years - a result of roaming the world for many
years with adventurers. The younger dwarves respected him almost as a
father, but treated him more like a brother. Perhaps an older brother,
but a brother nonetheless. Gorin was also considered by all to be brave
to the point of foolishness; he had proven this in battle time and again.
It actually wasn't bravery _or_ foolishness on Gorin's part. The simple
fact was that he'd fought monsters, demons, dragons, and other mythical
foes...foes that were far worse than anything a force of soldiers would
ever run into.
Yet, for all this, Gorin wasn't bored. He had found that he liked the
regimented lifestyle, the comraderie, and most of all, the chance to do
good in the world. Since Mongo had left Greyspire many moons ago, Gorin
had been involved in exactly twenty-three battles (it would have been
twenty-four, but that time they'd arrived on the scene only to find an
abandoned enemy camp.) Some had been fierce and long, while others had
been routs. For some, he'd backed up cavalry; for others, he'd been on
the front line. It all depended on the terrain, the foe's numbers, and
the Greyspire contingent's own strengths. Sometimes, they found that
they didn't have the type or number of troops they really needed. At
those times, they improvised...and adapted...and overcame.
Gorin had found Noggin, the dwarven commander, to be an excellent
leader. Noggin's specialty seemed to be figuring out how best to use
his dwarves' size and skills, in conjunction with whatever non-dwarves
had also been sent, to defeat any particular foe. Realistically, of
course, Gorin hadn't been part of a large military unit before he'd
come to Greyspire...but he was learning, and fast.
The dwarves marched, keeping a steady if not rapid pace. What they
lacked in footspeed, they made up for in stamina. The humans kept a
bit ahead, leaving the slower dwarves to bring up the rear. As they
left the foul reaches of the Horned Society behind them, they headed
eastward toward the Riftcanyon and the fortress they called home. Idle
chatter could be heard here and there, as they compared old and new war
stories. Like many of the dwarves, Gorin kept to his fellows during
this idle time...
Gorin: Truth to tell, this wasn't really the most exciting of campaigns.
Dwain: Know what you mean. Sure, we fought some orcs...but in the end,
the stinking bastards ran off under cover of night, no doubt slinking
back to their masters.
Gorin: How many dead did we have?
Dwain: (counting on his fingers) Four...no, five.
Even with their great skill and fine armor, and even with the healing
arts of their war-priest, the dwarves sometimes took casualties. One
day, you might be talking and laughing with someone, only to watch him
get cut down the next day. The worst was after a great battle, when the
word hadn't gotten around: who lived, and who had died? Sometimes you
didn't even know for hours...not seeing a friend walking around, you had
to wonder if they were alive and well, or wounded, or perhaps no longer
with the living.
This dark side bothered Gorin, and bothered him often, but it was part
of the life. Part of all life, really - some wise man had once said that
it was impossible to guarantee peace unless you prepared for war. Many
of the world's people preferred to just sit in their nice, cozy homes
and pretend that soldiers and war didn't exist. Gorin knew from his own
experience that you couldn't pretend violence away, no matter who you
were and where you lived. Ignoring a problem didn't make it disappear;
going out and facing that problem head-on, with razored steel and stout
heart - THAT was what made the world's evils go away.
Gorin's thoughts were interrupted by the loud, blaring winding of a
scout on pony: Orcs! Orcs! Orcs coming from the west!
next: Gorin does battle
notes: Mentioning Greyspire as I wrote this made a thought occur
to me, regarding the accessories I've created and posted on the
PELDOR.COM website: use them and enjoy them, for in my stories you
never know when one of those places might be struck by tragedy or
destruction in my writings. Just a thought.
Some of the military musing in this episode reflects my own personal
views on the military. I grew up in an Army family, and for many years
I figured I'd be doing that when I got older. Then high school and
college came and I forgot all about it. When I was 26, I discovered
the U.S. Navy SEALs and was hooked. Unfortunately, it was a little too
late in my life - physically, emotionally, and financially - to try and
take that path. The inability to do so may haunt me forever.
The best that I _can_ do is apply what I know of the SEALs to my
daily life...my workouts, situations I find myself in, and so forth.
Like on my Europe trip when we were in Germany between two tiny towns
and missed the last ferry at 1 am, and had to walk 3 miles in the cold,
dark, rainy night without jackets, any light, or even a pocketknife, in
a country where we didn't speak the language. Sure, we didn't like it,
not one bit. The girl I was with wouldn't shut up and wouldn't stop
complaining. But I ignored her and I ignored the rain and wind and
everything else, because there was only one course of action: keep
going, and eventually we would make it. It might not be pleasant, but
we WOULD MAKE IT. And we did. And now, almost any other long walk I
will ever have to take in my life won't seem that bad, because I KNOW
that I had worse, and survived it. Another example would be the 5-mile
road race that I did one 34-degree December morning, despite not having
trained for it at all and getting some minor cramps after 2 miles. It
wasn't pleasant, but I finished that race, and now I can't imagine how
any other 5-or-less mile race could ever be a serious challenge.
I don't know if I can explain what I'm talking about, but if you get
it, you get it.
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