Chapter #618

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                                   +   +
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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   +
+   Alindyar        17th level drow wizard                                +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Date:           1/25/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           evening                                               +
+   Place:          a small town to the northeast of Hardby               +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Strength lies not in defense but in attack."                         +
+                                                       - Adolf Hitler    +

                     DCXVIII.  Mission of Mercy

  While on their way to the Abbor-Alz hills to find a fabled master
illusionist, Alindyar and Lyra have become somewhat sidetracked...

Alindyar:  (talking with the town's mayor)  -we will help you.
mayor:  You?!?  Two people...against a bunch of trolls?
Lyra:  It's not how many people you have, but who they are.
town guard:  What, are you wizards or something like that?
Alindyar:  Something like that.
mayor:  But...don't you need some armed guards for escort?
Lyra:  Not really.  What we could use, though, is a tracker...someone who
  can follow those tracks back to the troll lair.
other town guard:  Tonight?!?
Alindyar:  Trolls are notoriously hungry.  If we wait til the morrow to
  mount a rescue mission, chances are that some of those people will have
  been eaten.
Lyra:  In fact, time is wasting _right now_.
mayor:  A tracker...a tracker...(he looks around)

  Nobody was exactly jumping up to volunteer, though...a fact which made
Lyra quite angry.

Lyra:  Damn it!  Here we are, ready to go out and fight trolls and save
  your own townsfolk...and we're just strangers passing through!  The
  very least you people could do is produce someone with the balls to
  help us!
Alindyar:  (raises an eyebrow)
man:  (stands)  Let's do it.

  The speaker was a grizzled old fellow with creased, almost leathery skin
and a short-trimmed white beard.

mayor:  You, Ragnor?
Ragnor:  (shrugs)  Someone's got to do it.  (to the drow)  Let's get to
  it, then.
Alindyar:  (clasps hands with the man)  Alindyar, at your service.  This
  is Lyra.
Lyra:  My pleasure.
town guards:  (watching nervously)
Alindyar:  We shall require one who knows where the wagon was attacked.
town guard:  I can show you.
Lyra:  Very well.

  Within the hour, they had been taken to the trail, well outside of town
amidst the grasslands.  The town guard pointed out the overturned wagon,
and Ragnor went to work with the numerous tracks that led away from the

Lyra:  (to the town guard)  You may go now.
Alindyar:  (helpfully)  Unless you wish to accompany us to the lair of the
town guard:  (blanching)  Err, no thanks.  I'll get on back to town.  (he
  pulls his horse's reins, turning the mount back toward the town)
Lyra:  Take these other horses with you.  We won't be needing them.
town guard:  Err, right.  (he departs)
Alindyar:  (sighs)
Lyra:  Cowards.  All of them, cowards.
Ragnor:  (stands)  It's not their fault.  The average fellow in the world
  just isn't cut out for monster-fighting.
Alindyar:  Pardon?
Ragnor:  That's why the great are truly great:  because the rest aren't.
Lyra:  Hmm.
Ragnor:  Well, these tracks tell me that we're dealing with four trolls...
  big, heavy ones at that.  They headed off that way.  (he points to the
Alindyar:  And so shall we.
Ragnor:  What's this you said about no horses?
Lyra:  Stand by.

  Shortly, all three of them were flying above the plains on an invisible

Ragnor:  Well, if this just doesn't beat all.

  Alindyar had come up with a way to follow the trolls' tracks in the dark
of night:  he took an empty scroll-tube, cast a spell of light on a wadded-
up piece of paper, crammed the paper down into one end of the tube, then
left the other end uncapped.  This created a tube that projected light from
one end, in a focused beam.

Ragnor:  You two sure are peculiar.
Alindyar:  Thank you.  We have worked hard to become so.
Lyra:  Will you be able to follow the tracks this way?
Ragnor:  (aiming the tube at the ground)  No problem.  If these things had
  made any effort to cover up their passing, I'd have to get up close and
  personal...but as it is, this'll work fine.

  Some time later, after they entered a marshy area, Ragnor informed them
that the trolls must be fairly close.

Lyra:  How do you know that?
Ragnor:  The tracks' show that their pace slowed, and they kind of spread
  out some, too.
Alindyar:  Ah.
Ragnor:  (hops down from the disc)  Stay here.  I'll be back in a bit.
  (he takes the light-tube, muffling its beam with a scarf, and vanishes
  into the darkness)
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  You must admit, this is more exciting than a
  cozy night in bed in an inn.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Then I must be doing something wrong.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Err...
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Any ideas on tactics against these trolls,
  once he finds them?
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  'Twill depend on the nature of their lair,
  but I am favoring Bigby's wand.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I'll go with fire, myself.  I might try my
  new Lightning Tongues spell, if there aren't prisoners in the way.

  Ragnor returned after a short time, informing them that the trolls had
made their lair in some kind of crude hut within the swamp.

Ragnor:  They're in there, for sure, and awake...making a lot of noise,
  too.  I thought I heard some people crying and whimpering, but couldn't
  be sure.
Alindyar:  We must distract them...draw them out of there.  Hmm...

  Within their mud-and-branch hut, the trolls were in good spirits.  The
two families from the wagons had been the best food raid all month, and
dinnertime was fast approaching.  The humans - three men, four women, and
six little ones - looked to be good eating for at least a week.  Even now
the fools cowered in fear, huddled in a corner of the crude domed hut,
surrounded by the stinking bones of those captured last week.

troll:  (smacking its lips, it reaches for one of the children)  Mmm...

  Just then, there was a loud crunching sound from outside the lair.

troll #2:  Huh?
troll #1:  Better go out and see.
troll #3:  (exits the hut)  Hey!  Get out here!

  There was no need to worry about the prisoners escaping - the hut had
only one exit, and all four of the trolls were blocking it as they left
their lair and stood outside, gaping in awe.

troll #4:  Wah!

  Piled outside the hut was a huge heap of food!  Stuffed fowl, smoked
ham, sides of beef and lamb and pork...the smell of the meat alone was
enough to nearly drive the trolls crazy!

troll #1:  Who'd left this for us?
troll #2:  Dunno.
troll #3:  (points to a large parchment stuck to one of the hams with
  a huge silver fork)  Look, a note.
troll #4:  I can't read.

  The foursome moved closer, for one or two of them could barely read a
smattering of the Common tongue.

troll #1:  (struggling to comprehend the note)  "From the the
troll #2:  Hey, that's us!
troll #1:  "Please...take this food and stop eating
troll #3:  Hah.
troll #4:  Awful nice of them.
troll #1:  Wait, there's more.  (he studies the paper)  "P...S...prepare
  to meet your maker."
troll #2:  Huh?  I don't get it.

  Abruptly, the illusion vanished, even as Lyra cast her own spell,
dropping a gigantic web over all four of the conveniently-grouped trolls.

troll #1:  Hey!  (it struggles against the sticky strands)
troll #2:  (likewise)  No fair.
Alindyar:  (appears, floating over the fetid swamp)  Nothing is fair in
  life, monsters.
troll #3:  Who?!?
troll #4:  (rips a strand of webbing)  Me wants out!

  Alindyar cast a second web, thickening and strengthening the trap.  As
Lyra worked a Hold Monster spell - just to be safe - Ragnor emerged from
the trolls' hut, leading the captured humans to freedom.

Ragnor:  (eyeing the trapped trolls)  Mmm.
humans:  (looking about fearfully)
Lyra:  Ragnor, can you take them to the edge of the swamp and wait for
  us?  We'll be along shortly.
Ragnor:  Sure thing.  (he jerks a thumb at the trolls)  What about them?
Lyra:  They ate other prisoners, right?
Ragnor:  Yup.  Bones and rotting chunks of...meat, everywhere in there.
Alindyar:  I suggest the sentence of death.
Ragnor:  Seems fair to me.
Lyra:  It's unanimous, then.  (to Ragnor)  These people don't need to see
  what's about to happen.
Ragnor:  Right.  We'll be outside the swamp.
Lyra:  We'll catch up with you shortly.

  Had Ragnor been alone, he would have made the swamp's edge in only a
few minutes.  As it was, he had to lead the freed prisoners, and it took
a good bit longer.  By the time they had left the wet, muddy ground for
the solid footing of the plains, the fiery funeral pyre of the trolls
could be seen even from where they now stood.

man:  What happened to the trolls?
Ragnor:  I'd wager that they're no longer with us, friend.

  It didn't take the drow - still disguised as humans - very long to
rejoin the humans.

Ragnor:  All taken care of?
Alindyar:  Aye.  Those monsters shall never bother anyone again.
Lyra:  It's all gone - them, their lair, the remains of...well, it's
  all gone.
Ragnor:  Mmm.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  I do not particularly care to walk all the
  way back to the town.  'Tis simply too late in the evening for such
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Maybe a spell of teleportation?
Alindyar:  Aye.  It does not seem like a waste to me...especially since
  we may rest an extra day after all of this.
Lyra:  Let's do it, then.

  Before any of the humans knew what was going on, all of them were
back in the town, standing outside the inn along with Ragnor and the two
strangers.  A throng of people quickly gathered, gaping and whispering
in awe.  It didn't take long for the mayor to show up...

mayor:  B-!?
Alindyar:  'Tis a kind of magic.

next:      the Abbor-Alz
released:  3/2/00
notes:     What was the purpose of this story?  I guess I just wanted to
  remind you (and myself) just what being a hero is all about.  Even in
  the case of someone not typically considered a "hero."

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