Chapter #691

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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   +
+   Gorin           11th level dwarven warrior                            +
+   Date:           2/10/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          the fortress of Greyspire, in the western Riftcanyon  +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "The more you bleed in training, the less you bleed in combat."       +
+                                                          - R. Marcinko  +

                        DCXCI.  Company X

  Several weeks had passed since the foray into the Shield Lands, and
Gorin was pleased.  He felt like he had a place here in Greyspire - not
that he'd had no place at Mongo's right side, but this was different.
As part of an army, Gorin was learning more than just war - he was also
learning the reasons behind it, the tactics behind the moves made by
generals, the hundred little things that nobody ever saw during a battle
but that were essential to victory, each in their own way.
  A fast learner and more-than-competent warrior, Gorin was well-liked
by the other dwarven soldiers.  He had the feeling that sooner or later,
he'd be given a minor command - perhaps a smaller unit within a company.
Not that he necessarily expected or wanted it, but he wouldn't say no
either.  Noggin, the dwarven commander, had made a point of showing
Gorin the various aspects of leadership - what it took and what it meant
to be a leader of others.  In fact, even now, Noggin was giving Gorin a
tour of one part of Greyspire...a part that Gorin hadn't ever seen or
heard of before.

Noggin:  There's good reason for that, lad.  Not all forces are well-
  known or in the forefront of battle.
Gorin:  You mean like scouts?
Noggin:  Scouts is only the tip of the iceberg.  I'm talking about
  snipers, saboteurs, and spies.  I'm talking about people who go in
  and set up foundations to be destroyed...people who pick off members
  of an enemy force, one by one...people who go into enemy cities in
  disguise, to make it easier when our army comes to that city.  All
  that, and more.
Gorin:  Training soldiers like that must be tough.
Noggin:  It is.  (he leads the other dwarf through a door, and they
  walk out onto a small ledge which overlooks a large cavern)
Gorin:  Wow.

  The cavern was lit by numerous torches, with some sections dim and
others bright.  The area was split up by walls of wood, stone, and
metal.  At first glance the entire place looked like a thieves' guild
training center (not that Gorin had ever had the privilege of seeing
one) but it was much wider in scope and capability.  Oh, there were
climbing-walls, ranging from difficult to impossible - but there were
also water-pools, and rocky obstacle courses.  There were ropes, bars,
spikes, and pits.  There were practice-dummies, some stationary and
others mounted on strange sliding tracks.  Wooden racks held swords,
bows, shields, and more, much more.
  Amidst all of this, a handful of individuals moved about.  There was
no rest for these people, who included at least one dwarf and one elf.
They were constantly running, leaping, climbing, and sparring.  Though
the people were some distance away, Gorin could see that they were all
covered in sweat, dirt, and mud.

Gorin:  Trainees?
Noggin:  Yes, trainees...but not for any of Greyspire's regular forces.
Gorin:  What, then?  The scouts-and-more you were talking about?
Noggin:  (nods)  We have a company unlike any other.  They don't go
  into battle, and they don't live, train, or eat with any other troops
  in Greyspire.
Gorin:  Special forces?
Noggin:  Quite special.  See those ten or so people down there?  Those
  are the ones who made it since training started three weeks ago.  A
  dozen others couldn't hack it, and dropped out.
Gorin:  Where did they go?
Noggin:  Back into the regular ranks.  Only the best are picked and
  offered the chance, so even if they fail here, they'll still make
  good soldiers.  Just not special ones.
Gorin:  Won't they talk about it to the others?
Noggin:  Good point, but at the time the offer is made, they're already
  good and loyal soldiers of Greyspire.  If Lord Marcus were an evil
  man, I suppose he could kill the ones who dropped out.
Gorin:  Hmm.
Noggin:  But, the whole time they're being trained here, they're not
  told about the company they'll be joining if they make it.  The only
  way to fully know about the special group is to pass all the training
  and challenges.  When Gnerkil's convinced that whoever's left is good
  enough, he ends the training and explains to those who're left what
  they've gotten themselves into.
Gorin:  And what is that, exactly?
Noggin:  Warriors who can climb and swim, scouting and spying where no
  one else dares or is able.  These are the kind of guys who will sit
  half-underwater for days at a time, bury themselves in mud until the
  enemy army has passed, go without food for long periods, or live off
  the land...that sort of thing.  They train with all sorts of weapons
  and test out all kinds of tactics.
Gorin:  Who's this Gnerkil character?
Noggin:  He's a half-orc, commander of the special force.  He holds
  rank equal to mine and the other commanders, but his force is much
  smaller and less-used.  Hell, they spend most of their time training
  and training, and then training some more.  Of course, for them,
  training sometimes means venturing down into the Riftcanyon...insane,
  if you ask me.
Gorin:  Did Gnerkil create this special company of soldiers?
Noggin:  No...that honor goes to his predecessor, a dwarf named Otto.
Gorin:  Otto!
Noggin:  Know him?
Gorin:  Maybe...we're talking about a really mean fellow with unusual
  sideburns and beard?
Noggin:  Sounds about right.
Gorin:  I do know him.  I didn't know he was here at one point, though.
Noggin:  He was, but that was a while back.
Gorin:  Hmm.
Noggin:  You may be wondering how it is that dwarves - look, there's
  one below, climbing that wall - dwarves, who tend to be slower and
  heavier than other races, can keep up with the quicker and fleeter
  of foot.
Gorin:  The question had crossed my mind.
Noggin:  It's a general principle:  the dwarf doesn't have to come in
  first, he just has to not give up.
Gorin:  Not after a whole day of running around and climbing and such.
Noggin:  Right.  The kind of warriors Gnerkil needs have to be willing
  to go on, and on, and on - keep going until the mission is done.
Gorin:  Sounds rough.
Noggin:  It is rough, but these guys have to be the best.  Nothing
  less will do.  A soldier who quits in training would have also quit
  in combat, so those have to be weeded out beforehand.  In fact, of
  those who don't make it, many can thank injuries.  They tend to hurt
  themselves in training.
Gorin:  I'd figured that.
Noggin:  But those who complete the training and join this company
  are tough and dangerous, willing to fight to the death if need be,
  or to kill when necessary.  They have no problems with death of any
  kind.  This job isn't for the squeamish.
Gorin:  No, of course not...
Noggin:  Well, there you have it.
Gorin: why are you showing me all of this?
Noggin:  (grins, clapping the other dwarf on the shoulder)  Lord
  Marcus thought you needed to see the dark side of our profession.
Gorin:  Hmmm.

  Later that day, Gorin found himself summoned to Noggin's planning room.
Each of Greyspire's company commanders had their own such chamber, in
which to hold meetings and other functions.

Noggin:  Busy?
Gorin:  I was just showing some of the guys how to build realistic giant
  dummies.  Hopefully by next week we'll be teaming up and tackling them.
Noggin:  Outstanding!  Well, you're about to get a whole lot busier.
  We've had enough new arrivals to make a third dwarven company, and
  command of it has been given to you.  Congratulations, _sergeant_
  Gorin, leader of Company "W"...!
Gorin:  (beams)  Thanks!
Noggin:  No, thank you - and you deserve it.
Gorin:  Uh...thanks anyway!
Noggin:  Now, of course, we'll be expecting your company to show the
  others about these giant-fighting tactics of yours, once you're done
  perfecting them.
Gorin:  With pleasure!

next:      we meet the members of Gorin's company
released:  11/13/00
notes:     This and the next episode are just a look in on Gorin - I
  didn't want you to think I'd forgotten about him.  Same deal last pair
  of episodes with Alindyar and Lyra.

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