Chapter #792

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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       +
+   1991-2001 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:           5/10/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          the fortress of Greyspire                             +
+   Climate:        cool                                                  +
+   "If we didn't die, we would not appreciate life as we do."            +
+                                               - Jacques-Yves Cousteau   +

                     DCCXCII.  One Dwarf's Thoughts

  More than a week after the great battle at the fortress of the Nine,
Gorin is still recovering from being slain (and then brought back.)

Gorin:  (flexing his arm, which has been sore due to the lethal sword-
  wound to that side of his chest)  Ow.  Dammit.

  The dwarf had perished, for all intents and purposes, at the hand of
the evil general, Kael.  The latter had just felled Lord Marcus, and
Gorin had just slain the dark centaur, so the dwarf had charged in,
intending to avenge his commander.
  It hadn't worked out that way.  Kael had blocked Gorin's best attacks
as if fighting a child, and then hit the dwarf with his shield, so hard
that Gorin's axe had been knocked from his hands.  His last thought in
that battle, as the huge foe's sword had stabbed through his armor, had
been regret at not putting up a better fight.
  Gorin had been brought back from the brink later, through the power
of Greyspire's priests and some measure of luck.  Still, the experience
wasn't one he'd really cared for.  The dwarf was no coward, but part of
normal life didn't include dying and having to be brought back to life
by means of magic.  This was the third time it had happened, and he was
tired of it.
  He should have been happy - a lot of others slain that day had been
too far gone to help, or their bodies hadn't been able to handle the
shock.  Furthermore, the overall campaign had been a success, for the
power of the Nine was broken and their fortress overrun.  But it was
painfully obvious to Gorin that further problems lay ahead, problems
that would perhaps require military solutions.
  Along those lines, Marcus had had a talk with Gorin the previous day.
The general himself had been slain in battle, and subsequently brought
back, but he seemed none the worse for wear.  Gorin wasn't sure why,
but he attributed Marcus' seeming indifference to greater experience
and maturity.  Anyhow, Greyspire's commander was quite grateful to
Gorin, both for charging in to avenge Marcus and for general prowess
in the fighting that day...

  Lord Marcus:  Your actions show great courage and skill.
  Gorin:  I was only doing what I would have done anyway.
  Lord Marcus:  No matter.  Not many would have had what it took to
    attack that enemy general, even if they had been close enough,
    which nobody else was.
  Gorin:  It was nothing.
  Lord Marcus:  So you say.  Still, I am grateful, and I won't forget
    what you did.

  That had been that.  Gorin had gotten a vague impression that the
general was going to offer him a promotion, but it hadn't happened.
It wasn't that Gorin expected or needed such rewards; it was just that
Marcus had seemed ready to say something to that effect, then failed
to do so.
  Gorin didn't much care; he had a lot on his mind.  The battle had been
a significant thing to be a part of, though now that it was over, he was
proud to have been there.  After the fighting was done, he'd had a chance
to talk with Mongo and catch up on old times.  Mongo had been happy that
his former henchdwarf was doing well, and likewise, Gorin had been glad
to hear that Mongo had kept busy and continued to fight the good fight,
wherever he went.
  Now that the Greyspire contingent had returned to the fortress, there
was much work to do.  The dead had to be buried.  Damaged or broken
armor and weapons had to be repaired, or replaced; ditto for siege
engines and other such equipment.  Some new troops would have to be
found and trained, then brought into the fold.  Actually, of the four
large forces present at the battle, the Greyspire contingent had seen
the lowest casualty rate.  This wasn't because they had lingered at the
back ranks, or because they had fought the smallest, weakest foes; far
from it, they had done quite the opposite.  It had more to do with the
better training and equipment that Lord Marcus had worked hard to get
each and every one of Greyspire's soldiers.

  There was a general sense, among many of the older or more traveled
soldiers in Greyspire, that _something_ big was about to happen in the
world.  Rumors came from various places - kingdoms and jungles alike -
telling of unrest, or massing troops, or civil disobedience, or even
covert takeovers.  Lord Marcus was putting his best people on this, but
he didn't have an extensive spy or intelligence network.  Greyspire was,
after all, a functional fighting unit.

  Another potentially dangerous issue had recently come to light, this
one much closer to home:  in the depths of Greyspire, something stirred.
Long ago, the fortress had been inhabited by demons and such; even in
recent years, there were still sealed chambers, far below the occupied
ones and separated by tons of rock.  Not even Lord Marcus knew all of
the secrets that these dungeons held.  Strange moans and wails could be
heard from below, despite the volume of stone, and some were worried
about what lurked down there - and whether it might escape.

  To compound problems, the monsters in the surrounding Riftcanyon had
grown stronger and bolder of late, sometimes even mounting attacks on
supply caravans heading to and from the fortress.  This made no sense,
and some of Marcus' lieutenants had voiced their opinions about someone
or something organizing and inciting these beasts, as well as the need
to do something about it.

  As if that weren't enough, the nearby Bandit Kingdoms were seeing more
activity of late - troops marching, general unrest, and so on.  This
didn't directly affect Greyspire, but ignoring it would be unwise.

  Yes, there were a lot of issues for Greyspire, those who commanded it,
and those who occupied it.

next:      Halbarad
released:  1/7/02
notes:     Of all the places and concepts that I've laid out in the last
  ten years, Greyspire is one of the ones with the most potential.  It
  could be invaded, assaulted, taken over by demons, or perhaps all of
  these...or perhaps something else.  What I've done here is lay out
  some of my ideas, so that in case I never write again, you will have
  your imagination and some fuel.  In general, i'm trying to do this in
  all of the characters' cases...just because it can't hurt.
    Just for the record, my original plan for Greyspire involved it being
  besieged and eventually falling during the Greyhawk Wars.

    An IMPORTANT NOTE for anyone who isn't clear yet:  I left loose ends
  from the fortress and Xusia on purpose.  I have been getting a lot of
  mail about this.  Such things do not always wrap up neatly.  I didn't
  want Belphanior (or anybody else) to just find Xusia's lair, so I wrote
  my way out of it citing a simple lack of ability to find it.  And so on.
  As for deaths, permanent ones, the only "real" dead of note are Boltar
  and Sir Drexel.  Everyone else was brought back without trauma.  There
  is the peculiar condition of Halbarad, but that will be addressed in
  the next episode.

    The Fortress of the Nine accessory is about ready; two of the six
  maps are complex and their print is too small to read.  I've not had
  time to fix this adequately; there are AutoCAD conversion issues to
  deal with.  I may just release the damn thing as is and worry about
  the maps later.  Whenever I do release it, please be aware that what
  you read in the accessory _does not_ match 100% with what you read in
  the stories about the fortress.  I took writer's liberty when it was

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