Lost Chapter #4

previous Lost chapter (#3)                                                                  next Lost chapter (#5)






                                  *
                                *   *
                              *       *
                            *           *
                          *               *
                        *                   *
                      *    THE ADVENTURERS    *
                    *                           *
                      *     Lost Tales...     *
                        *                   *
                          *               *
                            *           *
                              *       *
                                *   *
                                  *

*********************************************************************
*    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 1991-7 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                    *
*                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   *
*********************************************************************
*  Date:        3/2/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                          *
*  Time:        the darkest part of the night                       *
*  Place:       somewhere in the Rakers mountain range             *
*  Climate:     chilly and windy                                    *
*********************************************************************
*  "I'm the best there is at what I do - and what I do isn't        *
*   very nice."                                                     *
*                                                    - Wolverine    *
*********************************************************************





                      IV.  Yargan's Tor





  Framed by the light of the full moon, the mountain keep stood out
starkly, a tall, jagged shadow rising from the darkness of this hot
summer night.  Had a vigilant observer been positioned in the right
spot, between the rough hills that stretched out from the fort's
wall, the relatively tiny figures that crept along the base of the
outpost might have been visible.
  Maybe.
  Half a dozen in number, these stealthy individuals were careful
and precise in their movements.  Above them rose the stout wooden
walls of the keep - Yargan's Tor, it was called.  Erected only a
few years past, the small but well-manned fort guarded a crucial
point along the path into the mountains.  Numerous arrow-slits
on its face, as well as its uphill position, offered excellent
targeting opportunities for those within the fort.  Any mass march
through these peaks would be impossible as long as the Tor was in
place and manned.
  The six figures that now darted along the base of the small keep
had come to change that particular fact of life.  Their faces were
black with soot, smeared in such a way as to keep all light from
reflecting.  They wore soft boots, so as to make no sound.  They
bore no insignia, no tokens that might identify them as being from
any kingdom.  They didn't speak to one another, instead using well-
practiced hand signals to convey necessary ideas and commands.
These particular ideas and commands pertained to a specific goal
tonight:  the elimination of the keep, by whatever means necessary.
  Members of an elite fighting unit, these six were the best of the
best.  Direct assaults, face-to-face confrontations, conventional
battle - none of these methods would be used by these warriors.
Theirs was a more sinister, clandestine, and even back-stabbing sort
of mission.  They had spent the last two days in hiding, around the
fort, watching and planning.  The movements of the guards atop the
walls, their shift changes, which ones were particularly lax in their
duties - these things and more had been observed.  The occurence and
frequency of troop movements into and out of the keep had been noted.
When night fell, the positions of the moon's shadows and light, at
all hours of the night, had been studied.  After all the necessary
intelligence had been gathered and studied, a plan had been created,
reviewed, and now, finally, implemented.
  Few people would have had the patience and will to remain unmoving
for long hours, as these warriors had.  Fewer still would have been
able to rise from their concealment, as these had, and execute any
sort of assault.  Then again, these were not typical soldiers; they
were something far more.  Within every army, there is a small cadre
of scouts, spies, and in some cases, assassins.  The six individuals
who stalked about at the bottom of the fort were all of these things
at once...and yet more.
  A thin, lean man gazed up the sheer wall - and then began to climb
it!  This human fly moved with grace and caution, sometimes stopping
his ascent as a guard paced along overhead.  Wiry muscles remained
taut for agonizing moments, until at last things were safe again.
This was Weasel, a rogue for whom no wall was too sheer, no cliff
too high.  Gaunt for a human, weighing no more than the average elf,
there was not an ounce of fat on his body.  No one could climb better
and faster than the Weasel.
  As the man climbed up the wall, his fingers and toes finding every
crack and seam in the weathered surface, the rope tied around his
slim waist was played out from below.  He who held this light but
incredibly strong rope was Tunka, a broad, stocky fellow whose true
specialty was throwing axes.  The combination of strength and skill
with which Tunka hurled his axes was sufficient to kill a foe with
one blow, nine times out of ten.  When not engaged in battle, he
made himself useful hauling equipment, anchoring ropes, bending bars,
and performing similar feats.
  Next to Tunka stood Jamac, a tall and rangy warrior from the land
of Tenh.  Jamac was a skilled bowman, and the potent concoctions he
used on his arrowheads ensured that his targets stayed down.  As
Weasel climbed, Jamac kept his teammate covered, a nocked arrow
ready at half-draw in case some guard got lucky (or unlucky) and
happened to stick his head over the wall.
  Behind Jamac waited Spinellis, a slim fellow who, unlike Weasel,
actually _was_ an elf.  Spinellis was a skilled warrior, but he also
commanded a fair share of magical power.  His spells were an option
of last resort, except when he was helping the group enter a place
that was physically - normally - unassailable.  The elf frowned as
he watched Weasel move up the fort's wall, a shadow among shadows.
  A fifth figure drew a thin, almost invisible cord between his
calloused hands.  This was Creel, as two-faced a man as ever lived.
To his friends and companions, he was a jovial, hard-drinking fellow
who was quick to crack a joke and even quicker to bed a wench.  Yet,
later that night, he would be perfectly capable of sneaking into
someone's bedchamber and silencing them forever with his garrote.
That rarest of rarities among soldiers and rogues alike was Creel:
a person who could instantly and completely separate business and
pleasure.
  The last member of this assault team was Otto, a dwarven warrior
and thief.  It was he who was in command of this operation, and it
was he who looked on the most anxiously as Weasel neared the top of
the fort's wall, inch by painstaking inch.  Finally, the thief put
his fingers over the ledge, checking for blades or other deterrents
before silently pulling himself over.
  The man quickly scanned the area around him; after satisfied that
no guards were in the vicinity, he tied his rope off to a protruding
log.  A true fort would have had stone walls, rather than ones hewn
from logs.  Then, of course, he would have simply found something
else to tie the rope to - or, if necessary, he would have held it in
place with his own braced body while the others climbed up.
  As it was, though, he merely stood watch as his companions pulled
themselves up the rope.  It was a long climb - more than a hundred
feet - but all of them, from the thin Spinellis to the heavily-built
Tunka, had exceptional upper-body strength.  The result of long and
painful hours of exercise and climbing, this fortitude was often an
asset in their missions.
  As Otto pulled himself over the top of the wall, Weasel heard a
slight noise to one side.  Whirling, he spied the sentry who had
just rounded the ledge's corner; the man looked shocked.  With a
blur, Weasel hurled a thin, razor-sharp knife, which buried itself
to the hilt in the unfortunate guard's throat.  The strike was
perfect; the man's voicebox was skewered, and he could only emit a
feeble gurgle as he sunk to the floor, blood pouring from the mortal
wound.  Before his shortsword fell from his twitching grip, Weasel
was there to catch it, preventing the metallic clank it would have
made on the wooden roof.
  Meanwhile, Otto was over the top, his crossbow now sweeping the
ledge, searching for other foes.  He watched Weasel's back, and
Weasel watched his, as the other four made their way onto the keep's
roof.  This surface, little more than a walled ledge which ran all
around the top floor of the keep, was quickly checked, the intruders
gesturing to each other with an "all clear" signal.  Now, they moved
to surround the single portal, a small iron gate, that led indoors
from the roof-ledge.  Creel checked the handle, finding it unlocked
before he even had to think about producing a pick.  Jamac and Otto
covered him as he cautiously pulled the door open, fading from sight
as he did so.
  The pair of guards who were just then coming out to relieve their
companion were rather surprised to see the door open outward of its
own accord.  That was the last thing they ever saw.  One perished as
Otto's bolt took him in the neck; the other gasped wordlessly as a
thin, sharp wire looped around his neck from behind.  Not even the
slightest noise escaped them, not even the one with the bolt through
his neck; this was due to an amulet Creel wore, a strange coin on a
neck-thong, upon which some wizard had once cast a permanent spell of
silence.  Most people, peasants and wizards alike, would have quickly
dismissed the thing as a near-useless trinket.  Creel, however, had
made great use of it in his time; it kept the cries of his victims
from reaching unwanted ears.
  Tunka dragged the bodies to the section of ledge opposite the door,
while the others checked the room within.  Otto and Spinellis used
their racial night-sight to ensure that no other guards were in the
chamber; the group moved indoors, closing the outer door behind them.
The room they stood in was little more than a barracks, and a bare
one at that.  A couple of chairs surrounded a small table in one
corner.  Atop the table was a jug of some liquid - cheap, weak wine,
Creel noted by smelling the stuff.  Nearby, a floor-hatch undoubtedly
led down to a lower level.  There were no other accomodations or
luxuries here.
  Otto loaded another bolt in his crossbow; Tunka readied his war-
axes; Creel cleaned his garrote.  These quarters were too close for
Jamac to ply his bow effectively, so he drew a shortsword instead.
Weasel also moved to the rear of the group; each of them had their
own talents and roles, and his was primarily over now.
  Checking the wooden hatch in the floor, Creel found it locked from
the other side.  A more significant challenge, this - no wire or
pick would move that heavy bolt.  They could have forced the portal,
a loud and alarm-raising affair for certain.  They also could have
tapped out the hatch's hinges, then pulled the door away using hooks
designed for that very purpose.  Instead, they took their positions,
sat back...and waited.
  Moments stretched out.  They arrayed themselves such that they
could spring into action in an instant; they were prepared, but not
comfortable or complacent.  A couple of them even allowed themselves
to drift into a half-sleep, a combat nap in which their bodies rested
but their senses and minds remained razor-sharp.
  Eventually, the click of a bolt being drawn back snapped them all
back to attention.  The hatch opened, swinging up rapidly as a guard
climbed up, completely slack and unaware of the death that loomed so
close.  The intruders waited, letting this fellow and the next get
into the room - and then they struck.  Tunka found it unnecessary to
hurl an axe, instead sinking it into the victim's neck.  Creel took
care of the other, in much the same manner as the man he'd previously
dispatched.  Weasel caught the hatch before it could fall; Otto and
Spinellis quickly dropped down into the chamber below.
  There, still fully unaware of what was happening, three more guards
stood, weapons half-drawn.  As they saw the invaders land in their
room, they finally acted; fast and well-trained as they were, however,
the newcomers were faster still.  Otto had dispatched one guard in a
flash of steel, while Spinellis wounded another.  The man struck back
with a mighty sword-thrust, but his blade glanced harmlessly from the
elf's clothing - sorcery was afoot here!  Kicking the attacker back,
against a wall, Spinellis whirled to face the third foe, slashing
with a long dirk even as the man closed in.
  His attack was true, but at that moment, the gods of fate threw a
curve into this game:  the second attacker rolled across the room,
his yells of alarm suddenly audible!

guard:  INTRUDERS!  HELP!  HEL-  (he reels back as a crossbow bolt
  slams into his head)
Otto:  (calmly reloads his weapon)  Fucker moved out of range of
  Creel and his silence-totem.  (he turns to Spinellis)  Time for
  plan B.
Spinellis:  Right.  (he finishes the third guard, already wounded
  from a previous blow, and begins spellcasting)
Weasel:  (practically slides down the ladder's rungs)  What's up?
  (he looks around)  Hell, from the looks of things, I'd say we've
  gone to the plan B stage...
Creel:  (joins them in the guardroom, wrapping his silence-coin in
  a rune-sewn red handkerchief)  No problem with that.  Hell, I'm
  surprised we made it this far without incident.
Jamac:  (watching as Creel stashes the wrapped coin in a pocket)  No
  more silence, then.
Creel:  Not after plan B has been started.
Otto:  Definitely not.  (he produces several bundles of oily rags)
Tunka:  (examining a door, the single exit from this chamber)  I'd
  guess stairs wait behind this...or maybe another ladder.
Creel:  (listening at the door)  Troops.  Lots of them.  (he goes
  to work on the lock)
Spinellis:  Not to worry.  (he approaches the door)  Ready?
Creel:  Yep.  (with a tug, he pulls the door open, revealing half a
  dozen guards gathered before a spiral stairway)  Go!
Spinellis:  (sends a large puff of green smoke into the chamber
  beyond)  Gone.
Creel:  (slams the door shut, just as the yelling and coughing begins)
Tunka:  (pulls a heavy blanket from his pack, stuffing it in the thin
  crack beneath the door)
Otto:  That oughtta hold them for awhile.
Jamac:  Long enough, anyway.

  Calmly, in no hurry whatsoever, the six produced scented bands of
cloth, wrapping these around their mouths and noses.  Spinellis
worked another spell, and a short while later, when the door was
opened once again, the elf's wind-gust fanned the stinking green
fumes away, down the stairwell.  Limp bodies lay scattered about,
though they left these alone - there was no reason to kill unless
necessary.  Down the stairway they went, Creel in the lead, making
no sound.
  The stairwell opened into a large chamber with finely-panelled
walls...at the far end of which floated a large, armored sphere
with numerous eye-tipped stalks.

Creel:  Oh, my.
beholder:  <bzark>  (a gray beam issues forth from one of its eyes,
  turning the black-garbed thief to stone)
Tunka:  What the hell's going on down there-  (he barrels into the
  room, stopping short as he spots the gigantic floating eye-beast)
  Fuck.
beholder:  (grins evilly)  Welcome!  (it fires a black beam at the
  stocky warrior)  <zzzax>
Tunka:  (already in motion, he hurls an axe as he leaps aside, the
  beam missing him by a foot)
beholder:  (grimaces as the sharp axe bites into its chitinous hide)
  Ungh.
Tunka:  (yelling back up the stairway)  Look out - there's something
  down here, and it got Creel!
Jamac:  (steps into the room, assesses the situation, and backs out)
Otto:  What's the deal?
Jamac:  There's a big fuckin' beholder down there, and it's got Tunka
  pinned down!
Weasel:  (chances a peek around the corner)  Pinned down, my ass -
  there's no cover in there!
Spinellis:  Allow me.  (he begins spellcasting)
Otto:  No time...Tunka's not gonna last long in there.  (he turns to
  his men)  Weasel, we'll move in and retrieve Tunka.  Jamac - arrows,
  cover us.  Spinellis, what are you casting?
Spinellis:  I'm going to blast it with a volley of meteorites.
Otto:  Good enough - that's not a wide-area spell.  Let's go, people!

  They charged into the room, rolling and dodging in case of further
eye-attacks.  Tunka was half-concealed behind a protrusion in the
wall-support, and he clutched an axe in one hand.  Otto broke out
of his roll, firing from a crouch; the bolt took the beholder in
one of its eyestalks, sending a spurt of green blood spraying onto
the wall.
  As the floating sphere-thing spun about, bellowing, Spinellis
stepped into the room, launching his miniature meteors.  The things
hit the beholder's shell and exploded, and flame and smoke billowed
madly.  As the huge, dark shape floated from the chaos, Tunka let
his axe fly, then dashed toward his friends.

beholder:  Graaargh!  (its large eye swivels up, toward the axe in
  its forehead, as the smaller eyes swivel down)  Grungh?

  As the thieves prepared another round of missile fire, however,
the monster spun savagely and sent several beams lancing out at the
scattered foes.  A blue beam took Tunka, instantly turning him and
his raised axe to dust.  A violet beam missed Otto by a handsbreadth.
A yellow beam fanned out, bathing Weasel and Jamac in its pale rays,
but neither of them seemed to be affected.  A black beam hit Jamac
immediately afterward, though, and he fell, unmoving.

Otto:  Shit!
Weasel:  We're outmatched here!
Otto:  But Creel and the others-
Spinellis:  They're gone!  Look!

  The elf was pointing to a double door behind the beholder, from
which fresh guards now poured.

Weasel:  They're all in league - the monster works for them!
Otto:  Fuck!  (ducking into the stairwell with the others, he hefts
  one of the oily rag-bundles, quickly setting it alight with flint
  and steel)
Spinellis:  You're not going to-
Otto:  No choice!  (he hurls the flaming thing into the chamber)
  Upstairs!  Now!

  The three remaining intruders darted up the stairs, just as a
mighty blast shook the floor beneath their feet.  Otto's flaming
missile had done its work, and well - yet, fortune wasn't with them
this night.  As they ascended with great haste, the steps flipped,
becoming a ramp.  Weasel was already at the stairway's top, and
Otto made it with a desperate leap.  Spinellis, however, was not so
lucky; he slipped and fell before he could make it, and slid down,
cursing and yelling.

Otto:  Spinellis!
Weasel:  Look out-

  There was a massive explosion, shaking the keep, and they lost
their footing.  A gout of flame belched up from below, searing their
skin and singing their hair.

Otto:  Spinellis!  The blast...
Weasel:  That would've been his fire-flasks...he must've hit the
  flames below.
Otto:  Damn it all to hell...

  They rushed upward, despair driving their steps; they knew they
had left their companions behind, but there had been little choice
in the matter.  Even now, flames licked up the sides of the keep,
for Spinellis had carried a number of fire-flasks, and they had
been potent indeed.  As they went, they smashed ladders and locked
doors, to delay pursuit as much as possible.  Once on the roof,
they rappelled down the keep's wall with almost reckless haste.  As
their feet hit the ground outside, they vanished into the night, the
ruin of Yargan's Tor burning behind them...



  Many moons later, the two survivors, weary and disheartened, had
finally made it home.  After a hot meal and a change of clothes
within the towering pillar of rock known as Greyspire, Otto (as
commanding officer of his demolished squad) stood before his leader
and gave him an account of recent events.

Otto:  -and this man...this Waldrop of Almor - he must be made to
  pay.
Lord Marcus:  How do you figure?
Otto:  For crying out loud, they had a _beholder_ in there!  This
  was no simple keep, no simple mission!  It was a suicide mission!
Marcus:  You get paid to risk your life.  All of us do.  That's why
  they call us mercenaries.
Otto:  We get paid to _risk_ our lives...not throw them away because
  someone didn't bother to give us all the facts.
Marcus:  So now what?
Otto:  So now, I find this nobleman, this...Waldrop.  Find him and
  make him pay!
Marcus:  That's not the way it works.  If there's an accounting to
  be had, it will be had...at the right time and place.
Otto:  This _is_ the right time!
Marcus:  No.  I have need of you and Weasel - there's a mission in
  the Bone March which requires your expertise and talents.
Otto:  With all due respect, sir, I'd rather not.
Marcus:  I understand your grief - I've lost many a friend and loyal
  companion over the years - but _you_ must understand that we can't
  just go and break the rules, ignore contracts and jobs, whenever
  we want to.
Otto:  (shakes his head)  Then understand this:  I'm outta here.
Marcus:  Pardon?
Otto:  It's been an honor and a pleasure serving with you, Milord.
  I'd still follow you to the gates of Hell, if you asked me.  But
  for now, I have to go.
Marcus:  Are you sure this is what you want?
Otto:  I'm sure it's the only course of action I'll be able to live
  with.
Marcus:  (sighs)  Talk to the clerk, he'll give you your full month's
  pay.  Just remember, I'm not condoning your actions.
Otto:  You don't need to.  (he leaves, slamming the door behind him)

  Shortly, outside...

Weasel:  You're really going after him?
Otto:  I have to.  I figured you'd understand.
Weasel:  I do.  It's just that...I'm not ready to leave here.  Not
  just yet.
Otto:  (smiles)  Don't worry, I'm not asking you to go with me.  In
  fact, I wouldn't have it.  This is _my_ responsibility, and my
  price to pay, if it comes to that.
Weasel:  Hmm.  Well, then...(he salutes Otto)  Good luck, and get
  a piece for me.
Otto:  Bet on it.

  With that, Otto left the room, and shortly after that, he left
the service of Lord Marcus of Greyspire, mercenary general and hero.
Riding a small horse, the dwarf carried only the essentials needed
to get to civilization.  Of the monsters and bandits that might
chance upon him, he cared not; turning his mount southward, toward
the Prelacy of Almor, Otto frowned grimly, and was off.



  More than a week later, in the city of Chathold, a certain middle-
aged, rather obese nobleman awoke in the middle of the night with a
blade at his pale throat.

Waldrop:  <ghak>
Otto:  Quiet, scum.  Keep it down, or they'll be cleaning your bed-
  sheets for the next week.
Waldrop:  (croaks something)
Otto:  (pushes his blade a bit, drawing blood)  You think I'm fucking
  around here, lardass?
Waldrop:  (whispering hoarsely)  Wh-  what do you want?
Otto:  One question.  Think carefully.  Remember the Tor of Yargan?
Waldrop:  (shakes his head)  N- no...
Otto:  (wiggles his knife, drawing several drops of blood this time)
  Don't lie to me, you slug.
Waldrop:  Ack...Yargan's Tor...y- yes, suddenly I remember...
Otto:  I thought you might.
Waldrop:  W- what about it?
Otto:  Why'd you hire a band of mercenaries to take it out, but you
  didn't warn them of its exact importance to certain opposing
  parties?
Waldrop:  Huh?
Otto:  The place was well-guarded..._too_ well-guarded!  That was
  no simple hill-fort - they had major forces there!
Waldrop:  Uh...
Otto:  I'm counting to three, then I'll be seeing red.  An answer.
  Now.  One...
Waldrop:  Eh...uh...
Otto:  Two.
Waldrop:  Almorian forces!  We knew the fort would be a costly
  victory - better to have paid swords go there...!
Otto:  Keep it down.  Paid swords?
Waldrop:  That's what they get paid for...to fight, and to die if
  need be.
Otto:  That may be, but your misinformation cost us lives that
  night.
Waldrop:  I- I'll pay!  Name your price!
Otto:  Price?
Waldrop:  (sweating profusely)  Name it...
Otto:  The souls of four good friends.  (with a disgusted swipe,
  he slits the man's throat, quickly backing away to avoid the
  mess)
Waldrop:  (gurgles)
Otto:  And good riddance.  (as quietly as he entered the manor, he
  leaves)





next:      Halbarad, Peyote, and Gorin after being left on Oerth
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.access.digex.net/~dpm
           http://www3.hmc.edu/~kshobaki/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     This tale takes place sometime before episode 218.  It
  didn't seem right to put Otto in the title/cast area, so here's
  his line:

*  Otto         6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief            (CN) *

*********************************************************************





previous Lost chapter (#3)                                                                  next Lost chapter (#5)