Lost Chapter #14

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                          *               *
                        *                   *
                      *    THE ADVENTURERS    *
                    *                           *
                      *     Lost Tales...     *
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*    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 1991-8 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   *
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*  Peyote       9th/11th level half-elf fighter/druid           (N) *
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*  Date:        10/28/572 C.Y. (Common Year)                        *
*  Time:        midafternoon                                        *
*  Place:       the depths of the Vesve Forest                      *
*  Climate:     cool                                                *
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*  "We're in the middle of nowhere."                                *
*  "Stuff like this only happens in the middle of nowhere."         *
*                                              - from _Tremors 2_   *
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                     XIV.  Making the Grade





  Peyote stepped up, treading stones as ancient as the forest as
he entered the council hall of the Archdruid.  Strictly speaking,
the place wasn't quite a hall; rather, it was a building-like
structure made entirely of intertwined branches and roots.  Crudely
dome-like in shape, with a radius in excess of fifty feet, the hall
was much more structurally sound than most buildings of stone and
mortar.
  On the outside, it appeared much like a building, only covered
in vines, leaves, and the like.  Inside, however, it resembled a
clearing within a thick, tangled forest.  The walls kept out all
outside light and temperature conditions; if anything, the hall's
interior smelled clean and pure, like a healthy forest should.
Its floor was a thin layer of grass, atop a dirt floor.  Its
ceiling was a rounded dome of branches and leaves; some source
of light, perhaps magical, cast a pleasant glow upon the place.
  The Archdruid himself sat in a worn wooden seat fashioned from
a single chunk of wood.  From a distance, Confernicus appeared to
be a frail old man.  In actuality, he was a spry, active fellow
who acted like one who'd only seen half of his hundred and four
years.  Part of this unnatural vitality was, of course, due to
his powers, but the fact remained that he was far from weak and
helpless.
  Confernicus stood about five and a half feet tall, with a slight
build and simple garb.  Though he had a short, thin beard of white
on his chin, his pate was nearly bald.  His eyesight and teeth
were both in excellent condition, as was his mind.  Confernicus
was counted among the sharpest minds in Obad-Hai's inner enclave,
and his intelligence, coupled with his other abilities, had carried
him to the position he now occupied.
  Peyote marveled to himself as he realized again that this frail-
looking old man controlled all rangers and druids for five hundred
leagues around him.

Confernicus:  Please, enter.
Peyote:  Uh...(he walks deeper into the place)
Confernicus:  You seek enlightenment, to the next level?
Peyote:  Always, dude.
Confernicus:  The way will not be easy...but the rewards will be
  well worth the trouble.
Peyote:  (nods)
Confernicus:  There are, however, also responsibilities that come
  with the position of Druid.  Are you certain that you're ready
  for them?
Peyote:  Can you give me more details?
Confernicus:  As a Druid, you will gain leadership of one of nine
  woodland regions on this continent.
Peyote:  Whoa.  What about other continents?
Confernicus:  Although they do exist, they are not my responsibility,
  or yours.  Obad-Hai has chosen the nine largest forests of Oerik,
  and each is overseen by one of his Druids.
Peyote:  Oh.
Confernicus:  As you already know, there are three of my title -
  Archdruid - in our deity's service as well.  Since you have come
  here, to me, I assume that you desire a Druidic position in this
  region?
Peyote:  I'd be proud to call the Vesve Forest home.
Confernicus:  And you're sure you are ready to settle down here...
  seldom to leave the inner regions of the woodlands...burdened by
  great responsibilities?
Peyote:  I'm ready, dude.
Confernicus:  Very well, then.  (he stands, leading the young half-
  elf over to a bookshelf)  Spend the next days reading this.  (he
  hands Peyote an ancient scroll)  This contains the history, rules,
  and ramifications of the contest.  Learn them well; in the mean-
  time, all will be made ready.
Peyote:  I'm on it.
Confernicus:  The ritual and contest shall take place five days hence,
  when Luna is in her fullest phase.
Peyote:  Groovy.  (he bows, then leaves with the scroll)
Confernicus:  (crosses his arms)  Truly an odd boy, that one.

  The Archdruid was somewhat troubled by this whole business.  The
title of Druid in this region (or any other, for that matter) was
usually attained by a younger contender vying with the incumbent for
the position.  However, in this case, the existing Druid had been
slain while on a mission to some faraway, forsaken land.  There was
barely time to mourn the loss; the position had to be filled, and
soon.  The half-elf Peyote was one of two who were qualified for the
job, and thus it was that he would soon be competing in combat to
determine who would be the next Druid.  Despite his age, Confernicus
still marveled at the strange turns life sometimes took.

  The next days passed somewhat fitfully, for Peyote.  He spent his
days studying the material he'd been given.  The scroll contained
the kind of information that had to be read and re-read in order to
grasp its full meaning.  Peyote wasn't sure if he'd be tested on the
scroll's contents, but being a sharp fellow, he picked the lessons
up fairly quickly.
  While the half-elf learned a wealth of knowledge, his animals were
free to roam about.  The wild dog (fang) pretty much kept to himself,
prowling the woods at all hours of the day and night.  The hawks (eye
and ear) flew about, preying on small game and dueling in the air.
To tell the truth, Peyote had no need of his pets right now, and he
was glad they were in a place where they could go about their normal
activities.
  Peyote wasn't really too nervous about what was to come - it just
wasn't in his nature.  Besides, these Druidic combats for rank were
never to the death; rather, they lasted until one combatant either
submitted or was unable to continue.  Peyote really didn't want to
make an enemy here, but it was the way of the Druids.  Their code
forbade retributive acts after these duels; strange as it seemed,
this had been their way for centuries.  Additionally, since the duel
was purely physical in nature, Peyote felt reasonably sure of the
outcome.

  After long days of preparation (involving everything from long
chants to midnight berry-gathering) everything was in place.  Luna,
the larger of Oerth's two moons, shone in her full glory.  The sky
was perfectly clear and cloudless, as it always seemed to be at
times like this.  Within the Druidic encampment was a circle of
large, ancient stones; the combat would occur within this henge.
Ritual torches were lit and placed around the stone circle.  Holy
words and prayers of Obad-Hai were uttered, and various preparatory
offerings were made.  Confernicus took his place upon one of the
great stones, designated for the Archdruid.  Other Druids soon filed
in, ringing the open area within the henge.
  On opposite sides of the arena, the two soon-to-be combatants
prepared for the contest.  Peyote arrived first; he was devoid of
all armor and weapons, as was the prescribed way.  He seemed calm
and collected to those who watched him.  Before the actual contest,
both he and the one he had to fight had been tested extensively by
Confernicus.  These pre-combat trials measured the two Druids' skill
with magic, as well as their knowledge of Druidic ways.  Almost all
participants in these contests passed the spellcasting and knowledge
tests; if they weren't competent enough to compete for the title of
Druid, they wouldn't have been here in the first place.  The true
purpose of Confernicus' pre-fight trials was to assure himself that
no matter who won, that person would be ready, willing, and able to
assume the mantle and responsibility of a Druid.
  The Archdruid was not disappointed with either of the competitors.
Peyote had gotten to wondering about the other Druid he would face;
he had never seen the man, and knew nothing about him.  Then again,
Peyote hadn't exactly put down roots in these parts, either.  As he
prepared for the coming contest, he noticed a young woman across the
circle from him.

Peyote:  Uh...
attending Druid:  Yes?
Peyote:  What's _she_ doing over there?
attending Druid:  Getting ready to fight, I'd imagine, just like you.
Peyote:  What?!?
attending Druid:  You didn't know?
Peyote:  Know what?  That I'm competing with a woman for this position?
  No, dude, I most certainly didn't know!
attending Druid:  Well, now you do.
Peyote:  Bogus, man.  I can't fight a _woman_.
attending Druid:  Sure you can.
Peyote:  (shakes his head)  This is so wrong.

  Before much longer, it was time.  From Peyote's viewpoint, the time
passed far more quickly than he would have liked.  He didn't want to
fight a woman, even in a friendly setting such as this.  However,
there was no choice.  Still, he tried to make his point when both of
the soon-to-be-combatants stood before Confernicus, armor- and weapon-
less.
  Peyote's problems were complicated by the fact that the young woman
was quite fetching.  She stood a little less than five and a half feet
tall, with a solid body that looked like it held a good bit of muscle.
Her skin was a golden brown, hinting at many days spent outdoors.  Her
hair was a slightly darker shade of brown, and its curls hung down to
her shoulders.  The woman looked no older than thirty, though Peyote
was sure she had to be older than that.  Her movements were fluid, her
limbs supple; in another time and place, Peyote would have tried to
romance the woman.

Confernicus:  (glances at both of the young druids, smiling)
Peyote:  You didn't tell me I'd be fighting a woman, dude.
Confernicus:  You didn't ask.
Peyote:  D'oh.
young woman:  (glares at Peyote with a curious look)
Confernicus:  This shouldn't be a problem.
Peyote:  It's just...not right.
young woman:  Nonsense!  I'm as entitled to this position as any
  man here!
Peyote:  (spreads his hands)  I don't doubt that, sister.  I just
  don't want to hurt you-
young woman:  (irritated)  Don't worry, you won't get a chance.  And
  the name's not "sister", it's Daffodil.
Peyote:  (unable to keep from snickering)  Like the flower?
Daffodil:  (angrily)  Yes, like the flower.
Peyote:  Well, you sure don't look like any daffodil I've ever seen.
  (he smirks as she grimaces)  Sorry, sister.
Confernicus:  (breaks the ensuing silence with an executive interr-
  uption)  Are both of you ready?
Peyote:  (nods)
Daffodil:  (casts a contemptuous glance at Peyote)  More than ready.
Confernicus:  To your sides of the henge, then.  Combat will begin
  momentarily.  You both know the rules.
Peyote:  (bows slightly, and returns to his side of the stone ring)
Daffodil:  (does the same)
Confernicus:  (to a nearby Druid)  This should be good.
Druid:  Of course, O great one.

  The beat of drums began, from somewhere nearby yet unseen.  The
two combatants were handed thick wooden staves, after which they
began to circle one another warily.  The purpose of the staves
was to provide a weapon that wasn't quite as lethal as most; if
one or both combatants were disarmed, the contest would continue
without weapons.  Peyote had above-average strength and speed, but
wasn't the most skilled staff-fighter.  His strategy was to disarm
Daffodil as quickly as possible, then use his greater strength to
end the contest.
  His lithe opponent wasn't having any of it, though.  She poked
at the half-elf a couple of times, using one end of her staff,
before launching into a fusillade of blows and stabs.  Peyote was
well aware that even the blunt end of a staff was dangerous; after
all, he'd seen Rillen in action on a number of occasions.  In this
case, he took a solid poke to the stomach and was knocked back to
the soft ground, coughing.

Peyote:  (wheezes for breath)
Daffodil:  Be careful, now.  You wouldn't want to hurt me.  (she
  swings her staff in a sweeping downward motion)
Peyote:  (too agile to be taken so easily, he rolls aside, using
  one foot to trip his foe as he moves)
Daffodil:  (falls, but springs back to her feet, staff ready, as
  Peyote stands)  Hah!
Peyote:  Enjoying this, are you?
Daffodil:  Of course.
Peyote:  (grins)  Me, too.  (he lunges, driving her back as he
  twirls his own weapon)
Daffodil:  (parries several noncommittal attacks, then counters
  with a blow that lands squarely on Peyote's broad back)
Peyote:  Ungh!  (he abandons his staff, instead grabbing hers as
  she pulls it back for another blow)
Daffodil:  (surprised at this move, she tugs on her staff)  Hey!
Peyote:  Hay is for horses, sister.  (he pulls her staff, and her
  with it, to him)  Well, hello there.
Daffodil:  (smiles sweetly)  You're kinda cute...so it's too bad
  that I have to do this.  (she knees him in the groin)
Peyote:  WHOOF!  (he staggers back)
Daffodil:  Too bad about that.
Peyote:  (coughing)
Daffodil:  (tosses her staff aside, and charges the half-elf,
  tackling him to the ground)
Peyote:  Whoa!

  They wrestled about, Peyote never having a chance to recover from
the low blow he'd been dealt.  Daffodil was every bit as strong and
resilient as she looked, and she was also tenacious.  It took all
of Peyote's strength - and a little luck - to avoid getting locked
in a fight-ending hold.  After some spirited rolling around in the
dirt, he was able to plant a foot in her belly and launch her away
from him, into the air.

Daffodil:  Whaaaa...!  (she lands, hard)
Peyote:  (his muscles aching, he realizes that he must end this
  contest soon)  Gerinomo!  (he leaps atop her)
Daffodil:  Gerinomo?
Peyote:  (seeking to pin her and win this contest by submission)
  A word I heard of once, while eating mush-
Daffodil:  (spins about, escaping and leaping to her feet in one
  motion)  You talk too much.
Peyote:  (eyes her with wonder)  The way you move...
Daffodil:  (charges, ducking and using a foot-sweep at the last
  possible moment)
Peyote:  (goes down)  Whoulf!
Daffodil:  (leaps atop him, bending one arm around behind his back)
  Submit!
Peyote:  Never.
Daffodil:  (goes after the other arm)  Submit!
Peyote:  (twists about somehow, both of his hands locked with hers
  now, and slowly forces _her_ arms behind her back)
Daffodil:  Ow!
Peyote:  (in a move he can't recall learning, he suddenly wraps his
  legs around her waist, for extra leverage, then pins her arms; they
  both fall over on their sides)  Now you submit.
Daffodil:  No!  (she struggles fiercely, but to no avail; she is in
  an inescapable position)  Damn!
Peyote:  (leans forward and whispers in her ear)  Submit.  Please.
  I don't want to break your arms.
Daffodil:  (snaps her head back, slamming it into Peyote's face)
Peyote:  (feels his nose crunch)  Argh!
Daffodil:  (uses the distraction to struggle to escape)
Peyote:  (bleeding from his nose, he ignores the pain and tightens
  his hold on the woman's arms)  That was rude.  I'll tell you one
  more time:  submit or you're gonna get hurt, and I don't want that.
Daffodil:  (in excruciating pain)  Nngh...!
Peyote:  (in a low voice again)  Please.
Daffodil:  (yells to the observers)  I submit!

  A mass shuffle ensued as the various spectators rose and applauded.
Peyote instantly relinquished his hold on Daffodil, who slumped to
the ground, angry and defeated.  He felt bad, but then again, these
contests and their rules weren't his to determine.

Confernicus:  (slaps Peyote on the back, with surprising strength
  for a man older than a hundred)  Well-done!  That was a close
  match, and one of the best we've seen in a while.
Peyote:  (glances at Daffodil, who is sitting on the ground rubbing
  her elbows)  What about her?
Confernicus:  She will resume her previous duties, until such time
  as she wishes to contest for a Druidic position.
Peyote:  (ignoring the people coming to congratulate him, he walks
  over to Daffodil)
Daffodil:  (looks up at him, sadly)
Peyote:  (extends a hand, to help her up)



  Several days later, Peyote was chatting with the Archdruid about
some particulars of his new position...

Confernicus:  -you've seen worse in your travels.
Peyote:  Right on, dude.  I've rebounded from some really bogus
  stuff in my time...poison dragon breath, fiery dragon breath...
Confernicus:  It would seem that you have a problem with dragons.
Peyote:  (nods)  No denying it.
Confernicus:  Dragons are, in all conventional cases, unnatural
  and dangerous creatures.  I'd advise you to stay clear of them,
  and their breath.
Peyote:  Right you are, my man.
Confernicus:  So.  the Vesve area is yours now.
Peyote:  So to speak.
Confernicus:  Of course, you'll have to find your own place...make
  your own home here.
Peyote:  My own henge of stone?
Confernicus:  (nods)  I'd suggest the henge model.  It's sort of
  a tradition.
Peyote:  Peyote-Henge...hmm...
Confernicus:  I trust that the three Initiate Druids assigned to
  you are to your liking?
Peyote:  Absolutely, dude.  They're working out fine.  (he frowns)
  Though why Daffodil would want to work under me, after losing
  the ritual combat, is beyond me.
Confernicus:  She's headstrong, like her father.
Peyote:  Father?  Who's her father?
Confernicus:  No one you know.  Come, now - I must introduce you
  to a few treants.

  Confernicus didn't feel it necessary to burden Peyote with the
information that Daffodil's father was the Great Druid himself,
Oakly Greenleaf.  The half-elf had enough to worry about without
having to ponder the fact that he'd just defeated the Great Druid's
daughter in a contest to determine who would hold the rank of Druid
for this region.





next:      a lost tale of Ged
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           http://www.shobaki.org/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     This tale occurs between episode 072 (5/571, when Peyote
  was a 7th/9th level fighter/druid) and episode 192 (12/573, when
  he was 11th/12th level.)
  In the story arc of the late 430's, Peyote first told Mongo and
  the others that they were going to see the local Archdruid; as it
  turned out, they went to see the one higher up (14th level.)  He
  was undoubtedly confused; magic mushrooms will do that to you.
    As to why he didn't tell the others that the person he beat for
  the Druid position was a woman...well, he was embarrassed.

    This was one of those stories that I didn't really have any
  desire to write, but once I started, I found myself enjoying it.
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