Lost Chapter #12

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                      *    THE ADVENTURERS    *
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                      *     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 1991-7 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   *
*  Halbarad     10th level human ranger                        (NG) *
*  Date:        8/14/572 C.Y. (Common Year)                         *
*  Time:        midday                                              *
*  Place:       a town in northwestern Perrenland                   *
*  Climate:     cool                                                *
*  "Politics and crime - they're the same thing."                   *
*                                          - from _The Godfather_   *

                      XII.  Awakening

  The ranger crossed his thick, leather-clad arms as the baron
finished his story.

Baron Zeno:  ...and that's about it.  These orcs snuck into Arvis'
  lands one night, took his son, and retreated back into the peaks
  to the west.
Halbarad:  Why does Baron Arvis not spearhead the effort to get his
  son back?
Baron Zeno:  He's grief-stricken...incapable of taking action or
  making a decision.  By the time he gets his head together, his
  son will surely be dead.
Halbarad:  Why not send your men-at-arms after Arvis' son?  They
  would surely have a better chance than I...
Baron Zeno:  If the orcs see a large party, they may panic and do
  something rash...if they haven't already.  No, a single person
  can approach more easily, and move faster.  I've talked with
  others here, and they agree that it's the best way.
Halbarad:  What does your daughter think of all this?
Baron Zeno:  She's upset, of course.  The stealing of one's groom-
  to-be by a pack of savage orcs isn't an easy thing.
Halbarad:  Orcs...
Baron Zeno:  Your obvious skills and experience, combined with your
  knowledge of orcish ways and your hatred for them, make you the
  perfect one to get Arvis' son back.
Halbarad:  Aye...but I shall have to hurry.
Baron Zeno:  Please do.  Whatever your price, name it.  The marriage
  of my daughter and Arvis' son is necessary to unite our holdings
  and form a powerful standing militia to handle the marauding orc
Halbarad:  It sounds to me like that militia should have already
  been in place.
Baron Zeno:  Yes, yes.  What's your price, good ranger?
Halbarad:  Not that I personally have much use for your money where
  I travel, but a thousand pieces of gold will suffice.
Baron Zeno:  Excellent!  I'll have it ready when you return.
Halbarad:  I will leave shortly.  This will be a difficult task - if
  you have any gods, pray to them.

  With that, the ranger left the tavern to retrieve his horse and
pick up a few necessary supplies.  As he went about these errands,
he had a chance to recollect and ponder recent events in his life.
Halbarad had only been in Perrenland for a few weeks, but already
he didn't like it much.  There was just something about an entire
kingdom of mercenaries.  The ranger didn't understand why men would
sell their swords for whatever war presented itself that day.  Men
should, he believed, ally themselves with the _right_ cause - not
the richest one.
  He'd trekked here from the southern kingdoms, and had been on the
open road for more than a year since leaving his former adventuring
companions near the Barrier Peaks.  Sometimes a fellow just needed
some time alone; with Halbarad, this wasn't a problem.  He was fully
capable of living and functioning by himself.  He'd proven that most
recently when he crossed the Yatil Mountains; those harsh, snowy
peaks were considered impassable by everyone who lived around them.
Yet, Halbarad had gone forth and found his own pass, one that only
the native mountain men knew about.
  In the midst of his mountain-crossing, he'd encountered a tribe
of those wild mountain denizens and spent several weeks with them.
Simple sign language had led to peaceful barter, and then attempts
by both parties to learn the other's language.  The experience had
served to remind Halbarad of one of his oft-forgotten loves:  simple
exploring.  Never mind invading long-lost tombs, fighting humanoids
in the far reaches of the world, and such folly.  A true woodsman
lived for the thrill of adventuring in an unexplored forest...of
feeling the cold air of a mountain blow by...of blazing a new trail
through some wilderness that all considered impassable.
  Eventually, though, he'd felt the need to move on, and move on he
had - to Perrenland.  The locals had laughed at his tales of forging
a new pass, and he decided not to bother trying to prove it to those
incapable of understanding or appreciating the feat.  Instead, he'd
turned his energies toward finding something meaningful to do.  It
wasn't easy, especially in this kingdom, but at last he'd succeeded.

  He departed the town within the hour, heading westward.  Since it
hadn't rained recently and he was dealing with soft grasslands, he
had no trouble picking up the orcs' tracks.  They'd used horses, at
least on the flatlands; from the looks of the vast peaks to the
west, mounts might well be out of the question once the mountains
were breached.
  The orcs' trail led directly toward - and into - the mountains,
and Halbarad followed as fast as was humanly possible.  He figured,
based on what he knew of orcs, that the humanoids would move well
into the peaks and then cease to worry about pursuit.  He intended
to make them pay for that carelessness, and pay dearly.
  The swiping of Arvis' son had occurred only a day and a half ago,
and the trail was still fresh.  Fresh, and pathetically easy to
follow.  The orcs weren't even trying to cover their passing, and
an amateur woodsman, still wet behind the ears, could have followed
them.  Halbarad made good time, taking only occasional breaks to let
his horse rest.  During these times, he rested too...an hour at a
time.  He'd heard this method referred to as "combat-napping" and
the idea behind it was that a body could be trained to function on
much less sleep than its mind thought it needed.
  He pursued through the night, and by the middle of the next day,
he knew he was getting close.  The tracks were fresh, the ashes
still hot, and the droppings still wet.  The orcs still had their
mounts, for they were sticking to an established pass rather than
making their own.  Finally, near dusk, the ranger caught up with
his quarry, just as they were making camp for the night.  Taking a
position uphill and downwind from the orcs, he watched them in order
to learn their numbers and the layout of their campsite.
  There appeared to be about a dozen of the humanoids, which was
accurate compared with what Zeno had said.  The real question was
whether or not Arvis' son was still alive and well.  The answer
was quickly forthcoming:  the orcs opened a dirty sack and a young
man of about twenty years spilled out onto the rocky ground.  The
orcs laughed and began kicking their victim, only stopping when he
ceased to move.  Halbarad could see, even from here, that the boy
was still alive; his chest heaved with pained breaths.
  Halbarad decided to make his attack now, rather than wait until
the morning.  He snuck around the camp in a wide arc and set some
snares on the downhill side of the orcs.  Next he used his magical
ring to talk with some of the forest animals, persuading them to
assist him in his cause.  When all was in readiness, he moved back
to his uphill position, secured one end of a rope to his chest,
and prepared his bow.  Sighting on the largest and strongest-looking
orc first, he waited...
  In the orcs' camp, the crude joking and shoving that they called
camaraderie was suddenly interrupted by a squawking bird.  The small
feathered fiend flew flippantly through the camp, causing the orcs
to bat and curse at it.  Above, Halbarad paused, and then let his
arrow fly!

big orc:  (an arrow appears in his neck)  Gluk!  (he falls, gurgling)
nearby orc:  (sees the other fall)  Huh?
other big orc:  (turns)  What's goin' on-  (he reels as another shaft
  sinks into his back)
other orc:  Archer!  (they all begin scrambling about, milling in

  Halbarad was able to kill one more orc before the others had taken
cover behind trees.  He held another arrow in his hand and waited,
not moving even a bit.  After a short time, a few of the orcs began
to move out from their cover, warily.  He let them believe that he'd
gone, lulling them into a false sense of safety, and then commenced
his deadly bow-work once more.  Magical shafts flew from the magical
bow, further guided by the ranger's great skill.
  Two more orcs fell before he had no more targets.  Knowing that
the same trick wouldn't work twice - even on orcs - he set his bow
aside.  Checking to make sure his weapons were secure, he stood and
moved back several paces, then sprinted forward, leaping off the
edge of his high position.  The rope he'd tied to a sturdy branch
high above held, and he swung down into the camp...and through it!
At the far end of his pendulum-like swing, he let go of the rope and
whirled about in midair.  He then landed deftly on the ground, his
battle axe ready in his other hand.
  He now faced six orcs, whose fearful expressions had changed to
angry ones.

orc #1:  There he is!
orc #2:  Get 'im!

  The foes charged, but the ranger was ready.  His dagger parried a
shortsword swipe, and his axe came down, cleaving the head of that
attacker.  Ducking another foe, he drove his dagger into its gut,
dropping the orc.  The other orcs now surrounded him, though, and
it took every bit of his speed and strength to stay alive.  One foe
cut his shoulder open, a minor wound that might yet grow worse if
not tended to.
  Just then, a squirrel launched itself from a tree above, landing
atop one orc's face with a squeal.

squirrel:  Skrrreee!
orc #6:  Aie!  (he claws at the squirrel but only manages to gouge
  furrows in his own face)
bird:  (flies around between the orcs and the ranger)  Squaw!
large mouse:  (runs around amidst the orcs, squeaking uselessly)
orc #5:  What the hell?!?
Halbarad:  (slices at the foe with a sideways axe sweep)
orc #5:  (gutted)  Ark!  (he falls)
Halbarad:  (dodges another blow, suffering a small gash across one
  leg, and stabs orc #4 in the shoulder)
orc #4:  Argh!  (he backs away)
Halbarad:  (turns and hacks at orc #3)
orc #3:  (his sword-arm severed at the elbow, he falls, screaming)
orc #6:  (still dancing about, clawing at the squirrel in his hair)
Halbarad:  (to the squirrel)  Hold still.  (he brings his axe up
  into the orc's crotch)
orc #6:  (watches his guts spill out)  Erk.  (he falls)
orc #4:  (backing up)  Please...mercy!
Halbarad:  Mercy, like you would have given that boy over there?
orc #4:  No!  We was hired to steal 'im...hired by someone in the
  town, yeah!
Halbarad:  Oh, really?  (he stays his axe-hand)
orc #4:  Yes!  Yes!  I'm not lyin' to you!  Spare me an' I'll finger
  'im when we get back!
Halbarad:  Hmm.

  After tying the orc securely, the ranger finished off the dying
orcs with mercy blows.  The next order of business was checking on
the son of Arvis.  The young man, however, was well enough to stand
and walk about on his own.

son of Arvis:  Whew...thanks, friend.
Halbarad:  Have you a name, boy?
son of Arvis:  I'm Arvis II.
Halbarad:  I see.
Arvis II:  My father hired you to come after me, yes?
Halbarad:  After a fashion.  (he points to the orc)  Do you know
  anything about what he claims?
Arvis II:  No.  They haven't talked much around me.
Halbarad:  Let's get moving.
Arvis II:  We're moving by night?
Halbarad:  Not all night - I just want to get away from here, then
  we will make camp until morning.
Arvis II:  Oh.

  They did exactly that, Halbarad finding a better campsite a half-
hour's march from the orc camp.  The captive orc was tied to a tree
for the night, and the horses (both theirs and the orcs') were roped
together nearby.  The night passed without much incident, though the
orc did attempt to wriggle free of his bonds.  Halbarad had set an
owl to keep watch on the humanoid, and when it raised the alarm,
Halbarad trussed the orc up further, leaving him painfully stretched
around the tree, unable to do much more than breathe.  Morning found
the trio riding out of the mountains.  Only the home stretch lay
ahead - and that was why Halbarad was surprised when an arrow whizzed
out of a copse of bushes and struck the orc in the heart.

orc #4:  Ghak!  (tied as he is, he can do nothing more than slump
  in the saddle)  Urk...
Halbarad:  (rushes over, using the orc's horse as cover)  Who?!?
  Who hired you?
orc #4:  Zeno...it was Baron Zeno...(he gurgles and keels over)
Arvis II:  Zeno?!?  But why?  That's impossible!
Halbarad:  Perhaps, and perhaps not.  Right now, we have something
  else to worry about.
Arvis II:  I'll say.

  Two men approached; one held a crossbow drawn on Halbarad, while
the other carried a naked blade.

man #1:  (aims his crossbow at Halbarad's neck)  Don't move, or else
  you'll get it like the orc.
Halbarad:  What do you want?
man #2:  No need to worry about that now, friend.
Arvis II:  (cowers)

  As the archer covered Halbarad, the other man walked up to Arvis
and glared at him.

Arvis II:  Who sent you?  Was it Zeno-
man #2:  (slaps Arvis with the side of his blade)  You talk too much.
  (he turns his attention to Halbarad)  You weren't supposed to live
  through this, you know.
Halbarad:  Why not?
man #2:  It wouldn't have looked right if Zeno hadn't made _some_
  effort to get Arvis here back.  (he eyes Halbarad)  You don't look
  like someone who can defeat a dozen orcs at once.
Halbarad:  (shrugs)  I am what I am.
man #2:  Dead is what you're about to be...you, and Arvis too.  We'll
  take him far enough up that his carcass will be discovered, but not
  too soon.
Arvis II:  (looking rather unhappy at the moment)  Ack!
Halbarad:  Why is Zeno doing this?  His own future son-in-law...has
  he no care for family?
man #1:  You really are a fool, aren't you?  If Zeno can push Arvis
  the elder into conflict with the orcs, Arvis will go into debt.
  Then Zeno can loan him money, with Arvis' lands as security.
Arvis II:  (sits up)  So Zeno gets my father's lands without having
  to give away his daughter - or his own lands, when he dies.
man #2:  (slaps Arvis again)  I told you, you talk too much.
Halbarad:  (shaking his head)  It figures...there are always orcs
  who care more about money than their fellows.  (he frowns)  That
  goes for men, too.
man #1:  Whatever.
man #2:  (glares at the other)  You talk too much, too.  (he turns
  back to Halbarad)  Enough out of you.  Now drop those weapons.
Halbarad:  (drops his axe)
man #1:  And the dagger too, or I'll shoot.
Halbarad:  You will shoot anyway, no?
man #1:  Hah-  (he falls, clubbed from behind by Arvis)
Arvis:  (bashes the man again with the large stick he picked up)
man #2:  (his eyes widen, then he leaps at Halbarad)  Die!
Halbarad:  (twists sideways, parrying with his dagger)

  The ranger was quick - and that saved his life - but he was also
outmatched weapon-wise.  The foe's heavy sword was turned by the
ranger's much smaller dagger, but the sword's edge still sliced
across Halbarad's face.

Halbarad:  AAARGH!  (he staggers back, blood pouring down one side
  of his face)
man #2:  You'll never be a ladies' man again-
Halbarad:  (clutching his bleeding face with one hand, he hurls his
  dagger with the other)  Enough!
man #2:  (screams as the blade sinks into his wrist)  Aaagh!  (he
  drops his sword)
Halbarad:  (picks up his axe and pounces on the man)
man #2:  (puts up his hands to defend himself)  No-
Halbarad:  (enraged, his axe swings down, hewing through bone and
  flesh as it finds the foe's skull)
man #2:  <thunk>

  His grisly work done, Halbarad stood, looking around as blood
poured from his slashed face.

Halbarad:  Agh...
Arvis II:  (finds a wide strip of cloth)  Here, let me bind that for
Halbarad:  My thanks...
Arvis II:  Looks like he missed your eye - just scraped the bone of
  your face.  Eyebrow to chin...
Halbarad:  Enough.  Is the orc dead?
Arvis II:  I think so.
Halbarad:  (walks over and checks the humanoid)  Dead.  Well, we
  still have the archer there.
Arvis II:  We should tie him up and get back to my father's lands.
Halbarad:  A bright lad, you are.
Arvis II:  I have to be - someday I'm going to inherit everything
  my father owns, and I have to be able to run things.

  They tossed the bodies behind a large bush and then went on their
way.  It was night before they made it back to Arvis the elder's land;
they'd used a roundabout route to avoid detection by anyone who might
be loyal to Zeno.  Eventually, they stood in Arvis' study, recounting
their amazing story.

Arvis I:  -and this prisoner you've brought will testify to this?
Arvis II:  If he won't, _I_ still heard the orc, as well as the two
  men.  Zeno is finished.
Arvis I:  (to Halbarad)  How can I thank you?  I'll happily pay you
  the fee Zeno promised, since I'd guess that he's soon going to be
  preoccupied with matters more grave...
Halbarad:  I want no fee.  (he gathers his things)
Arvis II:  Where are you going?
Halbarad:  I have had enough of trickery.  (he sighs)  I once thought
  that there was some inherent worth in each and every person.  Now
  I know better.  Farewell.

  The ranger's wound looked much worse than it was.  His eye hadn't
been damaged by the sword-slash, and with time, the gash would heal
and become a shallow (if pronounced) scar.  The emotional wound was
deeper, though; Halbarad wasn't sure he ever wanted to get involved
in the petty affairs of others again.  In the future, he would have
to choose his causes with more caution.

next:      young Bosco...the circus...see why we call them animals
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.nol.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/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 after 5/20/571 (episode 072) and before
  12/11/573 (episode 193) and is intended to bridge the gap between
  the serious, goody-goody Halbarad of old and the cautious, wary
  Halbarad seen in episode 252.

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