Chapter #271

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                                +   +
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                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic II      +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    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 1995 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                    +
+                          +
+  Belphanior   13th/14th/14th level elven warrior/mage/thief (CN)  +
+     Otto      6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief           (CN)  +
+  Date:        1/23/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       northeast of the Free City of Hardby                +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "Not a hard one to track - he leaves dead men wherever he goes." +
+                                   - from _The Outlaw Josey Wales_ +

                  CCLXXI.  Journey to the Cairns

  Belphanior and Otto are riding northeastward, having crossed the
Woolly Bay and skirted Hardby.  The rough hills called the Abbor-Alz
now loom on the horizon.

Belphanior:  Abbor-Alz.  Sounds like a dwarven name.
Otto:  It is.  It means "tricky slopes", roughly.  The hills are so
  steep and rough that mounted movement is impossible.
Belphanior:  Is that so?
Otto:  It's true - I can vouch for it personally.
Belphanior:  (he regards his horse)  I suppose we'll have to leave
  the horses.  Maybe we should have sold them back at that last town.
Otto:  We could just ride around the hills.
Belphanior:  No, that would delay us a week, and I don't want to
  risk someone else finding the cairn.
Otto:  If it's been undisturbed for all this time, another week
  won't matter.
Belphanior:  Yeah, but if they had copies of the map, or if the mayor
  had it memorized, then they might follow us.  Hmm, maybe I should
  have killed him.
Otto:  It's possible.  How, then, will we cross the hills?  There are
  tribes of fierce nomads who live therein.
Belphanior:  Not a problem.
Otto:  With your magic, I guess not.
Belphanior:  No, I meant it's not a problem to cross the hills.  (he
  dismounts and begins spellcasting preparations)
Otto:  What have you got in mind?
Belphanior:  We shall fly across!
Otto:  Fly?
Belphanior:  My magic, remember?  Hold still.  (his hands glow as he
  empowers the dwarf with the spell)
Otto:  Hmm.  (he floats up into the air, immediately getting the
  hang of this mode of travel)  Whee.
Belphanior:  Handy, isn't it?  (he casts another such spell upon
Otto:  I like it already.
horses:  (watching apprehensively from below)

  They collected the essential rations and supplies from the mounts,
then gave them a push toward the west.

Belphanior:  With any luck, they'll find their way back to one town
  or another.
Otto:  Some lucky fool'll find 'em.
Belphanior:  Let's get going ourselves.  At flying speed, we can
  make much better time across the hills.
Otto:  Right.

  They set out, sailing high above the rocky hills below.  At times,
random tribesmen below sighted a pair of forms whizzing through the
afternoon sky, but the figures were long gone before anything could
be done.

tribesman:  (speaking in his local dialect of Common)  What would we
  _do_ if we caught them, anyway?
other tribesman:  (shrugs)  Beats me.
third tribesman:  Or beat them.

  Crossing the Abbor-Alz well before dusk, they landed shortly after
Belphanior sensed his magic dwindling.

Belphanior:  (points to the grassy plains below, and descends)
Otto:  (follows)
Belphanior:  The enchantment will fade soon, but it served its
Otto:  No kidding.  I could get used to flying.
Belphanior:  Remind me to make you a scroll or potion or something
  once there's time and facilities.
Otto:  We could use some horses now, though.
Belphanior:  Yep.  (they begin walking through the grasslands, head-
  ing northeast)  We'll march for an hour or two, then camp out here
  in the open.

  They trekked onward until nightfall, then made camp, choosing a
slightly elevated, grassy hill for a campsite.

Otto:  It's good, but still too obvious a place.  (he shrugs)
  No cover.
Belphanior:  I agree.  Maybe we should set traps.
Otto:  (already digging through his pack)  My thoughts exactly...
  (he holds up some kind of spring-loaded trap, complete with rows
  of nasty-looking teeth)
Belphanior:  Nifty.
Otto:  You do what you gotta.  Besides, the locals in this area are
  rather unfriendly.
Belphanior:  Well, so are we.

  Some time later, deep into the twilight hours, figures stalked
through the darkness, toward the camp and the dying fire that
marked it.  The savage nomads were quiet and stealthy, and as
they approached the campsite, slithering through the tall grass,
mortal senses would be hard-pressed to detect their approach.
They closed in from all sides, at least a dozen in number and
armed with wicked-looking curved swords and sickles, the typical
weaponry of the region.  Pausing for a moment in their approach,
they suddenly surged forward, screaming and yelling their primitive
  However, all did not go as planned.  The first three to charge
into the campsite were stopped cold by Otto's bear-traps.

nomad:  AAAAIEEEE!  (he claws futilely at the steel jaws that have
  nearly severed his foot)

  The second wave of nomads leaped past their unfortunate fellows,
intending to catch those in the camp by surprise and beat them
through sheer force of numbers.  They converged on the prone bed-
rolls and blankets, stabbing wildly...

nomad leader:  (holds up a hand)

  The bedrolls, though shredded thoroughly, spewed forth only bits
of fabric and feathers - they contained no sleepers!

nomad:  Huh?
other nomad:  Argh!  (the back end of a crossbow bolt appears in
  his eye)
third nomad:  Holy shit!
nomad leader:  Ambush!  Spread out!

  Suddenly, the smoldering campfire sparked, sizzled, and then burst
into flame, becoming a huge bonfire!  Four nomads, those closest to
the conflagration, were set aflame, and began running amok, shrieking
in agony.  As the others scattered, trying to escape both the bonfire
and their flaming companions, another fell, a crossbow bolt in his

nomad leader:  Spread out!  Go-

  Red cloak whirling, Belphanior leaped into the chaotic fray, his
dark sword swinging wildly, yet purposefully.  One nomad was sent
reeling back, his head nearly split in two.

Belphanior:  Ahhh!  (surging with power, he leaps aside as a sword
  slashes at him, then catches the attacker with his backswing,
  decapitating the man)  Hah!
other nomad:  (charges in, swinging a large axe)  Die, you!
Belphanior:  Not today.  (he parries the weapon easily, kicking the
  attacker back into one of the flaming ones)
third nomad:  (moves in from behind)  Yaaaah!  (he charges)
Belphanior:  Huh?
third nomad:  Yaaaa-  (he falls back as if struck, a crossbow bolt
  in his chest)  Urg...
Belphanior:  Heh.  (he guts another foe, dancing between some others
  as the life-force flows through his sword and into him)  Ahhh.
nomad leader:  Hells!  (he moves in, sword waving dangerously)
Belphanior:  Bah.  (knocks the opponent's sword away, then moves in,
  kneeing him in the stomach)
nomad leader:  Whoooulf!  (doubles over)
Belphanior:  (stabs the man in the back, then spins, catching the
  sword of another foe with his own)

  Before too much longer, it was over.  Four nomads had fallen
with Otto's crossbow bolts in them, while five had burnt to death
from the magically-enhanced campfire.  Two others were caught in
Otto's deadly traps (one had somehow escaped) and the remaining
five had fallen victim to Belphanior and his savage sword.

Belphanior:  (covered in blood, he glares about)  That's it, then.
Otto:  (appears at the camp's edge)  Good thing you knew they were
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  Blackrazor always knows.  (he coolly slays
  the two nomads who were caught in traps)  That's for trying to
  kill us.
Otto:  (looks on, uncaring)  Fuck 'em.  (he moves over to examine
  the trap from which one nomad escaped)  How the hell...ah, I see.
  His boot's buckle jammed the spring.  Shit, what are the odds of
  _that_ happening?  (he produces a small red root and begins to
  chew on it)  You want me to find him?
Belphanior:  Nah, I don't care.  Let him run - maybe he'll tell the
  other tribesmen to leave us alone.  Not that I care, either way.

  They put the fire out and moved on.  It was a simple matter to
find their deceased attackers' horses, and they chose the best two
and drove the rest southward.  Since it was only a few hours until
dawn, and neither adventurer felt like sleeping, they decided to
begin their travelling day early, and make up the lost sleep the
next evening.

  More than twelve hours later, they decided that this might have
been a mistake, albeit one they couldn't have known about.

Belphanior:  (looking in disgust at the swamp water in which he
  stands, knee-deep)  Fuck!
Otto:  How could we have known that there was a swamp ahead?
Belphanior:  I don't know, but maybe we should have flown over it.
Otto:  Yeah.  Like an hour ago.  Before we let the horses go.
Belphanior:  What madness possessed us?
Otto:  I've been asked that a lot before...
Belphanior:  Damn!  A full day of traveling, we're exhausted...
  (yawns)  And now this.  We'll never get to sleep!
Otto:  Seems that way.
Belphanior:  Well, maybe...(he looks around, eyes darting)  Guess
  what?  We've got company on the way.
Otto:  Great.  (rubs his eyes)  I'll prepare a suitable welcome.
  (he shoulders his crossbow and climbs up into a tree)
Belphanior:  (draws his sword)  That leaves me down here.  (his eye
  begins glowing bright red)  Too bad for somebody.

  Shortly, a pair of hulking trolls crashed through the swamp and
roared at Belphanior.

troll#1:  Grrrr...(lumbers right at the elf)
troll#2:  Raaargh!  (moves in, from the other side)
Belphanior:  Hi there.  (he walks sideways)
trolls:  (follow, drooling)

  Moments later, Otto, who was hiding directly above the spot that
Belphanior had lured the second troll to, poured the contents of a
glass bottle directly into the troll's face.  This wasn't too hard,
since the monster stood only two feet below the tree-branch in which
the dwarf was hiding.

Otto:  Enjoy.
troll#2:  RAAAARGH!  (paws at its face, which is smoking and giving
  off an acrid smell)
troll#1:  GRAARGH!  (charges Belphanior, taloned hands swiping)
Belphanior:  (slashes at his clumsy attacker, lopping off its hand)
  Hell, don't you stupid beasts ever learn?
troll#1:  (gropes at its stump)  AAARGH!
Belphanior:  Doesn't feel very good, does it?  You should have
  thought about that before you attacked me.  (he slices the troll
  in the leg, opening a deep gash)  Oh, that's right.  Trolls don't
  really think, do they?
troll#1:  (growls in rage)
Otto:  (fires a crossbow bolt into the monster's back)  Heh.
troll#1:  AARGH!  (swipes at Otto, who dances along the tree branch)
Belphanior:  Ah, ah, ah.  (stabs the foe from behind, as its back is
troll#1:  GRAARGH!  (whirls about)
Belphanior:  (slashes at the troll, driving it back into its fellow)
Otto:  (reloading his crossbow)

  Both trolls were now wallowing in the muck of the swamp, and the
two adventurers pressed their attack.

Belphanior:  (hacks at the first troll again, slaying it)  Ahhhh.
  (half of the foe's head floats away, tainting the brown swamp
  waters with black ooze)
Otto:  Better burn that.  (he shoots the blinded troll in the neck,
  then looks for a flask of oil)
Belphanior:  (stalks toward the remaining troll)
troll#2:  (falls)
Belphanior:  Eh?
Otto:  Poisoned bolts.  I guess the first troll was too tough to
  sucuumb.  (he dumps oil on the second troll's body and opens a
  tinderbox)  Heh.  Too far.  (he tosses the metal box down to
  Belphanior)  Light me?
Belphanior:  Sure thing.  (he quickly ignites the fallen troll's
  body, and the oil-filled swamp around it)  Hmm.  (he drags the
  first troll's carcass over to the flame)  I think they'll need
  more oil.
Otto:  My pleasure.  (he drops another flaskful of oil onto the
  blazing bodies)
Belphanior:  Interesting fight.
Otto:  (hops down, landing in the swamp with a splash)  Why's that?
Belphanior:  I've always wondered if Blackrazor could take the soul
  of a foe who regenerated.  It appears that it can.
Otto:  Good news comes in all shapes and sizes, eh?
Belphanior:  Yup.  (he looks at the surrounding swamp)  Tell you
  what.  Let's fly out of here.  There'll be fewer encounters at
  night anyway.
Otto:  (yawns)  You sure?
Belphanior:  Hey, I'm not even tired.  Not anymore.

  With the aid of Belphanior's magic, they had soon taken to the air
to continue their journey.  Fortunately, there was a full moon out,
so the land below was well-illuminated.  By the time the spells had
expired, the pair of wanderers had left the swamp behind.

Belphanior:  (on solid ground again)  The swamp's a good hour back.
Otto:  (yawning)  Now we camp?
Belphanior:  Yeah, now we camp.  (he spies thick, tall grass all
  around)  Set your traps.  I think we'll be in less danger here -
  there's no trail anyone can use to track us to this camp.
Otto:  Right.

  Within a half-hour, they were both fast asleep, and it was barely
midnight.  The camp was quiet, and nobody or nothing bothered the
adventurers this time.
  In the morning, they began marching again, to the northeast.

Otto:  Somewhere to the south is Maure Castle.
Belphanior:  What's that?
Otto:  Maure Castle.  I've heard stories about the monsters and
  treasures there.
Belphanior:  Hmm, maybe we'll have to go back someday.
Otto:  I'd be up for that.

  They journeyed through the wilderness, finding a small town later
that day.  From this place, they were able to purchase new horses
with which to hasten their journey.  They also stocked up on a few
necessary supplies before resuming travel.  The next day, a series
of low hills appeared on the horizon.

Belphanior:  The Cairn Hills...(he uses his magical compass to
  verify this)
Otto:  I hope your "map" shows which cairn we're going to.  There
  are a lot of hills....a lot of cairns.
Belphanior:  Have no fear, we'll find it.

next:   cairns
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  One of the questions I promised myself I'd resolve during
  this storyline was, is Blackrazor intelligent?  I mean really
  intelligent?  Technically it is, but you'll notice that it's
  never actually spoken.  I prefer to think of it as a low-level,
  primordial intelligence, bent on only one thing.
    This past weekend, I watched the original "V" series on tape.
  Then tonight, I watched the premiere of "Nowhere Man"; it was
  fairly good.  Shows are getting better - it's almost enough to
  make cable TV a worthwhile deal.

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