Chapter #363

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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 1991-6 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                    +
+                           +
+  THE PARTY (or a fraction of it, anyway):                         +
+                                                                   +
+  Arnold         12th level human barbarian                   (NG) +
+  Ged            14th/14th level grey elven priest/wizard     (NG) +
+  Mongo          17th level dwarven fighter                   (CG) +
+    Gorin         9th level dwarven fighter                   (NG) +
+                                                                   +
+                                                                   +
+  SPECIAL GUEST STARS:                                             +
+                                                                   +
+  Drexel         human paladin                                (LG) +
+  Eyer           wood elven fighter/acrobat                   (NG) +
+    Baltek       high elven archer                            (NG) +
+  Date:        1/24/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        dawn                                                +
+  Place:       outside the Free City of Dyvers                     +
+  Climate:     cold                                                +
+  "I'll get all the sleep I need when I'm dead."                   +
+                                     - Wade Garrett, _Road House_  +

                CCCLXIII.  Getting Their Feet Wet

  Now seven strong, the party rides out of Dyvers. Their destination
lies days of travel to the east: a dungeon in the Cairn Hills, in
which the power of some fearsome evil burgeons.

Eyer:  Let's talk about that part, shall we?  (he looks at Drexel,
  then at Ged)  What exactly are we dealing with?
Ged:  Well...
Drexel:  At the southern terminus of the Cairns is an ancient castle.
Ged:  Maure Castle.
Drexel:  Aye.  Little is known of the origin or inhabitants of the
  place, save that it is haunted and has been for decades.
Eyer:  Hmm.
Ged:  But _beneath_ the castle are lost tunnels and
  the depths of which lurk evildoers.
Baltek:  Aha.
Mongo:  Sounds like a lot of prime smashing for Stormcrest and I.
Arnold:  Let us not forget the midhty blade of Ah-nold!
Gorin:  Wouldn't even dream of it, pal.
Mongo:  So we have to bust into this castle, and find a way to the
  lower levels?
Drexel:  Hopefully not.  You see, a well-placed source told of a
  possible secret entrance, outside the place.
Gorin:  (doubtfully)  A source?  How well-placed?
Drexel:  _Very_ highly placed.  (smiles)  One might even say divinely
Gorin:  (snaps his mouth closed, with an effort)
Ged:  Once we reach the castle, we can employ magic and other tricks
  to search for the entrance, should it exist.
Eyer:  Well, there's only one way to find out.

  Onward they rode, moving eastward.  By day they traveled, taking
brief breaks for meals and rest; by night they slept.  A few days
after leaving Dyvers, they stopped overnight at Ged's castle, to
replenish food, drink, and supplies.  The next day, the seven rode
east and south, making for the Cairn Hills by way of the marsh that
surrounded the Neen River.

Ged:  (to Drexel)  Say, I can't help but wonder...
Drexel:  (jovially)  Yes?
Ged:  Shouldn't a knight like yourself have a squire, or a page, or
  someone like that?
Drexel:  Ah, yes...typically, a knight rides into battle with such a
  helper at his side.  A squire, to be exact.
Eyer:  (nodding)  I did notice that you didn't have him this time.
Drexel:  Tradition and custom are important, but given our destination
  and the dangers therein, I elected to have the lad remain at home.
Mongo:  So he wouldn't get killed?
Drexel:  Exactly.  Bravery is one thing, but needless death should be
  avoided at all costs.  I do not require a shield-carrier in the
  depths of some vile dungeon.
Baltek:  How noble of you.
Drexel:  Eh?
Baltek:  Nothing.
Gorin:  I think it's good that you didn't drag some kid along into
Drexel:  (nods)  My squire is a promising young fighter, but not that
Ged:  (looking over the lush, green fields, which are an impressive
  sight even in winter)  Yea.

  They continued on their way, skirting the south of Greyhawk's
reaches as the days passed.  As dusk arrived on the day after they
left Ged's castle, the band rested at the edge of the swamps.

Eyer:  I'm thinking the smart thing to do is camp here, and go in
  there at first light.
Mongo:  Agreed.
Drexel:  Why?  No foe can daunt our mission!
Ged:  It's not fear that sparked this decision, but common sense.
Mongo:  Fuckin' a.
Drexel:  (frowns at this profanity)
Mongo:  I'm not afraid of anything in there...but we'll do better
  with a good night's rest, and the light of the day to guide us.
Baltek:  (to Drexel)  Even if you were able to ride your horse
  through that muck, I'm certain you could not safely travel the
  swamp in the dark.
Drexel:  True.
heavy warhorse:  (neighs, as if it understands perfectly)
Gorin:  So, your horse can lead the other horses to safety...even
  Ged's castle, maybe.
Drexel:  (stroking the animal's mane)  Good girl.  (to Ged)  This
  plan is _not_ acceptable.  My warhorse shall not be left alone.
Baltek:  Maybe we should have brought his squire after all.
Ged:  Hmm, I've got an idea.
Drexel:  Speak.
Ged:  Using a spell, I can transform - temporarily - all of the
  mounts into trees.
Drexel:  WHAT?!?
Ged:  Don't worry, it's only temporary.  Until we get back.  No
  one but us will even know they're here.
Mongo:  You can do that?  (to Arnold)  He can do that?
Arnold:  Yah.  I guess so.
Drexel:  (frowning)  I don't like it...but this option is better
  than the other.
Eyer:  And there aren't really any other options.

  They made camp for the night, building up a great bonfire with
both wood and magic to fuel it.  The night was simply too cold to
be without a fire.  Eyer took the first watch, and Baltek opted
to share it with him, citing no need to sleep for the time being.
The elves patrolled the area outside the firelight's edge, their
keen senses scanning the wilderness for any threats.
  Nothing disturbed the party that night, however, and at first
light they prepared to enter the swamp.  Important supplies were
unloaded from the horses, and then the animals were grouped in
a tight cluster.  Ged worked his magic, and suddenly, the swamp
gained seven more trees.

Drexel:  (looks on, worried)
Ged:  Fear not, great warrior.  They'll be okay until we return.
Drexel:  Yes, yes...
Mongo:  (faces the swamp)  That place doesn't look so bad.
Eyer:  It won't be, not for a while.  (he walks toward the high,
  green weeds)  Come, let's get moving.  The day will pass more
  quickly than you'd think.

  They entered the marsh then, the soft muck only coating the first
few inches of their boots.  Ged grumbled something about how he
should have found a way to teleport to Maure Castle.  The resourceful
elf quickly solved the problem by levitating into the air and then
floating alongside the others as they marched.  Drexel frowned when
he saw his gleaming, shiny boots become crusted with mud.  Yet, these
concerns were minor, and the band made good progress into the thick
  Everything changed right after their lunchtime break, though.  The
ground grew less and less solid, the muddy bogs eventually reaching
over a foot in depth.  The dwarves were sunken in up to their knees,
but they uttered no complaint, nor did their pace slow noticeably.
Everyone was soon sweating, despite the winter air, for sloshing
through the marsh was hard, grueling work.  This was doubly true for
those wearing heavy plate mail - Mongo, Arnold, and Drexel - and it
was amazing that none of the three complained.  Perhaps each was
determined not to be the first to say anything.  In any case, by
the time the sun was vanishing from sight, it had become obvious to
everyone that they wouldn't clear the swamplands this day.

Mongo:  Shit.
Drexel:  Is there truly the need for such vile-
Gorin:  Fuck.
Drexel:  (takes a deep breath, rolls his eyes, and slowly exhales)
Eyer:  (grinning)  We'd better see about making camp.  When night
  falls, I'd prefer to be ready.
Arnold:  Yah.
Mongo:  Right.  (he looks around)  I'll go find some firewood.
Gorin:  I'll help you.
Ged:  Okay...we'll clear a campsite, see if we can find a dry spot.

  Mongo and Gorin headed into the marsh to search for firewood.
They were careful to note the path they took, for it wouldn't be
good to get separated from the main party here.  As soon as they
figured they were out of earshot, they began talking.

Gorin:  Can you believe that guy?
Mongo:  Doesn't like cursing, does he?  Well...fuck that.
Gorin:  I hear you.  (he checks a log, finds it to be dry, and then
  collects it)  What do you think about the others?
Mongo:  That Eyer guy seems okay...almost too cocky, but I get the
  impression he knows what he's doing.  (he, too, find a usable log)
Gorin:  His friend, the archer...I don't know about him.  Seems like
  a lazy sort.
Mongo:  Yeah...but you've gotta admit, he didn't bitch once while we
  slogged through that crap all day.
Gorin:  (nods)  Good point.

  Presently, the two dwarves returned to the campsite, finding it
well-cleared.  Drexel had a shovel in hand, and was working quickly
and efficiently to build a flat, dry area.  He had leveled out a
great pile of wet sand which jutted out from the marsh's waters, and
spread a large blanket over it.

Mongo:  What's that for, a picnic?
Drexel:  I should think not.  Watch.  (he utters a command word, and
  the blanket solidifies, as if it were a square sheet of metal)
Ged:  Boccob!
Eyer:  (his eyes widen)  Neat trick.
Drexel:  Now we have a dry, flat place to unroll our packs and rest.
Gorin:  (puts his wood down, starting a stack of firewood)  I'll go
  get some more.
Baltek:  (already unrolling his pack and bedroll)  Better hurry -
  dusk is falling.
Gorin:  (casts the fellow an evil look)
Arnold:  I'll helb you.

  Nightfall found the seven within a pretty decent little campsite,
given their surroundings.  After a night's worth of wood had been
gathered, a blazing fire was quickly built.  Ged cast a wyvern watch,
to guard the camp, while Eyer produced a large knife and a coil of
rope and began fashioning wards of his own.  The elf used vines,
sticks, and logs from the swamp itself to fashion several traps and
warning devices.  After putting these in place, he briefed the others
about them.

Eyer:  ...just make sure not to stray too far from the center of the
  camp.  Some of these are just to warn us, but others could be most
  unpleasant to stumble upon.
Mongo:  Gotcha, pal.
Drexel:  Tonight, I shall take the first watch.
Arnold:  Ah-nold shall join you.
Drexel:  Very well, good fellow.
Baltek:  (to Eyer)  I feel safer already.

  The first watch, and the second, went without incident.  In the
middle of the night, on Mongo and Gorin's watch, their precautions
were rewarded.

Mongo:  (notices something move, at the firelight's edge)  Eh?  (he
  squints, wishing that his night vision wasn't ruined by the fire)
shadow:  (stirs, knowing it's been spotted)
trolls:  (running out of their hiding places on all fronts, they
  scream and yell as they close on the party)  Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaargh!

next:      battle ensues!
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:   (preferred)
notes:     Idiot of the month:  Cleveland Indians outfielder Albert
  Belle, who reportedly refused a 4-year, $37 million dollar contract
  offer from the team.  I can't help but wonder, "WHY?"

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