Chapter #1081

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic VI     +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2021 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+   Daffodil       11th level human druidess of Obad-Hai                  +
+   Halbarad       15th level human ranger of Ehlonna                     +
+   Peyote         12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid of Obad-Hai   +
+   Relmar         18th level human high priest of Pelor                  +
+   Rillen         18th level human warrior monk                          +
+   Songa          13th level human huntress                              +
+   Date:          11/10/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:          late afternoon                                         +
+   Place:         an undiscovered continent far to the east              +
+   Climate:       warm and dry                                           +
+   "It is my job to keep you alive.  I will not succeed.  Not with       +
+    all of you."                                                         +
+                                      - Colonel Quaritch, from _Avatar_  +

                   MLXXXI.  Land of the Lost

  Long before he reached the top of the rope and pulled himself onto the
mountainside ledge, Halbarad knew something was wrong.  The unmistakable
stench of decaying flesh would have alerted him, quite some distance from
the ledge, if he and the other two hadn't already seen the pile of winged
bodies at the foot of the mountain, beneath the group's campsite.  While
they came over the top ready for a fight, they were also relieved to see
their companions going about their normal business.
  Or at least, most of their companions.

Halbarad:  Where's Dervan?
Songa:  (climbs over onto the ledge, looking around intently)  And what
  happened here?
Relmar:  I fear we suffered an attack from some winged predators...and
  poor Dervan didn't survive.
Peyote:  (sadly)  He sure didn't, and that's a real bummer.

  In short order, the three who had defended the ledge told their tale to
the three who had been out exploring, and vice versa.

Relmar:  Now that we're all caught up...what do we do now?
Halbarad:  I was going to suggest that all of you accompany us back to
  the river passage, and the chamber above it.  (he frowns)  And now, I'm
  sure of it.  Whoever dumped those dinosaur carcasses over the ledge may
  not have thought about how they'll attract every predator in the area,
  including some that might not have otherwise come here.
Peyote:  It was my idea, man.  Don't get sore with me.  Those things were
  going to start rotting real soon, and they had to go.
Songa:  True, but now the land-bound ones will think this is a feeding
  ground, and so we'll see more of them down there.
Peyote:  But we're up here.  They can't get us.
Songa:  (exasperated)
  to explore and find food.  Do you understand now?
Peyote:  Oh.  Oh, yeah.  (he shakes his head sadly)  Bogus.
Halbarad:  Enough.  No use crying over spilt milk now.  We've got a day or
  two until the bodies below really start to smell.  It's almost dark now,
  so we'll rest up here overnight, and get moving at first light.  With any
  luck, we won't have to fight our way out of the area tomorrow.
Songa:  Once we're a good distance from the carcasses, we should be out of
Rillen:  (eyeing Peyote darkly)  Let's hope.

  Since they were running out of daylight, didn't want to make a fire, but
needed to get things in order before dawn, the adventurers hastily prepared
for tomorrow's journey.  Food, water, and critical supplies were laid out;
they could only carry so much, but made sure to bring the most important of
their possessions.  Naturally, this included all of their weapons.
  They opted to sleep within the passage, moving the defensive barrier into
place before turning in for the night.  Now that they knew it was effective
against an attack, they all felt better with it between them and the ledge,
and they slept soundly except for those who silently worried about what lay
ahead.  Not only could the journey be perilous, but there was the matter of
the hidden chamber, the strange skeletons there, and the unknown mysteries
and challenges that waited beyond the huge metal door.
  The night passed uneventfully, and it was a well-rested party that took
their armaments and supplies and made their way down from the ledge, using
only a single of the long, knotted ropes and descending one person at a
time.  Halbarad went first, to scout the area at the base of the cliff and
make sure no predators waited there.  However, only flies and small animals
had discovered the carcasses, and so the ranger signaled to the others, who
made their way down while he covered with his bow, ready to sound the alarm
and climb back up if necessary.  The last climber to come down - Rillen -
stopped about twenty feet above the ground, hammering an iron spike into
the rocky face of the cliff and tying the end of the rope to it.  He then
finished the descent by hand, surely and swiftly covering the final stretch
before landing deftly on the ground.

Rillen:  People or no people, I just feel better having the rope tied off
  up there, instead of leaving its end dangling down here.
Halbarad:  I agree completely.  The more precautions we take, the less
  risks we leave for ourselves...just in case.

  They set out for the south and east, and made excellent time.  The fact
that they had three skilled archers with plenty of arrows (including those
carried by the recently-buried Dervan) helped bolster their confidence, but
they also knew better than to waste time.  They stuck to the area near the
base of the ring of mountains, moving clockwise along the barrier of the
great natural basin just as the smaller group had done previously.  While
this route toward the river's mouth took them slightly longer to traverse,
it also afforded them somewhat better terrain on which to fight, as opposed
to the flat, grassy plains closer to the huge basin's center.  However, no
hostile dinosaurs attacked them all morning, for whatever reason.  Perhaps
they were elsewhere, hunting their larger plant-eating cousins...or it was
possible that the adventurers were just lucky.  In any case, they were able
to see the distant river by midday, and knew that they would soon reach it,
and its source at the foot of the mountains to the east.

Halbarad:  Fate is with us this day.
Daffodil:  Shh, don't jinx it.
Halbarad:  (begins to retort, then stops, looking around intently, all of
  his acute senses warning him of danger)

  The ranger quickly signaled the others to stop moving and talking, and
they complied.  Songa, too, had detected something nearby, and her spear
was gripped firmly in both hands.

Halbarad:  (quietly readies his bow)
Peyote:  (likewise)
Rillen:  (realizes that he'll have to drop his quarterstaff in order to
  ready his own bow)
Daffodil:  (also realizing this, she nods to the big warrior and holds out
  her hand, intending to carry both staves so that he can utilize his bow)
Rillen:  (silently hands her the staff)
Relmar:  (hefts his mace, his jaw set with determination)

  Without any words needing to be spoken, the six experienced adventurers
formed into a circle, the bowmen alternating with the others so that every
possible direction of attack was covered...and that attack was not long in
coming.  Songa spotted it first:  beyond a gentle hill nearby, the top of
a reptilian head became visible, peering at the humans with slitted eyes
that shone with both intelligence and malice.

dinosaur:  (stands up suddenly, its huge body exposed, its dozens of sharp
  teeth gnashing as it surveys the meal before it)  Rrrrr...

  This was one of the medium-sized carnivores - although that was really a
relative term, as there was nothing small about this variety.  Twenty feet
long from nose to tail, and half that tall when standing, these were quick
on their feet and tended to be craftier than the much larger species.  It
had been a creature like the one now facing them that had killed Weaver,
months ago.

dinosaur:  (with a roar, it lunges at the party)

  They had initially held their fire in case the thing had decided to turn
and leave, but that obviously wasn't going to happen.  While this type of
dinosaur was smart compared to others, this particular one hadn't yet felt
the sting of weapons...although it was about to.

Rillen:  (fires an arrow, hitting the beast in the neck)
dinosaur:  RrrrAAAARGH!
Daffodil:  Great shot!
Rillen:  (hastily grabbing another arrow)  No, it wasn't.  I was aiming
  for its eye!

  The party had shifted now, Halbarad and Peyote moving around to either
side as the circle became a line, allowing all three bowmen to ply their

Peyote:  (fires his own arrow, the shaft sinking into the dinosaur's chest)
dinosaur:  (still charging)  GRAAAAR!
Halbarad:  (looses another arrow, this one taking the attacker right in
  the forehead)

  The first two arrows - especially Peyote's, which had hit a thick area
replete with muscle and fat - hasn't really bothered the monster.  However,
the ranger's missile had obviously done somewhat more significant damage,
as evidenced by the immediate change in the thing's behavior...

dinosaur:  (begins wobbling even as it continues charging, its momentum
  carrying it onward)
Halbarad:  (shouting)  EVERYONE, BREAK FORMATION!

  The adventurers, accustomed to battles involving fireballs and similar
attacks, were practiced in sudden and hasty scattering.  Thus, they were
able to get out of the lumbering creature's path as it bore down on them,
weaving and lurching to one side as if drunk.

Rillen:  (fires a second arrow, hitting the thing in one knee as it passes)
Peyote:  (also fires another arrow, which buries itself in the gigantic
  lizard's hindquarters)
Halbarad:  (drops his bow and sprints after the dinosaur, swinging his axe
  as he leaps)

  The huge creature had slowed a bit, and seemed to be having trouble
moving in a straight line; the ranger figured that his arrow had pierced
its brain.  A lucky shot, perhaps, hitting its head in just the right spot
for the tip to break through the front of its skull.  He didn't care what
had led up to this point, though; his focus now was on bringing the beast
down once and for all.  His leap was timed perfectly, for just as the foe's
head dipped low as it struggled to keep its balance, Halbarad's axe swung
down on the top of its head.  The razor-sharp weapon sunk into the thing's
skull, and it toppled over, flailing and thrashing wildly as it lay on its

Peyote:  Whoaaaaaa.  (to Daffodil)  Man, that Halbarad's got some balls.
Rillen:  (ready with another arrow nocked, he watches to see what the
  fallen dinosaur will do next)
Halbarad:  (draws his dagger, keeping his distance from the badly-wounded
  lizard's claws and teeth, which are still quite dangerous)
Songa:  (hearing a very faint sound from behind the party, she turns to
  see two more of the huge dinosaurs silently and deliberately stalking
  the six adventurers, having closed to within fifty feet)  Damn.

next:       humans vs dinosaurs, and no magic
released:   7/2/2021
notes:      I wrote this one the night before MLK day 2021, and it puts
  me 24 episodes ahead of my release schedule.  I know I talk about this
  a lot, but I thrive on being ahead - it literally drives me to write
  MORE.  Yeah, I was that kid in high school who did all papers and all
  homework the day they were assigned.  That freed me up to play video
  games or read _Conan_ books.
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