Chapter #514

previous chapter (#513)                                                                  next chapter (#515)

                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    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                    +
+                           +
+  Arnold       13th level human barbarian warrior             (NG) +
+  Rillen       18th level human monk                           (N) +
+    Songa      13th level human huntress                       (N) +
+  Date:        8/13/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       the northern reaches of Ratik                       +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "That's crazy!"                                                  +
+  "Maybe, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen."                 +
+                                            - from _The Howling_   +

            DXIV.  The Decline of Northern Civilization

  Nearly two weeks have passed since Mongo and Gorin left to journey
to the fortress of Greyspire. Since then, Rillen, Songa, and Arnold
have ridden northeast.  The trio has made the dangerous passage
through northern Aerdy and western Ratik without incident, and finds
itself on the verge of the vast, frozen plains of the barbarian

Rillen:  Shouldn't be much farther now.  (he peers at the horizon,
  cupping his hand over his eyes)
Songa:  Think again.  We still have many days of travel ahead of
  us, and these mounts may not be up to it.
Rillen:  (confused)  If they can't make it, what will we do?
Arnold:  Walk.
Rillen:  Of course, wal-  What?!?
Songa:  (shrugs)  My people have never relied on animals to get us
  across the tundra.  We simply march on foot when necessary.
Arnold:  Yah.
Rillen:  How bizarre.
Songa:  (grins)  What's the problem, big man?  You're not getting
  old and weak on us, are you?
Rillen:  (smirks)

  They were soon riding across the plains; the going, if not rapid,
wasn't too slow, either.  The plains were covered in a thin layer of
frost, which cracked beneath the hooves of their mounts.  At night,
the temperatures would drop further; these lands were treacherously
deceptive in the spring and autumn.  The local predators were, as
always, a danger; Songa had to lay out snares and traps to protect
the camp.  A blazing fire also helped to keep the animals away, save
for the one night when a pack of hungry wolves made its move.  After
a short but pitched battle, the trio of adventurers was able to slay
or drive off all of the attackers, though not without a number of
wounds to themselves.  This incident was the only real trouble they
had while crossing the cold barrens.
  They fed upon dried meat and stale bread from their packs, augmented
by occasional flora that Songa found fit to eat.  One evening, Rillen
was able to bring down a large elk-like animal with his longbow, and
they dined well that night.  Fresh water was available in places, and
overall, the trip was proceeding well.  Spirits were high, and even
Rillen, who wasn't a native of the others' land, was looking forward
to reaching their destination.
  All of that changed when they finally reached the Fruzti village,
shortly before dusk one evening.  The mood of the barbarians was
unusually quiet and despondent, even tending towards foul, and the
returning adventurers immediately sought to learn the reason why.
They quickly ventured to the large hut that was both dwelling place
and audience chamber of Thurnock, the village's leader.  The huge
barbarian, always a fount of mirth and mayhem in times past, was
quiet and reserved as he greeted the adventurers.

Thurnock:  (nods as he listens to a brief summary of the trio's recent
  journeys and perils)  Hmm.
Arnold:  But enough of that.  Whad's wrong with our peoble here?
Songa:  Yes, tell us.  When we left, all was well; now, they mill
  about like sodden sheep.
Rillen:  (not being a native of the village, he elects to keep his
  mouth shut and let the others do the talking)
Thurnock:  Well...recently, we've been having troubles.
Arnold:  Aaa?
Songa:  What kind of troubles?
Thurnock:  All kinds.  The game out there on the plains has dwindled
  almost to nothing.  The weather's been bad, so our crops have too.
  A strange sickness ails many in the village, as well - if our foes
  chose this time to attack, we would be in trouble.
Rillen:  Sounds bad.
Thurnock:  It is bad.  The worst part is that we know what's causing
  all of this, and we can't do anything about it.
Songa:  How's that again?
Thurnock:  (points to the west)  A wizard!
Arnold:  Aaa.
Rillen:  Wizard?  Where?  I didn't see one when we approached-
Thurnock:  The damned sorcerer came from nowhere - as sorcerers do -
  and built a tower, overnight.
Songa:  Where?
Thurnock:  Don't think of going out there and trying to put an end
  to him.
Arnold:  (angrily)  _Where?_
Thurnock:  (sighs)  An hours' ride to the west, you can find his
  tower.  But before you try it, listen to my tale of how a dozen
  of your fellow tribesmen met their doom the same way.
Songa:  Uh-oh.
Thurnock:  Don't you think we've tried it - tried venturing to the
  damned fiend's lair, to put an end to his vile doings?
Arnold:  What habbened?
Thurnock:  It was horrible...ghastly.  The one warrior who came
  back was burned and bloody.  He died, but not before he spoke of
  strange and terrible guardians that destroyed the entire force
  we sent.
Songa:  Why not send another force, a larger one?
Thurnock:  To tell the truth, we have been debating that idea...but
  the village, weakened as it is, can't afford to lose any more of
  its men.
Songa:  Perhaps you should have sent some women, too-
Rillen:  No matter.  I think it's safe to say that we'll lend our
  experience and weapons to the cause.
Arnold:  You're damn right we will!  No evil wizard comes to live
  in Ah-nold's village and gets away with id!
Thurnock:  A bold statement, good Arnold.  I shall detail what few
  warriors we can spare to accompany you-
Songa:  (shaking her head)  No.  We go alone - just the three of us.
Thurnock:  But-
Songa:  We have more experience in such matters.  (she eyes Arnold
  and Rillen)  Especially these two.
Thurnock:  But-
Songa:  And a smaller band is less likely to be noticed, and can
  move about with more ease.
Rillen:  But-
Songa:  And besides, we've been rather bored lately.  A good fight
  with a worthy foe will do much for our spirits.
Thurnock:  (spreads his hands)  Okay, okay, you win.
Arnold:  (to Songa)  I knew you could do it.  (he grins)
Rillen:  Maybe we should get a day or two of and re-
  stock ourselves.
Songa:  A good idea.
Arnold:  I need to see the blagsmith to get some dends and dinks
  worked out of my ah-mor.
Thurnock:  You can go, but I doubt he has the strength to lift his
  hammers.  The wizard's sickness is upon him too.
Arnold:  Aaa.  Damb wizard!
Rillen:  (to Thurnock)  We'll get more detailed directions to this
  wizard's tower, in the morning.
Thurnock:  Of course.

  The rest of the evening was spent in rest and relaxation.  Rillen
and Songa retreated to the latter's hut, for they had been on the
road with Arnold for a long while and desired some more private time
together.  For his part, Arnold was happy to get re-acquainted with
his village and old friends.  He seemed happier now than he'd been
in a long time, and rumor had it that he spent some quality time of
his own in the company of one of the village's unwed barbarian-esses.
  Two days after their return, the heroes were ready to venture to
the wizard's tower.  Thurnock tried again to bolster their numbers
with a few of the tribe's warriors, but neither Songa nor Arnold
would hear anything of it.  Rillen wouldn't have minded having some
more manpower on the group's side, but he didn't want it badly enough
to make an issue of it.
  Thus it was that, freshly rested and recuperated from their long
journey and battles, the three adventurers set out for the west and
an unknown challenge.  Many of the barbarian villagers gathered to
watch them go, with a mixture of hope and jealousy.  While they were
happy to have such renowned champions as these, the barbarians were
a proud people.  Had so many of them not been ill (or had ill family
to care for) it would be they who had the honor of this adventure.
Still, there were no hard feelings, and the Fruzti villagers deeply
and sincerely wished the trio success.

Rillen:  They don't seem happy.
Songa:  They aren't.  In a way, we're - how do you put it? - stealing
  their thunder.
Arnold:  I wonder if Mondo and Gorbin ever found that fordress they
  were looking for?
Rillen:  Well, when we take care of this evil wizard, everyone and
  everything will be back to normal, and the villagers can be happy
Songa:  That's the way it should work, anyway.
Arnold:  Yah.

  For the better part of an hour they rode, and finally, a black spire
loomed on the horizon.  As they neared the thing, they could make out
more detail.  The structure was more than a hundred feet high, and
slim - no greater than twenty feet across at the base, and tapering as
it went up.  It appeared to be built from smooth, seamless black rock.

Rillen:  Well...there it is.
Songa:  Indeed.
Arnold:  Aaa.

  They tied their horses to some scrub brush a good distance from the
tower, and moved in on foot, weapons ready.

next:      the tower's secret
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     After Ged, Rillen is/was the most difficult major
  character for me to write stories about.

previous chapter (#513)                                                                  next chapter (#515)