Chapter #743

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                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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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,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2001 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!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+   Date:           2/23/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          south of the city of Nevond Nevnend, in Tenh          +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "Wonder why it is that men who plead for mercy never give it."        +
+                                       - from _The Quick and the Dead_   +

                      DCCXLIII.  Wanderers

  After staying a week at Arnold's new home in Tenh, Rillen and Songa
have hit the road again...

Songa:  That was nice to see, and I'm glad he's doing well, but staying
  in a big city that long gets to me.
Rillen:  Agreed.  It was a nice place, but we've got to be moving on.
Songa:  Where to, though?

  They shared a good, long laugh over that, for both were finding that
having no set home or responsibilities was refreshing.

Songa:  (breathes in the fresh northern air)  Now this is living!  No
  path but the one we make for ourselves...
Rillen:  But what direction does that path take us?
Songa:  A good question.

  They were a good day's ride out of the city, heading southward with
no real destination in mind.  They'd purchased fine horses and several
weeks' worth of supplies.  The black dog, bound to the enchanted onyx
figurine, was summoned from time to time for no other reason than to
let it run free (which it seemed to enjoy.)

Rillen:  I for one am content to just roam.
Songa:  As fine a plan as any.
Rillen:  Perhaps we could roam in the direction of Greyhawk, with the
  possibility of visiting our old friends there.
Songa:  We could see Peldor's baby.
Rillen:  I doubt it's a baby anymore...but still, I wouldn't mind that
Songa:  Well worth the trip.  Let's do that.

  And so they rode, southward and slightly westward, through the kingdom
of Tenh.  Days turned into weeks, and civilized lands gave way to untamed
wilderness - exactly what they preferred.  The flat plains rolled as far
as the eye could see, claimed by no kingdom, home to unknown people and
beasts.  There were risks inherent in such a journey, of course, but both
adventurers considered themselves ready for any challenge they might
encounter.  They hunted every few days to supplement their stock of food,
living off the land without a problem.
  It was during one such foray, as Songa was skinning some small animal
she'd brought down with her bow, that trouble reared its ugly head...

black dog:  (barking at something unseen over a nearby hillock)
Rillen:  (longbow in hand, he dashes up the gentle slope)

  A small caravan was headed their way, mounted scouts advancing ahead of
the main train.  There were five covered wagons pulled by teams of horses,
as well as a dozen people on foot and perhaps half that many mounted,
including the few who rode ahead.

black dog:  (barking loudly)
Rillen:  (gestures to the animal)  Shh!
black dog:  (stops barking)
Rillen:  Damn.
Songa:  What is it?
Rillen:  Caravan...warriors.  Hard to tell what they want, but they're
  headed right for us.
Songa:  Did they see you?
Rillen:  I don't think so, but there's no way to be sure.
Songa:  They could be hostile...
Rillen:  I know.  We need a plan, and fast.  Hmm...

  Shortly, Rillen rode out to meet the strangers, all by himself, before
they could crest the hillock and spot Songa and the dog.  The huntress
stayed hidden, watching from afar.  Her horse was tethered to a stake in
the ground and out of sight of the caravan.  The black dog stayed with
her, silent and obviously aware that it needed to remain out of sight.

  Out on the plain, Rillen rode toward the caravan, alone, his staff
strapped across his back and his bow in hand.  The two closest riders
spurred their mounts toward him at a slow gallop.  Both were armed and
looked like they knew something about fighting.

Rillen:  Ho, there.
rider #1:  Greetings.  Are you just passing through?
Rillen:  (nods)  Heading to the southlands.
rider #2:  Good, then - no one will miss you.

  The man pulled out a small, loaded hand crossbow and pointed it at
Rillen.  However, the big warrior had been wary, watching for body
language that might give away such hostile intention, and he was ready.
The arrow that he'd held close to the bow itself was out, up, nocked,
and fired a moment before the other could launch his own missile.

rider #2:  Crap.

  The man went down, two arrows piercing his heart thanks to Rillen's
magical bow of doubling.  The other mounted warrior drew a sword and
spurred his horse to the attack, blade flashing.  Rillen grabbed the
quarterstaff on his back, willing its length to increase from three
feet to six.  The foe never knew what hit him as the tip of the staff
struck his face, shattering his nose and one cheekbone and toppling
him from the saddle.

Rillen:  Hai!

  At the onset of the action, others from the caravan had begun riding
hard, heading for Rillen, but when he felled a third of their number
with a skillful (and lethal) bowshot, they ceased their charge and
rejoined the wagons.

Rillen:  Cowards.

  A few arrows sailed toward the lone warrior, but the range was too
great - a compliment to his demonstrated skill.  Rillen got the
feeling that those missiles were just for show.  They were afraid of
him, that much was obvious - afraid of his longbow and the death it
dealt.  Rillen was just wondering what to do next, how to break the
impasse, when a lone figure from among the halted wagons rose into the
air and flew toward him.

Rillen:  It figures.  (he lines up a shot, using one of his enchanted
  arrows, and lets the missile fly)

  The arrow became two, both of which sailed straight and true...only
to bounce off of the airborne wizard when it seemed that they would
pierce the foe's body!  Rillen had seen this sort of defense before,
primarily used by Belphanior, but he had no other means of attacking
the foe.

wizard:  (flies closer, revealing himself as a pudgy, ugly middle-aged
  man with a bulbous purple nose)  Fire arrows at me, will you?  I'll
  show you...take this!

  The airborne attacker pelted Rillen with a volley of red bolts, a
common attack but one against which the warrior had no defense.

Rillen:  Argh!  Ungh!  (he reels, more from the pain than any real
wizard:  (spellcasting again)

  Songa, hidden away, knew that the plan was for her to remain unknown
as long as possible.  However, she couldn't just sit here and let this
wizard bombard her man with spells.  Taking the chance that perhaps the
foe's shield was either frontal in nature or else weakened by Rillen's
shot, Songa fired an arrow of her own - also magical, as Rillen had long
ago split his enchanted arrows with her - at the flying wizard's back.

wizard:  (whirls about as the arrow bounces off the back of his shirt)
  What?!?  My spell...ruined!  You'll pay for that!  (he begins working
  another spell)
Rillen:  (recovered now, he nocks and fires another arrow, which also
  bounces from the wizard's body and ruins his next spell)
wizard:  Dammit!
Songa:  (aiming at the foe again)  We can do this all day.

  Unfortunately, the wizard's allies in the caravan were headed for the
battle, their arrows landing closer and closer to the pair of adventurers
as they fought off the wizard.

Rillen:  Damn, this isn't working out!
Songa:  Keep hitting him - I'll handle those others!  (she fires an arrow
  at the nearest rider, the shaft sinking into the warrior's arm)  Hah!

  Even then, they might have had a chance, if not for the _second_ wizard
who hovered directly above them, invisible.

wizard #2:  (casts a spell of holding upon both adventurers)
Rillen:  (shrugs off the magic)
Songa:  (feels her limbs go numb)  Ack-  (she ceases to move, held fast
  where she stands)
Rillen:  Songa!  (he directs his next arrow at the tall, skinny, bald
  wizard who just appeared above him)
wizard #2:  (recoils as the missile bounces from his body)  Fools!
wizard #1:  (drops a web on the two adventurers)
Rillen:  Damn!  (he tears furiously at the sticky strands, ripping through
  several and half-freeing himself in moments)  You'll die-

  The mounted warriors arrived, leaping from their saddles with thick
clubs in hand.  Rillen went down under a rain of furious blows, unable to
block or counterattack all of them because of the webbing that hampered
his movements.

Rillen:  (sends one foe reeling back, nose broken courtesy of the longbow)

  The outcome was inevitable:  the attackers got the best of Rillen, their
numbers eventually wearing him down and knocking him out.

wizard #1:  Careful - don't kill him!
wizard #2:  He'll make a fine slave - they both will.

next:      slavers!
released:  5/28/01
notes:     It really only makes sense that two warriors, without any
  magic at all to back them up, can't help but fall prey to superior
  numbers.  The drawbacks of having no spellcasters around first became
  apparent to me in one of Bob Salvatore's books, where the heroes got
  chased across a swamp or somewhere, wounded and without any real
  spellcasters.  This is the same sort of situation.

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