Chapter #938

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                                   +   +
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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     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       +
+   1991-2006 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  +
+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Dervan           9th level human ranger                               +
+   Eyer            13th/16th level wood elven fighter/acrobat            +
+   Leila           12th/12th level female grey elven warrior/mage        +
+   Relmar          18th level human high priest of Pelor                 +
+   Weaver           8th level human ranger                               +
+                                                                         +
+   T'kar           human hunter/warrior, native of lost continent        +
+   Date:           7/22/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          an undiscovered continent far to the east             +
+   Climate:        hot and humid                                         +
+   "Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin."                   +
+                                                - Dwight Eisenhower      +

                    CMXXXVIII.  Native's Land

  After capturing and questioning a native hunter/warrior, the explorers
are following him toward the mountains and perhaps the unknown truth of
this lost continent.

Leila:  -and also his name is - or is best pronounced in our tongue - as
Halbarad:  T'kar.  (he nods to the native)  I am Halbarad.
T'kar:  Hal-ba-raddd.
Peyote:  Heh.
Halbarad:  (smirks)

  They had been moving for two days, and were still following the river,
except for a couple of times when T'kar had led them through overgrown
trails that made shortcuts between bends in the river.  They'd also made
one crossing, using a wide, fallen log that spanned the waters below.  The
short, brown-skinned native definitely knew where he was going, and also
seemed to understand that not all of the adventurers could keep up with
a fast marching pace.

T'kar:  (eyes Leila curiously, and babbles a bit in his native tongue)
Leila:  (answers back, looking a bit confused)
Halbarad:  What's going on?
Leila:  I think he wonders why non-wilderness types are out here in the
Rillen:  (to Songa)  No big do I.
Songa:  (smirks)
Relmar:  It's fine to try and explain it to him, but be careful not to
  give away the fact that we've got several hundred others fortifying a
  position near the beach.  (he exchanges glances with Halbarad)  Just
  in case.
Leila:  Right.  Don't worry, I wasn't born yesterday, you know.
Relmar:  (eyes T'kar)  Neither was he, I'm sure.
Eyer:  So if this passage through the mountain range is so secret, why
  is he taking us to it?
Relmar:  And what's behind it?

  Leila had been continuing her crude, language-barrier-spanning talks
with T'kar during much of the two days of travel, and was getting better
at understanding as well as conveying concepts and meanings.

Leila:  Well, this end of the landmass - everything we've seen and been
  through, in other words the jungle to the southwest of the mountain
  range in the distance - is the realm of T'kar and his people.  They
  don't approach the mountains, nor do they know what's on the other
  side.  I'm not really sure they _want_ to know, because in all their
  history, none who ventured there have ever returned.
Rillen:  Ah, now this is starting to sound like a familiar story...
Leila:  And in recent years, another tribe - a violent, aggressive one -
  has made its home in the mountainous area that contains the way through
  the peaks.
Relmar:  Where did this other tribe come from, and how?
Leila:  T'kar doesn't know...nobody knows.
Eyer: to get what we want, we'll end up helping his tribe with
  its problem!
Leila:  That's what T'kar is hoping, I think.  From what he's said - or
  what I understand of it, anyway - this other tribe is quite vicious and
  bloodthirsty...literally.  They're cannibals.
Peyote:  Whoa!
Weaver:  Are they eating T'kar's people?
Leila:  When they catch some, yes.  The attacks have been getting worse,
  bolder and in greater numbers.  That's why T'kar was roaming the far
  reaches of this peninsula:  he was surveying other places that his
  people could move to, to live in safety.
Halbarad:  There's never any safety from violent people.
Eyer:  (helpfully)  Especially cannibals.
Peyote:  True, man...true.
Halbarad:  (nods)  If you think about it, the problem of T'kar and his
  tribe is also the problem of our main group.  Fortifications or not,
  we will eventually come under attack, if there are wild, warmongering
  cannibals roaming the land.
Relmar:  Agreed.  (to Leila)  Tell him that we'll help him and his tribe
  as best as we are able.
Leila:  I already did.  He seems quite pleased about our presence here,
  and he says his people will be, too.
Rillen:  I'll bet they will.  It's not every day that a group of well-
  armed, experienced warriors appears from nowhere to help one's tribe
  fight a rival tribe.
Relmar:  Let's keep this in perspective:  ridding the area of violent
  cannibals is always a good thing, but what we really want is to get
  through this mountain passage, and see what's on the other side.
Halbarad:  It could be anything...a huge continent, of which this is just
  the tip...or a sheer dropoff into the ocean...or who knows what.
Leila:  It _could_ be the home, or lair, of whoever or whatever raised
  that blasted anti-magic shield around this whole place.
Eyer:  Mysteries like this cannot stand.  We'll have to crack it; that's
  what adventurers do.

  They followed the native for the rest of the day, stopping to make camp
only when dusk became night.  No fires were built, and the group posted
rotating guard shifts of three people - just in case.  T'kar seemed to
want to keep moving, but Leila made him understand that the group wanted
and needed to rest for the night.  As they prepared to bed down for the
night, Relmar and Halbarad had a brief discussion on the side...

Relmar:  You don't trust him, do you?
Halbarad:  Not really.  His tale is easy to believe, but also a bit too
  convenient.  For all we know, this is a trap, or we're being set up.
Relmar:  (nods)  My thoughts exactly.
Halbarad:  I'll play along, but I'll also be ready in case something
  unexpected happens.
Relmar:  Agreed.  Best case, it's cannibals and we help T'kar's people
  against them.  Worst case...(he looks around)  I don't want to think
  about it.  But it's not like we can just ignore the mountain pass...
  we need to go there and get through it, and T'kar claims to be able
  to help us do that, so the path is clear.
Halbarad:  (pats his axe's handle)  Any treachery will be dealt with
  most severely.
Relmar:  As it should be.

  Despite constant guard shifts, and various precautions, the night
passed most uneventfully, and morning found the weary party resuming
its trek along the river.  Things were fairly uneventful until later
in the morning, when T'kar halted the group and bent down to examine
some faint traces of tracks in the soft mud.

T'kar:  (muttering to himself in his native tongue)
Halbarad:  (to Leila)  I know this is the remnants of someone's trail,
  but what is he saying?
Leila:  He's saying that the cannibals were here, and may yet be close
Songa:  (grips her spear tightly)  We'd best be ready.
Eyer:  (checks his bowstring)  We will be.

next:      at last, some battle
released:  9/22/06
notes:     I wrote several of the ones through 937 a month before mid-
  September, then got lazy for a while...and had to finish this one a
  week before its publish date, typing with a broken, splinted finger.
  Lesson:  when you get ahead, stay ahead, or your cushion can easily

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