Book Two: The Lone and Level Land
CHAPTER FOUR:
Race Against Rin

Berrona Umbermoraday

An account by Rin

Rin's time was quickly running out.

The Dragon's fear effect had worn off and the effects of fear began to set in. In a blind panic, Rin had run through the dark tunnels of the coral node. Now, as he regained himself, he found himself utterly lost, trapped inside a bubble of air in an alien environment. His breathing had little chance to calm as he took stock of his wounded arms and hands, badly cut by the coral. The darkness was blinding and the sound of his own breathing, deafening. Rin began to feel his way along the wall and make his back. Perhaps he was even moving the way he had come in - it was almost impossible to tell.

As he moved, Rin realized that his head was growing lighter, not clearer, and his movement was growing more laboured. How long had he run? How long, now, had he walked? Shouldn't they have a half hours oxygen left in these teriffying Gnomish contraptions? The quicker he found his new companions the better.

Rin's senses began to play tricks on him, he was sure. Was that a light he saw ahead of him, or was it the memory of light? Was that a rhythmic pounding heard, or the memory of his heartbeat? Rin found he was running again, and he had begun drawing sharp and jagged breaths. "Slow down," he said aloud. What had Lu Rin always said?

He smiled, "The race is not always to the quick or the strong." How he had learned that. It's funny, the tricks that memory plays when you are barely aware that you are drawing your final breaths. It's funny the thoughts that race through your head.

He heard again the laughter in the bar before the prison break. He remembered again the tale as he had told it later to his mother...

***

Basically, we start out just minding our business in a local Selunaport tavern when the neighbouring local prison's warden bursts in raving of an escaped evil wizard prisoner and offering a fist-sized ruby as reward to any man who captures/kills him (apparently the city's regular watch were down to skeleton crew running field exercises at this time- thus the need to press the local ruffians into service). The wizard had just made his escape and was fleeing down the street towards the city's gates, a few minutes headstart on anyone who might set off after him.

A group of sailors with a nasty dwarf captain (most likely pirates and brigands by the look of them, and then later by their cutthroat attitudes) by the door were some of the first to charge out after the wizard, the dwarf declaring that the ruby would be his (they were only second to the bartender who wasn't hindered by any kind of inebriation or chairs and tables in his way).

Most of the rest of the patrons quickly followed suit. Some motivated by greed, others by justice, and some (Rin among them) by a bit of adventure (well, justice would be good too).

Upon making it outside they saw the dwarf and his sailors commandeering a couple of nearby wagons (one of them being occupied by an elderly woman who was promptly pitched to the ground).

At the sight of the rest of the bar's patrons coming out to join in the hunt, the dwarf bellowed at one of his goons who'd been left behind for lack of room in the dwarf's lead wagon to stop any man who thought to rob him of his reward.

Rin, giving chase on foot, easily tumbled past this slightly flustered rearguard and initially kept pace with the second wagonload of pursuing sailors. The rearguard quickly pulled himself together, drawing his weapons to disuade anyone else from giving chase.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the bar's patrons initially split their efforts as well. A couple set off to commandeer their own 3rd wagon (but had to settle as passengers to a crotchety old man intent on retrieving his stolen wagon- nevermind his uncerimoniously upset wife- from the group of sailors), while another scaled a nearby balcony in hopes of spotting their as-yet-unseen fleeing quarry. Two others, initially deciding on a more restrained approach, simply followed in the wake of the rest, one of them (most likely a sorceror of some sort) simply putting the reluctant rearguard to sleep with a wave of his hand a few guttural words.

There was a human female cleric of Kord named Franchesca, a weasely, human rogue named Weavil. These two were the 1st to board the 3rd wagon. Franchesca spurring on the old man while Weavil hid in the back. There was an elven ranger named Talin who scaled the balcony to try and spot the wizard. A half-elf sorceror named Grindel who put the sailor to sleep and another Elf, a fighter, named Gladriel who inititiated a quick partnership with the sorceror, one of the few patrons showing any kind of restraint or thought of process!

The chase down the city's street soon became total chaos.

Any hope Rin had that the wagons would be held up by the street's local traffic was quickly dashed to pieces, as the half-crazed dwarf recklessly spurred his horse on down the street. People quickly saw this commotion and made way, less they be dashed to pieces. Before they could pull away altogether Rin expertly leapt to the side of the second wagon, but failed to
find sufficient purchase, and soon found himself being dragged along down the city street, clinging to a piece of torn-away tarp.

Behind, in the trailing 3rd wagon, Franchesca spurred on the crotchety old driver, as more jumped aboard (it apparently became apparent to the balcony lookout and the two who had been following on foot that they too would be left behind unless they got a lift).

The intensity of the chase grew further when the weasily rogue and the righteous ranger began to fire their bows at the second wagon. Although he couldn't be sure (he didn't have the best vantage point from his position), Rin thought the sorceror cast off a couple of spells as well.

Just as Rin was beginning to think that being dragged behind a wagon at breakneck speeds with bowfire being exchanged wasn't exactly the best of circumstances to be in, a rather ugly and mean looking thug with a rather uglier and meaner looking mace leaned over the side of the wagon he was clinging to and further incouraged this thought. Rin promptly let go and roughly rolled to his feet in time to see the ugly brute casting an uglier gloating grin at him.

What the ugly brute didn't realize though (and truthfully, neither had Rin at the time) is that up ahead in the dwarf's lead wagon, one of his goons had leapt out and was quickly rangling a group of sheep from a side lane into the middle of the path of the two following wagons. The second cart's driver spurred his horse on, intent on plowing through the hapless animals. Franchesca and the old man in the third wagon also spotted this danger. She spurred him on while he abandoned ship. Franchesca took the reins and steered her course.

The second wagon hit the sheep and plowed a messy course through them, in the process pitching the ugly, mace-wielding thug to the city street. Although he wasn't sure he wanted to associate himself with these people loosing arrows in the city, Rin had but a moment to decide, and not wanting to yet give up on this bit of excitement, he made his choice and leapt for the third cart just before it followed the bumpy trail blazed through the livestock. Fortunately, this time his purchase was secure and he held on through the rough ride.

The ugly thug regained his feet and his wits in time to see Rin throw him a triumphant grin and a taunting farewell wave.

The chase soon left the city streets and walls behind (the group of companions-by-circumstance in the 3rd cart having avoided a confrontation with the city's gate guards with a bit of luck and quasi-honesty- a fate the 2nd cart hadn't been so fortunate to avoid) and found itself occuring along the forest road leading from the city.

The 3rd wagon of wizard-hunters soon overtook the 2nd wagonload of sailors (both their wagon and their numbers having suffered at the arrows of the city guards). More arrows and a couple spells were exchanged between carts before the 3rd cart was finally able to pull up alongside the 2nd. In an act of frenzied courage and brash action, Franchesca (having relented the reins to one of the other passengers) leapt to the second cart cutting near in half one of the sailors (who had been threatening the 3rd wagon's horse with a spiked-chain) with her gigantic greatsword! Rin was only a half step behind her- his rapier in hand- but found his presence was little more than a show of force as the two remaining sailors jumped ship. One in a desperate attempt to flee the slightly crazy sword-weilding cleric and the other because he apparently no longer felt like steering a seriously damaged cart occupied solely by those not of his crew.

Both carts were brought under control (the 3rd, just in time- narrowly avoiding a tree encroaching upon the roadside) and the happenstance companions quickly resumed their persuit of the 1st cart with the maniacal dwarf captain.

They caught up to him at a burning inn (the apparent victim of some stray wizardry). Unfortunately, they found him spurring his flaming wagon, sailors clinging to the sides, straight towards them! The crazed dwarf was intent on claiming the ruby for himself and smiting all those who would stand in his way.

The elvan archer launched an arrow at him in an attempt to dissuade this course of action, but the argument went mostly unnoticed by the single-minded dwarf. The rest of the 3rd wagon's- and a couple of the 1st's- passengers jumped ship (or at least attempted to- the elvan warrior, Gladriel, wasn't quite quick enough).

The two carts crashed into one another with a crunch of broken timbers, the scream of horses, and a bellow of rage from the crazed dwarf! Almost before he could regain his feet, the elvan warrior found himself confronted by the dwarf, now in the back of the 3rd wagon, wielding a massive hammer and practically frothing at the mouth. Fortunately he was able to get his sword out in time and able to defend himself, barely keeping the dwarf at bay long enough to vault over the side of the wagon.

The dwarf gave chase however, launching himself from the back of the wagon at the first enemy he saw- which turned out to be the unfortunate rogue, Weavil. With barely enough time to for a curse and a look of shocked surprise, the human rogue was tackled to the ground by the full wieght of flying, frothing dwarf.

Meanwhile, on the otherside of the burning, twisted wreck, unmolested by the dazed and bruised sailors Rin, Franchesca, and Grindel the sorceror quickly scanned the area, searching for the source of the blazing inn and wagon, but to no avail. When the archer- having survived the cart collision with little more than a rough, unceremonious landing in the dirt- came to join them however, he was set upon by a surviving sailor with an axe from the back of the burning 1st wagon. Talin, Franchesca, and Rin made quick work of him, but not quick enough, as it would turn out, to save their weasely, human companion from the half-mad dwarf captain.

The human rogue was able to free himself from the dwarf's steely clutches and rolled under the cart to escape his wrath, but to no avail. The dwarf set upon him with his hammer, and before Gladriel or Rin, Franchesca, and Talin (having finished with their tussle on the other side of the wagons, and alerted to the dwarven threat) could intervene, the dwarf brought his hammer down in a sickening thud, that left little to identify the rogue by.

Franchesca uttered a prayer to bolster Rin's defences as he stepped in to engage the dwarf. It was a good thing to, for the dwarf was fierce, and it was all he could do to deflect the hammer's wild swings with his rapier, and keep the mad attacker at bay. The dwarf pressed his attack, even after being shot in the chest by the elvan archer, and his hammer soon struck a
sickenning blow to the female cleric.

Keenly aware of the threat to the cleric, and emboldened by the sickening site of the remains of the human rogue (a seriously unjust, and uncalled for fate, even if he had been a rather undesireable fellow) Rin pressed his own attack, striking the dwarf a grevious wound. Finally, the dwarf stepped back, now on the defensive. He was all but finished, and in a matter of moments Rin and the archer disposed of him.

While the dwarf was being delt with, Gladriel and Grindel had untaggled the horses from the wreck of the wagons. Apparently there had been some altercation between the sorceror and the female cleric (before she had joined the fight with the dwarf, but Rin was mostly unaware of this, as he had been a little busy at the time), but they seemed to have resolved their differences. At least they weren't trying to kill one another.

The remaining wizard hunters quickly set to the task of salvaging the least damaged wagon while the cleric tended her wounds and those of any dying sailors. Although Rin had no qualms defending himself, or even applying deadly force when doing so, he had no desire to murder helpless individuals who had already given up the fight.

They set off again after the wizard. The archer on the horse liberated from the dwarf's burning wagon, and the rest piled into the back of the orginal 3rd wagon (now a little worse for wear), the sorceror at the reins.

The archer soon picked up the wizard's trail and lead them all to a coastal watch tower, where they found the wizard at the end of a stone pier, a small, single-masted ship moored to it. They found him speaking frantically with a couple of strange looking gnomes, each with a large, dog-sized, monstrous pig creature at their side.

Rin and Gladriel leapt from the wagon as Franchesca and Grindel spurred the horse forward, with the intent of plowing through and trampling over their opponents. From horseback, the archer notched his bow and struck the wizard a glancing blow, but it was enough to disrupt his attack upon the wagon. The two gnomes launched small magical assaults of their own, striking but doing little damage to the sorceror and Franchesca, before they had to roll to evade the charging wagon.

Rin had no time to watch the outcome of their charge as he was set upon by the two monstrous pig creatures, taking a glancing blow from a sharp clawed-hoof. He felled the creature swift enough, and the other was slain by expertly aimed arrow from the mounted archer.

After this quick confrontation was over, Rin looked to see what had become of his companions on the wagon. He found the cleric on the dock, rising to confront one of the gnomes. Apparently both had managed to avoid the wild charging wagon. The wizard, however, had not been so fortunate, and soon found himself swimming in the water, attempting to escape the twisted wreck of his small ship and the sinking wagon and horse that had overturned it. Of the sorceror there was no sign.

As Rin moved to the pier to lend aid to the cleric, the gnome who he'd thought threatened her, all but ignored her in his maddened c