A story from my days as a rabid role-player.

There were three of us in the group, still wet behind the ears. To date, we had a single mission completed: after intense effort, eight kobolds had been killed in the sewers of the city. I was a mage whose favourite hobby was attempting to kill monsters with my quarter staff after expending my single memorisation of sleep. Accompanying me was a halfling scout with an intense fear of spiders, and a morose dwarven fighter. The halfling favoured the short sword and the dwarf preferred the axe. We were a force to be reckoned with, assuming that our dwarf didn't get too depressed to tag along on quests, and that no spiders were involved therein. It also made life much easier when the monsters which we had to fight clustered happily together in order to be better affected by the marvels of the sleep spell. This next mission, posted on the board outside the tavern, seemed right up our alley: orc killing.

Orc killing is an old standby. If you need something to kill, make sure that it's an orc. They seem to have an odd tendency to move around in tightly packed groups, and frequently fail to set proper sentries on their camps. Our dysfunctional party of three was all set to romp on through the little growlers. The quarterstaff was polished to a mirror shine, the dwarf was drunk and happy, and after repeated inquiries the halfling was satisfied that there was nary a spider to be found in the foothills.

We set out at dawn, trekking our way into the foothills that surrounded the city and searching for the orc raiding party that had been forced to take up residence. It was arduous, because nobody was even remotely skilled in tracking. Fate smiled upon us, though, as we discovered the body of a caravan guard. A quick examination of the corpse informed us that he was dead, and we decided to hold an impromptu conference on how to proceed. The three of us, huddled around the decomposing body, discussed strategy and tactics for a considerable length of time before realising that the body really didn't help us find the orcs at all. The bewildered orc that stumbled into our strategy session carrying an armload of tinder, however, did. He fled quickly from our mighty party, and we gave chase. Eventually, he led us to the cave in which he and his compatriots were dwelling. A mighty force of orcs -- at least half a dozen -- came running out of the cave, scimitars held high and crying for our blood.

They were dispatched quite handily with a sleep spell, at which point it was time to break out the whoop-ass (and by this I mean quarterstaff). The dwarf let out a blood-curdling sigh of exhaustion as he waddled his way into the cave, closely followed by the halfling. My quarterstaff at the ready, I took the rear guard. It appeared that we'd wiped out the entire raiding party, as the shallow cave appeared quite deserted.

Until, that is, the halfling suddenly made a sound midway between "oof" and "ouch".

"Spider?" I guessed, worried about how the furry-footed pansy would react.

"No, I stubbed my toe."

"Oh." I muttered, cursing the anti-climactic bent of it all.

"Orc!" murmured the dwarf listlessly, in conjunction with some rustling up ahead.

I charged into the melee, the halfling limping alongside of me. There was an orc up there, alright, currently engaged in furious combat with our dwarf. Oddly, the orc appeared to be wielding an unruly cluster of tinder, somehow managing to fend off the battle-axe with it.

"We'll quickly make short work of this, lads!" I proclaimed, attempting to inject some life into the entire operation as I swung my quarterstaff. Whatever effect my statement had was quickly lost, as my swing went wild, smashing into the wall and jolting the staff out of my hand.

The halfling and dwarf were faring no better. That orc was a whirlwind of motion, parrying and dodging and ducking and weaving, occasionally inflicting nasty scratches on the sorrowed face of our dwarf.

"Bastard!" I screamed, going after him with my bare hands and receiving a slap to the wrist for my efforts. It was at this point that I began to question my path in life, having elected not to specialise in a school of magic. A magic missile right now, I reflected, would be handy.

"Die!" screeched the orc, battering the halfling with a rat-a-tat-tat of loosely bound wood on flesh. His clever assault had left him open, though, and the dwarf took advantage, delivering a devastating blow that opened up a nasty scratch on the orcs shoulder.

"Ha-ha!" I howled, still clutching my wrist and wondering if I could find a specialist school to take me in this late in life.

"Gar!" rumbled the wounded orc, as he body-checked the halfling and darted past me and out of the cave, his morale having caved beneath our onslaught. We tried to chase him, but between stubbed toes and clinical depression, he managed to evade us.

And thus began the story of the orc that wouldn't die, and who would from this day on make cameo appearances whither we went, be it the mountains to the north or the outer planes themselves.

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