Chapter #147

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                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1994 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                    +
+                    +
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/13th level high elf w/m/t  (CN)   +
+   Ged           13th/14th level grey elf priest/mage (NG)   +
+      Arnold     11th level human warrior             (NG)   +
+   Mongo         15th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                (N)   +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior              (N)   +
+   Date:    1/5/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                       +
+   Time:    daytime                                          +
+   Place:   the neutral land between Nyrond and Almor        +
+   Climate: quite cold                                       +
+   "Don't worry.  They always get guys like me for jobs      +
+    like this."                                              +
+                         - Tom Cody, from _Streets of Fire_  +

                   CXLVII.  Mongo's War

  For three weeks, Mongo has traveled eastward, riding through
such places as Urnst and Nyrond.  Seeking to quell his grief
and anger over the recent death of his henchman Flint, he has
returned to his birthplace in the Flinty Hills.  However, upon
first entering the rough lands, he could sense that all was
far from well.  Gloomy-looking dwarves and halflings wandered
about the first town Mongo entered, and the liveliness that he
remembered in his homeland was absent here.

Mongo:  Hmm, maybe there's a funeral today or something.  (he
  heads for a nearby tavern, and enters the place)  Ho!
barkeep:  (an aging halfling)  Greetings, stranger.  What'll
  it be?
Mongo:  Beer.
barkeep:  Okay.
Mongo:  Hey, can you tell me why everyone around here looks
  so depressed?  Am I missing something?
barkeep:  (hands Mongo his beer)  Yeah, you missed it all by
  about a month.
Mongo:  Missed what?
barkeep:  The giants.
Mongo:  Giants?!?  Here?!?
barkeep:  Yep.  They've practically invaded these hills in
  the last month or so.
Mongo:  What?!?  How?!?  Do you know how many dwarves there
  are here?  There's no way-
barkeep:  Sure, that's all fine and dandy when everyone's up
  and healthy.  But a terrible plague came about the same
  time.  Wiped out half of the healthy dwarves and halflings
  here, it did.
Mongo:  What in the hell are you talking about?!?  How could
  I have not heard about this?!?
barkeep:  Got me.  You must have been in another world or
  something, to have missed it.
Mongo:  Uh...
barkeep:  Most everyone got the plague.  With all those dead
  or bedridden, unable to fight, it was only a matter of
  time before the giants streamed out of the mountains to
  the north.
Mongo:  No way!
barkeep:  It got worse.  At first, we were able to hold off
  the attackers, but then they started breaking through the
  defenses, here and there.  One by one, they looted whole
  towns and villages, killing any who couldn't flee fast
Mongo:  (truly shocked)  How could this happen?!?  These
  hills have always been a solid barrier against the giants
  from the north.  I don't see how...
barkeep:  No one else did, either.  It's all pretty insane.
  I've wondered how long it would be before they come to
  this settlement.  You know, we got a lot of those who
  fled the other villages.  I don't know where they'll go
  next, though...
Mongo:  What about you?  How come you're still here?
barkeep:  (shrugs)  I don't know, really.  I guess I don't
  have anywhere else to go.  I've lived here all my life,
  and, besides, business has been good lately.
Mongo:  Hmm.  This still sounds pretty damn amazing to me.
barkeep:  Well, a lot of it _is_ hearsay.  I mean, I've
  never _seen_ one of these giants, not here.  But there's
  no doubting the plague.  Or the waves of fleeing people
  from the other towns...
Mongo:  Hmph.  If half of what you say is true, I've come
  home at just the right time.
barkeep:  Why's that?
Mongo:  'Cause I'm good and pissed off.  (he flips the
  halfling a coin)  Be seeing you.
halfling:  Doubtful, if you're headed northeast.  But good
  luck anyway.
Mongo:  I won't need it.  I fear neither plague nor giants.
barkeep:  You may.  You may yet...

  Eager to find out just what the hell was going on, Mongo
rode out of town, heading for the next small town.  It was
just like the last, and the people there told similar
tales.  Most of the fighting population of the place had
been slain, by the plague or in battle.  There were still
those ready to fight, of course, but they were merely a
fraction of the original battle-ready forces that Mongo
remembered.  One might have thought that the nearby lands
would have "loaned" some forces to the beleagured people
of the hills, but apparently, such was the exception,
rather than the norm.  These were troubled times, after
all, what with the increased humanoid activity in Ratik,
the Bandit Kingdoms, and the Great Kingdom.

Mongo:  The Great Kingdom.  Ha!  What a joke!  Someday
  someone's going to have to go in there and set things

  Riding for another day after this, Mongo found a third
town.  By this time, he was closer to the mountains that
bordered the northern Flinty Hills than he was to the
grasslands that marked their southern edge.

Mongo:  (hearing the sounds of destruction from deeper
  within the town, he spurs his pony into action)  Onward,
  Prancer!  Let's see what all that racket is about!

  Riding through town, Mongo quickly got a glimpse of the
noise's source.  A pair of huge hill giants was busy at
work tearing apart an armory.

hill giant #1:  Heh heh ho.
hill giant #2:  (pummels a dwarven warrior who approaches
  too closely)  Get out of here, shrimp!
dwarven warrior:  Argh!  (catches the blow on his shield
  arm, which breaks, and falls)  Oof!
Mongo:  Enough!  (he unslings his hammer, in one fluid
  motion, and hurls it at the second giant)

  The weapon sailed straight toward the giant, and as it
struck the big monster, there was a tremendous noise, not
unlike a clap of thunder.  The giant fell to the ground
instantly, broken and unmoving, and the remaining giant
shrieked and dropped his sword, holding his head in both
hands.  In addition, all bystanders within earshot were
left stunned and reeling.

Mongo:  (catches the hammer)  Hah!  It really worked!
old geezer:  (having wandered up to Mongo)  Eh?
Mongo:  The giant-slaying power, that is.  (he strides
  into the midst of the armory's remains)  You!
hill giant #1:  (staggering around) ears...
Mongo:  No more!  (he throws his hammer at the monster,
  hitting it in the chest)  Take that!
hill giant #1:  Aghk!  (he doubles over, his spine snapped
  by the blow, and falls, as dead as his companion, even
  as another thunderclap booms over the town)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  By Crom, Ymir, and Mitra,
  what a weapon!  (he shakes the hammer, and thunder rolls
  in the skies overhead)
old geezer:  Wow.
Mongo:  (wondering who Crom, Ymir, and Mitra are, and why
  he just inadvertently swore by them)  Huh?

  As Mongo stood over his kills, the nearby townspeople
recovered from the shock of the dual thunderclaps, and
rallied around the dwarf.

halfling:  Who _are_ you?
dwarf:  What are you?
other dwarf:  Are you here to save us?
Mongo:  Not now, not now!  Can't you see that this guy's
  hurt?  (he helps the dwarven warrior with the broken arm
  to his feet)  Here.
dwarven warrior:  My thanks.  (he cradles his bad arm
  tenderly)  Ow, that hurts!
Mongo:  Here, maybe I can help.  (he puts his hammer back
  in his belt and gets out his healing rod, touching it to
  the dwarf's smashed arm)
dwarven warrior:  (his bones mend, and his pain ceases)
  What?  By the forge of Silverbeard himself...
dwarf:  Are you some god, come from above to help us in
  our time of need?
Mongo:  Me?  A god?  No, no.  I'm just an average guy with
  an exceptional hammer.
halfling:  I'll say.  (he fondles the hammer)
Mongo:  Watch it, pipsqueak.
dwarf:  That was mighty!  (he stares, awestruck, at the
  broken, bleeding carcasses of the hill giants)
Mongo:  Why didn't all you other people help?  Why did you
  just sit here and watch this guy (he claps the dwarven
  warrior on the shoulder) get his ass kicked?
other dwarf:  Uh...
Mongo:  This is no time for bullshit!  You've all got to
  work together, or these giants will march over your dead
  bones like so much dust!
dwarf:  That's easy for you to say!  You've got a magical
  hammer and good armor and probably years of experience!
halfling:  Yeah, we don't have any of that stuff.  How can
  we possibly fight back?
Mongo:  Courage!  Bravery!  To put it simple, sheer guts!
  (he begins shouting)  This is the last day you people
  are going to cower in your villages like worms!  I don't
  care if all your warriors are gone!  I'll train _you_
  instead!  You'll learn to fight as a unit!  You'll know
  how to ambush and trick those giants!  We'll get rid of
  them if I have to kill every last one MYSELF!
dwarf:  Yea!
halfling:  Yah!
Mongo:  Are you with me?!?
crowd:  Yeah!
Mongo:  ARE YOU WITH ME?!?
crowd:  Yeah!!!
Mongo:  Hell, yeah!  Now all this fighting has made me damn
  hungry - where can a guy get a decent bite to eat around

  Over the next weeks, there grew a legend in these parts,
a legend of a mighty dwarf with a will of iron and a hammer
of the gods.  Mongo taught the locals how to fight; it
hardly mattered whether they were artisans, masons, smiths,
or merchants.  He showed the smaller folk how to dart under
the legs of giants and then stab them where it really hurt.
He explained how a large group could attack a giant from
all sides, quickly bringing it down.

Mongo:  Remember, the biggest giant in the world'll fall
  in a heartbeat if you smash his knees.  Or his ankles.
Burin:  (the dwarven warrior whom Mongo healed, he has
  shown an unusual aptitude for Mongo's lessons)  What
  about the ones with armor over these vital spots?
Mongo: hit 'em there twice!

  He showed them the use of ropes, to snare the unwary
giant and bring him crashing to the ground, where he could
be dispatched much more easily.  He showed them how pits
could be dug ahead of time, for the giants to fall into.
He showed them how caltrops, coated with festering waste
matter, could be spread out ahead of time, as a nasty
surprise for unwary giants.  He showed them the use of
bows, crossbows, slings - whatever was handy.  Dwarves and
halflings from other towns and shires soon came, hearing
the tales of one who could lead them in battle against the
giants.  As the weeks passed, Mongo found that more and
more of these late arrivals actually had some significant
combat experience, and he exploited this, putting veterans
in charge of some of the training.  He also did what he
could to equip the people, donating his surplus magical
weapons and armor (two longswords, a shortsword, a heavy
battleaxe, a shield, and a suit of chain mail) to the
cause.  Burin himself took the chain mail and the axe,
and seemed eager to take on any and all giants.  Perhaps
it was that Mongo was reminded of a younger Flint by the
stout, aggressive Burin.
  An important aspect of Mongo's presence - indeed, one
key to his hopes of success here - was his magical rod of
healing.  With this powerful item, he was able to heal
those who suffered from the mysterious plague.  This not
only helped his local popularity, of course, but it turned
a number of weak, diseased people into able-bodied, healthy
warriors once more.  Those who weren't warriors to begin
with found some way to contribute, be it leather or metal
working, cooking, sewing, farming, whatever.

  By the end of this "basic training", the locals were
ready for a real test.  This was a good thing indeed, for
more giants were reported nearby, an hour's march to the
north.  The dwarves and halflings readied their traps,
set out their arrows and bolts, and covered their pits.
They remained back a distance from the pits and spikes,
per Mongo's instructions - he didn't want them to suffer
from the thunderclap that his hammer was capable of
  Soon, a troop of eight giants marched into the village,
practically looking for trouble.  Within moments, the
demi-humans made their attack, utilizing everything that
they had learned from Mongo.  The great warrior himself
felled the giants' leader with his first blow, throwing
them into disarray (none of the giants had ever seen one
of their kind slain with one blow before, and the clap
of thunder stunned them all too!)  At this point, the
masses of dwarves and halflings charges forth from their
hiding-places, and tore into the giants' ranks.
  It was over within minutes.  Of course, it helped that
these were only hill giants, but the demi-humans suffered
only minimal losses, relatively.  The morale boost of the
victory was perhaps its greatest fruit - these people
were cheering, clapping, and ready to fight more giants!

Mongo:  Yeah!  Way to go, guys!  (he moves about, clapping
  various combatants on the back)  Good job!

  The townspeople lifted Mongo onto their shoulders, and
paraded him around their village, cheering and making a
general ruckus.  In the days that followed, Mongo and the
few who he had appointed as his captains and lieutenants
made greater, more ambitious plans.

Mongo:  I don't see why we have to stop here.  Why, we've
  got the momentum now!  We could just advance toward the
  northeast, building an army as we marched!
Burin:  We could eat and drink in the towns we visited.
grizzled old dwarven warrior:  I'm sure they'd be grateful
halfling:  (a stout little fellow named, of all things,
  Muttonhead)  Yeah!  (he fingers Mongo's loaned shortsword
  of sharpness, a weapon which he used to deadly effect in
  the recent battle)  Back in my town, we had all kinds of
  extra food and provisions - just nobody to use them all.
Mongo:  I figure that the giants are coming from the far
  northeast - Bone March, probably.  We'll just advance in
  that direction, and fight them where they show up.
grizzled dwarven warrior:  (a veteran, one Snowbeard, he
  is the one who borrowed Mongo's longsword of dancing for
  the battle)  Yeah!  And we'll pick up troops as we go!
  The people of these hills may be weakened, but they're
  not cowards!
Burin:  And remember, you can heal their plague...
Snowbeard:  Aye, as you healed mine...  I've never felt
Muttonhead:  That all said, when do we begin?
Mongo:  Tomorrow!  Tomorrow we march, and reclaim these
  hills as our own!

  And they did, moving out in force and never slowing down
once they got started.  The next town held six giants, the
one after that ten.  It mattered not - Mongo had seemingly
created a juggernaut, a force of might and right to be
reckoned with.
  If nothing else, this campaign had certainly taken his
troubled mind off the death of Flint.

+   Date:    3/15/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    daytime                                          +
+   Place:   amidst the Flinty Hills                          +
+   Climate: chilly                                           +

  Many leagues away, in a tent amidst a camp of giants, a
trio of individuals conferred in low, menacing tones.

black-robed priest:  The stories keep coming in, and they
  all sound the same!  A dwarf - one dwarf, by the black
  heart of Hextor! - is leading these rabble to victory!
  He's actually posing a threat to our plans!
red-robed elven wizard:  I don't know who this person is,
  but between your unholy craft and my own magic, we'll
  surely be rid of him in due time.  (he flexes his long
  fingers as if to cast spells)  Yes indeed.
huge fire giant with eyepatch:  And if you fools can't
  kill him with your magic, I'll smash him into bloody
  pulp myself.  (he raises a gigantic battleaxe in one
  black, scarred hand)  So swears General Zog!

next time :  an explosive confrontation, as the giants'
           leaders expose themselves at last

notes     :  I guess it's time to give away the secret of
           the century...(drum roll, please)

             Stormcrest (an ancient dwarven artifact)
               purpose:  to slay giants and giant-kin
               hammer +5, dwarven thrower (180' range,
                 double damage dice, returns to thrower)
               merely a hammer +1 for anyone not a dwarven
               requires 20 or higher strength to wield
               hammer affects giants as does a hammer of
                 thunderbolts; this is the only time it
                 generates a thunderclap
               can generate a lightning bolt of 10d6 power
               bearer becomes extremely ill and weak when
                 not on land for more than one day
               bearer is compelled to attack all giants
               bearer becomes prone to fits of both rage
                 and sullen gloom, due to occasional and
                 vague empathic flashbacks and visions
                 of ancient dwarven times

             Yes, I made this thing up.  Originally, the
           hammer of Mongo-2 was going to be a sort of
           pseudo-vorpal weapon, that crushed to death a
           foe who got hit on a 17+.  Thinking carefully,
           though, I altered this radically to have more
           of a history and purpose.

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