Chapter #148

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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                    +
+                            tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   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:    3/15/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    daytime                                          +
+   Place:   amidst the Flinty Hills                          +
+   Climate: somewhat chilly                                  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "The difference between a mob and a trained regiment      +
+    is that, when the dust clears, the regiment remains."    +
+                                           - unknown         +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





               CXLVIII.  Mongo's War, part II





  For over three months, Mongo has been away from Greyhawk
and his fellow adventurers, having taken up the cause of
the demi-humans in the Flinty Hills.  He has organized the
dwarves and halflings and made significant headway towards
clearing out the hordes of giants.  Now, the ragtag army
of demihumans marches toward Helmgate, one of the largest
and most prosperous (until recently, at least) of the
hill-towns.

Mongo:  Now what's this you were saying about Helmgate?
Snowbeard:  (rubs his grizzled beard)  That's one of the
  places that was hit the worst.  Filled with giants,
  they say - the folk who live there are slaves now.
Muttonhead:  (standing less than three feet tall, his
  voice is nevertheless heard clearly)  Or food.
Burin:  I think most of them have fled, to be sure.  No
  one who stays in such a place can expect to live long.
Mongo:  Sounds like we may have trouble in Helmgate.
Burin:  (fingers Mongo's loaned axe)  Time to make our
  stand there, if you ask me.
Mongo:  Exactly!  That's the spirit!
other dwarf:  Live free or die!
scattered warriors:  (taking up the chant)  Yeah!

  The pseudo-army approached the town of Helmgate some two
days later, and took up a position a half-league or so
outside the place.  It fell to a sneaky pair of halfling
thieves to scout the place out.  Dusk fell upon the town,
making this a perfect time for the rogues to do their work.

Mongo:  Now you know what to do, right?
Kodo:  Yeah!  We'll go have a look.
Podo:  Without getting caught.
Kodo:  Right.
Podo:  Easy as pie.
Kodo:  Mmm...pie...
Mongo:  Enough.  Get out there and have a look.  Remember,
  we're all depending on you!

  They scurried off, and while waiting for them, Mongo kept
busy reassuring his troops that all would go well.

Mongo:  Don't forget everything we've done so far.  You
  people all know how to fight these giants.  We know we
  can beat 'em, don't we?
Muttonhead:  Uh, yeah, but what about the plague?
Mongo:  You mean, what about whichever rotten wizard made
  it come in the first place, right?
Muttonhead:  Right on.
Burin:  How can you be sure it was a wizard?
Mongo:  I've had enough experience to know that wizards
  are always involved in these kinds of things.  Or it
  could be a priest.  (thinking of Ged)  Wizards, priests,
  they're all the same.
Snowbeard:  It could mean trouble.
Mongo:  Don't you worry yourself about that.  I'll take
  _real_ good care of such evildoers.  Personally.

  Before too long, the halflings returned, bearing news of
the enemy occupation in Helmgate.  Apparently, there were
some fifty giants there now, occupying the town.  Though
the scouts had seen no sign of a leader or leaders, Mongo
pointed out that such individuals would likely hide until
forced to reveal themselves.  Anyhow, the giants hadn't
appeared to be on serious guard duty, and the demi-humans
planned a multi-frontal assault on the town.

Mongo:  We'll attack at dawn, hopefully catching most of
  the big galoots fast asleep.
troops:  (shifting nervously)
Mongo:  Okay, here's the deal.  Snowbeard, you take your
  squad in from the south, near the farming areas.
Snowbeard:  Aye, that I will.
Mongo:  Burin, you'll head up the eastward assault, coming
  into town from the woods there.
Burin:  Okay.
Mongo:  Muttonhead, you and your halfling troop will move
  in from the northeast.  You'll want to skirt the ravine
  there, since it's low ground and gives you a tactical
  disadvantage.  Move along its edge and use the brush
  for cover.
Muttonhead:  Gotcha.  We've got enough rogues to ensure
  plenty of mischief.
other halfling:  (juggling oil flasks)  Heh heh heh.
Mongo:  That leaves my group, from the northwestern flank
  of the town.  We'll follow the riverbed and move in by
  the tower there.
Snowbeard:  How will we know when to charge into town?
  Do you have some kind of signal in mind?  A flaming
  arrow maybe?
Muttonhead:  Yeah, what's the signal?
Mongo:  Don't worry, you'll know it when it happens.
Burin:  (slices a piece of leather in half on his axe
  blade)  Good and sharp.
Mongo:  Okay, everyone get some sleep.  Post guards as
  usual, just in case.  And remember, no fires.

  As the band silently and efficiently made camp, Mongo
retreated to his makeshift commander's tent, which, in the
dwarf's gruff spirit of equality, was no more than a pack
tent atop a small hill.  The warrior ate a cold meal in
solitude, washed it down with a bottle of cheap whiskey,
and pondered the coming battle.

Mongo:  Either we win, or we die fighting.  Good enough
  for me.  Hmph.  (he goes to sleep)



  An hour before dawn, the dwarves and halflings broke
camp, sharpened their weapons, and otherwise prepared for
the upcoming invasion.  The main group split into the four
designated groups, and each moved into position.

Mongo:  (leading his fourth of the force, they creep up
  the riverbed)  Okay, guys, get ready.  (he pulls his
  orb of fate from his portable hole)
dwarven warrior:  What's that thing?
Mongo:  Insurance.  (to the orb)  Do they know we're out
  here?
orb:  YES.
other dwarven warrior:  Ulp.
Mongo:  (puts the orb away, and stashes a few select magic
  items in his belt)  I suspected as much.  Damn wizards,
  I'd betcha anything...
first dwarven warrior:  What are those things?
Mongo:  Equalizers.

  Mongo's squad, numbering perhaps fifty, crept down the
slope, passing the mentioned tower on the way in.

Mongo:  (looking carefully into town)  Damn, but we could
  use Peldor's keen eyes here!
dwarven warrior:  Who's Peldor?
Mongo:  A legend in the making, perhaps.  You may hear of
  him someday.  (he notices that the giants who patrol the
  streets, though few in number, are armed and armored)
  Heh.  They're stupid, but only 'cause they think we're
  stupid too.
other dwarven warrior:  Huh?
Mongo:  (holds up his hand, upon which his ring of wishing
  is now prominently worn)  Shh.
dwarves:  (quiet themselves)
Mongo:  I wish that my entire army will be quick of foot,
  deft of hand, and strong of spirit for this coming time
  of battle.  That is all.
dwarves:  (they suddenly feel energized)  Whoa!
Mongo:  It worked!
halfling force:  (far to the east, they feel a rush)  Huh?
other dwarves and halflings:  (those in Snowbeard's and
  Burin's groups, they feel a surge of power)  What?!?
Mongo:  (swaps rings, putting his ring of fire resistance
  back on)  Let's go!  (he runs toward town)
dwarven warrior:  What about the giants being ready for
  us?  What about the signal for the others?  What about-
other dwarf:  Come on.  He's led us this far - he won't
  fail us now!  (they get moving)

  As the dwarves charged into town, giants began popping
up from their hiding places, small boulders in their hands
and evil grins on their faces.  It was now that Mongo, in
front of his force by a good ten feet, grabbed his horn of
siege and winded it suddenly.  The giants looked confused,
but only for a moment.
  There was a deep rumbling, as the earth shook with raw,
unshackled force.  Starting in front of Mongo, a series
of cracks formed, and grew as they moved forward.  Most
of the buildings of Helmgate shook, cracked, and swayed
as the earth trembled.  Confused giants looked around in
panic, some dropping their rocks, some being swallowed by
the cracks in the ground.  A number of trees were uprooted
and fell over as the earth shifted and shook.

Mongo:  (feeling the tremors subside)  By Moradin's hoary
  beard, let's GO!!!  (he charges, hurling his hammer at
  the nearest foe, a stone giant who managed to avoid the
  cracks and tremors)  For the dwarves!
stone giant:  (hit by the artifact, he keels over dead,
  his head shattered)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  Get them!

  The dwarves charged, cheering all the way, their axes
and swords raised to the sky.  Mongo's dual ploys had
worked well; not only were his forces in top condition
for battle, but the earthquake caused by the horn had
wounded or disoriented many of the giants.  Of course,
half of Helmgate was in ruins now, but after all, war
_was_ hell.

hill giant:  Huh?  (he finds himself surrounded by angry
  dwarves)  Gah!  (several weapons strike him at once,
  inflicting serious wounds)  Eyagh!  (he lashes out)
dwarf:  (reels back and away, decapitated)
hill giant:  Hah!
other dwarf:  (buries his axe in the giant's head)  Die!
hill giant:  (his grin split in two, he perishes)
other hill giant:  (fleeing from some dozen dwarves, he
  trips and falls into a crevasse)  Yaaaaa...<thump>
dwarves:  (pause only a moment to regard the broken body
  lodged deep in the crack)  Oh well.  (they run off to
  engage other foes)
hill giant:  (not dead yet, he groans and tries to move,
  but finds his leg broken)  Argh!  Someone help me!
Mongo:  (appears at the top of the rift)  Oh, I'll help
  you, all right.  (he pushes a boulder into the crack)
hill giant:  No!  Aieee-  <crunch>
Mongo:  (muttering to himself)  No regrets for him...
  That's what you get when you join a band of killers.
  (he walks away, seeking more giants to attack)
other dwarves:  (ringing a pair of hill giants, they
  slash and chop at the larger foes mercilessly)
dwarves with crossbows:  (they take liberal shots at the
  two giants)  Whoa there!  Good shot!
dwarf:  (gets cut in two by a fire giant)
fire giant:  Hah!  (he finds his way blocked by several
  dwarves)  What's this?
dwarf:  We'll cut you down to size, foul one!  (they
  charge the giant)
other dwarf:  (melees with a hill giant, until one of
  the foe's blows chops him down)
hill giant:  Har!
Mongo:  (roams the town, targeting the larger and much
  tougher fire giants for hammer-driven death)
dwarves:  (running in a pointed formation before Mongo,
  they keep him shielded from giant attacks)

  Somewhere nearby, the other regiments of Mongo's force
were entering the town.  The halflings scattered in all
directions, not unlike the cockroaches they were often
compared to.  Even the smallest bugs had their uses,
however, and the halflings were able to dart around the
much larger giants' legs, inflicting horrible wounds to
ankles, hamstrings, and knees.  While their foes were
distracted by clusters of halflings or dwarves fighting
with great vigor, the halfling thieves were often able
to dash in from the rear flank and make surprising (and
effective) attacks.  Burin's and Snowbeard's charging
forces served to supplement Mongo's own dwarves.  The
giants, many of them driven out of their hiding places
by the earthquake, were open, if formidable, targets.

Muttonhead:  (slashes a fire giant's ankle with Mongo's
  loaned sword of sharpness, severing the foot)  Yeah!
fire giant:  ARGH!  (he falls, screaming)  YARGH!
dwarves:  (pounce upon the unfortunately downed giant,
  stabbing and slashing)  Hi-yah!

  Mongo himself, having lost his entourage of protectors
bit by bit as they split off to fight giants, was felling
giants with every blow.  Today seemed to be his day - he
just couldn't miss.  Every throw of Stormcrest found its
target, and every target was slain.  Mongo's eyes were
red with rage and bloodlust; perhaps fire flowed through
his veins this day.  The few cuts and bruises he suffered
didn't seem to faze him, and indeed, they began to heal,
thanks to the warrior's magical ring.  Any pain he felt
only spurred him on to greater fury, and that fury was
indeed terrible to behold.

Mongo:  Graaar!  Who dies next?!?
black-robed priest:  (appears from behind a building,
  engaged in spellcasting)
Mongo:  Huh?  (he whirls, as the evil one points a
  finger at him)
black-robed priest:  Taste the Plague, fool!
Mongo:  (he feels a tingling sensation, but the evil
  sickness is repelled by his unearthly constitution)
  Yow!  My turn.  (he hurls his hammer at the priest)
black-robed priest:  (knocked into a building, his
  ribs smashed; he spits blood)  Urgh.  Hextor...aid
  me now...
Mongo:  Hah!  That got him!  Long shot, though.
huge fire giant with eyepatch:  (wanders out from behind
  a tall building, axe in hand)  You?  You are the cause
  of all this trouble?  Bah.  I'll smash you.  (he makes
  his way toward Mongo, only twenty feet away)
Mongo:  Oh yeah?  (catches his hammer)  Come and get it.
  I'll take you on, in straight combat.  Come on!  (he
  charges the giant)
fire giant:  (chops at Mongo, denting his plate mail and
  cracking ribs)  Taste true giant steel, mite!
Mongo:  (staggers, but wallops the giant right back, his
  hammer smashing the huge foe's knee like a piece of
  rotten timber)  Fuck YOU!
fire giant:  AAARGH!  (he falls to one knee, swinging at
  Mongo)
Mongo:  (ducking aside, his armor deflects the brunt of
  the mighty blow)  Oops.  _Big_ mistake for you.  (he
  slams his hammer into the giant's helmeted head)
fire giant:  (his head ringing, he rolls over and away)
  Urgh!
Mongo:  (charges after the foe)  Come back here, you!
fire giant:  (manages to get to his feet, shakily)  You
  smashed my knee...I don't believe it...(he swings his
  anchor-sized axe at Mongo)
Mongo:  Argh!  (he is knocked to the ground, and rolls
  himself, now)
fire giant:  (limps after Mongo)  Tell them in hell that
  General Zog sent you.
Mongo:  (rebounds from his fall, and slams an armored
  elbow into the giant's injured knee)  Not a chance!
fire giant:  ARGH!  (he falls again, but manages to sweep
  the nearby area with his axe, hitting Mongo and opening
  up a huge gash in his armor and side)  Graar!
Mongo:  DAMN IT!  (he staggers in pain, wipes blood out
  of his eyes, and leaps forth)
fire giant:  (seriously begins to doubt his survival on
  this day)  But-
Mongo:  I'm sick of fire giants!  I'm sick of ALL giants!
  No more!  NO MORE, I say!  (he raises his hammer)  This
  one's for Flint!  (he smashes the giant in the chest,
  caving in his armor like an eggshell)
fire giant:  (hovers at death's door)  Flint...?
Mongo:  (pounding the giant repeatedly)  NO MORE!
fire giant:  (perishes messily)
Mongo:  Argh!  (he rips the giant's head off and holds it
  up)  Yargh!  (he holds his hammer up in his other hand)
  TRIUMPH!
various combatants:  (look fearfully at Mongo)

black-robed priest:  (sneaking up behind Mongo, he has
  been covered by the noise of the battle, and prepares
  to touch the dwarf)
other dwarf:  (charging at breakneck speed from behind a
  nearby building)  No!
Mongo:  (whirls)  Eh?
dwarf:  (leaps forth, tackling the priest)  Look out,
  General Mongo!
black-robed priest:  Noooooo!  (he inadvertently touches
  himself, and promptly disintegrates)
dwarf who leapt:  Whoa!
Mongo:  Whoa!
red-robed elven wizard:  (flying high over the battle-
  torn town)  Obviously, we misjudged this dwarf.  I
  shall not make the same mistake again.  (he lets his
  spell go)

  From somewhere above, an immense fireball blazed its
way through the sky, headed right for Mongo!

Mongo:  (to the dwarf who saved him)  Get-

  There was a tremendous explosion, and a cloud of smoke
appeared, marking the enormous charred crater where Mongo
and the other dwarf had stood.  Suddenly, the black ashes
stirred...

Mongo:  (erupts from the ashes, badly wounded but alive,
  thanks to his rings)  ARGH!  (he looks around, finding
  that the other dwarf is now a charred husk)  Dammit!
  (he turns his gaze skyward)
red-robed elven wizard:  (his smile fades abruptly)  Wha-
Mongo:  (his hammer is already airborne)
red-robed elven wizard:  (struck by the hammer, he almost
  loses consciousness)  Urgh!  (stunned, he floats around)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer, and then uses his healing
  rod, curing his own wounds)  Ahhhhhh.

  When the dwarf once again turned his attention to the
sky, ready to do battle, the elf was nowhere to be found.

Mongo:  Huh.  (he sees what looks like a red speck in the
  distant sky)  Yeah, you'd better run.

  He headed back toward the main battle, and was surprised
to find that it was over.  Here and there, dwarves and
halflings lay wounded and dead, which was more than could
be said for the giants.  Not a single one of their number
still lived.  In addition, a large number of unfamiliar
halflings were wandering around.  All of them wore finely
crafted chain mail and bore swords and bows of excellent
make.

Mongo:  (spots Snowbeard, badly wounded and being attended
  to by some dwarves)  Hey!  (he makes his way over to the
  grizzled warrior)  What happened to all the giants...?
Snowbeard:  Uh...these other halflings showed up...really
  helped us out, too...
Burin:  (wanders out of a crowd, bleeding from numerous
  wounds)  Yeah, they sure did.  I think that's their
  leader over there.
Mongo:  (turns to spot a well-dressed, foppish halfling
  sitting atop a pavilion, smoking a pipe and directing
  various of the armored halflings)  Hmm.  (he heads in
  the direction of the odd halfling)

halfling:  Eh?  (he turns to the dwarf)  You must be the
  one they call Mongo.
Mongo:  I am that one.
halfling:  Mongo the giant-slayer, the hammer-thrower,
  the people-leader, the hills-hero?
Mongo:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Who the hell are you, anyway?
halfling:  Me?  I, good sir, am called Kup Swiftfoot.
  (he sends smoke rings into the air)  'Twas I, by the
  way, who led this force of valiant halfling veterans
  here.
Mongo:  Uh...how many of you _are_ there, anyway?
Kup Swiftfoot:  Oh, about three hundred, give or take a
  few.  I would have come sooner, but I had just heard
  about your campaign recently.  I was away from all
  this nonsense, you know.  Came back from a long trip,
  and found this whole mess in the Flinty Hills.  Why,
  in the old days, we would have...ah, well, anyway, it
  took a week at least, to gather up my militia.
Mongo:  Well, we certainly thank you for your help.  I
  guess you had as much cause as the next person, to
  help fight those giants.
Kup Swiftfoot:  Cause?  My dear, dear fellow, these hills
  are my home too!  (he blows a smoke ring in Mongo's
  direction)
Mongo:  <cough>  Yeah-  Hey, wait!  What do you mean,
  "your militia?"
Kup Swiftfoot:  Of course.  It just took awhile.  They
  had scattered to the outlying lands, what with the
  peaceful times and such, before the giants.  I always
  make sure there's a militia on reserve.  Trained and
  experienced warriors, each of them.  One does, after
  all, have to protect one's home.
Mongo:  Hmm.  Well...it's been nice talking to you, Mr.
  Swiftfoot, but I've got to attend to my troops.  Maybe
  we'll meet again someday.
Kup Swiftfoot:  I suspect we will.  (he blows a series
  of smoke rings)  I suspect we will...

  Mongo did what he could to cure the wounded and dying.
Actually, he could do quite a lot, since the rod had a
great deal of holy power.  It seemed incapable, though,
of rasing the dead dwarf who had been fried by the elf's
fireball, and this upset Mongo.

Mongo:  (looking at his ring of wishing)  He saved my
  life...

  In the days that followed, the rebuilding of Helmgate
began.  The militia remained for a few days, then went
back to their own town, a few days' journey to the west.
Scouts to the north and east reported no more giants -
it seemed that the alliance had been stationed here, in
Helmgate, at least in the end.

Mongo:  That red elf may come back someday, though...
Burin:  Then we'll unite once again, and smash him and
  anyone with him!
Muttonhead:  Yeah!
Snowbeard:  Aye.  And now that I've decided to stay here
  as mayor, you can be damn sure that we'll be watching
  our borders...
Mongo:  Sounds good.  (he heads for a nearby tent, and
  enters it)
dwarf:  (lying in a bunk, recovering and very weak)
Mongo:  Hey, remember me?
dwarf:  Uh...
Mongo:  I'm the one whose life you saved.
dwarf:  Oh, yeah...(he smiles weakly)  Seemed the thing
  to do at the time...and you _were_ the general...
Mongo:  Well, part of your repayment was a second chance
  at life.  Most people don't get that, you know.
dwarf:  I guess not...(he coughs)
Mongo:  Anything else I can do to thank you?
dwarf:  Uh...I don't believe this...a legend, asking me
  what he can do for me?  By the beard of Durin, I have
  no answer.  Just to have fought at your side in battle
  was enough.
Mongo:  How old are you, boy?
dwarf:  Thirty-nine winters.  Why?
Mongo:  That's young yet.  How'd you like to see the
  world?  I need an apprentice, a henchman if you will,
  to share in the legends of me and my friends.
dwarf:  What, with you?  Surely you jest with me...
Mongo:  No joke.  I'll give you a magical axe and show
  you how to use it.  You'll see faraway lands, maybe
  even other worlds.  A lifetime of adventure waits out
  there - ours for the taking.  What do you say?
dwarf:  What can I say?!?  Of course I'll go!
Mongo:  Good deal.  We'll leave when you're healthy.
dwarf:  Very well...and my thanks!
Mongo:  Think nothing of it.

  Mongo reclaimed his extra chain mail and battleaxe from
Burin, but let the others keep the magical weapons he had
loaned them.

Snowbeard:  This fine dancing sword?  I couldn't possibly-
Mongo:  Hogwash.  It's yours.  And you get the shortsword,
  Muttonhead.
Muttonhead:  Oh, boy!
Mongo:  For you, Burin, I have this longsword, and this
  jug of potion.  It will neutralize any poisons had by
  the drinker.
Burin:  Why...my thanks, friend!
Mongo:  I'll be out of here in a few days, but I'll be
  back someday.
Snowbeard:  And we'll sing songs of you in the meanwhile!



  Several days later, Mongo and his new protege rode out
of Helmgate, heading southwest, toward Mongo's own town
of birth.  He hadn't had time to visit it extensively
while mustering his little army, and intended to make up
for lost time now.  At the rate he was going, he wouldn't
be back in Greyhawk until almost a month before midsummer.
  Thus it was that Mongo's vacation served to boost his
spirits and right some wrongs in the process.





next time :  the party regroups in Greyhawk

notes     :  Somebody please name Mongo's new henchdwarf
           for me.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




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