Chapter #155

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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:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Arnold        11th level human warrior               (NG) +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/13th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Ged           13th/14th level grey elven priest/mage (NG) +
+   Mongo         16th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+      Gorin       4th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       6th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+   Date:    8/24/573 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    afternoon                                        +
+   Place:   the western stretches of Bone March              +
+   Climate: warm                                             +
+   "The dead can be very useful sometimes.  They've helped   +
+    me out of tough spots more than once."                   +
+                      - the Man With No Name, from           +
+                          _The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly_  +

           CLV.  World Tour, part 5:  Aerdy

  Riding north, toward Arnold's homeland, the adventurers
have entered the humanoid-populated Bone March, and now
find themselves surrounded by an army a thousand strong.

Mongo:  Like I said, welcome to Bone March.  (he hefts his
  hammer)  Anyone have any good ideas about how to fight
  off a whole army?
Belphanior:  Oh, is this going to be fun...
Gorin:  (staring wide-eyed)  You're crazy!
Belphanior:  Yep.
Rillen:  I wonder how they surrounded us like this.  (he
  stares at the closing circle of humanoids, which is now
  only a hundred paces away, and readies his bow)  Doomed
  for sure, this time.
wispy thing:  (floats upside down, hissing)  sss.
Mongo:  Best I can figure, they had scouts, who hurried
  back to the main army.  Then they got into position, and
  waited...humanoids aren't as dumb as most people think.
Peldor:  (goes invisible)  Yeah, well, neither are we.
Bosco:  (draws his sword)  Well, actually...I kinda get
  the impression that we're screwed.
Arnold:  Aaa, yah.
Ged:  (spellcasting)  Everyone get ready, I'm about to
  cast a Haste.
Rillen:  Somehow, I don't think you're going to get the
  chance.  Look!

  The big warrior was pointing at the nearest rank of the
humanoid army, which consisted of orcish spearmen.  They
were about to hurl their barbed spears at the party.  While
this might not have otherwise been a problem, the fact that
the spearmen numbered a hundred, and ringed the party on
all sides, made it a rather serious issue at the moment.
Within seconds, a hail of spears would be whizzing toward
the party, surely with disastrous results.

Ged:  (utterly unconcerned, since his magical belt will
  shield him from normal missiles, he continues his spell)

  While the army's inner ring was made up of the spearmen,
or spearorcs in this case, there was a solid backing troop
of orcish infantry right behind them, perhaps five hundred
strong.  These humanoids were well-armored, wearing chain
or plate mail, and they bore strong swords, maces, or axes.
Besides these six hundred pig-faced foot troops, a squad
of hulking bugbears waited to one flank, ready to charge in
to back up the weaker troops, should the need arise.  On
another flank stood a platoon of smelly ogres, bearing huge
swords or axes as they shuffled restlessly.  Rounding out
this formidable force was a mob of about threescore trolls,
which towered over all others, even the ogres.  Spaced
liberally among the army were shamen, witch doctors, and
captains of the humanoid races.

                   bugbears          ogres
              bugbears            ogres
                 bugbears       ogres   ogres
           bugbears   orcs orcs orcs   ogres
       bugbears      orcs  orcs  orcs     ogres
         bugbears   orcs          orcs  ogres
     bugbears      orcs   party    orcs
      bugbears      orcs          orcs
         bugbears    orcs  orcs  orcs     trolls
                      orcs orcs orcs   trolls

  This was obviously no mere rabble, but rather a well-
organized, strongly-led fighting force.  Equally obvious
was the fact that the adventurers were in trouble, for a
hundred spears were about to fly their way.  There was
unquestionably no chance that any spell would be finished
before the deadly hail commenced.
  Just then, though, two things happened at once, neither
of them having to do with spellcasting.

Mongo:  (uses Stormcrest to fire a mighty lightning bolt
  into the nearest orcish spearmen)  Yaaa!
Belphanior:  (lustily winds his Trumpet of Doom)  If this
  doesn't liven up the party, nothing will...(an eerie
  note sounds, heard by all)

  Mongo's lightning bolt leaped from his hammer, tearing
into one group of spearmen.  Dozens were slain instantly,
a score more wounded, and a path was blazed right up to
the first rank of trolls.  At the same time, in the general
area between the ogres and the orcs in front of them, there
ensued a loud screaming and yelling among the humanoids, as
various undead sprouted from the ground like broccoli and
began feasting upon the various troops.

zombie:  (gnaws an orcish leg hungrily)  Glaaark.
orc:  Eyagh!  (he slashes at the zombie, but both go down
  in a tangled heap as orcs bolt in every direction)
orc:  (stabs at a skeleton)  Aie!
skeleton:  (some ribs break, but it presses on, clawing at
  the orc)
orc:  Aie!  (reels, his face torn and mangled)
ghoul:  (leaps upon an ogre, biting into the big humanoid's
  head)  Gnaw!
ogre:  AaaAAAAAA!  (it punches at the ghoul)  Get offa me!
other ogre:  (swings a huge axe at the ghoul, and lops an
  arm off, but also hits his fellow ogre, tearing his head
  open)  Oops.
other ghoul:  (gropes greedily at the wound)  Brains!
ghast:  (dodges a swinging sword, and tackles an orcish
  swordsman)  Ssss!
orc:  Aie!  (paralyzed, he falls)
skeletons:  (four of them, they team up against an ogre)
ogre:  Come an' get it!
orc:  (slashes a skeleton, smashing it to bits)  Hah!
zombies:  (two of them manage to take down the orc from
wights:  (three, they tackle an ogre)  Hsss!
ogre:  Gah!  (he quickly perishes)
ogre:  (bashing undead left and right)  Fight, you dogs!
  They shouldn't be too hard to kill - they're already
  dead!  Huh?  (he finds himself face-to-face with two
wraiths:  Ssss...(they pounce upon the ogre)
ogre:  AIE!  (he is quickly left unmoving, a lifeless husk)
orcish shaman:  (tries to command the wraiths, but fails,
  instead becoming their next victim)
ogre chieftain:  (hacks a skeleton to bits)  Ha!
spectre:  (wades through the orcish infantry, felling an
  orc with every touch)  So much life...
orcs:  (three of them, they surround a ghoul, slashing it
  methodically to bits)  Yar!
mummy:  (tosses orcs aside like rag dolls)  Graa!  (it
  faces an ogre)  Graaaa!
ogre:  Aie!  (he turns and flees, only to trip over a dead
  orc)  Oof!
mummy:  (pummels the big ogre mercilessly)  Ghak!
zombie:  (tears an orc's ear off)  Duh?
orc:  AAARGH!
ogre:  (decapitates the zombie)  Sorry about your ear...
lich:  (the last undead to appear, it looks around)  How
  in the name of all the hells did I arrive _here_?
orc:  Hey!  (it makes the foolish error of mistaking this
  new arrival for a mere skeleton)  Hey, you!  (he slashes
  at the undead)  Die!
lich:  (ignores the sword blow, and grabs the orc by the
  neck)  Fool.
orc:  Ghak!
lich:  (lifts the armored orc off the ground)  Someone shall
  pay for bringing me here...
orc:  Crk.  (its neck crushed, it dies)
lich:  (discards the corpse like a banana peel)  Bah.
orcs:  (having lost their spears, five of them try to tackle
  a second mummy, but fail miserably - and fatally)

  Due to these distractions, very few of the orcish spears
actually flew, and fewer still found any kind of mark.

Belphanior:  Wow, good undead this time.  (he gets nicked
  by a spear, but his Stoneskin saves him from even so
  much as a scratch)
Ged:  How...unholy.  (he regards the other elf with fresh
  doubt)  Did you really have to bring undead into this?
Belphanior:  (shrugs)  I contributed, didn't I?
Ged:  If you can call it that...
Lightbringer:  (begins complaining loudly)
Arnold:  (near Ged, he enjoys the elf's magical protection
  as well, and watches in amazement as spears turn aside
  right in front of him)  Aaa.
Gorin:  (likewise)  What the hell...?
Peldor:  (invisible, he manages to avoid several spears
  that land nearby)  Whee.
Bosco:  (hiding behind Arnold, he unwittingly used Ged's
  protective field as well)  Whoa!
Rillen:  (manages to catch a spear that flies by)  Hai!
Mongo:  (ignores a spear deflected by his plate mail, then
  watches helplessly as his pony takes a spear in the head
  and dies)  Shit!  They got my pony!
pony:  (bucks and rears in its death throes, tossing Mongo
  to the ground roughly)  Neiaae!
Mongo:  Ouch.
Bosco's pony:  (gets impaled by not one, but TWO spears,
  and quickly dies)
Belphanior's horse:  (likewise)  Neigh!  (it falls, and
  its rider is tossed)
Belphanior:  Damn...!  (lands nimbly on his feet)  Orcish
Ged:  (completes his spell, hasting not only the eight
  party members, but also all remaining mounts)  Boccob!
wispy thing:  (unaffected by the spell, it sails toward
  the humanoid army)  pfft.
Rillen:  (tosses the orcish spear aside, draws his bow and
  nocks an arrow, and fires, all in one fluid motion)
charging orc:  Ug!  (hit by both the original arrow and its
  magical duplicate, he sails backwards, dead instantly)
Gorin:  Good shot.
Rillen:  A deuce.
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer)
orc:  (its head is pulverized, and it perishes)  <bloop>
Mongo:  (hasted, he catches his hammer and hurls it again)
ogre:  Argh!  (hit by the weapon, its back is snapped, and
  it falls, twitching)
Rillen:  (slays another oncoming orc with two arrows)  It's
  no good - there are too many!  At this rate, we'll be
Mongo:  Not without a fight!  (he lets his hammer fly yet
  again, and another orc is crushed like an egg)  Yeah!
Gorin:  (he and Arnold stay put, preparing to charge forth
  only when the foes get too close and there is no other
  choice)  Damn, they're everywhere!
Arnold:  (grabs Bosco by the collar and hoists him up onto
  his own horse)  You're safer up here, liddle one.
Bosco:  Thanks!
Peldor's horse:  (apparently riderless, it charges forth
  into the fray, leaving several trampled orcs in its wake)
Gorin:  Where'd the thief go?
Arnold:  (shrugs)  Not sure.  This always habbens.
Rillen:  (slays another charging orc with a pair of arrows)
  For every one we slay, two more take its place...
Mongo:  (tosses his hammer, and fells an ogre from afar)
  Hang in there!  We've got to buy the wizards time to do
  their thing!
Ged:  (begins spellcasting)  Yea!  More of Boccob's holy
  power is on the way!
Belphanior:  (begins spellcasting)  And then there's me...
Lightbringer:  (screaming something about slaying undead)

  By now, some bugbears and trolls were within sight of the
party, mixed in with the orcs and ogres amidst the chaos.
The undead, their numbers slowly dwindling, still roamed
about, wreaking much destruction in the process.  Only the
wights, wraiths, and such powerful undead still lived, for
all the weaker ones had been overcome, by sheer force of
numbers if nothing else.  Also, the trolls had moved in to
help their allies, and the big green monsters proved well-
suited to demolishing those undead without special means of
  In another area of the battle, a huge blade of mystical
force swung in a wide arc, slicing humanoids and undead
alike.  This was the work of the lich, who was extremely
irritated at this point.

lich:  (eyes the adventurers at the center of the battle,
  and figures out what their probable role in all this is)
  Hmm.  (he prepares to launch a fireball at the party)
wispy thing:  ffft.  (it flits past the lich's face)
lich:  Wha-  (his fireball goes awry, roasting an entire
  company of bugbears on the far side of the adventurers)
Ged:  Huh?  What was that?!?  (he looks at Belphanior)  I
  didn't cast that!
Belphanior:  Me neither.
Arnold:  (sees that some of the humanoids are going to reach
  the party before the magi can complete their spells)  Aaa!
  Time to addack, Gorbin!
Gorin:  Yeah!  (they spur their horses toward the oncoming
  humanoids)  Hi-yah!
Bosco:  Hey!  (behind Arnold, on the warrior's horse, he
  gets taken along for the ride)  Aaaaaaaaa...
Arnold:  The time for waiding is over!  (he slashes an orc
  in passing, shearing it in half)  Ah-nold!
Arnold's warhorse:  (large, heavily armored, and hasted and
  excited, it kicks out with a hoof, knocking an ogre back)
ogre:  (reels, spitting blood)
Arnold:  Good hordsie!
Bosco:  (holding on for dear life)  Yaaaaa!
Gorin:  (brains an attacking orc with his axe)  Hah!  Never
  attack a horsed enemy, stupid!
orc:  (dead, it doesn't hear the dwarf)
Arnold:  (spots an orc about to cast a spear his way)  Aaa-
orc:  (he gets knocked back, twin arrows imbedded in his
  chest)  Urk.  (he falls)
Rillen:  (waves)
Arnold:  Yah!
Peldor:  (invisible, he hangs around near Ged to ensure
  that the elf's spell goes uninterrupted)
bugbear:  (feeling cocky, since it got in this close, it
  approaches Ged from the rear)  Heh heh.
Peldor:  (stabs the humanoid in the back)  Now, now.  It
  just isn't _nice_ to sneak up on people.  Even people
  like Ged.  (he becomes visible)
bugbear:  Glurk.  (fatally wounded, it dies)
Peldor:  (finds himself facing an orc)  Huh?
orc:  Aaa!  (it charges)
Ged:  (completes his spell, and a huge fireball explodes
  amidst the majority of the troll regiment)  For Boccob!
trolls:  (most of them are slain or ignited, and they run
  around screaming)  AAAAAAA!
bugbears:  (perhaps twoscore are also caught within the
  fireball, and most die instantly)
ogres:  (some of them roast as well)
orcs:  (here and there, they get blasted by the fireball,
  though nobody notices, since they're fairly puny)
undead:  (a few of them end up getting toasted too)
Ged:  Ah...
Belphanior:  _Damn_ good shot!  (he points his wand of
  lightning at a group of ogres and orcs that has moved
  in from one side)  Bye-bye.  (a huge bolt of lightning,
  though not as mighty as Mongo's earlier, arcs out and
  tears into the humanoids)  Heh heh.
orcs:  (many of them die)
ogres:  (all are wounded, but keep pressing onward)
Ged:  Bah!  What kind of a lightning bolt was _that_?
Belphanior:  I knew I should have used the staff...
Peldor:  (meleeing with an orc)  Hah, you'll soon see the
  folly of daring to face the mighty Peldor...
orc:  (prehaps distracted by the prattle, it slips up)
Peldor:  (stabs the humanoid, slaying it)  See?  Told you.
  (he backs up toward the party)  Hey, guys, I'm certainly
  no coward, but these opponents are closing in, y'know...
Rillen:  (feathers a wounded ogre, knocking it out)  Maybe
  we should think about retreating.
Ged:  By Boccob, I'll never-  (he looks around, realizing
  that Arnold and Gorin are close to being surrounded, and
  fresh mobs of humanoids are closing in from all sides)
Mongo:  Retreat?  How?  (he fires his hammer again, and
  knocks down a troll who was about to topple Gorin's pony)
  Not that I don't agree...
Belphanior:  The sky balloon, of course!
Ged:  Yea.
Mongo:  Uh...what about Gorin?
Belphanior:  Yeah, he was afraid to fly.

  The matter was conveniently settled, though, for right
then, an ogre swatted the young dwarf, knocking him from
his pony to the ground.

Gorin's pony:  (hasted and frightened, it flees in the
  only open direction - right back toward the main party)
Gorin:  (lies there, unmoving)
Mongo:  HEY!  (throwing caution to the winds, he charges
  forth, hurling his hammer)  Get away from him!
ogre:  Wha-  <crack>  (his skull is split, and he falls)
Mongo:  (grabs Gorin under one arm, and bashes an orc
  with his hammer)  Back!
orc:  (whacked, it reels, dead on its feet)
ogre:  (prepares to charge Mongo)
Arnold:  (runs his horse over the big humanoid, slashing
  it for good measure)  Ah-nold!
Bosco:  (tosses a dagger at a nearby orc)
orc:  Argh!  (it gropes at the small knife, now imbedded
  in its helm)  Aaaargh!
Arnold:  Way to go, Bodsco!
Bosco:  Yeah!
Arnold:  (seeing a signal from Ged, he heads back that way)
Bosco:  Hey, where are we going?  I was just starting to
  have fun!
Rillen:  (grabs Gorin's pony, stopping the animal dead in
  its tracks)  Ungh.
Gorin's pony:  (calms down a bit)
Mongo:  (puffing, he returns to the others)  Gorin's out
  cold, but he'll live.  Are we leaving, or what?  (he
  wipes blood from his eyes)
Ged:  Yea...if you guys can cover me.  (he hastily gropes
  in his pouches for his miniaturized sky balloon)
Belphanior:  (spellcasting)  No problem.
Mongo:  Yeah, you just get the balloon ready.  We'll take
  care of the rabble.  (he hurls his hammer, one-handed,
  and takes out a bugbear)
Rillen:  (putting his bow aside, he hefts his quarterstaff)
  Well put.

  The others continued fighting off humanoids, while Ged
tried to get the magical balloon ready to go.  Truly, it
would be a close thing, for the various foes had closed to
a distance of no more than twenty feet.

Belphanior:  This ought to hold 'em off.  (he casts an Ice
  Storm upon the nearby area, and an eighty-foot wide area
  whose fringe barely touches the adventurers is covered
  in driving sleet; a large number of foes are stopped or
  turned back by this icy storm)  Yeah!
Rillen:  (looks up at the darkened sky)  Impressive.
Bosco:  (breathes in some cold air)  Ahhh.
Ged:  (speaks a command word, and the magical balloon grows
  to its full size)  Come on!  Everyone in!

  Mongo, Arnold, and Rillen remained at the opening to the
balloon, turning back charging foes while the others, and
the remaining horses and ponies, boarded the vessel.

Peldor:  (somersaults over the warriors' heads and into
  the balloon)  Time to go!
Bosco:  (helps Belphanior carry Gorin's limp form into
  the cabin)  Unff!
Ged:  (prepares to take off)  Get in!  We're going up!
Arnold:  Yah.  (he backs up, since the balloon's door is
  only wide enough for two to stand abreast)  Led's go!
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer at an ogre, knocking it back into
  a mob of orcs)  There's too many!
Rillen:  We need to clear them out of the way, or they'll
  charge onto the ship!
Belphanior:  (pushes his way between Rillen and Mongo, his
  staff clutched in both hands)  I'll take care of these
  turds!  (a bolt of lightning streaks forth, catching at
  least a dozen foes at point-blank range and knocking all
  of them back)  Ha!
Mongo:  (yells into the cabin as he and Rillen jump back
  and pull the door shut)  Go!  Go!
Ged:  (takes the balloon up, at a steep angle)  We're gone!

  As they ascended, Ged became aware that something was
wrong - the balloon was leaning to one side.

Ged:  Someone's hanging onto us!
Belphanior:  (looks out a porthole)  Huh.
ogre:  (having hung onto a loose rope, it grunts and tries
  to pull its way up)  Nng.
Mongo:  Get rid of him!
Belphanior:  Right.  (he grabs a dagger, and sticks one arm
  and his head out the porthole)  Hey!  Hey, you!
ogre:  (looks up)  Uh-oh.
Belphanior:  Off!  Get off!
ogre:  (ignores the elf)
Belphanior:  Dammit...(he slashes at the ogre's hand, and
  opens a nasty wound)
ogre:  Argh!  (it falls off, and the balloon rocks)
Belphanior:  (catches his balance on a rail)  Whoa.
ogre:  (falling)  AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa.......
Rillen:  Nice of him to drop in.
Ged:  (staring at the depleted army below)  We're home
  free now!
Arnold:  Yah!
Belphanior:  To hell with that.  (he tosses his staff aside
  and grabs his wand of lightning)  Bastards...(he sticks
  his head out the porthole again)  I'll blast 'em...
Rillen:  Is this wise?
Belphanior:  I doubt it.  (he sends a lightning bolt down
  into the humanoid mob)  Yippee!  (Ged takes the balloon
  away at a high rate of speed)  Hey!
Ged:  By Boccob, we're home free!
Belphanior:  Too bad.  (he pulls himself back inside the
  balloon)  I was just getting started.
Arnold:  (to Ged)  Remembder to fly nordtheast, toward my
wispy thing:  (sails in through a porthole)  ssst.
Belphanior:  Well, welcome back to you too!

  Meanwhile, far below and behind...

lich:  (watches the lighting bolt descend)  What now-
humanoids:  (dozens of them are obliterated)
lich:  (being immune to electricity, he looks down at his
  ruined robes)  Grr...(he looks around, and decides to
  take his anger out on the humanoids)  Damn it...
troll:  Graaaargh!  (it charges the lich, several ogres
  backing it up)

  In the sky far above, the adventurers were already far
from the battle site.

Ged:  (looking at the lands far below)  Maybe we'd better
  fly right over this land, eh?
Mongo:  Sounds good to me.  This whole land is nothing but
Rillen:  I agree.
Belphanior:  Aw...

  There was significant healing to be done, and Arnold had
to take the helm while Ged tended to the numerous wounds
suffered by all.  These cuts and bruises had gone unnoticed
in the heat of battle, but were now apparent, and could be
bound and healed properly.

  They sailed along merrily, stopping for nothing, not even
Gorin's fear of heights.  While he was none too happy upon
finding out exactly where he was, there really was nothing he
could do about it.  Ged used a Remove Fear to help the young
dwarf cope with the shock of being airborne, which seemed to
  The adventurers were out of Bone March within three days.
At this point, they landed in some desolate grasslands, in
order to let the balloon's magical power rest and recharge.

Gorin:  Hmm.  (looks around)
Rillen:  (walks around, stretching his legs)
Belphanior:  Where are we?  What strange new land have we set
  down in this time?
Mongo:  I'd guess we're close to the North Province.
Ged:  Aerdy?  I've heard bad things about that land...

  Just then, a small band of armed riders, apparently a patrol
of some kind, approached on the horizon.

Peldor:  Hmm, they must have seen the balloon land.

next time :  the party's first encounter with Aerdians

ftp site  : in /pub/frp/stories/adventurers

notes     :  I always felt that the best stories featured
           undead, doing what they do so well.
             Guess what time it is?  It's MARDI GRAS time!
           In five hours (it's Friday morning as I post this)
           this author is packing his bags and heading to the
           biggest party in the country, for the weekend.  A
           good deal, too - free room, free ride...ah, how I
           love vacations...

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