Chapter #250

previous chapter (#249)                                                                  next chapter (#251)






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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    Due to the nature of the Internet, these stories have been     +
+  widely available since 1991.  I have given them to the world     +
+  freely, and have never intended to market them or in any way     +
+  make money.  However, due to TSR, Inc.'s copyright restrictions, +
+  old episodes of the Adventurers are no longer being archived on  +
+  any ftp site, anywhere.                                          +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1995 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  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   http://www.gatech.edu/oit/staff/ns/thomas.miller/adv.html       +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Alindyar     16th level dark elven mage                     (N)  +
+  Lyra         12th level female dark elven mage              (N)  +
+  Belphanior   13th/14th/14th level elven warrior/mage/thief (CN)  +
+     Otto      6th/8th level dwarven warrior/thief           (CN)  +
+  Ged          14th/14th level grey elven priest/mage        (NG)  +
+     Arnold    12th level human warrior                      (NG)  +
+     Nenya     8th/9th level female elven warrior/mage       (NG)  +
+  Mongo        17th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+     Gorin    8th level dwarven warrior                      (CG)  +
+  Peldor       19th level human thief                         (N)  +
+     Bosco     10th level halfling thief                      (N)  +
+     Tanya     5th/11th level female human warrior/thief     (LN)  +
+  Rillen       17th level human warrior                       (N)  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        12/28/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                        +
+  Time:        evening                                             +
+  Place:       a large table at the Green Dragon Inn               +
+  Climate:     freezing outside, warm & cozy inside                +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards, and leads us from   +
+   this world to another."                                         +
+                                                         - Plato   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                            Prologue

  Through the cosmos it hurtled, a huge chunk of ore, rock, and
ice.  The object had come a long way, propelled for countless eons
and vast distances by its own inertia.  Smaller meteorites collided
with it from time to time, and were usually pulverized on impact.
Upon occasion, they fused with it, increasing its size and mass,
but more often than not, they simply left shallow craters as they
disintegrated.  Massive, silent, and quite heedless of anything and
everything it encountered, the meteor moved onward through space...





                    CCL.  Foreign Matter





  On this, the last night of the Common Year 574, there was much
rejoicing and celebration, throughout the Free City of Greyhawk as
well as most kingdoms across the world.  Beginning tomorrow, the
seven-day festival called Needfest would dominate all activities
as people officially recognized the transition from autumn to
winter.  Already, snow had collected atop buildings and in streets,
crowning trees and making the roads slippery for the unwary.  After
Needfest had ended, the first month of the new year would commence,
and people everywhere would return to business as usual.  But not
now; inside Peldor's tavern, a certain band of adventurers was hard
at work eating, drinking, and making merry...

Bosco:  -and the last night of Needfest is the Feast of Fools!
Ged:  They named something after Peldor?  Amazing.
Peldor:  (smirks)  It's a Greyhawk tradition, the Feast.  Parades,
  drinking, carousing - and role-playing!  You see, nobles must act
  like peasants during the Feast...while the poor become rich and
  respected.  Officials and judges are made to listen to the words
  of simpletons and dolts.  Sages and other learned ones will be
  lectured to by their worst students.  Priests are preached to by
  maniacs and idiots.  And so forth.
Ged:  Hell, Peldor, you ought to be right at home.
Bosco:  I know I will.
Lyra:  (giggles)
Peldor:  Yes, total chaos, though in its own way organized and
  regulated, comes to Greyhawk from dusk til midnight.
Belphanior:  (whistles)  I guess that's as good a time as any for
  me to wander around the city.
Peldor:  It's all in fun.  Serious crimes aren't tolerated.
Ged:  I would hope not.
Belphanior:  I said "wander", not rob, loot, and kill.
Otto:  Good ideas, though.
Mongo:  Hmph.
Ged:  The Feast of Fools, eh?  By Boccob, it sounds like something
  with no redeeming traits.
Rillen:  I agree.
Bosco:  Who're you kidding!  (chugs a glass of fine ale)  It's sure
  to be a blast!
Mongo:  It sounds dangerous to me.  But I'll probably be there.
Peldor:  (shrugs)  It's accepted city tradition.  Outsiders-  (he
  eyes Ged)  -who don't get into the spirit of things are ridiculed
  severely.
Ged:  It won't matter if I'm not _here_.
Nenya:  Maybe we should give it a chance.
Ged:  Hmph.  (frowns)
Lyra:  It sounds interesting, if nothing else.
Tanya:  It is.  Maybe we'll go have a night out on the town.
Lyra:  That, too, would be interesting.
Nenya:  Aye.
Gorin:  (looks from Tanya, to Lyra, to Nenya)  Uh-oh.
Alindyar:  Les femmes fatales.
Otto:  What?
Alindyar:  Nothing...just a long-forgotten language.
Arnold:  Aaa.  (drains a large jack of beer)  Uuurp.
Tanya:  That was beautiful.
Bosco:  UUURP!
Nenya:  (looks disgusted)
Ged:  (to Nenya)  See, we only have fun like this when we come to
  visit with my friends.
Belphanior:  Well, sometimes in dungeons.
Ged:  (nods slightly)  There is that.
Otto:  (looking around, probably sizing up Lyra, Tanya, and Nenya,
  though Belphanior has warned him against negative comments or
  actions)  Hmmmm.
Mongo:  (refills his cup, as well as those of the people nearest to
  him)  Well...the end of another year.
Gorin:  That it is.
Arnold:  (trying to count months and days in his head)
Mongo:  How long's it been now, four years?
Alindyar:  Five.
Ged:  Just over five.
Rillen:  Almost five, in my case.
Belphanior:  And we're all still alive.  Amazing.
Ged:  Almost too amazing...
Mongo:  It seems like only yesterday that we all met for the first
  time, right here in this inn.
Peldor:  (smiles)  Well, the place will be preserved for the legends.
Bosco:  (wondering if the legends of his juggernaut-slaying prowess
  have spread to the more distant lands yet)
Lyra:  (wondering how tired Alindyar is, for she is slightly drunk
  and more than a little horny)
Alindyar:  (cracks a smile - a rarity for him)
Lyra:  (looks at the black ring on her finger, and pouts)  No fair!
Alindyar:  (using ESP for a private, mental message to his mate)
Lyra:  Oh!
Peldor:  (looks up, startled)
Lyra:  (smiles sheepishly)  Sorry.
Alindyar:  (sends some more lewd thoughts her way)
Lyra:  (kicks him, under the table)
Mongo:  (still talking about the original meeting of the party)
Peldor:  (to Belphanior)  Did you ever go back and get that...item
  we discussed awhile back?
Belphanior:  Of course.  I only had three months to do it.  Otto and
  I went, by teleportation.
Otto:  And Angus.
Belphanior:  Yep.  We retrieved what we were after, and Angus bore
  it on his shoulders for many weeks, and hundreds of leagues.  We
  couldn't teleport the huge leaden box, so we had to hoof it.
Otto:  They don't make horses for iron golems.
Peldor:  Of course not.
Belphanior:  We had to walk the whole way.
Otto:  A good trip, though.
Belphanior:  Especially the battle with the troop of bugbears.
Otto:  Oh, that was beautiful...the fire...
Belphanior:  Don't forget the lightning blasts.
Otto:  From the air, no less...boy, were they surprised!
Bosco:  (wondering what he missed)
Mongo:  (_still_ talking about the original meeting of the party)
Rillen:  (to Lyra)  So, you and I were the first non-founding
  members of this group.
Lyra:  I believe you preceded me by a month or two.
Rillen:  Oh.
Lyra:  But I'm about four times your age, so it's okay.
Rillen:  Oh.
Lyra:  Of course, you're about four times my weight.
Rillen:  (shrugs)  I have to eat.
Nenya:  (talking with Tanya)  So you may want to go out this week?
Tanya:  Yes, at least one or two nights.
Nenya:  Do you think we can convince the dark elf to come with us?
Tanya:  Probably.  And I'd call her by her name, if I were you.
Nenya:  Oh.  Very well.
Gorin:  (quite drunk now, he is armwrestling with Arnold, and losing
  badly)
Arnold:  Aaa.  (also quite drunk)  Urp.
Bosco:  (tosses a grape into the air; it lands in his open mouth)
  Ha!
Peldor:  (to Alindyar)  So, how's your room?  Do you like it?
Alindyar:  Oh, 'tis quite excellent.  We enjoy it very much.
Peldor:  (eyeing Lyra)  I'll just bet.
Alindyar:  Err...
Belphanior:  (talking with Bosco)  So, _then_ we fought Lao Khan
  himself.
Bosco:  Wow!  And that guy who shot lightning from his hands and
  flew around - what happened to _him_?
Belphanior:  Someone beat him, too.  (to Rillen)  Who was it?
Rillen:  (rather fuzzy-headed at the moment)  Hmm...
Bosco:  (awaiting an answer hopefully)
Belphanior:  Oh well, I guess we can't remember.  (shrugs)  Sorry,
  kid.
Bosco:  Gah, what a gyp!  (tosses another grape into the air, but
  it never lands in his mouth)  Huh?  (the grape floats above his
  head)  What the...?
Peldor:  (smirks)
Bosco:  Hey!
Nenya:  (explaining the fundamentals of Oerth astronomy to
  Alindyar, who seems quite interested)  So, you see, the larger
  moon - called Luna, the Mistress - is full every twenty-eight
  days.
Alindyar:  Thus, the months.
Nenya:  Aye.  The smaller moon - Celene, the Handmaiden - is full
  but every three months.
Alindyar:  Thus, the four festivals.
Nenya:  Very good.  Now, of course, when _both_ moons are full
  simultaneously, which only truly happens in the exact middle of
  each festival, events of great portent are likely to occur.
Alindyar:  Such as?
Nenya:  Well, there was once a display of shooting stars that lit
  up the sky to the north.
Belphanior:  Whoa, I remember that...
Bosco:  Yeah, me too!
Nenya:  Bosco, it happened almost eighty years ago.
Bosco:  Oh, it did?  (he returns to throwing grapes)
Nenya:  Another time, a cemetery came back to life...the corpses
  rising from their earthen graves, to stalk the living...
Alindyar:  Aie.  That sounds familiar.
Otto:  Hey, pal, you don't know the half of it...
Nenya:  So, the weirdest things can happen.  It all depends upon the
  positions of the five wandering stars in their lairs, of course.
Alindyar:  Of course.
Belphanior:  Well, I'm sure nothing will happen this time.
Nenya:  You never know.
Mongo:  Hey, enough talk of stars and moons and weird shit!  Let's
  have a toast.
Arnold:  Toast?
Bosco:  (hurls a grape at Tanya, whose bodice the tiny fruit lands
  in)  Toast!
Otto:  Yep, you're toasted, all right.
Mongo:  (raises his mug)  A toast...to enduring friendship!
Rillen:  And challenges overcome.
Ged:  And magical glory discovered.
Alindyar:  And knowledge gained.
Peldor:  And treasures liberated!

  They toasted then, veteran adventurers and younger members alike,
and it was a magical moment, worthy of a tapestry or mural for some
great king's wall.
  The celebration lasted well into the night, and indeed, well into
the following week.  Mongo and Bosco did the most carousing, making
it their mission to visit every eating and drinking establishment
in the city.  Gorin, Rillen, and Arnold accompanied them on most of
these trips, and any proprietor offering all-you-could-eat meals
always cringed after this quintet was sated.  Belphanior and Otto
joined the festivities at times, but mostly kept a low profile, for
the elf was, after all, wanted for numerous crimes.  Ged spent most
of his time at Ravel Disander's temple of Boccob, though he also
talked with the drow a couple of times, and visited the Guild of
Wizardry once.  Alindyar stayed in his room for most of the week,
usually in Lyra's company.  Peldor had to run his inn, for it was
a busy week, requiring many extra supplies and a lot of overtime.
  Tanya, Lyra, and Nenya ("triple-A" as Bosco labeled them) did
indeed go out on the town, the night before the Feast of Fools.
Though they kept to the higher-class taverns and gambling houses,
they still encountered more than their share of interested males;
many of these made lewd comments or gestures, or unwanted advances.
On her own, Nenya might have had some difficulty dealing with this
kind of attention, but between Tanya's experience and Lyra's rather
serious demeanor (some of the flirtatious men were actually quite
intimidated by her) the trio kept out of serious trouble.  Mostly.

drunken fellow:  Heyyy, baby!
Nenya:  Go away.
drunken fellow:  Whaaaa?  Why?
Tanya:  Because you smell.
drunken fellow:  Why, you...I've half a mind-
Lyra:  If even that.  (she snaps her fingers)
drunken fellow:  (suddenly has an overwhelming itch in his crotch)
  Agh!  (he begins scratching furiously)
Lyra:  Come on.  (the three ladies leave this bar)

  And so it went.  At the end of the week, the entire group attended
the Feast of Fools.  As many in the city were doing, some of the
adventurers opted for disguises or costumes (it depended if one had
asked Belphanior or Peldor) to join in the celebration.  Arnold got
himself a demon-mask with horns and fangs, and painted his exposed
skin a bright red.

Bosco:  Aw, this looks _great_!
Arnold:  (so drunk that he is practically color-blind)  Yah.
Bosco:  Admit it, this was a great idea of mine.
Belphanior:  Hmm, maybe I should have been a demon.
Ged:  Aren't you?

  Belphanior found himself a pale, expressionless mask to wear.

Tanya:  Gah, that's creepy.
Belphanior:  Good.  I feel creepy.  (he begins lurching around with
  his hands poised like claws)
Nenya:  Aie.

  Though Ged refused to disguise himself, he did stick around the
city for the Feast, much to Peldor's amusement.

Peldor:  You'll love it!
Ged:  Hmph.
Bosco:  (quietly sticks a bright yellow feather in the back of Ged's
  belt)
Arnold:  Aaa?

  Rillen dressed as a gladiator, tying his massive arms and legs
with red sashes and donning a jet-black cloak.  A massive wooden
cutlass hung from his belt.

Bosco:  (tapping the fake sword)  Hey, that's not real.
Rillen:  So what?  If I have to fight, I won't need it.
Peldor:  You shouldn't have to fight anybody.

  Bosco himself, after helping everyone else who would listen to
him, adopted his own disguise.  He painted his face, put on some
garishly colorful clothes, and dyed his hair purple.

Bosco:  Well...here I am!
Tanya:  You're a clown!
Ged:  What else is new?
Bosco:  The clown of clowns...
Otto:  The fool of fools.

  An hour or so before dusk, the group headed out into the city,
couples and singles both.  Alindyar and Lyra...Peldor and Tanya...
Ged and Nenya...

Ged:  (to Peldor)  She's _not_ my date!
Peldor:  Suuuure.
Ged:  By Boccob, you dolt, she's my _student_!
Otto:  Yeah, we hear you.
Ged:  She's just a kid!
Mongo:  She's older than me.
Ged:  Dammit-

  Just then, Nenya emerged from her tavern room.  She was dressed
in a tight-fitting white bodice and a short black skirt,  Her slim
waist was encircled by a thin belt, accentuating both her narrow
hips and her chest.  Her silver hair, freshly cut and washed, hung
down to her neck.

Lyra:  (utterly flabbergasted, she exchanges glances with Tanya)
Ged:  (nearly chokes)
Nenya:  (smiling, she proffers an arm)  Ready to go?
Ged:  Er...uh...um...yea.
Otto:  (whispering to Bosco)  Student, my ass!
Bosco:  Heh.

  As for the other ladies, Lyra had an even shorter skirt on, and
her shirt seemed to be skintight.  Tanya was actually wearing pants
instead of a skirt, but her bustier was tightly laced in the front,
hinting at what might lie underneath, waiting to spring forth.

Otto:  (to Belphanior)  Man, your friends sure do have some hot
  women!
Belphanior:  Yeah, even I was surprised to see their costumes.
Rillen:  It's a lucky man who's won the heart of such a woman.
Bosco:  Hey, if you've got 'em, show 'em off.
Peldor:  (grins)  Right on, Bosco.
Mongo:  (to Gorin)  Maybe we can pick some women up tonight.
Arnold:  That's my plan too.
Rillen:  A worthy plan it is.

  The group ventured out into the Feast of Fools, and remained
in the midst of it until its grand finale, at midnight.  Everyone
had a great deal of fun, even Ged, and a number of lucky (?) young
women ended up joining the party's festivities over the course of
the evening.  The night of the Feast, also known as the eve of the
new year, was a memorable one for all of the adventurers, and for
most of them, it was one of the happiest times in recent memory.

  The next day, the first of the new year, indeed saw a return to
normalcy in Greyhawk.  All evidence of the previous night's chaos
and revelry was erased, and one who hadn't been there for the Feast
never would have known that it occurred.
  Ged sent Arnold ahead to his castle, to check on things; the elf
still had some business in Greyhawk, and Nenya was staying close.
Belphanior and Mongo discussed some possible paths to wander, and
Rillen listened closely.  Alindyar and Lyra were nowhere to be
seen, though Peldor seemed confident that they were in their room
upstairs.

  That night was when it arrived.  The first one to spot it was a
city guard atop some high perch; he pointed it out to other guards,
but by that time, most people in the city could see it.  From the
stars far above it came, a fiery tail behind it - a shooting star!
Streaking through the night sky, it was so high up that it hardly
seemed to be moving at all.  This, of course, afforded everyone an
extended viewing opportunity.

Peldor:  (outside the Green Dragon, along with most of the others)
  What the hell...?  (even his eyes of the eagle can't help him see
  the falling star any more clearly)
Otto:  Wow.
Ged:  Boccob!  A sign from Boccob!
Belphanior:  Doubt it.
Tanya:  (yawning as she comes outside, she stops upon seeing the
  thing in the sky above)  By the gods...
Bosco:  Cripes!
Gorin:  You can say that again.
Bosco:  Cripes!
Nenya:  The stuff of legends...
Alindyar:  (he and Lyra join the others)  Verily.
Lyra:  That thing's burning up!
Ged:  Magic!  It's a sign of great magic!
Alindyar:  One would think so.
Peldor:  I think it's getting closer...
Otto:  Wonder where it'll land?

  The falling star grew larger and larger as it neared the planet's
surface, and several minutes later, all present were convinced that
the thing was going to strike nearby, if not in the city itself.

Peldor:  It's headed right for us!
Belphanior:  No, no, no.  It's not that close.
Nenya:  He's right.  It's just so high up, and moving so fast, that
  it seems closer than it is.
Ged:  Where, then?
Bosco:  (peering at the thing through his jewelled telescope)  Whoa!
  It's got a fiery tail!  And burning bits of crap behind it...!
Peldor:  (snatches the scope from the amazed halfling)  Let me have
  a look!  (he does so)  Neat!

  The blazing star could now be heard as well as seen; it made a
sound like a strong gust of wind as it zoomed by - _over_ the city
and to the west!  There were numerous screams and yells from within
the city.

Nenya:  There it went!
Mongo:  Missed us...
Belphanior:  Told ya.
Ged:  It's going to hit off to the west.
Otto:  It seems that way.

  A few moments later, there was a distant explosion, and a brief
but bright flash.

Ged:  It hit!  Come on, we've got to get out there!
Belphanior:  Agreed.
Rillen:  (yawning)  Hmm.
Alindyar:  The falling star cannot be that close to us.
Peldor:  Why not?
Alindyar:  Because we felt no vibration as it struck.  My guess
  would put it at least four leagues distant.
Nenya:  I agree.
Rillen:  Won't the city's guards and wizards flock to the thing?
Ged:  Yea, yea, but we've got to get there first!
Bosco:  (caught up in the spirit of this)  Yeah!
Tanya:  We'd better hurry, then.
Mongo:  Well, what are we standing around here for?

  Everyone quickly saddled up and departed, those with armor just
taking it along, as there was little time to don it.

Mongo:  (quickly gives up trying to put on his plate mail while
  he rides)  Crap!
Belphanior:  Told you it couldn't be done.
Gorin:  Still, I'd feel a lot more comfortable in my armor...
Nenya:  It's probably a good thing that you don't sleep in it.
Bosco:  Hey, who sleeps in their armor anyway?  Not me!
Peldor:  Bosco, you don't really _have_ any armor.
Rillen:  At least, it doesn't weigh anything.
Bosco:  It does to me!  (he spurs his little horse onward)

  Through the night they rode, toward a far-distant glow, which
they figured was being given off by the fallen star.  Two hours
later, though, they seemed scarcely closer to their destination.

Ged:  Whew!
Belphanior:  How far can it _be_?
Rillen:  Quite a bit.
Alindyar:  Ride on, we must.  Legends tell of rare and precious
  metals to be found within fallen stars.
Mongo:  (dreaming of a suit of adamantine plate mail)  Yeah...
Ged:  Perhaps magical substances, too.
Lyra:  Could be.

  Onward they rode, through the night.  As they headed steadily
westward, they realized that they were getting very close, but
also that the glow was slowly fading.

Ged:  That explains why we didn't seem to be making any progress.
Mongo:  Hell, the thing's got to be within a half-hour now.
Nenya:  (to Ged)  Say, aren't we getting close to your land and
  castle?
Ged:  (looks stunned)  Yes...yes, we are.
Belphanior:  Oh, boy...
Ged:  Faster!  (he drives his horse on, madly)
Bosco:  I don't get it.  Why didn't we all just teleport?
Lyra:  Because we don't know for sure where the star fell.
Ged:  Maybe, maybe not.  (spellcasting)
Belphanior:  (looks at Ged, then Alindyar)  Hey, he's gonna-
Alindyar:  Err...
Ged:  (teleports away, leaving one very surprised horse behind)



  Ged appeared within his castle, and quickly exited, searching for
signs of the fallen star.  If there were none, he could always get
another mount and head for the glow.  However, his hunch had been
correct:  far outside his castle, on the edge of his land, was a
massive, glowing object.  He couldn't quite make it out from here.

Ged:  (looking around)  Where are the guards?  Where _is_ everybody?
guard:  (rounds a corner)  Whoa!
Ged:  At ease, fellow.  Where's everyone else?  Where's Arnold?
guard:  Most of them went to see that!  (he points at the distant
  glow)
Ged:  Ah.  (he leaves his castle's gates, walking at a brisk pace)

  A few minutes later, the elf arrived at the source of the glow.

Ged:  Boccob...

  The fallen star, or what was left of it, was a huge, roughly
spherical rock, at least a hundred feet in diameter.  Numerous
small craters and chipped sections dotted its exterior, and it
was still red-hot, and steam rose from its surface.  The thing
had landed in one of Ged's tenant farmer's fields, quite some
distance away - but not without incident.  There was a trough,
thousands of feet long, leading away from the meteor, to the east.
More than a hundred feet wide, and at least fifty feet deep, the
gigantic furrow cut through dozens of plots of land.
  The fallen star itself had plowed up a bank of dirt and land
as it came to a stop.  Ringing the massive object, where it had
finally come to rest, were several dozen of Ged's guardsmen and
soldiers, as well as Arnold; the big warrior seemed to be leading
the others.  Ged quickly ran over to the assembled people.

Ged:  Arnold!
Arnold:  I've got thinks well in hand.  (waves at the meteor)  We
  have it surrounbded.
Ged:  Good job.  Damn, it took out quite a chunk of land, didn't
  it?
Arnold:  Yah.
Ged:  (sighs)  How many are hurt?
Arnold:  Many...but nobody died.  (he frowns)  Nod that we know of.
Ged:  Agh.  (he regards the fallen meteor)  By Boccob, we've got
  something on our hands here, my friend.
Arnold:  Yah.  I don't think we can move it very easily.
Ged:  Nope.  Come, let's venture forth and have a closer look.
Arnold:  O-kay.

  After motioning the assorted guards to stay put, Ged and Arnold
carefully approched the thing.  The trough behind it was gently
sloped, and practically fused solid; they were able to walk through
it with no problem, though it was still quite warm.  The meteor,
though, was another matter entirely; it gave off enough heat to
keep the pair more than fifty feet away.

Arnold:  Aaa.  Hot.
Ged:  Too hot to handle, for now anyway,
Arnold:  (pointing behind them, into the air)  What's that?
Ged:  Looks like...Belphanior?!?

  Sure enough, it was, and the elf was not alone.  Alindyar and
Lyra followed behind, also airborne.

Arnold:  You brought everybody else?
Ged:  Kind of...is that Bosco, behind them?
Arnold:  Looks like it.
Ged:  I guess my teleportation gave them the idea to get here
  faster.
Arnold:  It's like a race.
Ged:  It very well may be.  I don't see Peldor - he must not have
  found a way to fly yet.  Heh.  I bet that really pisses him off.
Belphanior:  (landing, the others close behind)  It's not nice to
  leave your friends like that.
Ged:  Oh well.  I had to check in on my lands, my people.
Belphanior:  Yeah, yeah.  (eyes the meteor)  So, what's the death
  toll from this baby?
Ged:  None, apparently.  They got lucky.
Lyra:  (notes the crater made by the meteor)  I'd say they got
  out of the way.
Alindyar:  Aye.  Is that a house, yonder, smashed to flinders?
Belphanior:  It would seem so.  The mere shock of this...thing's
  landing must have been tremendous.
Alindyar:  Aye...
Bosco:  (lands)  Hey, everybody relax, I'm here!
Ged:  (groans)
Lyra:  (shrugs)  Sorry, we couldn't lose him.
Belphanior:  Yeah, those little winged boots are _fast_!
Ged:  Well, as I said before, at least Peldor won't be joining us.
Lyra:  (pointing into the distance)  What could _that_ be?
Belphanior:  Looks like...a flying thief?
Alindyar:  Aie, 'tis Peldor!
Ged:  Ghak!
Peldor:  (weaves erratically as he approaches)  Whoa...uh...look
  out below...!  (he crashes into the ground)  Umph!
Ged:  (staring at the thief in amazement)
Peldor:  (stands up, dusting himself off)  You'll have to forgive
  my rocky landing...I haven't quite gotten the hang of this flying
  business yet.
Ged:  What's the world coming to, when just anyone can cast spells
  and fly around?!?
Bosco:  (puts his hands on his hips)  Really!
Belphanior:  (eyeing the huge chunk of rock in its crater)
Alindyar:  (looks at the meteor as well)  So...what next?
Ged:  We've got to examine it, see what it's made of.
Belphanior:  (flies upward)  I'll have a look at the top.
Ged:  (jumps up and down)  No, it's my meteorite!  It's on my
  lands.  And by the laws of Greyhawk, that makes it mine!  (he
  realizes that he hasn't cast a spell of flying yet)  Damn it.
  (he begins weaving that spell)
Bosco:  Well, _I_ can fly.  (he sails up after Belphanior)  Hey,
  I wanna see too!  I wanna seeeee...(he sails upward)
Peldor:  (follows, smirking at Ged, who is still spellcasting)
Arnold:  (the only one of the seven adventurers present who can't
  fly, he simply stands on the crater's slope)  Aaa.

  There wasn't much to the thing, really; it was rocky, roughly
spherical, and about a hundred feet in diameter.  It seemed to
be cooling slowly, though no one could get very close to it yet.

Peldor:  (somewhat resistant to heat and fire, due to one of his
  feather tattoos, he hovers closer than any of the others)  I
  wonder where this came from?
Belphanior:  The sky?
Peldor:  I mean, beyond that.
Alindyar:  What makes you think there _is_ more beyond that?
Peldor:  Hmm, I don't know.  It just seemed nat-
Ged:  What would you know about the stars, fool?
Belphanior:  Magical!
Bosco:  Huh?
Ged:  Eh?
Belphanior:  I said, this thing's radiating a magical aura!
Lyra:  You don't say...
Alindyar:  Interesting.
Ged:  Why would it be magical...?  (musing to himself)  Maybe it's
  hollow...something inside?
Alindyar:  Aye, that was my very supposition.
Peldor:  Maybe it contains adamantite.
Bosco:  Yeah!  (frowns)  What's adamantite?
Lyra:  How can we break through the outer shell, then, to see what
  might lie within?
Belphanior:  I think it's a safe bet that fire won't do the job.
Ged:  Yea...how about lightning?
Alindyar:  Worth a try.

  They all backed up, and Ged quickly conjured up a powerful bolt
of lightning, which struck the huge ball of rock.  Numerous bits
of rock were blasted away, but the end result was a shallow pit in
the meteor.

Belphanior:  Crap, that only dug away a foot or so!  Wimpy!
Ged:  I doubt you could do better...
Peldor:  I bet _I_ could.
Alindyar:  (to the thief)  Do not overestimate the power of your
  newfound spellcasting.
Bosco:  (using his x-ray vision)  I can't see much at all...just
  rock, rock, and more rock.
Lyra:  That's a lot of rock, Bosco.
Bosco:  You're telling me!
Belphanior:  Maybe a spell of disintegration?
Alindyar:  (ESP to Lyra)  No point in a dimension door...much too
  risky.
Lyra:  (ESP to Alindyar)  I could try a passwall, though.
Alindyar:  (ESP to Lyra)  Let Belphanior try his spell first.  No
  sense in one of us wasting magic if others can.
Lyra:  (ESP to Alindyar)  Agreed.
Belphanior:  (spellcasting)  I'll work on the area that Ged started
  with his lightning...

  Shortly, Belphanior floated over to the gigantic meteor; the elf
seemed like a tiny insect next to the thing.  One hand glowing, he
reached out and touched the meteor lightly...

Belphanior:  (watches as a large chunk of rock vanishes before his
  eyes)  Aha!

  Revealed now was a small patch of something other than rock - a
dull, metallic substance.  A goodly area of this had been exposed,
almost as if the disintegrate spell had worked sideways, dissolving
rock instead of going deeper and destroying metal.

Peldor:  Well, well, well.  There _is_ something inside the rocky
  outer shell.
Alindyar:  If that something is uniformly shaped and sized, it is
  quite large.
Belphanior:  (moves closer, and touches the metallic surface)  Agh!
Ged:  Still hot, eh?
Belphanior:  (regarding his blistered fingers)  Yup.
Lyra:  I think it's getting cooler, though, and quickly.
Arnold:  (watching all of this from the crater's rim)  Aaa.
Bosco:  (flies up and lands within the hollow that Belphanior dug
  out)  Hmm.  (he examines the metallic area carefully)  I don't
  see any seams, or any holes.
Belphanior:  Yeah, I think it's safe to say that I didn't uncover
  any doors.
Peldor:  (using his TK to probe the metallic surface)  Nope.
Ged:  By Boccob, let me through.  (he lands next to Bosco and begins
  spellcasting)  A simple Knock will open any doors here.
Lyra:  But-
Ged:  (completes his spell...and nothing happens)  Oh.
Bosco:  Told ya.  (he peers closely at the metallic surface)
Peldor:  (using TK, he pries bits of stone away from the edges of
  the exposed area)
Alindyar:  (lands behind Ged)
Lyra:  (likewise)  There's room up here for all of us.  The spell
  of disintegration did that much.
Alindyar:  (to Bosco)  What does your magical vision reveal, small
  one?
Bosco:  (squinting)  Er...nothing.
Ged:  What?!?
Bosco:  I'm telling you, I can't see anything behind this metal
  shell.
Belphanior:  (taps on the surface with his sword pommel)  Yeah, it's
  metal, all right.
Ged:  A stroke of genius, truly.
Belphanior:  Hey, you never know.  (he looks at his fingers, whose
  blisters have already begun to heal)  You just never know...(his
  eye glowing brightly, he scrutinizes the exposed metal area)  Hmm.
  Still somewhat magical...though only slightly.  I can't discern
  anything else about it.
Bosco:  It's metal!
Lyra:  <sigh>
Ged:  We need to find a way to punch through.
Alindyar:  A different approach would be to work at removing the
  remainder of the rock and stone.
Peldor:  (using his TK to pull away another piece of rock)  Yeah,
  that's probably a smarter idea.
Ged:  I'll just bet you think so.
Belphanior:  I think so, too.  I'm curious to see if the metal part
  is as big as the rocky portion.  Tell you what:  we'll chip away
  at the rock, and you work on the metal part.
Ged:  Fine.  (he begins spellcasting)

  While Belphanior and Peldor removed bits of rock, Ged tried some
fire-based spell, which failed to do anything; the metallic area
didn't even char.  Alindyar and Lyra stayed back, hovering in the
air.

Lyra:  (ESP to Alindyar)  Shall I try the passwall now?
Alindyar:  (ESP to Lyra)  No.  I realized that that spell will not
  work on metallic obstacles...
Lyra:  Well, damn.
Alindyar:  (ESP to Lyra)  You are thinking aloud again...
Lyra:  (ESP to Alindyar)  Oops.  This constant ESP will take some
  getting used to.
Alindyar:  (ESP to Lyra)  Not to worry - we have plenty of time.
Peldor:  (looking around, somewhat bored)
Ged:  (mumbling to himself)  Fire doesn't work...okay, no big
  surprise.  Hmm...(he begins casting a new spell)
Belphanior:  What now?
Ged:  Not what you might think.  (he waves at the metallic surface,
  and rock begins melting and running, slowly though, like molasses)
Alindyar:  Aha!  Rock to mud!
Ged:  Yea, observe Boccob's power.

  Said power was waxing high today; a great deal of the meteor's
rocky shell was melting, perhaps a fourth of the overall surface.

Ged:  (taking something from his pack)
Bosco:  (looking on curiously)  What now?
Ged:  I'd fly off of this meteor if I were you.
Bosco:  (does so, as do the others still standing on the thing)
Ged:  (points his decanter of endless water at the mud-covered area
  of the huge meteor, and removes the stopper, speaking a command
  word)

  A powerful blast of water jetted forth, and the mud began to run
and drop to the ground, exposing more and more of the metallic
surface beneath.  It turned out that whatever the metal thing was,
it was perfectly spherical, and almost a hundred feet in diameter.
It had apparently been encased in the stony outer shell, of which
a large portion was now gone.

Alindyar:  It surprises me that the thing does not roll over, onto
  its smooth, exposed area.
Lyra:  Yes...it must weigh an awful lot.
Belphanior:  It's also in the bottom of a crater.
Ged:  (flying around, washing mud off of the huge metal sphere)
  Better.
Peldor:  Much better.
Bosco:  (flying around)  Better, better, better.  Hey, where am I
  gonna land now, to examine the metal part?
Lyra:  You could just do it from the ground...Ged's removed the
  outer rock all the way to the ground.
Bosco:  (already flying around again, not really listening, he
  searches for seams or doors, while dodging dripping mud)  Whee.

  The meteor didn't look quite like a meteor anymore, for a large
portion of its rocky outer shell was now gone.  The exposed section
ranged from ground level to just over halfway up the object.  Quite
a bit of mud was strewn about, though Ged was using his magical
decanter to wash the exposed metallic area clean.  About this time,
six riders approached...

Mongo:  (gazing at the unusual sight ahead)  Fuck.
Nenya:  By the gods...a meteorite!
Otto:  A what?
Nenya:  The shooting star.
Gorin:  Damn, it's _big_!
Tanya:  And not quite a star, by the looks of things.
Rillen:  Then again, who knows what graces the insides of stars?
Mongo:  Come on, let's get over there, and dismount.  I'd like to
  get a closer look at that thing...
Nenya:  Watch out for the mud.  It's everywhere.

  The latecomers joined their companions, some of whom landed,
while others remained airborne; each individual had his of her
own method of examining the sphere.

Arnold:  (along with Mongo, Gorin, and Rillen, he just stares at
  the thing)  Aaa.
Mongo:  Looks like a big metal ball, if you ask me.
Gorin:  Maybe we could roll it away?
Rillen:  But where?
Gorin:  I don't know.  Just...away.
Alindyar:  Has anyone the spell "Glassee"?
Belphanior:  Not me.
Ged:  Nor me.
Lyra:  Nope.
Alindyar:  Well, damn.
Ged:  Maybe I could use a spell to turn metal to wood...no, Boccob
  doesn't grant such spells.
Lyra:  Wizard's eye...no.
Belphanior:  Face it, there really aren't many spells that let you
  investigate things like this.
Ged:  For once, I agree with you.
Alindyar:  (thinking of his mirror of mental prowess, though it's
  back in their inn room)
Lyra:  (ESP to Alindyar)  No, it won't work.  It only lets us go
  to places we can scry, or see.
Alindyar:  (ESP to Lyra)  Aye.  'Tis unfortunate.
Lyra:  (ESP to Alindyar)  At least we don't have to burn a pair of
  teleportation spells.  Of course, it'd irritate Ged to no end if
  we took all that time to go and fetch it.
Alindyar:  (ESP to Lyra)  Who cares what he thinks?
Otto:  (watching the drow, wondering what's going on)  Hmm.
Peldor:  (eyeing the metallic surface)  Hmm.  I guess bashing it
  with my meteorite wouldn't do any good.
Bosco:  (shaking his head "no" even though he has no idea)  Nope.
Tanya:  (watching the action - inaction - with Nenya)  Hell, they
  don't need us.
Nenya:  If I'd had the glassee spell...
Belphanior:  (chooses a wand)  Maybe acid...(he fires a glob of
  acid at the metallic surface)

  The powerful acid should have smoked and hissed, but instead it
just dripped down the sphere's slightly curved surface.

Peldor:  Damn...
Belphanior:  The acid's not doing a thing!
Bosco:  Maybe we should try some more powerful acid.
Belphanior:  It doesn't get much stronger than that, Bosco.
Alindyar:  Yes, it does.  (he conjures forth a magical bolt of acid
  which hits the metallic sphere a bit above Belphanior's previous
  wand-generated acid)

  This acid, however, also had no effect, though it did begin to
smoke and fizz when it contacted Belphanior's acid.

Alindyar:  'Twould seem that the thing is impervious to acid.
Lyra:  Amazing.  It must be adamantite.
Peldor:  No, no, that's not what adamantite looks like.
Mongo:  (trots over)  How the hell would _you_ know?  You're no
  dwarven smith, forging the stuff from raw ore.
Peldor:  I happen to-
Ged:  (to the drow)  What about alternating extreme heat and cold?
  Like a fireball, immediately followed by a cone of cold...?
Lyra:  Hmm.
Alindyar:  A worthy idea.
Alindyar:  I can furnish the fireball.
Ged:  And I have a cone of cold.
Nenya:  (nonchalantly)  I have both...
Lyra:  (to the warriors and thieves)  I'd back up if I were you.
  Back _way_ up.
Mongo:  Right.

  First, Alindyar prepared and launched his fireball; the blast of
flame hit the meteor and exploded, spraying tongues of flame every-
where.  Some of the rock that still coated the sphere was melted or
evaporated, as was the dirt and grass around the meteor's location.
The adventurers could feel the heatwave, even from the hundred-plus
feet away, where they stood.

Alindyar:  Now, while the thing is red-hot.  Strike!
Ged:  (already spellcasting)  Don't bark orders at me.

  Moments later, the grey elf sent the cone of frost and ice on its
way.  The blur of cold hit the metal sphere exactly where Alindyar's
fireball had exploded; the sudden change from red-hot to sub-freezing
generated great, billowing clouds of vapor.

Bosco:  It's hissing too!
Alindyar:  That is the usual case when ice or water changes states-
Bosco:  (wandering toward the steam)
Alindyar:  Never mind.

  When the vapor cleared, and the adventurers moved in closer, they
found that the sphere was totally unaffected!  Water, steam, and
bits of ice were scattered about, but the sphere's metal skin still
looked just like it had before.

Ged:  This is _really_ starting to piss me off.
Lyra:  Nothing's working.
Alindyar:  That sphere truly defies all logic.
Nenya:  Or at least all magic.
Belphanior:  But it _is_ magic.  Or slightly so, at the least.  It
  has an aura...
Mongo:  Enough!  Enough about auras and magic and all that bullshit!
  I'll get that thing opened for you!  (he draws back his hand, his
  hammer held in one knotted fist)  Graaar!  (he hurls Stormcrest
  directly at the sphere)

  The enchanted hammer struck the sphere with a loud <CLANG> that
made the watchers' teeth chatter.

Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  Nothing!  (sputtering curses, he
  hurls the hammer again)
Otto:  It isn't working...
Mongo:  (infuriated, he continues to pummel the metal sphere with
  his hammer)  Open, you son of a bitch!  Open!!!

  Try as he might, though, the dwarf couldn't so much as make a dent
in the thing.

Mongo:  (sweating profusely)  Fuck.
Ged:  It seems that the thing is indestructible.
Alindyar:  Verily.
Belphanior:  We'd better face it:  maybe it won't open until it
  _wants_ to open.
Rillen:  (bored)  I figured that out quite some time ago.
Bosco:  (to Ged)  I've got an idea.  Let's shack up at your castle
  and post sentries to watch the sphere.  That way, we get to sleep
  and if anything happens, we're right here.
Ged:  Hmm.
Peldor:  (yawns)  A splendid idea.  Take us to our accomodations,
  Ged.
Mongo:  (pulls out a sleeping bag)  I don't need a castle and a bed
  to sleep in.  I'm no pampered citygoer...I'll sleep right here.
Gorin:  Me too.
Otto:  I'll join you.  Let's build a fire.
Bosco:  A bonfire!
Belphanior:  I'm kinda hungry.

  They settled down for the night.  Ged decided to return to his
castle, for he was fairly confident that the sphere wasn't going
to do anything in the next few hours.  Those who wanted to sleep
in beds followed him, while the others remained outdoors.  The
night passed without incident.
  However, in the morning there arrived a squad of soldiers, from
the City of Greyhawk.  Twoscore in number, they were led by a
sneering captain who didn't seem to acknowledge Ged's property
rights...

Mongo:  -and I'm telling _you_, for the last time.  Nobody goes
  near that thing until Ged gets here.
Galt Lauder:  (the soldiers' captain)  I could have you placed
  under arrest for this defiance!
Bosco:  (to Belphanior)  This guy's a real asshole.  Me and Gorin
  had to deal with him a couple years back.
Belphanior:  Oh, really?
Galt:  Hey, I know you!  You're that elf, wanted for numerous
  crimes against the City!  It'll be a pleasure bringing you in.
Belphanior:  You're right about the first thing.
Mongo:  (interrupts this dialogue)  Hey, you!  The elf isn't the
  issue here.  Remember that!
Galt:  How correct you are.  (looks around)  You're still in my
  way.  Now move aside, or my troops will move you.
Mongo:  I seriously doubt that.
Galt:  Grr...
soldiers:  (somewhat uneasily, they finger their bows)
Galt:  You'd better do as I say!
Rillen:  If anyone fires an arrow at me, I'll catch it and then
  return it, in a most painful manner.
Galt:  (half-draws his sword)  What the hell are-
Otto:  (having loaded his crossbow, unnoticed, he eyes various
  targets)
Galt:  (motions some of his troops to move Mongo)

  Six soldiers closed in, and attempted to grab Mongo and push him
aside.  Much to their surprise, the dwarf simply stood there and
let them get a grip on him.

soldier:  We've got him now!
other soldier:  Yeah!
Mongo:  (yawning, he begins flinging the would-be attackers aside
  like twigs)
Galt:  Agh!
other soldiers:  (nocking arrows)
Belphanior:  That does it!  I'm-
Ged:  (appears, Arnold and Nenya at his side, Peldor behind him,
  and both drow floating in the air above him)  STOP!
Galt:  (turns)  Huh?
Ged:  What in Boccob's name is going on here?!?
Mongo:  (brushes himself off casually)  These soldiers from the city
  want to take command of the sphere.
Belphanior:  (halts in whatever it is he was up to)
Galt:  Ahem.  I am Galt L-
Ged:  What is your rank?
Galt:  Lieutenant of the-
Ged:  Who is your superior officer?
Galt:  Err...Derider Fanshaen.
Ged:  I thought so.  I'll have you know three things:  One, Derider
  Fanshaen is a _very_ good friend of mine.  Two, this is my land,
  not Greyhawk's, and I am fully aware of my rights as a landowner.
  Three, if your men don't relax and put those bows down, you're
  going to be responsible for what happens next.
Belphanior:  (muttering)  Not so...I'd be partially responsible as
  well.
Galt:  Err...umm...(obviously cowed, he signals his men to lower
  their weapons)  I'm sure that the city and you can reach some kind
  of peaceable agreement...
Ged:  Nonsense!  This falling star fell on MY land, therefore it is
  MINE to examine.
Bosco:  (shaking his fist in the air)  You tell 'im!
Mongo:  (yawns again)
Ged:  What have you to say to that?!?
Galt:  There's some people from Greyhawk on the way...sages, and
  wizards too.
Ged:  Others will be free to help me study the thing.
Rillen:  (fixes Galt with a stony glare)  Just not you.
Alindyar:  (wondering why any magi who were planning to show up
  haven't done so already)
Lyra:  (ESP to Alindyar)  Maybe they don't care that much...
Bosco:  (scanning the horizon)  Hey, who's _that_?  (pointing)

  A short, skinny man with closely-cropped black hair and a few
days' stubble was floating toward the group.

fellow:  (floats downward)  I am Otiluke.
Ged:  Boccob!
Otiluke:  No, Otiluke.
Alindyar:  (also floats downward)
Otiluke:  (floats up a bit)
Alindyar:  (floats up as well)  I know a few of your contemporaries
  among the Circle.
Otiluke:  Ah, yes.  You must be Alindyar.  (he regards Lyra, who is
  hovering nearby)  Which would make you Lyra.
Lyra:  (nods her head slightly)
Otiluke:  I have heard much of you from Bigby and Rary.
Alindyar:  Likewise, your reputation precedes you.
Lyra:  What took you so long to show up?
Otiluke:  Well, there wasn't a big hurry.  I knew that you two, and
  that one-  (nods Ged's way)  -were out here already.  The situation
  was, of course, well in hand.
Ged:  (now airborne as well, he sails upward, toward the other magi)
  So to speak.
Otiluke:  (looks slightly confused)
Alindyar:  The sphere has proven impenetrable and immovable.
Otiluke:  Ah.  (he studies the thing critically)  Yep, that's a big
  chunk of metal.  I suspect that even Tenser would have trouble
  moving it.
Belphanior:  Tenser?
Peldor:  (to Belphanior, quietly)  That's Otiluke?!?
Belphanior:  Looks that way.
Peldor:  Why, we paid one of his homes a visit, many years ago!
Belphanior:  Yes, I remember.  There is, of course, a difference
  now.
Peldor:  Oh?
Belphanior:  We are now forces to be reckoned with as well.
Peldor:  (muttering something about always having been a force to
  be reckoned with)
Alindyar:  (talking with Otiluke, Lyra, and Ged about wizardly
  approaches to affecting the sphere)
Tanya:  (to Otto)  I'm feeling a bit left out of this conversation.
Otto:  (nods toward Galt and his soldiers)  There's still them.
Arnold:  (hand on sword)  Yah.
Rillen:  They're harmless.  Look at them; they don't want to fight.
Gorin:  It's that idiot commander of theirs.  He's a troublemaker.
Belphanior:  That could be...rectified.
Peldor:  Bah.  Galt's nothing, in the big picture of Greyhawk.  He's
  strictly small fry.
Tanya:  (watching the sphere)  Hey, I think-

  Suddenly, with neither reason nor warning, the sphere began to
tremble.  All present (at least those standing on the ground) were
knocked from their feet; houses and huts creaked and cracked, some
threatening to come apart; farm animals squealed in fear.  The sky
darkened for an instant, as if the gods themselves had something
to say.  A distant (or was it?) crack of thunder sounded its angry
voice.
  And then, the sphere opened.  Actually, a better word might have
been "disintegrated"; a gaping hole appeared in its side, and as
this opening grew in size, the displaced shell simply...dissolved.
Great billows of greenish-black mist issued forth from the sphere's
shattered skin.

Ged:  Boccob...
Alindyar:  By the gods!
Otiluke:  (simply staring, open-mouthed)
Bosco:  (wondering how an indestructible substance can be dissolved)
Belphanior:  (wide-eyed, a rarity)  Well, this ought to be good...

  There was a blood-curdling roar, louder than any the adventurers
had ever heard, louder than Hadeus the duke of Hell, louder than
any of the dragons they had ever faced, louder than any foe, mortal
or otherwise.  For miles around, animals great and small fled in
sheer terror, and people trembled.  Grass and plants nearby wilted
and died, and the very air seemed filled with a sinister power.  As
the assembled people watched in awe, anticipation, and more than a
little fear, a gargantuan shape emerged from the remnants of the
fallen star.
  Towering over everything, it was more than sixty feet in height.
The monster was roughly bipedal in shape, with distinctly reptilian
features; scales, each of which was greater in size than a large
shield, covered its huge body.  Its three-fingered hands and feet
were tipped with sharp, curved claws the length of a standing man.
A long, powerful-looking tail whipped back and forth, shaking the
earth with every movement.  The thing's head consisted, primarily,
of a large, fang-filled maw; two beady, red eyes were set atop the
fearsome mouth, and these darted to and fro rapidly, suggesting
great cunning.  A pair of jutting horns, each about ten feet long,
crowned the monster's head; a series of lesser, but equally sharp,
spines progressed down its back, ending only where the fearsome
tail began.  The creature's scales and skin were uniformly brown
in color, a dark brown that verged to black at the joints.  These
darker areas were cloaked in shadows, and light seemed to vanish
into them...or was it because of the monster's sheer size?

Mongo:  Now what in all the hells is _that_?!?
Ged:  Search me.

  The monster looked around, and then, with a speed belying its
incredible bulk, it snatched four or five (or perhaps a fraction -
the claws were razor-sharp) of Galt's men up, and popped them into
its mouth, where they promptly disappeared, screaming.

Galt:  Aie!  (he looks at his soldiers, all of whom are paralyzed
  with fear)  Move, you men!
soldiers:  (beyond hearing)
monster:  (done chewing the first morsels, it turns its attention
  to the next largest congregation of food - the adventurers)
  GRAAAAAAAARGH!
Bosco:  (blown from his feet by the monster's fetid breath)  Aaa!
Gorin, Tanya, Nenya:  (likewise)
Belphanior:  Uh, I think we'd better run.
Otto:  No fuckin' shit...

  Ged, Otiluke, and the drow flew away and upward as fast as their
magic would allow.  Peldor instantly ran off to one side, becoming
invisible as he did so.  Otto, Gorin, Nenya, and Tanya, helping
one another, retreated southward.  Bosco, having quickly regained
his footing, flew into the air, his boots' little wings beating
furiously.  This left Belphanior, Mongo, Arnold, and Rillen, all
four of whom either couldn't fly, didn't have time to cast a spell,
or were too slow and too close to the monster to think about
fleeing.

Mongo:  I'm not running!  (he winds up, and hurls Stormcrest at
  the enormous foe)  Fuck you!

  The enchanted hammer sped through the air, and struck the huge
monster squarely in the chest.

monster:  (ignores the blow)
Mongo:  Argh!  I missed!
Arnold:  Whaaat?
Mongo:  I was aiming for its face...the thing's bigger than I
  thought!  (catches his hammer)  I'll get it next time.
Arnold:  I don'd think there will be a next time...
monster:  RRRAAARGH!  (reaches down with both clawed hands)
Mongo:  Oh shit...!
Arnold:  (scooped up in one gigantic claw, he is squeezed, and his
  armor buckles and creaks)  Aaaaaargh!
Mongo:  (picked up in the other claw)  Dammit!  (he pounds the huge
  fingers with his hammer)
monster:  GRAAARGH!  (it looks over the two people in its hands,
  opens its mouth, and pops Mongo in)
Mongo:  (slashed and rent by numerous fangs, all bigger than he is)
  AaaaaAARGH!  (he swings wildly with Stormcrest, smashing several
  teeth into flinders)
monster:  (crunches down harder)
Mongo:  (his magical armor pierced in a dozen places, as is his
  body)  AAARGH!  (blood sprays everywhere)
monster:  (utterly drowns out the dwarf's cry of pain)  GRAAAARGH!
Arnold:  (trying to stab the hand holding him prisoner, without any
  apparent effect)
Rillen:  (back a ways, he fires several magical arrows at the huge
  foe's face)
monster:  (ignores all of the arrows as they bounce off of its thick
  scales)  GRAAARGH!
Belphanior:  (uses a wand to launch a lightning bolt at the monster)

  An amazing thing happened then:  the missile, rather than hitting
the beast and shocking it as might be expected, instead bounced off,
whizzing into the air.

Ged:  (he and the other airborne people are narrowly missed by the
  bolt)  Hey!
Belphanior:  (stunned)  Bounced off...
creature:  (watches the lightning bolt disappear into the sky, far
  above)  GRAAAAR!
Mongo:  (still in its mouth, he smashes some more teeth, clearing a
  path, and then leaps out of the maw)  Free!

  However, as the dwarf jumped, the monster snapped its jaws shut...

Mongo:  (falls fifty feet to the ground)
Ged:  He escaped!
Lyra:  Look.  (she points)

  The drow was indicating a second, smaller object that fell after
Mongo, and landed on the scorched grass next to him.

Ged:  By Boccob...that's his _arm_!
Alindyar:  Aie.
Mongo:  (barely visible on the ground at the monster's feet, one
  arm severed, he lies unmoving)
Otiluke:  We need a distraction...(he launches a thin white ray at
  the gigantic monster)

  The icy beam struck the thing in the center of its torso (indeed,
it was nearly impossible to miss such a large target) and bounced
off, striking the ground to one side.  A large area quickly frosted
over, becoming an icy patch of frozen grass and dirt.

Otiluke:  Well, damn!
creature:  (seemingly distracted by the mage's spell, it turns its
  attention skyward, and begins walking toward the flying magi, the
  ground shaking with each step)
Lyra:  I think we may have a _slight_ problem here.
Ged:  Look at the bright side - it's left Mongo alone.  (he flies
  around, intending to get behind the monster and attend to Mongo,
  who is lying in a growing pool of blood)
Otiluke:  I guess we'll keep hammering at the thing.  Something's
  got to hurt it.
Alindyar:  Hmm.  I believe its scales will deflect most destructive
  spells.  (ESP to Lyra)  I shall attempt to distract it - you free
  Arnold.
Lyra:  (ESP to Alindyar)  Right.  (she looks puzzled)  How?
monster:  (lumbering in a seemingly random direction, as the magi
  have split up now, it looks pretty angry)  GRAAAARGH!
Rillen:  (kind of in the monster's path now, he shoots two more
  arrows at it - which have no effect)  Damn!  (he turns and sprints
  away, his boots of speed enabling him to quickly outdistance the
  monster)
Tanya:  (about the same distance away)  You have boots of speed too?
Rillen:  Too?
Gorin:  (huffing and puffing as he approaches)  I sure as hell don't!
Nenya:  (also nearby, she begins spellcasting)
Gorin:  Hey, where's Otto?

  Meanwhile, behind the gigantic beast...

Mongo:  Urrr...(lying in a pool of blood, he struggles to stand)
  Kill...that motherfucker...
Ged:  (floats down to the ground)  I wouldn't try that if I were you.
Mongo:  (spits up blood)  Ghak...(he falls back down)
Ged:  Boccob's eyes, but you're hurt badly!  (looking around)  Uh,
  where'd your arm land?
Bosco:  (trots up, carrying Mongo's arm, which still has his hammer
  clenched in one fist)  I found it!
Ged:  Give me that.  (he takes the arm)
Mongo:  Stump...
Ged:  What?
Bosco:  (looking around)  I don't see a stump.
Mongo:  (eyes glazed)  Put...the arm on the...stump.  It'll...it'll
  grow back together.
Ged:  (busy trying to keep Mongo's blood in his body)  How?
Mongo:  No time...to explain...just...do it!
Ged:  Bosco!  Hold the arm to the stump.  I must cast a spell.
Bosco:  (looking beyond Ged, in terror)  Uh...
Ged:  What?!?  (whirls around)

  The monster had turned back, and was lumbering toward them.  It
still clutched Arnold in one hand.

Arnold:  (feeling the squeeze)  Aaa.

  Suddenly, the ground directly in front of the beast opened up,
a crack more than fifty feet wide and hundreds of feet deep!

monster:  (confused, it halts its charge)  GRAAARG?
Bosco:  Whoa!
Otiluke:  Where'd that gaping crevice come from?!?
Alindyar:  (smirking)  What crevice?  I see no crevice.
Otiluke:  (squinting)  Ah!  Very clever!
Lyra:  (invisible now, she flies up to the monster's hand, grabs
  Arnold, and both of them vanish)
monster:  (even more confused now)  GRAARGH!  (it lumbers around
  the crack, eyeing Ged, Mongo, and Bosco)
Otiluke:  Only a temporary setback for the thing, it seems.  (he
  pelts the foe with magic missiles, but they, too, bounce off of
  its hide)
Alindyar:  At least it saved Arnold, and bought Ged some time.

Lyra:  (appears several hundred feet distant, next to Gorin et al;
  Arnold is with her)  Quickly, somebody help him!  I've got to get
  back to the battle...(she flies away)
Arnold:  (almost dropped to the ground)  Aaa...
Gorin:  We can bind his wounds, I guess.
Tanya:  (examining the dented plate mail)  Ow.
Arnold:  (still conscious, though barely)  Whad habbened?
Gorin:  You got rescued, pal.
Arnold:  Is this baddle over for Ah-nold?
Rillen:  Yes, I think so.
Gorin:  There's got to be more we can do to help out!
Rillen:  You're not suggesting that we charge the thing with axes
  and staves, are you?
Gorin:  Well, err...I guess not.  But maybe ranged attacks...like
  your bow!
Tanya:  What about all those magical arrows you have?  Surely they-
Rillen:  -are bouncing off like twigs.  Physical force isn't going
  to beat this foe, I fear.

monster:  (having circumvented the huge crack in the ground, it now
  approaches Ged, Mongo, and Bosco)  RAARGH!
Otto:  (appears at the thing's feet, and stabs it in the heel with
  his knife of wounding)  Die!
monster:  (simply ignores the dwarf, and lumbers onward, the very
  movement knocking Otto and his knife aside)  GRAARG!
Otto:  (lands thirty feet away)  Oof!
monster:  RAAARGRGH!!!
Bosco:  Aie!  Let's get outta here!  (he prepares to fly away)
Ged:  We can't move Mongo...hold that arm, Bosco!  I'll protect us!
  (he begins casting a spell)
Belphanior:  (appears above, flying now)  I'll stop it!  (he flies
  up to the monster's face, and points a wand at the thing)
Alindyar:  No!  The shell obviously has reflective properties that-
Belphanior:  Quiet.  (his wand unleashes a gout of green acid, which
  covers the creature's face)  Let's see it reflect _that_.
monster:  (screams in pain)  GRAAAAAA!  (it alternates wiping its
  face and swiping at Belphanior, who it can't see anymore due to
  the acid)
Belphanior:  Whoa-  (hit by a random claw-swipe, he hurtles away to
  the north)
creature:  (still wiping its eyes, it slowly approaches Ged, Mongo,
  and Bosco)  GRAAARGH!
Bosco:  Hey!  It's gonna get us!
Ged:  No, it's not.
Bosco:  It's not?  Why not?!?
Ged:  Because Boccob's magic is protecting us now.
Bosco:  (looks dubious)

  The enormous beast stopped, and looked down at them.

Bosco:  (almost screaming, at Ged)  _What_ magic?!?
Ged:  Don't you dare panic, Bosco.  Just trust me.
Mongo:  (mumbles something between bloody coughs)
Bosco:  But-

  The monster brought both clawed fists down to smash the trio - and
the fists bounced off of some invisible barrier.  Though the ground
around them shook tremendously, rattling their teeth and jarring
their bones, they were unharmed!

Bosco:  Huh?
monster:  (infuriated)  GRAAARGH!  (it repeats the attack, and the
  same thing happens)  RAAAARG!
Ged:  Told ya.
Bosco:  Magic?
Ged:  The wall of force, Bosco.  It worked against the adamantite
  golem and it'll work against this thing.
monster:  (tries several more attacks, then turns away as Nenya
  pelts the back of its head with some of Melf's Minute Meteors)
  RAAARG!
Ged:  Good timing, girl!  Now.  Bosco, hold that arm.  (he begins
  casting a Heal spell)
Bosco:  Gotcha.  (he pushes the arm tightly to the stump as the elf
  works his magic)  Ugh...(he feels queasy)
Ged:  Don't let up now, Bosco!

monster:  (approaching Nenya, who is all by herself and quickly
  trying to cast another spell)  RRAAARGHHH!
Nenya:  Ulp.
Peldor:  (appears on the back of the monster's neck, and sinks his
  sword into the thing's flesh)
Ged:  Peldor?!?  I thought him long since fled...
Bosco:  Hey!  Where'd _he_ come from?
monster:  GRAAARGH!  (tries, but fails, to bat at this annoying
  insect)
Peldor:  (holding on for dear life, he saws at the wound with the
  sword)
monster:  (grows tired of this, and flops over onto its back)
Tnaya:  (watches in shock)  Noooooo!
Alindyar:  Aie!  It crushed him!
Otiluke:  (spellcasting)  We don't know that...
Lyra:  I think we do.  Nobody could have escaped that.
Alindyar:  Hmm, we should be attacking it while its soft underbelly
  is exposed.
Lyra:  What won't bounce off, though?  Maybe an ice storm?
Otiluke:  Allow me.  (he launches a Meteor Swarm at the beast)

  The fiery meteor shower blasted the monster in the belly, as it
was still rolled over.  However, the magi were shocked to discover
that the "soft underbelly" was every bit as reflective as the rest
of the thing's body.  Blazing meteors flew in all directions; one
hit a farmer's home, hundreds of feet away, and the structure burst
into flame instantly.  Another meteor whizzed through somebody's
cornfields, setting them aflame.  A third rebounded, striking the
surprised Otiluke and knocking him from the sky, his clothes now
on fire.

monster:  (seemingly unharmed by the meteors)  GRAAAAARGH!  (it
  rights itself, and lumbers off to the east)
Bosco:  It's...leaving?!?  But why?
Lyra:  I think I know.  (she eyes Alindyar)
Alindyar:  (shrugs)  Mass invisibility seemed to be the best
  option at this point.  (he points at Otiluke, who has crashed
  into the ground, aflame in three places)  Somebody should put
  him out.
Belphanior:  My pleasure.  (uses his wand of foam to douse the
  fallen mage)
Otiluke:  (coughing and sputtering, he finally looks around)
  What happened?  Where's the monster?
Bosco:  I scared it away.
Ged:  (inside his wall of force)  Somebody put out those fires!
  And save the farmers!  (he returns his attention to Mongo)
Bosco:  Open this force-field and I'll save those farmers.
Ged:  (drops the wall of force, not because he believes Bosco,
  but because the huge monster is already a good distance away)
Bosco:  (flies toward the burning areas)

  The monster was forgotten for the moment, because of the other
issues.  Mongo was alive, but Ged was still tending to his friend.
The mage Otiluke was somewhat burned, though not seriously; he
was resting after being hit by his own rebounded meteor.  Otto
and Arnold were somewhat injured, as was Belphanior.  Peldor was
nowhere to be found.  Nenya, Rillen, Gorin, and Tanya, free from
injury, now approached on foot, and the drow landed from the sky.
  The spellcasters (and Belphanior, with his foam wand) worked
on the fires, while most of the others simply sat around and
pondered the situation, or their losses.

Belphanior:  (flying around spraying foam on the cornfields)  A
  shame, to quell these beautiful fires...
Nenya:  (busy using Ged's magical decanter to spray water on the
  burning cornfields)  Say, does that foam have any long-term
  effect on the crops?
Belphanior:  How the hell should I know?
Lyra:  A cone of cold or an ice storm would certainly kill them.
Alindyar:  As will these fires...
Rillen:  (helping a farmer and his wife out of the burning house)
  This way.
farmer:  The little one...
Rillen:  What?
wife:  Our baby daughter...she's still in there!
Rillen:  What?!?  Where?
farmer:  (griefstricken)  Upstairs...she was upstairs...
Rillen:  (turns back to look at the burning house, whose bottom
  floor is an inferno)  Hmm, the upstairs is still intact.  Well,
  kind of.
wife:  No...oh no...
Bosco:  (soars out of the burning house, a tiny baby grasped in
  his hands)  Okay, who lost a baby?
baby:  WaaaAAAAAA!
farmer & wife:  (standing nearby, they weep with joy)

  Elsewhere...

Mongo:  (asleep and resting, his arm reattached but tender and
  pink)  Zzzzz.
Gorin:  How's he doing?
Ged:  Very well, actually.  Between my magic and that ring he's
  wearing, his arm knit itself right back on.
Gorin:  Good.
Ged:  But he is going to have to rest for a few days.
Belphanior:  As in total rest...no action?
Ged:  Yea, no action, no fighting, no strenuous activity.
Otto:  Bummer.
Tanya:  Peldor...crushed to death.
Bosco:  (having just flown over)  No, he wasn't!
Tanya:  Why do you say _that_?  We saw him smashed to death!
Bosco:  Where's his smashed body, then?  Eh?
Gorin:  Maybe it stuck to the monster's back-
Bosco:  I didn't see it when the thing lumbered off...
Tanya:  Hmm.
Belphanior:  (quietly consulting his magical compass)  Hmm, that's
  odd.  (he whispers something to Tanya, causing her to brighten
  considerably)
Ged:  I wonder how far the monster got...?
Bosco:  Hey, shouldn't we be chasing it?
Rillen:  Why?  What do you plan to do once you catch it?
Bosco:  (looks confused)  Hey, I can't think of _everything_!
Alindyar:  (trying to picture a back-and-forth cross-country chase
  involving the huge monster and Bosco)
Lyra:  (ESP-linked to Alindyar, she giggles)
Rillen:  The first battle goes to the monster, it would seem.
Otiluke:  (quietly)  We have another problem.
Ged:  What's that?  The damned thing left my lands, which puts the
  farmers out of imminent danger.  Good for us, I say.
Otiluke:  It went eastward...toward Greyhawk.



  After everyone regrouped, they attempted to come up with a plan.

Tanya:  If it reaches Greyhawk, hundreds of people will die...
Belphanior:  Thousands.
Otiluke:  We have to do something.
Otto:  Why?
Bosco:  Because we're heroes!
Rillen:  Are we even sure that the thing is _ going_ to Greyhawk?
Ged:  Good question.  It seemed headed there, but the city's a
  good distance away.
Otto:  That thing moves pretty fast...I'd bet it could be there
  in no time.
Gorin:  And once it gets there-
Lyra:  Total destruction.
Otiluke:  You perhaps underestimate the powers of Greyhawk.  We
  can mass a good-sized force-
Alindyar:  Surely you jest.  No physical force can stop that beast.
  Mongo proved that.
Arnold:  (nursing broken, bandaged ribs)  And Ah-nold, too!
Gorin:  (looking dejected)  What do we do, then?
Otiluke:  (thinking furiously)  Okay, okay.  Here's my plan.  I'll
  return to Greyhawk, and alert the appropriate people in case the
  monster really is heading that way.  You can follow the thing from
  here, if you'd like, or just stay put.  This isn't your fight
  anymore.
Ged:  Hmm, we could track the beast from the air.
Alindyar:  Aye.  And we have proven that it cannot see through my
  illusions.  Perhaps we can herd it.
Otiluke:  Herd it where, though?
Rillen:  A good question.
Ged:  (to Otiluke)  This _is_ still our fight.  We'll follow the
  creature from here, and check in with you later.
Otiluke:  Very well.  (he begins spellcasting, and quickly teleports
  away)
Ged:  (looking around)  All right.  Those who can fly, come with me.
  The rest of you can stay here, or ride for Greyhawk.
Gorin:  Why can't we come with you, on the ground?
Belphanior:  Because you can't keep up.  We fly fast.
Tanya:  Also, we'd get slaughtered if we ran into the monster.
Arnold:  Ah-nold can't be lefd behind!
Ged:  Sorry, big guy.  You're going to have to sit this one out.
Gorin:  I guess we could take Mongo and head back to Greyhawk.
Otto:  (trying to figure out if going with this group is a good
  or a bad thing)
Belphanior:  Just remember:  you probably won't catch the monster,
  but if you see it on the horizon, or hear it roaring, or anything
  at all, turn away and ride as fast as you can!
Ged:  Good advice...
Arnold:  If Mondo mudst rest, then we will sday with him.
Gorin:  In the castle?
Ged:  Yes, in my castle.  Arnold can have some rooms prepared.
Arnold:  Yah.
Tanya:  Well, I guess I could stay here.  I'm surely not riding
  for Greyhawk alone.
Otto:  I'll go with you.
Tanya:  No, that's okay.  I don't much feel like traveling now,
  anyway.
Rillen:  (not used to being this useless in a crisis situation)
  Damn!  (he punches a tree, spraying splinters of wood everywhere)

  With that, the group split up.  Ged, the drow, Belphanior, and
Bosco (who refused to be left behind) flew eastward, to find the
beast.  Arnold, Tanya, Gorin, Otto, and Nenya remained behind in
Ged's castle, along with the sleeping Mongo.

Nenya:  (somewhat upset)  I'm going to have to learn the spell of
  flying.
Otto:  What's this you're mad about?
Nenya:  Ged could have enabled me to fly, but I get the impression
  that he wanted me to stay behind.
Gorin:  I think he was protecting you.
Tanya:  I wouldn't worry about it.  We're outmatched against that
  monster.
Arnold:  Not Ah-nold.  I surbvived the monsder's crushing grip.
Gorin:  Only because it popped Mongo into its mouth first.
Nenya:  At least Mongo's alive.
Peldor:  (appears, yawning)  Hey, I'm alive too.
Tanya:  (runs to embrace the thief)
Nenya:  Peldor?!?  You're dead!
Peldor:  No I'm not.
Tanya:  (Done embracing Peldor, she promptly backs off, and punches
  him)
Peldor:  (falls on his butt, surprised)  Ow!  What was that for?
Tanya:  For making me worry...(she pulls the thief to his feet)
  Oh, you...scoundrel.
Peldor:  (rubbing his chin)
Arnold:  But...how did you surbvive?
Otto:  (genuinely interested)  Really, how?
Peldor:  (shrugs)  It's a kind of magic.
Gorin:  (muttering to himself)  Not a drop of blood on him...



  Meanwhile, the airborne magi, plus Bosco, zoomed eastward, in
search of the gigantic monster.

Belphanior:  (using his compass)  Fortunately, this won't be too
  hard.
Ged:  Good.
Lyra:  We'd better have a plan ready, for when we find the thing.
Alindyar:  We need a gigantic pit...
Bosco:  Hey, then the monster could bury bones there!
Belphanior:  Maybe a fire pit?  We could fill it with pitch and
  firewood, and lure the monster in.  Then...an inferno.
Alindyar:  I believe that heat and flame do not bother the thing.
  You surely witnessed this, before.
Belphanior:  Hmm.  Good point.  (he muses)  Acid in the pit, then?
Ged:  On the other hand, once we find it, we could just ignore it,
  and head to Greyhawk to update them on the situation.

  Onward they flew...and within half an hour, they spotted their
quarry in the distance.

Ged:  By Boccob, that's a tremendous creature!
Lyra:  Even from the air.
Alindyar:  It appears to be...chasing something?
Belphanior:  Looks like a herd, of some game animal.
Bosco:  A herd, except for the ones being ripped apart...

  Sure enough, the monster had apparently come across a group of
antelope.  It had already decimated half the herd, as evidenced by
the large amounts of blood and gore strewn about.  The antelope
fled in every direction, and the huge monster gorged itself on the
remains of the slower animals.

Bosco:  Doesn't it _ever_ stop eating?
Ged:  Belphanior, based on your compass readings, which way is
  Greyhawk from here?
Belphanior:  (consulting the compass)  Uh...the thing's directly
  between us and the city.
Alindyar:  Almost as if it wants to go there.
Lyra:  I hope they're ready.
Ged:  Come on, let's fly to Greyhawk.
Bosco:  Why not attack it from the air?
Alindyar:  With what?  Fireballs, lightning bolts - everything
  ricochets from its hide.
Lyra:  It _is_ a tempting idea, though.
Ged:  Well, I'm going to Greyhawk.  You can come if you want.
  (he soars off to the east)
Alindyar:  (he and Lyra exchange thoughts silently, then follow
  the grey elf)
Bosco:  Err...(he follows as well)
Belphanior:  Bah.  (he gets his wand of acidic spheres out)  Time
  to do some mad bombing...



  As the elf hatched his mad schemes, Ged and company flew toward
the Free City.  Their speed was such that within the hour, they
spotted the towers and walls of Greyhawk on the horizon.  There
was a flurry of activity outide the city's walls, specifically on
the western side of the Selintan, just southwest of the city.  Men
were busily at work assembling a line of catapults and ballistae.
In front of these weapons, workers were digging a wide trench, and
west of this trench, thick, sharpened logs were being imbedded in
the ground.
  Behind the ranged weapons were assembled squads of archers and
infantrymen, who milled about in half-excitement, half-confusion.
Behind these various forces, and on the opposite side of the
Selintan, was erected a camp, and armored men were there, talking
and planning.



KEY to sample section of Greyhawk defenses:

                  -   ^    <-       '''' ....             ****
                  -   ^     <-     '''' ....             ****
                  -   ^    <-       ,,,, ....           ****
                  -   ^     %       ,,,, ....          ****
                  -   ^    %       ,,,, ....          ****
                  -   ^     %       ,,,, ....        ****
                  -   ^    <-        ,,,, ....       ****
                  -   ^     <-       ,,,, ....       ****
                  -   ^    <-       ,,,, ....       ****
                  -   ^     %        ,,,, ....      ****

 -   sharpened logs mounted in ground
 ^   wide trench
 <-  ballistae
 %   catapults
 ,   infantrymen
 .   archers
 *   Selintan River



Ged:  Well, I'll be...
Alindyar:  They intend to fight!
Lyra:  Or to die.
Bosco:  Ack.

  They all flew down, to the gestures and shouts of those below.

general-type:  (a tall, stocky fellow with thinning blond hair and
  a moustache)  These are the people who fought before?
Otiluke:  Aye, Sental.  (to Ged)  This is Sental Nurev, Captain-
  General of the Watch.
Sental:  (clasps hands with Ged)  My pleasure.  I have been told
  of your deeds...by Tigran Gellner as well as others.  You may
  rest assured now, things are well in hand.  (he surveys the men
  and armaments arond him, proudly)
Bosco:  (also surveys the assembled forces)  Man, are these guys
  in for a rude awakening...
Ged:  By Boccob!  You're going to try and stop it with _troops_?!?
Sental:  Not just troops, but catapults, ballistae, arrows.
Alindyar:  That is insane!  We've already proven-
Sental:  (spreads his hands in a placating gesture)  I understand,
  but we're prepared to stop the monster here.
Lyra:  You can't possibly be prepared to fight something you've
  never seen!
Sental:  Well, I've never heard of a monster that-
Ged:  We tried fireballs...lightning bolts...acid.  Ever heard of
  those?
Alindyar:  The beast ignored all of that magic.
Lyra:  Not to mention one of the most powerful warriors ever to
  walk the land.
Sental:  (ponders)  Hmm.
Otiluke:  (to Sental)  I told you.  Perhaps you should listen more
  carefully to your fellow Oligarchs.
Lyra:  (realizes that both of the men are Directing Oligarchs of
  Greyhawk, making them powerful allies indeed)
Sental:  Well, we have to try to stop the beast.  Perhaps a magical
  force can be arrayed as well?  (he regards Ged and the drow, and
  Otiluke)
Alindyar:  (spies a pair of figures floating toward the camp)
  'Twould seem that such a force is already assembling...

  One of the two new arrivals was familiar, at least to Alindyar
and Lyra.  The other was a human woman in her thirties, with long,
wavy blond hair.

Otiluke:  Oh, no...
Bigby:  Greetings and salutations.
Alindyar:  (nods)  Bigby.
Ged:  Bigby?  _The_ Bigby?
Bigby:  The one and only...(indicates his companion)  Meet Jallarzi
  Sallavarian, a...probationary member of our Circle.  Jallarzi,
  this is Alindyar, and Lyra.  The grey elf is Ged, I believe.
Ged:  Yea.
Bigby:  I have no idea who the halfling is.
Jallarzi:  (shaking hands somewhat shyly)  Nice to meet you.  And
  you.  And you.
Bosco:  (hops in front of the drow, and bows deeply)  The pleasure
  is all mine, milady.  Bosco, juggernaut slayer, at your service!
Ged:  Hmph.
Jallarzi:  I've never met a juggernaut slayer before.
Bosco:  There's a first time for everything.  We juggernaut slayers
  are a rare breed, and-
Otiluke:  Where's that damned parrot, Jallarzi?
Jallarzi:  In the city, I think.  One never knows, though...
Sental:  The monster...where is it?
Otiluke:  Indeed, did you find the monster?
Alindyar:  Aye.  It is perhaps a quarter of the way here.
Bosco:  Maybe even a third, by now!
Ged:  It's moving pretty fast.  If I were you, I'd get ready.
Alindyar:  If _I_ were you, I would get these sacrificial lambs
  behind the city walls.
Sental:  Be warned, drow.  I take offense at that comment!
Alindyar:  That is all they will be:  mere lambs, ready for the
  slaughter.
Sental:  That may be, but we must try.  Besides, whatever magic
  you plan to try here will work just as well if you try it on
  the monster before it gets here.  My men and I will be the
  second line of defense...in case you fail.
Otiluke:  (to Alindyar)  You must admit, he's got a point.  Just
  about anything we'd try can be attempted far from here instead
  of here.
Bigby:  In fact, we'd have more leeway, without as many people
  around to get hit by residual magicks...
Alindyar:  (nodding in agreement with this logic)  Aye.  Your
  point is well taken.  Let us depart, then.
Ged:  I'd suggest that we magi fly westward, and scout the thing
  out.  Maybe it won't even come here.
Bigby:  From what I've heard of the beast, even if it doesn't come
  here, it'll still be a problem for us.
Jallarzi:  Let's be off, then.

  The magi, now six in number, soared off to the west, Bosco hot
on their heels.

Bosco:  (enjoying his winged boots immensely)  Whee!



  Indeed, they located the great beast in less than half an hour.
It was still headed toward Greyhawk, despite the destruction that
Belphanior had wreaked all around it.  Actually, the majority of
said destruction was laid out in a swath behind the monster, in
the direction from whence it had come.  Gaping pits dotted the
countryside, some filled with flames, others with acid.  A burnt
trough to the west marked the passage of a mighty lightning bolt.
The monster's head and body were dotted with small acid burns, so
Belphanior had apparently had at least some success against the
thing.  The elf himself hovered about a hundred feet in the air;
he was sweating profusely, and looked exhausted.

Belphanior:  (spots the other magi)  Hi.  Fancy meeting you here.
Ged:  What have you done?
Belphanior:  Oh, let's see...four fireballs, a lightning bolt, six
  acid baths-
Otiluke:  You had all those memorized?
Belphanior:  No, I just have a lot of wands.  I didn't try the wand
  of wonder, though...
Lyra:  That's okay.
Jallarzi:  Wands, did you say?  I'm a collector of wands.
Belphanior:  Who the hell are you?
Jallarzi:  I am Jallarzi Sallavarian, of Greyhawk.
Belphanior:  Oh.  Well, that explains everything.
Bigby:  (whispering to Otiluke)  That guy looks familiar...where
  have we seen him before?
Otiluke:  Beats me.
Bigby:  Perhaps we should look into this further.
Otiluke:  Yes...later.  After this crisis is over.
Lyra:  Why'd you try fireballs?  We've already proven that they just
  bounce off.
Belphanior:  Oh, well...I wanted to try different angles.  None of
  them worked, though.
Ged:  I hate to break up your discussion, but if we don't think of
  something soon, this "crisis" will be stomping around inside the
  walls of Greyhawk.
Bigby:  You are quite right.
Lyra:  Look!  The thing's already almost gone.

  Indeed, the monster had roamed eastward, and was already almost a
thousand feet away.

Alindyar:  The thing ignores us...
Belphanior:  Yup, it ignored me too, except when I dropped acid on
  its face.  Then it got pretty pissed.  Of course, it couldn't
  reach me up here; after a while, it quit trying.
Ged:  Well, we'd better follow it.
Bigby:  Yes.  And I'll be sure to try some other spells along the
  way.  I find myself curious about this beast.
Otiluke:  You're not the only one.
Jallarzi:  No...I recall a legend somewhere, something about one
  now-extinct civilization.  In its last days, accounts told of a
  great reptilian punisher, sent by the gods.
Alindyar:  That legend sounds familiar to me, as well.
Ged:  Well, let's see how our combined magic works on it.  (he
  flies after the beast)
Bosco:  I have magic too!  (to Jallarzi)  Wanna trade some spells?
Jallarzi:  Not right now, Bosco.
Bosco:  Maybe later then.  I'll talk to my buddy Belphanior and
  see about getting some of his wands for you.
Jallarzi:  (not familiar with Bosco, or Belphanior, she actually
  believes this)  Oh, that would be delightful.

  They shadowed the great monster, from time to time trying new
spells on it.  Otiluke launched spheres of boiling water and
multicolored light at the thing, but they did little more than
confuse it for a few moments.  Bigby tried a symbol of death,
and Jallarzi a symbol of stunning, but neither stopped the beast.
Otiluke's power word, kill didn't work, either, nor did repulsion,
finger of death, or walls of fire, stone, and ice.

Bigby:  This creature's hardiness is nothing short of exceptional.
Otiluke:  Agreed.  Do you have the spell of shapechanging?
Bigby:  No.  Not today, anyhow.  (shrugs)  Who could have known
  that we'd be facing a foe such as this today?
Otiluke:  No shapechange...(he looks at the drow)  I don't suppose
  you...?
Alindyar:  Nay, we dabble not with shapechanging magic.
Lyra:  At least not yet.
Otiluke:  Hmm.  Dragon breath might faze this monster.
Bosco:  Or maybe not.  (he pretends that he's spellcasting)
Jallarzi:  What _are_ you doing?

  They followed as the monster led them, unerringly it seemed, to
Greyhawk.  Belphanior simply rested as he flew along; it seemed
that most of his energy was spent.  A few more spells were tried -
Ged summoned Evard's black tentacles, Belphanior an ice storm,
Alindyar a prismatic spray.  That latter spell actually injured
the beast, its orange rays causing the thing to scream in pain
and tear large chunks from the earth around it.

Alindyar:  Excellent!
Lyra:  You actually hurt it...
Otiluke:  More than we did.
Alindyar:  'Twas risky - the hide could have reflected the rays
  back at us.
Jallarzi:  It worked out okay, though.
Belphanior:  Don't get too happy - the thing's wounds regenerate.
  I've been watching it.  (he whips out a wand and drops another
  acidic sphere on the monster's open wounds)  Heh heh.
Bigby:  We've got to chip away, a little at a time.  That may be
  the only way.
Jallarzi:  (hits the beast with Melf's acid arrows)  Now you're
  talking.
monster:  AAAARG!  (wiping at the acid on its head and body, it
  lunges forward, uprooting several large trees in its path)
Ged:  (perhaps inspired by Boccob, he suddenly comes up with an
  idea)  Yea!  (he begins spellcasting)
Alindyar:  What?!?  What is it?
Ged:  I can't believe I didn't think of this until now!  (he waves
  his hands, and a gigantic sword of shimmering energy appears in
  the air)
Bosco:  Whoa!
Bigby:  Hey, I know who invented _that_ spell...
Ged:  Me too, and he was a damned genius!  (he guides the sword
  down, into the monster's flank, where it cuts)  Hah!
Belphanior:  Fuck!  It's bleeding!
Ged:  Yea!  (he pulls the sword back)
Lyra:  Hmm, planes of force work...(ESP to Alindyar)  Use that
  wand from Bigby.
Alindyar:  A novel idea.  (he grasps the mentioned item, and
  quickly summons forth a huge, glowing disembodied hand)  Aye,
  a novel idea.  (to Bigby)  I assume you know who invented this
  spell?
Bigby:  Yep, I sure do.

  The drow guided the magical force-hand down, where it grabbed
the monster's head firmly, and began squeezing.

monster:  GRAAAARGH!  (it bites and claws at the hand)  RRRRAAARG!
Alindyar:  (frowns)  I believe that it is damaging the hand.
Bigby:  Naturally.  After a certain amount of punishment, my hand
  spells will dissipate.  Their strength is proportional to that
  of the caster.
Ged:  (hits the monstrous beast in the head with his Mordenkainen's
  sword)  Boccob!  This is a mighty spell indeed!
Otiluke:  That's why he invented it.
monster:  GRAAARGH!  (it swats angrily at the magical force-sword,
  deflecting it, and then grabs at the force-hand around its face)
  GREEEARGH!  (it pulls the hand away from its head)
Alindyar:  Aie.  The creature possesses great strength indeed.
monster:  (begins chewing on the hand, causing it to dissolve)
Lyra:  That's all, folks.
Bigby:  Hmm, someday I'll have to see about inventing a hand that's
  more resistant to damage...
Jallarzi:  You should.
monster:  (begins trying to grab the Mordenkainen's sword)  GRAARG!

  The monster, despite being distracted by the efforts of all the
assembled magi, was still moving eastward.  In fact, it trampled
over everything in its path - trees, farm animals, homes.  This
battle was now entering the outlying farms that surrounded the Free
City of Greyhawk, which meant that people were going to start dying
as the great monster advanced.

Otiluke:  (watching farmers scurrying around like ants)  Why in the
  hells aren't these people evacuated?!?
Lyra:  Maybe you should ask Sental.
Belphanior:  If he lives through this.
Bigby:  We've got to warn the farmers ahead.  Their only hope is to
  flee.
Alindyar:  (considering a great illusion in the sky)  Hmm.
Belphanior:  (spellcasting)  Let me handle this.
monster:  (after taking two more hits, it has managed to grab the
  Mordenkainen's sword, and is simply carrying the thing as it
  lumbers along)
Jallarzi:  By the gods...I've never seen that happen before!
Bigby:  Me neither, girl.  Me neither.
Lyra:  (to Ged)  You may have to abandon the sword, to work other
  magic.
Ged:  Yea...I-  ngh! - can't wrestle the sword free!  I shall try
  to distract the beast some other way.  (he begins casting another
  spell)
Alindyar:  If only I could cast the Black Blade, then we'd see how
  tough this beast really is.
Bigby:  The black what?
Lyra:  The Black Blade of Disaster.  'Tis a spell-sword that makes
  Mordenkainen look like an apprentice.
Alindyar (ESP to Lyra):  Did you just say "Tis"?
Lyra (ESP to Alindyar):  Certainly not.  Only you do that.
Belphanior:  (now floating ahead of the giant beast, he yells in
  a magically-amplified voice)  LISTEN TO ME, YOU PEOPLE!  YOU MUST
  EVACUATE - NOW!!!  A GIGANTIC MONSTER IS HEADED THIS WAY!  FLEE
  NORTHWARD!  FLEE NOW!
Otiluke:  (watching the elf fly onward, repeating the same basic
  message)  Hmm, nice touch.
Lyra:  He can be useful when he wants to be.
Ged:  (puts a blade barrier in the monster's path, at head height)
  Let's see if it ignores that...

  The monster either didn't see the mass of whirling blades, or
didn't recognize them as a potential threat, for it walked right
into their path.

monster:  GRAARGH!  (it bats at the tiny blades)
Otiluke:  Are they slashing it?
Bigby:  (squinting)  No...they're bouncing off.
Ged:  Just like that damned juggernaut.  Shit!
Lyra:  (wondering where Bosco is)
Bosco:  (flying, invisible, he swoops down and slashes at the foe's
  head)  Hyaaaa-  (he pulls up short, as he spots the whirling
  bladestorm ahead of him)  What's this?
monster:  (ignores the halfling as it continues through the blade
  barrier; the blades all bounce off of its thick hide, flying in
  every direction)
Bosco:  (nailed in the shoulder by one sliver of metal)  Argh!  (he
  floats down to the ground, able to control his fall but not much
  else)
Ged:  Dammit!
Otiluke:  (to Ged)  You got the halfling, too.
Ged:  No.  Not intentionally, but a lucky side effect.  This is
  what happens when idiotic thieves run amok with their own plans
  and agendas.
Bigby:  The monster's moving onward!
Jallarzi:  (to Ged)  But it let go of the Mordenkainen's sword!
Ged:  Yea, it sure did...(as the spell is still active, he re-
  animates the blade of force, and sends it after the beast)
Alindyar:  You'd better chop it up soon.
Ged:  Why?
Alindyar:  (points)

  The dark elf was indicating the arrayed forces on the horizon,
perhaps five minutes away.  Beyond these, perhaps half a mile
past the Selintan, could be seen the walls of Greyhawk, and the
farmlands and houses that surrounded it.

Otiluke:  Oh, crap.
Bigby:  We've _got_ to stop it, and fast!
Ged:  Say no more.  (he guides the magical sword toward the beast)
monster:  (its armored back deflects the blow, and it then grabs
  the sword, again)
Jallarzi:  How does it _do_ that?!?
Bigby:  I have no idea.
Ged:  Boccob!  Look what it's trying to do now!
monster:  (breaks the Mordenkainen's sword in two, spraying tiny
  glowing bits of force-energy everywhere)  GRAAAAARGH!  (it beats
  its chest in triumph - then spots the city walls in the distance)
  GRGGG...(it lumbers in that direction)
Ged:  ...!
Jallarzi:  Broke Mordenkainen's sword...how?
Otiluke:  No time to ponder such things, girl!  Come on!  (he flies
  eastward)  We can still beat it to the soldiers.
Alindyar:  Right.  (he and Lyra follow)
Ged:  Broke my sword...agh!
Jallarzi:  It'll be okay.  (they fly after the others)

  The great beast was moving rapidly now, charging toward the men
and weapons arrayed at the Selintan.  The magi beat the monster to
that area by perhaps a minute.

Ged:  We'd better stay up here.
Lyra:  (to Otiluke)  Those people on the ground aren't going to be
  able to stop the thing.
Otiluke:  Like Sental said, we have to try.
Jallarzi:  _They_ have to try.  We already tried, and failed.
Alindyar:  I shall not accept failure!  (he waves the Bigby's wand
  again)

  Meanwhile, the catapults and ballistae were firing, sending their
missiles hurtling toward the great monster.  Though the firepower
being levied would have crushed a fair-sized army, rocks and bolts
alike bounced from the thing's hide.  Even the fiery missiles of
pitch and tar didn't stop the beast; rather, they simply stuck to
its body and burned.
  The archers now began to loose volleys of razor-sharp arrows,
broad-tipped sheaf arrows that could punch through the finest
plate mail.  They might as well have been toy darts, for they
couldn't penetrate the monster's unnatural hide.

Bigby:  As I feared...the thing is immune to all weapons that bear
  no enchantment.
Otiluke:  (to Alindyar)  What were you trying to do?
Lyra:  A Bigb-  oh.
Alindyar:  Ah.

  A shimmering fist appeared in the air, and the drow used it to
pummel the oncoming monster.  Though it seemed shaken by the blows,
the thing nevertheless tore into the sharpened logs that protected
Greyhawk's defenders.  Heavy logs went flying everywhere, as did
entire catapults, ballistae, and their crews.  The archers and
infantrymen scattered in terror now, some fleeing into the river,
armor and all, such was their fear of the beast.  The thing eyed
the wide trench that had been dug, but it wasn't deep enough to be
more than a minor annoyance, and within moments, the beast was up
on the eastern side of the trench, eating soldiers at will.

Alindyar:  Damn!  (he uses his Bigby's clenched fist to pound the
  monster, which surely saves a few lives)
Otiluke:  It sees the city.  It's moving through the river!

  Sure enough, the huge monster was wading through the Selintan.
For a hopeful moment, it appeared that the mighty river might be
strong enough to wash the thing away, but appearances were
deceiving, and the beast was soon climbing up the river's eastern
banks.  In its wake was a swath of destruction, overturned siege
equipment, and dead or injured soldiers.

monster:  (looks toward Greyhawk's walls, and roars)  RRRRAAAGH!!!
Belphanior:  (newly reappeared)  Was that a challenge?  That sounded
  like a challenge.
Alindyar:  A challenge...(he knits his brows)
Bosco:  (flies up with the elf)  Where've you been?
Belphanior:  Saving peasants.
Alindyar:  Challenge!
Ged:  What the hell are you talking about?
Alindyar:  (excited)  Can you create a huge pit of mud - enough to
  hold that thing?
Ged:  (doing some quick mental math)  Yes, I believe so.  Why?
Alindyar:  Do it.  Place the mud-pit off to one side.  I can lure
  the beast into it.  (he begins spellcasting)
Ged:  Okay...(he also begins spellcasting)

  Shortly, a large section of ground near the monster turned into
mud.

Ged:  Okay, that's my part-

  Then, an amazing thing happened...or perhaps appeared would be a
better word.  A _second_ great beast materialized, off to one side.
Identical to the first, it turned that way, and roared a challenge.

monster #2:  GRRRAAAAARGH!!!
monster:  GRRGH?  (confused, it begins walking toward the other)
Alindyar:  (to Ged)  Now for the difficult part - you must be ready
  to dispel your own magic...change the mud back to rock.
Ged:  Yea.  (he quietly flies down, behind the monster, whose entire
  attention is focused on the new arrival in front of it)
monster:  GRAAARGH!  (it lumbers toward the twin)
monster#2:  (waiting, the mud pit between the two)  GRAAAAAARGH!

  With a sudden splash of mud, the monster fell into Ged's mudpit.
Ged instantly began spellcasting...

Alindyar:  Wait!  The beast has barely sunk at all!
Lyra:  Looks like the mud's only ten feet deep or so.
Jallarzi:  You didn't plan on that...
Alindyar:  Aie.

  However, the fast-acting Ged was already working to reverse the
transformation, and momentarily, before the beast was able to rise
from the muck, it had hardened back into stone.  Better yet, when
the monster had first fallen, it had belly-flopped into the mud;
thus, its entire front half was now imprisoned in solid rock, face-
down.

Ged:  Boccob!  I couldn't have asked for better luck.
Otiluke:  The thing's held fast.
Jallarzi:  And hopefully suffocating.
Alindyar:  Hmm.
Bigby:  A masterful plan!
Alindyar:  'Twas nothing.  Earlier, Belphanior mentioned a challenge,
  and that naturally made me think of a second creature.  This thing
  seems unique in the world - perhaps it has never seen another of
  its kind.
Belphanior:  I wonder if it's really stuck there.
Ged:  Why do you say that?
Belphanior:  (gesturing to the rocky prison)

  Cracks had begun to form around the trapped monster's back half;
the cracks grew into fractures, and then chunks of rock flew every-
where, as the beast broke free and stood erect.

monster:  GRAAAARGH!
Alindyar:  (drops his head, sighing)
monster#2:  (Alindyar's illusion)  GRRRGH.  (drops its head, too)
Ged:  Hey, it was worth a try - and well thought-out.
Otiluke:  The monster's moving toward the city walls now.
Jallarzi:  Perhaps a wish would get rid of the thing...
Bigby:  I don't have one handy.
Bosco:  Hmm.
Lyra:  Get rid...maybe we could teleport it somewhere!
Otiluke:  But how?
Alindyar:  The beast is too massive for teleportation...normal
  teleportation.
Ged:  What about a spell of vanishing?  Hmm, no, the monster's too
  big.  Same problem as teleportation.
Lyra:  How about banishment?
Jallarzi:  We don't know that the monster's actually from another
  plane...
Bosco:  Heck, it's from the stars.  Everyone knows that!
Alindyar:  (to Bigby)  What are you doing?
Bigby:  You'll see.  (spellcasting)  This ought to slow it down...

  The mage summoned a gigantic wall of shimmering colors, around
the monster.  This barrier was over a hundred feet high, and about
fifty feet in radius.  The beast's growls of anger could be heard,
but it was no longer visible.

Bosco:  Whoa!
Bigby:  Let's see it try and tear through that.  It would have to
  suffer every ill effect:  damage, poison, petrification, insanity,
  planar teleportation.  It'll kill itself trying to get out.
Alindyar:  Is it just my imagination, or are there _two_ walls?
Bigby:  Oh, well, since I am able to extend the wall for many
  hundreds of feet, I looped it around twice.  Double protection.
Lyra:  Masterful.  Simply masterful.

  They could hear the beast trying to escape its trap; it screamed
in pain and stomped the ground, but did not emerge through the
prismatic wall.

Jallarzi:  No doubt it's learned that the wall hurts it.
Bigby:  So.  We have about three hours to think of our next move.
Ged:  Could we open a gate to somewhere else?
Alindyar:  Another plane?
Belphanior:  The Hells would be a good choice.
Otiluke:  Hmm.  We'd risk the actions of dwellers on the plane we
  chose.
Bigby:  What we need is a variant of the Gate spell...one that opens
  a portal to someplace else on _our_ plane.  No danger of fiends or
  other unpleasantness.
Jallarzi:  But then we'd have to find someplace to send it.
Ged:  An island somewhere, maybe?
Belphanior:  Hey, send it to Iuz.
Bigby:  We'd have to send it somewhere that we've been - such magics
  are linked to the caster's mind.
Alindyar:  This is all theoretical, anyhow - such a spell does not
  exist.
Otiluke:  If we cast a Gate...and a Teleport...and a Plane Shift...
  we could use another plane as a springboard...
Ged:  It just might work, by Boccob!
Belphanior:  (rather dubious)
Alindyar:  This plan has no basis in logic.  How would you proceed?
Otiluke:  We'd need a Gate, and that's powerful juju indeed.
Bigby:  (puffs out his chest)  I can cast the Gate.
Alindyar:  And I the Teleport...I suppose.  Although-
Ged:  I can take care of the Plane Shift.
Jallarzi:  We'd need some luck, though.
Alindyar:  (nods)
Bosco:  Hey, luck's my middle name!
Ged:  Bah.  What can _you_ do?
Otiluke:  Leave the sorcery to the sorcerors, little one.
Bosco:  (realizing that now might not be the best time for his
  particular wisdoms, he flies away, muttering to himself)
Lyra:  (to Alindyar)  Let me cast the Teleport - you will need to
  control your illusion, to lure the monster into our trap.
Alindyar:  (frowning)  Very well.
Belphanior:  You'd better work quickly.  Look!

  The monster had been quiet for several minutes, and now they knew
why:  it had been busy digging its way under the prismatic wall, and
was even now emerging from the earth just outside of the barrier.

Jallarzi:  An animal it may be, but it is cunning.
Ged:  We must move quickly, and get these spells cast!
Otiluke:  By the powers of Greyhawk, this had better work.
Alindyar:  (doubtful, he nevertheless plays along)  Aye.
Lyra:  (watching the titanic foe)  What's it doing?
Belphanior:  The monster's not looking at Alindyar's illusion...(he
  flies into the air)  I'll see if I can get its attention.

  The elf used his wand of acidic spheres to pelt the beast from
above; his ploy worked, for the thing again noticed the illusory
duplicate.

monster:  (not quite drawn to the twin, as it was last time)
  GRAARGH!  (it turns its attention back to the city)  GRAAAARGH!
Alindyar:  Eh?
Belphanior:  Shit.  It isn't falling for the ploy this time...
Otiluke:  Well, we'd better figure something out - the spells are
  already underway!
Bigby: (casting the Gate spell) I hope this works.
Ged:  (casting a Plane Shift at the same location as Bigby's Gate)
  I pray this works.
Lyra:  (casting Teleport on the swirling energies of both the other
  spells)  It will.  It has to.
Bosco:  (forgotten by all, feeling unappreciated and a little hungry,
  muttering to himself)  Hell, I _wish_ this works.
Belphanior:  (watching the huge monster, which is in turn watching
  the duplicate with a leery eye)  What we need is a gigantic hand
  to push the beast around.
Jallarzi:  What we need is a miracle.
Bosco:  (floats by, mumbling something about miracle workers)

  Just then, in front of the big monster, there appeared a pair of
figures!

Mongo:  (holding his hammer, left-handed, he spots the great beast)
  Yeah!
Nenya:  Okay, here we are.  I did what you asked.  (she backs up)
Mongo:  I'll take over now.  Get outta here, kiddo.
Nenya:  (flees)
Belphanior:  (lands next to Mongo)  What's going on?
Mongo:  I convinced her to teleport me here.  I want to fight that
  damned thing again!
Belphanior:  Hmm.  This is perfect.  The other wizards are about to
  summon a great gateway, to a faraway place.  (muttering)  If the
  hare-brained scheme they hatched actually works...
Mongo:  A gateway?  Is that so?
Belphanior:  Yup.  But we've got to trick it into running through
  the portal.  (he senses something behind the pair)  Holy shit...
Mongo:  (turns)  Damn.

  Behind them, and in front of the great beast, had appeared a
gigantic black disk.  Perhaps fifty feet in radius, most of its
bottom half was out of sight, below ground level.  Tendrils of
energy flickered at its edges, and a crackling sound came from
within (beyond?) its expanse.

Ged:  It worked!
Alindyar:  Aye...though truly, I know not how.
Otiluke:  What's the gateway doing?!?  It's flickering...!
Lyra:  It's not stable!  Hurry up and get the thing inside!
Bigby:  That may be difficult...
Mongo:  Well, it won't ignore me!  (he tosses his hammer at the
  monster, clipping it on the snout)  How'd you like that, you
  bastard?  I can throw left-handed just as good as right-handed!
monster:  GRAAARGH!  (it charges)
Alindyar:  (waving his Bigby-wand and muttering command words)
Belphanior:  Uh...Mongo, you can't fly, can you?
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  Nope.  Why?
Belphanior:  Because the monster can outrun you...
Mongo:  I'm not worried about it.  (he hurls his hammer again,
  and it bounces from the beast's hide)  Looks like I've got its
  attention.
Belphanior:  Well, I'll support you from the air.  (he flies up,
  and readies his wand of acidic spheres one more time)

  Mongo was standing about twenty feet in front of the huge black
gateway, swinging his hammer.  The monster charged at the dwarf,
swiping wildly with its claws.

Belphanior:  (having changed tactics, he drops a Darkness, 15'
  radius atop the thing's face)  Hah!
Alindyar:  (at the same time, he summons a Bigby's clenched fist
  and sends it hurtling toward the back of the monster's head)
Mongo:  (realizes what's happening, and throws his hammer at the
  foe's knee)

  The hammer took the monster in its left kneecap, and then the
gigantic clenched fist struck the back of its head.  The monster
was unable to slow its charge, and shrieked in pain and rage as
it teetered...and then fell forward!

Mongo:  (unbelievably fast, he dashes forth, between the thing's
  feet, and emerges safely on the back side)  Hah!  (he catches
  his hammer, and turns around)

  The monster's entire front half had already vanished into the
gigantic black disk, and as everyone watched in fascination, the
rest of the beast was pulled in.  A final roar of anger marked
the passing of the thing, and then the gateway shrunk rapidly,
folding in on itself.  With a final, magical twisting of space,
and a loud "pop", the portal vanished.

Ged:  Yea!  (everyone is cheering and clapping each other on the
  back)
Bigby:  It worked!
Bosco:  (floating nearby, a very smug smile on his face)
Alindyar:  Everything was perfectly-timed...the hammer, and my
  clenched fist spell.
Otiluke:  Yes, that was quite a hammer, and a wielder.
Mongo:  (strolls up, feeling somewhat cheated)
Ged:  I thought I told you to get some rest.
Mongo:  Bah.  I didn't need any rest.
Belphanior:  (lands)  How'd you run through that monster's feet
  as it was falling?  I've never seen you run like that!
Mongo:  Oh, Rillen let me borrow his magical speed-boots.  I came
  prepared.
Ged:  I guess we have Nenya to thank for that.
Nenya:  Yes.
Lyra:  Well, I think it's safe to say that we won't be seeing the
  great beast again.
Bigby:  Amen to that.
Jallarzi:  Where did you send it, anyway?
Ged:  Good question.
Lyra:  (unseen by all, she smirks)



  Elsewhere, miles beneath the surface of the earth, life went on
as usual in the drow city of Erelhei-Cinlu.  The dark elves drove
their slaves on the underground fungus farms; plots and intrigues
brewed and festered in the noble houses; priestesses of Lolth made
their dark sacrifices.  It was, by all accounts, just another day
in the life of Erelhei-Cinlu...until the gigantic black disk came
into being in the city's center, and a great, unearthly roaring
could be heard from within...





next time :  some cleanup work

notes     :  The idea I used for the meteorite's contents was,
  obviously, the winner; however, there were many other ideas that
  had to fall by the wayside.  Some were good, some were bad.  They
  included:
   - a main force of shapeshifters (see episodes #248-249)
   - a huge robotic warrior (a la _The Day the Earth Stood Still_)
   - an alien invasion force (with warrior, mage, etc. equivalents)
   - a gigantic, carnivorous blob of goo (a la _The Blob_)
   - the sphere was actually a huge UFO, which the party would be
     able to walk around inside and explore
   - a smaller sphere, containing a terminator (a la the movies)
     that ended up in the wrong universe
   - friendly aliens (a la _Close Encounters..._)
   - tribes of demons, devils, and what-have you, to be unleashed
     upon the world
   - a gigantic version of the walking egg (from the party's first
     trip to the Underdark)
   - a bomb, capable of destroying a very large chunk of real estate
   - unknown (the thing wouldn't ever open!)

  Now, about the idea I _did_ use...awhile back, there was a long
debate on rec.games.frp.dnd about the tarrasque.  People - far too
many people - were bragging about how they could kill a tarrasque
if they wanted to...or worse yet, they bragged about how they had
already done it.  I decided to see how fearsome the thing could be,
and in the process, I even created one possible origin for it (your
mileage may vary, depending on your own campaign world.)

  Ged's player provided the basic (and fiendish!) idea for getting
rid of the monster.

  This episode took awhile to write because the PC I had at home
died...so I have to come to work at night to write, for a while
anyway.  During the writing of this story, I've seen _Die Hard 3_
and _Braveheart_, been part of a winning road rally team, seen a
number of Braves games, been to several nightclubs, joined a pool
league, and visited the Georgia Renaissance Festival.  It's good
to have a lot of time on my hands.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




previous chapter (#249)                                                                  next chapter (#251)