Chapter #263

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                                +   +
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                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      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.                                             +
+    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                    +
+                          +
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Mongo        17th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+     Gorin     8th level dwarven warrior                     (CG)  +
+  Bosco        10th level halfling thief                      (N)  +
+                                                                   +
+  special guest stars:                                             +
+                                                                   +
+  Yod Ironbeard, dwarven hero and king                             +
+     Spikey, halfling warrior                                      +
+     Sparkey, halfling warrior (twin brother of Spikey)            +
+     32 of the finest dwarven warriors of Thunderdelve             +
+     four dwarven priests of Moradin, Clangeddin, et al            +
+  Date:        2/10/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        late afternoon                                      +
+  Place:       Thunderdelve Mountain, in the northern Lortmils     +
+  Climate:     temperate, within the mountain                      +
+  "The son of a bitch must pay!"                                   +
+               - Jack Burton, from _Big Trouble In Little China_   +

               CCLXIII.  Grimthaard's Last Stand

  After many explorations, a great battle, an ambush, and a false
trail, Mongo and the others have followed the fleeing orc-king
Grimthaard to a pair of heavy stone doors.

Yod:  Those doors are all that stand between us and the bastard.
earth elemental king:  STAND BACK.

  Surging forward, the gigantic elemental collided with the doors.
Its hands dug into the stonework, and then, it heaved its mighty
shoulders.  The two heavy stone doors sailed away to either side,
smashing loudly against the passage walls.  In the large hall
beyond were several dozen orcs, gaping in fear and surprise at
the intruders.

  moves forward, sinking into the stone as a shockwave precedes
  it, knocking some of the orcs from their feet)
orcs:  Aie!
Grimthaard:  (unmistakable in his shining armor, he stands behind
  his soldiers, a tall, burly orc armed with a bastard sword)
  Stand fast, ya sorry shits!
Yod:  (roaring as he steps forward)  GRIMTHAARD!
Grimthaard:  (recoils, the slightest bit, eyeing the enraged dwarf)
Yod:  Quit running and fight like a warrior for once!  (he raises
  his axe high into the air)  Dwarves!  ATTACK!

  As one, the dwarven warriors charged forth, led by Yod, Mongo,
and their retainers.  The orcs raised their weapons and surged
forth to meet their foes!

Yod:  YAH!  (cleaves an orc in two with one axe-blow)
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer in Grimthaard's direction, but several
  other orcs get in the way, and then get smashed)  Damn!
Gorin:  (meets an orc head-on, parrying two sword-blows before
  cleaving the humanoid's head in two)  Outta the way!
Spikey:  Whoa!  (leaps back as a sword dances toward him, then
  rolls forward, stabbing as he comes up)
orc:  (very surprised, it reels backward, mortally wounded)  Agh!
Sparkey:  (takes the offensive, chopping and stabbing as he
  barrels into an orc)  Aaaaaaaa!
orc:  (not expecting such fury and power from a tiny foe like the
  halfling, it goes down under the assault)  Ghak!
Sparkey:  (soon standing atop the slain foe)  Okay, who dies next?
dwarf#24:  (hurls a spear into the enemy ranks)
orc:  Glurk!  (falls, its neck pierced by the missile)
dwarf#48:  (severs an orc's arm)  Back, scum!
orc:  (falls to one side)  Aaargh!
dwarf#99:  Yee-hah!  (barrels into three orcs, knocking two down)
third orc:  (bringing its battleaxe up)
dwarf#99:  Hey, pal, you were supposed to fall!  (he stabs the orc
  in the face with his axe's spike, and charges toward some other
dwarf#55:  (swings his warhammer, bashing an orc atop its helm)
orc:  (falls, dazed and bleeding)
dwarf#55:  And stay down!

  Meanwhile, Bosco flew above the battle, seeking to inflict as
much harm as possible to the orcs below.  He dropped one of his
magical marbles into the rear ranks of the orcs; within moments,
several foes had slipped and fallen, and considerable confusion
ensued.  As orcs moved about or tried to regain their footing,
Bosco periodically flitted down, slashing at them.
  As for Grimthaard, it seemed that the vile orc-king had finally
decided to make a stand.  He was taller than the average orc, at
over six feet, and loomed over the dwarves.  His bastard sword had
a much greater reach than the dwarves' axes and hammers, which
would be a definite advantage once he entered the battle.

Mongo:  Look!
Yod:  I'll be damned!  The bastard's joining the fray!  (he heads
  toward Grimthaard, cutting through any orcs in his way)
Mongo:  Hey, wait.  It could be a trap-

  Yod wasn't having any of it, though, and the best Mongo could do
was to follow, and back the dwarven king up.  Together, the two
heroes carved and smashed a path toward Grimthaard.  Any and all
orcs who tried to stop them were slain by their mighty blows; the
trail of bodies behind the pair grew steadily.  Grimthaard saw them
coming, and backed up a bit, stopping next to a large barrel.  He
heaved at the thing, tipping it over; black liquid flowed across the
stone floor.

Yod:  Oil!
Mongo:  He means to-
Grimthaard:  (grabs a nearby torch and ignites the oil, sending a
  blazing wall up all around the dwarves)  Hah hah!

  The fiery wall caught dwarf and orc alike in its deadly flames,
and it was only now that Grimthaard's orcs realized just how uncaring
their monarch was, as the fire consumed several of them and sent
others running away, ablaze and screaming.

Yod:  He's not getting away!  (he charges into the flames to pursue
Mongo:  Wait!  Shit.  (he leaps into the nearest wall of flame where
  several dwarven warriors lie burning, and bodily hurls them out of
  the fire)  To safety, boys!
singed dwarf:  Aaaa...OOF!
Mongo:  Trust me, kid, it's better to land and be bruised than stay
  here and roast.

  The dwarven priests quickly worked magic to stop the flames; one
spell lowered some areas of the fire, while another caused the stony
floor to rise up and contain the deadly flames.  However, there was
still enough fire, heat, and smoke to keep the dwarven warriors from
following Yod toward Grimthaard.  Mongo, however, was bound by no
such constraints.

Mongo:  Fuck it!  (he leaps back into the flames, trusting to his
  fire resistance and regeneration to keep him alive)

  Meanwhile, on Grimthaard's side of the flames, the orc-king took
the offensive, charging at Yod as the dwarf emerged from the wall of
burning oil.

Grimthaard:  You think you're so tough, don't you?!?  (the orc-king
  slashes at his dwarven counterpart, with surprising speed)
Yod:  Chew me!  (despite having just walked through fire, he blocks
  the sword with his axe-head)

  They traded blows for awhile, until Grimthaard made a mistake and
overswung.  His sword was heavy, and by the time he could get it up
and around, Yod's axe-blade caught him in the side.  The blow would
have - should have - cut the foe in half, but only struck sparks as
the shining chainmail suit turned the blow.

Yod:  (surprised)  What the-
Grimthaard:  (brings his sword around, again with phenomenal speed;
  the blow hits the dwarf on the shoulder)  Hah!

  The wound was a trivial one, considering Yod's heavy plate mail,
but as the sword hit the dwarf, it delivered some kind of electrical
shock.  Yod was limned in blue arcs of electricity for a moment,
before being knocked back thirty feet, into the still burning oil.

Yod:  (lying on the ground amidst the flames, twitching)  Ungh...
Grimthaard:  Weren't ready for that, were you?

  Just then, Mongo's hammer caught the orc-king in the chest, and
knocked him back a few feet.

Mongo:  Weren't ready for _that_, were you?  Heh heh...
Grimthaard:  (reeling, somewhat stunned)  My armor-
Mongo:  -may be indestructible, and great against edged weapons, but
  my hammer's blunt.  (he catches his hammer as it returns)  I bet
  it hurts plenty.
Grimthaard:  Graaargh!  (he charges)
Mongo:  (also charges)

  They met, the orc's sword smashing into Mongo's hammer.  The dwarf
use his shield, however, to bash his foe; Grimthaard was nearly
floored by the blow.

Mongo:  Take that!  (smashes the orc in the arm)  And that!
Grimthaard:  (screams in pain)  Aaaaargh!  (he stabs with his sword)
Mongo:  (sliced in the forearm, he begins bleeding there)  Ow!
Grimthaard:  (leaps to his feet, slashing at Mongo's now-weakened
  arm)  Die!
Mongo:  (manages to get his shield up)  Ungh!  (he bashes his foe
  in the kneecap, which isn't covered by the gleaming mail-tunic)
Grimthaard:  ARGH!  (falls to his knees)
Mongo:  (catches the orc's head with his backswing)  Yah!
Grimthaard:  <crack>

  The orc-king fell to the floor like a rock, unmoving.  Mongo
plopped down on his rear, sweating and somewhat winded.

Mongo:  Whew!  (he looks around, seeing Yod walking toward him)
Yod:  (his hair sticking straight out on all sides, and trailing
  wisps of smoke)  What are you looking at?
Mongo:  Hah hah.
Yod:  What, haven't you seen somebody get shocked before?  Haven't
  you ever been hit by lightning, or maybe blasted by blue dragon
Bosco:  (sails to the floor, landing)  You should get a portrait
  done, while your hair's like that.
Yod:  Quiet, you.  (he kicks Grimthaard's carcass)
Spikey:  (walks up, then comes to rest against a wall)  Whew, good
Sparkey:  (not far behind his brother, he nurses a rather serious
  arm wound)  Yeah...figures that you'd get out unscathed, though.
Bosco:  Aw, come on!  There were only a few dozen orcs!
Gorin:  (wiping his bloody axe on an orcish body)  I slew five of
  the scum myself.
Mongo:  Good job, kid.
Yod:  (regards Mongo)  You robbed me of this fight, you know.
Mongo:  Someone had to take over, friend.  You had fallen...
Yod:  Yeah, I was stunned, not out of it yet by a long shot.  Don't
  worry about it.  (he eyes the shining mail-coat worn by the slain
  orc-king)  You probably ought to get that armor off the carcass.
Mongo:  Yeah, I will.  You know, for such a legendary suit of armor,
  it really didn't help Grimthaard too much.
Yod:  That's 'cause we didn't use fire or lightning or magic on him.
  If I remember my legends right, the Coat of Arnd has many great
  powers - almost all of them the defensive kind.  You used good,
  old-fashioned muscle.
Mongo:  -and my hammer seemed better-suited for the job than that
  axe of yours.
Yod:  (pondering)  Yeah, it did.
Mongo:  (begins taking the mail shirt off of Grimthaard)  This orc
  looks like a weakling.  I get the feeling he didn't really have
  very good leadership skills.
Yod:  Not like his old man, that's for sure.  Then again, with the
  protection of that armor, and the lightning-sword he was using,
  he wouldn't have had to be a good leader.
Spikey:  You know what they say, you can't polish a turd.
Sparkey:  (running a hand over the Coat of Arnd)  Yeah, but you can
  sure wrap them up pretty.
Mongo:  (takes a ring from Grimthaard's body)  Whatever this was, it
  didn't help him much.

  Most of the final group of dwarves still lived; after all, Yod
and Mongo had taken out more than their share of the orcs, tipping
the battle in the dwarves' favor.  Mongo had also rescued several
from the fiery death Grimthaard had planned for them.

Bosco:  (looking around)  Hey!
Mongo:  (starts in alarm)  What?
Bosco:  Where's the treasure?!
Mongo:  Oh.  (promptly resumes ignoring the halfling)
Bosco:  (begins traipsing around the chamber, singing to himself)
  Treasure...treasure...where have you gone?
Yod:  (eyeing the jubilant Bosco)  My head's beginning to hurt.
Spikey:  We could just tie him up and gag him, you know.
Sparkey:  Or we could knock him out.
Yod:  No, let him run free.  Maybe he'll wander elsewhere.
Mongo:  Or maybe he'll actually dig up some treasure.
Gorin:  You never really know with Bosco.

  There was much work to be done.  The orcish bodies had to be
disposed of; the wounded dwarves had to walk or be carried back to
the upper levels; the area had to be secured.

Yod:  I'll have troops come down here and take care of all that.
  I'd suggest that we all get some rest, maybe some hot food.
Mongo:  (holding up the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd)  How can you
  think about food at a time like this?
Yod:  (eyeing the mail shirt)
Mongo:  Our agreement still stands, right?
Yod:  Err...right.  You get the armor, me and mine get all other
Gorin:  (watching the meandering Bosco from afar)  Better not let
  Bosco find out about that last bit.

  Before long, the adventurers returned to the upper levels, to
grab a bite to eat, and then sleep.  The latter event commenced as
soon as bearded and tiny heads alike hit the pillows...

Bosco:  (awakened from a deep slumber by pounding on his door)  Uh.
  Hmph.  (sits up)  Huh?!?
Yod:  (opens the door)  Wake up!  (he walks in, followed by Mongo)
Bosco:  What's going on?
Mongo:  You slept through the whole night and half of the morning,
  that's what!
Bosco:  So?
Yod:  So, there's more dungeon-exploring to come, that's what!
Bosco:  What?  Where?

next:   what the heck's going on?  you'll find out!
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  I was in a pretty good mood until this Monday morning,
  when I went out to my car to go to work.  Not only was my car's
  CD player stolen, but they made a crowbar-sized hole in my door
  during the theft.  The entire stunt is going to set me back
  $500 (it would have been $900 if I didn't have insurance against
  this sort of thing) and by the time you read this, the physical
  damage will be repaired and a new stereo will be installed.
    I've got a bonus story for you; it involves a dream of mine:

                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +   death   +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    All that follows is fictional.  I wish it weren't, but it is.  +
+  Date:        7/23/1995                                           +
+  Time:        the middle of the night                             +
+  Place:       the parking lot of Defoors Ridge apartments         +
+  Climate:     hot & muggy                                         +
+  "They should be fucking killed, man.  No trial, no jury...       +
+   straight to execution."                                         +
+                                   - Lance, from _Pulp Fiction_    +

                    DCLXVI.  Just Desserts

  It was just past 4 a.m. as the two hoodlums snuck through the
grass.  As usual, they had waited until Sunday night, since that
was when people (including the police) tended to be the laziest.
The parking lot ahead was sure to have at least one good prospect,
and there were lots of dark corners where the pair could work in
relative safety.  Entering the asphalt-topped lot, they began
checking to see which cars were here.  Having thoroughly scoped
out this and other parking lots over the last few weeks, they
already had their targets picked out:  the cars with the nicest
stereos, mostly CD players.  Sonys, Kenwoods, Alpines...these
were the real prizes, the sure picks.
  Pointing at one car in particular, the first youth moved in,
followed by his companion.  This was a car they had hit recently
and successfully, to the tune of three hundred dollars.  Still,
there was that bizarre compulsion, the one that told the thieves
to have a second look at cars they had already robbed, to see what
shiny new goodies the owners had bought.  Heck, you never knew;
sometimes they'd put the same stereo right back in, and not even
get an alarm to keep the thing safe!
  In fact, that's what this fool had done; the red sports car was
sporting a brand-new Kenwood, and no blinking red LED decorated
the dashboard.  Moving in, crowbars and screwdrivers at the ready,
the two thieves checked all around the car, making sure that it
had no alarm.  It didn't, and they felt a thrill as they crept
behind the shadowed side of the car and prepared to go to work.
  Lying on a blanket underneath the car, Thomas gripped the base-
ball bat with white knuckles.  It was hard to describe the things
that went through his mind and body right now; anger, excitement,
and yes, even a little fear.  But as the two thieves stopped their
circling and stood at the passenger side of his car, anger buried
the other emotions.  Though he had little room to build up a good
swing, adrenaline kicked in, and he aimed right at the nearest
ankle as he swung the bat with all his might.
  There was a loud crunching sound as the ankle shattered like an
eggshell.  The victim screamed in pain and fell to the ground as
Thomas wriggled out on the other side of the car.  By the time he
got to his feet, the second hoodlum was already twenty feet away
and running; apparently he had thought about trying to help his
companion, then changed his mind.  Thomas broke into an all-out
sprint as he chased the youth - and a youth he was, by the looks
of him; he couldn't be more than fifteen or sixteen.  The kid ran
pretty fast, but so did his pursuer; adrenaline fueled both of the
chase's participants.  The thief chose his path, and obviously knew
where he was going; Thomas knew he had to end the race soon.  He
surged forward, tackling the fleeing kid, and they both went down
in a heap of arms and legs.  As the youth started to turn around
and face his attacker, Thomas brought the handle of the baseball
bat down on his nose.  Cartilage broke with a satisfying "crunch",
and the thief howled in pain.  The bat's next blow broke his right
wrist, and Thomas' third blow caught him in the back of the head,
knocking him out cold, or worse.  Thomas didn't really care, as he
left the kid lying there and returned to his car.
  The first youth was lying on the ground next to the car, moaning
in pain.  Thomas approached, coming out of the shadows, the heavy
bat held in one hand.  Though the crippled thief couldn't have seen
it, Thomas' knuckles were white around the bat.  The kid looked up
as the attacker approached, croaking, "Hey, man, take it easy!  We
were just looking for-"  Thomas kicked the thief in the stomach,
cutting his sentence off.  "I don't give a fuck!"  The wooden bat
came down on the kid's shoulder, and though it didn't make any kind
of crunching sound this time, the culprit writhed in pain.  A few
seconds later, he managed to start talking again; Thomas decided
that he definitely should have hit the boy in the mouth, rather than
the shoulder.  The youth was trying to talk his way out of whatever
he thought might happen to him.  "Come on, dude!  Why're you taking
this out on us?!?"  Thomas shook with rage, and the kid cowered,
thinking that he might well get hit again.  "You goddamn punks got
my stereo last time, and you were gonna get it again!"  The thief
quickly bagan shaking his head in denial.  "No way, man.  It wasn't
us!"  Thomas glared at the boy, his face a mask of pure rage.  "It
wasn't you last time, you say?"  The thief almost screamed as he
answered, "No!  You gotta believe me!" and quivered as a fresh wave
of pain coursed through his body.  "Guess what?" asked Thomas as he
tapped the bat's thick end on the pavement, tap-tap, tap-tap.  "I
don't care."

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