Chapter #307

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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 1991-5 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 (or a portion of it):                                  +
+                                                                   +
+  Mongo        17th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+     Gorin      8th level dwarven warrior                    (CG)  +
+  Date:        6/3/575 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        early morning                                       +
+  Place:       the Free City of Greyhawk                           +
+  Climate:     mild                                                +
+  "It seems your trophy is tearing us a new orifice."              +
+                                            - from _Hard Target_   +

                  CCCVII.  First Blood is Drawn

  In the weeks since Lyra's fabulous one-hundredth birthday party,
Mongo and Gorin have been training, liquidating their bulkier assets,
and otherwise taking care of routine business.  This day begins much
like any other...

Gorin:  (enters the inn room, where Mongo is busy counting coinage
  and organizing items next to his portable hole, which is laid out
  next to him, a dark, circular shape)  Morning.  What's up?
Mongo:  Oh, I'm just cleaning out the ol' portable hole.  Do you have
  any idea how much shit I had piled up in this thing?  (he pulls a
  large, dull-bladed sword from the extradimensional space)  Where in
  the hell did I get _this_?
Gorin:  (shrugs)  I meant what's up with this travel business?
Mongo:  Oh, that.  (he nonchalantly hands the other dwarf a scroll)
  Read for yourself.
Gorin:  (unfurls the paper, reading aloud)  Need your help again-
  please come to the Flinty Hills as soon as convenient-  (frowns)
  Signed, Snowbeard?
Mongo:  (nods)  Sounds important, isn't it?
Gorin:  Snowbeard...Snowbeard...ah, that's the dwarf you left in
  charge of things in the Flinty Hills?
Mongo:  Yeah, after that little war.  I'm sure you remember it - you
  saved my life during one battle.
Gorin:  Hey, no sweat.  It was the least I could do, since you and
  your hammer singlehandedly turned the tide of our war against the
Mongo:  Whatever.  Anyway, it seems that Snowbeard and the fellows
  need help, so I was thinking that we'd head up that way.
Gorin:  Sounds good.  (he frowns, thinking)  Now when did this note
  arrive, and how?
Mongo:  Someone left it for us, with the innkeeper, downstairs.  Last
  night.  The innkeeper said it was a halfling, but the fellow didn't
  leave his name.
Gorin:  That's weird.
Mongo:  True...but we need to check it out anyway.  We'll leave in an
  hour or so - is that okay for you?
Gorin:  No problem.  I'll get my stuff packed shortly.

  By lunchtime that day, the pair of dwarves had packed, provisioned,
and paid the innkeeper.  As the sun rose high in the sky, they were
underway to the Flinty Hills, many leagues to the east.

Gorin:  We'll be skirting the Bright Desert, I take it?
Mongo:  Yeah, probably around its north side.  I'm not too worried
  about it yet.  (he frowns and lapses into silence)
Gorin:  You're sure not talking much today.  What's wrong?  Worried
  about trouble in the Flinty Hills?
Mongo:  That and other things.  (he turns to his henchman and friend
  as their ponies trot along)  Ever since the adventures we had in
  Thunderdelve Mountain, with Yod...I've been thinking about having
  my own fortress, my own dwarves - my own kingdom.
Gorin:  Really?
Mongo:  I can't get it off my mind.  Yod has achieved everything that
  I want to achieve, done all the things I want to do...
Gorin:  You're not jealous, are you?
Mongo:  No, I don't think "jealousy" is the right word.  Envy, maybe.
  Although I'd rather have my hammer than Yod's axe.
Gorin:  Well, you have to consider that Yod's got decades of life -
  and experience - over you.  Fifty years from now, you'll probably
  wield the same sort of power and influence.
Mongo:  (nods)  Hmm.
Gorin:  Life only moves at one speed, my friend, and the best we can
  do is move with it.  Just think about all the humans, who live a
  fourth as long as we do, if they're lucky.
Mongo:  What you're saying makes sense, I guess.  I hope I can get
  it out of my mind - my time will come.
Gorin:  Hell, in most people's eyes, your time _has_ come.  You've
  done things that most people never get a chance to do.  And you
  still are.  We all are.
Mongo:  Yeah, yeah.  A kingdom will be mine in time, I suppose.
voice:  Perhaps...and perhaps not, dwarf!

  Both dwarves turned in the direction the remark had come from,
surprised, for neither had detected the presence of anyone else.
The voice was high-pitched, not very deep at all; it had spoken in
Common but had an unusual foreign accent.

Mongo:  (hand on his hammer handle)  Show yourself!
voice:  Certainly.

  From the grass - no, the very _ground_ on either side of the dirt
road sprung armored warriors.  About a dozen in number, these foes
(for such was surely their true nature) quickly surrounded the pair
of dwarves.

Mongo:  (hefts his hammer)  Okay, which one of you bastards spoke
  just now?
warriors:  (silent, they ready their weapons and shields)
Gorin:  (looking somewhat worried)

  The men had the look of experienced veterans - that was obvious
from the way they had quickly and efficiently circled the dwarves,
and by the manner in which they held their weapons.

Mongo:  Okay, don't talk then.  I don't care.  But be warned:  I can
  and will bathe the ground with your blood this day!
voice:  Oh, they believe you, my friend - as do I.  And for that
  reason, we intend to take you as painlessly as possible.
Mongo:  (looking around, he sees nothing)  Fuck!  (to Gorin)  Must
  be invisible, or magically hidden.
Gorin:  Maybe if-

  At that instant, a large, sticky mass appeared in the air above
Mongo and Gorin, quickly draping itself over them and their mounts.
A magically-summoned spiderweb of the largest, toughest kind, the
series of grey strands immediately stuck to the two dwarves and their
ponies, holding all of them fast.

Gorin:  Can't...move!
Mongo:  Damn it, what the hell's going on?!?

  A tall, slender human now appeared in the air, above the dwarves
and the web that now covered them.  The man was of far Western
origin, given his yellowed skin and the slant of his eyes.  Mongo
couldn't get a clear look at him, through the thick strands of
webbing, but the fact that he slowly floated to the ground told
the adventurer that his foe was a wizard, and one of no middling

mage:  Greetings, Mongo Thunderhead.  I am Potas Potay, dark wiz-
Mongo:  I don't give a flying fuck WHO you are, pal, and I won't
  even stop to ask you how you know who _I_ am.  What's really
  important right now is that I'm about to make your head into a
  soup bowl!

  As the webbing had settled upon the pair of dwarves, entangling
them in its sticky grasp, the dozen warriors had visibly relaxed.
A moment later, they once again had cause to worry, for Mongo had
ripped several strands of webbing apart, freeing his upper torso.

warriors:  (several, those nearest to the furious dwarf, charge in)
Mongo:  Too late!  (he hurls his hammer, knocking two onrushing foes
  down and tripping up a couple of others in the process)  Hah!
Gorin:  (struggling in vain to free himself)  Ungh!
Mongo:  (turns toward his companion)  Hold still - I'll have you
  free in a moment!
Gorin:  Don't worry about me!  Get that sorceror!
Mongo:  Bullshit.  First you get out of the webs, then we kick that
  wizard's ass!  (he begins tearing strands of webbing from Gorin)
Potas Potay:  Get them, you fools!
warriors:  (charging in once more)
Potas Potay:  (spellcasting)  You should have listened to your
  friend, Thunderhead.
Mongo:  (whirls, hurling his hammer at the wizard)  Quiet!
Potas Potay:  (having already split into a half-dozen duplicates of
  himself, he laughs as one of the images is vaporized by the impact
  of the dwarf's hammer)  Bah.
Mongo:  Shit...(he grabs Gorin, ripping him free of the webbing)
  Get ready to go flying!
Gorin:  Right!
Mongo:  (exerts his giant-strength, hurling the other over the band
  of charging warriors, at the wizard's multiple images)  Hah!  (he
  catches his hammer)
Gorin:  (lands neatly, in front of the wizard-images)
Potas Potay images:  Hmm.
Gorin:  Fear not, scum - I'll soon separate you from your fakes!
  (he slashes at one foe, watching it dissolve into mist)
Potas Potay images:  Bah.  You'll do nothing.  (they continue their
Mongo:  (nearby, he charges toward the warriors, swinging his hammer
  wildly)  YAARGH!

  Mongo had guessed that the foes' intention had been to take him
alive, based on the wizard's use of the web.  It seemed that he was
correct, for the warriors were clearly holding back, seemingly un-
willing to run the risk of seriously injuring the dwarf.  Mongo,
however had no such limitations; every hammer-blow brought a foe to
the ground, bleeding or dead or both.  With Gorin out of the way,
he didn't have to worry about nearby allies who might get hit by
accident, and he used this to his advantage.  Often, Mongo's hammer
swung in great, sweeping arcs, keeping his foes at bay when they
otherwise would have charged as a mass, surely overwhelming him.
  Meanwhile, Gorin had his hands full, for he was surrounded by the
images of the wizard, Potas Potay.

images:  (blast the dwarf with magical missiles, bringing him to his
Gorin:  Argh!  Ungh!  (he staggers)
images:  Hah hah!
Gorin:  (brings his battleaxe up in a deadly arc - and connects with
  the real sorceror-foe)  Yeah!
Potas Potay:  (backs up)  How?
Gorin:  Oh, I've always had a knack for...(his exuberation becomes
  confusion as he sees that his foe isn't even wounded)  Magical
  protections, then?
Potas Potay:  (grins, spreading his hands)  Indeed.  By the time you
  might actually injure me, you will be slain.
Gorin:  I think not.  (he charges at the wizard, slashing with his
Potas Potay:  (rises into the air, just in time to evade Gorin's
  axe)  Heh heh.
Gorin:  Hey!
Potas Potay:  A spell of flying is indeed a great thing.  (he is
  spellcasting once more)  Though there are greater things...
Gorin:  Get back here!

  As the young dwarf tried to figure some way to reach the airborne
sorceror, Mongo continued to demolish the warriors.  In truth, they
had landed several blows on him - for how could it be otherwise,
given their numbers? - but he had slain or downed seven, and only
five remained to harry him.  Of these, two were wounded.

Mongo:  (shakes his head, spraying blood to one side)  Come on!
  Come and die!
warriors:  (charge, as one)
Mongo:  Greeeargh!  (he ducks and rolls, bashing one warrior in the
  stomach as he does so)
warrior:  Urgh!  (doubles over, then falls, clutching his shattered
  lower ribs)
other warrior:  (stabs Mongo in the side)
Mongo:  (barely feels the deadly blow, thanks to it being turned by
  his impenetrable armor-coat)  Bah!  (he catches the foe with his
  backswing, sending the man flying to one side, blood and bone chips
  trailing him)
Gorin:  (rushes in to help Mongo with the remaining warriors)  Hang
  on, there!

  Suddenly, there was a bright flare in the sky above, as a ball of
dancing flame appeared in Potas Potay's hands.  The sphere crackled
and sizzled, but didn't seem to affect the sorceror.  His warriors
eyed him with fear in their eyes.

warrior:  Master!  No!
Potas Potay:  (mumbling something, he hurls his spell-fire at all
  below - Mongo, Gorin, and his own warriors)
Mongo:  Gorin!  Take cover!
Gorin:  There _is_ no c-

  The fire-sphere hit the ground and exploded, blossoming into a
full-fledged fireball.  Grass, dirt, and insects were instantly
vaporized as the blast reached its full power.  The ground shook
with the force of the explosion, which encompassed far more space
than the area where Mongo and Gorin had been fighting the warriors.
The fireball's heatwave staggered even the airborne wizard, singing
his eyebrows and short pointed beard.  Potas Potay rose higher into
the sky and crossed his legs as he floated, waiting the fireball
out.  Moments passed, and the bulk of the flames died out.  After
a short while longer, the flames sunk lower, and the texture of the
burned and blackened crater was visible.  Within the great sunken
hole, a number of wasted, armored bodies were visible.  It had been
quite a magnificent blast, thought Potas Potay to himself...and then
a soot-covered hammer flew from the wreckage below, hitting him with
such force that he spun, end over end, several times!

Mongo:  (standing in the center of the crater, beard and hair aflame
  and bleeding from numerous ugly burns)  HEY!  YOU!  (he catches his
Potas Potay:  Incredible...yet understandable.  The tales did not
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer again, hitting the airborne sorceror a
  second time)  Get down here!
Potas Potay:  (feels the last vestiges of his stoneskin spell crumble)
  Argh!  You actually _hurt_ me!
Mongo:  (catches his hammer again)  It's gonna get a lot worse!
Potas Potay:  (hastily spellcasting as he wobbles in midair)
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer another time, clipping the sorceror on one
  arm)  Die, fucker!
Potas Potay:  (groans as his broken arm grinds painfully; he somehow
  manages to remain conscious through the haze of pain)  Ungh...(he
  holds his wounded right hand before him, and uses his left hand to
  grasp a ring on the right)
Mongo:  Your tricks won't save you now, wizard!  (he throws his
  hammer again)  You're _dead_!
Potas Potay:  I think not...(he vanishes an instant before the hurled
  weapon would have hit him)
Mongo:  Huh?!?  (he catches the hammer as it returns, and crouches
  in a battle stance, glancing in all directions)  Where are you?

  There was no answer, and after several moments, the dwarf decided
that the wizard was gone for good.  He turned back, heading down into
the shallow, charred crater.

Mongo:  Okay, Gorin, let's get-  (he grimaces)  Oh, Gorin.  Oh, no.

next:   a turning point
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
notes:  Just got back from my week off (11/20 - 11/26) today, and
  figured I'd better write something.

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