Chapter #384

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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 1991-6 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.ns.gatech.edu   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  THE PARTY:                                                       +
+                                                                   +
+  Belphanior    (14th)^3 level elven fighter/wizard/thief     (CN) +
+    Otto          8th/9th level dwarven fighter/thief         (CN) +
+  Mongo          18th level dwarven fighter                   (CG) +
+  Peldor         20th level human thief                        (N) +
+    Bosco        11th level halfling thief                    (CN) +
+                                                                   +
+  Darek Halfplow      dwarven miner and thief                  (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  Date:        4/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        midday                                              +
+  Place:       the sewers beneath the Free City of Greyhawk        +
+  Climate:     warm, damp, and smelly                              +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+  "There is a time to think, and a time to act...and this,         +
+   gentlemen, is no time to think."                                +
+                                         - from _Canadian Bacon_   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





      CCCLXXXIV.  Desperate Measures for Desperate Times





  The adventurers are in a bad situation:  trapped in a small,
square chamber deep within the sewers, they now face more than a
dozen of the strange yet murderous shapeshifters.  To complicate
matters, there is oil mixed with the slimy water that fills the
first foot or so of the room.  This rules out any and all use of
fire, the one thing that proved able to defeat the shapeshifters
last time!

shapeshifters:  (entering the room, they shuffle along silently)
Darek:  (hefts his axe)  I've seen a lot of strange things down
  here, but never anything like those things...
Otto:  Fuck this.  I'm not just gonna sit here and wait for 'em.
  (he raises, aims, and fires his crossbow)
shapeshifter:  (stops its advance, a bolt stuck in its forehead)
Peldor:  Nice shot, but I'm not sure if they have brains.
Mongo:  Who cares?  (he hurls his hammer, knocking the nearest foe
  back into several  of its fellows)
Belphanior:  (cursing)  Hell...can't use fire...dammit...(he grips
  Blackrazor, using the dark sword to haste himself)  Form a solid
  defensive line!  I'll get a spell off in a moment!
Bosco:  (staring at the shapeshifters)  Err, right.

  The party moved into a more efficient position to defend the
room:  Peldor and Bosco went to either side of the door, in order
to hit the foes right as they came through the door.  Mongo took
the center, a second blow from his hammer sending another creature
back into the main pipeway.  Otto stood off to one side, liberally
firing bolts into the shapeshifters.  Darek pondered the situation
for a moment, then joined Bosco.

Darek:  Stand fast, Bosco.  I'll aid you!  (he meets a rushing
  shapeshifter, his axe shearing one arm and shoulder off)  Yeah!
Mongo:  (impressed)  Nice...
Peldor:  (hastes himself right before slashing a foe and opening
  a wide gash in its stomach)  Got him!
shapeshifter:  (stares down at the dry, grass-like stuff that
  pours from the wound)
Bosco:  That would've killed a normal man!  (he stabs another foe
  in the leg)
Peldor:  These aren't normal, and they aren't men!  (he uses his
  TK ring to push the wounded foe back into some others)
Bosco:  (ducks under his foe's grabbing arms)  Whoa!
Otto:  (sends an acid-tipped bolt into the shapeshifter's eye)
shapeshifter:  (gropes at its eye)
Bosco:  Hey, thanks!
Otto:  Don't mention it.
Bosco:  (uses his winged boots to fly up, several feet off the
  ground, in order to deliver more damaging attacks)

  That proved an unwise move, however, for Bosco was still somewhat
inexperienced at fighting in close quarters, and the foe actually
had a better chance to hit the halfling at this height.

Bosco:  (reels from a backhanded blow to his face)  Argh!  (he flies
  back, his nose and mouth bleeding, and hits a wall)  Ungh!
Darek:  (driven back by a pair of shapeshifters, he is overmatched,
  and struggles to avoid being knocked down)  Ungh!
shapeshifters:  (moving in through this new gap in the defensive
  line)
Belphanior:  Oh, no you don't.  (he blasts the grouped foes with a
  cone of cold, freezing them, the water they stand in, and most of
  the walls nearby)  Heh.
Peldor:  (feels the cold)  Brr.
Mongo:  Good move!
Darek:  (having leapt back barely a moment too soon, he eyes the
  assorted foes)

  The spell had stopped all the shapeshifters cold in their tracks.
Some had ceased to move, while others twitched in place, though their
feet were frozen into the icy floor.  Even the larger, stronger ones
were held fast.  Naturally, the adventurers took advantage of this
opportunity...

Peldor:  (splits a trapped foe's head in two)  Quickly, get them!
Otto:  You don't have to tell me...(he severs another shapeshifter's
  arm, then hews its head from its shoulders)
Darek:  (buries his axe in a shapeshifter's chest)  Urgh!  (with a
  mighty pull, he rips the weapon free, spraying the foe's grass-
  like guts everywhere)  What the hell...?
Bosco:  (wiping blood from his face, he flies in, slashing madly at
  any foe within reach)  They _hurt_ me!
Belphanior:  Hurt them back, then.  (he guts a shapeshifter)
Mongo:  (pulverizes a foe with a single hammer blow to the head)

  They concentrated their attacks on the smaller, weaker "normal"
shapeshifters, since the larger ones were still moving, even if
their feet were stuck.  Then, suddenly, a strange thing happened:
the trapped foes, small and large alike, pulled themselves free
from the frozen floor!  Left behind were shreds of brownish-green
material, and the shapeshifters now walked on torn feet.  However,
they did walk, much to the dismay of those who were nearest to
them.

Peldor:  (hit by a fist from one of the larger shapeshifters, he
  reels)  Argh!
Mongo:  (hit in the helm, his head rings)  Ow.  (with a backhanded
  blow of his hammer, he bashes the foe that hit him, staggering
  it)
Darek:  (knocked into a wall by a shapeshifter, he staggers)  Urg!
Otto:  Hell, they're not dead...

  It was true.  Even the ones who had been held fast were now up
and about, advancing.  Either they were unaffected by cold, or
they healed abnormally fast.

Otto:  (hits another shapeshifter in the head with a bolt, stopping
  it only momentarily)  They just keep coming...
Mongo:  Yeah...(he hurls Stormcrest yet again, knocking a larger
  shapeshifter back a few feet)  Fuck, those big ones are strong!

  The adventurers re-formed the same defensive line as before; this
seemed the only way to keep the things from overrunning the small
room.  Something was odd, here, for more shapeshifters continued
to advance.  For every one slashed or smashed or driven back, a new
and fresh one took its place.  Meanwhile, the adventurers were
getting tired.

Belphanior:  Whew.  (he casts a spell of confusion, but nothing
  happens)  Hell, I should've known that wouldn't work...
Otto:  I bet this will...(he kneecaps a shapeshifter with a barbed
  bolt)
shapeshifter:  (limps, but keeps coming)

  And then, just like that, it happened.  Bosco, trying valiantly
to hold his position in the front rank, was knocked down by one of
the larger foes - one that had barely evaded Mongo's last hammer-
throw as it took out another creature.  The big shapeshifter swept
Bosco aside as it lumbered toward Belphanior...

Otto:  (reloads in a flash, and fires)
shapeshifter:  (hit near one eye, it barely slows)  Ssss!
Belphanior:  Whoa!  (he lets his Melf's Acid Arrow fly, at point-
  blank range)
shapeshifter:  (hit in the mouth, it gurgles and rips at its face
  as the acid does its deadly work)
Belphanior:  Acid - that's the answer...Oh shit!  (seeing other
  foes coming through the gap left by Bosco, he dashes over there)

  The elf cut down one shapeshifter, but two others bowled him over,
the trio falling to the half-frozen ground.  Nearby, Peldor was hit
by another of the larger creatures, and borne back.  Instantly, three
more foes swarmed forward.

Mongo:  Fuck!  They're getting through!
Darek:  (chops a shapeshifter's arm off, but is then beaten down
  by one of the bigger ones)  Argh!  (he tries to parry the brutal
  blows, with only partial luck)  Ungh!
Otto:  (fires his crossbow, burying a bolt in one shapeshifter's
  shoulder)  Stop them!
Mongo:  (knocks a foe aside with a mighty sweep of his hammer)  I
  can't hit 'em all!

  It was true - only Mongo had succeeded in keeping the shapeshifters
from overrunning him, and even then, it was only a matter of time.
Peldor, Belphanior, and Darek were down, and Bosco was fighting a
losing battle.

Bosco:  (stabs upward valiantly, trying to get the shapeshifter off
  of him)  Get off of me!
shapeshifter:  (holds the halfling in place)
Bosco:  (wriggles out of the hold, but immediately gets trapped
  again)  Damn!
shapeshifter:  (leans forward, and a number of long, thin green
  tendrils emerge from its face, writhing toward Bosco)
Bosco:  Aaaaaaa!
Mongo:  Fuck!  (he charges toward the pinned halfling, swatting a
  shapeshifter aside as he comes)
Bosco:  (in a desperate fit of strength, he pulls his sword-arm
  free and stabs the creature in the stomach)  Go away!
shapeshifter:  (it "bleeds" grassy material, yet remains in place)
Bosco:  Aaaa-  (he goes silent as several of the greenish tendrils
  wrap themselves around his head)
shapeshifter:  (becomes still)
Mongo:  No!  (eyeing the situation for a moment, he whips out a
  dagger and slices through all the strands)
Bosco:  Glurk.
shapeshifter:  (rears its head back, screaming noiselessly)
Mongo:  (brings Stormcrest down onto the thing's head, splattering
  it in a mess of grassy slime)  Bastard...

  Mongo knelt down to check Bosco, but the halfling was comatose.
Meanwhile, Otto was backed into a corner, as two shapeshifters
closed in.  The dwarf's last bolt went into the neck of the closer
creature, and he tossed the crossbow aside, drawing his sword.

Otto:  Come get some.  (he slashes one foe in the leg, while dodging
  aside)
second shapeshifter:  (hits the dwarf on the back of the neck,
  bringing him to his knees)
Otto:  (seeing stars)  Ngh...

  Nearby, Belphanior tossed a shapeshifter away as if it were a rag
doll.  The elf had been aided by numerous stoneskins, but all of
those were gone now, depleted by the multiple attacks of multiple
foes.  Still, he was not an opponent to be trifled with; Blackrazor
found its way through another shapeshifter's face, and the elf
sprang to his feet, kicking a third foe aside.

Belphanior:  Yaaaah!  (he looks around wildly)
large shapeshifter:  (charges the elf, tackling him to the floor)
Belphanior:  Whoulf!

  Belphanior's problem was a simple yet serious one:  he was used
to taking souls during a battle, and thus strengthening himself.
However, the shapeshifters had no souls, and as a result, the elf's
cuts and bruises weren't healing.  Besides, the room was too small,
and there were too many foes.

Mongo:  (sees Belphanior go down)  Dammit!  (he smashes a large
  shapeshifter in the chest, but then goes down beneath four more)
  Fuck-
shapeshifters:  (clawing and pummeling the armored dwarf)
Mongo:  (screaming in rage and pain, he punches a mailed fist
  through one attacker)
shapeshifter:  (looks down at the hole in its chest)  ...?

  Meanwhile, Peldor had broken free, with the help of his TK ring
and a little luck.  The thief leaped back, trying to get clear so
he could plan a new strategy, but there just wasn't any room.  He
found himself backed against a wall, watching his companions fight
two or three foes apiece, as several shapeshifters closed in on
him.

Peldor:  Oh, hell.  (he faces the foes, sword flashing dangerously)
first shapeshifter:  (reels from a slash to the eyes, clutching
  its ruined face)
second shapeshifter:  (pummels the thief, knocking him to the wet
  floor)
Peldor:  Ungh!  (he lunges out, stabbing the creature in the groin,
  then scrambles away)
Darek:  (falls, bleeding from a number of cuts and bruises)  Ungh.
shapeshifter:  (stalks the half-conscious dwarf)
Otto:  (severs his foe's foot, toppling it, and leaps onto its back,
  stabbing it repeatedly in the head)  Die!
shapeshifter:  (twitches, splashing water about)
Otto:  Hah.  (he leaps back as a second foe rushes in)

  Nearby, Belphanior was struggling, pinned in a deadly bearhug by
the larger shapeshifter that had just attacked him.  He tried to
break the hold, using every bit of his magically-bolstered strength,
but the creature was stronger than he was.  A kick to its groin had
no effect, and the elf couldn't get any leverage to use his sword,
not that it would have cut that deeply anyway.

shapeshifter:  Ssssss...
Belphanior:  Argh!  (he head-butts the thing, without effect)

  Otto provided salvation, jumping onto the foe's back and stabbing
it directly in one eye.  The creature emitted a hissing shriek and
let Belphanior go, whirling about to face this new attacker.  Otto
dashed away, escaping, but was pursued by another shapeshifter.

Belphanior:  (slashes the larger one in the face, wounding it yet
  further)  Take _that_!
larger shapeshifter:  (reels, half-blinded, its face covered in
  black goo)  SSSS!

  Belphanior looked around, noting the losing battle the party was
fighting.  Otto had fallen, though he was slashing wildly at his
opponent.  Mongo was pinned beneath at least six shapeshifters, and
couldn't deal out damage at the rate he was taking it; as Belphanior
watched, the dwarf's hammer was wrenched from his mailed hand!  To
one side, Peldor was free for the moment, though several foes were
closing in on him.  Darek was lying on the floor twitching, as a
shapeshifter leaned over his still form.  As for Bosco, he appeared
to be out for the count.
  Belphanior had always been a gambler, and though he wasn't used
to risking friendly lives other than his own, something had to be
done.  He wiped blood from his eyes, spit out a tooth, and pulled
his fire-wand from his belt.

Belphanior:  (brandishes the wand)
Peldor:  (spots this)  What in the hell are you doing?
Belphanior:  The only thing I can do.  (he speaks a command word)

  The wand crackled and fizzled as a new fireball was born...and
then the entire room exploded!





next:      we see who survives the carnage, and who doesn't
ftp:       ftp.digex.net in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
www:       http://www.access.digex.net/~dpm
           http://www3.hmc.edu/~kshobaki/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     I finally went out and saw some movies.  Here's the
  report:

  _Spy Hard_:  2.5 out of 4 stars.  Same old Leslie Nielsen stuff,
    but it's funny at times.
  _The Rock_:  3 out of 4 stars.  Mindless but entertaining action.
  _Mission:  Impossible_:  2 out of 4 stars.  I never saw the tv
    series, but this movie made little sense, and dragged on far too
    often.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





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