Chapter #73

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                         THE ADVENTURERS



*****
*  The 8 player characters contained in these writings are copyright
*  1992 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to persons or characters
*  either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  Copying and/or
*  distribution of these stories is permissible only under the one
*  condition that no part of them will be used or sold for profit.
*  In that case, I hope you enjoy them.
*****

------------------------------------------------------------------
THE PARTY:

Alindyar      10th level drow elf mage                (N)
  Lyra         6th level female drow elf mage         (N)
Belphanior     7th/8th/8th level high elf w/m/t      (CN)
Ged            9th/8th level grey elf priest/mage    (NG)
  Arnold       6th level human warrior               (NG)
Mongo          8th level dwarf warrior               (CG)
Peldor        11th level human thief                  (N)
  Bosco        6th level soulless halfling thief     (CN)
Rillen         8th level human warrior                (N)
Rob            9th level human priest                (LG)
------------------------------------------------------------------
Date:   5/20/571 C.Y. (Common Year)
Time:   late morning
Place:  the Barrier Peaks
------------------------------------------------------------------



                    LXXIII.  The Giant



  The party has just lost significant manpower (and a fair
share of lunacy too) as Halbarad the ranger and Peyote the
warrior-druid have left to pursue other aims.

Mongo:  Well, so much for _them_.
Ged:  Bah.  Who cares?  Boccob never approved of Peyote's
  spells anyway.
Alindyar:  Is that so?
Ged:  Yup.  Say, I think it's about time for me to cast my
  spell of magical identification.  That way, we'll know what
  our new items are.  Hopefully.  And then I can sleep in the
  saddle as we ride today.
Peldor:  Sounds good to me.
Mongo:  Aw, can't we wait until _after_ breakfast?  I'm really
  hungry right now!  (eating plentiful portions of his iron
  rations)
Ged:  No, we need to do this now.
Rillen:  Yes.
Arnold:  Yeeeeees!  Identifry the idems.
Ged:  (he takes the items in question from his backpack)  It
  sure is a good thing that I collected these from you all
  last night and spent all night purifying them of outside
  influences.
Mongo:  Yeah, I was wondering why you wanted them all.
Peldor:  It's also a good thing that we trust you.
Alindyar:  (glances at the thief)  Unlike _some_ people.
Ged:  So!  (gazes over the items as he casts his spell)  O
  Boccob, O great and mighty Boccob, bless us with your nigh-
  infinite wisdom and understanding.  (picks up Alindyar's
  new staff)  Hmm.  This is a weapon, a fighting weapon,
  of great power.
Alindyar:  Wonderful.  (he was hoping for a spell-casting
  type of staff)  For all of those myriad times when I find
  myself in melee.
Lyra:  (pokes the drow)  It's not that bad.  Maybe someone
  will charge in your direction soon.  Then - POW! - you
  can smite them.  Just like that!
Alindyar:  No doubt _that_ will be an interesting day.  You
  know how I despise physical combat.
Ged:  (ignoring the two drow, holds Lyra's scroll)  Ah!  A
  great item!  Protection...from...devils.  Devils!
Lyra:  (takes the scroll from Ged)  Such an item will no
  doubt be of much use, considering that we are heading for
  an ancient devil cult's fortress.
Ged:  (fondling Belphanior's square of folded cloth)
Belphanior:  Hey, watch it, there.
Ged:  This item is strange.
Belphanior:  I know that.  Why do you think I picked it?
Ged:  I cannot determine its function.  (hands it back to
  the tall elf)  Sorry.
Belphanior:  Don't lose any sleep over it.  (he already
  had figured out what it is - a portable gateway to other
  planes)  I'll have some sage analyze it or something.
Ged:  (examining his own item, a glowing book)  Ha!  HA!
  A Libram of Silver Magic!  THE book for good magi, like
  myself!  Ha ha ha!
Mongo:  Quit gloating.
Ged:  My mightiness is assured!  The knowledge contained
  within this tome will propel me to new heights of power!
Peldor:  Hey, how about doing the rest of our items?
Ged:  Eh?  Oh, yea.  (picks up Arnold's new knife from his
  pile)  Knife.  This is but a magical weapon.  Here, my
  loyal henchman.  Use it well.
Arnold:  (takes the knife reverently)  Ah...ah...ah-CHOO!
  (sneezes several times)  I tink I'm gedding a cold.
  (wipes some snot on his breeches)
Rillen:  (looks on disdainfully)
Ged:  Hmph.  What is this, now?  (holding Mongo's belt)
Mongo:  I don't know.  _You_ tell _me_, you're the mage.
Ged:  This is...an item of the giants.
Mongo:  GIANTS?!?!  Shit!  I can't accept it!  Those big
  shit-for-brains giants are the enemies of all dwarves!
Ged:  Hold on.  It may confer upon you some of their powers
  or abilities.  That might be useful.
Mongo:  Power?  Gimme that.  (snatches the belt from the
  grey elf and puts it on)  Hey, I'm not growing bigger or
  anything.
Alindyar:  Perhaps the powers take hours to manifest.
Lyra:  Or days.
Ged:  Yea.  Hold your horses.
Mongo:  Whatever.  When am I going to get a _really_ good
  item?  Dammit.  (wanders to his unfinished breakfast and
  resumes eating, the belt left around his waist, forgotten
  for now)
Ged:  Now, let's see.  Peldor's pocket.  (holds up the
  small, unattached pocketlike piece of cloth that Peldor
  got)  I have no idea what this is.  Have it sewn into
  some garment, maybe then it will manifest its powers.
Peldor:  Thanks for the advice.  (takes the pocket and
  puts it in his pocket)  Hmm.
Rillen:  What about my boots?
Ged:  Ah, yes, the boots.  (picks up the boots)  They
  need a shine.  And they smell somewhat.  But...hmmmm.
  They are a mighty item!  Or, items.  These boots will
  allow you to move faster.  Faster than before.
Rillen:  Really?  (puts the boots on and runs around,
  quite rapidly)  Wheeeee!  I am fast!
Peldor:  Look at him running around.  What agility!
Mongo:  Hmm.  He looks about as fast as a horse, too.
Alindyar:  Such speed should come in handy during battle.
Peldor:  I must have some boots like those!
Rillen:  (slows down and returns to the party)  Whew.
  What a good thing these are!  I think this day got off
  on the right foot.
Ged:  Yep.  Well, we're down to the last item.  Rob, you
  chose this bag?
Rob:  Actually, I had to choose last.
Belphanior:  Funny how that always happens, isn't it?
Ged:  Enough.  This bag contains beans, Rob.  Magical
  beans.  You can plant them and see what grows.
Rob:  Okay.
Alindyar:  Do not _eat_ them, priest.
Rob:  I'll try not to.
Mongo:  So, we're ready to ride, right?
Ged:  Right.  Where's the map?
Rob:  Map?
Peldor:  Here.  (they all look at the map)
Ged:  We must leave these mountains, and pass through
  the hills, here.
Alindyar:  Then, we skirt the Bramblewood Forest.
Peldor:  ...and enter Ket.
Rob:  But only for a brief time, for we will soon enter
  the Yatils.
Mongo:  Ah, more mountains!

  They packed and rode down the mountain trail.  Their
horses did not care for the descent much, but within a
day, the group was down the mountain.  By the end of
the next day, they had exited the Barrier Peaks.  The
only thing that resembled an encounter was the pack of
strange hairy men who attacked the party.  After about
a minute, Belphanior had slain two, Rillen one, Mongo
two, Arnold two, and Ged's sleep spell had taken out
four more.  The remaining creatures fled and were not
chased, and Belphanior quickly slew the two sleeping
foes, rather gleefully.
  Once out of the mountains, the party soon entered the
foothills to the north of the peaks.  This area seemed
peaceful, since the halflings and people the adventurers
met with were friendly.  The group followed its planned
course, and almost two weeks after they departed the
dragon's lair, they stood ready to enter the Yatils.

Mongo:  (looking ahead and up, at the vast range of
  peaks in the distance)  Would you look at _that_?
  Aren't they beautiful?
Ged:  Fascinating.
Mongo:  Gods, how I love the mountains!

  The peaks were entered, and Mongo used the map along
with his great mountaineering skills to guide the group
to the supposed location of the fortress.  After two
days, they had reached what Mongo claimed was the right
mountain.

Ged:  So what do we do now?
Mongo:  Simple.  We climb.  (points up a rough trail)
  Somewhere up _there_ is the place.  We have to make
  the climb and find it.  Are you guys up to this?
Rob:  (looks down at his paunch)  I hope so.
Alindyar:  And I as well.  This is a high mountain...
Belphanior:  Let's go.  (they begin hiking up the
  steep mountain trail)

  For two days, the party ascended.  There were a few
wild animals, but not much else, and no monsters showed
up to bother them - a fact that Mongo was worried about
to no end.  After they had climbed for two days, the
adventurers arrived at a deep chasm.  They were high up
on the mountain, and the trail seemed to end, though the
peak was obviously much higher than their current site.
The chasm was a part of the mountain itself, and a huge
bridge of natural stone seemed the only obvious way to
cross it.  Another rising slope was visible across this
bridge.

Rillen:  That chasm.  (points)  We must cross it.
Mongo:  Yup.
Ged:  What's this?  (regards a six-foot high sign)
Mongo:  "Toll Bridge".  Huh?
Rillen:  Hm.
Rob:  (peering into the chasm)  Wow.  That's a mighty
  deep crack.  Looks like a thousand feet.  Or more.
Belphanior:  (standing behind Rob)  ....nah.
Alindyar:  The bridge of stone spans several hundred
  feet, 'twould appear.
Peldor:  Yep.  Fortunately for you non-dextrous types
  it's nearly twenty feet wide.  So the lack of rails
  or handholds won't be fatal.  Hopefully.
Ged:  Well, I don't see anyone here to collect toll.
Mongo:  Bah.  Let's cross.  (they begin to)

  About the time that the adventurers were halfway
across the bridge, a gigantic figure appeared at the
opposite end of the bridge and began walking out, in
the party's direction.

giant:  HELLO, FRIENDS!
Rillen:  I am not your friend.  What do you want?
giant:  (about 25' tall, by the way)  WHY, TOLL, OF
  COURSE.  TOLL FOR CROSSING MY BRIDGE.
Mongo:  Toll?!?!  Are you out of your friggin' mind?
Ged:  Shh, don't irritate him.
giant:  YOU MUST PAY.  ELSE YOU MAY NOT CROSS.  (he
  stops about fifty feet from the party, which is
  about halfway across the bridge), and sets down a
  large, heavy-looking sack - and the bridge shakes
  slightly)
Rob:  Hey, watch it!  You might collapse this thing.
giant:  (laughs)
Ged:  I think we should pay him.
Alindyar:  (addresses the giant)  What is the toll?
giant:  TWO THOUSAND IN GOLD.
Mongo:  What?!?!
giant:  FOR EACH OF YOU.
Ged:  Boccob's eyes, what a ripoff!
Alindyar:  I think he means to knock us off of this
  bridge, otherwise...
giant:  WELL, WHAT WILL IT BE?
Mongo:  I'm not paying a _giant_ two thousand coins
  of gold to cross a fuckin' bridge!
Rillen:  Me neither.
Arnold:  (to Ged)  Whad shoud I do, mazter?  You want
  I shoud addack dat big bully?
Ged:  Hold on a second, guy.
Belphanior:  We're not paying that shithead.  No way
  in all the hells.  (draws his sword)  Time to feed.
Alindyar:  What?  I say we pay him and be on our happy
  way.
Ged:  I agree.  But just in case...  (mutters some
  magical phrase, and is now under the influence of a
  Feather Fall enchantment)
Rob:  What should we do?
Ged:  Pay the toll, Mongo.  We have the cash.
Mongo:  No way!
Rillen:  To hell with the toll.
Belphanior:  Damn straight!
giant:  WHY ARE YOU NOT LAYING MY TOLL OUT BEFORE YOU?
  (reaches into his sack)
Belphanior:  Now!  Now!  (charges the giant, suddenly
  hasted - one power of his sword)  Attack!
Alindyar:  No!
Ged:  Too late.  The insane one has ruined it all!
giant:  (hefts a two-foot wide boulder one-handed, and
  tosses it at Belphanior)  HOW DARE YOU REFUSE MY
  GENEROUS TOLL OFFER?  TAKE THAT!
Belphanior:  (hit square in the stomach by the rock,
  and suffers a few cracked ribs as all five of his
  stoneskins are cancelled)  Argh!  (almost falls off
  of the stone bridge, but manages to regain his
  balance just in time)  Whoa.
Rob:  Whew, he barely stayed on the bridge.
Rillen:  (charges speedily)  Time to carry the fight
  to the giant.
Peldor:  (becomes invisible)
Mongo:  Yeah!  (hurls his hammer at the massive giant)
  (his hammer does triple damage vs. giants...)
giant:  WHAT?  (takes the enchanted mallet in his gut
  and is knocked over)  AAARGH!
Mongo:  (surprised at his own strength)  Wow.  I didn't
  think I threw it _that_ hard!
giant:  (gets up, hurls more boulders, missing Mongo
  somehow but nailing the fleet-footed yet unlucky
  Rillen and wounding him)  BAH.
Arnold:  Shall I chaage, lord?
Ged:  No!  Stand there and be careful to avoid flying
  boulders that the other fighters don't catch.  We
  shall not fight.
Alindyar:  (to Lyra)  I refuse to participate in this
  foolish battle as well.  The warrior-types started
  it, and they can finish it.
Lyra:  Sounds sensible to me...
Ged:  Yea.  (they back off)
Rob:  What should I do?  (wanders around on the bridge
  trying to decide what would be best)
Bosco:  (stands and watches mindlessly)

Mongo:  (catches his hammer, looks back)  Hey, we're
  not getting any air support from the mages!
Rillen:  I wonder why that is?  (reaches the giant
  and bats his boulder-laden arm)  Put that rock down
  and get off of this bridge.
giant:  YOU WANT ME TO PUT IT DOWN?  OKAY, I'LL PUT
  IT DOWN!  (slam-dunks the boulder onto Rillen's
  back, knocking him down and out)
Mongo:  Hey!
giant:  I HAVE NO QUARREL WITH YOU PEOPLE.  PAY ME
  AND THIS POINTLESS BATTLE CAN CEASE.
Mongo:  What?!?
Belphanior:  Argh.  (feels his battered chest)  Press
  the attack, Mongo!
Mongo:  Hmph.  (to giant)  We'll pay you _one_ thousand
  coins of gold, apiece.  That's our final offer!
giant:  HMM.  VERY WELL, I ACCEPT.
Mongo:  You do?
Ged:  At last!  A voice of reason prevails!
Belphanior:  Noooo!  (charges the giant)  Die!
Alindyar:  Oh, no.
giant:  (whips out a huge two-handed sword, over twenty
  feet in length, and intercepts the elf with it)  HAH!
Belphanior:  (nearly cut in half, falls)  Argh...(goes
  into a coma as blood splatters everywhere)
Mongo:  (yelling loudly)  Stop this battle!  (runs over
  and tries to stem Belphanior's blood flow)  You really
  shouldn't have done that, giant.  I may have to whack
  you again...
giant:  (holds up his sword menacingly)  GO AHEAD.  MAKE
  MY DAY.
Ged:  (runs forth)  Let there be peace.  For crying out
  loud.  (tends to Rillen)  This one will live.
Lyra:  What of the mad elf?
Mongo:  (cradling Belphanior)  Geez, he's really fucked
  up bad.
Peldor:  (materializes behind the giant)  Well, I guess
  I'm not supposed to backstab you now.
giant:  (sits down)  THAT IS A RELIEF, I SUPPOSE.  THEN
  I WOULD NOT HAVE TO SMASH YOU IN RETURN.
Peldor:  Oh.

  Soon, the party had given the giant the agreed toll,
which wasn't really such a big deal, since they were
practically overflowing with coinage from the dragon's
hoard.  Some of them chatted with the giant, while
others tended to Belphanior.

giant:  WHY DID YOU ATTACK ME?
Mongo:  Two thousand per head is far too much for a toll.
giant:  WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?  TIMES ARE TOUGH.  EVEN A
  GIANT MUST MAKE A LIVING.
Mongo:  Yeah, well...
Peldor:  Holy shit!  (leaps up and dashes to one side,
  and grabs Bosco right before he can stride off of the
  stone bridge)  Whoa there, little guy!  (drags the
  halfling's shell back toward the group)  Whew.
giant:  WHAT AILS THE LITTLE ONE?
Rob:  He's suffering from a serious spiritual problem.
Ged:  Yea.  None.
Mongo:  Ha!
Peldor:  Oh, shut up.  (sits his soulless henchman down)
  Now stay put.
giant:  OH.
Peldor:  Guys...we _really_ need to find Bosco's soul.
Ged:  We'll put it on the list.
Alindyar:  List?
Rillen:  (wakes up)  What is going on here?
Mongo:  The battle was a...mistake.  Our new friend here
  will help us get to the fortress safely.
Rillen:  Oh.  (rubs his bruised shoulders)
giant:  IT IS A GOOD THING THAT I TOOK IT EASY ON YOU,
  WARRIOR.
Rillen:  Hmm.
Ged:  Say, how's old Belphanior doing?
Rob:  (about done bandaging the elf)  He'll be okay.
  Thanks to your healing magic, and mine.  But he
  should be out for another eight hours or so.
Ged:  Okay.
Rob:  You know, he's healing already.  Unnatural...
Ged:  Yeah...(gets up and goes to the unconscious elf)
  Holy Boccob, you're right!  His wound has already
  sealed at the edges!  Incredible.
Rob:  Yes.  I think he's probably got some item or
  spell in effect to help him.
Ged:  (examines the elf's sword)  Hmm.  (he pulls it
  a few inches out of its sheath)  Yie!  (the weapon's
  blade is jet-black, with small twinkling motes of
  light within, like the night sky would be, were it
  night right now)
Rob:  Neat.
Ged:  Eerie.  (puts the sword back)  Well, he'll get
  better.
giant:  I SUPPOSE THAT YOU HAVE COME TO VISIT THAT
  OLD FORTRESS PLACE NEARBY.
Peldor:  Yep.  Tell us all about it, would you?
Lyra:  Don't pester him.
Mongo:  (talking to the giant)  You don't seem like
  the sort of giant who goes around killing people.
  What's your story?
giant:  WELL, I AM A CLOUD GIANT.  SOME OF MY KIND
  ARE OF EVIL BEND, AND SOME ARE NOT.  LIKE ME.
Ged:  That's good to know.
Mongo:  (hands the giant his belt, and immediately
  feels weaker)  What can you tell me about this
  thing, pal?
cloud giant:  (takes the belt, which looks tiny in
  his huge hand)  HMM.  THIS ITEM HAS A GIANTISH
  AURA ABOUT IT.
Mongo:  Yeah, I know that.  What do you think it
  _does_, though?
cloud giant:  IT IS PROBABLY AN BELT OF STRENGTH.
Mongo:  You mean, I wear it, and I get giant-size
  strength?
cloud giant:  YES.  THAT IS HOW THEY USUALLY WORK,
  ANYWAY.
Mongo:  All right!  Say, I have something that you
  might be able to use.  (opens his portable hole
  and digs out his oversized shovel)  Here.  Can
  you use this?  It's much too big for us to hold,
  but it seems better suited for you.
cloud giant:  (his eyes light up)  A MATTOCK OF THE
  TITANS!
Mongo:  I take that as a "yes"?
cloud giant:  YES.  YES!  THANK YOU, LITTLE FRIEND!
  I AM IN YOUR DEBT.
Mongo:  Nah.
Peldor:  So, tell us about this fortress...

  After a night of briefing and rest, they all got
up the next morning and headed for the fortress,
under the giant's expert guidance.  He told them
that it had been sealed long ago, and that people
came from time to time trying to get in, but none
of them were ever successful.  He also informed
them of the nest of evil bird-like guardians who
lived near the entrance to the place.  Soon, they
had reached a sloping area, which was basically
the beginning of the upper peak of this mountain.
Part of a large door was visible above some rubble.
A wide ledge above held some kind of nest-like
thing, and a large, rounded avian head glared at
the party and the giant from this perch.

bird-thing:  Squarwk!  Hiss!  Hiss!
Ged:  Boccob!  That is one spooky-looking bird.
  (casts Detect Evil)  Ah!  It is evil!
cloud giant:  OF COURSE.
Belphanior:  (riding along painfully and angrily)
  Hmph.

  Suddenly, several of the bird-things appeared.
They had long, wickedly clawed legs and devilish
red eyes, not unlike Belphanior's.  They screamed
and cursed at the party, and seemed about to leap
down and attack.

cloud giant:  ALLOW ME TO HELP.  (reaches into his
  sack and begins hurling boulders at the things)

  The bird-creatures quickly fled, after several
were badly wounded by the giant's volley.  The
party reached the rockslide, which contained many
huge rocks and seemed all but impenetrable.

Mongo:  (grabs a large boulder and rolls it out
  of the way easily, grunting)  Urgh.  That's heavy.
Rillen:  Come, we must move this rockslide.
Peldor:  What?!  The mighty Peldor doesn't _dig_!
Ged:  I could cast a Dig spell...
Alindyar:  'Twould still take some time to clear
  this mess.
Rob:  (tries to pick up a small rock, but can't)
cloud giant:  ENOUGH.  (pushes Mongo and the others
  aside)  ALLOW ME.  (hefts the titan mattock and
  begins scooping huge piles of rock and dirt out)
Mongo:  Holy shit!  Look at him go!
Ged:  I'm glad we're fortunate enough to have his
  help.
Mongo:  I'm glad I gave him that shovel.
Rob:  I'm glad I don't have to dig.
Belphanior:  Bah.  (stalks away slowly)

  It wasn't long before the rockslide was out of
the way.  The cloud giant took the heavy key from
Mongo (the dwarf found that he now had no trouble
hefting the thing, but the large keyhole was too
high for him to reach...) and inserted it into the
hole.  Grunting loudly, the huge giant turned the
key, and there was a loud grinding sound as the two
twenty-foot-high, eight-foot-wide doors opened for
the first time in many years.  A huge hall could be
seen beyond, its dark and dusty emptiness beckoning
to the adventurers...

Mongo:  All right!  We're in!
Ged:  Shall you be joining us, friend?
cloud giant:  NO.  I WOULD NOT FIT IN THERE, ANYWAY.
  I SHALL RETREAT TO MY BRIDGE AND REST.
Rob:  What about the horses?
Mongo:  Uhh...say, would you be willing to watch our
  animals?
cloud giant:  HMM.  I SUPPOSE SO.  I JUST HOPE THAT
  I DO NOT GROW HUNGRY...
Rillen:  What?!
cloud giant:  JUST KIDDING.  HA HA!  (gathers the
  horses' reins)  I SHALL SEE YOU LATER.  HOPEFULLY.
Ged:  Farewell.  (he watches the massive giant walk
  away)
Belphanior:  (imitating the grey elf and making faces
  too)  Farewell!
Ged:  Oh, you're just mad because you fought him and
  lost.
Belphanior:  He and I are not done, yet...
Mongo:  Enough bickering.  Let's check this place
  out!

  They used spells to make light, and entered the
dungeon, taking the key and pulling the doors closed
behind them, where a large crank was utilized by
Mongo to lock the portals.  The adventurers then
turned to the vast chamber ahead of them.





next time:  spooks

FTP SITE: ccosun.caltech.edu (in pub/adnd/fluff/adventurers)

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NOTES:  The party was _not_ supposed to fight that giant.
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