Chapter #763

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                                     +
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                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic IV      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +
                                     +



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  However,   +
+   TSR has in no way endorsed or authorized their use, and any such      +
+   items contained within these stories are not representative of TSR    +
+   in any fashion.                                                       +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2001 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+                                                                         +
+                                                      Thomas A. Miller   +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess                      +
+   Deryck          11th level half-elven ranger                          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger                               +
+     Zephyr        large tiger                                           +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven fighter                            +
+   Nenya            9th/10th level female elven fighter/wizard           +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid              +
+   Rob             16th level human priest                               +
+                                                                         +
+   Boltar                     human priest of Pholtus                    +
+   Derider Fanshaen           female human priestess of Pelor            +
+   Sir Drexel                 human paladin of Heironeous                +
+     Limbor                   elven wizard/priest                        +
+   Eyer                       wood elven fighter/acrobat                 +
+     Baltek                   elven archer                               +
+   Jerome Kasinskaia          human priest of Rao                        +
+     Reptar                   lizardman fighter                          +
+   Pallin                     grey elven wizard                          +
+     Socrates                 large albino hound                         +
+   St. Wilhelm                human fighter/priest of St. Cuthbert       +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+                                                                         +
+   various and sundry guest-stars                                        +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:           4/27/579 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the northernmost tip of the Troll Fens                +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood."                            +
+                                           - General George S. Patton    +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                    DCCLXIII.  Battlefield:  Oerth





  After a brief staging period in a remote location, the champions are
on their way to the Fortress, there to make a covert incursion while
four distinct armies attack in more conventional ways...

Lyra:  (wondering to herself exactly what sort of magic Celestian has
  made his followers privy to)

  The elf Pallin's teleportation was unlike any other they had seen.
All around them was a black void, filled with tiny pinpricks of light,
and they had the sense of moving rapidly through this space.  There
was no instantaneous blink of vanishing and reappearing, no stomach-
churning disorientation...just a sense of flowing along from one place
to another.
  And then, just like that, they were standing in a marsh-like plain,
quite a distance from the base of a certain grim mountain peak.

Peyote:  Whoa!

  They beheld the fortress in all its glory, carved from the side of
the mountain, twin towers at either side of its huge central gate.
They beheld the long, winding road leading down from this entrance
to the plains below, and to Harshaak.  They beheld that sprawling,
dirty city in all its wretched glory.
  And of course, they beheld the pitched battle that was taking place
already.

  Some of those present had been involved in mass battles, but none
could compare to this one.  Combatants were everywhere - around the
city, in the city, on the path to the fortress' gates.  Men, dwarves,
gnomes, and halflings fought toe-to-toe against the defenders of the
evil lair:  men and humanoids, mostly, with a smattering of others
thrown in.  Most were infantry, or those who defended or attempted to
climb the city walls, but a goodly number of cavalry could be seen,
fighting from horseback.  Swords, axes, shields, maces, hammers, and
much more all met in a flurry of steel and blood.  Arrows, spears,
and bolts filled the air, along with frequent discharges from siege
engines such as catapults and ballistae.  Spells of all sorts were
being plied, from the simple (fireballs and lightning bolts) to the
enabling (airborne wizards) to the unseen (magics to strengthen or
hamper those who fought.)
  Recognizable, even at this distance, were the distinct forces who
fought on the same side as the heroes:  the proud insignia of great
Furyondy, the rough-and-ready warriors of Ratik, the demi-humans of
the Flinty Hills, and the mercenaries of Greyspire.  Many were the
individual battles being fought here today...





Lord Marcus:  (standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his troops, he
  plies his sword with skill and fury)  Take heart, men!
gnoll:  (falls back, headless)
ogre:  (steps into the defensive gap left by the decapitated gnoll)
  Me smash you now-
Lord Marcus:  (swats the ogre's battleaxe aside and buries his
  sword-tip in the foe's throat, all in one sudden, fluid motion)
ogre:  Hgk!
Lord Marcus:  (withdraws the blade, kicking the dying foe so that
  it backpedals and falls, taking several orcs down in the process)

  This was why Marcus was such a well-respected general:  he led
his men from the front, fighting unbelievably well all the while,
yet never seemed to get separated or overwhelmed - the primary
reason why most generals led from the back.
  Of course, it helped that the man had a number of excellent
warriors fighting at his side.

Dhakab:  (a lean, yellow-skinned warrior from the far West, he uses
  his scimitar to parry a bugbear's sword, then snaps his other hand
  forward, slashing the foe's arm)
bugbear:  Eyagh-
Dhakab:  (flips the scimitar around and swiftly, mercilessly guts
  the foe)
bugbear:  Aaargh...(it falls, entrails spurting from the gory wound)
Dhakab:  (immediately turns his attention to a gnoll that comes
  charging in)
gnoll:  Eyaaagh!  (it sails back, its head split)
Rasta:  (a stony-skinned, winged gargoyle, he flies down and rips
  an unfortunate orc in half)
orc:  Ack!
Rasta:  (grabs a human warrior with its taloned hands, carrying the
  writhing form twenty feet into the air before dropping it on an
  enemy archer)

  Greyspire's other forces fought hard and well.  The cavalry, led by
the cavalier Ortho, made efficient, timely sorties and delivered much
death thanks to its mounted lance-bearers.  The dwarven contingent,
led by the stout Noggin, could be found at the base of Harshaak's
outer wall, the warriors providing cover while miners worked to
penetrate the stone.

Noggin:  (wallops an orc, caving in its face with a single blow of
  his battleaxe)  Hah!
Gorin:  (plies his own axe, cutting down a second orc before whirling
  to protect Noggin's flank against a charging ogre)
ogre:  (swings high, missing the dwarf)  Dammit!  Hold still!
Gorin:  (rolls under the foe, taking out its knee with the spike of
  his axe)  Take that!
ogre:  AAARGH!  (it falls, clutching its ruined knee)
Noggin:  (swings, burying his axe in the ogre's head)  Well done,
  young Gorin!
Gorin:  (raises his own axe)  The day will be ours!
Skor Bigbeard:  (points to the defenders on the wall above)  They're
  bringing out the boiling oil!
Noggin:  Quick, everyone!  Raise the dragonshield!

  A large piece of thick, dark red hide was lifted over the heads of
those working directly on the wall.  When the bubbling oil rained down,
it hit this barrier and rolled off, failing to harm those beneath.

Noggin:  Crossbows!

  A half-dozen dwarven crossbowmen, waiting patiently until this order
came, raised their weapons and let a rain of death fly upward.  Four
of the oil-pourers were killed or injured, and the drilling and sapping
work resumed at a redoubled pace.

  Nearby but behind, shielded by unseen barriers that kept him safer
than anyone else on the scene, the wizened wizard Wu worked some mighty
magic...

Wu:  (smiles thinly as streams of fire jet forth from his fingers)

  The flames rose high into the air, even as they fanned out, forming
perhaps fifty individual fireballs...and then each one shot downward
and struck a single foe.  Although each missile was only a half-foot
in diameter, they were quite hot, and exploded on impact.  Well over
fifty foes were taken out by these deadly fingers of fire, and in the
meantime, Wu had worked another spell that caused the earth to open
up in a horrendous crack, swallowing a hundred of the evil defenders.

  The other forces gave equally notable accountings of themselves.
The Furyondian force was by far the largest, containing infantry,
archers, and cavalry, the latter two supplemented by elite Velnuan
companies.  Ratik's fighting men were used to fighting in mountainous
terrain and were no strangers to battle with humanoids.  The demi-
humans from the Flinty Hills were a smaller (numerically as well as
physically) force, but still one to be reckoned with.  It seemed that
many of the defenders of Harshaak, at least the human ones, had little
or no experience fighting smaller opponents - a fact which was used
to the attackers' advantage time and time again.  As well, certain
more prominent personages had come along to assist...

Kup Swiftfoot:  (perpetually invisible and inaudible, he darts about
  with amazing speed, backstabbing foes at every turn and personally
  saving the lives of numerous allies)
Yod Ironbeard:  (preferring the more direct approach, he simply hurls
  his ancient axe, mowing down three ogres who stood in the way)  For
  Clangeddin!
various dwarven warriors:  (cheering and yelling loudly behind their
  monarch)

  The dwarven king, upon learning of this campaign, had demanded to
be involved.  Taking a hand-picked company of five hundred dwarves,
he had managed to join forces with the Furyondian contingent, and
had accompanied them here.  Now, the dwarven king's contribution to
the battle could not be denied.  He rode a gigantic lizard into
battle, its great size and snapping jaws enough to scatter all who
stood before it.  Yod sat in the saddle, hurling his axe over and
over, spearheading a path through the evil defenders, followed by
the elite dwarves of the Lortmil Mountains.

Yod:  (spies defenders atop the city wall, preparing to dump another
  vat of boiling oil on those below)  Beware!  (he hurls his axe,
  smashing away the entire top section of wall, scattering those who
  stood there, and knocking the oil backwards into the midst of the
  defenders on the other side of the wall)  Hah!
Lord Marcus:  (salutes his old friend with a raised sword)
Dexitheseus:  (sitting atop an invisible, airborne disc-chair, he
  launches a gigantic red fist at the city below, taking out three
  closely-spaced catapults)  Heh.  (pleased, he brings the fist up
  and back around, then uses it to open a great breach in the city
  wall itself)
various attackers:  (yelling in triumph, they swarm into this new
  gap in the city's defenses)

  This battle had it all:  multiple fighting forces...more than a
dozen races of combatants...melee and missiles and magic...infantry
and cavalry and airborne wizards...siege engines and miners..  It
was truly a sight to behold.





Mongo:  Wow.

  However, this was neither the time nor the place for the newly-
arrived champions to join the conflict.  Their destination lay deeper
within the evil place ahead...

Pallin:  (eyeing the fortress, he concentrates)  Stone...and more
  stone...ah.
Sir Drexel:  What is it?
Pallin:  I sense a large central area, perhaps a hall.  We shall make
  our entry there-
Mongo:  It's not filled with enemy warriors, is it?
Sir Drexel:  Cowardice?  From you?
Mongo:  (hefting Stormcrest)  Actually, I'm kinda hoping it _is_
  filled with enemy warriors.
Sir Drexel:  Oh.
Pallin:  There may be a few people about, but not many.  We shall be
  fine.
Halbarad:  The trick here is to hit the ground running...move fast,
  demolish any who stand against us.  Time is critical, if we're to
  find the evil ones in their lair and keep the element of surprise.
Deryck:  (nods)
Peyote:  Bring it on!
Pallin:  Prepare yourselves.





next:      entry!
ftp:       ftp.peldor.com
www:       http://www.peldor.com/download.html
homepage:  http://www.peldor.com/
email:     tmiller@peldor.com
released:  11/5/01
notes:     I wrote this one the way I did so that you could get a sense
  of the greater battle.  Although it's also important (and may get its
  own episode soon) the fight _within_ the fortress, where these champions
  go up against the Nine and their more powerful minions, is the primary
  one, and will determine who wins and who loses this day.
    In other, real-life news, last night the Diamondbacks finally broke
  the Yankee curse, the one that no one else has been able to break since
  1997.  It was a good series, a good game 7, and a good 9th inning with
  a scrappy comeback.  I've always maintained that I don't really care
  who wins, as long as it's not the same team every damn time.  The
  Yankees (and their fans) have gotten too used to winning, and I for
  one was sick and tired or it.
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