previous chapter (#970)
next chapter (#972)
+ THE ADVENTURERS +
+ Epic V +
+ Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other +
+ terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast +
+ which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use. Any such +
+ property contained within these stories are not representative of +
+ Wizards of the Coast in any fashion. +
+ The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright +
+ 1991-2007 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! +
+ Jenna 9th level human female priestess of Istus +
+ Mongo 19th level dwarven warrior +
+ Neera 11th level human female sage/astrologer +
+ Parekh 18th level human female wizard +
+ wispy thing strange, intangible sentient being +
+ Date: 1/3/581 C.Y. (Common Year) +
+ Time: late morning +
+ Place: Parekh's home (exact location unknown) +
+ Climate: warm and pleasant +
+ "I think we ought to just kill them all." +
+ - from _Wyatt Earp_ +
After a harrowing adventure in which the party journeyed to the Vale
of Death, bartered with the death knight Gorath, explored an ancient
dungeon, found and destroyed the evil artifact known as the Heart of
Darkness, and finally battled and defeated Gorath...after all that, the
tranquility of the trip home has been interrupted by a most unfortunate
stroke of bad luck.
Parekh: They're _gone_ from this world?!?
Jenna: That's what Istus' magic tells me: some power just took them...
took them away.
Parekh: That's preposterous.
Neera: Not really. Think about it: Belphanior is powerful, but he's
never cast a Wish spell, not all on his own from a spellbook. Magic
of that level can do some strange and powerful things - and one such
possibility is certainly a sudden transportation to another plane of
Parekh: (nods) If so, that begs the question...why hasn't he returned
Neera: That's definitely the pressing issue on my mind.
Jenna: I have spent a lot of time since this happened, trying to read
the strings of Fate that are spun from Istus' all-powerful loom. The
fact that I have learned _nothing_ is quite troubling.
Mongo: So is the fact that we haven't done anything! How long can we
just sit around here trying to figure out what to do?
Parekh: You know, you're right. (she peers closely at the dwarf) Just
tell us exactly what we need to do to find and rescue Belphanior, and
we'll get started right away.
Mongo: Hmph! (he storms away)
Neera: Well done.
Parekh: He's understandably frustrated, but not much use to us as far
as helping find Belphanior.
Jenna: I'll tell you, though, he's pretty handy to have around in a
Parekh: No doubt. That dwarf bears at least four of the most powerful
artifacts or relics that I've ever encountered. We should be grateful
that he's on our side.
Neera: (staring in the direction where Mongo exited) You know, he's
headed for your flower gardens.
Parekh: (shrugs) He can do no harm there. I'm sure he'll calm down
once he has no one to be angry at.
Jenna: I wouldn't call that "angry"...relatively speaking.
Neera: Enough of this - back to the task at hand. How _do_ we locate
Belphanior and the others?
Parekh: We enlist the help of Pallin. He is a master of the ways and
means of the deity Celestian, and therefore has great knowledge of the
various planes and worlds. If anyone can find Belphanior, it is he.
(she frowns) Unfortunately, Pallin is...elsewhere for the time being,
so we'll have to wait. I've taken the liberty of having guest quarters
prepared for all three of you; please enjoy the tranquility here while
I attend to some business.
Jenna: I'll go find Mongo and try to talk him down.
Neera: He just needs something to smash.
Parekh: Does he? Hmm, that gives me an idea.
Parekh: -and so these goblins are swarming down out of the wild hills
and laying waste to the nearby villages...which have no real central
government that cares about them or protects them.
Mongo: When you say "goblins" and "swarm" in the same sentence, you've
said enough. Just get me there and I'll get to work.
Jenna: And me too-
Mongo: No. This will be battle, pure and simple.
Jenna: But you might need my healing powers.
Mongo: (smirks) Thanks, but no, I won't.
Parekh: I can send you there later today, or tomorrow, or whenever
Mongo: (stifles a belch) Well, I just ate four whole chickens and
some toast, in your dining room - thanks for that, by the way - so
I'm pretty much ready to go right now.
They made their way to a sort of staging room, a large hall in which
Parekh stored various golems and other large constructions. She led the
dwarven warrior across this hall, to a small, simple-looking door built
into one wall.
Parekh: Are you sure you're ready?
Mongo: Time's a-wasting. Let's do it.
Parekh: Very well. (she works a spell on the doorway, and it abruptly
vanishes, to be replaced with a shimmering scene of a pleasant grassy
Mongo: That's it? I walk through, and I'm there?
Mongo: I'll see you soon. (he cracks his knuckles, then walks through
the portal without a backward glance)
Parekh: (waves her hand, causing the magical portal to once again be a
nondescript door) That was easy.
Neera: (looking around) Where's Jenna?
Parekh: I suggested that she go rest, and pray. I gave just a hint of
the idea that I might send her after Mongo, which seemed to please her.
Neera: Mongo won't need any help, though.
Parekh: No, he won't. The truth is, I have some things to take care of
today and frankly, a goblin invasion isn't worth wasting my time and
energy on...not when we have a perfectly willing, well-armed one-man
army around. Plus he _wants_ someone to fight. (she shrugs) See,
Neera: (eyeing the small door) I'm guessing that you reverse-engineered
Xusia's teleportation gateways to create this device?
Parekh: Absolutely. The difference is that this one can only be turned
on or off with a spell from me. I may make another one that opens for
anybody, or even one that reads the user's mind and opens a portal to
wherever they want to go. (she frowns) Hmm, that might be dangerous.
Neera: At least if a daydreamer walks up to it. So, back to Mongo and
this mission you've sent him on...how will he get back?
Parekh: Assuming he _wants_ to come back, without Belphanior around. I
know Mongo isn't really comfortable here.
Neera: That's because a lot of his magic is tied to the earth...and when
he's not standing on firm ground, he gets uneasy, and ultimately, ill.
As you undoubtedly know by now.
Parekh: (nods) Undoubtedly. Well, I'll keep an eye on him using the
magical scrying device in the meeting room. Actually, you'll have
to do that for a while, as I will be busy.
A short while later, Neera was in that chamber, and the space right
above the large wooden table had become a magical portal through which
other places could be viewed, and even heard. Parekh soon departed for
whatever it was she had to do, leaving Neera to watch with fascination
as Mongo dealt with things on the ground, somewhere far away...
Mongo: -what do you mean, no one can stop them?
villager: (in a state of near-panic) They're looting and pillaging
like mad! Last week, Norbard was sacked, and the week before, it was
Bergen! They kill everyone they can, and drive the rest before them
as they advance-
Mongo: Things are about to change. Spread the word.
villager: What?!? How?!?
Mongo: You'll know when it happens. (he hefts his hammer and wanders
casually toward the heart of the village, where the shouting and smoke
is the greatest)
The dwarf ignored the alarmed (and often bleeding) villagers who fled
back the way he'd come. It wasn't long before he was challenged by the
goblin: (saunters forth, a bloody shortsword in its grimy hand) You!
Told you to gets out of our town...now you see what-
Mongo: (steps forward suddenly and backhands the humanoid)
The goblin was knocked off the ground and back a good thirty feet -
until it smacked into the side of a building so hard that the wood was
cracked. The goblin stayed where it had impacted, dangling in place
like a rag doll thanks to several dozen broken bones, including its neck
and skull. Blood seeped from its mouth, nose, and ears as it hung there
goblin #2: (charges, a small axe swinging wildly) Yaaaaah!
Mongo: (meets the foe with a mailed fist to its unprotected face)
goblin #2: (falls, headless)
goblin #13: (part of a small force about fifty feet away, it catches
the head which sailed through the air) Aaah!
goblin #3: (part of a half-dozen that now surround Mongo) You gets
to die now!
Mongo: Let's go.
Six goblins charged in at once; three were knocked back by a single
swipe of the dwarf's warhammer, while another's mace struck weakly on
Mongo's shield an instant before that shield was used as a battering
ram against the attacker. The remaining two goblins saw their blades
shatter on the dwarf's gleaming silvery armor...and then they were hit
by another sweep of the great hammer. Like the other four from their
squad, they hit the ground dead from massive blunt physical trauma.
Mongo: (looking around) Six up...six down. That's eight total.
goblin #9: (charges in with a spear, attempting to impale the bearded
Mongo: (hurls Stormcrest with a rather light flick, barely bringing
any strength to bear, but still pulverizing the upper half of the
attacker's body) And, nine. (he catches the hammer) Why the hell
am I counting these up, anyway?
At this point, a larger force of perhaps thirty goblins had assembled
and was moving methodically toward the dwarf, shields ready and weapons
bristling. Mongo didn't wait to engage them in melee - although he could
have - but rather let them taste the fury of Stormcrest.
Mongo: Thanks for making such a nice, neat target for me.
The hurled warhammer hit the assembled force right in its center,
sundering shields, denting armor to a fatal degree, crushing flesh, and
breaking bone. Fully half of the advancing goblins fell, dead or dying,
which split the survivors into two small groups, one to either side.
Mongo: (catches his hammer, and immediately throws it again, wiping out
the left-hand group)
goblin #30: (having moved around from the rear, it casts a thick net
over Mongo) Har!
goblin #31: (moves in, spear held high)
Mongo: (rips the net in half with a single motion, freeing himself with
ease) That was stupid. (with a quick swing of his hammer, he bashes
both humanoids, felling them)
By now, all goblins present had realized that they faced a superior
foe who they couldn't beat in melee, and who could also slay them from
a distance with his terrible hammer. Their next actions were in line
with the fundamentals of goblin morale.
goblin #33: RETREAT! (it drops its sword, turns, and flees in the
opposite direction from Mongo)
Mongo: (casually takes aim, then throws Stormcrest at a pack of fleeing
goblins, felling a half-dozen)
The rest of the gang quickly disappeared into adjacent streets or
behind buildings, leaving Mongo without any more foes to attack for
Mongo: (whirls, Stormcrest raised)
little girl: (wandering around in her bedclothes, clutching a frayed
blue blanket) Mister, are you here to make the monsters go away?
Mongo: Not ex- (he frowns for just a moment) Yes. Yes, I am. Now
go back to your home and stay inside for a while, okay?
little girl: My home burned up.
After finding another villager with whom to leave the child, Mongo
hefted his hammer and marched in the direction he'd last seen goblins
flee. This took him to the edge of the settlement, and beyond...and in
the hills that overlooked the village, he spotted hundreds of goblins
in various massed formations. One such formation was bringing a sizable
wheeled catapult to bear - one of a dozen larger weapons possessed by
the goblin force. Even as Mongo watched, its crew launched a small
boulder into the air toward the village.
Mongo: Hell, no...(he takes quick but careful aim, then hurls his war-
The weapon sailed through the air, impacting the boulder high above...
and shattering it with a loud explosion that sprayed chunks of rock in
Mongo: (catches his hammer and begins walking toward the catapult and
the goblin troops that drive and operate it)
Rubble rained down around the angry dwarf, a fist-sized rock bouncing
off of his helmet as he made his way toward the humanoid forces in the
distance. Around the time the catapult was reloaded and ready to fire,
Mongo's hammer intervened, and the siege engine fell in a ruined mass
of timbers and corpses.
Mongo: (catching his hammer, he throws it again, targeting a small band
of goblin archers who are readying their bows)
goblin #44: (just one of several who fall, slain or maimed, as the
mighty hammer smashes through them)
Mongo: (catches his hammer and keeps advancing, his shield how held at
The dwarf didn't really need the shield, but he figured it was best to
keep up appearances, plus it tended to divert attention away from the
fact that he didn't really need it. Right on cue, a pair of feathered
shafts glanced off of the shield, and then the goblins who fired them
were smashed into bloody paste as Stormcrest leveled five foes in one
Mongo: Take that, you stupid evil bastards!
The dwarven warrior was truly in his element: he faced countless
numbers of enemies who deserved to perish, and he didn't have to worry
about protecting or avoiding any allies of his own. His hammer and
augmented strength gave him the means to strike down foes at a distance,
and his mighty armor and shield protected him from serious harm. At
this moment, Mongo was like a god of war, wading out into the world to
wreak havoc on opponents whose only worth was in their right to die.
As far as the goblins were concerned, this dwarf was some kind of
freak that simply hadn't been hit hard enough yet, and they were taking
steps to rectify that...
goblin #57: (some sort of sergeant, he directs others on his ballista
crew) Okay now, you swabs...ready...aim...FIRE!
The siege weapon launched a gigantic bolt at Mongo, who was a little
more than a hundred feet away. The pointed steel tip, which was capable
of punching a hole through the stone wall of a building, hit the dwarf
right in the center of his breastplate! He was knocked down, and the
ballista crew shouted and cheered in their primitive grunting language
as they celebrated the felling of this odd foe who had caused so much
goblin #57: Good shot, you bastards! We gots him!
goblin #60: (waving its fist in the air) Gots him good!
goblin #65: (idly wondering which is more impressive, the direct hit
or the fact that the dwarf didn't even see it coming or try to dodge)
Best crew makes best shots, and we- (he blinks)
In the distance, the armored form of the dwarf stood again, hammer
grasped at his side in a clenched fist.
Mongo: That actually hurt, you little shits. (he raises the hammer
goblin #65: Uh-oh.
The enchanted weapon whistled through the air, and the next instant,
the ballista was a shattered mass of wood and metal, its crew slain or
Mongo: (catches his hammer) Hell, why stop there? (he marches in
the direction of the remaining siege engines)
As the dwarf advanced, he let his hammer fly whenever he saw a good
target - and between the catapults, ballistae, and other constructions
he saw plenty of targets. One catapult was demolished just as it fired,
its boulder going straight up into the air about fifty feet...
goblin #83: (looks up as the misfired rock reaches the top of its arc
and then drops straight down) Uh-oh- <SPLAT>
Mongo shrugged off a hail of arrows as he waded through the heart of
the massed goblin force, dealing death and destruction left and right.
Nothing the humanoids did to stop him worked. Arrows and spears were
deflected by the dwarf's gleaming armor. Swords held by surging ground
troops seemed certain to mow the single foe down, until a single wave of
his gauntleted arm and the mighty hammer it held knocked back a dozen
goblins with one motion. A mass attack, its goal simply to tackle the
dwarf and bring him to the ground, failed as he sent attackers flying
with a great sweep of his shield and several quick punches. Mongo's far
greater strength and armored invincibility allowed him to dispatch foes
left and right (and often at a distance) while surviving every attack
directed at him.
The dwarf's accomplishments did not go unnoticed by the small knot of
goblin leaders who had held back, perhaps three hundred feet away.
goblin general: (a hulking goblin who stands a full five feet tall and
is clad in gleaming black chain mail with a red-plumed helm) This one
might be trouble.
goblin bodyguards: (two dozen, each of whom is an elite goblin warrior
and veteran of many battles, they begin muttering and clamoring for a
chance to go join the battle and attack the dwarf)
goblin shaman: (perhaps two hundred feet from the dwarf, and attended
by various underlings, he smirks) This foe must be beaten with magic,
not weapons. (he casts a spell and slowly floats up into the air)
The attending goblin servants gasped at this display of power, for they
held their shaman in very high regard. Many times, they had seen their
mightiest spellcaster perform great and terrible feats of magic, and so
they had come to count on him in difficult situations. Despite what they
had seen from the lone dwarven warrior in the distance, the goblins who
accompanied the king and shaman fully expected the latter to somehow
dispatch the hammer-wielding enemy.
goblin shaman: (now floating in the air forty feet above the ground, and
headed toward the main battle, he works a new spell while chanting in a
low, croaking voice)
The shaman was no fool; he knew that he had to employ his greatest and
most powerful spell, right here and now, to put an end to the dwarf...a
goblin shaman: (launches a blazing fireball from his hands, and cackles
as the missile explodes right above Mongo and the various goblins he's
The blast shook the ground and half-blinded all who witnessed it; the
flames expanded outward in an expanding inferno, incinerating numerous
goblins. The shaman pondered the unfortunate-ness of this, but it had
been necessary in order to take the dwarf by surprise. The ground at
the center of the fireball's explosion was now a ten-foot-deep crater of
fused earth, and the surrounding land was scorched black. The heat from
the detonation singed the skin of those outside (but near) the lethal
blast radius, and as the flames began to die down, all was obscured by
great clouds of smoke, from which the unmistakable smell of charred
flesh now emanated...
goblin shaman: (hovering above the scene of destruction, he nods to
himself with satisfaction as the other goblins cheer wildly)
It had been a long day for the goblins; their anticipated conquest of
this village had gone from an easy job to a stunning loss of troops and
morale, all caused by a single foe. The fireball's blast had, in one
fell swoop, cleansed the land of that unthinkable, invincible dwarf, and
all was right in the goblin world again.
goblin shaman: (frowns as he sees something in the clearing smoke)
A dark, soot-covered object burst from the smoky crater, and flew in
a straight line right toward the airborne shaman. The next instant, the
goblin spellcaster was a headless corpse, one which quickly plummeted to
goblin general: (watches in horror as his most powerful shaman's body
splatters on the hard earth) Hell.
Mongo: (emerges from the smoky crater, catching his hammer as he heads
toward the leader of the foes)
goblin general: (looks around at his two dozen bodyguards and the other
assembled underlings) We are the best of the best of the best of the
goblins - now we attack him, and kill! KILL!
The small but powerful goblin force surged toward the enemy dwarf,
screaming with fury and excitement; Mongo smiled grimly and awaited
their charging attack.
A short while later, the surviving villagers had assembled in the
center of town. Rallied by the sudden appearance of the fierce dwarf
and his wholesale slaughter of the attacking goblins, the townspeople
had rallied and begun to fight. With most of the goblins slain or in
full retreat from the area, the humans had quickly dispatched any and
all stragglers, and the village was now goblin-free.
village mayor: (leaning on his sword) Whew.
random villager: Look! (he points at a short, stocky figure which is
wandering in their direction)
This was no goblin, but rather the mysterious dwarven savior who had
spent the last hour changing the destiny of the village and its people.
His once-gleaming armor was covered with soot, blood, and gore; similar
grime covered his warhammer, his shield, his helm, and even his beard.
All in all, the dwarf looked weary.
Mongo: They're all dead now.
village mayor: (confused) All of them?
Mongo: (nods) I just dealt with their general, and their wizard. All
of their siege engines are now ruined. There may be one or two left,
running around or hiding here or there, but this goblin army is broken
now. If I were you, I'd start hunting for any loose goblins, and also
fortify the village, and send someone up there to collect all their
village mayor: Um...right.
Mongo: And you need to pile up all the corpses and burn them, before
they get ripe. The goblins don't deserve that, but you'll need to do
it for the good of your village.
other villager: Who...who _are_ you?
Mongo: (shrugs) I'm Mongo Thunderhead.
village mayor: How can we ever repay you for what you've done here
Mongo: Well, I've worked up a hell of an appetite from all that fighting
and smashing. Any chance you people have some hot food and cold beer?
Elsewhere, back in Parekh's mystical dwelling-place...
Parekh: (using a mirror that can observe any part of her home, she
watches as Neera finishes observing Mongo, stands up, and leaves the
scrying/meeting chamber to retire to her guest quarters) Ah.
At last, the archmagess was finally alone, free of the unanticipated
visitors who had briefly interrupted her plans for the day...plans that
they couldn't be involved with, and could never know about.
Parekh: (works a quick spell of teleportation, vanishing from her home
and reappearing in a musty dungeon chamber)
She now stood in a small domed room, twenty feet in radius and with
a single exit. This chamber, the first in a much larger complex, was
the only one that lacked shielding against teleportation magic. This
made it the only possible entry into the complex - which had no actual
physical entrance accessible from the outside world. Only those who
could teleport _and_ who knew about the place would be able to arrive
As expected, others were already present...
Pallin: You are late.
Parekh: I had unexpected guests - which we must discuss soon, once the
business here is done. I'll need your expertise to deal with an issue
Parekh: (turns to the others) Did you have any problems retrieving it?
Cespedes: Not at all. The gateways worked perfectly for us, now that
the entire network has been unlocked by the talisman which the elf
carries. In fact, I have begun to suspect the existence of another
gateway - one without a rune on the dial - that may link all of the
ones he has explored. Xusia hinted at such, once or twice, when he
drew upon our expertise to build these devices.
Alindyar: In any case, the thing has been recovered and brought here.
Wu: (tweaks his thin mustache) But not without difficulty, for
transporting something like that is never easy, and often dangerous.
Parekh: Let's have a look, then.
Cespedes: Come. (he walks through the narrow passageway that connects
the entry chamber with the next area in the dungeon)
After a short distance, the passage opened into a much larger room
with smooth walls and floor, and a shallowly vaulted ceiling from which
an oil lamp dangled on an iron chain, filling the whole place with dim,
dancing light. This chamber was was cylindrical, fifty feet high and a
hundred wide. Spaced around its outer edge were a series of thirteen
archways, all of them identical: ten feet wide and high. Each archway
was spaced a little more than ten feet from each of its two neighbors.
All of the contained identical doors of thick iron, sufficient to repel
a golem or giant. Three of these doors were shut, while the others were
open; each portal had five keyholes lined up vertically on one side.
Cespedes: (leads the way to one of the open doors, the one to the right
of the three that are closed) As you know, this chamber is not fully
sealed yet. (he gestures at the chamber beyond the door)
Past the door was a ten-foot-square stone passage that extended thirty
feet before opening into a slightly-larger cubical room. In its center
was a short, squat pedestal of stone, upon which rested a cylindrical
black object. The thing was metallic, about five feet high and two feet
wide. Its top end was clearly some sort of removable lid, though it
appeared to be well-sealed.
Parekh: (gazing upon the unknown object that Belphanior and the others
found in the "darkness" gateway almost half a year ago) Incredible.
The reports were correct - that thing _is_ powerful.
Wu: And evil in ways that have not been seen on our world for eons.
It must NEVER see the light of day.
Alindyar: Nor shall it, with the physical and magical protections we
have constructed in this vault. (to Cespedes) Let us make haste and
leave this thing. It bodes ill to remain in its...presence for very
Very shortly, the five archmagi stood outside the door, which was now
closed with a wave of Cespedes' hand. The thick door was so heavy that
its physical closing alone shook the floor slightly. Now, each of the
five wizards produced a key and, one by one, put their key into one of
the five keyholes and turned it.
Pallin: And with each key's use, another part of the containment magic
is added. Each of these doors will only open with all five keys,
which means that none of us can open one by ourselves, and any foe
would have to defeat all five of us in order to gain entrance into
Alindyar: (looks upon the fourth closed portal that they just sealed,
and then to the three similarly-protected ones to the left of it,
counter-clockwise) A wise arrangement, given the monstrous evils that
we have locked away here.
Parekh: Remember the agreement: some things are too dangerous for the
world to have.
Wu: Far too dangerous...these great evils must be taken and hidden away
forever, far beyond the ken of mortal man...
Cespedes: Frankly, I'm amazed that we've already found four such items.
Alindyar: 'Tis efficient work on our part, to be sure.
Wu: And to think, the world at large remains blissfully unaware of such
things, such dangers in their midst. (he twirls his mustache again,
thoughtfully) Then again, it falls to such as us to protect such as
them from these perils.
Parekh: Nine more vaults should be enough. (she frowns) I hope.
Pallin: If we fill them all, then we must simply enlarge the dungeon.
It's not as if we don't have the room...not with thousands of feet of
solid rock on every side. We are far, far beneath the earth...and no
one will ever know about, much less find, this vault.
Wu: As it should be...as it _must_ be.
next: the outcome of Belphanior's careless _Wish_ spell
notes: And now I guess we know the answer to the question "How much
could possibly happen in a story without Belphanior or any of his main
henchmen?" Also, a new batch of fanmail has been answered, posted at
previous chapter (#970)
next chapter (#972)