Chapter #128

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                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +

+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1993 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:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Alindyar      15th level drow elf mage              (N)   +
+      Lyra       12th level female drow elf mage       (N)   +
+   Belphanior    12th/13th/13th level high elf w/m/t  (CN)   +
+   Ged           13th/13th level grey elf priest/mage (NG)   +
+      Arnold     11th level human warrior             (NG)   +
+        ?             grey cat (familiar)             (NG)   +
+   Mongo         15th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+      Flint      11th level dwarf warrior             (CG)   +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                (N)   +
+   Rillen        15th level human warrior              (N)   +
+   Date:    n/a                                              +
+   Time:    n/a                                              +
+   Place:   some alternate dimension                         +
+   Climate: n/a                                              +
+   "I _know_ who the bad guys are:  anybody that tries to    +
+    hurt me."                                                +
+                          Locken, from _The Killer Elite_    +

                   CXXVIII.  The Hermit

  The adventurers have been ambushed in the swamp, as a
pair of oversized shambling mounds rise up from the muck
and a wall of thick weeds appears around the party.

Mongo:  Hey!  We're cut off!  (hefts his hammer)
Alindyar:  What madness can this be?  Plants appearing
  from nowhere?  (he puts Lyra down on a dry log)
Belphanior:  I bet Peyote would know, if he was here...
Peldor:  (uses his feathers to haste himself)  Aha.
Flint:  (hefts his battleaxe)
Ged:  (still in hawk form, he lands on a nearby branch)
Peldor:  (invisible, and still disguised as Belphanior
  for some reason, he tries to backstab one of the huge
  shambling mounds)
blue shambler #2:  (ignores the thief's relatively puny
Peldor:  (becomes visible)
Belphanior:  Hey!  You're me again!
Peldor:  These things happen...
Lyra:  (begins spellcasting)
Mongo:  (fumbles for his hammer)  Dammit...
Ged:  (begins un-polymorphing from his bird form)
Alindyar:  (begins spellcasting)  This seems easier when
  one is enlarged to extreme heights...
Rillen:  (running around with his bow in hand, he looks
  for a clear shot)
Belphanior:  Yah!  (slashes at the other swamp monster)
blue shambler #1:  (ignores the elf's attack)
Belphanior:  I think these guys are too big to he hurt
  by weapon blows...
Arnold:  (attacks mound #2)  Ah-nold!
grey cat:  (safe in a tree)  Meow!
blue shambler #2:  (watches as the warrior's sword cuts
  large chunks out of its body)
Arnold:  Aaaa.
blue shambler #2:  (gropes at Arnold, hitting with both
  huge arms)
Arnold:  Aaaaa!  (he is partially engulfed and unable
  to attack or break free)  Id's god me!
blue shambler #1:  (swats Belphanior, engulfing him in
  a similar manner)
Belphanior:  Umph!  Hey!  I'm being eaten!
Lyra:  (launches a series of magic missiles at the elf's
  foe)  Hold on!
Belphanior:  Like I have a choice...
blue shambler #1:  (blasted by the volley, it staggers
  slightly, but fails to release its victim)
Alindyar:  (also launches magic missiles, at the other
blue shambler #2:  (reels, but draws Arnold deeper into
  its murky body)
Arnold:  Aaa!
Flint:  (chops at mound #2 with his axe, but barely nicks
  the monster)  Shit!
Peldor:  (stabs at the mound again, but misses)  Wha...?
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer at one of the foes, but it
  bounces off with a 'thunking' sound and returns to his
  hand)  Huh?  (hurls the weapon again)  Fall, slimeheads!
blue shambler #1:  (ignores the dwarf's mighty attack)
Flint:  Hey, boss, your hammer's not even tickling it.
Mongo:  Grr...
Rillen:  (launches several arrows at shambling mound #2,
  but they disappear into the thing's body without any
  apparent effect)  Hmm.  Maybe I need to get some fire
Lyra:  Some what?

Ged:  (now back in his true form, he casts Polymorph Other
  upon the shambling mound holding Arnold)  By Boccob, you
  had better let him go...hmm...form of...a lungfish!
Alindyar:  A lungfish?!?
Mongo:  A what?
Ged:  (still sitting on his tree branch, above the battle)
  A lungfish!  Call it divine inspiration if you will...
Peldor:  How appropriate.
blue shambler #2:  (becomes a bloated, oversized lungfish)
Arnold:  (pops free, falling to the ground, mostly covered
  in mud)  Gahk!
Rillen:  Aha!  (fires four arrows into the lungfish, who
  is a rather easy target)
lungfish:  (skewered like a turkey, it perishes)  blub.
Mongo:  All right, Rillen!
Arnold:  <cough>  Aaaak.  (runs over and attacks the first
  shambling mound, slashing large amounts of mud and muck
  from its body)  Ah-nold!
Belphanior:  (slowly disappearing into the shambling mound)
  Aaaghk!  (punches the thing helplessly, his sword arm
  pinned)  Fuck!
blue shambler #1:  (swats Arnold, knocking him away into a
Arnold:  Aaaaaaaa...<thud>

  Just then, three tiny balls of flickering purple light
sailed into the midst of the melee, diving and swooping at
the adventurers!

Mongo:  Huh...?
Flint:  What the hell?
Alindyar:  'Ware!  Will-o-wisps!
Lyra:  Purple ones, at that.
Peldor:  (slashes at shambling mound #1, doing very minor
  damage)  How can it be that the thing ignores the might
  of Peldor?
Rillen:  Maybe it thinks you are an insect.  (draws a bead
  on the muck-thing)
Ged:  Hmm, maybe a lightning bolt is in order...
Lyra:  You can't do that!  We're all standing in a foot of
Ged:  _I'm_ not!
Rillen:  (fires two - four due to his magical bow - arrows
  at the remaining shambler)  Hopefully these will slow it
blue shambler #1:  (ignores the missiles)
Rillen:  Then again...
wisp #2:  (hits Arnold)  bzzt!
Arnold:  (shocked)  Aaaa!  (his hair stands on end)
wisp #1:  (divebombs Rillen, but the warrior leaps aside)
Rillen:  Whoa!
wisp #3:  (hits Mongo, but the shock doesn't get through
  the dwarf's armor)  bzz!
Mongo:  Huh?!?
Lyra:  (blasts shambling mound #1 with magic missiles)
  Release the elf, you!
Alindyar:  (blasts wisps #3 and #1 with magic missiles)
Ged:  (suddenly inspired, he gets into the act, firing
  magic missiles at the shambling mound)
blue shambler #1:  (finally falls)
Belphanior:  (flies away into the muck, drenching himself)
  Blub glub!
Flint:  (chops wisp #3 with his axe)  Hold still!
wisp #3:  (begins wobbling in its flight)
Arnold:  (slashes at wisp #2, but barely nicks it)  Aaa.
Mongo:  (smacks wisp #3 with his hammer)  Die!
wisp #3:  (dies)
Mongo:  Hey!
wisp #1:  (zaps Rillen)  bzzt!
Rillen:  Urgh!  (swats the wisp with his staff, knocking
  it away)
wisp #1:  (staggers)  bztzzzzt.
Belphanior:  (leaps into the fray, slashing at wisp #2)
  Don't leave me out of this fight!
wisp #2:  (staggers)
Peldor:  (disguised as Belphanior)  Don't you mean 'us'?
  (goes invisible)

Belphanior:  (stabs at wisp #2, but misses, and falls down
  into the swamp)  Whoops!  <splash>
Arnold:  I'll show you how, liddle elf!  (hacks wisp #2)
wisp #2:  (blinks out)
Arnold:  Ah-nold is triumvant!  Aaaaa.
Mongo:  (bashes wisp #1, twice, and kills it)  Whew!
Flint:  Good fight!
Arnold:  (staggers)  Yah.
Rillen:  (looking around)  No more foes.
Ged:  (polymorphs back into a hawk, and flies down to the
  party)  Squawk!  (becomes an elf again)
Peldor:  (meanwhile, invisible, he guzzles his potion of
  treasure finding, and quickly zeroes in on a half-buried
  metal chest nearby, out of sight of the others)
Belphanior:  (leans against a tree, sweating and filthy)
  I need a bath.
Rillen:  (also injured)  I need a vacation.
Ged:  (busies himself healing people)
Peldor:  (busies himself emptying the gems from the chest
  into his pack)

  Soon, everyone was ready to go on.  A path could now be
seen ahead, leading deeper into the swamp.  The cat jumped
back into Ged's backpack, Alindyar picked up Lyra again,
Peldor reappeared disguised as Belphanior, and then both
Belphaniors vanished.  Ged decided to become a hawk again,
and the cat was stashed in Arnold's pack.  Finally, all
were ready to go on, and they moved out.
  Soon, a small hut was spotted ahead, and Ged returned
to elf form after leading the party to the place.  It was
in the middle of a small clearing.  The adventurers moved
to surround the tiny hut, their weapons drawn.

Mongo:  (leading the way into the hut)  Hey, this place is
  empty!  (suddenly he spots an ancient man in a chair,
  and wonders how in the hell he missed the guy the first
  time)  What the hell-?

  The others crowded into the small hut.  Before them was
an ancient fellow, sitting in a rickety wooden chair that
looked as though it might collapse at any moment.  The
man's white hair covered his head in wisps, and his skin
was parched and wrinkled.  It took the adventurers a few
seconds to realize the the fellow's skin was actually a
dull black color.

Rillen:  But...he's black.
Peldor:  (pipes up invisibly)  Why are his ears pointed?
Ged:  By Boccob!  He's an elf-
Alindyar:  A drow elf!
ancient one:  (speaking in a low, croaking voice)  What is
  this?  Nine wanderers, eh?  A long time indeed since I
  have had visitors...much less ones who could defeat the
  swamp's denizens...(he looks at Lyra, and his jaw drops)
  Eh...!  (he squints, and begins looking intently at some
  of the others)  By the gods...who ARE you people?
Belphanior:  (invisible)  What's he babbling about?
ancient one:  (excitedly)  Aie!  Though I have existed for
  nigh twenty-four centuries, I never, by all the gods,
  _never_, thought to see a shade of my former self come
  back to haunt me!  Much less the shades of so many noted
Ged:  What the hell are you talking about?
ancient one:  Do you not see?!  Although _he_ is Alindyar,
  I too am Alindyar!
Arnold:  (scratches his head)

next time:  the other Alindyar's tale

notes:  Regarding the new format for the title, 'Epic I' can
      be considered to have been episodes 1-125, spanning a
      period of game time between 1/570 and 6/3/572 C.Y.
      I like to think of this (relatively) short time as
      'The Early Years', while 'Epic II' will come to be
      known as 'The Middle Years' and 'Epic III' will end
      up as 'The Later Years'...
        Only Epic I and the very beginning of Epic II will
      have actually been played in regular campaign terms,
      by all the players.  The bulk of Epic II will be the
      time in which the characters build castles, amass
      soldiers, and become players in the world's events.
      Rest assured that, where possible, I'll be getting
      input from the actual players as to what their char-
      acters do.  Epic III (if I ever get that far!) will
      deal with the effects of old age and mortality on
      the adventurers.
        What a plan, eh?

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