Chapter #364

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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                    +
+                           +
+  THE PARTY (or a fraction of it, anyway):                         +
+                                                                   +
+  Arnold         12th level human barbarian                   (NG) +
+  Ged            14th/14th level grey elven priest/wizard     (NG) +
+  Mongo          17th level dwarven fighter                   (CG) +
+    Gorin         9th level dwarven fighter                   (NG) +
+                                                                   +
+                                                                   +
+  SPECIAL GUEST STARS:                                             +
+                                                                   +
+  Drexel         human paladin                                (LG) +
+  Eyer           wood elven fighter/acrobat                   (NG) +
+    Baltek       high elven archer                            (NG) +
+  Date:        2/2/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        the middle of the night                             +
+  Place:       a marsh east and south of Greyhawk                  +
+  Climate:     cold and wet                                        +
+  "What is the Way of the Warrior?"                                +
+  "The Way of the Warrior is Death."                               +
+                           - seventeenth-century Japanese proverb  +

                  CCCLXIV.  The Swamp Rats

  The party is in the process of being roused from a chilly and
uncomfortable sleep...

trolls:  (running out of their hiding places on all fronts, they
  scream and yell as they close on the party)  Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaargh!

  The trolls were huge, smelly, and covered with slimy muck.  They
had apparently spent hours creeping up on the campsite, such was
the completeness with which they surrounded the adventurers.  Ged's
wyvern watch brought down a single foe, but the other trolls came
on, undaunted.

troll#2:  (charges forward...then trips on a hidden rope, falling
  face-first onto an underwater bed of sharpened spikes)  Graaargh!
troll#3:  (trips over a simple tied rope, hitting the water with a
  splash)  Glub!
troll#4:  (unknowingly misses stepping on a spike)  Rargh!
troll#5:  (kicks through another rope, snapping it without incident)
troll#6:  (charges)
Mongo:  (meets the foe hammer-first, smacking the big humanoid's
  shoulder)  Get the fuck back!
troll#6:  <SNAP>  (its right arm dangles uselessly)  Graargh!  (it
  swings, through a haze of pain, raking at the dwarf with its claws)
Mongo:  (watches as the sharp talons snap off against his armor)  Ha
  ha ha!  (he reverses his swing, crushing in the troll's face)
Gorin:  (having ducked under a troll's clumsy blow, he bashes its
  crotch with his shield's edge, then chops at its knee)
troll#5:  Argh!  (it hobbles as it turns, but Gorin catches the next
  blow with his axe-edge)
Gorin:  Hah!
troll#5:  (its fist split neatly, to the wrist, it spews blood every-
  where)  Graargh!

  The other adventurers weren't so fortunate, having been asleep as
the attack commenced...

Arnold:  (getting to his feet, he is felled by a troll's dual fist-
  blows)  Aaaa!
troll#4:  (kicks the warrior, knocking him away)  Rrrarrr!
Arnold:  Ungh!
troll#3:  (having climbed out of the pool it fell in, it wails as it
  buffets Drexel)
Drexel:  (takes one blow on his armor, then manages to get his shield
  up to block the second)  Argh!
troll#3:  (pounds away at the paladin, not giving him a chance to
  unsheath his sword)
troll#2:  (rises from the muck, a dozen of Eyer's sharpened spikes
  buried in its face and chest)  Graaaargh!
Eyer:  (somehow on his feet already, he whips his sword from its
  scabbard, casting a light blue glow upon the battle)  Have at it,
troll#2:  (complies, charging)  Raaar!
Eyer:  (leaps and slides, right through the foe's legs)  Hah!  (he
  rolls through the marsh and stands, muddy but behind the troll
  now, and slashes at its hamstring)  Try again!
troll#2:  (whirls and charges, infuriated)
Eyer:  (leaps aside, lopping off two of the monster's fingers as it
  misses with another swing)  Too slow!
troll#2:  (spins about again, almost losing its balance in the slimy
  swamp beneath its feet)
troll#6:  (lands a solid blow on Mongo's helm, dazing even the sturdy
  dwarf)  Rarrg!
Mongo:  RAARG!  (he belts the thing in the gut, crushing organs and
  sending the troll to its knees)  How'd you like _that_?!?
troll#4:  (still pummeling Arnold)
Arnold:  (gets his sword out, but the weapon is knocked out of his
  hand)  Aaa!
troll#4:  (raises both huge fists)  Gaaar!  (suddenly, an arrow sinks
  into its open mouth)  Glurk?
Baltek:  (nearby, standing atop Drexel's magical blanket, he lets a
  second arrow fly)
troll#4:  (screams as the missile lands in its left eye)  YAAAAGH!
Arnold:  (forgotten by the troll for now, he scrambles through the
  mud, after his sword)  Aaa...
Drexel:  (lashes out with his shield, knocking the troll back for the
  split-second needed to draw his sword)
troll#3:  (covers its eyes as a blazing light shines from the holy
Drexel:  Ho, monster!  Try me now!
troll#3:  (half-blinded, it gropes at the warrior)
Drexel:  (absolutely fearless, he slashes out with a mighty blow,
  shearing through the troll's shoulder and chest)
Chaosbane:  (buried somewhere in the foe's stomach)  Foul vermin!
  Taste the wrath of law and order!
troll#3:  (shrieks as the sword blazes, burning its internal organs
  and producing a stench most foul)  Aaaaargh!
Drexel:  So shall all evil pale before our might!  (he wrenches his
  blade free from the troll)
troll#3:  (still screaming, though the burning has stopped, it reels
  back and collides with troll#4)
troll#4:  (flails as both it and its companion go down in the muck)

  As the giant monsters got to their feet, a pillar of flame came
down from the night sky, right on top of them.  Both trolls were
almost instantly roasted in the conflagration.

Ged:  For Boccob!
Drexel:  Ah, I wondered what you might be up to.
Ged:  (smiles thinly)  The best spells take a little longer to
Mongo:  Well, I'll help you, then!  (he eyes the huge pillar of
  flame, then skillfully bashes his opponent with great power)
troll#6:  (sails into the flames, screaming)  Raaaaargh!
troll#5:  (driven back by a flurry of blows from Gorin's axe)
Eyer:  (poking and dodging troll#2, he spies an opportunity, and
  leaps forth, to the marsh floor)
troll#5:  (backing away from the furious Gorin, and not seeing Eyer
  crouched behind its feet, it trips and falls backwards)  Urrrr?
troll#2:  (almost trips over the fallen troll#5)  Graaar!
Arnold:  (charging in from the side, he slashes with all his might)
troll#2:  (sliced uncleanly in two, its halves fall into the marsh)
Arnold:  (raises and shakes his bloody sword)  Ah-nold!
Drexel:  Well-done!  (he moves in to dispatch troll#2)
troll#2:  (staggering to its feet, it suddenly finds a pair of arrows
  in its neck)  Glurrr...
Eyer:  (backstabs the monster, felling it)  Yes!
Mongo:  (picks up one of the troll halves)
Drexel:  What in the world are you doing?
Mongo:  These fuckers'll come back to life unless we toss 'em in the
  fire.  (he demonstrates)
Eyer:  (already helping Gorin drag another troll carcass toward Ged's
  mighty flame-pillar)
Arnold:  (looking around)  Aaa.
Gorin:  (walks up to Baltek)  Good shooting, there.
Baltek:  (grinning, perhaps for the first time since the trip began)
  What, did you think I sat around sleeping _all_ the time?
Arnold:  (also acknowledges the elf's fine archery, with a nod)
Eyer:  (to Mongo)  Our forces work well together.
Mongo:  Yeah.  A good omen, I think.
Drexel:  Aye.

  Shortly, all the trolls were gone, and the party had a pretty big
campfire as well.  No one was seriously injured, though Ged did use
a minor healing enchantment on Arnold, to help remedy the beating
the warrior took.  No one slept much more this night, and dawn found
the adventurers weary, yet eager to get out of the swamp.  They had
a brief and simple breakfast...

Mongo:  Sorry, I can't poach you people any eggs - they all got
  smashed in the fight.

...and then moved east- and southward.  By midday, the high, thick
grass of the bogs had thinned out, and within the hour, hills could
be seen ahead, rising from the marsh.  This heralded the end of the
swamplands, and once free of their murk, it took the companions a
mere two hours' to march to Maure castle.  Drexel had produced a
map, which Eyer had taken and used to guide the party.  The elf's
navigational skills were extraordinary, for the group never strayed
off-course.  At last, the castle loomed ahead, a tall, thin, ominous
structure of advanced age.

Drexel:  At last - the lair of the evil ones!
Ged:  Whew.  (cleans mud from his arms and neck)  By Boccob, our quest
  has begun!
Gorin:  Didn't it begin days ago?
Eyer:  Actually, it won't have really begun until we find that secret
Mongo:  Right.  So let's get looking.

  They approached the haunted ruin cautiously, but if anyone or any-
thing watched them, there was no sign.  The grass around the foot of
Maure Castle's high outer walls was high indeed, which was unusual
given the time of year.  After almost half an hour of searching, a
concealed passage was found.  Eight feet wide and only slightly
higher, it sloped downward at a rough thirty-degree angle.

Eyer:  Aha!
Mongo:  Should've known it'd be you who found it...
Eyer:  Nonsense, my good dwarf.  I was merely lucky.
Ged:  (grips Lightbringer)  Are we ready?
Gorin:  (nods, axe in hand)
Lightbringer:  I am!
Chaosbane:  And I as well!
Drexel:  (not to be outdone by his sword)  Aye, we all are!  (he
  surveys the party, then notices and removes a glob of mud from his
Arnold:  (draws his gigantic sword)  Ah-nold!
Baltek:  (strings his bow)
Mongo:  (eyes the passage ahead)  Well, then...shall we?
Gorin:  Let's.

  With those flippant comments, the seven adventurers began their

next:      the unopenable doors
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
mail:   (preferred)
notes:     Hopefully the older among you will have figured out
  where the party is, by now.  If not, here's your first hint:
  Gygax co-wrote it.

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