Chapter #453

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    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                    +
+                           +
+  Halbarad         13th level human ranger                    (NG) +
+    Zephyr         wild tiger                                  (N) +
+  Mongo            18th level dwarven fighter                 (CG) +
+    Gorin           9th level dwarven fighter                 (NG) +
+  Peyote           11th/12th level half-elven warrior/druid    (N) +
+                                                                   +
+  Kup Swiftfoot    halfling thief                              (N) +
+  Relmar           human high priest of Pelor                 (NG) +
+  Date:        5/3/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                          +
+  Time:        late morning                                        +
+  Place:       an ancient crypt within the northern Vesve          +
+  Climate:     chilly and musty                                    +
+  "They're all dead."                                              +
+  "What killed 'em?"                                               +
+  "Bad manners."                                                   +
+                                                  -The Stranger    +

                    CDLIII.  Head Cheese

  The adventurers now find themselves surrounded by strange, hostile
floating heads and severed hands...

heads:  (some of them begin to babble, their eyes rolling every which
  way)  Baablabbblah...
other head:  Scgoeat!  Scgoeat!
Kup:  Huh?
Mongo:  Fuck this!  (he hurls Stormcrest right at one of the hovering
floating head#1:  (its eyes widen, and then the hammer smashes it into
  the wall behind)  <splat>
Mongo:  (catches his hammer, noticing the green gore that covers its
  head)  Ick.
floating head#2:  (opens its mouth, exposing rotten or missing teeth
  as it screams loudly)  Aaaaaaaaaaa!

  The sound was nervewracking, and caused them instant headaches and
disorientation.  Gorin actually fell to the ground, dropping his axe
and covering his ears.

Gorin:  Argh!
Relmar:  (unable to cast any spells, since he can't concentrate)
  Somebody...shut those things...up!
Mongo:  I'm on it.  (he draws his hammer-arm back)  Take this-  huh?

  The dwarf had been clutched by one of the disembodied hands, the
thing grasping his ankle in a crushing grip.  It was as strong as any
ogre, and the dwarf immediately fell, cursing the pain.

Mongo:  (bashes the hand with his hammer, pulverizing it)
other hands:  (two of them, they pounce upon the dwarf, one grabbing
  the wrist of his hammer-arm, the other going for his throat)
Mongo:  Shit!
floating head#3:  (also begins screaming)
Peyote:  The screaming heads...(he charges one of the things, slashing
  with his bastard sword)
floating head#3:  (dodges the attack, with surprising speed)
Peyote:  Whoa!
floating head#3:  (belches forth a mass of black goop, covering the
  surprised half-elf's head and shoulders)  Urp.
Peyote:  (falls)
Halbarad:  Peyote!  (he hurls a throwing axe, burying it in the weird
floating head#3:  Aaaa!  (it wobbles in the air, green and black slime
  dripping from its cloven forehead)
Halbarad:  (charges in, his battleaxe swinging)
floating head#3:  (split like an overripe melon, it sticks to his axe)
Halbarad:  Ugh.  (he smashes the axed head against the floor to get
  it off of his blade)
floating head#3:  (no longer floating, and no longer alive)
Halbarad:  Oh, no you don't!  (he whirls, slashing at the fourth head
  with his dagger)
floating head#4:  (evades the attack, and in turn vomits forth its own
  glob of black stuff)  Uuurp!
Halbarad:  (forewarned of the danger, he dodges the attack, the gunk
  splattering all over the wall behind him)  Foul beast!
Relmar:  (brandishes his holy symbol, facing the heads)  Away, you
  dark things!  Get ye gone!
floating heads#2,4:  (ignore the priest as they scream on and on)
Relmar:  (sighs)  A more direct approach is necessary...(swinging a
  glowing silver mace, he charges into battle)
Kup:  (stabs a roving hand, pinning it to the ground, twitching)  Uh,
  now what?
other hand:  (swipes at the halfling)
Kup:  (dodges the thing, by mere inches)  Yipes.  (he puts his ring
  back on, and vanishes from sight)
hands:  (still crawling toward him)
Kup:  (invisible)  Holy...(he pulls his sword free)
wounded hand:  (slowly clenching and unclenching)
other hands:  (ignore their brethren as they make their way toward
  the halfling)
some other hands:  (approaching Gorin and Peyote)
Halbarad:  Zephyr!
Zephyr:  RAAAARGH!  (he leaps, knocking floating head#2 from the air
  and taking it to the ground)
floating head#2:  (pinned, it tries to turn and face the tiger, but
  eats dirt instead)
Zephyr:  (brings a huge claw down, crushing the head into a messy
  pulp)  GRRR...
Relmar:  (swings at floating head#4)
floating head#4:  (dodges aside, but not fast enough)
Relmar:  Hah!  Taste Pelor's light, abomination!
floating head#4:  (stops screaming as it is bathed in a bright glow,
  and then bursts into flame, at which point it begins screaming again,
  but to a different tune)
Relmar:  (feels a hand grasp his ankle)  Eh?

  Peyote was struggling against the stuff that covered his upper body,
and it was becoming more and more evident that he was unable to breathe.

Halbarad:  (trying to pull the sticky mess off of his friend, to no
  avail)  Peyote!
Relmar:  (bashing at the hand around his ankle)  Try holy water!
Halbarad:  I don't have any!
Relmar:  I'll-  (he falls, tripped up by the hand)
Halbarad:  Hell.  (he dashes over to the priest's side, grabbing the
  hand)  Ungh!  It...won't come off!

  Meanwhile, Mongo had dropped his hammer, realizing that he couldn't
use it effectively against these animated, severed hands.  He focused
his efforts on the hand around his throat, slowly working a finger,
then another under the fingers of the attacker.  The thing was strong,
stronger than an average man's grip - which explained why Relmar and
Halbarad were having so much trouble.  But Mongo was far from average,
and with a great tug, he freed the hand from his throat!

Mongo:  (coughing)  Damn...thing!  (with a powerful tug, he tears the
  thing in half, flinging the parts aside)  Dammit!  (he goes to work
  on the hands around his ankle and wrist)
crawling hand:  (approaching Gorin, who is getting to his feet, blood
  leaking from his nose and ears)
Gorin:  (hears the scuttling)  Huh?  (he spies the thing headed for
  his foot)  Hey!  Shit!  (leaping back, he swings his axe)
crawling hand:  (split in two, it twitches and bleeds)
Gorin:  Huh...(looking around, he pulls his axe free from the soft,
  spongy ground and dashes to help Kup)

  Gorin had triangulated the halfling's position based on the half-
dozen hands that were closing in on a particular corner of the room.
The invisible Kup, however, had his own escape planned; he scuttled
up the wall like a spider, and was soon hanging from the ceiling.

Gorin:  (watches in confusion as the six hands slowly turn and head
  for him)  Dammit, this just isn't my day!
Halbarad:  (having freed Relmar from the crushing hand, he holds the
  thing aloft, impaled on his dagger)  What do I _do_ with it?
Relmar:  (gets to his feet)  Burn it, or crush it!  (he limps over
  toward Peyote, whose struggles are growing more and more feeble)

  The high priest quickly found a vial of holy water - he used metal
flasks, to avoid breakage - and doused the black goo with the blessed
liquid.  As he knew it would, the stuff instantly began to dissolve,
sending up a plume of acrid smoke as it did so.

Peyote:  (gasping, he sucks in great lungfuls of air)  Aah!  Aah!
  (he reels)  Whoa.  Headrush.
Relmar:  There, rest now.  (he props the half-elf against a wall, and
  turns to face another crawling hand)  So, trying to sneak up on me,
  are you?  (he smashes the thing with a powerful blow that reduces
  it to a mangled paste)

  It wasn't much longer before the battle was over; the hands were
strong, and tenacious, but they could be destroyed relatively easily
once one got around to it.  Just to be sure, they threw all of the
things into a small, intense fire that Relmar brought into existence.

Gorin:  (rubbing his temples, for the strange screaming still rings
  in his ears)  Man, my head is killing me!
Kup:  No, that was the _other_ heads that were trying to kill you.
Peyote:  (rubbing his bruised throat)  Wh- what were those things?
Relmar:  Especially rare and foul undead...whatever is happening here
  is more powerful than we suspected.
Kup:  We?
Relmar:  Oakly and I.
Mongo:  Heads, hands...what's next?
Halbarad:  I am not sure I want to know.
Gorin:  One thing's for sure:  someone or _something_ doesn't want
  us around here.
Peyote:  (raises his sword)  Which is exactly why we're gonna find and
  destroy the evil influence.  (he turns to his companions, his jaw
  clenched)  'Cause now I'm pissed.

next:      intermission
ftp: in /pub/access/dpm/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Let me say it now:  I know there's some TSR accessory
  that features severed heads and crawling hands, but all I used
  was my memory of such ideas.  My undead's powers are of my own

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