Chapter #1012

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                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
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                                   +   +

+     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       +
+   1991-2017 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!                                          +
+   Belphanior     18th/18th/18th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Hope           16th level female human wizard                         +
+   Irina          7th/14th level female human warrior/priestess          +
+   Otto           12th/14th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  12th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        14th level human wizard                                +
+   Date:          unknown                                                +
+   Time:          daytime                                                +
+   Place:         unknown                                                +
+   Climate:       chilly and overcast                                    +
+   "Violence just seems to follow me."                                   +
+                                                     - from _Bad Ass_    +

                   MXII.  Unaccustomed Disadvantages

  After a strange, powerful magical explosion has hurled them into parts
unknown, the group now faces another challenge...

Otto:  (listens intently as multiple howls resonate from the surrounding
  area)  They're getting closer.
Belphanior:  At least it's not dark.  With daylight, we can see what
  we're doing.
Otto:  (grimly)  And what we're fighting.
Razor Charlie:  (offers one of his knives to Belphanior)
Belphanior:  No, thanks.  That's better off in your hands, you'll do more
  damage.  (having spotted a gnarled branch of wood, he picks it up)  I
  need something with more heft anyway.  (he plants his foot on one end
  of the branch and breaks it, ending up with a crude spear)  This will
  do just fine.
Irina:  (having already found a smaller branch of wood that vaguely
  resembles the mace with which she's used to fighting)  Hmm.  (she
  swings the sturdy stick experimentally)
Hope:  No spells for you?
Irina:  All of the spells Istus last granted me are for healing and such,
  not battle.  (she hefts the wooden branch)  I'll be fine.
Hope:  (looking dubious)  If you say so.
Skektek:  (looking worried, he mutters to himself)  Doesn't feel right,
  going into battle without my rings and wands...
Hope:  You and I don't have much choice.
Razor Charlie:  (holds up a throwing knife)  Stay back.  The rest of us
  will do the fighting.
Belphanior:  But...wait.  Just because we don't have our magical items,
  that doesn't necessarily mean magic doesn't work here...or that we've
  got nothing.  (he concentrates, and small swirling motes of magical
  energy begin to dance around one of his hands)  Should've thought of
  this before...we've still got whatever spells we had memorized before
  all of this happened.  I've been so used to using my sword, or other
  items, that I almost forgot.  (to Hope and Skektek)  Use your magic,
  but be strategic and cautious - without spellbooks, once any of us
  casts a spell, we won't be able to get it back.
Skektek:  (grimly)  Don't worry, I'll make 'em count.
Hope:  (listening to the howls, which are very close now, she frowns)
Belphanior:  (quietly glad that Neera's not here, so that she doesn't
  have to face savage wolves without her magic)  If we're to die, we'll
  take plenty of them with us.
Razor Charlie:  (cracks his neck, grimacing)

  When the wolves came, they didn't hesitate for an instant, nor did
they sneak up on the party.  The flat plain surrounding the adventurers
provided no cover; the wolves were first visible as distant specks that
gradually grew in size as they bounded toward the group.  While they
converged from all directions, that was the extent of any tactic the
beasts employed; they seemed intent on simply rushing in and overwhelming
their prey by sheer numbers.  This was quite likely, for the pack was at
least a dozen strong.  They were mostly large specimens, averaging five
to six feet from nose to tail.  Of course, they weren't standing, but
rather charging, their sharp teeth visible within slavering maws.

Belphanior:  Get ready-

  Amazingly enough, Razor Charlie's first thrown knife actually hit its
target before any of the spells, the sharp blade sinking into the hairy
throat of one wolf.  An instant later, five missiles of reddish magical
energy blasted five separate wolves; Skektek had opted for spreading his
attack around rather than focusing on a single target.  On the opposite
flank, Belphanior raised his hands, and a sheet of yellow flames fanned
out in front of him.  Three of the leaping wolves were badly burned and
fell to the ground, writhing and howling as their fur blazed.  Hope used
the same spell; although her spell's flames were bright green, the end
result was the same, as the closest wolf on her flank was incinerated
and two others were driven back with lesser burn wounds.
  This was the extent of the adventurers' first (and likely only) wave
of magical attacks, for the remaining wolves now engaged the group in
savage, bloody battle.

Irina:  (steps forward, meeting a wolf's pounce early and surprising the
  beast with a deft swing of her makeshift club)
wolf #13:  (falls, stunned and bleeding from a deep gash atop its head)
Otto:  (brandishing a crossbow bolt defensively, he goes down beneath one
  leaping wolf)
wolf #6:  (slashes and snaps at the dwarf with deadly claws and fangs)
Razor Charlie:  (hits a second wolf with a thrown knife, then meets a
  third as it pounces, a knife held in each hand)
wolf #3:  (leaps, knocking the grimacing warrior down beneath it)
Belphanior:  (hefting the branch he found, he times his swing and bashes
  a leaping wolf on the snout with the blunt end, knocking it back)
wolf #4:  (reels, then regains its balance and whirls about, snarling)

  Things got violent and gory in a hurry.  Despite one wolf slain, three
badly burned, and several others wounded, other animals were now fighting
with almost all of the party members.  Those adventurers used to direct
physical combat gave everything they had and didn't hold back, while the
wizards, exposed and unable to launch a second spell, suffered grievous

wolf #3:  (atop Razor Charlie but held at bay by the warrior's hands
  pressed against its chest, it snaps viciously at him several times
  before realizing that both of those hands keeping it at bay are holding
  knives, imbedded deep in its flesh)  GRRRRrrrrrr...(it weakens, but
  its would-be prey doesn't let up, twisting the blades back and forth
  until one of them slices into the heart, causing hot blood to gush
  forth freely)
wolf #4:  Grrrarrrr!  (it leaps at Bephanior again)
Belphanior:  (aiming the sharp end of his club at the thing, he swings
  up with all his strength as it leaps)
wolf #4:  (impaled on the wooden point, it swipes at the elf anyway, its
  claws tearing furrows in his arm)  Rraargh!
Belphanior:  AAAARGH!  (he shoves the speared beast around to one side,
  its back hitting the cold ground, and then pushes the crude spear
  deeper into its torso)
wolf #6:  (snarling, it bites deeply into Otto's left shoulder)
Otto:  ARGH!  (clutching the crossbow bolt in his other fist with wild
  desperation, he stabs its point into the animal's throat, once, then
  again, and then again)
wolf #6:  (gurgles as blood splatters everywhere)  Rrrrgg...
wolf #7:  (badly burned, it writhes around in pain nearby)
wolf #8:  (likewise)
wolf #9:  (likewise)
wolf #10:  (a charred, unmoving corpse, it lies there steaming)
wolf #13:  (staggers to its feet, but then goes down again as Irina
  bashes it in the face with her club)
Irina:   (wasting no time, she kicks the beast in the side of the head
  even as she pivots and meets the skull of another wolf with a great
  swing of her club)
wolf #12:  (one of the two moderately burned by Hope's spell, it reels
  back, dazed)  Ylp!
wolf #11:  (the other moderately burned by Hope's spell, it charges,
  colliding with Irina, and they go down in a heap)
Hope:  (working another hasty spell)
wolf #1:  (the first animal hit in the neck by one of Razor Charlie's
  knives, and then hit by a magic missile from Skektek, it is wounded
  but far from dead, and barrels into the sorceress)
Hope:  (screams in agony as the wolf's jaws close around one forearm)
Skektek:  (doesn't even have time to try spellcasting as another of the
  wounded wolves pounces on him)
wolf #2:  (the one hit with one of Skektek's magic missiles and then by
  Charlie's second thrown knife)  GRAAAR!  (it tears at the wizard)
wolf #5:  (another of those hit with one of Skektek's magic missiles but
  still in the fight, it looks around, trying to decide who to attack)
Razor Charlie:  (kicks the dying wolf off of himself and stands, covered
  in the animal's blood, grimacing, and brandishing two gory knives)

  The warrior surveyed the chaos and acted quickly, executing his plan
of attack not a moment after it had formed in his mind.  Both of the
blades in his hand were hurled at the fifth wolf, which was unoccupied
and thus presented the most potential danger.  One knife just nicked the
foe, due to the throw being off because of slippery blood - no one was
perfect, not even Razor Charlie.  The other knife, however, ended up in
the wolf's eye-socket.

wolf #5:  (begins rolling around, howling in pain, its body spasming)
Razor Charlie:  (wipes his bloody hands on his pants, grabs two more
  knives from his belt, and steps toward the wolves attacking Skektek
  and Hope)

  Meanwhile, Belphanior had been unable to pull his makeshift spear free
from the wolf he'd impaled, and he'd ended up breaking the branch off,
meaning he now had a smaller and less effective club.

Belphanior:  (undeterred, he dashes over to the wolf that's attacking
  Hope, bringing the length of wood down on its skull with all his might)
wolf #1:  (stunned, it ceases its attack for a moment, allowing the elf
  to land another blow, and then rolls over, drooling blood from its
  mouth and nostrils)
Otto:  (still trading blows with the sixth wolf, he stabs at its throat
wolf #6:  (begins to slow down, its howls becoming whimpers)
wolf #11:  (snapping at Irina, who is pinned beneath it)
Irina:  (shoves her club in the thing's maw, catching it by surprise,
  then holds that stick in place with one hand while punching the wolf
  in the side of its face with the other fist)
wolf #11:  (backs up, trying to dislodge the weapon that's rammed down
  its throat)
Razor Charlie:  (leaps onto the back of the wolf that's mauling Skektek,
  slamming one knife's blade down into the top of its skull)
wolf #2:  (its eyes roll back in its head as the steel punctures its
Razor Charlie:  (wraps his free arm around the animal's neck, using the
  other arm to bring his second knife to bear, slicing open its throat
  with a sudden swipe)

  Otto was now free, and despite bleeding from several wounds, he joined
Belphanior in finishing off the wounded foes one by one.  Without real
weapons, it was a laborious and messy process, but one that had to happen.
When the gory carnage was finally over, the adventurers studied the site
of the brief but intense battle.

Belphanior:  Whew.

  The elf had a series of deep furrows in one arm, as well as a long gash
along his torso and several other lesser wounds.  Otto's shoulder, which
had been chewed on by one of the wolves, was a ragged and bloody mess,
though it was difficult to tell since he was covered in the foe's blood.
Razor Charlie was also drenched in blood, but had escaped the conflict
with only a few minor cuts on his arms, plus a torn ear.  Irina had a
shallow bite wound on her side and several bleeding gashes on her arms
and shoulders.
  As for the wizards, there was good news and bad news.  Hope had only
received a few gashes, due to Belphanior stopping her attacker before it
could inflict too much damage.  She was in a state of mild shock, but all
in all she'd been extremely fortunate.  Skektek, however, had three deep
bite wounds - the worst of which was quite serious - and he was bleeding

Skektek:  (watching the pool of blood on the ground beneath him, as it
  grows)  I don't...think...I've ever bled this much before.  Hurts...
  (he passes out from the pain)
Belphanior:  (turns to Irina)  He needs-
Irina:  I'm on it.  (she moves to minister to the fallen wizard)
Otto:  (to Hope)  Hang on, and I'll get those wounds bandaged up in no
Hope:  (flexing her arm painfully, she watches the large cut on it as it
  oozes blood)  This would be fascinating, if it didn't hurt so much.  I
  take it that the...old me would have just shrugged this off?
Otto:  (grins)  Definitely.
Razor Charlie:  (scanning the horizon)  Don't see any more wolves, but
  that doesn't mean they're not out there.
Belphanior:  Tell me about it.  We're moving out shortly, as soon as the
  more serious wounds are bound and healed.  (he frowns)  We went about
  this battle all wrong.  One of us should have taken to the air, which
  would have allowed more spell use without any danger of attack.
Hope:  I didn't even think of that.  There really wasn't time.
Belphanior:  And also, we're not used to fighting with this much of a
  disadvantage.  We just need to remember it for next time.
Otto:  Hopefully, next time we'll have some more weapons.
Belphanior:  And better ones.  (he studies the plain that surrounds them)
  We need to find a city or town, or at least some shelter...or else this
  could be a long night.
Hope:  We've got many hours left until night.  And plenty of spells.
Belphanior:  We need to see where we stand, and right now.  (he begins
  casting a spell)
Otto:  What about your wounds-
Belphanior:  That can wait.  I want answers, and I want them now, before
  something else happens.

  The elf completed his spell of flying - a move which really had no
downside, now that he thought about it - and closed his eyes, focusing
his thoughts on moving himself through the air.  Concentrating intently,
he rose up, higher and ever higher.

Otto:  Well, there he goes.  (to Hope, who is now being attended by the
  healing magic of Irina)  What's the highest someone can go with that
Hope:  You know...that's a really good question.  (she winces as Irina
  loosens a bandage in order to examine the wound)
Irina:  Sorry.  (she casts a simple healing spell, and the sliced flesh
  closes, knitting itself together)
Skektek:  (lying on the ground nearby, passed out from the pain that was
  there before the healing efforts)

  Above, Belphanior hovered in midair, methodically surveying the plains
surrounding the site of the battle.  Despite only having one eye, his
vision was excellent, and he slowly rotated around in the air, scanning
in all directions for any sign of civilization.  To tell the truth, it
didn't matter if he could make out details or not - as long as he could
spot something and knew what direction to travel in, the group would have
a clear goal to work toward.

Belphanior:  (ceases his rotation, squinting)  Aha.

  In the distance, past the seemingly endless plains below, was a shape
that was undoubtedly a small town.  Pleased to have made some progress,
the elf returned to the ground.

Belphanior:  There's a town in the distance-  (he points)  -that way.  I
  can't be sure of the exact distance, but we might be able to get there
  before the sun goes down.
Hope:  That's great news!  (she winces as she moves)
Irina:  I can knit these cuts and gashes, for the most part, but those
  who are wounded still need to take it easy.  Full healing takes time,
  and no exertion.  (she eyes the unconscious Skektek)  It's too bad we
  don't have a wagon or some other way to carry him.  I was able to save
  him, but he needs rest and better care - with water, and fresh bandages
  for his wounds.  Right now, he's just dead weight.
Razor Charlie:  (grimaces at no one in particular)
Hope:  We can use a spell of levitation, or a floating disc, to carry
  him without risk of bouncing or dropping.
Belphanior:  Very well.  Let's do that, and be on our way.  A town means
  food, and rest, and answers.
Otto:  It could also mean trouble.

next:       safety, perhaps
released:   1/13/2017
notes:      Some of you are probably wondering about material components
  as part of the spellcasting in this one.  I've kind of ignored those in
  my stories, actively de-emphasizing them for a while now.

    One point of this episode was to show what happens when there are no
  magic items and only a single wave of spellcasting is possible.

    This was another episode that took FAR too long for me to produce.
  At first, it was my own fault - slackness, being weary from other things
  in my life, and so on.  The usual.  In mid-October, I was fired up to
  get going again.  And then...I caught a cold.  After which I got better,
  only to catch it again but twice as bad.  After which I got better, only
  to suffer from what was most likely a bad case of food poisoning which
  laid me out for a while.  (There haven't been many times in my life when
  I've seriously considered going to the emergency room, but that was one
  of them.)  As I type this, it's early January and I'm finally finishing
  writing this grim battle which I started working on months ago.
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