Chapter #1088

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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       +
+   1991-2021 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!                                          +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven fighter                             +
+   Date:          7/5/581 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          late morning                                           +
+   Place:         the northeastern Yatil Mountains                       +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "We cannot allow the world to be this way."                           +
+                  - Dr. Axel Brass, from _Planetary_ issue 5             +

                   MLXXXVIII.  Wanderer

  Now in the third day of his journey through the mountains, Mongo has
not only covered a lot of ground, but has successfully dealt with a trio
of potential threats.

Mongo:  (humming quietly to himself as he makes his way along the rocky

  After defeating the three-headed beast a couple of days ago, the dwarf
had encountered a strange flying monster later that afternoon.  While the
thing had kept to the air and launched sharp spikes from its tail, that
tactic had not been enough to save it from the power of Stormcrest.  The
mighty dwarven warhammer had knocked the monster into a rocky cliff, and
it had never reappeared after that.  Then, yesterday, a gigantic bear had
blocked Mongo's path.  He really hadn't wanted to hurt the animal, as it
was most likely just defending its territory.  Instead of smashing the
huge bear with his hammer (or his fist) Mongo had just stared it down,
ready to exert his giant-level strength if things came to that.  However,
when faced with an adversary who showed no fear and didn't back down, the
bear had simply turned and lumbered away.  The ways of nature were strange
at times, and Mongo had hurried on, quickly leaving the area and avoiding
any chance of a future conflict with the animal.
  That brought him to today - another fine day with the sun bright in the
sky above, providing some warmth amidst the cold climate of the mountains.
Of course, Mongo didn't really get cold; between his thick clothing, his
armor, and his magical protections, he was quite comfortable.  The dwarf
paid as little heed to the weather as he did to wandering monsters; unlike
his contemporary Belphanior - whose focus was on first detecting and then
outwitting such foes - Mongo simply relied on his strength, resistance to
injury, and experience when faced with those sorts of challenges.
  Thus, when he came around a bend in the trail and found the remains of a
massacre, he gripped his warhammer tightly in one hand, ready to fight and
smash any foes that might assault him.  But there were none...only death
and destruction.

Mongo:  (looking around, he finally relaxes his grip on his hammer, and
  slowly wanders into the killing field)

  That term was quite appropriate, for the dwarf had come upon the site of
a skirmish which one side had lost decisively.  Here and there, dark red
smears of dried blood decorated the hard ground and some nearby rocks and
bushes.  In a few cases, these stains were beneath small piles of rubble
or split boulders.

Mongo: Thrown rocks...

  All of the blood-stains had attracted swarms of flies, as had the bits
of flesh and other gore that were scattered amidst the carnage.  Several
large backpacks were strewn about; they had been ripped open, and some
of their contents tossed about.  These included some fine clothes, now-
shattered bottles of perfume, and papers.  There were also a few broken
fragments of weapons and armor here and there.  Mongo didn't have to look
too hard to confirm what he already suspected, for there were a number of
huge footprints evident in the areas whose ground had dirt rather than
solid rock.  These could only mean one thing.

Mongo:  Giants.

  The dwarf figured that some sort of traveling party had unwisely taken
this route, and ended up waylaid by a party of giants.  The lack of bodies
wasn't a big surprise, as many giants - especially the more primitive and
savage ones - would take any slain victims back to their lair, along with
the living ones.  Meat, after all, was still meat.  However, it was the
possibility of any living prisoners that Mongo was now thinking about...
for at heart, he was one who had always fought to help and save those who
couldn't fight for themselves - or, as was likely in this case, had simply
been overmatched.  Another glance over the carnage made up his mind once
and for all...because among the fine clothes and other discarded items was
a wooden rattle of the sort a small child might have carried.

Mongo:  Damn.  (checking the tracks, he gets a pretty good idea of what
  direction they lead, eyeing a steep side path that diverges sharply from
  the main trail and winds away at an angle before vanishing from sight
  around a bend in the rocky slope)  Hmm.  (he looks around, regarding
  that new path, then the site of the battle, and then the path again)
  Alrighty, then.  Whoever you people were, or are, stand fast.  Help is
  on the way.

  With that, the dwarf grimly set out, leaving the main trail and taking
the side route, quickly ascending in a south and westerly direction away
from the more traveled path.  His legs may have been shorter, but he was
tireless, marching steadily up the new trail - and he was driven by a dull
but powerful anger now.  It was one thing if giants - or humanoids, or
bandits, or just evil men - attacked trained soldiers who were fighting
them.  It was something else entirely when innocent travelers, including
women and children, were waylaid and then slain or captured.
  The giants, Mongo had already decided, had made a grave
which they would soon pay for.

  Elsewhere - actually just a couple hours' march ahead of the intrepid
and angry dwarf - a hill giant scouting party unknowingly made its way
toward him.  The three giants, who at sixteen feet tall were easily four
times Mongo's height, were lower-class citizens within their tribe.  This
trio's general stupidity and lack of ambition compared to others in their
mountain fort had caused them to get relegated to foot patrol.  As befit
their status, they lacked metal armor or weapons; each was garbed in thick
hides and carried a gigantic wooden club the size of a small tree.  More
importantly, they were accompanied by a pair of dire wolves, whose keen
senses would alert them to the approach or presence of anyone or anything.
As this entire region was claimed (and held) by the tribe of giants, they
had long ago stockpiled throwing rocks all over the mountain trails.  This
would allow them to hurl the deadly missiles - which could crush smaller
foes with ease - from afar and sometimes from above as well.  Such tactics
maximized the death and destruction the giants could inflict, while at the
same time minimizing their risk of injury.
  Of course, if it came to blows, the huge giants were typically bigger
and stronger than anything they were likely to encounter.  That, coupled
with their use of thrown rocks, had allowed them to lord it over this area
of the Yatil Mountains for many years.

hill giant #1:  (leading the way along the mountain trail as it gradually
  winds downhill)  I'm hungry.
hill giant #2:  (yawns, picking its nose with one giant finger)  Maybe we
  find a goat or something.
hill giant #3:  Not enough!  And not fair!  They got all that fresh meat
  back at fort, and we out here looking for...(he scratches his head idly)
  Not even sure what we looking for.
dire wolf #1:  (pads along just ahead of the first giant, sniffing the air
  as well as the ground, seeking the scent of anything that can be killed
  and eaten)
dire wolf #2:  (pauses to piss on a small bush, the foul yellow liquid
  spattering the tough brown leaves of the mountain foliage)

  This group - the giants and wolves both - moved with a confidence borne
of experience as well as membership in their tribe.  They went where they
wanted and did as they pleased...for it had been a long, long time since
they had been challenged in any way.  And so they continued with their
patrol, ignorant of their impending date with destiny - and a rather upset

next:       the first encounter
released:   8/20/2021
notes:      This is exactly the sort of writing that's often the most fun
  for me as an author/creator...generally unplanned but it just flows out
  of my mind.  I mean, I do kind of know what's going to happen (I think
  we all do, more or less) but I haven't worked out the details yet, nor
  do I really want to.  It doesn't have to be meticulously pre-plotted as
  was the case in, say, the recent arc with the vampire and his castle.
  This is the easy kind of writing, which almost writes itself and is a
  good break from the norm for me.
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