Chapter #1089

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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:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         the northeastern Yatil Mountains                       +
+   Climate:       cold                                                   +
+   "I'm a blunt instrument, and I'm damn good at it."                    +
+                                              - from _Aquaman_ (2018)    +

                   MLXXXIX.  Warrior

  Hidden within their ambush site as they watched the lone dwarf march
along the trail below, the giants couldn't believe their luck.  While a
single victim wouldn't garner them the same kind of praise as bringing
back a much larger group (like the one just the other day) it would at
least be a worthy snack.  Plus, the dwarf's gleaming armor might bring
them more favor with their chieftain, who was known to have an interest
in such things.  The trio of giants had gotten plenty of advance notice
about their target, thanks to the keen senses of the pair of dire wolves
that accompanied them on their patrol - although the animals had, of
course, been unable to convey the fact the prey was a single individual
as opposed to many.  But that was no matter; the giants were now in their
ambush position, poised to spring their trap.
  It might have seemed pointless to hurl boulders from above to smash a
single foe, but the tribe of giants had previous experience with humans
and demihumans who commanded spells or other magic.  They knew that such
people could hurt or even kill the giants from afar, and so their battle
tactics (drilled into them by their chieftain and his sergeants) were both
simple and effective:  weaken or kill the victims with thrown rocks, and
only afterward move in closer to deal with any wounded.  As every hill
giant knew, meat cooked and tasted about the same whether or not it had
been tenderized first.
  The giants were taking no chances.  They would hurl rocks first, and eat
later.  As the puny dwarf below moved into ideal range, the trio nodded
silently to each other, their first rocks already clutched in their huge

hill giant #1:  (drooling in anticipation of the upcoming snack)

  Below, Mongo wasn't quite as oblivious as he might have seemed, although
he wasn't aware of the giants lurking above.  Ever since coming upon the
site of the ambush, he'd known that there were giants in the vicinity.  As
a result, his shield was ready on his left arm; with his greatly-augmented
strength, it weighed practically nothing and was no problem to hold.  And
while his warhammer still hung on his belt, he could grab and employ the
powerfully-enchanted weapon fairly quickly if - or when - needed.  The
dwarf had enough experience with giants to know their tactics, and he made
sure to scan both the trail ahead and the cliffs above as he moved along.
  Accordingly, when the first large rock came hurtling down, he was able
to raise his shield to meet it.  The chunk of stone was big - more than a
foot across, and heavy - and in a normal situation, it would have dented
if not shattered the shield as well as the arm holding it.  However, this
was no normal situation...or shield...or bearer.  For one thing, the round
shield itself was highly magical and forged from an alloy that included
adamant; it would take a lot more than a thrown rock to damage it.  For
another thing, Mongo's enhanced strength and durability were more than the
equal of any giant.  Thus it was that, rather than being knocked from his
feet and badly injured (or slain) as the giants expected, the dwarf simply
remained standing there as the rock bounced off of his shield and rolled
to a stop in the bushes nearby.

Mongo:  (immediately spots the source of the attack, his free hand moving
  to his side)

  A second large rock, courtesy of a second attacker, was thrown at him
from above, delaying his attack as he simultaneously raised his shield and
darted to one side.  The missile hit the ground five feet to his right,
the impact shaking the ground, while a third rock - thrown just after the
second, as he had been moving to avoid that one - sailed through the air
toward him.

Mongo:  Shit-  (he catches that missile with his shield, deflecting it to
  one side)

  Above, the giants were already re-arming themselves...but before they
could rain any more rocks down on the dwarf, they witnessed a surprising
and lethal demonstration of their intended prey's abilities.  A relatively
small hammer, hurled by the dwarf below, came flying up...and struck one
of them in the chest with a sound like a small thunderclap.

hill giant #1:  Urk.  (it falls back against the cliff face, the center
  of its chest completely caved in, and then collapses, dead and with dark
  blood oozing from its mouth, nose, and ears as well as the horrific

  To the astonishment of the remaining two giants, the hammer - which was
surprisingly thick for its size - sailed down, right back the way it had
come, into the dwarf's outstretched and gauntleted hand.

Mongo:  Heh.
dire wolf #1:  (takes a few steps back, whining)
hill giant #2:  (eyes wide, it turns to hill giant #3)  Get him now!
hill giant #3:  Yah!

  With sudden urgency, both remaining giants began throwing boulders, as
hard as they could, one after another.  They figured that if they could
overwhelm the dwarf, he might not get a chance to throw that deadly hammer
  They figured wrong.  Mongo blocked one rock, sidestepped another, and
then hurled his hammer again.  The giants watched the weapon sail upward
toward a spot just short of them, and breathed a sigh of relief...until
the weapon - suddenly limned in small arcs of lightning, slammed into the
rock face with tremendous force.  The ground shook violently, and both
giants fought to keep their balance...and then a section of the cliff
quickly broke apart, causing the nearest giant and one of the huge wolves
to slide down with it.

Mongo:  (catches his hammer as he watches the rocks, rubble, dirt, wolf,
  and giant all pile up about thirty feet from him)  Huh.

  As the remaining giant desperately grabbed and threw another large rock,
the dwarf hurled his hammer again.  The two missiles met in midair, the
magical weapon colliding with the boulder...and only one survived.

Mongo:  (catches his hammer again, as the remains of the rock fall to the
  ground all around him)

  Above, the last giant had had enough; it decided to flee and warn its
tribe, rather than face this insanely powerful opponent.

hill giant #2:  (makes it about twenty feet before Mongo's hammer hits it
  in the back, shattering its spine and ribcage and smashing its insides
  into pulp)
dire wolf #2:  (darts around the falling corpse and vanishes down the
  high mountain trail)

  Mongo wasn't worried about a surviving wolf; after all, it wasn't like
the animal could explain to other giants what had happened.  He caught
Stormcrest as it returned to his hand, and advanced on the giant that had
fallen down the cliff face.  Unlike the other wolf (which had been crushed
beneath a large chunk of rock) the giant was still alive - though somewhat
battered and bruised from the fall - and was now getting to its feet.

hill giant #3:  (eyeing the dwarf)

  Mongo was starting to think about how he could question his adversary,
since the dwarf would never resort to torture, even against an evil giant.
However, the foe had no intention of talking, negotiating, or surrendering
to a dwarf.  Enraged, and in that state thinking that the dwarf's hammer
was only effective when thrown, the sole surviving hill giant charged at
Mongo, intending to rip him limb from limb as it had many other foes over
the years.

Mongo:  (clenches his armored fists, and waits)

  The giant didn't know why the dwarf wasn't using his hammer, but it was
encouraged as it closed the distance, massive hands reaching out to grab
and rend the other...only to be sent reeling back as the dwarf suddenly
leaped up, swinging his shield with all of his augmented might.  While
normally used in a defensive manner, the shield was also a weapon when
wielded this way - especially with Mongo's augmented strength.  The disc
smashed into the giant's midsection with tremendous force, pulverizing the
larger foe's ribcage.  As it fell, Mongo leaped forward, his clenched fist
now at a level with the giant's head.  The punch was immediately followed
by a loud CRACK.

hill giant #3:  (flops back onto the hard ground, its neck broken)
Mongo:  Shit.

  To be sure, this was one drawback of both Stormcrest and the powerful
belt of strength the dwarf wore:  sometimes he was too strong and hit too
hard for his own good.  It was tough to question foes when most were slain
by a single mighty blow.  The dwarf was truly surprised that the third
giant had perished so easily; maybe it had been hurt more than it appeared
during its fall, or maybe it was just a small and weak example of its kind.
  Shaking his head, the dwarf wandered about the site of the brief battle,
stretching and loosening his muscles after the brief exertion.

Mongo:  (returns Stormcrest to its place on his belt)

  Very few people knew it, but the potent magical hammer actually had a
handful of drawbacks, including a will of its own...a will that compelled
the dwarf toward certain courses of action.  One of those was to attack
giants, so he was glad that he'd been good and mad already, and had WANTED
to fight these giants.  He knew that someday there might be trouble if he
met some giants that weren't evil, or hadn't done anything wrong; he just
figured he'd have to cross that bridge when he came to it.  That was a
problem for another day, though, and for today he had a purpose that was
both righteous and obvious.

Mongo:  (muttering to himself)  I'm getting close, or I wouldn't have run
  into a patrol.  It won't be long now...

next:       fort of the hill giants
released:   8/27/2021
notes:      I had to address the drawbacks of Mongo's warhammer sooner or
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