Chapter #906

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

+     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       +
+   1991-2006 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     15th/15th/15th level elven fighter/wizard/thief        +
+   Elgon          8th/9th/11th level deep gnome priest/illusionist/thief +
+   Jenna          9th level human female priestess of Istus              +
+   Otto           10th/13th level dwarven fighter/thief                  +
+   Razor Charlie  11th level human fighter                               +
+   Skektek        13th level human wizard                                +
+   wispy thing    strange, intangible sentient being                     +
+   Ys             14th level reptilian fighter                           +
+                                                                         +
+   Alindyar       18th level drow wizard                                 +
+   Lyra           14th level female drow wizard                          +
+   Mongo          19th level dwarven warrior                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Parekh         18th level human female wizard                         +
+   Drak           14th level human barbarian warrior                     +
+   Neera          11th level human female sage/astrologer                +
+   Pallin         17th level grey elven wizard of Celestian              +
+   Date:          8/20/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:          morning                                                +
+   Place:         Monmurg, capital of the Hold of the Sea Princes        +
+   Climate:       cool and pleasant                                      +
+   "I understand no longer carry a weapon."                   +
+   "He _is_ a weapon."                                                   +
+                                           - from _An Eye For An Eye_    +

                   CMVI.  Force of Destruction

  The carefully-planned and -executed destruction of Monmurg, capital
city of the Hold of the Sea Princes, is well underway.  From a distant
place, Parekh and others watch the events using a magical globe...

Parekh:  Not bad, so far.
Pallin:  I'll say.  They've inflicted significant damage on the guard
  barracks, the temple district, the governmental center, and the navy.
Parekh:  Not to mention the city's main slave pens, which several of
  our friends are invading as we speak.  If they get into that place
  and free all those slaves...the city will end up in total chaos.
Drak:  (gripping his hammer)  Kind of makes you want to be there, eh?
Parekh:  (smirks)
Neera:  It's too bad we can't go...(she looks at Parekh)  Not even to
  the skyship, so we'd be there just in case?
Parekh:  As I said, we'll have no direct involvement.  Besides, I think
  we've done enough to help them.
Pallin:  (nods)  We've armed them with useful tools.  I have to say,
  though, that even I didn't expect them to use those tools quite this
Drak:  Especially Mongo.

  They were referring to Mongo's rampage at the city docks/shipyards.
The dwarven warrior wasn't just accomplishing his given task - holing
and sinking the fleet of Monmurg, one ship at a time - he was actually
having fun doing it...

Mongo:  (lets his hammer fly again, nearly breaking a smaller warship
  in two, such is the force of the blow)  Hah!
Elgon:  (whispers to Jenna, as they both watch the dwarf at work)  Is
  he actually getting _stronger_?!?
Jenna:  Possibly.  It almost seems like-  (she turns suddenly, pointing)
  Whoa, heads up.

  The priestess of fate had marginal skills in combat, but her abilities
to heal wounds and scry for danger were useful, and she also possessed a
lesser-seen trait:  the ability to sense approaching or imminent danger.
In this case, her instincts were not only accurate but also timely; she
had sensed a squad of approaching guardsmen before they came into view.
The docks were situated at the edge of the bay, about five hundred feet
downhill from the city proper; the two areas were connected by a wide
road of paved stone.  Along this road, there now marched a sizable force
of city guards.

Elgon:  There are about thirty of them...not good.
Jenna:  You'd think more would show up, considering that more than a
  dozen ships have been sunk.
Elgon:  (nods)  Hopefully my illusion will give them pause.

  The gnome had brought an illusory dragon into being, a fierce red wyrm
that (to any observers on the other side) appeared to be standing just
inland from the docks.  Unfortunately, this illusion had worked once
already, but it didn't seem to be fooling every single guard in this
new group.  Several of them were arguing and pointing to the illusion
and also the ships that were sinking in the bay.

Elgon:  Damn.  I'm about out of good mass-attack, area spells.  You?
Jenna:  I never had such spells.  (she frowns, worried)
Elgon:  I think my illusion's just about had it, judging from the way
  those guards are charging toward the docks...and us.
Jenna:  Time for plan "C"...(she turns to Mongo)  Er...Mongo?
Mongo:  (lustily chanting some dwarven war-ballad, he either doesn't
  hear the priestess or else ignores her)
Jenna:  Ahem...MONGO!
Mongo:  (catches his hammer and whirls)  What?!?
Jenna:  (points to the squad of guards)  We've got trouble.
Mongo:  No we don't.  (he eyes the guards carefully, draws his arm
  back, and then hurls Stormcrest with all his might)

  The hammer hit the ground right in front of the guards, causing the
dwarf's companions to initially think he'd missed.  However, the hard
stone of the wide, paved road down to the docks shattered with the force
of the blow, spraying the charging foes with jagged shards of rock.  To
a man, the guards either fell or retreated; some were slain, more were
wounded, and the rest were terrified at this sudden and deadly attack.

Elgon:  Whoa.
Jenna:  Well done!
Mongo:  Thanks.  (he catches his hammer)  That's a trick I learned from
  Yod Ironbeard.
Elgon:  Yod Ironbeard the dwarven general?
Mongo:  Yeah.  (he looks around)  Now where were we?  Oh yeah.

  Moments later, the mighty warhammer slammed into another slave galley,
the impact smashing a shield-sized hole in its hull just below the ship's
waterline and initiating yet another sinking.

Mongo:  (yelling and cursing triumphantly to himself)
Elgon:  (quietly, to Jenna)  Do you get the impression that he really
  doesn't even need us?

  Suddenly, something fast and bright flashed through the air and hit
the dwarf squarely in his armored back!  There was a great CRACK, and
the impact was so strong that the docks shook, knocking Elgon and Jenna
from their feet.  The smell in the air (along with the hazy cloud of
smoke that now filled the spot where Mongo had just been standing) gave
away the true nature of what had just happened...

Elgon:  Lightning bolt!  (he immediately begins looking around for an
  enemy wizard)

  The supposed wizard was nowhere to be seen (though logic dictated that
he had to be nearby) but there was a small, highly organized force of
defenders on the far end of the docks.  Since they hadn't been standing
there before, they had almost certainly come from one or more of the
docked ships.  Even now, they were raising longbows...

Elgon:  (hastily working a spell)  Damn!

  The gnome got his magical shield up just in time; the shimmering
barrier appeared between him and these new foes, just in time to keep
a dozen arrows from hitting him and Jenna.

Jenna:  (watching the arrows bounce off of the semi-transparent barrier)
Elgon:  You're welcome...but we'd better think of something better before
  they charge down the dock and attack us.  My spell of shielding won't
  stop swords and spears, you know.
Jenna:  What about-
Mongo:  (bellowing from within the fading smoke of the lightning bolt)
  Someone will _pay_ for that!
Elgon:  (gestures to the archers on the end of the docks, two hundred
  feet away)  My vote's for them.
Mongo:  (hurls Stormcrest, shattering the entire end of the dock and
  plunging all of those people into the water)  That's better.
Jenna:  (eyeing the black smear on the back of the dwarf's armor)  Are
  you hurt?
Mongo: takes more than a lightning bolt to knock me out of
  action.  But I'm pissed off.

  Just then, a large boulder arced through the air, headed toward the
trio of adventurers...

Mongo:  Shit!  (he tackles the other two, and all three of them hit the
  ground as the big round rock hits very near to where they'd just been
Elgon:  My shield-spell wouldn't have stopped _that_.
Jenna:  Why would a boulder be falling from the sky...aha.
Mongo:  (catches his hammer as it finally returns)  It's the catapults,
  on the ships - they're firing at us.

  The dwarf pointed to another large boulder that was sailing through
the sky in their direction...and then threw Stormcrest!  The warhammer
collided with the missile, demolishing it in a mid-air explosion of
rock and dust.

Mongo:  (catches his hammer amid a hail of falling rubble)  Heh.  Never
  tried that before...
Jenna:  (squinting at the intact ships in the distance)  Oh, my...they
  have more catapults, and some ballistae too!
Mongo:  (choosing his next target)  So?
Elgon:  We're not prepared for this - we don't have heavy armor or even
  anything to take cover behind.  And you can't sink those ships fast
  enough to stop the rest from bombarding us.
Jenna:  (shaking her head)  We never thought of this.
Mongo:  (wearily)  You two get back to the city and meet Belphanior at
  the armory as planned.
Elgon:  What about you?
Mongo:  I'll be fine.
Jenna:  You can't just stay here and fight them all by yourself-
Mongo:  (raises his hammer, just as a gigantic ballista bolt lands in
  the wooden dock to his right)  Yes, I can!  Now GET OUT OF HERE!

  Elgon and Jenna didn't know Mongo very well - not like Belphanior did,
for example - but they knew enough to do what he said this time.  As the
two of them retreated from the dock, the dwarf let his hammer fly again,
sending it smashing into one of the closer ships which sported several
live catapults and ballistae.  Rather than aiming at the vessel's hull
near the waterline, Mongo instead hit the base of its main mast, snapping
the thick beam and instantly covering the deck and all of its weaponry
and crew with the sprawling sail.  Before the hammer returned to his
hand, the dwarf faced another incoming boulder from another ship's
catapult...and barely got his shield up in time!  The gigantic rock hit
the shield and drove it, and its bearer, back ten feet.

Mongo:  (forcibly extracts his booted feet from the double grooves they
  just dug in the ground)  Ow.  (he catches his hammer, raises his
  shield, then charges forward...and smashes Stormcrest into the wooden
  dock, right where it joins the actual ground out of the water)

  This blow was enough to shatter wood and collapse a good portion of
the walkway; after deflecting a ballista bolt and dodging another small
boulder from a catapult, Mongo hit the dock again, a little further down
from the site of the first such blow.  Boards splintered and broke, and
support beams cracked and groaned...and then an entire section of the
dock just collapsed, right where it met solid ground.

Mongo:  Heh.  (he looks up just in time to see a falling boulder from
  one of the surviving catapults)  Shit.

  The huge rock smashed directly into the dwarf's armored form, knocking
his shield free and burying him in the soft earth near the mangled dock
walkway.  A distant but distinct cheer went up from the crews of the
remaining ships; they were, it seemed, pleased that they'd finally put a
stop to this oddly powerful, strangely resilient, hammer-wielding menace
that had sunk a score of their fleet's vessels.

flying wizard:  (becomes visible as he conjures a gigantic hand of force
  which reaches downward for Elgon and Jenna, who are about fifty feet
  away from where Mongo just stood)  And now for the weaker

  The wizard gaped in shock as a bolt of lightning shot through the air
toward him...and then hit him, emitting a great CRACK! as it burned him
to a crisp, right there in the air.  The magical hand instantly blinked
out of existence, and the ashes of the wizard floated gently to the

Skektek:  (turns his attention to the remaining ships of the fleet as
  he floats higher into the sky)  No more fucking around.  (he begins
  working another spell)
Ys:  (lumbering toward the surprised Elgon and Jenna)  We thought you
  could use some help.
Elgon:  Well, Mongo was doing fine until the ships started bombarding
  him with missiles.
Skektek:  I'm on it.  (he launches a fireball, whose trajectory arcs
  upward and then down, blazing over the top decks almost horizontally
  before exploding against a huge war galleon)  There, that'll give them
  something to cheer about.
Elgon:  Damn...looks like you set two others on fire before the one that
  got the brunt of the fireball.
Skektek:  I've been practicing with my aim and trajectory, and practice
  makes perfect.
Elgon:  (wondering what wasteland was left behind by such "practice")
Jenna:  Ys!  What happened to your arm?  (she glances at the blue blood
  that seeps from the reptilian's leather-armored right shoulder)  It's
Ys:  Yes, it's true...I'm afraid that I've been wounded.  Some wizard
  hit me with a volley of magical missiles and-
Jenna:  (already working a healing spell)  Quiet, I'm concentrating here.

  Meanwhile, at the site where the boulder had hit and buried Mongo, a
slight movement caused the big rock to quiver...

Skektek:  Eh?

  The rock shook with more force...and then it rolled aside!

Mongo:  (stands up, cracking his knuckles)  Not enough catapult.  (he
  picks up his shield)
Elgon:  How the hell did you survive that?
Mongo:  (shrugs)  Invulnerable armor, titan strength, and regeneration.
  You figure it out.  (he eyes the fleet in the water, which contains
  at least half a dozen ships that are either sinking, aflame, or both)
  Some of these are in the way of me sinking the others.  (he throws
  Stormcrest, hitting the nearest of the burning ships below the water-
  line and visibly hastening its sinking process)
Skektek:  Let me help you.  (he points his Elemental Conduit at one of
  the other flaming hulks, and concentrates)

  For a few moments, nothing happened...and then the fire on the one
ship _leaped_ over to the next ship (which was in the process of moving
away from its blazing neighbor) and ignited its sails!

Elgon:  Whoa!
Skektek:  I suspected that this rod could do that.  What a happy day.
Mongo:  (catches his hammer, and hurls it again, demolishing one of the
  few surviving catapults on a distant ship)  I don't need any help.
Skektek:  Of course not.

  This conversation was interrupted by what was probably a last-ditch
effort, as three magi from Monmurg's Guild of Wizardry stood in the
distance near the city proper and launched simultaneous fireballs.
Three jets of flame arced down toward the docks and the five invading
adventurers there, spelling certain doom when the fireballs reached
their targets!

next:       can they survive?
released:   2/10/06
notes:      I hate that this battle is dragging out across more than a
  month of real/reader time, but there's no other option.  I can't give
  you a 100K king-size story one week when all of that material takes
  me several weeks to write.  Without pacing, I'd burn myself out as an
  author.  Better to tell the story in weekly pieces and keep myself
  semi-sane, no?

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