“Okay, here’s one,” said Kelli Thunderhold, Paladin of Righteousness. She worked her voice up into a mocking nasal squeal. “‘Look at me! I’m an Intellect Devourer — and I’m starving to death!”
“Oh, please,” said the Intellect Devourer. “Like I haven’t heard that one a million times.”
He gave the paladin a halfhearted swipe with his claw. Beggaring probability, he did manage to connect and draw blood despite the nigh-impervious bulwark of the girl’s armor, but to no real effect. Once again, the wound closed almost as quickly as the Intellect Devourer could administer it. Damn adventurers with their damn platemail suits and their damn regeneration rings. For a brief instant, he entertained the idea of trying his stun attack again, but quickly dismissed the thought. The paladin’s saving throws were through the roof — probably because of some purportedly incredible Charisma score, though the Intellect Devourer failed to see very much by way of other evidence — and the constant stun-attacking was starting to make his head hurt; inasmuch as he was a walking brain on legs, he had rather a lot of head to hurt. “Besides, that’s not really a taunt at all, is it?” he continued. “It’s more… self-deprecating. I’m not sure why we’re even wasting our breath on taunting each other if you’re not going to do it properly.”
“Look, I’m sorry, all right?” said Kelli. “It’s just that this is so frikkin’ boring! We’ve been at this for, like, a half hour now!” Kelli swung her massive Harbinger Kin greatsword in a mighty overhand arc, its omnipresent corona of mystic flames leaving bright trails in the air as it passed. The hit was square, but, as always, the Intellect Devourer had adamantine-grade damage resistance against edged weapon assault and a similarly high resistance to fire; the blow had no effect whatsoever.
“Graaah!” said Kelli. “See what I mean? Nothing!”
The Intellect Devourer took another swipe. Swingannamiss. “It’s not my fault I’ve got ridiculous slashing damage reduction,” he said. “And elemental fire immunity.”
“Yeah, well, that’s just peachy,” said Kelli, “considering how all’s I got to smite you with is this big SWORD which happens to be ON FIRE.”
It was unfortunate, the Intellect Devourer agreed to himself. Though he had to put on a good show of fighting for his life, the fact is, he was a wandering monster. He hadn’t actually existed as such before he was spawned for this encounter, his highest purpose was to die at the hands of an adventurer, and he was starting to get a little fed up. The Intellect Devourer had been having a nice quiet oblivion before he was rudely awakened by the random encounter tables, and was hoping to get back to it soon, just as soon as he could get properly smitten. Who could have foreseen that the girl, apparently well-armed and equipped, would have this much trouble?
“Okay, look,” said the Intellect Devourer, weaving around another wild haymaker swing from the paladin. “I’ll… I’ll expose some sort of vulnerable spot to you.”
“Hate to break it to you, bub, but you’re basically a talking brain.”
“Yes?” said the Intellect Devourer, a bit testily.
“Which means,” Kelli continued, “that every single part of you is supposed to be vulnerable. It’s not like you’ve got, like, skin or anything. How are you turning away sword hits?”
“Talent?” hazarded the Intellect Devourer.
“I mean, fer cryin’ out loud!” said Kelli. “You’re a walking weak spot! Isn’t that what brains are good for?”
“Silly me,” said the Intellect Devourer. “I had always heard they were for generating coherent, delicious thought energy. Not that you’d know anything about that.”
“Ha, ha,” said Kelli, whacking the Intellect Devourer another good one with her greatsword, injuring it, again, not at all. “I happen to have a few levels in arcane spellcaster, you know.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said the Intellect Devourer. Claw, connect, regenerate. “It seems I have completely misjudged you. A wizard such as yourself must have positive oodles of raw logic power through which you stroke the eldritch energies of the universe.” Claw, connect, regenerate.
Kelli looked a little sheepish. “Well…”
“Mm hm?” said the Intellect Devourer, his smug eyebrow-raising gesture only slightly foiled by his lack of eyebrows and, for that matter, eyes.
“Not exactly a wizard,” said Kelli. “More of a sorcerer.”
“Ah,” said the Intellect Devourer, in a tone of voice that made Kelli want to hit him, so she did, failing even to interrupt the Intellect Devourer’s line of conversation. “A charisma-based caster, yes?”
“Charisma-casting is nothing to be ashamed of, you weird little aberration of wholesomeness.”
“Oh, not at all,” said the Intellect Devourer, smoothly. “So, what, your arcane power stems from how perky and attractive you are?”
“Oh fer Cuthbert’s — not that I’m lacking or anything, but charisma isn’t just attractiveness anymore, you first-edition throwback!” Kelli squared her jaw and began nailing the Intellect Devourer with a series of Power Attacks. “It’s personal–” (clang) “–energy–” (clang) “–presence–” (clang) “–and SOUL FORCE!”
The two combatants looked at each other for a moment. “Did I do something?” asked Kelli, excitedly.
“Yeah,” said the Intellect Devourer, inspecting himself for a moment. “Yeah, I felt that.”
The Intellect Devourer screwed up his frontal lobe in thought. “Hit point, maybe?”
Kelli let out a breath, scattering her bangs. “Crap.”
“Okay,” said the Intellect Devourer, clawing Kelli again. “Can you do that about forty more times?”
“It was really hard,” admitted Kelli, listlessly whacking the Intellect Devourer.
“Okay okay look,” said the Intellect Devourer. “I’ve got vulnerability to frost and maybe a little to electricity. Do you have anything with a frost enchantment? At all?”
Kelli removed her gauntlet, snapped her fingers, pointed, replaced her gauntlet and smacked the Intellect Devourer again with her sword. “Ray of Frost. Zero-level spell.”
“Okay,” said Kelli. “But no attacks of opportunity, promise?”
The Intellect Devourer shrugged. “I can’t promise that.”
“Well, whatever,” said Kelli, as whorls of mystic power gathered about her. “I took Combat Casting anyway, you little bitch. OBIDIE MIDUA BALKAT!”
“Oh yeah!” said the Intellect Devourer, soaking up the destructive elemental frost with relief. “Again! Hit me!”
Kelli squared her jaw. “OBIDIE MIDUA BALKAT!”
“YEAH!” said the Intellect Devourer, thumping one claw against the newly-rimed flagstones as blue energy once again erupted around him. “AGAIN! HARDER THIS TIME!”
“It kind of freaks me out that you seem to be enjoying this,” said Kelli, frowning.
“Less talk! More Ray of Frost!”
She shrugged. “Obidie… midua balkat?”
“Oh yeah! That’s the stuff! AGAIN!”
Kelli shrugged. “That’s it.” She whacked the Intellect Devourer again, apologetically.
“I said, THAT’S IT. Look, I can only do that so many times a day, y’know.”
“You were just getting started! What the hell kind of arcane spellcaster are you?”
“Stop it!” snarled Kelli, whacking the Intellect Devourer again. “You sound just like my dad. He was all, like, no daughter of Abraham Thunderhold is g’wine go off to that magic college and pull rabbits out of hats, and I’m like, no, DAD, we pull them out of the elemental plane of rabbits, the hat is just the material focus for the astral conduit, and he’s like, blah blah astral conduit blah blah, what about your smiting practice, and I’m like, gah, like I want to be some kind of ale and whores cleave-monkey my whole life!”
Kelli sighed, hitting the Intellect Devourer again with her flaming greatsword. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t like ale and whores.”
“Really?” said the Intellect Devourer, essaying a completely ineffectual stun attack for old-time’s sake and then unsuccessfully clawing at Kelli a few more times with his tiny sharp talons. “Whores? I wouldn’t peg you as swinging that way. Unless you mean, like, what.” He interrupted his claw attack series to make little finger quotes. “Bro-Ho’s”?
“Ew!” said Kelli. “Like, perish the thought, or something.” She shook her head. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I don’t actually want to, y’know, do them.”
“So you like whores…”
“…aesthetically,” said Kelli. “They provide ambiance.”
“Ah,” said the Intellect Devourer.
A moment of silence passed, filled only with the noise of two sapient creatures trying unsuccessfully to kill each other.
“You really haven’t got anything in your inventory to slay me with other than that sword?”
Kelli dug around in her stylish extradimensional purse. “Mostly I carry changes of armor in here,” she said. “Platemail of Freedom… Platemail of the Blue Dragon… Chromatic Platemail…”
“That’s a lot of complete suits of platemail.”
“One for every occasion,” she said, smiling wanly. “Can’t be caught out poorly-dressed. Oh hey, wait!” she said fishing deep into her purse, creating the distressing illusion for a second that her arm was being consumed whole. She eventually withdrew a heavy-stocked weapon from the bottomless container. “Eh? Lookit! Crossbow!”
The Intellect Devourer thought. It was, after all, his specialty. “Okay, we can work with this. I’ve got piercing resistance too, but if you have any enchanted bolts…”
“Bolts of the Heavenly Strike!” she crowed.
“All right! Now we’re cooking with elemental lightning.”
Kelli Thunderhold loaded the crossbow. “Okay, keep in mind, there’s a reason I don’t use missile attacks too often.”
“Just fire the damn thing already!” The Intellect Devourer closed his eyes, or would have if he possessed them, and waited for sweet release from this interminable encounter.
There was a sharp twang, a crackle of discharging electricity, and then a silence.
The Intellect Devourer metaphorically opened his eyes again.
“You missed,” he said.
“Well, okay,” said Kelli. “It’s not like I get all that many feats, and I thought, hey, I’ve got like, eight dexterity, it’s not like I’m going to suddenly become some kind of a ranged weapon prodigy, so why waste a feat on Point-Blank Shot?”
“YOU SHOULDN’T NEED A FEAT TO HIT SOMETHING POINT-BLANK!” exclaimed the Intellect Devourer, finally losing it. “YOU PUT THE CROSSBOW TO MY ENORMOUS BODY-LENGTH HEAD AND FIRE THE DAMN THING!”
“Look, it doesn’t even matter! I ROLLED A NATURAL FRIGGIN’ ONE!”
“‘Scuse me,” came a rumbly, squawky voice from nearby.
Kelli and the Intellect Devourer looked up, annoyed. A tall, gangly-looking Hook Horror stood at the inscribed portal leading out of the room, appearing a bit hesitant. “My schedule says I have a random encounter with a… hero?”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Kelli, darkly. “This is just taking a while.”
“Look, chum,” said the Intellect Devourer, scuttling up. “Me and Miss Thunderhold are busy trying to slay each other, here. So why don’t you just withdraw your improbable biology out of this room until we’ve finished. Capisce?”
The Hook Horror indicated a line on his schedule with his single talon. “No, look, see here–“
“I said, BUTT OUT!” said the Intellect Devourer, unleashing a stun attack, dazing the interloper for 1+1d4 rounds. He scuttled back over to the paladin.
“That was kind of cool,” said Kelli.
“Yeah,” said the Intellect Devourer. “First time it’s ever worked on anything.”
“Yes, really!” said the Intellect Devourer, testily. “Considering I’ve only been alive for a half hour and I’ve spent the whole time fighting you, miss Divine Grace Shields Me.”
“What about that thing where you heard my taunt like a ‘million times before’?”
“Racial memory,” said the Intellect Devourer. “I didn’t do much of what you’d call ‘existing’ before this encounter thing.”
“That’s… really sad,” said Kelli, resuming her barrage of greatsword strikes. “Look, I feel kind of bad about this now.”
“Why?” said the Intellect Devourer. “I’m Chaotic Evil, right? Always Chaotic Evil?”
“Well, yeah,” said Kelli. “But I feel like we’ve got this thing going.”
The Intellect Devourer rolled, but for accident of birth, his eyes. “Oh, please.”
“All right, all right,” she said. “I’ll find a way to kill you. After I’m done saving the world.”
“Hm,” said the Intellect Devourer. “What’cha saving it from?”
“Huh,” remarked the Intellect Devourer, clawing at the paladin. “I’d like to see that.”
“Really? ‘Cuz you could… like… come along, or some junk.” She administed a sound blow with her sword.
The Intellect Devourer nodded, clawing her once again. “I’d like that.”
“Dude!” said Kelli, smiting him. “All right, it’s a thing.”
“We’re on,” he said. “I should warn you, every time you move within my threat range, you’re going to provoke an attack of opportunity.”
“Oh, you tease,” said Kelli. “C’mon.”
And so the two made their way further into the dungeon.