Chapter #817

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                                   +   +
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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       +
+   1991-2004 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!                                          +
+   Alindyar        18th level drow wizard                                +
+   Bosco           13th level halfling thief                             +
+   Lyra            14th level female drow wizard                         +
+   Mongo           18th level dwarven warrior                            +
+   Date:           1/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the western reaches of the Riftcanyon                 +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "It's eerie!"                                                         +
+   "Well, let's find out just how eerie."                                +
+                        - from _Dracula:  Prince of Darkness (1966)      +

                     DCCCXVII.  Missing Persons

  After receiving a strange, magical cry for help from the distant
fortress of Greyspire, Mongo has gathered allies.  Few but powerful,
the group has magically traveled to the vicinity of the place...

Mongo:  Damn, it worked!
Alindyar:  Of course it worked.

  They looked ahead...and up.  As they stood on the mainland, the huge
canyon itself was to the south; a hundred feet past its edge rose the
huge stone monolith that was Greyspire.  Several hundred feet wide, it
rose at least a thousand feet into the air, everything higher than that
out of sight thanks to the thick mists that rose from the depths of the
Riftcanyon.  Next to this huge tower of rock, the adventurers were no
more than specks on the landscape.
  The fortress was connected to the mainland by a wide, thick bridge;
where this span met the mainland was a massive gatehouse, almost a
hundred feet wide and perhaps fifty feet in height.  No windows were
present in the gatehouse's sturdy walls, and the large steel door in
its face was shut tight.

Mongo:  (pointing to some large firepits to the north)  No smoldering
  ashes from the nighttime fires...that's not good.
Lyra:  That means there _were_ no nighttime fires.  (she regards the
  dwarf quizzically)  What is the purpose of these fire-pits?
Mongo:  Greyspire lights them as a beacon, and a warning, and also to
  shed some light on the approach to the gatehouse.
Alindyar:  Hmm.
Mongo:  I don't see any guards...nobody to be seen at all.  Something's
  definitely wrong here.
Alindyar:  (looking around)  Can you feel it?
Lyra:  Vaguely.
Bosco:  (looking around as if he should see something)  Feel what?
Alindyar:  The power...the sheer magical power of this place.  The very
  stone teems with it.
Mongo:  Others have said that...something about the rock not being from
Alindyar:  'Tis fortunate that we chose not to attempt teleportation
  directly into the fortress.  (he regards the gatehouse)  But now, we
  must enter.
Mongo:  If that front door's locked, and I think it is, we'll have to
  smash it open.
Bosco:  Nah.  (he takes to the air, his winged boots flapping)  I'll
  just fly over, go down, and open the door for you.
Mongo:  What if there's someone in there and they attack you?
Bosco:  (already twenty feet up)  Then you can smash the door open.  (he
  rises higher, soon flying over the top parapet of the gatehouse)
Alindyar:  The lad is brave, no doubting that.
Mongo:  Brave, or stupid.
Lyra:  There's a fine line between bravery and stupidity, and Bosco
  treads it carefully indeed.
Alindyar:  Well said.
Mongo:  (hefts his enchanted warhammer)  Just the same, I'll be ready to
  break that door down if we need to.
Alindyar:  I shall do a bit of scouting as well.  (he floats up into the
  air, vanishing from sight)

  By the time the dark elf hovered over Bosco's last visible position,
there were some muffled sounds from behind the thick door...and then a
ratcheting noise, as some hidden gate was moved.  After that, a faint
pounding came from the other side of the metal portal.

Lyra:  Bosco?
Mongo:  Maybe he can't get the door open.  He's fairly puny, even for
  a halfling.  (he walks over to the portal, which has no handles)

  Just then, the door opened, just a couple of inches.

Bosco:  (weakly)  Ungh!  Too heavy!
Mongo:  I'll handle this.  (he gets his fingers around the edge and
  pulls the door open)
Bosco:  Whew, thanks!  (thoughtfully)  We should have set up some kind
  of signal, like two raps for all's well.
Mongo:  Yeah.  Maybe at the next big door.
Lyra:  What's inside?
Bosco:  Nothing and nobody.  Not even blood or signs of a fight.

  The now-open portal had a recess above, into which a thick portcullis
had been raised by Bosco, using a lever-and-crank system.  The gatehouse
opened directly onto the fifty-foot wide stone bridge, though another
portcullis on this back side was halfway open.  To the left and right of
the bridge were the open depths of the Riftcanyon.

Mongo:  (shakes his head)  Probably the first time in years that this
  area's been unmanned.  I want to have a look upstairs before we go
  any farther.
Bosco:  (watches the dwarf clamber up a nearby stairway)  What, doesn't
  he believe me?
Alindyar:  (becomes visible and lands next to the halfling)  Perhaps,
  but some things must be seen for oneself.  (to Lyra)  I detect signs
  of magic here...strong, evil magic, and old.  Very old.
Lyra:  Not good.
Alindyar:  Perhaps the answers will lie within the fortress proper.
Mongo:  (comes back down the stairs)  Damn, this is weird.  No signs of
  a struggle, no weapons or food left behind.  (he shrugs)  Nothing.
Bosco:  (points to the bridge)  We've got to get over there and inside
  the fortress.
Mongo:  Yeah.  Everyone ready?

   They set out across the stone walkway, occasionally glancing down
into the mist-shrouded depths below.  Fortunately, the bridge was both
wide and sturdy, so despite the great height, there was no real sense
of vertigo.

Bosco:  (meandering toward one edge of the bridge)
Mongo:  Bosco!
Bosco:  Okay, okay.  I just wanted to see what was down there.
Mongo:  Actually, you probably wouldn't.

  The bridge spanned the abyss and ended at Greyspire itself, merging
into the rock of the natural tower looming far above.  At this junction
was a pair of stone doors, twenty feet high and each as wide.  The twin
portals were smooth and solid-looking.

Mongo:  These doors are a foot thick.

  On either side of the doors and the bridge's end was a fifty-foot
tower, jutting out from the main rock of Greyspire as if gigantic
cylinders had been fused with the natural tower itself.  These twin
towers were fifty feet high, with parapets at their tops and numerous
small windows and arrow slits visible.

Bosco:  You know, with all this, they can completely cover any approach
  that used this bridge.
Mongo:  Yeah.  And anything that crawls up from underneath too.

  Here and there, on the face of the spire itself (and never less than
a hundred feet up) were smaller guard-towers, protruding from the main
spire like little rocky blisters.  About a dozen were visible; the
adventurers could see that each was a few feet square and contained a
small, barred window.

Alindyar:  (glancing around)  The stone of this spire is...unusual.
Mongo:  Legends have it that the whole place was blessed by some long-
  forgotten earth god, and the rock is much stronger than normal.
Alindyar:  (nods)  Aye, it has such an aura.
Bosco:  (watches as mist rises from the depths on both sides of the
  stone bridge)  Forget the rock.  (he points to the huge stone doors)
  How are we gonna get through _those_?
Lyra:  Good question.  They appear to be closed and locked.   (she
  turns to Mongo)  I don't suppose a simple spell of knocking would
  open these?
Mongo:  (shakes his head)  These doors are strengthened with adamant,
  and who knows what else.  I doubt that even an archmage could get
  them open.
Alindyar:  (smirks)  Fortunately, I am an archmage.
Lyra:  I was just saying maybe we should try an easy spell first.
Bosco:  Hey, give it a try...knock yourself out.
Lyra:  (stares blankly at the halfling)
Bosco:  Get it?  "Knock" yourself out?  (he frowns)  Bah.

  By physical and magical means, they determined that the outer gates
of Greyspire were firmly secured and would not open.  This left the top
of either of the two larger guard-towers, or else the windows in any of
the dozen or so smaller, protruding towers.

Bosco:  Yeah, I can get in one of those.
Mongo:  This oughtta be good.  It's been years since I've seen you scale
  a wall.
Bosco:  That's because I have my winged boots.  (he takes to the sky)

  The halfling headed for the nearest of the larger guard-towers, but
by the time he got there, Alindyar had grown bored and worked a spell.
He, Lyra, and Mongo rose toward the parapet on a large, invisible disk
of force, and it was a surprised Bosco who saw them arrive atop the
guard-tower scant moments after he did.

Bosco:  Hey, no fair-
Alindyar:  We have no time to wait for you to fly ahead and then open
  each portal.
Lyra:  Besides, you're liable to pocket any random valuables you find.
Bosco:  (innocently)  Would I do that?
Mongo:  You'd better not.  They may be dead, but these are allies, and
  in some cases friends.  No looting.
Bosco:  (about to retort, he sees the look on the dwarf's face and
  reconsiders)  ...right.

  As Mongo knew (and showed them) the tower roof had a hatch covering
a ladder which led down to the lower floor.  The dwarf explained that
each tower had four distinct floors:  the top (with the parapet for
any archers who might ply their trade) plus three others.  As they
descended, Mongo pointed out the arrow slit covers, which were metal
plates with handles.  These were painted the same color as the outside
stone, and when fastened in place (as they were now) there was no way
anyone outside could know that arrow slits permeated the tower walls.

Mongo:  The third floor, which we're on now, is similar to the roof -
  it's for archers.  The second floor contains arrows, extra bows, and
  a ladder up and down.  The first floor connects the entire tower to
  the main interior of the fortress.
Alindyar:  'Tis a well-thought-out fortress.
Lyra:  But where are its people?
Bosco:  We'll find them sooner or later.

  After they reached the ground floor, Mongo opened an interior door
that led to a long hallway with many side doors.

Alindyar:  Are you not concerned that any of these doors might have
Mongo:  Not really.  (glances around)  Whatever happened here, I don't
  think traps were part of it.
Bosco:  (eager for some action, he quietly slips ahead)
Lyra:  Where are we going?
Mongo:  This passage leads to the main entry hall, which has passages
  and stairways to pretty much the whole place.  We should start there
  for our real exploring.

  A large iron door stood at the end of the long passage, and Bosco
was already there, checking for traps.

Bosco:  Nothing.  It's not even locked.  (he sniffs the air, frowning,
  and turns to the others)  Are you ready?
Mongo:  Let's do it.
Bosco:  (opens the door, instantly recoiling)  Ack!

next:      a bit of evidence
released:  4/23/04
notes:     I'm not sure if I should be telling you this, but lately (the
  last few episodes) I've been short on time.  Life has gotten busy once
  more.  I was afraid of this when I started writing again.  Hopefully,
  things will settle down for me.

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