Chapter #818

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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                                                  +
+   "If it is there...then it is something that man was not meant         +
+    to disturb."                                                         +
+                              - Sallah, from _Raiders of the Lost Ark_   +

                    DCCCXVIII.  The Mystery Deepens

  Investigating a call for help from the mighty fortress of Greyspire,
the adventurers have finally gotten inside the place, and opened the
doors to the main entry hall...

Bosco:  (stands there, gaping)
Lyra:  (covers her eyes)
Alindyar:  Aie.

  The entire chamber - and it was not a small room - was splattered
with dried blood.  Splashed on the floor, walls, and ceiling in random
patterns, it looked for all the world like the painting efforts of an
insane and violent mind.

Mongo:  (staring around speechlessly)  ...well, that's that.  Now we
  know something's definitely wrong here.
Bosco:  (frowning)  That's a lot of blood...
Lyra:  Are we sure it's blood?
Alindyar:  (nods grimly)  Unfortunately, it is indeed.
Mongo:  That's what it looks like when it dries.  (he touches one red-
  stained wall)  Dry.  I wonder how long it's been here like this.
Lyra:  I have a spell that will answer that.  (she begins spellcasting)

  While the drow wizardess worked her magic, Mongo and Bosco looked
around for trails, footprints, or other clues that might have offered
more information about what happened here.  There wasn't much, though.
Several doors led from the hall, but none contained more blood or any
kind of stains or smears.

Alindyar:  If you ask me, this chamber's...decoration was intentional.
  (he frowns)  Just my opinion.
Mongo:  Maybe it's a message.
Bosco:  Or a warning.
Lyra:  Message, warning, or whatever, it's only three days old.
Mongo:  That means someone could still be alive in here...somewhere.
  (he looks around angrily)  And if they're not, then there will be
Alindyar:  We need to search, and rapidly.
Mongo:  Yeah.  I'd suggest against anyone going alone, though...well,
  except maybe for me.
Lyra:  Two teams of two?
Mongo:  Sounds good to me.
Bosco:  I can fly, which should speed things up in some places.
Alindyar:  And I can summon a wizard eye, which can also fly, plus
  avoids any direct confrontation with whatever did this.  I shall be
  unable to walk about myself, though, if I must focus on the eye.
Mongo:  So someone needs to stay behind with you.
Lyra:  I can fly as well.  The best plan would be for Bosco and I to
  have an airborne look around, while Alindyar stays here and uses the
  wizard eye to explore in another direction.  Mongo, you could do some
  slower-paced scouting on foot.
Mongo:  (not pleased with this)  But I can hold my own against anything
  we find-
Alindyar:  True, my friend...but now we must explore the most area we
  can, as quickly as we can.
Mongo:  (grumbling)  Okay, okay.  I don't like it, but it makes sense.
Alindyar:  (nods, and begins working the spell to summon his wizard eye)
  Any advice you can offer, such as how this place is laid out and what
  is located where, might make our search even more efficient.

  Mongo proceeded to give a quick description of the fortress' general
layout:  the entry level was the largest, with seven floors of gradually
decreasing size tiered above, then a long stairway that led to the very
top of Greyspire.  Below the entry level were two lower floors.  All of
these levels, while separated by as much as a hundred feet of rock, were
joined to each other by stairways - as well as a central shaft that
opened onto all of the floors.

Alindyar:  A single passage, vertical and joining all of the floors?
  Do you know where it is?
Mongo:  Yeah.  But remember, there are also some levels that the shaft
  doesn't connect to.  (he frowns)  Those are down below.  I really
  don't know much about them - Lord Marcus had them sealed off years
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Sounds suspicious.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Perhaps we should save that area for last,
  if we find nothing elsewhere.

  Mongo also told them about the lair of the griffons, at the very top
of the fortress.  More than a dozen strong, these fierce beasts hadn't
taken to any domestication efforts very well, but Lord Marcus had kept
them up there, roaming freely, in the hope that they would eventually
become useful as winged mounts.

Bosco:  (gesturing to the bloodstained walls)  Griffons didn't do this.
Mongo:  I know, but I'm also wondering if the animals are still up there,
  or if they met the same fate as...well, as everyone else.
Alindyar:  (now directing a large, floating, disembodied eye as it flies
  around the room)  Let us make haste, and get some answers.
Lyra:  And no dawdling.  We have to hurry.

  Bosco and Lyra headed up, while Alindyar sent his magical eye down to
the lower levels.  Mongo busied himself with exploring the entry level,
checking back on Alindyar every so often.

Alindyar:  (calmly, as he focuses on what he's seeing through the eye
  on the floor below)  You need not worry about me.  I am perfectly
  capable of defending myself if necessary.  Though I must focus on the
  eye, I am not oblivious to danger.
Mongo:  Okay, okay.  Old habits die hard...

  More than an hour later, everyone regrouped and compared the results
of their searches.  There wasn't much of use.

Bosco:  The upper levels are mostly quarters and armories, with one
  ramped area full of siege engines, catapults, and such.
Lyra:  And access to all of those guard-towers that jut out from the
  fortress' exterior wall.
Bosco:  Yeah, that too.  Oh, and also the kitchens and dining halls!
Lyra:  The food's all there, and the weapons.  Nothing was looted or
  vandalized...not even the troops' personal items in the barracks.
Bosco:  We did find a few smaller bloodstains here and there, but none
  of them helped us figure out what was going on.
Lyra:  Everything's deserted, with no signs of a big fight.  Whatever
  happened here, it happened fast and was over even faster.
Alindyar:  Hmm.  This tale resembles my own magical exploration of the
  two levels beneath us.  Bloodstains are evident, here and there, but
  neither bodies nor signs of battle remain.  Storage areas are utterly
  intact, with nothing amiss or missing.
Mongo:  Crap.  All of this matches what I've seen on this floor...some
  armories, some passages with arrow slits, lots of sturdy doors which
  are all locked and bolted.
Bosco:  It just doesn't make any sense!
Mongo:  Damn right.  (shaking his head)  What in the hell could sneak up
  on, and take out completely, a fortress filled with hundreds of veteran
Alindyar:  (quietly)  I may have found the path to the answer.
Mongo:  Huh?  (he turns on the dark elf)  Why didn't you just say so,
Alindyar:  Because we all needed to hear the accounts of everyone's
  explorations, without bias or hurry.  Now that we are all done, I can
  discuss the collapsed passage I found on the lowest level below us.
Mongo:  Screw that.  Let's just walk down there and have a look.
Alindyar:  As you wish.

  They exited the entrance hall and wound their way around a bend,
through a small antechamber, down a short passage, though an open doorway
into a long hallway, and finally into a large room containing stairs
leading both upward and downward.  Descending to the next level, they
forged ahead, led by the dark elf, himself following his memory of the
wizard eye's explorations.  Another level down, then a trek through a
complex of rooms and passages that appeared to have been deserted for a
long time...and they stood before another large stairway.

Mongo:  It's been caved in.
Alindyar:  (nods)  And what else?
Mongo:  (touching a boulder, he knocks loose some rubble)  Recently...
  days ago, I'd say.
Alindyar:  Aye, my opinion as well.
Lyra:  So what happened here?
Bosco:  Seems pretty cut-and-dried to me:  someone or something came up
  from here, overwhelmed the entire fortress, left a message or warning,
  then retreated from whence it came, sealing the way.
Alindyar:  Quite concise, young Bosco.
Bosco:  Thanks.
Mongo:  Damn.  (he regards the floor-to-ceiling barrier of collapsed
Alindyar:  Being a master of illusion, I am essentially also a master of
  auras given off by all things magical. I have detected vague and quite
  scattered traces of an odd dweomer ever since we came to this place,
  but it is much stronger here.
Mongo:  What are you saying, exactly?
Alindyar:  To be direct...this entire area is permeated with remnants of
  an unusual and very powerful magic...something old, and evil.
Bosco:  That's not very direct.  What is it?
Alindyar:  That I do not yet know.
Mongo:  (points to the cave-in with his warhammer)  And whatever it is,
  it's behind that?
Alindyar:  Aye.
Mongo:  (grits his teeth)  Then it's time to go to war.

next:      ...
released:  4/23/04
notes:     ...

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