Chapter #841

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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                            +
+                                                                         +
+   summoned allies:                                                      +
+                                                                         +
+   5 berserkers    10th level barbarian warriors                         +
+   Host of Kaloth (only those summoned, not the complete set)            +
+     white bishop  tall, grey-haired high priest                         +
+     black bishop  gaunt, bearded high priest                            +
+     white knight  noble centaur with longbow                            +
+     black knight  jet-black horse with sharp hooves and fire-breath     +
+     white rook    10' ivory golem with shortsword                       +
+     black rook    8' ebony golem with spiked fists                      +
+     2 white pawns white-armored warriors with longswords                +
+     2 black pawns black-armored warriors with spiked maces              +
+   Date:           1/3/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           indeterminate, probably early evening                 +
+   Place:          the depths of the vacant fortress of Greyspire        +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "If anything scares you, kill it."                                    +
+                                                - from _Eye See You_     +

                        DCCCXLI.  Descent

  After descending to the lowest floors of the fortress of Greyspire,
the adventurers have broken a powerful seal and come upon a vertical
shaft burned from the surrounding stone.  Twenty feet across and round,
this tunnel leads straight down into unfathomable, unknown depths...

Lyra:  (completes a spell, summoning a shimmering disk of force that
  perfectly spans the vertical shaft, creating a floor)  There we go.
Mongo:  What's that?
Lyra:  It's a spell I invented...a platform.  (she steps onto the
  translucent surface)  It's rather like a Tenser's floating disk,
  except stronger, and it can levitate.
Mongo:  Oh, of course.  (he looks around)  Well, let's get going.  The
  day's not getting any younger.
berserker #1:  (looking reluctant, like his fellows)  What sorcery is
Mongo:  (steps out onto the floating force-disk)  See, it's okay.  Hey,
  you're not afraid, are you?
berserker #1:  Afraid?!?  Us?!?  Bah, I say!  (he leads the others as
  they all board the platform)
Bosco:  (to the Host of Kaloth, or at least those summoned)  Okay, guys,
  let's go.  Adventure awaits!  (he watches as the various mystic allies
  obey his commands)  Ah.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  A useful item, the halfling's chess set.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Too bad he can only summon each piece once
  a month.  Well, at least he's only utilized less than half of them.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye.  We may need them all when we reach
  our destination...down there.
Bosco:  (also peering down into the blackness of the shaft beneath them,
  he shivers despite himself)
berserker #1:  (scoffs at the tiny halfling)  This isn't cold, small
Bosco:  It's not cold I'm worried about.

  The explorers had several sources of illumination:  Lyra's floating
light-spheres, the cone of light from the white bishop's staff, and now
the drawn longswords of the two white pawns.

Bosco:  (to the white bishop)  Don't you guys have names?
white bishop:  No, young master.  We are simply the Host of Kaloth-
black bishop:  (sneers)  We actually do have names, but they are lost to
  mortals and their history.
white bishop:  (casts an angry glance at his counterpart)
black bishop:  (smiles thinly)
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Those two seem to bicker a lot.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye...and I noticed that the two golems
  tend to avoid one another, almost as if they are enemies.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  Odd.  If I'd known about this, I'd have
  done some research on this "Kaloth" ahead of time, and tried to learn
  something about Bosco's chess set.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  The item has power comparable to an artifact
  or relic, that is certain.

  With everyone aboard, the disk began to descend.  Lyra ceased her ESP
and spoken communication to concentrate on controlling the disk, while
the others prepared for battle...

Mongo:  (hefting his warhammer)  I'm about damn ready to smash something.
berserker #1:  (heartily)  Now that's the spirit, small one!
Mongo:  Do you guys fight a lot of demons?  Because I think that's what
  we're up against here.
berserker #2:  Men, beasts, monsters, demons - it's all the same to us.
  We live to fight, and we fight to win.
berserker #3:  (nods)  Aye.
Mongo:  (grins)  Good, because we're in for a hell of a fight, I'd guess.
berserker #1:  (shrugs)  So be it.

  Mongo couldn't help but admire these warriors, for their simple but
effective way of life.  He just hoped they were ready for whatever lay
beneath, in the dark depths beneath Greyspire.  As for Bosco, he was
having a grand time trying to strike up conversation with the golems,
which was difficult since the two constructs were on opposite sides of
the descending force-disk.

Bosco:  Ebony and ivory, huh?  Hmm, that's got kind of a ring to it...
white bishop:  They won't talk to you.  In fact, they _can't_ talk.
Bosco:  What's with the whole white army, black army thing?
white bishop:  It's...complicated.  Suffice it to say that both good
  and evil were long ago bound together, compelled to be allies in the
  campaigns of Kaloth...and now compelled to serve the master of the
  chess set.
Bosco:  Oh.
white bishop:  (eyeing the black bishop, who is conniving with one of
  the black pawns, he sighs)  We don't have to like it, young master...
  we just have to do it.
Alindyar:  (to Mongo)  Have you any idea how far down we are?
Mongo:  (gripping Stormcrest, he concentrates)  Hard to tell, since the
  rock tower's detached from the main landmass...but I'd say well over
  a thousand feet beneath the ground level, outside the Riftcanyon.
Alindyar:  (nods)  Mm.

  The translucent platform had been sinking downward, at a comfortable
but rapid pace, for quite a while now.  The shaft's walls gleamed on
all sides, the fused black rock reflecting the various light-sources in
strange and eerie ways.  The temperature had gotten noticeably colder as
the group descended; the silence and monotony were getting to everyone,
even the normally jubilant Bosco and the hardened berserkers.  A strong
sense of claustrophobia began to come over the adventurers, even though
a number of them had been deep beneath the world's surface before.
  And then, just when some of the explorers were beginning to wonder
if the shaft even _had_ a bottom, the force-disk bumped gently against
a rocky floor.  The passage took an abrupt turn back to a horizontal
direction, though it had the same width and smooth, fused appearance.

Lyra:  End of the road...everyone off.  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I'm not
  going to tell any of them, but the platform's going to vanish soon
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  Aye.  It would do no good for them to know
  that the disc is gone, and they have no way back up without our magic.

  They broke out into a fixed marching order for this new leg of the
journey into the unknown.  The berserkers led the way, despite Mongo's
attempts to keep them back a bit (it made the most sense to have the two
golems at the front.)  The big warriors were difficult to control, and
had their own way of doing things.  Anyhow, they insisted on being in
the front rank, so they were followed by the golems, then Mongo and the
four pawn-warriors, then Alindyar, Lyra, and Bosco.  The two pairs of
bishops and knights from the magical chess-set formed the rear-guard,
not that anyone really expected danger from that direction.
  They followed the tunnel for a good while - and a few thousand feet,
according to Mongo's estimates - as it gradually curved away to the
right.  Without any hint or fanfare, the rounded passage ended abruptly,
opening into a gigantic underground cavern.  Light-sources aimed into
the darkness revealed only an irregular, rocky floor - but no ceiling.
Even the slightest sound echoed in the chamber, indicating that it had
to be massive.  To the left and right of the entry passage, rough walls
sloped away (and upward) out of sight.

Mongo:  I think we're just a speck inside a giant open area, here.
Alindyar:  'Tis a vast cavern, to be certain...comparable to any found
  within the Underdark.
Bosco:  (has enough sense not to yell out "HELLO" into the huge, dark
  space beyond)  Hmm.
Lyra:  One thing's for sure:  that passage we used to get here was
  made by different means than this cavern, which looks natural.
Mongo:  We need a plan to explore this place...a good plan.
Bosco:  And a safe one.
Alindyar:  Perhaps we could-

  Conversation was interrupted by an ominous shuffling sound from the
darkness beyond.  It was hard to tell how loud the sound was, because
it echoed through the immense cavern until it seemed to boom in their
ears.  One thing was certain, though:  something massive was coming
toward them.

next:      the gatekeeper
released:  10/8/04
notes:     If you've ever seen a movie called _The Keep_, from 1983, you
  will know what I had in mind when the explorers came through the tunnel
  and entered this gigantic dark space, their light-sources just a speck
  really, within a much larger cavern.
    "Keep" trivia:  this movie comes out on region 1 DVD on 30 November.
   Also, a new batch of fanmail (and my responses) is up at the URL

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