Chapter #842

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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 evening                       +
+   Place:          the depths of the vacant fortress of Greyspire        +
+   Climate:        cold                                                  +
+   "This isn't right, this isn't even wrong."                            +
+                                                    - Wolfgang Pauli     +

                      DCCCXLII.  The Gatekeeper

  After descending thousands of feet beneath Greyspire, and then
traveling further horizontally, the explorers have entered a mammoth
cavern.  Now, a loudly-echoing shuffling sound from the darkness ahead
signals the approach of something massive...

Mongo:  Whatever it is, it won't be friendly.  (he hefts Stormcrest
  and turns to the summoned berserkers)  Time to earn your pay, guys.
berserker #1:  Pay?
Alindyar:  (already working a powerful spell, he holds up his hands,
  which are glowing brightly)  Let there be light!

  The effect was like something one might expect from a high priest
of some sun-god.  Instantly, the area for a hundred feet around the
archmage was bathed in pale light.  It was more than enough to see by,
yet it was also mild enough to not dazzle any of the explorers with
its sudden appearance.

Bosco:  (amazed, he covers his eyes anyway)  Wow!  How'd you do that?
Alindyar:  'Tis not so much the addition of light, as the subtraction
  of darkness.
Mongo:  This is no time for talk.  (he points ahead)  Look!

  The large-scale hemisphere of light had also revealed the source of
the shuffling sounds, and it turned out to be even more huge and fearsome
than the adventurers had imagined.

Bosco:  Ulp.

  They faced a gigantic, formless mass of flesh, a heap greater than
twenty feet high and twice as wide.  It resembled a huge glob of sickly-
looking jelly, into which were fused body parts...and parts of parts.
Here an arm extended, groping; there a lumpy head gaped blindly, a low
moan coming from a throat to which no lungs or windpipe were attached.
Elsewhere in the monster's body, amidst a translucent section of slime,
disembodied organs could be seen suspended in place.  Blood, yellowish
bile, and other fluids leaked from the ends of severed arteries and
veins which protruded from the thing's body.  Aside from its bizarre and
gruesome appearance - which was disturbing to look at and would have
instilled fear in weaker foes - the thing stunk.  Badly.  It reeked of
gore, and the stench made the eyes water and the throat burn, even from
this distance.

Mongo:  What the FUCK is that?!?
berserker #1:  The enemy.  (undaunted by the freakish monstrosity before
  the group, he leads his fellows to the attack, battleaxes swinging in
  great arcs)

  The warriors tore into the weird foe's body, their weapons tearing
great furrows in the malformed flesh.  Blood and gore splattered every-
where.  For a moment, the others thought that the blob-thing was under
control - until it finally did something other than shuffle toward the

berserker #5:  (hacking away at the thing, he fails to notice a slimy
  clawed arm which suddenly juts out, grabbing his ankle)  What?!?

  Immediately, several other limbs - including a leg - had appeared from
within the creature's formless body.  The warrior found himself held fast
in the grip of several of these appendages (except for the leg, which
simply flagellated without apparent purpose.)

berserker #1:  Stand fast, we shall-

  A huge, fanged mouth had appeared in the slime-heap's body, and with
no warning, this maw opened as the arms pulled the unfortunate berserker
toward it.

berserker #5:  (bitten in half, his upper body disappears into the maw
  while his lower body quivers, squirting blood all over the place)

berserker #1:  Aie!  (he and the others become even more crazed, charging
  madly to the attack, hacking and chopping at the foe)
Mongo:  No, don't just blindly attack, you'll get in the way-
Bosco:  They're not really listening.  (he regards the shapeless foe,
   studying it using his ring-conferred x-ray vision)  Whoa!
Mongo:  What?
Bosco:  I can't see far into that thing's body, but what I do see is
  pretty nasty.  It's just got body parts floating all around, inside.
Alindyar:  I wonder what it is, and how we may kill it.
Lyra:  If those berserkers hadn't gotten in the way, we'd be using spells.
black bishop:  We should use spells anyway.  It's not our fault that the
  barbarians are too stupid not to charge forth mindlessly.  (to Bosco)
  Come, young master.  Give the word and I shall release a bolt of black
Bosco:  No.  (he points at the two stone golems)  You and you - attack
  that thing.

  As the golems lumbered toward the creature, Mongo noted that the five
berserkers weren't really faring very well.  A total of three had been
eaten by mouths or ripped apart, and the other two were headed for the
same fate.

Mongo:  Dammit.  (he hefts Stormcrest, then lets the hammer fly)   Die,

  The warhammer hit the foe with a loud squishing sound, and lumps of
flesh sprayed in all directions.  The attack allowed one of the surviving
berserkers to free himself, even as the other's head was torn off by two
green-skinned arms that protruded from the foe's shifting body.

berserker #2:  (lands on the stone floor, stunned)  Ungh.
Mongo:  (catches his hammer)  Come on, you - get away from there!
berserker #2:  (gets to his feet, looks around, then leaps toward the
  thing again, hacking off a random arm)  I'll kill it!
Mongo:  (muttering something about double-edged swords, he hurls his
  hammer again)

  The adventurers had noted an alarming fact:  if the strange creature
got too close to any magical light-source, that source died out.  Both
of Lyra's light-spheres had already met this fate, while Alindyar had
used a unique spell to create a light-cone far above the battle, such
that the weird foe would never be close enough to negate the light.  This
was critical in a battle where they had yet to mount an attack that had
any apparent effect on the amorphous foe.
  Meanwhile, the drow were now conferring with the two bishops summoned
by Bosco's chess-set...

white bishop:  It's definitely evil, but otherwise I'm not quite sure
  what it may be-
black bishop:  It's a demon.  Granted, a demon that no one's ever seen
  or heard of before, but still, it's a demon.
Lyra:  Enough talk.  (she launches a flame arrow at the thing)

  The magical projectile arced toward the foe...and then fizzled out
before hitting the formless body.

Lyra:  Magic resistance.  Great.
Bosco:  (to the bishops)  You can use your spells, as long as they won't
  hurt either golem.
black bishop:  (smiles thinly)  As you command.  (he begins spellcasting)
white bishop:  (looks vaguely worried)
Bosco:  (to the pawns and knights)  All of you, protect the magic-users
  if that thing gets close.

  Things got even crazier, and in a hurry.  The last berserker had been
killed; Mongo was gouging out huge chunks of monstrous flesh with his
repeated hammer-throws.  These attacks, however, seemed to have no impact
on the overall health of aggressiveness of the weird creature.  Furrows
and pits in its amorphous body simply filled themselves in with new, slimy
flesh.  Worse, it was slowly creeping toward the spellcasters, whose bolts
of lightning and balls of fire were dying out before hitting the monster.

Lyra:  We may be in trouble.

next:      desperate measures
released:  10/15/04
notes:     It took me 2 weeks (between the writing of 841 and this one)
  to decide what the hell was going to appear from the darkness.

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