Chapter #218

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                                +
                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +
                                +

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells,    +
+  and other terms used in these stories are the property of  +
+  TSR, Inc.  However, this does not mean that TSR in any     +
+  way endorses or authorizes their use, and any such items   +
+  contained within these stories should not be considered    +
+  representative of TSR in any way, shape, or form.          +
+    Due to the nature of the Internet, these stories have    +
+  been widely available since 1991.  I have given them to    +
+  the world freely, and have never intended to market them   +
+  or in any way make money.  However, due to TSR, Inc.'s     +
+  copyright restrictions, old episodes of the Adventurers    +
+  are no longer being archived on any ftp site anywhere.     +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The player characters contained in these writings are    +
+  copyright 1994 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                            tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   THE PARTY (or more accurately, a fragment of it):         +
+                                                             +
+   Belphanior    13th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Rillen        17th level human warrior                (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    7/11/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    way past midnight                                +
+   Place:   somewhere in the Barrens, northwest of Tenh      +
+   Climate: cold                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "Death has come to your small town..."                    +
+                             - Dr. Loomis, from _Halloween_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                CCXVIII.  The Haunting





  Belphanior, Rillen, and the wispy thing, along with their
newfound companion, the ranger Garn, are staying in an inn
in a little town in the middle of, basically, nowhere.  This
situation has just been made more interesting by a late-night
shriek of terror from somewhere nearby...

Belphanior:  (bolts into the hallway)  What the hell was
  that?!?
Rillen:  (meets the elf in the hallway, dressed only in a
  tunic)  Beats the hell out of me.
Garn:  (also present now, rubbing sleep from his eyes)  We'd
  better go downstairs and check it out!

  They ran down the stairs, followed by the wispy thing, and
were met in the inn's common room by the old innkeeper, his
daughter, and a few other sleepy-eyed guests.

old innkeeper:  (looking at his bolted outer door, he cowers
  in fear)
Rillen:  (eyes the daughter, who's dressed in nightclothes)
  You should go back to your room, lass.
Belphanior:  (to no one, or everyone, in general)  What's
  going on?  Why is everyone just standing around?
daughter:  The scream...
old innkeeper:  (still shivering in fear)
Belphanior:  Bah.  (he strides to the door and tosses the
  heavy bolt back)
old innkeeper:  NO!  (he runs over, attempting to re-bolt
  the door)
Belphanior:  Stop it, man!  What the hell's gotten into you?
old innkeeper:  (collapses as the elf pushes him out of the
  way)  Don't open the door...
Belphanior:  Why not?  (he opens the oaken door, and steps
  out into the night)  Brr!
Rillen:  (follows the elf)  It grew cold.
Garn:  (follows the big warrior, then has an afterthought and
  turns back to the innkeeper)  If you close that door on us,
  I'll chop it into kindling wood.
innkeeper:  (quaking in fear)
other inn guests:  (wandering about in confusion)

  The trio stepped a few feet out, and looked up and down the
dark street.  A chill wind was blowing, and lanterns flickered
throughout the city.  The outside temperature had dropped
significantly, perhaps even below freezing, which was of
course totally unprecedented for this season.

Garn:  What in the hells is going _on_ here?
Belphanior:  And where'd that scream come from?  (he looks
  around)
Rillen:  (scanning the inn's windows, and remembering the
  scream in his mind)  Over...there.  (he points)
Garn:  I'll check for tracks.  (he walks away to the right)
random inn guest:  something's dreadfully wrong here...
Belphanior:  Awfully perceptive of you.
Rillen:  Look!

  From the northern end of the town (the direction of both
the recent scream and Garn's current searching efforts), a
thick fog was rolling in.  They couldn't see more than a
foot or so into the fog - entire buildings were no longer
visible, so thick was the fog.

Belphanior:  (unable to pierce the veils of mist even with
  his magical eye)  Hmm, that's odd.
Rillen:  What?
Belphanior:  (squinting at the fog)  Nothing.  I can't see
  anything.  Weird.  And it's slightly magical too.
Rillen:  (to Garn, who's about thirty feet from the inn's
  front door)  Garn!  The fog is rolling in!
Garn:  Hang on a minute!  I've found something!

  The ranger was kneeling over a small pool of blood.  No
other evidence was present...just the puddle.  The dark red
liquid was seeping across the cobblestones of the street,
and its temperature and consistency told Garn that it was
fresh, as in minutes old.  As he searched the area further,
he found a single drop of blood, about ten feet away from
the pool.  About ten feet from this drop was another such
drop.  The ranger moved along the street, following the
trail of blood toward the heavy fog.

Garn:  (oblivious to the speed with which the fog is now
  rolling in)
Belphanior:  Hey!  Garn!  The fog!
Garn:  Eh?  (he watches the mists approach)
Rillen:  (to Belphanior)  What about the mists?
Belphanior:  (starts walking toward Garn)
Garn:  I'm coming...(he starts walking back toward the inn)

  Just then, several things happened at once.  The advancing
fog abruptly swallowed the ranger, just like that.  As the
startled Belphanior watched this happen, a wave of cold air
isuued forth invisibly from the fogbank, sending a shiver
through his bones.  Then, as he continued walking, slowly,
almost to the fog, a horrified scream of absolute terror
came from the fog just ahead.  There was no doubt as to
who screamed that scream.

Belphanior:  Garn!  (he looks back toward Rillen)  I can't
  see him!
Rillen:  He's gone!  Come back, the fog is almost upon you!
Belphanior:  (his eye reveals nothing about the mists ahead)
  Yeah...(he backs up, toward Rillen and the inn)

  The fog almost seemed to hasten its approach, and tendrils
of the stuff lapped at the elf's heels.  Suddenly, there was
a most horrible sound, a bizarre combination of wrenching,
ripping, and crushing.  Immediately following this, a spray
of blood was emitted from somewhere in the fog, covering
Belphanior in splashes of crimson.  The sheer quantity of
blood was staggering.

Belphanior:  Phft!  (wipes blood from his eyes)  FUCK!

  Then, something came rolling out of the fog, toward the
elf.  As he watched in shock, he realized what the thing
was:  Garn's severed head!  It appeared to have been _torn_
from the ranger's body, judging from the ragged strips of
flesh and tendons.  Blood and gore still sputtered from the
head's severed arteries and veins.

Belphanior:  Yie!  That does it!  (he turns and runs, full-
  tilt, toward the inn)
Rillen:  (now gauging the distance between the fog and the
  inn's door)  Hurry!
Belphanior:  I am!

  The fog followed the elf toward the inn, and everything
it passed became obscured from sight.  With a last sprint
and a bounding leap, Belphanior sailed through the inn's
doorway, and Rillen and a stocky fellow slammed it shut,
throwing the heavy bolt.
  Belphanior looked around, surveying the people who were
trapped in the inn with him.  Besides Rillen, the innkeeper,
and his daughter (the serving lass) there were a number of
others.  The stocky fellow who had helped Rillen close the
door looked like a warrior, and his companion, a comely
young lady of perhaps twenty years, gripped his arm tightly
as she stared at the door.  Nearby, a stout-looking dwarf
surveyed the scene, seemingly without fear; a gleaming
shortsword was gripped in his knotted fists.  A half-elven
fellow with a harp had just come running down the stairs;
he looked to be some sort of minstrel, though one could
only guess why he had his harp at this hour.  To one side,
cowering in fear with the innkeeper, stood a short, portly
merchant, a gold-studden necklace clutched in one beefy
hand.

Rillen:  (staring at the merchant)  What are you carrying
  _that_ around for?
merchant:  (looks at the necklace)  Uh...
Belphanior:  (looking out of a window, he can't see more
  than inches beyond the glass, due to the thick fog)  By
  the gods...(he turns and addresses the gathered people)
  Close the shutters!  Block the door!  We've got to get
  this place fortified!
Rillen:  (already moving a table in front of the door)
dwarf:  Yeah...(he moves to help the warrior)
stocky young man:  (grabs a heavy crate and begins dragging
  it over)  I'll help too.
woman:  (just stands there, shivering)  Gods, it's cold.
half-elf minstrel:  What happened out there?  (he goes to
  look out a window)  Some of us didn't see _anything_.
Rillen:  Count yourself among the fortunate, then.
merchant:  Wh-what's out there?  We heard a scream...and
  then...(he shudders)
innkeeper:  (looks at his daughter, worried)
innkeeper's daughter:  Terrible...this is all so terrible.
half-elf minstrel:  (still peering out of the window)  I
  can't see anything through this fog.  (he grabs the
  latch to the window)  Maybe if-
Belphanior:  Hey!  (he slaps the fellow's hand down)  What
  the hell's wrong with you?!?
half-elf minstrel:  But-
Belphanior:  I just watched a friend of mine - and an
  experienced warrior to boot - walk into that fog and get
  his head ripped off!  RIPPED!
innkeeper's daughter:  Aie!
innkeeper:  It has all come to pass...
Rillen:  Eh?  What are you-

  Suddenly, all conversation was interrupted by a series
of loud knocks at the inn's front door.  They resounded
through the inn like hollow drumbeats.

thud.
Thud.
Thud.
THUD.

wispy thing:  (hovers nearby, watching the door intently)
  Sssss.
Belphanior:  (grips his unsheathed sword so tightly that
  his knuckles turn white)

  As they all watched in a combination of uncertainty, awe,
and horror, the first licks of mist came through the crack
under the door...

innkeeper:  Doomed!  We're all doomed!  (he grabs up a meat
  cleaver from somewhere and begins running around, swinging
  the thing insanely)  Aaaaa.  Aaaaa!  Aaaaaaaaaaa-
Rillen:  (he conks the old man on the head with his staff)
  Stop it.
innkeeper:  (falls, unconscious)
innkeeper's daughter:  No!  (she runs to the old man's side)
  Is he-
Rillen:  No, he'll be okay.  I just had to knock him out
  before he hurt somebody, or himself.
dwarf:  Good riddance, I say.  He was useless anyway.
half-elf minstrel:  How can you-

Thud.
THUD.
THUD.
THUD!

dwarf:  I assume we're not going to answer that?
stocky young man:  This is no time for jokes!
half-elf:  (still near the window)  Hey!  I think I saw
  something out there!  (everybody quickly comes to look)
stocky young man:  Where?

  All they saw, however, was a vague, dark shape somewhere
outside, in the fog.  The next instant, the heavy pounding
at the front door resumed, even harder than before.  The
bolt shook in its holder, and the stout wood of the door
protested as the blows continued.

THUD!
THUD!
THUD!

Belphanior:  Everyone, BACK!  (he holds his sword out)  My
  gods...
Rillen:  What?
Belphanior:  I just realized...whatever's out there doesn't
  have a soul!
dwarf:  Or souls.
wispy thing:  (nods its assent)  Sssss!
stocky young man:  What's out there?  Why did it come here?
  What does it want?
dwarf:  Heh.  I doubt any of us will be going out there to
  find out.  'Course, we could send _him_.  (he points one
  foot at the unconscious innkeeper)
innkeeper's daughter:  (gasps in shock)
half-elf minstrel:  How could you even _suggest_ such a
  thing?
merchant:  (over behind the bar, he guzzles a jug of wine)
dwarf:  Hey, they'll probably make you pay for that.
merchant:  Glmph?  (he puts the wine jug down)  I have more
  money with me than this whole place is worth!  I can pay
  for anything...anything...
Belphanior:  But you can't pay your way out of here, so
  shut up and listen.  (he addresses everyone)  We've got
  to be ready for an attack.  We don't know what's out
  there or how powerful it is.  Grab up weapons, block the
  windows - fortify this place!  (he picks up a heavy cask
  of ale and begins rolling it over)  Come on!
dwarf:  Now you're talkin'...(he pushes on a tall bookcase,
  sliding it to block a window)
half-elf:  (peering out the window, hoping to see a sign of
  something in the fog)  We haven't seen anything in a few
  minutes.  Maybe they moved on.
Rillen:  Get away from there, you fool.
half-elf:  Quit telling me what to do.  I'm perfectly-

CRASH!

  The window in front of the minstrel shattered as a dark
arm smashed through it, grabbed up the minstrel like a sack
of wheat, and vanished into the fog.  Some of those present
caught a brief glimpse of rotting flesh, and perhaps a talon
of two at the end of the arm, but that was all.  The entire
attack had taken less than two seconds.

Belphanior:  (backs up)  Holy shit!
merchant:  Aie!  (he guzzles more wine)
innkeeper's daughter:  (standing there, slack-jawed)
stocky young man:  B-big.  Did you see that?!?  Did you get
  a look at that arm?  I mean, it was _big_!
dwarf:  Yeah...whatever it belonged to must've been seven,
  maybe eight feet tall.
woman:  (the companion of the stocky young man)  Uh...I
  don't mean to interrupt, but...

  She was pointing at the smashed window, through which
wisps of fog were now creeping, slowly but deliberately.

Rillen:  Aie.  (he uses a nearby lantern to light a torch
  from his backpack, and then tosses the blazing stick out
  the window, into the fog)

  The thing clattered to the pavement outside, rolled for a
moment, then came to rest.  Its flame barely reached those
in the inn, such was the thickness of the mists, and then,
abruptly, it flickered out.

dwarf:  Shiiiiiit.
wispy thing:  Brrrrrrr.
merchant:  Aie!  (he slumps to the inn's floor)  We're all
  going to die, aren't we?
innkeeper's daughter:  (still staring through the broken
  window, paralyzed)  Ay-y-y-aie.
Belphanior:  Might I suggest that we back away from that
  window?  (he grabs the girl and moves her away)
stocky young man:  You don't have to tell me twice...(he
  gets way back)
woman:  (clings to the man's arm)
Rillen:  (to Belphanior)  I'm going up to get our supplies.
Belphanior:  Gotcha.  Hurry back - there's no telling what
  might happen here.

  As the big warrior ran up the stairs, Belphanior began
spellcasting.

merchant:  You're a mage?!?
dwarf:  (staring at Belphanior)  Well, I'll be damned...
Belphanior:  You may indeed.
stocky young man:  We're saved for sure, then.  You can
  beat whatever's out there with your magic.

  Before this new line of discussion could begin, they all
noticed that the fog was now about ten feet into the large
common room.  They had been inching backwards without even
realizing it.

dwarf:  (looking around)  Where can we run to now?
Belphanior:  We'd better get upstairs...
innkeeper's daughter:  No!  We've got a cellar - a wine
  cellar!  It's got a door three times as thick as that
  one at the front, there!  (she points to the front door)
merchant:  Ahh!  (he flees through the doorway behind the
  bar)  Cellar!  Safety!
dwarf:  (glances after the obese merchant disdainfully)
stocky young man:  But we can't leave the big black warrior
  upstairs...
Belphanior:  You got that right, bucko.  We're waiting right
  here for-

  From within the fog came a heavy scraping sound, along
with the sceech of broken glass upon wood.  It seemed to
come from the area right inside the shattered window...

dwarf:  Inside the room!
wispy thing:  Ssssss!  (it flips in the air)
woman:  (points toward the windowframe)  Aieeeee!

  A dark, fog-shrouded figure could be seen, though the fog
continued moving in, masking its exact nature from the
onlookers.

Belphanior:  Eat this!  (he lets his Burning Hands fly,
  spraying the area in front of the windowframe, not to
  mention the windowframe itself, with searing flames)
dwarf:  Fuckin' A!
stocky young man:  You destroyed it!
innkeeper's daughter:  (dragging her father's unconscious
  form toward the door the merchant ran through)
Belphanior:  (peering through the mists)  Can't see a damn
  thing...and I don't smell anything burnt...
wispy thing:  Fsssss!  (it orbits the elf's head wildly)
Belphanior:  Hmm...(he leaps back, right as something heavy
  and cold WHOOSHes through the space where his head had
  just been)  SHIT!  (he stabs upward with Blackrazor, but
  hits nothing)  Huh?

  At that moment, the front door, as well as every single
remaining window, was knocked inward, allowing billows of
thick fog into the rest of the room.

stocky young man:  The cellar!  We've got to get to the
  cellar!
dwarf:  Yeah!  (he backs up in that direction)
Belphanior:  But...Rillen...
dwarf:  Come ON!  (he pulls the elf toward the door to the
  cellar)

  They all retreated through the doorway behind the bar,
down a small side passage which ended in a sturdy-looking
portal.  No more than a hatch, really, it was about four
feet high and two feet wide.  It was also, apparently,
locked.

Belphanior:  What?!?
stocky young man:  (his girlfriend in one arm)  Locked!
  That fat bastard ran in there and locked us out!
Belphanior:  Dammit!
innkeeper's daughter:  (drags her father into the passage)
  It only locks from the inside!
Belphanior:  (along with the dwarf, he is trying to knock
  the little door down)  Argh!
dwarf:  Damn thing won't budge!
wispy thing:  (looking back toward the fog, frowning)  Sss.
woman:  (shrieking now)  Hurry up!
Belphanior:  (he begins casting a Knock spell)  I can get
  this open, but you'll have to cover me!
dwarf:  No problem...(he stares back, seeing the fog rolling
  into the small passage which they're all at the end of)
  Uhh...

  As the elf cast his spell, and the others watched in fear,
there was a great commotion from within the fog.  Something
crashed, wood splintered somewhere, and then, from within
the closer regions of the thick mist, Rillen leapt into the
passage.  The big warrior was clutching several packs, as
well as the remnants of a heavy door, which he now tossed
to the floor.  He was bleeding heavily from several wounds,
but the gashes on his arm, leg, and head paled compared to
the deep puncture in his stomach.

Rillen:  Urgh...(he topples, dripping blood everywhere)
Belphanior:  (completes his spell, and the heavy door flies
  open, revealing stairs going downward)  Ah!  Quickly, get
  in there!  (he begins tossing people down the stairs)
dwarf:  (sheathes his sword and grabs Rillen, pulling him
  down the stairs too)
Rillen:  (unconscious now, his head bounces on each step of
  the staircase)
Belphanior:  (waiting until last to go down, he watches the
  fog approach)  C'mon...come on...
stocky young man:  (practically leaps down the stairs)
innkeeper's daughter:  Ugh!  (she is now having trouble with
  her father's limp form)  Too heavy...
Belphanior:  Okay, I'll get him!  Go down, now!
innkeeper's daughter:  Uh...okay.  (she obeys reluctantly)

  The elf grabbed the old man, preparing to pull him into
the stairway, when suddenly something _else_ got hold of his
legs from within the fog.

Belphanior:  What?!?

  Momentarily, the unconscious body was pulled - torn -
from the elf's grasp, with enough force to send Belphanior
hurtling back against the open door to the cellar.

Belphanior:  Ooof!

  From the fog-filled passage came the familiar rending and
crunching sounds, and the elf stepped back and slammed the
small door with all his might, tossing the bar down in place
before even locking the door.  A moment later, rivulets of
red blood began seeping under the door's bottom edge.

Belphanior:  Damn!  (he descends the stairs, three at a time
  in his haste, and emerges into a cellar)

  The wine cellar was small, as such cellars went; perhaps
thirty feet by fifteen, and maybe six feet high.  Its walls
were lined with shelves, some of which held dusty bottles.
Some of the rows of shelves went out of sight to both sides.
Nearest were the stocky young man and the dwarf; they were
attending to Rillen.  The innkeeper's daughter was standing
there, staring at Belphanior in shock, the other woman at
her side.  The portly merchant was nowhere to be seen.

dwarf:  (bandaging Rillen's wounds)  Damn.
stocky young man:  So much blood...
Belphanior:  (runs to Rillen's side)  Aie!  A sucking chest
  wound!
Rillen:  (fading in and out of consciousness now)  That...
  really sucks...
dwarf:  He's dying, man.
Belphanior:  No!  (he runs to one of the packs that Rillen
  retrieved, and begins digging through it)  I've seen him
  use this stuff a million times...
innkeeper's daughter:  Wh-where's Dad?
woman:  (trying to offer comfort)  Shh...
Belphanior:  (finds what he's looking for, a tube of green
  ointment, and brings it over to Rillen)  Quickly, smear
  this on his wounds!  Err, better let me do that gaping
  stomach wound.

  Within a minute, they had ministered to the big warrior,
and he was laid down in one corner on some old cloth sacks.
Belphanior covered his sleeping form with a blanket.

Belphanior:  He'll live, I suspect.  That green gunk is
  pretty potent stuff.
stocky young man:  What could have ripped him up like that?
  A monster?
woman:  I didn't use to think monsters existed...
dwarf:  Well, now you know.  Say, where's that fat sonofa-
innkeeper's daughter:  Where's _Dad_?!?!?
Belphanior:  Girl, he's dead.  We're all going to be dead
  if we don't find some way to fight those things.
innkeeper's daughter:  No...noooo...
woman:  Shh...
dwarf:  Well, we know fire didn't work.
Belphanior:  Yeah, and that's strange.  Most undead are
  fairly flammable.  Maybe the things in the fog aren't
  undead...hmm, come to think of it, they attacked me, even
  though my ring is supposed to shield me from the sight of
  undead.  And nothing in the fog thus far has possessed a
  soul...
stocky young man:  So you don't think they're undead?
Belphanior:  You know...I really don't know.  (he looks
  around)  Say, where's that fat merchant?  (he grips
  Blackrazor and looks around)  Where'd he go...?  Ah!

  Shortly, they found the fellow, huddled in a corner by
himself, whimpering.

dwarf:  Grr...why, you-
Belphanior:  (grabs the merchant by the collar and lifts
  him off the floor)  You fucking bastard!  One person's
  dead because of you, and another almost died!  Why'd
  you lock that cellar door on us?!?
merchant:  Mercy!  Oh, mercy!  (he begins dropping gold
  coins out of his hands and pockets)
Belphanior:  I ought to kill you...(he tosses the man aside
  and stalks off)
dwarf:  I may yet kill you...(he fingers his sword and
  stalks the man)

  Just then, a familiar sound began, deeper than last time
but still familiar...

THUD.
THUD.
THUD.

  Dust, knocked loose by the powerful blows, fell from the
cellar's ceiling and wavered in the cellar's dry air.

Belphanior:  Uh-oh.
wispy thing:  Braaaaft.
stocky young man:  Why not build a fire on the stairs?  If
  the door up there goes, we could light the fire.
dwarf:  Wonder if it'd do any good?
fat merchant:  Fire?
woman:  With what wood?
Belphanior:  (glances at the wine racks)  Yeah...

  Quickly, they began demolishing the old, dry wooden
shelving, and had soon made a large pile of the stuff at
the midpoint of the stairs up.  Belphanior doused this
pile, as well as the top half of the stairs, with several
flasks of oil.  Just as they had finished this endeavor,
the knocking on the door resumed, and this time it didn't
stop at all.

innkeeper's daughter:  That door's solid oak, three inches
  thick and banded with steel.  It should hold just...fine.

  Splinters of wood were flying down the stairs, and small
tendrils of fog worked their way downward...

stocky young man:  Now!  Light it now!
Belphanior:  Wait...just another moment...Now!  (he runs
  forth with a torch and ignites the whole pile)

  The old wood blazed to life, and within seconds the whole
stairway was engulfed in fire.  There was no doubt about it,
nothing could pass without hitting the bonfire.

dwarf:  Yeah!
woman:  Hah!

  Elation quickly turned to fear, though, as the fire began
to waver and sputter.  A cold wind swept through the cellar,
chilling them to the bone.  Darkness crept in, as the fog
covered - smothered - the fire, seemingly swallowing its
light and heat more with every passing instant.

Belphanior:  Shit...(he begins spellcasting once more)

  The fog was covering most of the cellar's floor now,
to a height of perhaps two inches, and the fire blazed
its last, dying out with little more than a sputter.

dwarf:  Whatever you're doing, do it quick!
stocky young man:  What _are_ you doing, anyway?
Belphanior:  Something a little different...(he casts his
  Transmute Rock to Mud on the floor all around the bottom
  of the stairs, liquefying a ten-foot wide swath of rock)
  Let's see them try to cross that.
woman:  Them?
dwarf:  Them.  Hopefully they can't fly.

  The fog rolled in thickly, but no sounds came from within.

wispy thing:  (frowns)  Ssss?
stocky young man:  Hmm, maybe it worked-

  The stout fellow, being the closest, was suddenly whisked
into the fog by something dark and big.  This time there
was no sound at all to indicate what might have happened
to the victim.

woman:  Aie!  No!  (she backs up, sobbing)
Belphanior:  Yie!  (slashing the air with his sword)
fat merchant:  (comes running out of his corner)  The fog's
  in here-  (he looks around)  Yaaa...
dwarf:  (backing up, side-by-side with Belphanior)  Look who
  finally showed up.
woman:  Aieeee-
Rillen:  (stirs)  Scroll...
woman:  Eh?
Rillen:  Get...the scroll from my pack there.
woman:  Uh...(she begins digging through the pack)
fat merchant:  (waving a torch in the direction of the fog)
  Get away!  Get back!  (he recoils from the mists, and then
  backs into the innkeeper's daughter, suddenly)  Aaaa!  (he
  accidentally knocks her down, right next to the fog)
innkeeper's daughter:  Oh, no...(she is pulled into the fog
  a moment later, and vanishes from sight)  AaaaaaAAAAAA-
  (her scream stops abruptly)

  The silence was punctuated by some rending sounds, and a
sizable pool of blood began oozing toward those who were
left.

wispy thing:  Fssssss...(it rocks in place, in the air)
Rillen:  (in one corner, sweating, he reads the magical
  verses from his scroll)
dwarf:  (looks at the merchant)
woman:  (ditto)
fat merchant:  Oops?
Belphanior:  That does it!  (he grabs the fat merchant and
  plants a foot in the man's chest)  Off you go!  (he kicks
  outward, sending the large man flailing into the mists)
fat merchant:  Whaaaaaa-  No!  NOOOOOOOOOOOO-

  A great gout of blood sprayed everywhere, drenching the
wine cellar.

dwarf:  Geez, he sure had a lot of blood in him...

  At this time, Rillen completed his recital of the magical
words on his scroll, and the parchment vanished.  A mystical
aura permeated the cellar.

Belphanior:  What'd you read?
Rillen:  It was...protection from undead...
dwarf:  (to Belphanior)  But I thought you said they weren't
  undead!
woman:  Aie!

  The fog came onward, relentlessly.  A large, dark shape was
barely visible within.

Belphanior:  If that's undead, your scroll's not working...
dwarf:  Gee, it must not be undead.
Rillen:  Ah...another idea...(now in a sitting position, he
  winds his horn of valhalla)

  The horn made a loud, echoing sound...but no band of
magical warriors appeared to save the day!

Rillen:  Uh-oh.
Belphanior:  Unbelievable!
dwarf:  What was supposed to happen?

  The fog had covered all but one end of the cellar, and the
four remaining people found themselves backed up against a
cold stone wall.  The wispy thing floated in front of them,
hissing at the fog, immaterial fnags bared.

Rillen:  (collapses back against the wall)  Guess there's
  nowhere left to run to.
dwarf:  (brandishes his sword)  I won't go down cowering!
Belphanior:  (thinking furiously)  Let's see...no summoning.
  No invisibility.  No control.  No souls.  Blocked in...
  Hmm...HUH?!?!?  (he quickly grabs something from a pocket
  and holds it up in front of him, yelling command words)
woman:  (spies not one, but several dark forms in the fog)
  Noooooooo...

  At that moment, a shimmering wall appeared, engulfing the
four people, plus the wisp, on all sides.

woman:  Aieeeeeeee...(she realizes that the fog has risen
  all around them, but stopped neatly about five feet away)
  Huh?
dwarf:  What the hell?
Rillen:  Wall of force...?
Belphanior:  Cube of force.  We're in a ten-by-ten cubic
  wall.

  However, the four-foot high section of rock above their
heads had been enclosed, too, and, being severed from the
surrounding rock, it now fell apart and dropped downward,
pelting the four with large chunks of solid rock and
knocking them unconscious.  The last thing they saw was
a group of huge, dark forms coming toward them...then
darkness fell, along with the ceiling.





  Belphanior awoke suddenly, opening his eyes slowly at
first.  He found that he was covered in rubble, and bleeding
from numerous cuts and bruises.  He scraped the rocks from
his body, and looked around.  The cellar was empty - no fog,
no monsters.  Sunlight shone in from the stairway, piercing
the shadows of the cellar with welcome warmth.  The elf set
about unearthing his companions, and was relieved to find
them all alive, if not unhurt.

wispy thing:  (orbits the elf's head)  Brrrrrp!
dwarf:  (wiping blood from his face)  Ugh...what hit me?
Rillen:  (stands up)  The Laertes' Ointment worked well.
  (he flexes his muscles)  Very well.
Belphanior:  That's the good news.  The bad news is that I
  used it all up.
Rillen:  Oh, well.
woman:  Oh...my aching head.
Belphanior:  (helps her to her feet)  Easy there.
dwarf:  That shimmering wall...magical?
Belphanior:  Yup.  I guess it went down when the cube ran
  out of energy.
Rillen:  No blood.
woman:  Huh?
Rillen:  No bloodstains.  No corpses.  No severed heads.
  Nothing's left here.  (he scratches his head)  Odd.
dwarf:  (staring at the warrior, amazed at his attitude)

  They moved cautiously through the cellar, and were able
to get up the ruined stairway, slowly and carefully.  They
found the inn in the same condition as the cellar - the
previous night's carnage was intact, but no evidence of
foul play remained.
  The situation was made creepier when they went outside
and found the entire _town_ to be the same way.  Signs of
struggle and barricades were evident in some places, but
there was no blood, and no bodies.

Belphanior:  Maybe the fog...took all that with it.
Rillen:  Maybe.
dwarf:  Where'd it go?
woman:  Who cares?
Belphanior:  We may never know...

  They only spent a few more minutes in the dead town,
enough to learn that the stables were empty, and then
they left, walking westward.  Neither destination nor
travel time was discussed; all four simply wanted to put
as much distance as possible between themselves and the
silent town.





next time :  ...

notes     :  Once in a while, I do something off-the-wall
  like this.  It sure was fun to write, and well-timed too.
  Influences for this story include:
    _The Mist_                    (Stephen King short story)
    _The Fog_                     (John Carpenter movie)
    _Night of the Living Dead_    (a classic in its own right)
    _Halloween_                   (John Carpenter again)
    _Alien_                       (if you have to ask...)
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