Chapter #821

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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:           late afternoon                                        +
+   Place:          the depths of the vacant fortress of Greyspire        +
+   Climate:        chilly                                                +
+   "I don't believe in the no-win scenario."                             +
+               - Captain Kirk, from _Star Trek 2:  The Wrath of Khan_    +

                      DCCCXXI.  Reinforcements

  After triumphing over a number of tough spidery foes, the adventurers
have used various magical items to summon some help...

Mongo:  Now this is more like it.

  The dwarven warrior had finally tried the mithril horn left to him by
Ged in the slain elf's will, years ago.  The horn had been, as suspected,
the sort that summoned fierce berserkers to aid the item's owner.  Such
horns were rare indeed, and there were traditionally four types:  silver,
brass, bronze, and iron - with iron horns summoning the most powerful and
experienced warrior allies.  Alindyar had theorized that the mithril horn
was not only unique, but likely even more powerful...and indeed, the five
berserkers who now stood before Mongo appeared to be formidable warriors.
Clad in chain mail armor, the men stood nearly seven feet tall, with long
red hair and wild beards.  They carried huge battlaxes and heavy spears,
and seemed quite ready to fight anyone or anything.

berserker #1:  (looks down at Mongo)  You are the horn-blower?
Mongo:  Yeah, I am.  We're heading into some great battle and we need the
berserker #1:  Say no more, small one.  We shall deal in steel this day,
  and spill much blood.  (he raises his axe, and the other four cheer)

  The quintet of warriors didn't seem like enough to Alindyar, who had
pondered the option of using his wand of conjuration to summon some
monsters to aid their cause.  However, Bosco did something that drove
that thought completely from the dark elf's mind...

Bosco:  (unfolding a small rectangular box)
Lyra:  What's that?
Bosco:  Something I found in a super-dungeon recently...a sort of chess
  set, but I understand that its pieces can become creatures under my
  control.  I just don't know how to make that happen-  WHOA!

  The halfling had set one of the small metal figures onto the square it
would normally begin a game on...and it had shifted, changing and growing
into a life-size figure!  The man was tall, of middle age with greying
hair.  He was garbed in a white robe, wore an unusual and complicated-
looking hat, and carried a stout staff of white wood.

priest with big, odd head-wrap:  (looks around)  Who has summoned me?
Bosco: was me.
priest:  (eyes the halfling)  What is your wish, young master?
Bosco:  You're here to serve me, right?  For how long?
berserkers:  (beginning to look restless)
priest:  An entire day.
Bosco:  What about the others in this chess set?
priest:  There are thirty-two of us total - half lawful and half chaotic,
  but all bound to obey the artifact's owner.  You can summon as many as
  you wish.
Bosco:  (grins)  How often can I do that?  And who are you guys anyway?
berserkers:  (beginning to look exasperated)
priest:  Each of us can appear for one full day, once each month.  We are
  the Host of Kaloth.
Bosco:  Ah.

  In short order (and with a little decision-making help from the others)
Bosco had brought more allies into play, in addition to the priest.  The
magical chess set had the same basic pieces as a normal one:  sixteen
white and sixteen black, each grouping consisting of eight pawns, two
each of rooks, knights, and bishops, and a king and queen.  Only some of
these pieces had been utilized, but the allies summoned were as mighty
as they were varied.  Two of the white pawns and two of the black were
almost identical:  tall, broad warriors clad from head to toe in heavy
plate mail and bearing large shields.  The pair that had been white
pawns had elegant, shining armor and triangular shields, with bold blue
insignia emblazoned on both.  They fought with longswords.  The other two
warriors wore jet-black armor, with sinister red symbols.  Their helms
bore curved horns, and they fought with huge spiked war-maces.
  In addition to these, Bosco had summoned one each of both color of
bishop, knight, and rook.  The white bishop, of course, had already been
met, being the first summoned.  His counterpart was a gaunt, nasty-looking
fellow with a short, pointed beard.  The white knight was a stout, noble
centaur armed with a longbow and a large quiver of arrows.  The other
knight was a gigantic jet-black horse that had thick, powerful hooves and
breathed fire.  The white rook was a ten-foot tall golem of solid ivory,
carved to resemble a gigantic, powerfully-muscled warrior; a shortsword
was fused into the grip of its right hand.  The black rook was also a
stone golem, carved of pure ebony.  Though shorter than its counterpart,
at a mere eight feet tall, it was easily twice as broad - a hulking brute
with sharp spikes on its fists.

Bosco:  (looking around, highly pleased)  The army of Bosco!
white bishop:  Kaloth.  The army of Kaloth.
Bosco:  Yeah, yeah, whatever.
berserker #1:  (to Mongo)  We grow bored.  Where is the great battle you
Mongo:  (points to the right-hand exit passage, with the trail of dried
  blood)  Down that hallway.
berserker #1:  (nods, then turns to his comrades, raising his battleaxe)
  Onward, blood-brothers!  (they advance on the passageway)
Mongo:  (to the drow, who are watching in amusement)  Well, what are we
  waiting for?  (he trundles off after the huge warriors)

  The twenty-foot square passage gradually arced around to the right,
sloping down all the while.  By the time Mongo had decided that it made
a complete circle, the group found itself facing a dead-end:  a vertical
wall of stone that abruptly ended the passage.  Set into this wall was
a circular cap of a different stone, older and of a different color.  It
was ten feet in diameter and raised off the floor so that it was in the
exact middle of the passage's terminus.

Alindyar:  A circle within a square.
Mongo:  Is it a door?
Alindyar:  Almost certainly...and almost certainly protected by magic.
  Those are glyphs of warding on its face.
Bosco:  Even I can't disarm those.
berserkers:  (pointing angrily at the round portal, they argue amongst
white bishop:  (to Bosco)  If I might make a suggestion...?
Bosco:  Sure.
white bishop:  All of us - the Host of Kaloth - can hear and obey you,
  no matter what language you might speak.  You can give orders if you
  wish.  (he points to the black golem)  That creature is impervious to
  anything that might entrap this portal ahead.  Have him open it.
Bosco:  Uh...yeah.

  Something seemed odd to the halfling, but he was too eager to flaunt
his newfound power, and he knew that most present were restless at best,
or reckless at worst.

berserkers:  (begin marching toward the stone door)
Bosco:  (to the black golem)  Open that round door.

  The broad stone construct immediately marched to the portal, its steps
causing the floor to shake.  The berserkers were brushed aside by the
golem's passing.

black rook:  (stands before the round portal, regards it for a moment,
  then grabs it at the left and right edges)

  There was a loud POP and then a buzzing sound as electricity suddenly
arced through the portal and the golem.  If it felt pain or was otherwise
affected, there was no sign; it simply pulled the stone cap out of the
wall, revealing a dark, round corridor beyond.  It was almost as wide as
the squarish one they'd used until now, though its walls were irregular
and fused - as if they'd been formed by intense heat.  They glistened,
shiny and black, under the rays of Lyra's light-spheres.

Bosco:  Good work.
black bishop:  (scowls at the white bishop)

  Needing no suggestions, the five berserkers charged ahead into the
new passage, followed by the others.  The white bishop took the liberty
of putting a light-spell on the top of his staff, though the spell was
a little different from the usual - it was a directional cone of light
that could be aimed.  As the priest followed the warriors, his dark-
garbed counterpart spoke connivingly to Bosco.

black bishop:  Young master, I can help you.
Bosco:  I'm not that young-
black bishop:  I know what you fought before, and what you're chasing
  down here.
Alindyar:  Really, now?
black bishop:  (ignores the drow, speaking to Bosco)  I sensed it before,
  in the remains of what you fought in the chamber where you summoned us.
  The presence slowly grows stronger here, as we advance.
Bosco:  Well, what is it, then?
black bishop:  Demons.
Mongo:  Demons?!?
black bishop:  (smiling thinly)  Yes, demons.
Lyra:  (ESPing to Alindyar)  I don't like this one.  He seems shady...
  a backstabber.
Alindyar:  (ESPing to Lyra)  We shall have to watch him carefully.
Bosco:  (to Mongo)  Could it be?  Demons,  that came from below and got
Mongo:  It's possible.  I'd heard rumors and such, but I never thought
  they could be true.  Besides, Lord Marcus wouldn't have stayed in this
  fortress if there was a big danger lurking below.  (he stops)  Hell.
  Maybe he didn't know, or maybe he thought he'd ended that threat.
Bosco:  Obviously not.

  There was a commotion from the front ranks just then, and soon, everyone
could see why.

berserkers:  (peering over the edge of an abyss)

  The passage ended abruptly again, but this time there was no blockage
or door.  Rather, the passage simply turned down - straight down.  Even
with the white bishop's light-cone aimed directly down into the shaft,
there was no end in sight, as far as they could see.

Bosco:  (peers over the edge)  Oh, man.  Are we sure this is the right
Lyra:  (points to the ground, where the blood-trail leads right up to the
  edge before the shaft turns downward)  Yes, unfortunately.
Alindyar:  A bottomless shaft?
Mongo:  Maybe, maybe not.  Only one way to find out.

next:      we switch back to Belphanior and crew
released:  5/21/04
notes:     So I've written 12 with Belphanior and the gateway arc, 3 with
  the ocean-voyage arc, and now 6 with the Greyspire arc.  It's time to
  return to the first of these arcs, as I promised before.
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