Lost Chapter #20

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                                  *
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                          *               *
                        *                   *
                      *    THE ADVENTURERS    *
                    *                           *
                      *     Lost Tales...     *
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*    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.                                             *
*    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    *
*  right 1991-8 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.ns.gatech.edu   *
*********************************************************************
*  Date:        hours before 1/1/575 C.Y. (Common Year) by          *
*               "normal" reckoning                                  *
*  Time:        the middle of the drow night                        *
*  Place:       the drow city of Erelhei-Cinlu, deep beneath the    *
*               surface world                                       *
*  Climate:     serenely cool                                       *
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*  "If we're lucky, they're all dead."                              *
*  "If they're lucky, they _are_ all dead."                         *
*                                                        - ???      *
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                        XX.  Death of a City





  Deep beneath the surface world, the great, dark city of Erelhei-
Cinlu slept.  The inhabitants by and large had retired to their
homes, the day's duties done.  It was the Day of Oaths, when the
rites of rulership must be observed, as they had been every year
since times forgotten even to the long-lived drow.
  Behind the sleepy facade, however, the place was far from quiet,
and its dreams far from placid.  In the mines, for example, slaves
and criminals toiled around the clock, working in brutal shifts
beneath the barbed whips of cruel taskmasters.  In the kinder and
happier settings of the noble houses and manors, pampered lords
and clever priestesses concocted wily schemes of power and wealth.
In hidden, unholy chambers beneath foul temples, bloody sacrifices
to the spider-goddess Lolth were performed.
  Erelhei-Cinlu was a grim, unpleasant place.  It was also a doomed
place, though its denizens didn't know it yet.

  Shortly before all the chaos began, though, a particular dark elf
strode out of the city on a mission.  His name was Rasimov, and he
was the eldest son of the matriarch of the Erelhei-Cinlu's second
house, House D'arkayn.  On this particular evening, Rasimov was
both pleased and angry; pleased because his mother was about to set
into motion events that would topple the leading house and propel
House D'arkayn into power, angry because his own role in the affair
wasn't greater.
  Rasimov was a shrewd, intelligent young drow.  He had been smart
enough to rise to power under his family's wing, while maintaining
his own goals and secrets.  He bore his mother no ill will, and
feared no treachery from her - that was for his sisters to worry
about - but at the same time, he had no desire to obey her every
command without a second thought.
  His part in the upcoming carnage was simple, indeed, too simple
for his liking.  A warrior and mage by trade, Rasimov aspired to
greater things than planting a key bit of evidence in the right
place for the wrong people to find.  Still, he mused, his mother had
entrusted this job to him because he was competent and reliable.
Hoisting the cloth-wrapped body on his other shoulder, he grinned,
thinking again of his aged mother's uncanny flair for sewing discord.
  Yet, he couldn't quite get over the odd feeling that something was
very, very wrong.

  Rasimov was well beyond the boundaries of the city when it began.
The bluish-purple glow of the fungus far above, on the mammoth cavern's
ceiling, provided just enough illumination for those nearby to see
the huge black disk as it materialized in Erelhei-Cinlu's center.
Greater than a hundred feet high, the disk simply rested in place,
unmoving.
  The drow nearest to the strange phenomenon barely had time to
wonder what it was and where it came from.  As they approached it
with caution - and a certain amount of apprehension - they heard
a great, unearthly roaring from within.  Most of the dark elves
froze in their tracks, stricken with a fear the likes of which
their hard, black hearts had never before felt.  Still blacker
hearts, though, leaped into action.

drow countess:  (to her escort of warriors)  Form a battle line!
  Protect me!
drow warriors:  (hasten to obey)

  A half-dozen in number, the dark elves brandished weapons and
formed a half-circle around their mistress, facing the black disk.
The roaring grew louder, and then a walking nightmare emerged from
the portal.  A gigantic, four-legged beast, it had horns, a tail,
and an armored carapace covering its back.  It was greater than
fifty feet in length, and the ground shook with its every step.
Worse, it looked quite enraged.

beast:  GRAAAARGH!  (it lumbers toward the drow countess and her
  guards)
drow guards:  (back up a step)
drow countess:  Get me out of here-

  With a sudden, surprisingly-fast leap, the huge monster closed
the distance between the disk and the drow.  A sweep of its taloned
arm scattered the warriors; one who was slower than the rest ended
up in that giant claw.

drow warrior:  Aaaargh!
beast:  (pops the drow into its mouth)
drow warrior:  Aaa-
drow countess:  (launches a volley of black acid-bolts at the thing)
  Die, by Lolth!
beast:  (ignores the missiles, which fizzle against its thick hide,
  and lunges forth)
drow priestess:  (her upper half is bitten off and swallowed, while
  her lower half remains standing there)
drow warriors:  Retreat!  Retreat!

  There was a certain rational measure of safety in the fact that the
dark elves could run for cover, making it into buildings and towers
where the monster could not see them.  However, this protection proved
short-lived, as the creature simply waded into the streets of Erelhei-
Cinlu, flailing its massive arms at any structure within reach.
  Buildings that had stood for centuries shattered, their bricks and
glass burying anyone dwelling within.  Those were the lucky ones;
some drow were either walking the streets beforehand or managed to
flee collapsing buildings.  The great beast cared not - all such
morsels ended up in its mouth.
  The first concerted effort to stop the thing took place shortly,
though the thing had already leveled several city blocks.  A dozen
wizards and priests, airborne, surrounded the monster and worked
their magic.  The first spell to be cast, a lightning bolt, had an
opposite effect than what was intended.  The great bolt of arcing
electricity hit the foe - and bounced off!  A nearby tower was
collapsed as the deflected lightning tore into it.

drow wizard:  Beware - its hide is thick!
drow priestess:  No matter.  (she transforms the rock beneath the
  thing into mud)
beast:  (not to be fooled by such tricks, it reaches out, grabs an
  area of solid ground, and digs in with its claws)
other drow wizard:  The thing pulls itself out!
third drow wizard:  (unleashes a volley of magical missiles right
  at the thing's eyes)
beast:  (blinks)  RAAARGH!

  With a fluid motion, the thing stood up on its hind legs!  Now,
the dark elves' altitude suddenly wasn't enough to save them from
the beast's clutches.

beast:  (snatches a mage and a priestess from the air, and eats them)
  GRLMPH.
other drow:  (scattering)

  The beast was able to eat three more drow before the survivors had
flown away.  Done with this intermission, the great monster resumed
its original course of action:  demolishing the city.
  They tried to stop it.  Erelhei-Cinlu's ruling council assembled in
haste, along with assorted others of power (mostly spellcasters.)
Warriors of all kinds, ranging from infantry to archers, were sent
against the monster - and beaten.  Squads of drider and giant spider
cavalry were marched at the beast - and wiped out.  Those bearing
enchanted weapons seemed to get the beast's attention, but this only
enraged it and hastened their deaths in that terrible maw.
  Spells were cast upon, at, around, and under the beast - without any
effect.  Fireballs and lightning bolts, even launched directly at its
head or underbelly, ricocheted away without effect (to the creature;
the damage they inflicted on people and buildings was colossal.)  Even
spells of death and disintegration didn't faze the monster.  All the
drow could do was continue to bombard the beast from heights where it
couldn't reach them, as those on the ground were slain and eaten.

  But this was not yet the worst of it.

  No enemy before now had ever united the feuding families of
Erelhei-Cinlu.  Neither did this one.  Even as the beast rampaged
through the city, the great houses turned against each other, some
suspecting foul play and striking out in rage, others seizing any
chance to backstab their ancient rivals, heedless of the greater
danger.  War swept over the city like wildfire.  Drow killed drow.
And through it all, the great beast continued to destroy the city.
Never did it stop, rest, or tarry in its rampage.  Already, all of
Erelhei-Cinlu's major structures were in ruins, and most of its
citizens eaten or crushed.  Fires had sprung up in many places.
Great clouds of choking dust gathered from the rubble of smashed
buildings, lingering in the still cavern air.  Yet, for all this,
the beast still had yet to wreak its worst havoc.

  From within the ruins of her shattered temple, the high priestess
emerged, clutching a black crystal encircled with iron and shot
through with ruby-red bands.  Screaming the words to invoke its fell
power, her body twisted and ruptured, becoming a thing of nightmare,
a monster, a spider-demon of Lolth.  Countless razor-edged legs
erupted forth, as her black body swelled beyond belief.  A hundred
eyes glittered above a dozen cruel black fangs, as the demon surged
forth.
  For all her size, the spider-demon was barely half as long as the
flank of the beast she swarmed toward.  Her legs cut deep where they
found the beast's flesh, and with a swift lunge, she sank her fangs
deep into the side of the monster's neck.  The pain-filled roar of
the great beast sent those still watching this duel crumpling to
the ground, clutching their heads in vain to avoid the deafening sound.
Dark blood bathed the spider-demon as she hung on desperately, and
the two struggled momentarily in a contest of unearthly force.
  As suddenly as it began, it ended.  The great rampager rolled over,
half crushing the spider beneath its bulk.  In three great sweeps of
horn, tooth, and claw, the spider-demon was shredded beyond
recognition.  Bellowing its triumphant rage, the beast spun and
smashed through the remnants of a wall, unstoppable.

random priestess:  (one arm broken, she uses her other to point at the
  thing)  What is it doing now?
wizard:  I truly don't know, milady.

  The giant monster was charging the great spire at the city's center.
That massive pillar of stone, several hundred feet thick, provided
support for the vast cavern's ceiling.  Guard-towers, stairways, and
other structures had been built into its side over the centuries.
Those on or within such structures held on for dear life as the huge
beast rammed into the pillar.
  The entire city felt the impact.  A few of the heavier stalactites
on the cavern ceiling cracked and broke, falling down to hammer the
already-demolished city with giant chunks of rock.  The drow far enough
from the beast to be unseen, fleeing for shelter towards the smaller
tunnels, were knocked from their feet as the shock wave rocked the city.

beast:  RRAAARGH!  (it rears back, then rams the column again)

  This time, some half-intact buildings shattered and collapsed.  More
stalactites fell, adding further hazard to the various dark elves'
escape efforts.  Chaos was rampant, and the death toll mounted even
further.

priestess:  It...it means to collapse the city-cavern!
mage:  No...it cannot be...!

  A slightly longer pause, as the monster seemed to consider its
actions, was followed by an even greater impact.  The floor rolled,
buildings toppled, and large chunks of rock fell from the ceiling.
None who had stood back up remained standing, whether simply knocked
down by the shockwave, or struck down by the debris from the ceiling.
Only those few who were crawling at the time of the third impact made
any headway, being thrown forward as the floor rippled. Those drow
unfortunate to have fallen witnessed their doom opening above them:
a large crack had opened in the ceiling, amidst the glowing fungus
that provided the city's dim light.  Fragments of glowing fungus now
rained down on the city like a shower of tiny stars.

  Perhaps the beast was enraged beyond capacity for normal thought.
Perhaps it simply possessed some need to see everything around it
destroyed.  Perhaps it realized that it was trapped in this huge
cavern, with no tunnel large enough to allow it to escape.  None
present knew, nor would they ever.  The great beast's fourth impact
caused the floor to ripple, and the ceiling to heave...and shatter!
The city's surviving inhabitants brought forth a brief truncated cry,
as the city died beneath thousands of tons of rock released by the
collapse of the ceiling.  None could count the lives lost, as drow,
associates, and slaves alike perished in the catastrophe.
  All went black, as rock and dirt continued to fall, piling up,
filling cracks and crevices.  Eventually, the flow of rubble slowed,
settled, shifted...and finally stopped.

  Erelhei-Cinlu was dead.

  And yet, in one of the hundreds of tunnels that led from the city,
something stirred.  Alone in the tunnel into which he had been thrown,
a solitary, bloodied, battered and filthy figure gradually recovered
consciousness.  Looking behind him, to the debris-choked ruin at the
end of the tunnel, he spent no time on worrying; the city, and his
family, were gone.  Yet he had survived, and if he had done so, perhaps
others might have as well.  With his family's former high standing, he
might be able to lead them in avenging the death of the city; in truth,
the sole thought of vengeance consumed him.  Drow, above-grounders,
whoever - anyone and everyone was of use to him only insofar as they
could slake his lust for revenge.  And if none remained to help him
achieve his goal, then he would do it himself!

Rasimov D'Arkayn:  Who?!?  Who has done this?!?  (he raises a bloody
  fist)  By the name of my goddess Lolth, and of my house and family,
  I vow revenge!  Those who caused the ruin of my city shall be repaid
  tenfold!





next:      a slice of Cynder's past
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.intertex.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
           ftp.tas.gov.au/misc/stories
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           http://www.shobaki.org/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     This is the first of the last of the lost tales (which
  will conclude with #25) and beginning with this one, we will keep
  away from the Adventurers and their henchmen, instead taking a
  look at various NPCs and bad guys of note.
    Special thanks to Lance Dooly and Vince Gray for some last-
  minute sugggestions and ideas for this one.
    Lolth or Lloth?  Which is correct?  I don't rightly know, but
  since I've used "Lolth" in the past, I'm going to be consistent.
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